Sunday 26 July 2015

Out-of-Body Experience and Ego Death on a “Heroic Dose” of Mushrooms

Psilocybin ‘Magic’ mushrooms are a psychedelic fungi that has existed for tens of thousands of years. They have been used for ceremonial purposes by shamanic cultures in South America as well as in Africa since the earliest recorded history of mankind. In fact, in the Tassili plateau in the Sahara of Northern Algeria there are cave paintings dating back to 5000 BCE depicting mushrooms.

There are more than 180 species of mushrooms, which contain psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin — the psychoactive ingredients and psychedelic compounds. Their potency depends on several factors, including the species or variety, origin, age, and growing conditions. Tripping on them, or more likely the quality of the trip, depends on other factors such as dosage, set, setting, physical condition, energy levels, and more importantly, it differs from one person to another.

For the curious learner, more thorough information about psychedelic mushrooms can be found all over online.

My own first experience with shrooms was during my late teens in California back in the mid-late 90s. I shared an eight of a gram with a friend as we were instructed and had quite a pleasant trip. However, I felt more drawn to LSD, which I had the chance to first try around the same age.

I tried mushrooms again a couple of times in Egypt yet they were not really potent. Then a few years later in Amsterdam where they were sold legally in coffee shops along with marijuana and hash. The commercial doses there were about 0.9 gm per baggy; simply because they didn’t want people [tourists] losing it. My friends and I would always buy three or four doses to share between the two of us.

Trips were fun, some colours and some distortion and some laughter. But that was that. Unlike acid, you don’t really go that deep into your head; or so I thought. The whole trip only lasts several hours; then afterwards we can have a nice dinner before sleeping without any problem. You also wake up fresh and revitalised, while on acid one feels like they are still tripping throughout the next day.

This perceived lightness was one main reason most girls we knew preferred mushrooms to LSD. Probably also because the first are seen as a natural substance compared to the latter, a chemical with the spooky word ‘acid’ in its name! 

A year later, we happened to share 15 grams between three people. This was more fun than any of the previous trips. And when I say fun, I mean objects start ‘breathing’, significant confusion, and how magical the music sounds.

But due to the fact that in some parts of the world mushrooms were not commonly sought after, it was hard finding them around. When they did appear, the doses per person rarely exceeded 2-3 grams, sometimes even less, because usually there wasn’t enough for everyone.

Having said that, being much more potent — dosage wise — LSD remained my preferred psychedelic. After all it was what took me to the other side of the moon. Though as we are about to see, I came to find out later in life that the other side of the moon on mushrooms goes much deeper into the Rabbit Hole. For it seems to go way back in time and space into the collective consciousness, as well as the natural history of mankind, and not just to 1938 or 1943.

It’s all fun and games until you dare diving head first into the Rabbit Hole

Years have passed and by the early 30s I went to live in Canada. I tried mushrooms there a couple of times, which were alright, nothing too impressive. Though it was pretty much the same doses of 2-3 grams.

And then once, a friend was able to get a full Ounce; that is equal to 28 grams for those who are drug illiterate.  

We didn’t try them until one day there was a Phish concert when we decided to go for it. Not being too crazy about tripping in public anymore, I was not too excited about it. But, we had a whole lot and there was a concert, so... we went along with the plan.

About 30 minutes before leaving the house, my ex-partner, her South American friend, and myself ate the mushrooms. I remember holding the huge Ziploc bag to pick some, and it was so full, Man. I guess I lost track and ate more than what I usually do. I remember the shrooms were enormous with plenty of blueish/green markings — a sign of the active ingredients and psychedelic compounds: psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin. Then right before stepping outside of the house, I foolishly opened the bag again to munch on a little more. Yeah, taking the Road of Excess had apparently become a compulsion.   

We hopped into a cab to head towards the concert. By the time we reached the location I was dying to pee, so we went straight to the main gate. To our surprise, all gates were shut while security guards standing around. They said the concert had been cancelled due to heavy rains the day prior.

At the time I was beginning to feel some confusion, so I didn’t really register what was said as I was also fixated on peeing. I only reckoned a moment later when the two girls explained. We then went further where people were gathering by the parking lot and an adjacent park before finally finding a quiet spot behind a tree to relieve myself. 

The girls met a friend and wanted to stay a bit in the park where a group of people sat listening to music. Probably concert goers who were trying to make the best of the unexpected situation. But I didn’t really feel like it, thinking that going back home to spend time with the four doggos would be ideally more peaceful. I then told them I’ll cab it home and that I’m totally kool with them staying.

As I walked further to find the cab, my ex called to say they’ll come join me. She arrived few minutes later while her friend was waiting for someone to get beer. So we sat on the grass for a bit, which was when I started to feel physically uneasy. Not the anticipation butterflies who usually visit before tripping, but a much heavier fog was coming onto me.

Having spent six long days in a Real Jail in Canada for an alleged DUI, I sure didn’t want any trouble and decided then and there that I needed to go home. It felt that what was about to happen was going to be intense — probably because I had never felt this way before throughout the previous 15 years of experimenting with psychedelics. I told this to the girls, so we got up, stopped a cab and got in.

Throughout the 10-minute ride I remember uttering the word “Ya Rab!”, meaning “O’ God!”. Saying something like this out loud, in Arabic, is totally unlike me, especially with them two around. I am not and was not even religious, perhaps spiritual, yes. But I did it a few times.

Once we arrived, I had trouble walking from the cab to the house. It seemed like my body was not responding to my brain. It was not like having no balance at all, such as with Sakarana (Hyoscyamus muticus), the Deadly Nightshade plant my friends and I consumed in Sinai years earlier. But rather, it was a feeling of disconnection between mind and body, which kept feeling heavier with every step along the way — a personal first with psychedelics. The girls actually had to help me get into the house and up the stairs.

Then according to them, I was out for three hours.

Psilocybin mushrooms were known by The Aztecs as ‘God’s Flesh’

do not recall many details during this time. What survived are a few instances like flashes of an incomplete jigsaw puzzle.  

At some point, I started acting like a reptilian; sticking my tongue out like an All Black performing the fearsome Haka. Apparently, my neck was also playing along while embodying the reptilian fit I was in. The body load sensation was still there and kept getting heavier before receding altogether. Then there was not much awareness of my body.

In my head, languages, words, and concepts lost all their meanings — they did not make sense. What I was experiencing was highly inexplicable and incommunicable. So I don’t think I even tried.

As for my consciousness, or inner being or soul or spirit, it felt like it was out there spread across the cosmos, merging with the totality of everything else. I was not [fully] in that room for those few hours, not even in my body. And I would have certainly never known how long I stayed inside if they hadn’t told me later; for time was nothing but yet another construct, which didn’t mean anything.

At some point I had a surreal, overpowering feeling that my consciousness was leaving my body, heading upwards towards the stars. But it seemed to me that it was going to be a one-way trip. Of course this was a poetic way to put it. In other words, I was dying. Or so it felt.

At the time, the out-of-body sensation left my psyche with two options: Either resist it; but due to what had been happening it was crystal clear I didn’t possess the needed energy or might. Or, accept it and leave gracefully towards what really is. I then recalled The Tibetan Book of the Dead in which acceptance is key in making the soul’s journey seamless; simply because when one is actually dying there is no reason or purpose to fight. 

So that is it. Your time on the Pale Blue Dot is up. Embrace the experience and head towards the stars where you have always belonged ... I thought to meself.

I looked at my ex while somewhat apologetically saying: “I’m sorry” [that I can’t fight and can’t be the one who is in control as it’s usually the case]. Then said: “La Illaha Illa Allah,” meaning, “There is no deity but God”. As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, this Shahada is a creed declaring belief in the oneness of God. The phrase is uttered right before death or shared between loved ones when parting ways, often before a journey.

Again, this was bizarrely unlike me, especially saying it to her. My grandma used to tell me that many, many moons ago as a kid; mayhap my mother or aunt as well. Though I had not heard it anytime recently, let alone say it. It just mindlessly came out of the subconscious. All that said, it appeared that I was sincerely ready to take off and possibly become a star.

Then all of a sudden I sensed a slap on my face, which sort of made me snap out of whatever hazy daze I was in. I also think I heard a ‘No’ as I was being slapped. More like a long, slow-motion ‘Nooooooooo’.

I smiled before telling the girl not to do it again. But I did regain some of my consciousness.

This was the second slap according to her; also three hours had passed since we were back home. Having never seen me so out of control before, the poor girl didn’t know how to deal and started to weep. Seeing this, I snapped out of it even more, asking about what had happened. As both girls tried to explain, I slowly began to come back to my senses, yet significantly still perplexed.

By then, language made more sense as I was able to form somewhat meaningful sentences, short and simple ones. I truly felt like a child right after birth, for there was this utter confusion about who I am at the core. So I started questioning the girls.

This, I hold, is the aftermath of the Ego Death — its dissolution — which is a complete, yet temporary loss of subjective self-identity. It is the death of the sense of self, of who we think we are, our perceived individuality. This is a common feature of high doses of entheogens. 

Generally speaking, the concept is not only found in the realm of psychedelia, but in the spiritual and mystic realms as well. In Sufism, for instance, the term for “dissolution” or “annihilation” of the self is ‘Fanaa’, ( فناء ) . It means dissolving the ego consciousness to reach the purer Higher Self. One way the dissolution is achieved is through self-actualisation, which, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, precedes self-transcendence. 

Esoterically, the process of ego dissolution is often exemplified as dying before dying; as an eternal deathless death. The transcendence is essentially a radical act of dying in ourselves while merging and [re]uniting with the totality of everything, the Absolute — getting us ready for our own earthly death, one could say.   

I recall then finding myself sitting on the floor with back leaning on the bed. 

What am I doing? I asked the two girls. 

Right now or in life in general?

Both. But more in Life. [Leaving all I had in Egypt including 10 years of working in corporate and travelling to the unknowns of Canada, without having any plans and without knowing what I would be doing] was what on my mind then, though I was not able to word it. 

Well, you’re a brilliant writer,” my ex first said. She shared later that she had particularly picked the word ‘brilliant’ because it is one of my favourites, to give me a sense of familiarity.

She then put The Beatles on and called Caramella, my late Cocker Spaniel, in an attempt to further remind me of myself. When I later wondered why there was no music, I was told it had been playing all along, yet somehow I could not hear it. 

Slightly gaining more clarity, I went on with the self-inquiry.

So what happened today?

They once again told me about the missing part, which is from the cab to the slap — this time with a bit more details.

Why did I take so much? It is something in me. I always like to take a lot from everything [psychoactive substance wise], self-reflecting out loud. 

And with all I have done in my life, that means I’m really crazy in the head, proceeding with the introspection. I recall thinking of the large number of psychedelic trips I had already taken since I was 19 up until that point in time. Interestingly, I do know the exact number as I have been noting them down in multiple notebooks throughout the years. All I could say for now is that it’s not a two-digit figure.  

Yes you are. And that’s fine, it’s OK,” she comforted me.

My watery eyes widened as I looked at her with a certain child-like amazement; like I had never thought of it this way before.

Yeahhhh... it is OK. It’s who I am and what I am, remembering myself at the essential core level, a tad more confidently this time.

Hallucinogenic mushroom rituals were a central
aspect of Maya religion

After 10 minutes of this rebirth moment, I felt slightly more alive and a tad bit in control. Well, relatively so. I really wanted to take a shower to “clean up” the energy. My ex was worried I fall in the shower, or at least that was what she said. But I already knew I was fine, so I got naked and jumped in.

Before doing so, I got a natural urge to get naked with both girls, potentially to have a big bubble bath together... or something of that nature. My ex, however, laughed it off and it never happened. I think her more free-spirited friend wouldn’t have minded it.

Actually, at some point she went down to feed the dogs, leaving her petite friend right there next to me on the bed. This was when I thought both girls may be trying to trick me in some way or the other. Maybe they want me to get it on with her friend while they secretly filmed. To prove that I’m a cheater or something. Pfff, Duuuude. I did look around for cameras before the paranoid thought slowly dissipated. Nevertheless, I was still sensing a bit of sexual attraction coming from the friend, which was probably the origin of my somewhat delusional idea. 

Interestingly, though, many years later I heard Terence McKenna mentioning something about a relationship between high doses of mushrooms and group sexual activities. Hm.    

Once out of the shower, more clarity invaded my mind. I was then led to relive what had transpired during the last several hours.

I remember being overcome by such gratitude to be alive — to be Here and Now. I kept uttering the phrase “Capture The Moment” multiple times like some kind of mantra. Tears were happily flowing down my cheeks.

In a way, I found out that there is a mighty fine line between what we call ‘life’ and what we call ‘death’; equally, that the transition could happen anytime. I further realised that it is most likely a beautiful thing; that there is absolutely nothing to fear.

I was also exceedingly grateful that the concert had been cancelled. I cannot even begin to imagine being so out there in a stadium full of people. Also that the girls decided to join me at the last second. Not sure what could have happened if I were in the cab all alone.

What is noteworthy in this psychonautic tale is that it was totally unexpected. If I had planned to go full beast mode with a “Heroic Dose” — with here being about seven/eight grams — I was certainly not going to any concerts, or even leave home in general. Perhaps the set and setting were going to be nothing but “Silent Darkness” à la Terence McKenna. Or at least during one fraction of the trip.

Another essential is knowing your shit; meaning, how potent it is. Those turned out to be extremely powerful. And I can confidently say this because a month or two later we tried them again, back to the 2-3 grams level, yet it was a full trip. A strength never experienced before at such an average dose.  

Oh well. These remain good advices for all of us. 

Throughout most of my previous trips, I have already experienced the effects of psychedelics in catalysing a sense of oneness and interconnectedness with nature among everything. I have also experienced God and The Kingdom of Heaven within me. This time was a clear reminder that one had been right all along. As Above So Below: As Within So Without: As the Universe so the Soul.

The spiritual effects of psilocybin — among other plant medicines — have been repeatedly studied over the years. In one study at Johns Hopkins University, one third of the subjects said the experience was the most spiritually significant of their lives; while over two thirds said it was in their top five most significant. In addition, 79 percent reported increased well-being in the months following the study. 

Decades earlier, Timothy Leary had directed the Concord Prison Experiment, which was conducted by a team of Harvard University researchers between 1961 and 1963. Along with psychotherapy, psilocybin was administered to young prisoners in attempt to inspire them to leave their antisocial lifestyles behind once they were released. Results were positive here as well.

Much more about these early experimentation days is covered in my research exposé: The LSD Experiments of the 1950s and 60s [Videos & Documentaries]. Interestingly, the piece was quoted and cited in the 2017 book Drugs and Society — 13th Edition by Annette E. Fleckenstein, Glen R. Hanson, and Peter J. Venturelli.

There is also a full sub-chapter about psychedelics in my upcoming book. So Stay Tuned!

Apart from recreational usage, the property of psychedelics that makes them useful healing tools is that they teach the mind how to cope with original deep-held, often repressed traumas, which are usually the cause of many mental illnesses. The lucidity and openness that come while there can end up setting things straight in the psyche — for it truly is mind-manifesting. 

It is worth noting that one major reason why I moved to Canada, if not THE major, was to get and remain clean following a seven-year toxic lifestyle. By that, I mean heroin addiction as further explored in Opiated Then Hatin’ It. And psychedelics helped a whole lot in getting me through the healing journey. As mentioned, because they are mind-manifesting they have the ability to add you with novel perspectives while making you look at things differently; ‘things’ include your very own self with your fears and insecurities and addictions.  

One entity currently leading the domain of psychedelic therapy is MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) @MapsNews. Since its inception in 1986, this non-profit research and educational organisation has achieved considerable results in the field. One offered program is Psilocybin-assisted Psychotherapy to treat anxiety associated with life-threatening illnesses and end-of-life. Another is treating people with PTSD, especially combat soldiers, through MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. So instead of the usual pharmaceuticals, on which patients likely end up being dependent, one or two guided trips and they can be healed. Almost like magic.

On a parallel note, even cannabis has proven to heal PTSD among other mental illnesses and conditions.
One of its benefit is helping cancer patients with nausea and vomiting as a side effect of chemotherapy as well as reduces their chronic pain; it also helps other pain patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and nerve pain. Likewise, Mary Jane helps people with severe epilepsy who had not been helped by previous treatments. The same goes for Alzheimer’s disease and Crohn’s disease.

All that said, of course Big Pharma would use all its might to stop this from happening. And that was precisely what they did ever since the late 60s. Why heal people once and for all by giving them some plant medicine when you can keep them chemically numb and mentally shackled, possibly forever, through the use of prescription medication? But, everything is gradually changing,
slowly but surely. The genie is out of the bottle, once again. This time hopefully for good.  

A specific successful example of healing thanks to psychedelic mushrooms is the case of a 65-year-old grandmother, Estalyn Walcoff, whom I wrote about in the LSD exposé. After being diagnosed with a type of untreatable lymphoma, the lady took a trip under the guidance of two New York University psychotherapists. In a Vimeo video titled “A Patient Speaks by Patrick H. Murphy”, she shares how that single trip positively and wholeheartedly affected her as well as her condition. It is so moving, hearing her talk about her fascinating account tends to bring tears to one’s eyes.

Beside psilocybin mushrooms, another healing ally from the plant medicine family is the DMT-containing Ayahuasca. Offered in a growing number of retreats and treatment centres around the world, especially in South America, it is used to treat addictions and traumas among other psychological
— and perhaps also physiological — ailments. But unlike the more formal and professional work of MAPS, sometimes counselling and support before, during, and after the ayahuasca trip are not offered, which remain essential for true healing. Without therapy or counselling alongside the trip, many people do not actually heal. As such, you find them repeating their experiences until they may be able to integrate that which they have been learning into their lives.  

An additional one [or two] visionary psychedelic substances is the African plant medicine
Iboga and its active compound Ibogaine [ibogaine hydrochloride]. Both are widely hailed as addiction interrupters as well as “waking dream creators”. Like Ayahuasca, they are offered in many treatment centres worldwide. 

Fortunately, as of June of 2019, Denver, Colorado has decriminalised magic mushrooms. Kudos to the Mile High City! Then it was Oakland, California that followed by decriminalising all natural psychedelics. Check Zide Door
Church of Entheogenic Plants. Kudos to Oakland as well! That’s all in addition to the earlier decisions taken by a growing number of other countries regarding the legalisation of both medicinal and recreational use of marijuana.

You see, in my own opinion the world may very well one day follow through and hop on this mind-manifesting bandwagon of Love. Starting with marijuana then maybe also psychedelics. The significantly positive results of the research, which was carried on after the long hiatus since the late 1960s-early 70s, are too overwhelming to bypass or to pretend there are no benefits to such colouful tools. One Day: Maybe years or even decades into the future. Hopefully we get to see it during our lifetime.

Despite the potential benefits discussed herein, it is still wise to note that drugs, all drugs are not for everyone. People react differently to different substances and healing modalities. And psychedelics are no different, especially for those with certain mental illnesses and unprocessed past traumatic experiences. So that nugget of truth ought to be kept in mind while investigating the topic and before delving into the Rabbit Hole. 

This “Heroic Dose” experience left a mark on me like no other trip before. As mentioned, by that time I had already taken quite a bit of LSD while mushrooms a tad less. So I considered myself somewhat of an experienced psychonaut. And, again, I had never, ever, “went out” in such a way. Even with large doses of LSD, I always knew down deep inside that I was tripping. Perhaps the only few times I worried for a little bit was when thinking that I would never go back to being ‘sane’ — a common worry. That was it. Then again, what is ‘sanity’ anyway?

Even though the shedding of the ego was something I would experience during many trips, but this time, you see, it was quite different in that there seemed to be no ‘I’. That’s why Ego Death seems suitable, despite the fact that it was still temporary; for as long as we are alive it will constantly keep growing back, again and again. Ego, therefore, is not the enemy as it is sometimes portrayed. But it is a vital part of our makeup, with which we should learn to coexist. One could argue that identifying with ego by believing we are one and the same is what brings about all the trouble and the suffering. The Parable Of The Cow: You Are Not Your Thoughts deals with precisely that. 

This time, however, there was no “I’m tripping”, or any worry, or fear; even when subconsciously uttering “O’ God” in the cab. I was literally some place else, or at least about to get there. Somewhere sort of ethereal, cosmic hyper-dimensional space full of weird things — for lack of a better word — and a soup of geometrical figures. And, I was not afraid of dying. Not that I did before, but I actually began anticipating it afterwards, one dares saying. What a truly humbling experience that was.

In a psychedelic tie-dye nutshell, the simple message I came back with to this plane of existence we all share was relayed to me though the mushroom: “Capture The Moment” — in the sense of living the Here and Now where time essentially exists. Living in the present, each and every moment. Truly. Wholly. Madly. And unapologetically. For this physical earthly life is just a ride.

The afterglow of such an intense encounter stayed with me for almost a week, rather than a day or two like every other time. I reached out to some family members and old friends out of the blue, asking about them. In general, I felt rejuvenated like I haven’t in quite a long time. Beside grounding the ego, the trip has certainly enriched me with some valuable existential insights and newer perspectives.

When we lose ourselves, we find ourselves. The key is to trust our own madness.

“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”

— Terence McKenna


The LSD Experiments of the 1950s and 60s [Videos & Documentaries] 
Surviving the Madness of Sakarana — Hyoscyamus muticus (aka Deadly Nightshade)

Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, and Crystal Methamphetamine — A Psychonaut’s Review

Opiated Then Hatin’ It
Animals Getting High: Weird Nature ― Peculiar Potions [Documentary]  
Placebo Effect & The LSD Prank
My Correspondence With a 31-Year-Old Reader Before He Passed Away
Funny Drug-Related Stories

Funny Drug-Related Stories 2  

The Great Pyramid’s Blessed Curse: Climbing To The Top And Beyond

My Journey Towards Self-Transcendence

The Intertwining of Genius and Insanity
The Intertwining of Pain and Pleasure
Dance With Your Demons

The Ashram Sweeper Who Blocked Me on Facebook

The Egyptian Man Who Kept a Piece of Hash in His Stomach for Four Years

Why We Should Not Fear Death

 احذروا التقليد عند الشراء — ظاهرة الحشيش المخلوط في مصر

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