A Life-Altering Peyote Trip: A maybe-true science fiction story
A video game
Imagine you're a video game developer in a society with highly advanced technology. You want to make a new video game, something very original that nobody has ever seen before. How do you do it? One way would be to take advantage of the technology available, and explore another dimension, or a world with a culture so different from your own that it was hard to comprehend at first. A culture with fundamentally different understandings of how the universe functioned, how an individual orients itself in the world, and so on. A game with concepts like that, properly executed, could be mind-blowing for the players, and might become very successful.
You have the technology to reach out to such cultures. The problem is, how do you get them to accept your offer of communication? How do you get them to respond?
Imagine you're a two dimensional being that lives on a planet shaped like a circle. There are certain boundaries on each side of you that you can't pass, great monoliths, and so it is impossible to get to the other side of the circle. What you don't know, and what is very difficult for you to comprehend, is, the circle is actually an intersection of a sphere, and there are actually several clear paths to the other side, completely invisible to you, but clearly visible to any three-dimensional beings which happen to stumble across your planet. Manipulating things on your planet, even bringing things from the other side of the planet, which from your perspective couldn't be less conceivable, would be easy for them, and they would appear as gods to you.
There is a wide, flat plain in the desert, with nothing but dirt and sand.
A large meteorite comes crashing into the plain. Where the meteoroid hits is where the impact is the most intense, the most profound. However, tracing outwards from the crater, you will find, 15 km away, there is a lip, where the dirt is pushed up. Outside the crater, dust is kicked up and spread across the terrain.
An event of intense energy at a certain point in space has an effect on the surrounding space. Could an intense event at a certain point in time have an effect on the surrounding time?
When you feel empathy with someone, there is a similar reaction in your brain to the reaction in their brain. Through your mirror neurons, or some other mechanism, the state in their brain is reproduced in yours. However, this extends further than mere emotion. If someone around you has an intense thought about an embarrassing moment they experienced, then you may also have an intense thought about an embarrassing moment you experienced.
The thought you experience is your brain's analogue for the thought in the brain of your companion.
You're riding your horse out on the plains and see some unusual plumes of smoke. The smoke isn't coming straight out, but it seems to be forming some sort of pattern. You tell your companion that you think there's someone out there, arranging the smoke, in an attempt to communicate. He tells you that you're imagining things. "There's nobody out there," he says.
You're in the desert and see three lights in the distance. They could just be lights from the houses, but you start to notice that they seem to be moving subtly, occasionally blinking. You tell your friend that you think the way those lights move is a product of intelligence. He laughs and says "How high are you dude?"
A strange change
In 2001, when I was 17, I spontaneously experienced a kind of change in character. I gained many abilities, seemingly out of nowhere. I suddenly knew how to move my hands and body in an unusual way, which I would later develop into a style of liquid dancing which fascinated many people in my hometown. My ability to draw suddenly increased tenfold. I started thinking more conceptually and less linearly. I also became aware of my own telepathy, a power which I abused, and apparently as a result was severely diminished.
Of course, when I started telling people around me that I was having conversations with horses and that sort of thing, they started to get worried that I had gone over the edge. They were right. The whole experience had left me drunk with power, a difficult experience for anyone to handle, especially for a 17 year-old kid. I had rejected everything I believed about reality, and so I had to construct a new model, and instead of going about it carefully, cautiously and methodically, I decided to just believe whatever ridiculous thought that popped into my head. At one point, I thought I was a god. I definitely was not.
The way my hands move when I allow them to move is still one of the most curious aspects of this experience for me. I allow them to move, and they start to move, automatically. The movements seem to have some sort of intelligence behind them, not just random twitches from electrical misfirings in my brain, but apparently deliberate actions, as if they're typing commands into some ancient and powerful computer, as if they're creating something, perhaps creating a universe.
The "strange change" really changed things; it altered the course of my life. If not for this fork in the road, I probably would have ended up studying computer science, and being a computer programmer or security expert for a bank. I wouldn't be such a sociable, confident person. I wouldn't be such a good writer or songwriter. I wouldn't have met so many amazing, beautiful women, (and amazing, beautiful people more generally) and I probably wouldn't have done as much travelling, especially in the way that I'd done it. Though the change was bizarre, alarming and jarring for myself and many around me, and though I was on track for what would probably be a successful and enjoyable technical career, I think it's safe to say that the final result ultimately lead me to what is, for me, a more fulfilling life.
The butterfly psychiatrist
As a result of the "strange change", for weeks or months, I went to see a psychologist, and he asked me a lot of questions about my life, and my beliefs, and through this method of psychotherapy, it enabled me to subject my own views to scrutiny, eventually giving me a firmer understanding of what was real, and what was delusion.
At the time, I thought it was a bit silly, because he would give me questionnaires with possible answers from 1-10 describing how I felt, and most of the time I never thought that a number could really describe how I felt, especially considering that 1 was awful and 10 was normal - meaning that nobody could ever write that they felt ecstatic without going out of the bounds of the answer field. Questionnaires presented in this way would give their data an inevitable bias.
Then, other times he would ask me questions which seemed very vague and open to interpretation. More objectively, they probably weren't that vague, but I was wont to experience the world the way I wanted to experience it, and so for me, everything was open to interpretation.
One day, Sean asked me if I ever had a problem distinguishing dreams from reality. I asked, pretentiously, if he had heard the story of Chuang-Tzu's butterfly. I told him the story, where Chuang was having a dream he was a butterfly, flying around with absolutely no consciousness of the fact that he was a man. When he awoke, he could see that he was clearly Chuang, and had only the memory of being a butterfly. How could he know if he was then a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or that he was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man?
Sean said he had heard the story, but he hadn't known its source. He made some notes.
A few weeks later, I came back to see the psychiatrist. Of course, Sean, as a psychologist could not prescribe drugs. Only the psychiatrist can prescribe psychotropic drugs, as he is a doctor. So, the fate of my brain chemistry was in his hands. Since the drugs had to be taken regularly, and without pause, the prescription he made could change the course of my entire life.
I went upstairs and we sat down in the consultation room. He flicked through the notes.
"So, it says here that you thought you were a butterfly?" He said, as he flapped his arms like little wings.
I never took the drugs.
Sean told me that I would have to take drugs every day to stay better. I couldn't stop taking the drugs - apparently I would have to take them for the rest of my life. If I stopped taking them because I thought I was getting better, I would probably just relapse. If I didn't take them at all, I would definitely relapse into psychotic episodes periodically for the rest of my life.
As stated, I never took the drugs, and nor did I ever have another psychotic break. That tells me that either: they didn't fully understand psychosis, or, what I had was not psychosis. Nowadays, it's easier to find information about the relationship between psychosis, shamanism and spiritual experiences, and there is even the possibility of alternative treatments, but 15 years ago it was different.
My eventual explanation of the strange change was a spontaneous release of kundalini energy. But then, that still doesn't explain much. I still had no idea what could have caused it to release.
However, it's worth noting that, from what I could tell, the psychotherapy was very helpful. It helped me analyse my beliefs and see where I had ventured off from the things which were supported by my experience, and the things I had merely invented, and got carried away with. Of course, I wish the psychologist hadn't have pushed the drugs so much.
A conversation with a psychologist
This is a recount of a conversation I had with the psychologist, rewritten to make it seem like I was more of a bad-ass, more clever and clearer-thinking than I actually was.
«Why won't you take the medication? I'm curious. If I were in your position, I would take it.»
"Such things can only address the physical problems. The spiritual problems remain." If he had listened more closely at that moment, he might have realised that I was saying, in my obscure language, that it could only address the symptoms, and not the underlying problems.
«It can address the spiritual problems; I think it can.»
"If that were the case, why would I need to continue to take the drug forever? A study was released recently that indicated Ritalin changes the structure of the brain permanently after long-term use."
«This isn't Ritalin. It's not even chemically similar to Ritalin.»
"Right, but it comes from the same system. How long has this drug been available? Two years? So the long-term effects are unknown. It may be that in ten years it is revealed that this drug has permanent detrimental effects."
«For me, I find it funny that people are willing to take drugs that they buy from the street, but they're not willing to take these scientifically-tested pharmaceuticals.»
"Right, but there are several differences. I don't smoke weed every day, and I don't need it to feel normal. I don't need it to get through my days. You're telling me that I need to take this drug every day, several times a day, for the rest of my life. What would you think if I came in here and told you that I had to take a drug twice a day for the rest of my life to feel normal, without mentioning it was a prescription pharmaceutical?"
«I would reserve judgement until I had the whole story.»
"Somehow I doubt that."
Make a mark
Some time around July 5th, 2016, I noticed an unusual mark on my right hand. There was a discoloured circle, in a skin tone darker than the surrounding skin, and in the middle, what appeared to be a very small mole, or a freckle. However, on closer inspection, it appeared to be a very small blood blister, and the appearance of a freckle was given by coagulated blood.
I had read a few stories about alien abductees discovering strange marks on my body. Maybe some aliens did it, I thought, without considering the idea too deeply. I massaged the flesh close to the mark, to see if I could detect any implant. There was nothing notable. I dismissed it as nothing more than an oddity of the body.
In the desert
I took three and a half days out of my schedule, from Thursday July 7th to Sunday July 10th. We finally managed to leave Guadalajara for San Luis Potosí on Friday around midday. When we arrived that evening, we found out that our destination wasn't in the city of San Luis Potosí specifically, but in the state of San Luis Potosí, at a place called Estación Catorce, some 5 hours away.
We travelled on buses, through tunnels, and on the backs of utes, joined with some other travellers, got some advice from a Wixáritari gentleman, and eventually found ourselves in a campsite, under a tree, surrounded by a stone circle. First we gathered peyote, and then we gathered firewood, and then a little more peyote.
The young lady that camped with us, Marcela, said that there was only one piece of advice she could give: If you feel good, eat peyote; if you feel bad, eat peyote; if you feel you're going to vomit, eat peyote; if you feel you're not going to vomit, eat peyote; if you feel like you reached a good place, eat peyote. After trying the first couple of pieces, I didn't think that I would have the resolve to follow that advice. It tasted at best, like cheap burnt coffee grinds, and with the small pieces of dirt that sometimes remained after cleaning, it also had a similar texture. Perhaps I would try a little more, and then relax, feeling a buzz, maybe experiencing some visual effects, heightened creativity, euphoria, or something similarly tranquil.
As I walked around, with the sun getting low in sky, picking up some more firewood, I looked off into the distance, and saw that wherever the sun touched the ground, everything appeared normal. However, where the bushes and cacti cast shadows, it seemed as if the darkness was reaching towards me. I thought: There are a lot of spirits out here.
Yes, there are, said a little voice in my mind. And if you keep eating, you're going to meet some of them. I know it tastes awful, but persist. It will be worth it. At that moment I made my decision.
Luckily, Marcela had brought some honey, along with some other offerings for the spirits that we'd purchased in Real de Catorce, and that helped take the edge off, though the bitterness persisted. Every single time I picked up a piece and dipped it in honey, I had to reach inside of myself and find the courage and the will to place it in my mouth. "It's medicine," I said, "it's never going to taste great."
Marcela cut and cleaned the rest of the plants, said a few words of gratitude and purpose, and we began.
The stone circle
After nightfall, I would step out of the stone circle and walk through the plants, trying to avoid getting pricked by cactus spines. Looking for a place to piss was difficult, because everywhere I turned there were spirits. Every bush had a spirit in it, behind it or next to it, and in my periphery vision, I could see men turning to look at me. Stepping out of the circle was like stepping into the unconscious mind.
Mikey said that at one point, he took a single step over the perimeter, and instantly heard and felt the presence of a young Wixáritari man, running around and having a good time.
Aaron described walking out of the circle as like wading into the ocean. The next morning, we saw Aaron's shoeprints all over the campsite, as he had paced around nervously, knowing he needed to step outside to take a leak, and trying to summon the courage to do it.
At one point, late in the night, he walked up to where Mikey and I were lying and said «I can't do it... I can't go out there. Maybe I can I just find a place to go in here? No no... I've got to do it.»
"I know you're afraid," I said, "but remember, even though it seems weird and ethereal out there, there's still a physical reality. When you take a step, you step onto dirt and sand. All the normal parts of reality are still out there."
That seemed to calm his nerves a little bit.
«Okay... okay, okay. Okay, I'm going.»
I walked off into the desert, the wisps of spirits on every side of me, forgotten kings and queens sitting on their thrones, fallen Aztec soldiers. But in that moment, those seemed to be mere distractions. They were just like figures in the darkness that I see before I drift off to sleep.
"Enough of the visual effects," I said, perhaps out loud. "I want to see something meaningful."
I'm not sure what happened at that point, but I know I felt that something was starting to happen.
I heard Aaron saying my name, saying how I was wandering off into the desert.
I called out "I'm okay," and I went back to reassure him that it was fine. He came out of the camp.
"Have a look at those stars," I said. There was a group of three stars, in a line. The middle was the brightest. The lowest one was very faint, and I had to look at it indirectly to see it. A couple of days later, I looked at a star map, and my best guess is that the large star is Altair. I knew that star was very important for some reason.
«Yes... it's like the stars are shooting green and red laser beams out at each other.»
I could faintly see that too, but that wasn't what I was looking at. I realised Aaron was on a very different trip compared to me.
«Do you want to give a comment for the record?» putting the voice recorder close to me like a reporter.
"Well... I can't really say much. In fact, I can't really say anything. But... right now, I'm going to walk off into the desert for approximately ten minutes... for something. We can regroup after that."
He said okay, and he might do the same. At that point, he hadn't yet seen anything that alarmed him. He walked off, giving an running commentary on the voice recorder.
I walked out onto the flat plains, though the road seemed to slope down further and further, bringing the campfire up to eye level as I looked back.
I focused. "Okay... okay. Not just visual effects... Communicate. Communicate. Communication."
I turned around, about 110 degrees to my left, and I could see three lights in the distance. They could have just been houses. My eyes started to lose focus for a second, so I saw a couple of the lights start to move towards each other. Then they crossed right over each other, each going to the position of the other. The third light hadn't moved. My eyes weren't out of focus at all. This was something entirely different.
Suddenly I felt a little scared, and very weirded out. It was a visual effect, but definitely beyond what I would expect to experience when drifting off to sleep. Something very odd was happening.
Contact - a pleasure
I guess for a moment, it crossed my mind to just ignore the lights and walk away. However, alarmed as I was, I couldn't escape my own natural inclination to curiosity.
There were three lights. In the same position relative to each light, appeared another three lights, just for an instant. Then they appeared again, in a different position, but again, each one in the same position relative to the primary three lights.
My interpretation was, I wasn't just seeing lights in the distance - I was seeing signals. And just like when the European saw the smoke signals far away, he didn't know exactly what they meant, but he did know they meant something; he knew they were a product of intelligence. I guessed, at least, they were saying "Hello."
While we were attempting communicating, I think at a few points I drifted off into a dream state, imagining they were saying something which they were not.
The lights shook around rapidly in my vision, and caught my attention.
"Okay, sorry. Let's try again. What were you saying?" I said.
They repeated a pattern of flashes.
"Nope, didn't get it."
They shook around again, and I was unable to focus on the lights in that moment, and they continued on another line of thought, or questioning.
Unfortunately, I was unable to decipher much of their messages, and eventually I said "Thanks, it was a pleasure talking to you, and I'm glad we had this opportunity, though I'm not sure how helpful what I've told you has been."
Then, I felt, for the first time from them, some noticeably strong emotion. They thought to me: You tried. And that means something. That means a lot.
Then they thought something else: We'd like to offer you this gift, as a token of our appreciation.
I didn't understand or wasn't able to acknowledge the idea in the moment.
Contact - something simple
"Okay, let's try something simple. 'Up' means 'yes' and 'down' means 'no'."
'Up'? What is 'up'? Is this 'up'?
It put a blip to the lower right of the lights.
Is this 'up'?
It put a blip the left.
Isthisupithisupsthisupisupupupthisthisthisisupupthisisthisisupthisis this up?
It seemed to ask, as it put about 30 blips of varying intensities around the lights at once.
"Okay, you're gonna have to slow down."
The ideas of spatial and temporal orientation seemed to be somewhat foreign to this intelligence.
"Let's start with what I already understand. To begin with, I already know when you do that shaky thing, that means I misunderstood and you want to start again."
Contact - Earth
"Does 1+1=2?" It went up.
Okay, now what, I thought.
Two blips followed by a blop, and then a swirl, with full 360 degree motion.
Recalling this scene later made me think about my friend Khari pantomiming to communicate with me before I learnt sign language.
"Okay, can you run that by me again, a little more slowly?"
Two blips followed by a blop, and then a nice, big, smooth swirl.
"Ohhh. It's called 'Earth'."
You should invite us to 'Earth'. If you invite us, then we can come.
"Okay, that's an interesting idea. But I'm not sure if I want to do that yet. I need to be quite certain of the character of anyone whom I invite to my home."
What do you mean? We've known each other for an eternity.
"That might be the case from your perspective, but from my perspective I just met you for the first time a few hours ago. I'll get back to you about it later."
Sure, no problem.
"This is exceeding my weirdness tolerance for now. I'm going to head back to camp."
It occurred to me as I walked back to the circle that these beings had such a different understanding of time than me, that if I got back to them in 40 years, for them it would be like a second had passed, or that I responded a second ago, or that the response was already written on the same page they were reading from.
Contact - somewhere else
I was standing out about 30 metres from the fire, walking widdershins, in an indirect route to get towards it.
Did I leave? I thought. Did I just go somewhere else for an unknown period of time? Surely I've been standing here the whole time. Haven't I? I didn't move - did I?
I returned to the camp, and paused to carefully step over the stones as if I were creeping around. I stood next to Aaron. Eventually he noticed me.
«Where did you come from?»
"I've been standing here for a minute or so."
«Oh. You caught me with my hand in the honeypot.»
Did I walk there? Or did I just shift in space to that location?
A few days later, Aaron said to me "You weren't moving like the rest of us," and described one or two times where he saw me in front of him, only to turn around a few moments later and see me 5 metres away, to his left, staring into the distance.
Contact - Thexder II
Let us explain to you the gift that we gave you. It's mental impression of Thexder II
"Ah... " Mental impression of Thexder II? I thought.
Yes, mental impression of Thexder II.
"Ahh... I see."
It was installed in your brain.
"Ahh... Thank you."
Their "token of appreciation" was the "strange change". What I once thought were god-like powers were nothing more than a child's toy.
I thought, the entirety of my adult life has actually been a game played by aliens. That left me dejected. But, no, that's not accurate. The entirety of my adult life has had, as a significant causal factor, a program installed in my brain by extraterrestrials as a gift, tonight, causing retrospective changes in my life - specifically, a program which is an extraterrestrial's consciousness's analogue for how my consciousness perceives a specific arcade game sequel from 1989. I suppose life can never be simple.
At the time, of course, the idea made me very uncomfortable. The thought went through my mind a few times that "I would like to get off this ride now." But I wouldn't get off the ride, as the ride was my life, though I probably would never be able to see these past 15 years in the same light again. Nevertheless, I knew that soon enough I would get used to the idea. But it would probably take longer than that night, and the night seemed endless.
I probably wouldn't have even been there that night if those changes had never occurred. So how did I get there? That's very difficult to conceive if you see time as linear and necessarily unidirectional, but much easier conceive if you see time as more as a spatial dimension in which one can move in several directions, or even having one consciousness at several times, at once.
Contact - Biomech
Certain muscles in my legs started twitching. A muscle in my right thigh continued to twitch for a few minutes. My interpretation was that, they were trying to gain information about how my legs worked... fiddling with whatever they could manipulate in the machine, to try to get a map of what it was and how it functioned. So I started going through the muscles in my legs, flexing each one for a moment, in an attempt to make it more obvious what each one did. I rolled my legs around, going through each joint, to demonstrate the range of motion. Then I showed them more or less how legs can walk.
Contact - an interesting headline
I walked out of the circle to take a piss. Again, everywhere I turned there were spirits, which I didn't really want to piss on. After a minute or so, I figured I just had to go wherever, so I started to make water in between two bushes. I had the impression that there were certain beings surrounding me, all wanting to congratulate me and shake my hand. I did my best to accommodate them.
I thought, somewhere in the universe, there might be a headline on a periodical saying "First contact with alien life!" and underneath, there was a picture of me, waving with one hand, and holding my dick with the other.
As I was walking off, I got the impression of the cover art of a video game. It was a game where the player controlled giant robots, with the shape of giant legs - human legs - my legs.
Contact - high speed connection
It seemed to be scanning through my life. It seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of time on things that made me feel guilty.
Can't I go back and change things, I thought, those times I pressured girls into sex, all the bad things?
Everyone has bad things in their past. Nobody is perfect, and nobody can be perfect. This is about as good as it's going to get.
What about possessions? Can't I change it so when I get back home to GDL, I have an awesome recording set-up and a nice video editing suite?
Possessions come and go, and so it makes it very difficult to give you a thing. Change time so you have it, and you may have already lost it. That's why skills are better. They're less transient. If you want to make money, just go ahead and do it. You have all the skills necessary; it's just a matter of making the decision, asking the right people for advice, learning from your mistakes, and seeing it through. Thexder II did you well.
I felt like I had had a 1000 Gbps connection to universal consciousness beamed into my brain. I laughed a nervous laugh, and I twitched.
"If I never have a trip this fucking weird again, I'll be happy," I mumbled by the fire.
Epilogue - many questions
In some ways, that night provided me some answers. But of course, it also gave me more questions:
They had altered the course of my life, downloading a change of program into my brain. If the download was that night, had it slammed into my brain so hard that it left the lip of an impact crater 15 years before, and dust even before that? Or did they deliberately place it in my brain at an earlier point? Or deliberately placed it all at once, affecting all times of my life 'simultaneously'? The download certainly seemed to be a point of highly focused energy.
From the "time" we had first talked, to the "time" we had finished, we went very quickly from having a lot of difficulty communicating purely by light signals, then quickly communicating by telepathy. It was as if, through the limited thought information that I had beamed out to them, they had already decoded my "thought language" and were able to imitate it. Then, they learned to hack human brains, perhaps to hack earthling reality. Though there were some events which indicated a non-linear, non-sequential model of time, there were also some things which indicated a linear, sequential model of time, such as the fact that, at first, they could only communicate using lights. Were they just breaking things down, dumbing things down to make them easier for me to understand, or less intimidating? Or is this indicative of some limitation on their part? Could it be that, when entering a reality, realm or planet, they at first only have access to a small section of time, but can access more and more after certain types of contact?
The only time I ever felt a strong emotion from them, was when I felt their gratitude. Is gratitude universal? Does gratitude transcend the stars? Is gratitude something so essential to the nature of the universe, that it must exist wherever, whenever and however there is existence?
If a download of Thexder II really was the cause of my unusual hand-dancing, that unfortunately still doesn't give me much insight as to its purpose. Is it just an artefact, something which would be used in the full version of the game, but is useless in this reality, as my environment doesn't match the context of the game? Or is it something else - something more fundamental?
It's best not to create a belief system around a single event such as this, because to create a belief system I would probably have to make some assumptions, and many of them would inevitably be wrong. It's better to leave it in the realm of "Maybe it's true. Maybe that's a decent explanation of my experience. Maybe it's just an interesting story." If I believed my perception of every experience I had and that my interpretation of it was entirely accurate, I would probably lose track of reality very quickly. If there's one thing I've learnt from all my crazy experiences, it's that, it's best not to take a singular experience and latch onto it as if it's the one most important thing, or think that one experience can explain everything. Psychedelic drugs can provide powerful and fascinating insights, but every one of those insights should be later supported by reason and evidence, to confirm the veracity of the revelations. So, did I make contact with extraterrestrial or even interdimensional intelligence? Do they want me to invite them for tea? Or was it all just a trip?
Until or unless I come face to face with my new old friends, I may never know.
The sun came up, and the crepuscular rays beamed out over the mountains, spreading the sun's blessing. The beauty of life is to live in the mystery.
Thanks to @battleayzee for taking and letting me use his photos, y también gracias a Mikey, Joanna, Joel y Marcela por compartir esta experiencia rara y profunda.
Disclaimer & further reading
This story is not intended to be an endorsement of peyote. Be careful and take responsibility for your own brain.
If you are interested in taking psychedelics, remember they are not something to be taken lightly. Here is an article by my friend Maverick, about some precautions to take if you do decide to undertake this type of journey.