LSD (Photo credit: Max Sparber)
Acid is a mysterious, strange, and unpredictable drug. I know a varied audience of mixed background and belief will read what I write, so it’s so important not to lie. There are times when one takes acid, or any other drug for that matter, and it feels in that moment as if it’s the greatest, most euphoric, meaningful experience of your life. However, there is no guarantee of this happening consistently.
Drugs are the ultimate Russian roulette of the mind. For the extreme magnification of ecstasy, meaning and inner revelation that can come from drug experiences, there is also the extreme opposite. When one has a bad drug experience it is REALLY terrible. There have been many people who have never returned home to the cocoon of sanity after having a bad trip or a number of bad trips on LSD. This is the great deception. For further thoughts on why I believe a great force of evil is behind the lure of drugs, read this post:http://benjaminbradfordwhite.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/satan-is-a-drug-dealer…-reflections-on-genesis-225-37/
Syd Barrett, who was the original singer in the band, Pink Floyd, was an example of a man who completely lost his mind on LSD and psychedelics. Many have said that he was also schizophrenic. I’m not sure whether that is true or not, but I do know that the guy did an ungodly amount of acid in a very short period of time. He became like a walking vegetable by the time that the end of 1967 rolled around.
Just as the Pink Floyd were becoming an international hit on the music scene, Syd Barrett tripped himself into oblivion. Here we can see him on “American Bandstand” being interviewed by the late, great Dick Clark:
You can see from this old piece of film that there was a “look in his eye, like black holes in the sky” as the lyric about him from “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” stated in 1975.
It’s strange to say it now, but around the time of the summer of 1998, I became enthralled with the story of Syd Barrett and his brain’s demise in the midst of psychedelic pop stardom. I found books and archives about him. I listened to his solo music after he had gone off his rocker. I mostly listened to “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, Pink Floyd’s seminal first album, where Syd was at his creative height.
I suppose it was a combination of anger, marginalization by friends, estrangement from my parents, and bewilderment towards the existence of God that led me towards wanting to “ride the edge” of sanity. As the summer of 1998 kicked in… my summer before senior year of high school, I delved into the most extreme use of psychedelics ever. I quit my job at Tai-Wah restaurant, and pledged to “trip” my way through the summer. I hadn’t viewed yet into the wisdom of Solomon, when he said, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
Quite the contrary, I believed that my pursuit was full of meaning at the time. Somehow I believed I would come out on the other end a changed person… for the better. The words of the ancient prophet Isaiah didn’t ring in my ears; “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20) I suppose, in ignorance, I believed that everything I was about to encounter was good, full of radiant light and sweet to the taste. All of my experiences on psychedelics had been good thus far, and I didn’t think I would go too far like Syd Barrett did. I would just skim the crest of the cliff of craziness.
At this point, I was playing drum set in a steel drum band with a group of my friends. The band was loosely affiliated with our High School, but we played almost all of our events outside of the school.
The greatest gig we ever did was playing at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s annual summer art parade. It was a sunny, hot and humid Ohio day~ ninety degrees and clear skies. David Wilt was in the band. At this time he was my regular supplier of psychedelic drugs. He had hits of blotter acid with him, and I bought a few from him. We egged each other on that we ought to take it before we played in the parade. Of course it didn’t take much to convince each other, David took a hit, and I took 2, about an hour before we were going to play. At this point, even David was more sensible than me. He didn’t want to be too out of it while we played in the parade. I wanted to be completely delirious.
We had all our instruments on a long, rectangular float. As we set everything up I began to feel my body going numb. Our band’s director, Mark Bush, asked me if I wanted to play the drum set or push the float in the parade. I mumbled in spaced-out confusion, “Uhhhh… yeah man I think I’ll push the float man.”
This parade was the craziest parade I’ve ever seen, especially because of my state of mind. There were people walking around on stilts with wild, colorful masks and streamers flowing behind them in the wind. The masks were representative of many different cultures of the world: Chinese dragons, Indian elephants, African tribal witch doctors, and native American eagles. The colors were of starburst yellow, purple indigo, crimson red, electric orange, and many more.
We made our way into the parade. I was pushing one end of the float and a girl, Darby Plum was on the other end of this rectangular apparatus. As we moved on in the parade and played our Caribbean style, Jamaican, reggae-funk, the acid started to beat down in my brain. Right in the middle of the parade, I was experiencing what is called the “peak” of my trip, where the effects of the drug were the strongest.
I literally felt like I was in Candy Land, all of these freaky people on stilts with masks on making a child-like visual landscape before my wild eyes, I was enthralled beyond description. There were moments where I literally stopped in the middle of the parade, just to stare at all that was happening around me. Yet I also had a duty, to push this float. A simple duty it would seem, but there were times when the float would reach a 45 degree angle, with Darby Plum doing her job pushing on the other side, and me standing there, a long haired hipped-out kid with his tie-dye shirt on, staring at these gallivanting masked minions which practically seemed to be staring into my soul. I barely was able to do my job of pushing this float through the parade, because I kept stopping to stare at all that was going on. I had the whole band on my case too, saying, “C’mon Benny! What are you doing? Push the float!!!”
So we made it to the end of the parade, and I don’t really remember much of what happened after. This was one of the best LSD experiences I ever had, because the visual display and happy feeling at the parade was so positive. Granted, I did an embarrassing job of pushing the float along, but I wasn’t in any way traumatized by the experience. This is the great trickery that lurks within the pursuit of drug “enlightenment”. One has experiences that lead them into perpetual beguilement. I was thinking to myself, “Man, LSD is the greatest thing that exists! I can’t wait to have another trip!” But one can never predict the situation they will find themselves in.
But much like a mountain climber who wants to defy the odds and reach a higher peak of danger, I wanted to go deeper into the rabbit hole… I was about to have my first bad trip…
It was a dark and dreary July evening. My friend Mitchell had come over to my house to help me record guitar tracks on a song that I had been working on for 3 months… the only song I had recorded in the past 3 months… an 8 minute opus called “Trilogy”. Again, I was the kind of guy that wrote 4 or 5 songs a month at least back then, and psychedelic drugs had put me on a weird tailspin, giving me a deep, confusing case of writers’ block.
I had scored 2 hits of acid the week before at an infamous hole full of hardcore hippies and drug dealers called “Nelson’s Ledges”. These were where the hard-core druggies spent a lot of time. I went there to jump off of a 15-foot cliff into the deep water below, and had run into some space pirate hippies that sold me two hits of what they called “Wizard of Oz” blotter acid. They told me it was really strong, and recommended taking only one hit.
While Mitchell and I were recording, I popped both hits on my tongue. Within 30 minutes, I began to feel the numbing effects and body buzz taking over my entire anatomy, and it was peculiar, because it normally had taken an hour before. Mitchell was finishing up his guitar tracks. At one point, he looked at me and said, “Are you alright man? You look kind of freaked out!” I tried to ignore the fear that this statement had instilled in me, but I was alarmed that this LSD was stronger than I was ready for.
The next memory I had was being at a party, about an hour later. This party was full of drunken people that had once been friends of mine. Because of my heavier drug use, they had distanced themselves from me. I remember a moment when Braden Sipes came up to talk to me. He was drunk and mocking me, saying, “So Benny, how you been buddy? You been “TOKING IT UP” lately huh? Hahaha…” The words seemed to echo and his face distorted as he said it. All around him, shadow mites of darkness swirled around in a tornado of madness. I barked back at him; ”DON’T MOCK ME OR I’LL STRANGLE YOU RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!!!”
It was as if a phantom had entered into me in that moment. Some kind of demon of a dark force of which I knew nothing of. I only know that this moment of anger seemed to overtake my entire brain and body at that moment, and I had no awareness of who I was. Braden stared back at me in fear for a moment, and then walked away…
The trip continued, and is a blur in my memory. I know that the effects of the LSD went completely haywire. I was in a dark fantasy world of which I had no control, nor escape. The people I saw contorted into minions… the very air I breathed seemed to be filled with acidic poison. The back of my brain felt like it was melting off of my head. I didn’t know then that LSD physically made your brain hemorrhage. I only felt completely out of control. I remembered reading of Mephistopheles in the legend of Faust. Had I been overcome by some dark angel like him? Would I ever make it out of this state of mind, or was I doomed to wear a straightjacket in a little white room for the rest of my life?
The profound, dark thoughts seemed to overcome my mind like a swarm of wasps…
The next memory I had was 3 hours later, being in my parents’ living room. It was midnight, and somehow, my friend, Duane, had come to keep me company. We were watching a re-run of the show, “The Wonder Years” on TV. Whatever I thought in my mind, the main character of the show, Kevin Arnold, would become before my very eyes. I thought of the Ku Klux Klan for some weird reason, and he grew a hood on the TV. I thought of a werewolf, and he turned into one before my very eyes. I told Duane, “I’m freaking out man! I can’t control my mind… I hate this man!”
Duane looked at me in bewilderment. He was tired from smoking pot earlier, and told me he had to go home. After all, it was midnight and he had a curfew to keep. I begged him to stay with me and not leave me alone. ”Duane, please man. You can’t go. I will die man, I WILL DIE!”
Nonetheless, Duane had to obey his parents’ rules. He went home. I was left to myself and the effects of this evil drug.
I looked on the ground in my parents living room as I sat there alone, and afraid out of my mind… What appeared to be glowing ravens engulfed in fire began to appear in a pattern all over the floor and the walls. They were intertwined in a pattern of hieroglyphics. I looked on my hand and they were imprinted all over me as well. I felt for certain that I was about to die and these patterns I was seeing represented all the horrible things I had done. I sensed that a swift judgment was about to come upon me. I was doomed… cursed. There was no way out and I would leave this life condemned forever.
I tried to make my way through the night. I had no one I could reach out to… at least not that I was aware of… I so desperately wanted to call my girlfriend Harmony, but it was 2 a.m. I was sitting there in my bed freaking out, seeing the scroll of my life laid out before me in an interconnected life pattern that engulfed all of reality and nature.
The Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris” was high on the charts in those days, and it’s chorus accurately described this profound alienation:
And I don’t want the world to see me
Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am
I just wanted someone, anyone to be there for me. I was too afraid to reach out to a higher power of any sort. I felt too condemned, too dirty, too crazy and broken. I wrote Harmony a long letter, describing my fear. That carried me until 3 a.m. Then I pulled out a VHS tape that contained the movie, “Forrest Gump”. I began watching the 3 hour long feature to try and calm my fretful heart and mind. From the moment where the feather began to lilt in the wind in the opening credits I was pulled into this movie like never before. I cried practically the entire time it was on. I was afraid for my soul…
As the sun arose at around 5:57 a.m. and the feather lilted in the air during the closing credits of “Forrest Gump”, I realized that the acid was finally beginning to wear down, and my wearied body would finally be able to sleep. I cried as I watched the sunrise, and had a moment where I was simply thankful to be alive, and sane.
I had no understanding or knowledge of any religion or spirituality at this time. But this profound feeling was very real. I learned only years later that I was experiencing something on earth that Jesus talked often about… This video is a very grim, but accurate picture of the way hell is truly described in the ancient scriptures: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxCKxxRU_s8