The Psychedelic Feast of John The Baptist

The Psychedelic Feast of John The Baptist


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The head of John The Baptist, seen the following morning in the Rijksmuseum.

The head of John The Baptist, seen the following morning in the Rijksmuseum.

There is something deliciously Crowleyan about ‘taking rooms’ in a European city for the purposes of a ritual.

Okay, fine.

I rented an apartment via AirBnB. But it’s not like that was an option for Uncle Al in his day. And the destination, Amsterdam, was chosen for legal reasons that would not have troubled him. Just go with it.

Speaking of legal reasons…

We broke no laws during this ritual, and we do not encourage or endorse the breaking of any laws that may be relevant to you in this regard. Description does not constitute encouragement.

Back to business.

Choosing the exact date for this experiment proved harder than you might initially think, thanks to the recent ‘embarrassment of astrological riches’. Described here:

The Super moon brings the moon closer to earth than normal. This is a big Moon, and coinciding with the Summer Solstice, it packs quite a lovely punch!

Both the Solstice and the Full Moon (two days later) have a Grand Trine formation, which are gifts from the gods. But again, they are only gifts if we use them; Grand Trines are opportunities to have things go very well, but they can easily sit dormant if not “lit up”, so to speak. This Grand Trine is in water signs, and therefore is in the realm of emotion and feeling. Remember, the Knight has to DO something to win the Graal, she doesn’t just show up and come along when he snaps his fingers! There is a test; he must prove himself worthy. But this is a portal.

For both events, Jupiter is conjunct the Sun, giving us an extra boost of energy. This is a solar and heroic energy[.]

A solst-ish supermoon in Capricorn? For a Baphometic experiment, that was just too tempting to pass up. So we selected the evening of the supermoon as it turned into St John’s Eve. I’m not especially bothered about this as traditional St John celebrations are more of a ‘tide’ around midsummer anyway.

It would have been nice to line it up with June 24th for the string of bizarre and fortean things that have happened on that date over the centuries, including Kenneth Arnold’s famous ‘flying saucers’ encounter, but I just couldn’t waste the moon. (Argentina got some UFOs on the 22nd/23rd, anyway.)

Amsterdam.

Amsterdam.

The background

On the surface, it may seem a little unbalanced to hybridise a Baphometic ritual with St John The Baptist elements, but it has an appealing resonance with Templar mythology and accusations of heresy. I actually first played around with the combination when I was living on Templar land in Bristol so I knew in advance that this dog would hunt.

The general idea was to use an underlying assumption of the Johannite Heresy -that it was John’s baptism of Jesus that enabled the Highest to dwell in the lowest- as a facilitating myth for a numinous experience. St John functions as a specific kind of psychopomp in this situation. Plus, you know, hallucinogenic truffles are vaguely head-shaped.

There is method to all of this. I wanted a direct experience of ‘the dance’ (hence Baphomet); that line where consciousness becomes the animating pantheistic ‘spirit’ of life.

You see, a consciousness worldview offers greater explicatory utility in that it provides a means of understanding how life interacts with itself, even down to the subatomic level. But a pantheistic ‘spirit’ worldview -let’s call it ‘shamanic’ for inaccuracy’s sake- offers a much more satisfying experiential utility.

To say they are different terms for the same thing is not quite right but they are certainly related in some profound way… if you consider consciousness explanations to be like the weird quantum rules that affect subatomic particles and shamanic explanations to be the way these rules and properties change once you ‘scale up’ into the atomic and molecular level then you’re closing in on my hypothesis.

And, just as in physics, there is a great leap between an entirely probabilistic, instantaneous realm to one that is more ordered… or at least more predictable. For me this is the dance of creation, the continuous manifestation of a universe that exists to know itself.

Also in the Rijksmuseum. Seemed on point.

Also in the Rijksmuseum. Seemed on point.

The lead up

Quite a lot of work went into this experiment, because it is so far outside my typical operating procedures.

1. Fasting

Firstly, there were two juice fasts -one for five days, the other for six- that culminated in relevant preliminary magical steps. This is the longest I have gone without solid food since I was a baby and it was truly fascinating in a Dr-Hyatt-Undoing-Yourself way. For me, it’s probably about as close to a ‘magical retirement’ as you can get while still operating in the real world and not losing your job. All daily habits and rituals fall away. Your lunch break stretches on forever, your nights are entirely free to read and walk and think.

But the juice fast’s main goal was to megadose on ‘life energy’. Obviously everything is raw and alive when it goes into the juicer.

It made me recall that thing Crowley said about eating oysters for life energy because they are still alive. Well, had Breville been making juicers in his day, he would have loved this because the sheer volume of life energy you consume is orders of magnitude above what you get on a raw/live food plan. You consume kilograms of vegetables a day. After a few days, when your digestion has slowed completely down, consuming fresh juice (within thirty seconds) felt like the first few moments coming up on ecstasy. You could feel the life energy distributing around you.

This was combined with a minimum 108 recitations of a mantra for alignment with distributed consciousness (which I will keep to myself) and at least one daily Baphometic chaosphere.

As for my non-occultist partner, seeing as he was doing the juice fast as well, I simply insisted he read all of Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles before the fast ended. (Everyone needs a frame of reference, after all.)

On its own, the effects of this part of the experiment were astounding. I’m already familiar with the impact fasting has on your dream state, but this was kicking it up a notch. There were auditory hallucinations, mood improvements, concentration improvements. I don’t remember a time I felt better. There were also some side effects of detoxification that match symptoms of a liver cleanse… which is understandable. (But you know what? Don’t tell me vegetable juice fasting doesn’t promote detoxification. Show me a study that says so and I will show you a study paid for by Nestlé that includes morons buying pineapple juice in cans at the train station and thinking they’re being healthy. Do one and we’ll talk. A lot of ‘research’ in this area relies on economically-motivated, poor meta-analysis. You may also have to contend with a veritable parliament of ghosts of Greek philosophers who considered fasting essential.)

2. Floatation/isolation tank

The first fast culminated in the first of a series of floatation tank experiences which -thank you, London- is available ten minutes walk from my house.

Floating might be my new jam. Having some little experience with regular meditation, the floatation tank/room (mine was a room) experience is like cramming five hours of meditation into one. My stupid fucking mind threw everything at my attempt to ignore it. Songs in my head, pornographic visions, endlessly repeated loops of the scene in The Simpsons where Homer and Lisa try a floatation tank:

http://vimeo.com/42916032

But there’s really nothing your dumbass mind can do in the end. You can’t cramp because you’re floating, naked, in warm, super-salted water. You can’t be distracted by the phone because you’re floating in silent darkness. Eventually, you just… shed. And shed and shed and shed. I wanted to try sensory deprivation before consuming entheogens in a proper ritual setting to call Burroughs’s bluff that you can create any drug-induced mental state without the use of drugs. And you know what? He’s probably onto something.

So yeah… middle class witches cradles… recommended.

3. Creation of magical tools

Because of my current cosmological proclivities, I wanted an implement that screamed “St John, take me to the neighbours’ house!” So I made myself a rosary that had a St John the Baptist medallion, as well as images of the Virgin of Guadelupe and the Lady of Fatima for these obvious reasons. I call it my ‘ufosary’ because I am a stinker.

JTB 2

This was created three days into the second fast, and was dedicated to the ritual in the Banqueting Hall of the Hellfire Caves.

The evening

Gonna deliberately leave a few parts of this out, just so you know. I get why orders and traditions like the Eleusinian Mysteries did that now. Words can’t ‘hold’ the experience in the correct form and thus it becomes dangerous.

Because these things mattered to me, I researched the growers of the most reputable truffles, picked a strain and made sure I purchased them from a knowledgeable retailer. Most of Amsterdam’s smart shops are clustered around the very touristy and largely awful red light district, which means the ill-informed foreigner runs the risk of buying junk or worse.

We also picked up some incense for the ritual and a few woo accoutrements because I’m a packrat like that. Then it was back to the apartment in the Jordaan district, which had sychronistic appeal as all Mandaen baptismal pools are called ‘Jordans’.

JTB 4

No food was consumed throughout the day, which is recommended as a means to minimise nausea. The apartment was cleared with incense and a clearing mantra. Ginger tea (for nausea, of which there was none) and the truffles were prepared and placed on the table.

I performed a Baphometic chaosphere and then invoked Baphomet. Then there was an invocation to ‘the stars’ because it’s something I tend to do, one way or another, especially when aiming for a portal effect. I did my own thing for this, but it occurs to me you could just crib the ‘O circle of stars, whereof our Father is but the younger brother’ bit from Crowley’s Gnostic Mass.

Then it was time for a prayer to St John for the blessing of the sacrament, psilocybe atlantis.

Before the uncreated god above god, and upon the eve of his nativity,
Do we call upon St John The Baptist, revealer, unveiler,
He who installs the highest in the lowest.

Blessed Saint John, who is called a prophet of the Most High,
Be with us and indwell within us,
Shine your light on those living in darkness.
Abrakad.

Saint John, we ask you to bless this sacrament on the even of your feast day. And as we eat, we ask:
 
“If the carpenter has joined together the god, who then has joined together the carpenter?”

Points for you if you know where that line comes from. That was it. We each said the question aloud and consumed the raw truffles.

The experience

Ugh. I’ll spare you the boredom of a full trip report because there are other, very famous, websites for that.

After we’d consumed the truffles, I went into the bedroom and performed a full ufosary. By the time I was done with this, the body high was coming up. (That would be a combination of ritual and an empty stomach.) So I lay down on the bed and set my shamanic drumming app (here in the app store) to two hours of tribal drumming and rain.

This turned out great. About half an hour in, the auditory hallucinations started. I heard jaguars growling, a strange machine-or-computer-like ‘sub melody’ to the rhythmic drumming. Yes, I know there’s no such thing as a ‘sub melody’ almost by definition, but that’s what it felt like.

An hour in, and the visual hallucinations were the same with my eyes closed or opened. Swirling vines that morphed into faces, flyovers of decaying ziggurats in jungles, the persistent sensation that stillness of any kind was a perspective error of waking consciousness.

This culminated with a counter-rotating swirl of translucent vines appearing above me on the ceiling, with the sensation that the other side of the vine portal was much larger than the dimensions of the room. I watched the play of light curving off to the left on the other side of the vine tunnel for a few minutes before it closed.

There was a definite line under this moment. To be sure, I was still tripping balls. This would have been about the half way mark. But the experimental part of the experience had drawn to a close. Now it was recreational.

The vine tunnel appeals to me on a faux shamanic level as a piece of a tech that I have ‘been shown’ or ‘brought back’, so to speak. I tried it yesterday in London just as a visualisation exercise to great success. It’s like an insta-portal. As a magical technique, it’s not exactly going to set the world on fire, but seeing as I am the only person who knows exactly what it feels like and looks like, its smallness feels special to me.

JTB 6

The rest of the evening was spent exploring the sensory differences that accompany psychedelia in a more standard ‘trip way’. The taste of fresh food, the splitting of music into discrete harmonic wavelengths. I don’t recall this from my earlier psilocybin experiences, but it has a particular affinity with dance music, much as MDMA does. It may have been a side effect of the ritual setting and words used in the invocation, but the experience of all-consuming joy that accompanies MDMA was also there… except it felt… cleaner? More natural?

Weird side note on the dance music stuff: We put on some Dutch dance music station. Most of the tracks were inoffensive, uplifting, mood-appropriate Euromush, as you’d expect. But Beyonce’s Run The World was terrifying… like… demonic terrifying. My reaction to it was so extreme I thought it was going to tip me into a bad trip. It emanated cold wealth and control and hostility rather than righteous anger and empowerment. (The hip hop illuminati? Obviously.) Told you it was a weird side note.

Standing in the backyard under a rainy night sky, the fence lit up with neon purple Mayan-ish designs. I only mention this because my partner, a kiwi, saw them as Maori rather than Mayan-ish. Nevertheless, he did see them.

Thinking about it now, a few days later, I would probably double the dosage next time. We each took 15 grams which is recommended as a high dose, but I may have underestimated my own experience with chemical and non-chemical altered states. Indeed, we both agreed that 15 grams would be a good, legal alternative to illegal drugs for a dance party in a recreational sense. (But then, in my salad days, I would dedicate entire evenings of drug-induced dancing to various deities and beings to tremendous effect… so ‘recreational’ only loosely applies.)

As for the long term effects, I certainly feel ‘reset’. It’s something I’ve mentioned repeatedly before, but entheogens really do provide an immediate jumpstart to minds prone to episodic depression and anxiety such as mine. Since taking them, I’ve encountered a bunch of incidents that would typically trigger a strop; people walking too slow in airports, the idiocy of some of my colleagues, Spanish tourists clogging up my bus route and only going one stop; and I have sailed through them like a normal person. It used to make me wonder why other people didn’t get so incapacitatingly annoyed at these things like I would. Now I know why. Their minds function normally.

So that’s how I spent my solstice supermoon of St John. I didn’t get to find the crossover point between panpsychism and pantheism, but I certainly got a direct experience of ‘the dance’, came back with a piece of minor tech and presumably offended literally every reader of this blog at one stage of the process or another with my crass, cavalier hybridity.

All in all, then, a good weekend.

 

10 Comments

Add yours
  1. 2
    Juan

    Hybridity is where it’s at.
    Intersting piece, Gordon. I’ll be sailing off into the Ayahausca ocean for ten days in mid-July, and you’ve given me some ideas to consider as far as intent and what I am looking to accomplish in ceremony.
    I am certainly way over due for a much needed “reset.”

  2. 3
    Rob Baal

    Nothing here to offend [me] and all resonant with my preferred operating procedures.LOVE IT! Well done.

  3. 4
    Scribbler

    “…presumably offended literally every reader of this blog at one stage of the process or another with my crass, cavalier hybridity.”

    Feh! Just the sort of thing I’m interested in lately. I’m getting so tired of neat and tidy systems. The entire world culture is in a phase of hybridizing. Why shouldn’t magic reflect that?
    Scribbler´s last blog post ..Has the public really been that clueless?

  4. 5
    Gordon

    @Scribs And that’s why I so love our little google chats.

    @Rob Good!

    @Juan Nice. I’d love to hear about it once you’re done.

    @Al Yeah, it’s the best of a kitsch bunch. I’ve actually used it in non-entheogenic settings. It’s certainly better than white noise but not exactly ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Shamanic Drumming’©

  5. 6
    VI

    Welcome to the Cult Of the Head ;) Jaguar lords a specialty, in a jungle under a red sun. And you’re quite right, stillness is a mistake of consciousness.

  6. 7
    Darren B

    I love the Virgin of Guadelupe rosary,or in your case ufosary
    I think the idea of detachable saints is a good idea for performing different rituals throughout the year.
    I’ve never tried fasting for more than a day at a time,but would like to do a fast like the one you described above.
    I don’t know about the hallucinogens with floatation tanks though,as I have seen Ken Russell’s ‘Altered States’ too many times I think not to have a bad trip.-)

  7. 9
    Adam

    >The vine tunnel appeals to me on a faux shamanic level as a piece of a tech that I have ‘been shown’ or ‘brought back’, so to speak. I tried it yesterday in London just as a visualisation exercise to great success. It’s like an insta-portal. As a magical technique, it’s not exactly going to set the world on fire, but seeing as I am the only person who knows exactly what it feels like and looks like, its smallness feels special to me.

    Gordon, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I have experienced at least one trip where a “wall” of vines appeared when I closed my eyes. I could see a sentient being open it’s mouth and eyes through the vines. It never occurred to me to use that as a visualization exercise. Excellent post. I’ll be putting this to good use in the future.

  8. 10
    parvati

    bell hooks just called Beyonce a terrorist so your perception of her music is right on in my opinion. Thanks for the vine “wormhole” descripion, I have experienced this as a sucking vaccuum thingy but I couldn’t focus on what it actually looked like

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