I can’t believe my life sometimes.
On a Tuesday evening, I’m seated in the living room of one of my mentors, along with 10 others he’d call family, all whom I respect deeply, while we each are injected with pharmaceutical grade Ketamine by a licensed physician.
Sometimes, my luck, and this life, feel like a lucid dream.
I sit like a child agape before his first Christmas tree. In this living room, is a tribe of people who love, trust, and explore their psyche’s with each other in a connected manner that I was never shown by family or culture. Before me is a model of how a family, bonded by blood or spirit, could be. Before me is a whisper of how homo sapiens are meant to be.
And beneath this beauty is something deeper.
These people understand the Sacred. In an age where depression and suicide seem like our culture’s Gods, the Sacred is something desperately lacking, and to witness this kind of gathering is enough to bring tears to my eyes now, while writing these words. The experience of the Sacred is something our culture is crying out for.
As I basked in the awe of the love this tribe exemplified, I let the Sacred cocoon my consciousness while the doctor injected me with Ketamine. As I began to lay back and dawn my eye-shades, I quickly repeated my intention:
“I ask for clarity, and to understand love more.”
Then it began.
Fear was my initial countdown operator.
I had never done Ketamine before, so my fear of the experience was fear of fear, and my companion let me know he was there by the excessive heartbeat I could hear pounding in my ribcage.
However, as I began to sense the shifting of consciousness, fear began to subside and I began to experience a warm, almost molasses-like, sensation fill my body. I felt warm, and safe, and clear.
As is always the case with altered states of consciousness, a linear recounting of the experience is only something the brain does after the fact. So while this trip report will betray the experience in structure, it is the best I can do.
And before we go on, so we’re on the same page, I think it’s worth touching on how I conceptualize the psyche. My bias of the mind is mostly a mix of modern Cognitive Psychology (very well researched, mainstream science) and Jungian Depth Psychology (almost entirely theoretical and subjective).
To keep things simple, here are the major landmarks of the experiential territory I traveled to:
Your entire mental life is referred to as the Psyche.
Your Psyche is broadly divided into a Conscious mind, and an Unconscious mind.
Your Psyche is roughly 1% Conscious, and 99% Unconscious.
The Ego is the story your conscious mind tells itself about who and what you are.
Awareness is the part of your conscious mind that witnesses.
Okay, with some mutual territory mapped, let's continue.
My first major experience was likely what people refer to as “The K-Hole.” I, the observing self (Awareness), felt like I was almost in space, and that Erick, the little ego story we’ve co-weaved with the help of everyone we’ve ever met, was miles away on the ground.
At this distance from Erick’s Ego, an interesting thing started happening. I began to hear him tell me what he was doing.
There is an idea in psychoanalysis, best captured by Carl Jung, when he said, “Man is an enigma to himself.” What he means is, once you begin to grasp the vastness and complexity of the unconscious mind, and you study how limited and blind the conscious mind is, a profound realization occurs…
We do not know what the fuck we are, what the fuck we are doing, or why the fuck we’re doing at all.
So this confession of the Ego Erick was intensely interesting...and absolutely surprising.
The phrase Erick kept repeating, in a mixture of singing and confession, was one that would have triggered an existential crisis in my 19-year-old self.
Erick kept repeating;
“I am trying my best to manifest the Kingdom of Heaven.
I am trying my best to manifest the Kingdom of Heaven.
I am trying my best to manifest the Kingdom of Heaven.”
If you don’t know me, to give some background, I’ve never felt religious, was a staunch atheist through my adolescence, and have since been broken open to agnosticism thanks to psychedelics, but never have I felt a particularly Christian inclination.
All I could do was quietly laugh as tears slid from my eyes.
I was tearing up because I felt what he meant. I felt that he knew these words didn’t capture what he was doing, but that it was the closest he could get with the tool that is language. He felt like a wide-eyed, innocent child standing in front of a tsunami, trying to protect the sandcastle’s he and his loved ones have made in the yawning wake of entropy.
(Once I started coming back to baseline consciousness, I began exploring what I thought I meant by this phrase, but that’s for later.)
The next memorable experience was one of the most spiritually profound moments I can remember having. If I were not inclined to try and express these trip reports as rationally and empirically as possible, I’d say that I became my Guardian Angel, and got to experience how she saw and felt about me, but, I’m going to do my best to explain this as honestly as I experienced it.
The nightshades I wore had styrofoam on the edges to block out light. If I fixed my eyes on the foam, I could see little specks of light coming through. With this sense data, I could feel my brain wanting to turn these specks of light into a metaphorical symbol, and to project deep meaning onto it.
And I let it.
These little specks of light became a cluster of stars. My mind told me, “This is Erick.” It was a symbol for my psyche. Many blazing stars scattered about, but all orbiting a single gravitational center.
This is how Jung conceptualized our psyche. We each are a fragmented God in some sense, with multiple selves arising in the various life situations we find ourselves. Jung believed that the most meaningful task any individual could embark on was to explore their Psyche in its totality and to seek to integrate these fragments into a single collective whole. He called this the Individuation Process.
So the fact that I had awareness of my Psyche begged the question of what was experiencing Erick’s psyche…
It was Awareness itself.
When you start meditating, if you’re diligent, you can begin to become aware that your awareness is actually distinctly different than your conscious mind. It is the light that animates the movie of your Ego story.
In meditative traditions, this Awareness has been called The Witness, The Observer, or Consciousness itself. This Awareness is eternally calm, having no triggers, no story, no ego. It is pure, almost non-human consciousness.
However, this isn’t exactly what I felt.
I think the idea of the Greek “Daimon” or the Arabic “Genius” make more sense here. In both the Greek and Arabic culture, there is an idea that there is a force in our psyche that is apart from the Ego story, that tries to guide the Ego story. We can pray to it, talk to it, and listen to its advice.
In modern secular language we may call this our conscious, and in New Age terms we’d call it our Guardian Angel.
Whatever the name you find most fits your perspective, the felt experience was that my awareness stepped out of the Erick Ego, and stepped into this other entity and witnessed how it felt towards the Erick Ego.
It was repeating:
“I love you.
I want to help you manifest your dreams.
I love you.”
Tears streamed down my face. This felt like the sweetest kiss the universe could possibly give me. This felt like psychic harmony. I know I have a long journey ahead of me, and a lifetime worth of growing to do, but in that moment, I viscerally felt that I had an ally that transcended me, who loved me, and wanted nothing other than to help me.
I quietly cried and cried and cried.
Eventually, I started to come back into my body, and my mind kept trying to understand what I meant by:
“I am trying my best to manifest the Kingdom of Heaven.”
I don’t really understand how the answer came to me, but now that it has been introduced into my psyche, it feels matter-of-fact.
There is an idea from Jung, that he introduced late in his life, where he explored the stages of consciousness the individual goes through during the individuation process. He concluded that the highest form of consciousness is when the individual understands that their entire experience, both the objective and subjective, is a single reality.
Your experience of what you believe is the objective world is a creation of your nervous system. The creation that your nervous system manifests is always filtered by your subjective, inner world.
With that in mind, attempting to manifest the kingdom of heaven, to me, is a mode of being in the world (my experience), where I attempt to constantly, consistently, and compassionately bring love and truth into my present moment.
I believe that how I manage my internal world effects the objective world I experience. I believe that manifesting the Kingdom of Heaven is when I am in the present moment, in love, and in truth.
That was the answer that came to me as my Ketamine experience ended was:
“Truth in Love. Love in Truth.
Truth in Love. Love in Truth.
Truth in Love. Love in Truth.”
As I came back to my senses, I laid on the floor in awe of the gift that Ketamine gave me. It showed me just what the fuck Erick’s Ego is doing.
I’m trying my best to be in love, and in truth, with my experience.