I screamed and slammed the drawer shut.

Fuck, I thought. The DPT trip had unleashed an angry poltergeist in my house. How could this be? I have never had a belief or even the slightest interest in poltergeists or the occult, but the signs couldn’t be much more obvious. Suddenly I was in the midst of something for which I had no frame of reference, no preparation. What had I done? Once again, as often before, I cursed myself for my fascination with these chemicals.

I walked around in a panic. I went to the East Village and sat at a cafe. On the way I stopped in a Tibetan Buddhist store. I asked the clerk if he had any symbols of protection, and he sold me a small metal dorje—the Tibetan lightning bolt symbol used in meditation. I still felt fizzy—I had a tingling around my left temple and my left hand was buzzing slightly. Clutching the

dorje in my fist, I called Charity and told her about the situation.

“Oh man,” she said. “We’ve got to clean that thing out of there before your girlfriend comes back with the baby.”

It turned out that Charity, from her days of San Francisco witchcraft (modern paganism was another scene I always dismissed), knew all about exorcisms and entities. She had carted with her, all the way from Mexico, an entire kit bag of magical implements—including a large and beautifully smooth obsidian ball that somebody gave her in Palenque, and some quartz crystals. While I knew that quartz was used for shamanic healing, to realign energy patterns, I did not know that obsidian was considered to have the power of absorption of negative spiritual energies. “This ball is so excellent, it just sucks all that stuff right up,” Charity said. She also brought ceremonial candleholders (tacky little sculptures of a cat and an elephant, which became Bas and Ganesh for the duration of the ceremony), and Aleister Crowley’s elegant Tarot cards. I met her and we went back to the apartment.

“I can already feel it,” she said when we were in the lobby. And it was true— the air in the building seemed electrically charged, more so in the elevator, and in the apartment, the charge was almost a physical presence. Charity put the obsidian ball down on the ground in the center of the living room. We both watched, astonished, as it took the ball an extremely long time to stop trembling, finally rotating in smaller and smaller circles until it stopped. She organized a quick magical ritual, consulting the Tarot cards several times. I had also never given Tarot cards much thought, but now I was watching them as if my life depended on it—I felt, in some obscure and woozy way, perhaps it did.

She picked a card with lightning bolts all over it, “Swiftness.” “So we’ll be swift,” she said. She picked “Fortune,” suggesting a change for the better. She picked “Futility”—my heart sank—but opposite it, “The Queen of Cups,” my court card. “Because your card is a water sign, we’ve got to do something with water,” she said, quickly analyzing the situation like a technician faced with an engineering problem. She soaked the obsidian ball in salt water, then held it in the toilet and flushed a few times.

“Take that bullshit out of here,” she commanded.

At the end of the ritual, the atmosphere in the apartment seemed changed,

cleared out. It was, we thought, safe again.

It was safe until later that night, when I returned from visiting Tony. Once again, I felt the apartment crackling with a static occult buzz. My temple and left hand started buzzing weirdly. I had been jokingly complaining to Tony about the supernatural forces taking such obvious manifestations—a falling mirror, a big bug. It was all so silly, so comic book-like, even flirtatious. Once again, the joke seemed to be on me as I lay in bed and felt increasingly creeped-out and panicked.

I went into the living room and sat in front of the obsidian ball. I picked up the dorje and chanted a bit—nonsense words, Asiatic-sounding, insectile, similar to what I recalled of the Secoya language, came into my head and I called them out. “Ching! Ching! Gada-ching! Gada-gada-ching!” I rapped the hard surface of the black ball with the vajra, then I held the vajra in my palms before the ball and looked straight at the ball.

In a few seconds, my entire visual field turned grey.

All I could see were a few rectangles of refracted light in the center of the ball; thick greyness covered everything else.

I turned away from the ball and looked around the room.

In two seconds my vision went back to normal. I looked back at the ball. My entire visual field turned grey yet again.

I grabbed my jacket and ran out of the house. Once in the street, I called my friend Michael. Michael is 20 years older than me; a poet and novelist with an impressive knowledge of alternative healing and indigenous cultures, he first told me about ayahuasca. For an hour, as I paced around the streets of downtown New York, Michael tried to calm me down. He told me some Buddhist meditation techniques to “get you back in your body.” He told me that even if there were some “other” out there—and he was not convinced there was—I had to recognize that aspects of my mind had manifested all of this stuff. “It takes two to tango,” Michael said. Rather than fighting against it I could accept it, integrate it within myself.

Michael told me to imagine a Buddha hovering over me, shooting pure white light through my body, turning me into blinding white light, flushing everything negative or bad into my central channel where it would go into my

intestines and ultimately come out of me as shit. At the end of the meditation, Michael told me to imagine this Buddha coming down to me as I merged with the white light.

I followed his instructions, and it seemed to help. Soon I fell asleep. By the next morning, the world had returned to some semblance of normal.

Perhaps this story seems ridiculous—yet the psychic reality of the DPT encounter and its aftermath overwhelm most ordinary events. I offer it as a cautionary tale. There are aspects of it that remain, for various reasons, impossible to tell. Suffice it to say, after DPT, that I suspect death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. There are far worse fates.

New Sensations

For over a year, I had carefully studied my dreams, waking three or four times a night to write down images, conversations, disjointed narratives, and semi-conscious visions. Sometimes, lying in bed on the threshold of sleep, I would see myself as a corpse devoured by birds, or I would be processed through some kind of cosmic sausage-grinder. In one dream, I was crucified and my corpse paraded through an African town by laughing Bwiti tribesmen. In another, I was given directions to undertake the alchemical “Great Work” in an airport lobby. My dream life changed in other ways as well. I would fall asleep thinking about some esoteric concept, and throughout the night I would awaken repeatedly to find my unconscious mind was still holding the idea tightly, turning it around in different ways. I began to realize that sleep is an extension of waking awareness, not just an extinguishing of it. The change in my dream life suggested some kind of shamanic or esoteric initiation. It felt as though the ideas that fascinated me were slowly filtering from my thoughts into my bloodstream, permeating my cells. Despite these hints, despite my fascination with the subject, I assumed that shamanism would remain a phenomenon “out there” that I was studying, in the distanced and analytical way I had always pursued intellectual subjects.

According to the mystic Gurdjieff, intellectual knowledge—technical or academic mastery of any subject—is always shallow and one-dimensional. “Knowledge by itself does not give understanding…. Understanding depends upon the relation of knowledge to being.” He thought that ancient cultures prioritized one’s state of being—developed through self-discipline and

spiritual training—while modern culture only appreciates the amount that one knows: “People of Western culture put great value on the level of a man’s knowledge but they do not value the level of a man’s being and they are not ashamed of the low level of their own being.” If understanding is linked to being, then certain types of phenomena can only be comprehended when the observer has changed: “There are things for the understanding of which a different being is necessary.” This transformative process takes place in stages, over time.

Michael told me to imagine a Buddha hovering over me, shooting pure white light through my body, turning me into blinding white light, flushing everything negative or bad into my central channel where it would go into my intestines and ultimately come out of me as shit.

It is hard to calculate precisely, but in small-scale tribal societies probably one out of every 25 or 30 people receives a shamanic calling. Since shamanism seems to be a universal phenomenon, this statistic should be cross-cultural, which means there are at least ten million people in our culture who potentially fit the shamanic role. Some of those people are currently alternative healers of some sort, some are artists or psychologists, and I have no doubt that many of them are imprisoned in mental hospitals, or they are among the muttering homeless who refuse integration into the mass society. Whether or not they even realize it, they are people, like myself, for whom contact with the invisible world is as essential as ordinary knowledge or material gain or any other reward that the “real world” can offer.

This is what I suspect happened when I made my alliance: A somewhat mischievous being from a higher-vibrational realm melded itself into my consciousness.

This is what I suspect happened when I made my alliance: A somewhat mischievous being from a higher-vibrational realm melded itself into my consciousness.

For a few weeks after the events, I felt this other “it” as a new perspective inside of my mind. My perceptions seemed more acute, my thoughts zingier. There were certain aspects of reality that I seemed to be picking up without conscious intent. For instance, walking around the streets of New York, I felt more conscious of the way that symbols and logos in advertisments and on

clothes stood for unconscious forces, how they shaped and manipulated social reality. All logos, all symbols, seemed to draw energy from the occult dimension, the DPT realm. Even watching a basketball game on television became unbearable—the manipulations were so obvious. The underlying messages—beer for self-oblivion, jeep for planetary destruction and accelerated extinction—so mind-numbingly clear. Post-DPT, I had to overcome a new sense of contempt for humanity—myseif included—as well as an increased sympathy for the devil.

I studied the DPT reports on the Internet with more care. Several of the DPT takers went to the same place as me: “I felt as if DPT were a sinister, sinister being that was laughing at me. Humans are so weak. DPT destroys you,” wrote one of them. Charity and I were not the only people to confront that terror. Others had also felt the manifestation of a seemingly sinister entity. Some of them worried they had torn apart the fabric of reality: “It’s very obvious the human world was as stable as a house of toothpicks, amazing it didn’t fall apart sooner in history, but the hideous human angel hasn’t been crawling along the planet that long at all, and now someone pulled the plug out accidentally.” This writer also passed, at high speed, through Gothic realms where other people seemed to be present in some parallel dimension. Many takers of DPT experience the classic rising of kundalini energy—the Hindus call it shakti—from the base of their spine to the top of their skull, sometimes leading to out-of-control body shudders. Unsurprisingly, DPT often seems to generate an extreme fear reaction.

As noted earlier, Rick Strassman theorizes that DMT, nn-dimethyltryptamine, is the “spirit molecule” which releases the soul into the spirit realm. If that is the case, I suspect it is possible that DPT serves the same function in some other realm—the supernatural world of magical entities sketched by Aubrey Beardsley and described by Aleister Crowley. Perhaps DPT is the “demon molecule”—recognizing that demons are ambiguous entities in many traditions. In Tibetan Buddhism, all deities have both their benevolent and wrathful aspects. The wrathful deities in Tibetan Buddhism are depicted as frightening monsters, drinking blood out of skulls, multi-armed, with fangs and talons. As the flipside of the Buddha—and ultimately aspects of the inner self—such deities call to mind an old proverb: “The devil is God as He is misunderstood by the wicked.”

In making this alliance—in this speculative interpretation—not only did I

have no control once the process was set in motion, but the entity that integrated into me had little choice in the matter as well. “I” was somehow part of his evolution, his inquiry, as much as he was part of mine. Other forces were involved in guiding the merge—but don’t ask me who or what they are. As Gurdjieff noted, “All the phenomena of the life of a given cosmos, examined from another cosmos, assume a completely different aspect and have a completely different meaning.” He also said: “The manifestation of the laws of one cosmos in another cosmos constitute what we call a miracle.”

There might be validity in the idea that the demons or spirits “are attracted to the music.” The disembodied splendor of their higher-dimensional realm may bore them after a while. Through communion with a human being, a spirit from the supersensible realms gets to smell, taste, love, fuck, all our sense- realm experiences. On our side, perhaps we can utilize some tiny aspect of its higher vision and its powers—of course I don’t know, at this point, exactly what for, but perhaps that remains to be revealed at some other time.

I studied the DPT reports on the Internet with more care. Several of the DPT takers went to the same place as me: “I felt as if DPT were a sinister, sinister being that was laughing at me. Humans are so weak. DPT destroys you,” wrote one of them.

If the universe has a spiritual design, perhaps the soul is like a widget running along a conveyor belt, having new devices added to it or taken away as it passes through various incarnations which are stages in its education. In my dream, the DPT demiurge came into my house and said to me: “I used to live here.” There was a strong feeling of familiarity to the episode. Perhaps, in some previous incarnation, centuries or eons or even worlds ago, we once made this same bargain. The incubus’s memory just happens to be better, and longer, than mine.

In my dream, the DPT demiurge came into my house and said to me: “I used to live here”

I almost never buy clothes, but on the plane to Berlin, I began to see myself wearing a deep red or purple velvet Vivienne Westwood suit with an Edwardian cut to it. I thought how cool looking and comfortable such a suit could be, and even sketched myself wearing it. It was nothing like my normal