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Observations placeholder

Roger Keen - The Mad Artist - Psychonautic adventures



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 2


A description of the experience

Roger Keen – The Mad Artist – psychonautic adventures in the 70s

We ambled around the house, looking in the TV lounge and then heading down to the kitchen, before going outside and doing a circuit of the garden in the moonlight. The rubbery, spongy feeling built into something resembling a high, but a most unusual one, quite unlike dope or acid but definitely of the psychedelic order. I had strong impressions that everything I perceived was somehow fluid and flowing, dispossessed of its normal solidity.  Walls, floors and furniture seemed fragile and insubstantial, almost as if they were some kind of photographic projections or holograms. An odd dysfunction of my sense of space and perspective contributed to this effect, making it harder than normal to judge how far away things were, and how they related to one another in the composition of my visual field.

Back in the kitchen, Mick and I compared notes, and he reported much the same. Smiling, we sat down at a corner table and watched the stream of activity. There was a calm, somewhat soporific feeling with this high, which leant itself to quietness and meditation. Joe was sitting at the central table, eating a dinner of carrots, new potatoes, sweet corn, a meat pie and a hard-boiled egg. On dope, Mick and I might have been tempted to laugh, but on fly-agaric we just looked on with a kind of gently amused awe.

Joe's head exuded the qualities of papier-machier or vacuum-formed plastic, hollow and wafer-thin, as if I could take it in my two hands and crush it into a little ball.  The same could be said of the whole of Joe's body, the table, the chairs, the entire scene. Reality seemed no more than some kind of sophisticated 3D wallpaper, impressively life-like but easily torn away.

What the high didn't involve were the intensified perceptions, enhanced colours or the patterning effects one gets with strong dope and acid. That rush of ideas, the spotlight of self-consciousness, and the sense of vulnerability leading to paranoia were also absent. Also, there was no sense of urgency, no particular desire to do anything to accompany the sensations - such as play games, listen to music, or talk. Mick and I just sat there, arms folded, feeling calm and beatific, kind of caught up in the eternal present. It was indeed an unfamiliar high, but a secure one, refreshing in its break from routine.

In this meditative frame of mind, I tuned into the spongy sensation in my tissues, finding it had now grown into a generalised state of diffuseness and weightlessness, something like one must feel  in a sensory deprivation tank.

It corresponded to my observations of outside objects; boundaries were no Ionger clearly delineated and forms lacked their usual substance.  I felt that if I shook myself hard enough, my flesh would float clear of my bones and become some amorphous bloop suspended in the air.

When it came to my thoughts, symbolic reasoning was likewise imbued with liquidity and liability to chimerical transformation.  Nouns were seemingly interchangeable, the glue binding an object to its particular label having become loose.  So when I considered the kitchen wall I thought ‘Why should it be a wall? What makes it a wall?’  It seemed quite arbitrary that a vertical flat surface should be saddled with the word ‘wall’ for purposes of identification.   I looked at the kitchen table – why table?  Why not wall? – and the two interchanged so that the qualities of one referred to the other, and vice versa.  But this was more than some capricious game of semantics.  In some unfathomable fashion, the wall actually looked like the table, and the table looked like the wall!  It was an uncanny sensation that made me speculate on the nature of perception and conditioning in something like the way I had on my first acid trip, though the actual effects were of quite a different order.

Eventually we found our way back up to Mick's room, where we slumped down and listened to some music. Steadily, the tranquil feeling gave way to one of lethargy and drowsiness. I took stock of the impressions of the high, now they were beginning to fade. 

For a while earlier I’d been quite excited thinking the sensations would come on stronger and every boundary would dissolve and perhaps I’d be able to walk through walls!  Now it was apparent that what we’d had was a lowish dose, which made me wonder what twice or three times the amount would have done.  Might a larger dose have produced the transcendent euphoria and sense of omnipotence that would give rise to a religious experience?  Very possibly I thought.

The answers to some deep mysteries about the nature of being had seemed to be hovering not that far away.

But now I was coming down, my body felt as though it was composed of  upholstery filling, my head was cotton wool and my bones were those soft rubber bones you get in pet shops for puppies to chew on.

… Mick lay back with his hands behind his head.  ‘So, old chap’, he said, 'we didn't quite make it to the other world, but I feel as though I've gained some measure of knowledge tonight''

‘So do I’, I said.

'It's not easy to put into words, though, is it?'

'No, it isn't'

'It was mainly feelings, strange feelings about the way things are''

'That's right’ I said, lacking the energy to elucidate further.

‘I'll tell you about another friend of mine who took fly-agaric’,  Mick went on. ‘He was really into it, used to do it regularly in large doses. Once he actually managed to get into a separate reality. He waltzed around his house in ecstasy for three days, introducing his wife to beings she couldn't see’

'Maybe next time, Mick...' I said

'Yeah...maybe... You know, I don't half feel knackered'’

'So do I - amazingly so, in fact..''

The conversation became suspended at that point, with both of us running out of steam. Gradually I fixated on one of Mick's table legs, and eventually came out of my trance to find that Mick was now lying full length on the bed, eyes closed, with his boots together, pointing upwards, and his arms folded across his chest, he resembled a stone effigy of a medieval knight on top of a tomb.

I struggled to my feet and turned off the hi-fi and then the light. Feeling like an old ruin, I hobbled to my own room on legs that had now assumed the qualities of lead rather than rubber. It wasn't that late, only around half past ten but I got into bed and was out completely for twelve hours.

So, on top of their religious propensities, I'd discovered that fly-agarics were also one of the best sleeping draughts around.


The source of the experience

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Amanita muscaria