Seabrook, William Buehler - Controlling the pain of toothache
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
William Seabrook - Witchcraft
I'd begun to be bothered with an impacted wisdom tooth. It turned out to be such a honey that my own dentist sent me to that emperor of tooth-pullers, Hasbrouck, who gave me gas and cracked it loose and pulled it out in pieces, along with some slivers from the jawbone.
He'd poked novocain or something in it too, so that when I came out of the sleep, I felt nothing more than a slightly sore jaw, as if I'd been hit with a club. He'd said, 'In two or three hours when the shock wears off, it's going to hurt you, probably badly. I'm giving you these three morphine pills....'
He told me what to do, and how to take one or more of them if need be. I went home in a taxi, feeling as if I'd been in a bar-room fight, but feeling pretty good about it, with the morphine pills in my pocket.
I lived in an apartment at Floyd Keeler's house, 52 West l2th Street, and Katie was South at the time, if I recall correctly. At any rate, I was alone there, mid afternoon, still feeling pretty good. I lay down, as I'd been told, put a compress on the jaw, laid out the little box of pills with a glass of water, regarded their protective presence with contentment, and nearly dozed.
Around five pm, it began. It wasn't much of anything at first - just a dull, increasing ache, but enough to make me think I'd better be taking one of the pills pretty soon. Then, all of a sudden, with no other warning, it started really doing its stuff - and it wasn't like anything I'd ever felt or dreamed of. I'd had my thumb caught in a car door once, but it couldn't touch what was happening now. It knocked me upright, as if my head had exploded, and I let out a screech.
Before I could grab for the pills and glass, it subsided, and then began coming back, this time in waves instead of explosions. The pain was god-awful, but I felt astonishment, surprise, almost a slight detachment, about the waves. They suffused my inner universe. They began bright red, then began to glow, became white flame, and then turned black as the wave receded. I wondered if anything like that happened to women having babies. Was it like that - when they screeched? There was nobody to hear me so I let out a couple of good screeches. I thought, If the black continued black, if the edges of light round the black went completely away . . . I suppose that would be fainting.
The red waves came turning to flame again. I thought, 'God almighty, if I could get outside this, it would be really interesting. I remembered what the Melewi had tried to teach me, and thought now would be a time to try it. I'd just about forgotten the morphine pills. I hate pain, and am as much of a coward as anybody, but what was happening to me was one of the most violent and interesting things that had ever happened to me in my life. So I tried to do what they had taught me. There’s no incantation hocus-pocus in it.
There’s a bit of technique which they call 'shifted concentration’, but what it boils down to is simply the persistent use of the will toward detachment. I set about trying and ended by never touching the morphine pills, because in a very few minutes, I had done what they taught me, completely. There it was - the waves and the pain, the red, the glow, the white flame; the stabbing pain and then the ache making everything turn black the sequences kept occurring exactly as before, but instead of experiencing them in the sense of being torn by them, it was like calmly remembering them.