Sometimes, the path into the spirit realm is a painful one…
I have been bed ridden for eight days now.
While making progress, I am still unable to walk. Out of the eight days previously mentioned, I was in severe pain for about four of them. Now when I say “severe pain”, I mean the kind of pain that brings myself, a full grown man of 32 years of age to the verge of crying like a newborn infant.
The culprit? Gout arthritis.
Now if you have never had gout, chances are, you may not have ever even heard of it and if you have well, you probably don’t think much of it.
Before I continue my story, let me give a brief explanation of gout…
All foods, everything you eat, contains to some degree, a chemical called purine. The body converts purine to uric acid which is then flushed out of your body by your kidneys and comes out in your urine.
Gout is caused either by the continual excessive consumption of foods high in purine (IE: red meat, pork, poultry, game, organ meat, brewers yeast, bakers yeast, theobromine, spinach, mushrooms, sunflower seeds and oil, soy beans and oil, etc) . Once your uric acid levels hit a certain level, you become at risk of getting gout.
If this occurs, your joints (usually starting with one of your big toes) will begin to fill with uric acid until it becomes so full that, the acid crystallizes in the joint.
Uric acid crystals are essentially a collection of microscopic multifaceted razor blades. So, when your toe joint, knee or elbow fills with uric acid, you quickly realize.
Hell is real…
A “flare up” as a bout of gout is commonly known, generally lasts 7-14 days (at least mine do). Basically it feels like someone is slowly and consistently running a rotating electric blade through which ever part(s) of your body are afflicted.
It is essentially, torture.
So, this has been my life for the past week, a week that was supposed to be a restful, week long vacation with my wife…
Instead, I have lost about 4 nights of sleep and have been on the verge of weeping for most of them. These events have forced my poor wife to wait on me hand and foot.
It is in times like the these that I find strange and unexpected manifestations of altered states of consciousness may arise.
You see, a couple nights ago after about 48+ hours without sleep, night had once again descended and while my wife slept, I sat there, awake.
Now by this point I had gotten prescriptions for prednisone (an anti-inflammatory steroid) and hydrocodon (an opiate pain killer).
I had also turned to a folk remedy of cayenne pepper tea (ingested) and also that of a paste made from the same pepper and water, which was mixed and applied to both my toe joint and knee.
Cayenne pepper acts as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory substance. The tea, which was composed of two tablespoons of fresh ground organic cayenne pepper also releases natural opiates in the body as it reacts to the capsaicin (the compound in chili peppers that cause the burn). As the body reacts to this substance as a poison, it diverts its attention from the pain in the joints to that of the stomach and where the paste is applied.
DISCLAIMER: I have an iron stomach and eat lots of spicy foods, if you wish to try this remedy I would greatly suggest ingesting the more common recipe which is a cup of warm water with 1/4 a teaspoon of the pepper. See how you react to that first as the pepper is very spicy.
So here I am, more than two days without sleep, stimulated from the prednisone, groggy from the opiates while my stomach, toe and knee feel like they are literally on fire (sure beats gout pain though) and praying for sleep.
So as I lay back and despite my stimulation, I begin to sleep. My eyes shut and for a brief moment, I enter the blissful zen of sleep and then, OUCH!
I would push myself up wincing in pain looking at my foot. For some reason when I get gout and I fall asleep, my big toe twitches. As the toe is filled with tiny razor blades, this is horribly painful…
So I sit there, dark circles under my eyes, waiting for the pain to die down and then finally I feel my eyes close again…
After about half a dozen attempts I realize I have been condemned to another sleepless night…
And this is where things get interesting.
This unintentional recipe of pain, opiates, steroids, lack of sleep and a rather ridiculous amount cayenne pepper opened my mind to one of the strangest psycho-spiritual and/or psychedelic states I have been in for a long time.
As I reluctantly returned to a full waking state, I began to realize I was hallucinating. Looking at the ceiling of my bedroom I watched patterns of black and white granules gestate gently across the surface, as I stared, strange mechanical objects appeared hanging from my ceiling, odd little orbs with small modules on the outside, something like a droid you might see in a star wars film. Blinking and shaking my head, both the patterns and the objects would disappear.
That being said, after a minute or so would pass, the state of being in between sleep, sedation, waking life and stimulation, my mind would return to manifestations of similar hallucinations. Looking around my room I would see one of my cats sitting on a box or chair, however, as they both slept next to me at the time, I knew these were also hallucinations.
I looked over to a tapestry on my wall and watched it morph into a face, something akin to a man from ancient Greece. It would appear to speak but its mouth only moved with no sound, looking away and then back again I see that the face had been replaced by a landscape with a bridge, a scene that looked very much like the golden gate bridge in California.
This is all very amusing I thought, but I am so tired. I am not really feeling like tripping out right now you know…
I let my eyes wander around the room for another fifteen minutes or so seeing other illusions of the mind. By then I tried to close my eyes and sleep, but to no success.
Here is where I entered into a world beyond the veil.
I found myself viewing the inside of some insidious tomb like structure full of old and decaying arch ways, stone floors that had long been abandoned, stair cases leading into small or great rooms a faint lowly light with no source casting shadows among these creepy ruins.
Inside this place there was a collection of what I can only describe as chicken-man skeleton warriors clad in bright and colorful stone armor, their eyes red like flame and their expressions angry. While one might find this imagery fearful, these beings seemed most unintelligent, beating each other with clubs and stone weaponry with no real sense of direction or purpose.
One of them would clobber another with a mallet, the victims head falling off while its body went about, walking into objects and falling to pieces as it did. These creatures made odd sounds like that of tiny orcs, chickens and angry young children.
My god, I thought, what the fuck is this nonsense?
With that sentiment, new images arose and evaporated before my eyes. That of a great angry wolf, cartoonist characters like something out of a “Pixar meets fear and loathing” universe, fat monsters, devilish pixies all of this accompanied by strange sounds, clinking noises, bones on stone floors rattling, stomachs gurgling, used car salesmen pitching, mice squeaking…
I would open my eyes and close them to reset the madness but it would only continue once a few moments passed.
Then, I took notice of a a young man, dressed in clothes like that of something you would see in perhaps a tribal community from space. His shirt and pants blue with red stitching and small blue, red and yellow beads around the neck and sleeves, all of this shrouded with a blue robe of which the style seemed more in line with Tibetan sensibilities.
He looked a bit like Jim Hawkins from Disney’s treasure planet. When focusing on this character I toyed with wondering about who he was. I found that by answering that myself with a very simple narrative, I could make him walk and as I did so I could simultaneously recreate the space around him.
So from the spider web filled catacomb like tomb this vision had begun in, I now transformed his surroundings to that of a majestic temple carved from marble. The young man would walk through beautiful stone gazebos, up and down stair cases and hallways inlaid with great emerald pillars.
Stone vases filled with beautiful flowers at the base of each and every corner, illuminated by a subtle bluish white light which flowed through unseen windows casting beams through fairy dust left by tiny winged creatures who laughed from the shadows and occasionally would inspect a flower before sprinting off into the unknown.
I was able to view this character I had created in full 360 degree perspective and also look out through his eyes to see the world I had placed him in from his own view.
I got the feeling that while he was my own creation, he had some sense of personality and emotion beyond that of my control.
Well, this is better I thought to my self.
I wandered through this world for a while before, OUCH!
After the pain had again passed, I sat there eyes open and felt as if this toe twitching thing was the work of some unseen tiny rat bastard. A minor demon who was taking pleasure in bending my toe at random and laughing at me unseen in the darkness…
This thought brought me into a odd space. I was so very tired of being in pain, desperately in need of sleep and at the onset of the thought of a pesky demon playing tricks on me, I felt just about helpless.
I started seeing visions of tall candles standing om golden rods adorned with tiny jewels, like something you would find in your local Catholic church. I could see smoke and smell incense, I saw visions of dark faces, perhaps that of the entity I had imagined plucking at my toe.
It has been about three years since I have officially left my Christian faith and now I found myself so desperate, so spent and so in need of rest that I began to pray.
Pray to the creator, pray to God and even to Jesus.
Asking, begging, pleading even trying to make deals with my old deities who I had cast away in a ritual of anger and sadness those three years ago. Out of that desperation, I for a while, reverted back to speaking to Yeshua and his father (jerk) as I had done for so long growing up in a Christian home.
And while no miracle came, no healing like those stories from the bible occurred, I was certainly talking to these entities as I have so many others since becoming a magician.
The thing is, I felt as if this “Jesus” I was talking to at the moment, was real and was communicating to me. However and to my surprise, not in the way of saying, “repent lest you be committed to the pit of fire” (as that was what I kind of assumed would happen) but simply as if he was trying to reconnect with me as a friend.
At that moment, a memory of the film “Mythic Journey’s” (which I had recently watched) popped into my head. In it, there was some commentary about how far Christianity had come from the early Christians and their spirituality. How very different their sense of myth and divinity was to modern Christians and how much it had been perverted by time. It suggested that looking at the Bible for what it truly is (a myth) could provide a far more rich and enlightening spiritual experience for seekers in general.
From this portion of the experience I had an epiphany. The story itself, the myth of his life like all great stories, is profoundly useful to any spiritual seeker when viewed correctly as a myth, rather than as a literal truth.
For me this was an important milestone because I was able to make peace with my Christ. I was able to take the jewels of the mythology out of the ashes of the lies…
And so from there the story continues…
The memory faded and again I was awake, again I was so very desperate to sleep. I drifted into a semi-conscious state where I began narrating and controlling a story about two young Jedi trying to achieve a goal and while I could not really control the story or the surrounding atmosphere as I had just previously done with the young man in the temple, the interface was similar.
My mind had created some sort of matrix where the story of these Jedi and their goal had somehow become intertwined with my need for sleep and my hope for healing and an end to the pain.
This resulted in a kind of on going thought loop where the Jedi in the story continually made advances only to hit a wall and have to start over again. It was as if this narrative was an attempt by my brain to distract me from the pain as perhaps a way to induce sleep, which eventually, it did.
I awoke hours later, not sure how long I had slept but certain that I had because I could recall two dreams (neither of which are important).
While today I am still in pain, it is a bit more manageable and I have made some improvements in my ability to bend my foot and stand with crutches.
So, I am moving in the right direction and very thankful for that.
As for the story above, I imagine it will be an inspiration for other creative endeavors beyond this blog post and I suppose that is the point.
If we are able to transmute the worst experiences into positive outcomes by way of our personal mythologies, then truly we succeed in creating the philosophers stone.