What Happened That Day Part 2

by nielskunze on November 8, 2014

(Go to Part 1)

(Author Narration with musical accompaniment)


We were snot-nosed shamans hoping to find authenticity in some parallel universe; we wanted to discover what was really real.

It wasn’t at all that we were dissatisfied with life. No, we were really stoked. We were thrilled with the further prospects of these adventures. It was just mundane life– the presumed routine of education, career, family, and all which that entails– that left us a bit flat and disinterested at times. Jake, the youngest of our trio, explained to his parents over and over again that he was just exploring his options. That’s why, despite his obvious academic prowess, he had elected not to go to university at this time.

No, there were mind-melting, reality-bending, personality-shattering experiences to be had, and we three had made some real headway lately in this regard. Reality is a vagrant… sleeping on park benches, sleeves stuffed with crumpled newspapers… insulating against the cold unknown. We all know the sleeper– too well. Sometimes he really stinks, and his snoring gets too loud, but just so as long as he remains asleep we can cope. Ah, predictability… the basis for all civility.

But should Reality be awakened, then look out, look around, look within! Nothing is the same… or if there are a few elements of familiarity, suddenly they’ve been hurled into an alien context. Their meanings are nothing like what they once were. We return to primordial Adam, naming the strange elements in a neurotic god’s garden. We are reoriented, re-identified as a sudden spike in an otherwise flatlined life. So for most, it seems, it is best to just let Reality sleep a little bit longer.

There was an online company called JLF Catalog, purveyors of “Fine Poisonous Non-Consumables.” At the time, we thought they were about the most interesting company in the world. Before you could purchase any of their exotic items, customers were each required to read a disclaimer onto the company’s answering machine, promising that they would not “eat, drink, swallow, snuff, suck, smoke, inject, absorb transdermally, or insert anally” any of their products. Furthermore, every label stated that each of their products were of a “non-consumptive, non-ingestive, non-culinary, non-food, non-medicinal nature; therefore, no specific success or desired outcome is guaranteed.” And finally, the “other things NOT guaranteed by JLF: Everything, except correct identity of materials.”

So what exactly did JLF sell? Mostly plant bits. They carried a huge inventory of the very many “teacher plants” which had been traditionally used throughout the world in aiding shamans and seekers in their sacred quests and forays into non-ordinary reality. The number of plants that are able to alter man’s consciousness is incredibly vast, and JLF, it seemed, was exceptionally good at sourcing them out and offering them for sale to a curious world. None of the things they sold were scheduled substances; it was all perfectly legal.

I was a longtime customer of JLF. I purchased many things. They had a copy of my voice reading their disclaimer on their answering machine. I received their periodic packages always resealed with that special yellow tape which reads “Opened by customs.” Nothing was ever confiscated, though. Like I said, it was all perfectly legal.

Most of the things that shamans consume in order to disorder their common realities taste somewhat less than delicious. Alkaloids tend to be bitter, and the more interesting or discombobulating the effect of the alkaloid, the more vile its stain on the palate. At least, that was our experience. And then the procedures for boiling down the fetid teas or otherwise extracting the magic with industrial solvents would leave wannabe shamans unsure and wary of that brew, slurry, globule, resin or powder. “Is this what it’s supposed to look like? Smell like? Taste like? Yuck! And will it have the desired effect?”

Then JLF started selling pure compounds. Proper laboratories with all their fancy gear and well-honed procedures were employed to render little packets of pure crystalized thaumaturgy. The guesswork in dosages and potency were eliminated. The strange smell of half-assed alchemy was purged from my home, much to the relief of my roommates. Now we had something… something formidable!

Those tiny packets of free-base crystals refined the psychedelic arts to a haiku of preparation for a Homeric odyssey of epic tripping. The convenience was grand, but there was a downside tradeoff. The compounds were indeed pure and natural, the molecular champions of the entheogenic world, but they had been lifted from their living matrix, essentially divorcing them from the complex natural world which had spawned them. They were isolates, bodies cut from a larger spiritual tapestry… much like ourselves.

The particular compounds involved in our current narrative were those two elements comprising the Amazonian brew called ayahuasca. There are always two components to ayahuasca. Traditionally, the jungle vine Banisteriopsis caapi provides the mono amide oxidase inhibitor, while the leaves of the plant Psychotria viridis provide the main hallucinogenic ingredient, dimethyltryptamine or DMT.

Ever since the publication of Dr. Rick Strassman’s book in the nineties, DMT: Spirit Molecule, there has been a robust ongoing discussion on the internet about this most interesting of substances. Any curious reader can easily search for aspects of this discussion, so I won’t repeat much of it here. What is essential to know is that DMT is a powerful dissociative, severing mind from body… consciousness from familiar reality. Under the influence of DMT a user can experience virtually anything, and it is very unlikely to resemble the commonplace or mundane. Also, DMT is not orally active.

DMT is produced in our own brains all the time. It doesn’t affect us psychedelically because we also produce an enzyme called mono amide oxidase (MAO) that very efficiently breaks down tryptamines in our systems. Only by taking an MAO inhibitor can DMT be made orally active. Hence, the two components of the ayahuasca brew.

We had purchased the legal version of pure DMT which is the methoxyated analogue (5MEO-DMT) and the pure MAO inhibitors harmine and harmaline, isolated from Syrian rue (Peganum harmala) seeds. The DMT was pure white, and the MAOI was bright yellow. Only very tiny amounts were needed of each.

Using Jake’s milligram scale I measured out the appropriate amounts of each three times and deposited them into gelatin capsules. Then I thought to myself “What if the MAOI doesn’t kick in before all the DMT is hacked apart by the enzyme?” I measured and filled three more capsules of just 5MEO-DMT. If the combo pill didn’t work, these secondary caps would surely do the trick once the MAOI had been given ample time to activate. The amount of substance in each capsule was truly minuscule, hard to believe that it was capable of doing anything at all.

We’d all had prior experience with DMT. The pure crystalline powder can be smoked with a carrier, delivering a sudden surge of the spirit molecule past the blood-brain barrier in an instant. The effects are devastatingly immediate, hardly allowing the user time to lay the pipe aside before beginning to overwhelm all normal cognition. And then the trip lasts for only three to five minutes before our enzymes gobble up the tripping agent. An additional twenty minutes of euphoria then usually ensues as the user begins to reacclimatize to familiar life after just having visited what is most commonly described as “the other side of death.” Pretty much anything can occur on the other side of death.

The brutal transcendentalism of a smoked DMT trip cannot be accurately conveyed to those who have never tried it. It is utterly world-shattering. The fact that reality can be so thoroughly disassembled instantaneously tends to be somewhat disconcerting. Fearful and controlling persons should not even consider such a trip; it would likely devolve into a nightmarish scenario which would have to run its course. And five minutes of hell can seem an eternity in a realm where time ceases to exist altogether. We were experienced… and now we were looking for a gentler ride into that other realm.

Ayahuasca, the Amazonian teacher-healer, is the sacred and powerful tool of knowledgeable shamans. Its use is attended with much ritual and ceremony. The shamans of the Amazon claim that ayahuasca has a spirit of its own– a special spirit from the plant kingdom. This spirit is a guide, sometimes wholly benevolent, sometimes a dispenser of tough love. One of the common effects of imbibing the traditional brew is that of a purgative. Vomiting is not uncommon.

We three were keen to forego the vomiting bit. The pure compounds of our pharmahuasca was sure to spare us. What we failed to consider, however, was that the spirit of ayahuasca also would not be attending our adventure, as it had already been distilled out in some laboratory somewhere. We would not have the guidance and protection of a truly knowledgeable shaman keeping us safe either. We knew some of the dangers… but somehow we managed to convince ourselves that they couldn’t possibly apply to us. We were longtime believers in psychedelic adventuring…

And I still have difficulty believing what happened that day.

More information about the traditional use of ayahuasca and its recent infiltration into western society is provided in the following documentary.


Proceed to Part 3

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