The Making of a Mystic

This story is long, and multi-layered, so I will start at the beginning and only go so far, but I will certainly return to this thread in other posts. I was a senior in high school and my cousin procured myself, my boyfriend and our friends some acid. At this point, we had only drank alcohol and smoked weed. This was in the early days of the internet, in 1996, and I never heard of Timothy Leary or heard of “set and setting” or any of that. I only knew it would make you hallucinate and so it should be a fun time.

I’ll spare you all the details of the trip, but suffice it to say that we proceeded as if it were a party, drinking a lot, acting stupid, and then the acid kicked in. I was very sensitive to the violent temper of my boyfriend at that time, and I remember kissing him and seeing and feeling the flesh on our faces fall away until we were moving, kissing skeletons and then we disintegrated into dust.

The most mundane part of the trip struck me the most. I was thirsty, and grabbed a big bottle of Canada Dry and started chugging it. At this point we were seeing trails, but now I didn’t just see the trails, I felt the trails, I *was* the trails. It was the most remarkable thing, I could feel time, I could feel the moment I held the bottle, the moment I lifted the bottle to my mouth and every moment in between, the moment the fizzy ginger ale hit my tongue and the moment it slid down my throat. I was experiencing all of those moments at once, and it was immensely pleasurable. Orgasmic, on an experiential level. That experience of being, of experiencing five seconds of time burned on my memory somehow. My friends and boyfriend didn’t seem to experience acid in the same way that I did. I couldn’t stop thinking about that moment, or those moments, and what it could mean.

Watching the Wake, oil on canvas, 54″ x 36″, 2001

Now at this time I was just a little, shy country girl who was raised Methodist then stopped going to Church and didn’t really believe in anything anymore, I guess you could say I was agnostic. The shame I felt growing up Methodist didn’t preoccupy me, though doubtless it still affected my feelings of guilt and shame about embodiment and sexuality on the subconscious level. I was a girl who was just starting to break out of her shell by partying with boys and dying her hair pink and I got a tongue piercing. I listened to Marilyn Manson and fancied myself a rebel. I was breaking free of my old self, and the ways everyone had perceived me and I perceived myself. But I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like, for the most part. But from then on, I became a seeker more and more. I went to college, and did acid and shrooms, and ecstasy. Again there were these transcendent moments, that were far beyond partying. I had to discover for myself that these are sacred medicines, even the acid “told” me one day, you don’t have to use me to find what you’re looking for. It even instructed me that purifying myself would benefit me more, cleaning up my diet, dropping the caffeine and sugar, and so on. The few times I did acid became an initiatory experience for me into the meaning of life. I recall “seeing” coloured lines of energy and dubbing them “the intertwangles”, a combination word of “intertwine” and “tangle”. I had no idea that what I was seeing then was energy cords connecting everyone in that college dorm. I didn’t know when I saw my suite mate in a beautiful rainbow halo of feathers, that it was her aura.

But that suitemate and I went on a spiritual journey together, she took on the role of my teacher, which would later become a pattern for me, as she seemed to know what was going on more and I lacked self-confidence. We were trying to figure it out together. Everything seemed so grand, so meaningful, so powerful, and everyday life on the campus and even in classes, for the most part, seemed fake and illusory. Life felt like a dream that we were waking up from. I went home from college that summer and my mother had started to take an interest in paganism and Wicca. I picked up her book, Dreams, by Carl Jung, and started to understand some of my potent dreams about the animus, and to learn about my shadow, and why some of my dreams were so dark and nightmarish.

I started to learn about how to do ritual, and how to put myself into a trance. I found I could easily enter the astral realm and see and experience things there. For some reason, I didn’t think that much of it at the time and didn’t pursue it. I could also begin to feel energy between my fingertips when I held my hands closer together. Synchronicities became abundant and I started having visions (sober ones) in the mirror in low light of my face shifting into hundreds of other faces, including a man’s face with a beard. Everything felt charged, powerful and poignant, yet familiar,

Returning to college, my friend I did acid with was now my roommate and we attended goth clubs together, and went to bookstores and got Sandman comics after eating cheap Indian food. We would talk forever and philosophize, but I think it was for the best that we didn’t keep up the intensity of our regular intoxication. Over the summer a relationship ended that I thought was deeply important, one that became clear to me on acid that it was a soulmate relationship, and I entered a depression. My roommate couldn’t help me, and she became frustrated with my torpor. I kept up with classes and decided to switch my major to art. At that point, most of my creative energy got funnelled into that direction and my spiritual and hallucinogenic explorations temporarily got put on the back burner.

But I kept painting about my experiences, and they haunted me. I was obsessed with the feeling of trails, that feeling of being even just a fraction of God. I saw images in art history of Kali and Shiva, many-armed deities and I painted people with multiple arms to explore these remembrances. I started to paint myself as the animus, in form of a doppelgänger. To me, the doppelgänger and the multiplicity of the many-limbed Self were connected, somehow. These images were to occupy me to this day.