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Reply To: My story ..

Toby Johnson

You know, I met Joseph Campbell when I was a work-scholar, as cook and bottlewasher and general factotem, for several summers at The Mann Ranch Seminars in the 1970s. During a conversation over dinner before the first seminar he taught there, I was quite surprised to discover how “conservative” Joe presented himself. Tho’ he said he meant it in the most traditional sense and not in a strictly political (i.e., Republican) way, but it was not very “hippie-friendly.” He commented that he thought taking LSD was like driving your car off a cliff to see what would happen when you hit bottom.

On the other hand, many of us around that seminar program in those days were quite hippie ourselves. One summer we had a bottle of tabs of blue acid and various ones of us had some marvelous experiences of seeing what happened when the car came to the edge of the cliff. It never went crashing down for any of us. It always just took off and we went flying with it.

One summer a Mexican psychiatrist named Salvador Roquet gave a seminar on Psychedelic Therapy. Two people were selected by drawing straws to be the guinea pigs in a demonstration, using injectable Ketamine because it was fast acting and quickly over (as opposed to LSD which lasted hours). I was one of the lucky two who drew the long straws.

Dr Roquet explained (through a translator) that ketamine, which was an unusual and strictly surgical drug at the time and not at all a “drug of abuse,” anesthetized the ego function leaving consciousness alert (and in surgery was accompanied with a sedative so you’d sleep through it). I can still recall the experience of being unable to distinguish between myself and the other people in the room. They were sitting in a circle observing the demonstration and asking questions. I couldn’t tell whether I was asking them or they were asking me. There were just questions. Then I couldn’t tell the difference between myself and the furniture, then between myself and empty space, and then finally between myself and God. They said I rose up on my knees and spread my arms and announced: “I am God.” Then even God disappeared and, I think, I was floating in emptiness before creation and observed the Big Bang in the far distance.

That was an “hallucination,” of course, but I think the fundamental experience is actually true—deep beneath the part of us that assembles our egos is that collective consciousness that in myth we call God. That consciousness is the observer/experiencer in all our experiences.

Joe would have liked that, I think.


Let me add a note to this posting a couple of days later. Synchronicity is one of the fundamental and neatest ideas in the Jungian universe. Campbell spoke about being on the track of your bliss–and one of the ways of knowing you are on it is that you experience meaningful coincidences which seem to affirm the events of your life.

In my story above I told about Joe’s attitude to LSD–that it was like driving your car over a cliff to see what happened. So now, a couple of days later, Facebook has presented to me a video of driving a car off a cliff. It’s Australian trekkers driving an SUV over a dry waterfall, but it’s 10 or 12 feet down. And they are driving the car “vertically.” And they get through it fine and continue on driving downstream.

But it is exactly the image of driving your car off a cliff.

If I may speak mythically, perhaps “Joe” was agreeing from beyond eternity.🙃