[Appendix 1][Appendix 3]
E is for Ecstasy by Nicholas Saunders
Appendix 2: Personal AccountsThis is a small selection of first-hand accounts of Ecstasy use that I have chosen so as to include a wide range of experiences in different situations. I advertised for 'life-changing accounts', but only received the one negative story included below.
A woman of 22 enjoyed Ecstasy at first, but after two years the dream turned into a nightmare.
Five years ago I dropped my first Ecstasy tablet. I'd tried other drugs such as LSD and speed, but this was different. I can't describe the exact feeling except that I was in a completely euphoric state of mind, a mystical trance. My friends and I couldn't stop hugging and saying how much we loved each other. I soon realised that drugs and the dance scene went hand in hand, and I thought it was pretty amazing, all these people dancing, being totally out of it and having a ball. And I was somewhere in the midst of it thinking how wonderful it was to be so high.
I had a good job as a personal assistant in a television advertising agency, and so could afford the #20 tablet every Friday night, and sometimes on Saturdays too. Two years later I was more obsessed with raving than ever. I was getting bored with my job and couldn't believe my luck - I was made redundant and given #3,250, and found a new job starting a few weeks later. But I found out my boyfriend was seeing someone else, so I did the proper thing and kicked him out.
After this I went completely mad, going out to raves, dropping Es, taking speed and even taking LSD again - it was the time of my life. But then a letter arrived saying that my new job had fallen through, and I was devastated.
Things went downhill from there. After over three months of soul-destroying job hunting, the only thing I enjoyed out of life was dropping my E. But they didn't seem so strong and I was scared of coming down again. I began to sink lower and lower. I felt like I was in hell - I wanted out.
I was living with a friend who was dealing E, and one day I took his stash with me and went up to Hampstead Heath. I swallowed the lot - 100 tablets - and, though I was in E land, I was scared stiff. I blacked out, but woke in the morning very hot and with my body in spasms. Eventually I ended up in a psychiatric hospital called Napsbury. It was the most frightening experience of my life. I'd never before come into contact with mentally ill people and it freaked me out. I discharged myself as soon as I could and moved in with my boyfriend.
Before long we went to a rave, and as I was feeling pretty good, I thought one E wouldn't hurt me and I had to feel that buzz again. It was the worst trip I had ever had. Was it Ecstasy? It was like LSD and speed mixed together. I was more paranoid than ever and, looking round, I could see how all the other people on drugs looked more mental than the patients at Napsbury.
Some time later I went to a big rave with my sister. I had run out of anti-depressants and I knew I couldn't dance without an E, so I bought one. The paranoid feelings went and I began to feel like the old me, well, me on drugs, in Heaven. I really enjoyed it except that, in the back of my mind, I knew that I would some day come down to my evil existence.
A few days went by and I gradually came down and down and down. My reality was totally destroyed; distorted with feelings of intense paranoia. I didn't think it was the E, I thought I was just going crazy.
On Thursday 27th of June 1991 I didn't want to go to work but my boyfriend wouldn't let me stay at home. He'd had enough time off work already and he was scared about leaving me on my own. So he took me with him. I promised I'd try my best. All morning the feelings of being in a paranoid, anxious state were getting stronger. I was sweating and the feelings of wanting to run away increased.
Lunchtime came and friends asked me if I was coming to lunch. I said I'd be along shortly. I picked my purse up and headed for the stairs. After climbing the stairs I walked down towards the fire exit and came to a ladder leading up to the roof. I climbed up on to the roof. It was a beautiful sunny day. I walked around for a few minutes and peered through a glass dome and looked down at all the people having their dinner. Then I walked to the edge of the building and saw a few people getting out of a car, I ducked down and waited for them to go. At this point I was feeling pretty pleased with myself because I knew that I would never go back to the office because I was going to die.
I lay down on the edge of the building as something told me I couldn't jump. It was a 60 ft building. I closed my eyes and I rolled myself off. It was as easy as that. Getting rid of myself was the only way of stopping the chaos in my mind.
Nine days later I came round in hospital. I'd been on a life support machine and I was now breathing on my own. I had suffered very bad head injuries and I broke both my legs. When I was able to walk on crutches they sent me back to Napsbury, the hospital I'd been scared of. I stayed there for nearly 5 months and then my parents got me admitted to a hospital near them in Preston.
One day I was sitting on my bed, crying. Another patient who'd come in a few days earlier asked me if I ever prayed. I said no - I didn't. She told me that I should and I decided that maybe it was a good idea. I didn't have anything else, so from that day I began to pray. As each day went by I began to feel more myself. My sanity began to come back. After seven and a half months I was ready to come home. I don't know if it was the praying or the change in medication, or both that cured me, but whatever it was I still have faith. It's stronger now than ever.
Its been five months since I came out and now I'm back in shape, mentally and physically, though I have a few scars. A few of my friends have stopped taking Ecstasy since my accident which I'm glad to see, but it still goes on now more than ever, and it's growing. I know, because I still go raving. I can still dance the way I used to except that now I'm on a natural buzz. I'm proud to say, I love it. People don't think it will happen to them, but I've tried drug-induced living and it nearly killed me.
Taking LSD and Ecstasy changed my perception, changed my life. I don't regret what has happened to me and I don't regret taking drugs; I had a good time while it lasted. But those days are over and I've learnt that drugs are more harmful no matter how mind-expandingly good you think they are. It seems so positive at the time, but it's just taking you backwards. If you take an E, it takes you very high and if you keep doing it, you eventually start to sink lower when you're not on it. How can you be in control of your life if you can't live without drugs and you can't dance without them? The drugs are in control of you.
You may think you're in Heaven. But you could be going to Hell.
Christiania is a community of about a thousand people in Copenhagen that was started in 1970. Although hashish is sold openly on street stalls, other drugs are rare and at the time of this story (1988) Ecstasy was virtually unknown. Lise was working in the Green Hall, the community's maintenance depot, and had just been accepted by West Surrey College of Art. She was 23 at the time.
The next day I had to leave my home community, Christiania, to study art in England for the next three years. I was in a very sentimental state, sad and a bit scared of the impending change, as though I was being forced to confront a new way of life. I had lived in Christiania since I was 17 and loved the place and really did not want to leave.
My last night was a night of dancing and celebration and all the people I loved were there - hundreds of them and we danced and got a bit drunk, but maybe I was rather tense; making myself ready for my new life.
My old boyfriend, Herbert, had come from Paris, and brought some Ecstasy with him, something he had always wanted to experience with me. I had actually never had any experiences with drugs before, and I did not feel safe to take it with him, especially as he had described the effect as an aphrodisiac. However, I felt obliged to take it after he had brought it all the way from Paris, although I was actually crying with fear.
I took a small dose, probably less than half, but maybe because I was in sensitive state and a bit drunk that night, I seemed to react very strongly.
At first I felt pretty weird, shivering a bit, and was aware that everyone was watching me to see how I reacted. Gradually I became disgusted with Herbert and the others on Ecstasy. They seemed like complete 'spacecases' to me, suspiciously happy and sexual in extremely feminine ways. I felt they were circling around me trying to draw me in together with them, and it made me want to escape.
I became aware that this feeling originated from everyday contact with this group of people. I could see clearly that I didn't trust them and I did not want to get close to their lives.
So I felt them watching me and searching me all the time, while I became more introverted and scared. However, a strong feeling gradually developed that I should follow my own intuition, spontaneity and feeling of love for life. I danced and danced and floated around and ended up seducing a very beautiful man who was only 19 years old. The seduction was so nice as there was such a happy sexual and euphoric energy about the whole thing.
Forgetting all about England, I convinced him to travel to =C5rhus with me to go to a music festival. While waiting for him to come back that morning, I walked around Christiania while the sun was rising, and I saw the place more clearly and felt my love for it more strongly than ever before. It was not a naive, stoned way of seeing, but a much more intense, completely open way of seeing things how things really are without fences and borders. I could see all the years I had spent at this place, and how I had been embraced by it and taught by it - and I just walked around and looked and looked and looked and looked and felt so safe and full in my life from knowing that this place existed. Every house was so beautiful because I knew who was sleeping in there. Then I walked through Copenhagen and met my lover and travelled to =C5rhus.
Although he had not taken Ecstasy he seemed to see with the same eyes as me. We just looked at each other for hours and days and felt our eyes smiling to each other with attraction and energy.
We spent three days in =C5rhus, looking at each other, making love for hours and hours and playing chess.
During the whole day of the music-festival we sat in the middle of the crowd, completely immersed in our chess game, as if nothing else existed. Although the Ecstasy trip must have stopped a long time beforehand, the atmosphere of it prevailed - the way it had taught us to touch each other, to sense and to see.
This is what I find beautiful about Ecstasy. In situations in life where I have been worried, busy, stressed or tense and in relationships with people who are less open and trusting than they could be, I have found it a strong and gentle teacher, reminding me who I really am - that I am an intuitive and spontaneous person and that I have to allow myself to be that person.
An English consultant discovered MDMA while running stress management courses for executives with big American companies.
In 1982 I came across MDMA in Los Angeles. I had just flown in and was having dinner with my editor. During our conversation she mentioned that there was a new drug around that was attracting a lot of interest from people in the "consciousness movement". It was a substance that opened one up to a deeper loving of others, and was, she predicted, set to become a major drug in the future.
My initial response was one of mild disdain. I had used LSD and various other pyschedelics in the sixties, but since then had not taken anything - apart from the very occasional toke on a joint. As far as I was concerned that was a phase I had gone through; I was on a different path now. "Thanks for the info," I said, "but I'll pass on it."
The next evening I visited a friend across town, and one of the first things to catch my eye was a sheet of paper lying on the kitchen counter. On it were about twenty comments. Things like: "I have never felt so open to another person." "A sense of the divine." "The most beautiful experience of my life."
"What's this?" I asked. "Oh," my host replied, "we had a gathering over the weekend at which a group of friends took an interesting new drug. Afterwards everyone summarized their experience on this sheet." My interest had been tweaked. Maybe there was something different here. Perhaps my disdain was unwarranted.
The following morning I was meeting with an old friend. We were deep in a discussion on spiritual issues when she suddenly asked, "What are you doing the rest of the day?" "Nothing," I replied. "Good, let's go home, I want to tell you something." No prizes for guessing what she told me. And since I take note when things come in threes, and particularly when the third recommendation comes from such a quality source, I decided to end my fast and give it a try. But just half a dose.
Although my friend stayed with me the whole time, only I took the MDMA. It was about twenty five minutes before I noticed anything. I could begin to feel my state of consciousness shift, and initially it felt like the onset of LSD or some other psychedelic. My initial reaction was slight fear. "What have I done now. Is this going to be OK? Or am I about to enter some uncomfortable space?" I expressed my fear to my friend, and almost instantly it disappeared - never to return the whole trip.
Over the next half hour I sank into a very quiet and peaceful state. I felt very at home in myself, and found that not only had my fear of the drug had disappeared but also many of my other fears. I could not recall ever having felt so at ease with myself and with other people.
Several visitors dropped by during the eight or so hours that the effect lasted, and I had the feeling that I was able to relate to them in a way that seemed perfectly natural both to me and to them. The effect of the drug was so subtle that I could choose to get up and walk around, re-enter everyday life and behave perfectly normally. Then, on sitting down again and quietening my mind, I could return to a deep state of inner serenity.
The most powerful impact of that day for me was the spiritual freedom that I experienced. I was in touch with myself in a new way. I could be myself, express myself more freely and also understand myself much better. I began to see how so much of what normally occupies my attention was unnecessary - a product of my own inner fears. If I fear what others think of me and how they might judge me, I find myself withholding from them, or following "shoulds". In this state it became absolutely clear how unnecessary such fear was, and also how much it got in my way. It was such a wonderful relief to taste life without such fear. As I said to my companion, half jokingly but also very seriously, "This is going to put psychotherapists out of work".
I remember summarising my insights with the phrase, "All I have to do is let go." Let go of out-dated beliefs; let go of "shoulds"; let go of my various attachments; let go of wanting things to turn out the way my ego wanted. And the path to all of these was to let go of fear. It became absolutely obvious why the book A Course in Miracles talks of love as "letting go of fear". Without that background level of psycho-social fear, true unconditional love was able to flow freely.
Ecstasy in its spiritual connotation may be a very apt description - an experience that takes one out of one's self - but too often today Ecstasy is associated with sex. As far as the drug is concerned this is quite misleading. I never felt any inclination to get into sexual engagements while on MDMA - even when cuddling someone I was feeling very close to. Sex seemed totally inappropriate, a response of the ego rather than of my true self.
About half way through this first experience on Ecstasy I began to appreciate the truth that lay behind the great religions. All the sayings of the great spiritual teachers suddenly came alive. I thought I had understood them in the past, but now my understanding was augmented by an experience of the state of consciousness they were describing - or one very similar. They were talking of this state beyond fear, beyond judgement, beyond attachment to material things. A state of inner peace, of acceptance, and of love.
And the effect lasted. The next day I went to visit Yogananda's temple-garden in Pacific Pallisades. Amongst the shrubbery there are many little signs with sayings from the Buddha, Christ, Shankara, Mohammed, Lao Tse and other religious leaders. Every time I came across one of these sayings I felt a deep inner knowing of their truth. It was all absolutely obvious. The veil had been removed.
For the next two weeks I lived in a state of grace. I felt completely at ease inside myself as I carried out my business in San Francisco, and more at ease with those I met than I had ever been. People who had no idea what I had done commented on how at peace I seemed to be. I had no desire at all for alcohol, or for anything else that would have lowered my state of consciousness.
Over the next couple of years I took MDMA a number of times - probably once a month on average. But now I no longer have any interest in it. As many people have noted, the effect becomes less strong the more one takes it. And one thing I did not want to do was to increase the dosage in order to regain the effect. My body didn't really like the drug, and I felt that it did have some toxicity. Besides, I felt that the MDMA-state was a room I had explored well. The insights I had gained were indeed valuable, but I did not want to have to keep returning to that space to have those insights - that is the beginning of dependency. The real challenge for me now is to turn the many things I have learned through MDMA into actualities. To practice letting go of fear in the midst of normal daily life.
A woman of 39 who had left her husband and four children to live with a new partner, Robert, found that a single Ecstasy trip changed the direction of her life towards a spiritual path.
I have smoked cannabis since I was 18. However, since my separation in 1985 I was increasingly reluctant to smoke because I became very paranoid - it gave me an alternative vision of people and their subconscious behaviour and motives (including my own) that I felt very disturbing, and this was always the case, even under the veneer of laid-back coolness. It all seemed completely artificial and almost embarrassing. I have also tried LSD, speed, opium and cocaine, but the only one I liked was cocaine and that was too expensive. Alcohol is definitely "my" drug, though it wouldn't bother me if I never drank again.
For the three years since I left my husband and children I had been living in Wales with Robert, but had great emotional problems due to guilt and I still hadn't integrated into the community. However, I was very much in love with Robert, and this was mutual.
I was keen to try E because of stories told me by friends of its effects in terms of social/sexual relationships, and the "fact" that it apparently had no "bad trip" syndrome, and not too bad a hangover. I certainly didn't feel happy about the prospect of a bad trip, I didn't need more of a hard time! We took one capsule each at 10 am, and were anxious about it until it took effect half an hour later, when all feelings of unease vanished.
The circumstances of the trip were a day's walking and exploring outside. We kept walking all day, due to the 'speedy' effect, and explored children's playgrounds and swings, empty old houses, the village high street and shops, the river, woods, an old ruined church and graveyard, moorland, bog and hill. It was a trip of external variety in stimulation, mostly sensual in effect: a ray of sunshine through a cleft rock, a halo of misty vapour over the grass. Everything became brighter and more colourful, with more impact. MORE REAL! This was the definite feeling for me, as though the world came into focus, from being a bit blurred. Sound was amplified too, and, again, more distinct and real. Infinite tones and timbres of subtlety remarked and appreciated. A grating "squeak squeak" rhythm appeared through the (literal) mist as an old man on an old bicycle, pedalling painfully and slowly uphill - a delightful event.
Each tiny sound accompanying a movement - the rustle of a jacket, click of buttons, rasp of paper in pocket - all distinct and jewel like in their preciousness.
The sense of touch changed too. One could savour the cool, hot, smooth, rough, dry, wet, flimsy, solid aspects of all material things. Basically the experience was of the world being reborn, until it occurred to me that it was ME being reborn, into a world that is, always, just as it is! I was regaining a sense of newness, awe and fascination with the smallest apparently insignificant parts of this world around me, as well as the largest. The impression of a veil being blown away from my awareness was overwhelming.
This extended to my connections with people; with Robert words were unnecessary and we were like two companionable souls who wandered around mentally, emotionally (and physically) hand in hand. But with chance strangers or acquaintances in the street the sense of "knowing" and "connectedness" persisted and for the first time in decades I felt at ease, completely, able to communicate and flow with unselfconsciousness and without the barriers of mental prejudice or emotional fears and suspicions. Actually my 'ego' didn't need protecting because the sense of everyone's being 'here and now' altogether removed the isolation normally felt by it. I felt a natural part of a natural universe, along with everyone else, who all became as valid, interesting and important as me.
One overwhelming memory I have is of this tiny, wrinkled little old Welsh lady in her raincoat and plastic hat, with huge shopping bag, at the till in the local Spar, with bright little eyes and quick bobs and shakes of her head, counting out her change and packing away her groceries, for all the world like a busy little blue tit, and as unaware. It seemed a perfect balance for me as observer and participant. All judgement was in fact removed, and I could act and receive spontaneously. Also, what I gave out in terms of liking, amusement, interest and curiosity seemed reciprocated, and for all the world it was as if I were a three-year-old again, with a three-year-old's unaffected enthusiasm and gaiety, drawing equal response from an unthreatened world.
But an important element of this, which was to change my future fundamentally, was my recognition that this was not a new experience for me, but one I felt as familiar from the well-spring of my childhood. In other words it was something I'd always had and hadn't lost, even yet; it was within me still and retrievable. The Ecstasy was a means of opening all the doors that through the years I had shut, or which had been shut for me. Disappointingly, the effects started to wear off after about mid-afternoon and by the time evening came, they were just a misty lingering. We started to make love, but visitors came and so we went happily with what was happening . . . things just were as they were and one way of spending one's time was as interesting and valid as any other.
The result of this time was my determination to retrieve this 'lost' world of my beginnings and to do so by my own efforts at self-awareness and spiritual growth, which a year or so later manifested as an opportunity to take up Shiatsu and Zen meditation, which path I still walk.
I took E once more in the desert in Egypt, but the effect was much less startling and, so I was told, resembled more the effects of heroin. I concluded that as a device for me it had ceased to be important, and too variable, given the contamination it was open to with other, and nameless, drugs.
I shall remain a staunch defender of relatively pure Ecstasy though, as it thrust upon me the need to take responsibility for my own minute-to-minute, day-to-day awareness and change.
A 49-year-old heroin user, who has kept his addiction under sufficient control to lead a normal life, found that Ecstasy had a profound effect on him.
I have been an intermittent opiate abuser for nearly thirty years; for most of that time I have regarded the cyclical descent into narcosis as the bane of my life. Until recently my single most seminal drug experience had been my initial LSD trip in Katmandu in 1965.
Three months ago I detoxified from a bad Heroin addiction and determined "never again". I divorced and moved to an English town to be near my twenty-year-old daughter. Although I regarded myself as an expert on drugs, I knew nothing of the rave scene or E and was very suspicious of it. My daughter, although at one time a regular raver, had learnt to limit her intake; she told me many times that E would do me good. I was fearful of the physical effects on my body and suspicious of the validity of the emotional content. I also did not want to replace opiates with yet another drug. The quality of street E, some of which is known to contain opiates, also put me off.
As it happened, my first experience of Ecstasy was not at a rave, but in a London house with only four persons present. The setting was a studio with skylights over which the full moon crossed; books and paintings lined the walls and we sat or lay on comfortable rugs and cushions; the E was known to be pure MDMA and the only drink was several bottles of mineral water. The persons present were my daughter, her step-father and his lady, all known to me for at least fifteen years. It was a most reassuring setting. My state of mind and body was much less reassuring; it was only four weeks since detox and my body was still weak and I felt almost continuously tired. I was subject to strong emotional swings, positive one moment and depressingly negative the next; real contentment continued to evade me and several times every day the thought of taking an opiate popped up and had to be dealt with. I believed that this battle would continue for the remainder of my life. I felt a painful emptiness - which I believed in my heart could be filled with love, with other people, with life - but which instead continued to demand narcosis and withdrawal from real emotional commitment. I really had no expectations of the E except that it would be very strong. I was taking it for enjoyment rather than for any therapeutic reason.
Since so much of the experience was non-verbal, it is hard to describe. There were long periods of silence, a very warm and loving silence; the essential kindliness and beauty of my companions shone brightly in the darkened room. When conversation occurred, it was very much to the point. Since it was my initial Experience and I had taken a very large dose, I spent most of the time feeling and watching and listening, although I was perfectly able to communicate verbally when it seemed necessary.
Several outstanding emotional issues, feelings of guilt or suspicion, were resolved with verbal economy and emotional purity. It seemed impossible and unnecessary to lie or dissemble. After about six hours we disbanded and I lay down alone to rest. No sleep took place and I was able to review the events of the evening with great emotional satisfaction. The next day we drove back to our country town.
I had been warned by my daughter that the comedown would last several days, but I had not believed her. The warm empathic glow continued for nearly three days, with normal sleep, until an external event, a friend taking Heroin, plunged me into one of the worst depressions of my life. Nevertheless I was able to use this period positively, as it caused me to seek further professional therapy and to enquire deeper into my mindset. It has now been six weeks since the initial Experience; my desire to consume opiates, though not entirely absent, has definitely reduced. In fact, both my drug and alcohol use have declined substantially.
I also took Ecstasy, a half dose only, at a private country party. This was most enjoyable and I rediscovered dancing. A slight depression, on the third day following, was cured by having a haircut, spending several hours in the local sauna, and eating a good meal with a bottle of wine. At some point in the future I will definitely go to a full-size rave in order to experience the mass tribal togetherness that has been reported; there is no hurry.
A week ago I wrote to a friend: "My first E was the most extraordinarily therapeutic, uplifting, productive and communicative event. It was also my first drug intake for many years during which I did NOT say to myself, 'This is great, but it'd be even nicer with some gear (Heroin)'. A lot of the past was reviewed and cathartised in a non-intellectual sense, that has definitely, speaking six weeks later, had a permanent value and effect. I recognised the hallucinatory content, the speedy energy bit, even the chill-out component, but there was something extra; defining it as empathetic gives an idea but is too limiting. Has to be Experienced - like all true spiritual passages, words are not enough. "The comedown, which didn't really start until 48 hours later, took me completely by surprise, even though K had warned me, and it plunged me into a Dostoievskian maelstrom during which a lot of emotions surfaced that were very painful but needed dealing with. I think I got almost as much out of that as the actual Experience, though it was, of course, decidedly less pleasant. It took me a week to recover fully, though this was partly due to not being back at full strength after the debilitating months earlier this year.
My conclusion at the time, which I see no reason to modify - is that the planned, controlled, therapeutic use of MDMA can be of very great value in this individualistic and emotionless world humanity has created. I also have the greatest respect, almost fear, for the power of, "the exhaustion of continuous love"; it is not something to be trifled with or to be done more than necessary. So - there it is. My first new psychoactive discovery in twenty five years of use and abuse; since my initial Owsley acid in Katmandu in 1965. And it has also made me re-evaluate other drugs; acid can be valuable but lacks the emotional content of Ecstasy; cocaine has definitely shifted to the back seat. Curiously enough Ecstasy has also made me want to spend more time absolutely straight, without even cannabis or alcohol. A whole new perspective on validities and priorities.
To summarise - firstly; the beneficial powers of E should not be over-emphasized; giving it away to junkies is NOT a solution. Those who wish to close themselves off emotionally will continue to do so. However, for those who, like myself, had become habituated to the opiate crutch, yet in the end want seriously to find a better path, the emotionally liberating and cathartic experience of E can be an eye-opener.
Secondly, the E experience IS real; when the initial experience is done correctly, and I was very lucky in that respect, long-closed doors can be opened, which remain sufficiently ajar, so that the determined reformer CAN go through them without drugs, if he wishes.
Thirdly, the initial E experience can generate real insights, both emotional and intellectual, that can be worked upon following the drug experience. Some of these are quite simple; for example, the great feeling of togetherness that I experienced on E made me very conscious of how lonely I had been; the solution was to communicate better and to go out and ask people to be friends. My sense of self-respect increased.
Fourthly, relationships that have become polarised or static, can be revived, reaffirmed, kick-started as it were, through the E experience.
An English woman in her mid thirties was given a formal introduction to Ecstasy by an American 'guide'.
Ecstasy! I was intrigued by its name. My curiosity was heightened after talking to a knowledgeable enthusiast called Rick. I was vaguely aware of its hazards but had never made any detailed inquiry. It was only after a session had been arranged that I began to wonder just what I was getting myself into, and asked for fuller details before going ahead. Even as I made my way to the appointed place, I was ready to opt out if that seemed saner.
When I got there, I quizzed Rick on some of the more sinister effects I had heard of concerning the drug, and he pointed out that the damage referred to was true of overdose situations, in cases where the taker had allowed herself to become dehydrated and in cases where the production of the drug was suspect, rather than of doses of the size and purity of the one he offered. I decided to trust his judgement, but to take a half dose in any case. Reassured on that score, I now felt nervous because I knew my host only slightly, and felt that I might feel terribly isolated if the trip was good and I had no-one I felt I could share it with. Once again he reassured me that he would be there for me. He then gave me a paper outlining the basis on which the session was to be run, with regard to safety and propriety, giving me the option of his remaining a minder or joining me on the trip. I opted for the former and then I got on with it.
Rick had asked me to bring with me any music or art that I might care to explore under the influence. I had brought with me a handful of cassettes, and he had set out a few tactile and visual objects himself. In the event, with the exception of the music, these were not used, but they gave me the pleasure of knowing that some thought had gone into the preparation of the session. He suggested tape-recording my reactions at the onset of the effects and I agreed to this. I was made very comfortable on something soft on the floor, with plenty of fruit juice and water by my side, while my host massaged my feet with fragrant oils and responded to my request for stories about good times had on Ecstasy. I started imagining I was feeling the effects well before they could possibly have begun. Impatience or autosuggestion or both. I felt relaxed and happy. Half an hour on, he suggested I lie down with eyeshades on and explore the feeling of being inside my body. I lost track of time, my inner voice died away and I simply was. By and by, I became aware of the dryness of my mouth and sat up to drink; meanwhile my host checked on my progress.
Then I became aware of how wonderful I felt. He showed me my reflection in a mirror and I saw myself in bloom. I luxuriated in the feeling of well-being, the cat-like sensuousness of my flesh, and was overcome by a desire to s-t-r-e-t-c-h and rub my head against the cushions. I caressed my limbs and thrilled to my own touch. I rolled over and over on the floor so that the whole of me could be in contact with any other surface. The pleasure was indescribable. Rick suggested I got up and danced, so I did and it was delightful. Then I wanted him to join me, to hold me, so he did; and then I wanted him to caress me, but he gallantly suggested turning our attention to other things, although I was clear that at this moment that my only desire was to be held and caressed. He said that he felt a little awkward so we agreed that he should take a half dose himself. This he did.
At various points he suggested moving on to something different, but I felt no interest in anything else, the pleasure of his touch was so intense. My sensuality quickened rapidly into sexuality, but in spite of fervent entreaties, my host remained true to his rules. The situation became excruciatingly funny and I realised in alarm that all this was possibly on tape, and I panicked. I think it would have been a better idea for the cassette to have been my property or to have listened to it at the end of the session instead of fretting about the horrible possibility of my indiscretions being immortalised and exposed to the vulgar gaze of the multitudes, through some ghastly mistake.
What I will say, however, is that I felt an unqualified trust in my partner and an exquisite rapture in this extraordinary intimacy with a man who was to me no more than a reputable stranger. It was utterly uncomplicated and innocent and free. It was perfect. It was as if he and I were fused in time and space for the duration, moving together as one undulating line. Whether in the room or in the garden under the chill rain, I felt that our skins and eyes and hearts were in a state of bliss. "Our eye beams twisted and did thread our eyes upon one double string". When I looked into his eyes, which I did to my heart's content, I experienced a terrible tenderness, "as looks a mother on her lovely babe as death doth close his tender, dying eyes." I fell in love with those eyes and even now, several days on, my mind superimposes his eyes on other people's faces. The first time I became aware of this bizarre delusion was on the tube returning home after the session: I saw his eyes on a poster depicting Nelson. And I fell in love with his voice, with its precise depth and richness, with nice details such as the way he enunciated his aspirate consonants, especially "ch", (sic!), with the way his mouth looked when he laughed. Previously I had scarcely been aware of any of these things. Ecstasy was Vision, was Gravity, was Love-in-Idleness. O Eros, drawing together the moon and the earth!
I talked too much and I could not sleep. I was absurdly thirsty all through the session and for the whole of the following day. I was scarcely hungry, which is interesting, considering that I had not eaten since the previous afternoon. A small but healthy supper, a few bites of peach and some coffee was all that I could manage over forty-eight hours, although I must have drunk my way through several horse troughs of water, which is what really matters. I had very little appetite for a total of four days, including the day of the session, and I have to say that I felt weak and queasy during the days that followed. I do not think it did my health the world of good, but on the other hand I do not believe it did any noteworthy damage either. Would I have preferred the session to have been run differently? Yes, and then again, no. Yes, because I think it is too intense a shared experience for people who have no intention of being in an intimate relationship with one another: I was unprepared for this. And no, because it was lovely. Perhaps the solution would be a post-session opportunity to talk through the confusions and mirages with the host, to relocate the reality, the reason that has temporarily slipped away from under the voyager's massaged feet.
Would I do it again ? I do not think so. Several people have told me that the first time is the best. I realise that my experience was not as multi-faceted as it might have been, but I am content with what I had and am apprehensive about the degree to which it interfered with my metabolism. I tried it because it was there and now I know why it is called Ecstasy. I have got what I wanted.
"X"; the beginnings of a book about the experience of a couple taking Ecstasy, as yet unfinished, by a follower of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in his mid forties.
It came on very fast.
First a steep ascent in body temperature - then nausea.
We were lying together on the window-seat, not particularly comfortable; I had my eyes shut, I could hear the birds singing in the trees outside, but they sounded queer, disjointed somehow, at once close and far away. I was still feeling as though I might throw up when the first waves of relaxation began to steal over me. I noticed my breathing had become deep and regular and a warm streaming sensation had begun to flow through the muscles of my arms and legs. My eyes were still closed when I felt Asha get up, noting, with a rather odd clarity, subtle changes in the pressure of the cushions as she did so.
There was a silence, and then she said "I'm a wise woman", seemingly apropos of nothing, from somewhere in the middle of the room. I tried to understand what she meant but my mind didn't seem to be working properly. What was striking was the profound silence in the room. I could hear each of the movements she made as she went over to the stereo and clipped a tape in the deck.
Suddenly my teeth started to chatter - and to chatter violently. They seemed completely out of control. She did sound wise too, I thought drunkenly, and so did Smokey Robinson sound wise as he began to sing Just To See Her. Personally I felt completely idiotic.
Not until this point did I open my eyes. Nothing appeared to have changed, though the flat did have a pastel, slightly out of focus look about it and seemed to be somehow subtly flickering. A potted begonia on the window sill was glowing a little.
Then I looked up at Asha.
I don't think I'd ever seen her look so beautiful; it was as though a light had been lit inside her.
I'll never forget the expression on her face, though I'm not sure how to describe it. Surprise - a strange, guarded amazement; a wild hope which was frightened of believing in itself; and I could feel the next moment she was going to turn away and hide it from me. Everything was slowed down. The sense of flickering was increasing.
Then she moved across the room, sat down beside me and we were in one another's arms.
The drug broke over us like a wave. We clung to one another while the light grew brighter and brighter and all around us the room was flickering and flashing wildly. . . Yet there was a curious absence of any sense of threat. On the contrary I couldn't find any trace of fear in myself at all. What I was feeling was . . . With what must have been an almost comical expression of amazement, the penny dropped for me too: What I was feeling was love. This was how Asha and I had been during our first few stolen hours together, all those years before.
Neither of us had a clue what was happening. We had thought it was going to be something like LSD, sort of speedy watered-down LSD, but this was nothing like LSD or mescaline at all. This was purely emotional. I couldn't believe the sense of reverence, of wonder I felt at her. . .
I remember murmuring, "There's no inside". At first there would be waves of the flickering and flashing, at the height of which my teeth would start to chatter like mad again, but apart from that there was little or no sense of a personal or "inner" life. I was empty. I seemed to have become pure presence. Everything revolved around her, not me. Never, ever have I seen so beautiful a woman. Nor could I believe the way she felt, the texture of her skin and hair: it was as though all my life I had been wearing gloves and for the first time was free to feel the infinite variety to the touch of things. . .
Talking was transformed in much the same way. I didn't seem to have anything to say . . . but it was as though I had never listened properly to anyone before. At times as we sat there in the sunlight she would tell me how, over the years, I had done this or that and how it had hurt and I would listen with this peculiar undisturbed attention. There was none of that yes-but-what-about thing, I felt no need to defend myself. I just listened and it was quite clear that what she was saying was correct. There was nothing "moral" about it, I want to emphasize that: what I felt was extreme interest in what she was saying. I felt objective. "An ecstasy of listening", I remember that phrase coming into my mind, and wondering: does that come from a poem?
Not that we talked that much. Most of it was cuddling. I remember endlessly exploring her long fine hands, the battered scarab ring she treasured, each finger as complex as another world. Incredibly erotic and yet not sexual at all. Well, actually, that wasn't strictly true. I don't think we really knew what to do. I supposed I should have felt like making love, but actually I didn't feel much like it at all: there didn't seem to be too much more of it you could make.
In fact later in the afternoon we did decide to go to bed.
By the time we went into the bedroom I was really apprehensive.
"I'm shy" I said, as she started to undress. "So am I" she said. I think she was blushing, but she was so beautiful I could only look at her for a moment at a time.
We had been together for more than ten years. But even lying naked together, alight with a sensual contact I would never have believed possible, there was no actual "desire". Sex wasn't centred in the way it normally is. Total contact seemed possible at any point. "This really has put you in touch with your feminine side, she laughed.
Sometime towards the end of the afternoon - at any rate the brightness had gone out of the day - the experience began to ebb. You could feel it fading, and fading fast. We remembered we had to go and pick up our young son who was playing at a friend's flat. We dressed and went downstairs, holding hands which seemed to be welded together. That continued, the extraordinary sensitivity of the skin.
Walking past the trees and parked cars I remember thinking, well you come down pretty fast. Yet there was still something strange continuing, which I only put my finger on later. Everything looked more normal than usual. I didn't get that at all - not until much later.
We were pretty washed-up afterwards.
That was one of the few things we'd heard about Ecstasy, it was amphetamine-based and the come down was bad. Someone told me they'd felt as sick as a dog for days but, at least from our experience, that was highly exaggerated. If anything it was like one of those 'flu-type things people get; and that was the second day after, the first one was OK. So long as you could lie around and didn't have much to do, it wasn't that bad.
What was really disturbed was our sleeping pattern. For nights after our trip we would have these crazy dreams - not nightmares, but that kind of obscure but highly significant dream, the ones which feel as though they're trying to convey something to you but your mind just can't grasp it. These woke us up time after time in the night.
But none of that seemed very important. What mattered was understanding what had happened to us. Were we truly in love with one another that much? Or was that degree of passion just something we were capable of - our potential, so to speak, a state we could only touch in exceptional moments? Or was the whole experience literally drug-induced? An emotional equivalent of hallucination?
A couple of times I caught Asha eyeing me with a puzzled, wary sort of an expression. One that was not very flattering to me. We'd be doing the dishes or tidying up the kid's toys when suddenly the bottom would fall out of it and we would be left standing there, abruptly aware of one another in this intense quizzical way. You see . . . we had been very much in love. I'd never loved anyone the way I loved Asha, we seemed to be made for one another, and we had kept that honeymoon intensity going for a good few years; and then imperceptibly, with coming to live in London, with the birth of our son, we had begun to lose it. . .
But where - how - had it gone? For it had gone, hadn't it? The trip had shown us that. By resurrecting, however briefly, the reality of love it had shown us the emptiness of what we, from day to day, called "being in love". I don't mean we didn't like one another; I don't mean we didn't enjoy living together, or making love, or playing with our child. But that wasn't really love; love was something else, something far greater and far more intense, capable of revealing an entirely different world, something we'd once had and which we had lost. And yet at the same time the trip had showed we were still in love - or at least were capable, eminently capable, of being so.
Take some more, that was the only answer; and it was obviously the only answer right from the first. So I would say in our case the old line about take it once and you are addicted was pretty much true. Even looking back at it today I can't see we had any real alternative.
I am surprised it took as long as it did. Two, no almost three weeks, before the evening we managed to pack our child off to spend the night at his best friend's house and we were alone.
Outside it was dark. We tidied the flat up, took the phone off the hook and, to make it look as though we were out, turned off the lights at the end of the flat you could see from the street. A mise en scene was beginning to form. We each took our capsule with a glass of water. I caught her eye over the rim of the glass: we were both distinctly wary. Lighting a three-candle candlestick she had, there seemed an edge almost of defiance as she struck the matches.
We sat around in the candlelight waiting to feel nauseous.
In a sense the future of our relationship did hang on that trip. We both felt we couldn't go on in the same old way. What was this incredibly intense love we could feel for one another - and why did we feel it so rarely?
The minutes ticked by. Was anything starting to happen? Was I feeling a little queasy, was that a flicker in the corner of the eye or was I just imagining things? Surely last time it didn't take as long as this? Certainly we weren't very relaxed, at one point Asha was actually pacing up and down the room. . .
Did her paces slow down? Exactly how it went I can't remember. Just that there was this silence which suddenly went deeper and deeper. I was looking at Asha and for a moment (though this I only saw clearly much later) something seemed to pass across her face, for the barest instant sort of swam or rippled and. . .
We needn't have worried. Even before the rush hit us we were in one another's arms. It was just the same as before, it could have been one and the same trip. The room flickered, though more gently this time, and again she was so lovely it was as though I'd never seen or held her before. . . The rush sort of pulsed. At times it would go all speedy then, quite without warning, become utterly still. So still was it that nothing seemed to move at all, there was just this extraordinary silence in which everything was fused. Deeper and deeper it would become as we gazed into one anther's eyes, more and more poignant until it actually began to hurt. We would panic and look away.
What we were seeing was a vision of the world as love. Love and love alone was truly substantial. All pain was to be redeemed. All those years we'd stuck together having what was basically such a miserable time were transfigured. If we hadn't lost one another how could we ever have found one another so profoundly again? Everything was made for joy. . . On this second trip it wasn't just that we reconnected with our love for one another, we saw that this love opened out into love itself, love with a capital L. Each of us was a door through which the other could discover love - but once discovered this love went beyond either of us. This second trip was mystical.
Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden,
"- You can't put love in a pill!"
I'm not saying you can. There's a very basic misunderstanding here about the ways Ecstasy works. I don't think the drug is manufacturing an experience of love. I think it is doing something far humbler and more specific than that. It takes fear away. It is as a consequence of this subtraction of fear that love appears.
Instinctively we ritualized taking it.
Flowers, fresh linen, candlelight . . . for the drug was a tryst with our true selves.
What we'd do was this. Every second or third Friday, after picking our kid up from school we'd pack him off to spend the night at his best friend's house. Then we'd clean up the flat. We'd only just moved there and apart from carpeting it and painting it white we hadn't done much to it at all. In the living room there was just the window-seat piled with cushions, the stereo which was on the floor, our boy's toy box and a small pile of books in one corner.
Once the flat was clean and bright and empty again Asha would arrange the flowers she'd bought, masses of them, all around the room. Then, as the winter evening settled in, we would both bathe, put on fresh clothes, generally something loose and white, and light the incense and the candles. Strange how psychedelics seem to throw their shadow before them! Even before we'd actually swallowed the capsules and washed them down with what was by now their ritual wine glass of water, the flat seemed to be getting brighter, beginning to sparkle and twinkle quietly to itself. Never have I looked forward to anything so much since I was a kid. It was like Christmas Eve.
One evening Asha, in an inspired moment, took the white duvets from her and the boy's bed and, heaping them with white pillows, made a massive snow-white bed in the middle of the living room floor.
"The Cloud Bed", she said, part grand, part shy.
After about 20 minutes I would begin to feel as though something deep within me was rearranging itself. To one another we called this "centres lining up", and in fact it was as though the body, the mind and the emotions, normally all tugging in different directions, were lining up and beginning to function harmoniously. I felt either giddy or sick. After about 30 minutes the relaxation hit. Step by step you could feel the muscular tension disappearing, and warmth replacing it. It appeared to consist of two things. Firstly, my inner monologue began to falter and then stop. There would be gaps when I wasn't thinking of anything at all. At the same moment I would enter the immediate present. Past and future disappeared without a trace.
This state of total let-go seems to be the key thing in the whole trip. I would say that the only time I completely relax is when I take X.
Over the next two or three minutes this mental silence would get deeper and deeper. This was something quite different from silence in the sense of absence of sound: this was silence in its own right. There was a piercing mystical quality to these moments. Some extra-ordinary relation seemed at hand. Strange how when there's complete mental silence the whole distinction of the world into inner and outer begins to break down and disappear. . .
The rush swelled out of this silence like a wave. Christmas morning, waking up as a child on Christmas morning, that really was it. The sense that the very next moment held this vast unknown wonder. "The sparkling white rush", Asha called it. Light was certainly a vital part of it, a light you seemed to feel as much as see. . .
And Asha - we seemed extraordinarily in sync at these moments - Asha would be standing at the door. "All real living is meeting" says Buber. We just melted.
[Appendix 1][Appendix 3]