To descend into suffering and its opposite,
The journey from underworld to victory;
On the path of the eighty-eight,
Beyond training for death on the train beyond death;
The levorotatory loop spins inward.
Time dissolves during the weeklong gathering of Boom 2012 in the steppes near the Portuguese-Spanish border. I clock much of this endless now on the floor of the Dance Temple between the towering central pillar and the leviathan tail of one of two dragons riding the heights above. In celebratory darkness, the heinous malfeasance of Onkel Dunkel thunders relentlessly. A green laser burns silently into the center of the GoD design marking the stage helm of the mothership (Thompson 2012).
Cacti distillations transform the dayglo pillar’s intake fans into desert eyes as the hexahedron of the ship’s helm burns into my vision. As the dawn’s sky transforms the surrounding hills into a sage and purple bowl, dark becomes light and fresh reinforcements begin arriving to support the waning endurance of the watchers of the night. As the sun rises, these new arrivals come in waves as Giuseppe’s steady captainship (2012) draws joyful hordes to plates of light on the earth.
On this hallowed dance ground, E-Clip (2012) crafts more light from pure sound. I encountered the names of these headphoned deckhands only through online reflection. At the time, I knew only that these mystechnicians wielded glorious effluences upon which all could ride. That day, when the speakers finally fell dormant on the party at the end of time, I was clearly present at the psychedelic hoedown of the ages.
This event was packed with human vibrations so pure that a sense of beautiful exoticism, eroticism and fortune pervaded those present.Retracing that day—nearly fifteen consecutive hours of revelry from moonrise, moonset, sunrise and into the bright beauty beyond noon—the will to maximize the party’s sirensong rose again.
Over the week, sleep was interrupted by endless sunshine, spiny leaves, blitzkrieg ants, or, in a serendipitous moment, the fire rites for Pachamama that opened the festival in the bluffs above Lake Idanha-a-Nova. During the brief hours of audial void, I sought shelter between the speaker stacks in the Alchemy Circle’s hexagonal shade. Knowing the low frequency capacity of this “secondary” sound system, I was prone but poised, resting on the shoulders of a sleeping beast that could, at any moment, wake and devour us all.
At some point back at my tent, my quest for rest was finally answered, and after several hours sleep I woke to the infectious throbbing of Hedflux at the circle stage.
Now in transit, I watch the full moon set from a rock perch on the lake’s Western shore, roll hash cigarettes and attempt triage operations on my blistering feet over pebbles and sand. My temporal pursuit accelerates at the cusp of the moment where an ostensibly endless event will peak, festival time will compress and, tragically, it will be over.
In this anticipatory moment, I put my daytime kit together. Today will require the weird belt. This sage-colored braided elastic rope resembles an alien wind instrument and was previously part of a makeshift Jesus Christ Superstar costume. I stow this artifact for later use to protect it from the dust and elements.
I plot the day’s strategy while making a beeline to the main stage, some twenty minutes trekking through hundreds of freakish scenes in the high noon heat. I will attempt to find colleagues and psychoactive substances after locating relatively crowdless toilets. The plywood facilities between the rocky scrub in the direction of the “Healing Area” are nearly always empty, and once again they provide a welcoming refuge. I overhear an experienced looking character with an entheogenic manbag asking two people if they want acid. Tracking the long-haired traveler through the hilly brush, I ask if he could spare some lysergic, and he responds with bemusement,
“How much do you want”?
“Just a tab or so”, I say.
Prices and amounts are discussed, but I am determined to settle on whatever amount I can get for fifteen Euro, the currency I separated away from other cash supplies after encountering the presence of this mobile drug merchant.
“One tab is twenty—how much are you planning on taking”?
“I think about that much. How’s fifteen”?
Confusion temporarily hijacks the deal, which resumes when the intrepid entrepreneur realizes I don’t want fifteen tabs.
“Fifteen…sure. Let’s sit over there for a second”.
We sit by a nearby shady rock engaging in the small talk of congenial inquiries.
“What’s the comedown like on this”?
“It’s very clean: California Sunshine”.
He smiles, tearing a small perforated square away from the Technicolor blotter paper that contains the technology in question.
“I’ve had people come up to me later and thank me for this stuff. It’s powerful and pure”.
I put the paper in my mouth.
“Chew on it a bit”, he says, “you can taste the acid”.
It is as he says. The taste is accompanied by a slightly pinched feeling at the base of my tongue. He asks me my name and where I am from. He tells me his name, and we go our separate ways into the insanity. My ego has roughly an hour and a half to reach a minimum safe distance for implosion. I am ready.
I circle the main stage counter-clockwise, following the path of the moon around the planet, and the planets around our star. As above so below. Sinusoidal waves of bodily and psychic experience suggest that my corporeal reality is in flux. Shifting beat rates and cavorting bodies conspire to accelerate this experience, and every few minutes a sense of abnormal shifting passes through me. These waves increase in intensity, merely hinting at the quality of the chemicals now looping through my bloodstream. I will ride this particular lysergic escalator slightly out of sonic peak range of the dance floor, preferably from a seated position. After completing a counterclockwise circuit on the outer fringes of the stage’s shady boundaries, I scan the area beyond the wall of speakers stage left. Time is accelerating as the chemical pulses grow stronger with shorter valleys of normalcy between suggestive peaks. Where will my ego make its last stand?
In the harsh conditions created by the mid-afternoon sun on this high Portuguese scrub, the smallest pockets of shade become premium territory. In one such spot, a yellow tent with a blanket out front is pitched beneath a single tree. Three or four nomads stand outside or sit at the tent’s open door, and I ask one of them, a shirtless guy wearing a keffiyeh, if I can sit in the corner of the shade that remains. Behind mirrored sunglasses, he projects a demeanor of an apostle with a good-natured smile.
“Of course”, he says, as I sit just outside the blanket’s boundary. Thankfully, the small area where I sit is free of the hard spiked leaves strewn throughout the landscape. Several fast-moving inch-long ants, ubiquitous on the hard dirt, run madly across my feet and folded legs.
I take stock of my new neighbors in this temporary oasis from the relentless sun. Another sunglassed guy with shorter hair stands near the blanket, with an orange kromah around his neck that makes him a twin counterpart to the seated one in the keffiyeh. He is talking to a shirtless dude with long brown hair and dark ragged shorts, who puffs on a joint. They both gesture wildly and speak another language which could be Hebrew or Arabic. Then again, maybe it is Aramaic. We talk temporal shop, and I learn that this is the afternoon I thought happened yesterday: Shane Gobi will soon provide a three-hour opening conclusion. Time is a wheel.
Plates of sound morph around my head and body, merging with subtle flashes at the periphery of my senses. One hundred yards away, the Dance Temple throbs with cavorting revelers. The wave is swelling now, I am paddling out and there is no choice whether or not I want to ride. Boarding has begun. Whatever happens, I will try to ride it from here.
“Oohh kaayyy, I’m going to be sitting here, in the shade, but it also appears that I am coming onto some extremely strong acid”, I say.
My longhaired neighbor asks, “What kind”?
“The California Sunshine”.
“I know it”! A woman arrives, smiling at this simple revelation, her green eyes projecting Gnostic understanding.
I pause and smile. We watch the ongoing good time in progress and listen to the rolling pulse of the main stage; the sounds of a living machine accompanying visions of sky-high humanity. I sit in Indian style wearing shorts filled with survival trinkets and tobacco. Remembering that the JC Superstar belt is in one of the pockets, I locate it and began threading it through belt loops.
“Permit me one last accessory of the ego”, I say, knotting the stretchy ends together.
She smiles, amused at this accoutrement.
I tie as intricate a knot as I can muster. JC’s belt donning acquires an association of blasphemy and celebration. I am ready to be launched on a rocket cross into the groove of destiny.
There is a dawning awareness that there are plenty of people walking around higher than I am and a mask of sober normalcy is unnecessary.
“Since you are experienced in these matters, perhaps you know how long this particular escalator plays out”? I ask for the first time. Other repetitions and recitations of this question would follow.
“Oh there’s nothing you can do”, Brother Longhair smiles, kneeling towards me now. With his right eye closer to me, I can see that it is surrounded with illuminated skin patterns that shift and suggest trails of gold-yellow scales. He knows exactly where I am headed, because he already pitched camp there. In this holy moment, we commune in the shared experience of a particular chemical state in a resonating environment. There you are, over and over. We could be anywhere.
“No matter where you are or what you do, you’re just on acid”, he explains, his arms and outstretched palms posing upwards in the international signal for “what can you do”?
“Do you know how long it takes to, you know, level out a bit”?
“See”, he says, “you can’t escape once you are on that train. You can do whatever. You can dance. You can sit. You can walk to the lake. But no matter what you do, you’re just on acid”.
With this fundamental truth proclaimed, the spiraling loop begins.
The spiral begins as a suggestion, an altered perception that I am boarding a slowly moving walkway curving anti-clockwise and moving inward. It begins at a glacial pace, but this spiraling conveyor belt cannot be stopped.
Then a sudden dark understanding: my entire life culminates in the simple choice of buying a single tab of acid from a total stranger, eschewing the company and drugs of my friends. That choice merges with the entrance band around my wrist, with an “All in One” inscription on the interior that indicates my willing acceptance of the beast’s mark. Succumbing to this deception, I am eternally doomed and infernally damned to ride the inward spiral to its inevitable conclusion. I have made the choice, and now they have me. The spiraling can accelerate or decelerate, but my destiny is processed: I am now, and forever, one of the Acid People.
The Acid People are a global underclass, occupying cities, wastelands and gutters. They are the seething ranks of the hooded, slumped and shambling. They wear blackened sweatshirts emblazoned with dark red pentagrams that proclaim denials of the future. They know there is no escape. On society’s fringes, they are outcasts by both personal choice and cosmic mandate. Each perennial drifter and dropout took this very same acid. The fabled brown batch. And now I am irrevocably one of them. The process of degeneration might take years, but there is no escape.
My future plays out as a spiral incursion, an unstoppable force of events which can be slowed down or sped up. I can fast forward these events or watch them unfold over hours and years, but my destiny is certain. My family and friends will uncover my fate, my life long since abandoned. Losing everything, I will become a shambling denizen of the streets. This cascading narrative is anchored in an immediate realization: Brother Longhair leads the Acid People, and I am marked to serve as a sacrificial element in the grand ritual playing out on this psychedelic Golgotha.
In half-lotus posture on arid ground, I sit underneath the tree facing forward while attempting to negotiate the terms of my fate. They murmur outside of my vision, indicating that my new realization is not unnoticed. The ritual has begun. The Gnostic Spellcaster crouches close.
“You could take a swim”, she says.
The lake is the destined endpoint in my evolving sacrifice. Several hours before at breakfast, a Midwestern festival friend prophesied it by suggestion:
“I could see it going really bad in a few years”, he said. He looked at me intensely, possessed by his conjecture,
“All it would take is someone flipping out or someone drowning”.
At the time, I was struck by the negativity of this statement. There at the breakfast table, I inadvertently gathered material for set and setting. My friend’s doom-laden pronouncement was my set, and the pervasive dirt, the crawling ants and the relentless sun, the setting, a stage backdrop for later revelations of the lake’s horror. The drama would take the form of a crucifixion, followed by a ritual drowning and a psychic implosion. A suppressed image emerged from the depths of my memories of the festival’s first days. I passed a seated and raving man surrounded by festival security units. The Policia circled their target with loud inquiries and mirrored glass stares. They were onto him. His detention was assured, and now they are on to me as another ensemble character in a violent staged narrative.
In this shadow play, I can make the spiraling conveyer belt move faster or slower, but it will all end in the lake. I can engage in the cosmic theatrics of apocalyptic combat with Brother Longhair and increase the size of my etheric body in a full-scale martial display of galactic proportions. This, too, is part of the ritual narrative. I am to fight, and in the end, I will be defeated. Whether this narrative is to play out from beneath the tree or in worlds beyond, I follow its potential paths. With my previous life abandoned, and my possessions lost, stolen or sold, I will eek out an existence on the streets, subway stations and train platforms. I will be transformed into one of the Acid People.
The tragedy beyond all of this is that the soundtrack will never change: it is to play out like the scrawling on the back of a satanic sweatshirt. Sludge metal and no future hardcore until the end of time. The Acid People know the betrayal of never being able to change the music and suffering the same tunes for eternity. Ants move ceaselessly across my legs and spiked leaves cut into my body. No escape. The belt spirals into the lake, the ritual center. My inverted crucifixion by the Policia is only part of it. Drowning is only the second part. The third part is a psychic dirty bomb. Or a murder suicide. Or a virus. Or all of these in one. Boom.
In my futile final grasps of ego, I return to thoughts of my paternal grandmother. Her compassionate selfless example stands in shining contrast to my dismal choices. Her memory and other images of my family are now torn from my direct experience. They are revered pictures on a wall and my memories detach into a proto-fictional vortex. Life mirrors the anti-Truman Show as all of my experiences were a set up for the California Sunshine purchase, a reverse Judas moment where I traded a few coppers and my soul for a scrap of paper near a makeshift desert toilet. I shouldn’t have listened to all of that Black Sabbath in the previous months. These were the gateway experiences preparing my soul for the trade and betrayal of this final devil’s bargain.
Thoughts of submission and escape turn over and over as I progress further, spiraling ever inward. Perhaps my final destiny within this doomed journey is also illusory. At certain points, it seems that I still sit in half-lotus silence under the tree’s shadow. I center my awareness inward and grow to massive size, readying for cosmic combat. This attempted conscious escape from inevitable submission and hopelessness is noticed immediately. The forces around me bristle at this reversal of the spiral, which I attempt to rewind and move further away from the bottom of the lake. I grow at will, assuming a sky-size pose of combative dominance, one hand towards the heavens in eternal resistance against demonic legions, one hand towards the earth in grounded defense. But perhaps this is not the way. Perhaps the way lies through submission, after all. Surrendering to physical experience, and, through that, to all experience. Yet this solution is merely another aspect of the trap: the cosmic battle can go on for millennia, but its outcome is still inevitable. There truly will be no escape.
“Why don’t you take a swim”?
“There’s nothing you can do”.
Months later, meditating in the late summer’s darkness, I try to remember the moment the trip switched. A single degree of separation made all the difference in Babylon on the cusp of the apocalypse. The transition was imperceptible, and I do not recall it clearly. But after spiraling downward and downward, seemingly forever, finding no end, no bottom in the abyss, somehow I found the other side.
Transitionless, I found myself on the spiral, still moving anti-clockwise, but the movement was accompanied by an instant realization, another Trumanesque moment when the joke was revealed to me. Encoded in this moment, the message was that the drama with the Acid People was a necessary final training scenario revealing the infinite depths of the dark dirty pit and the sublime potential of physical matter. Without my life and choices, leading up to and including my encounter with California Sunshine, it wouldn’t be possible for me to understand the possibilities and perfections of this new state. It was a solo Armageddon, a judgment day for one.
I immediately realize and psychically proclaim, “I knew I wasn’t that bad”. It begins in near complete darkness, but I am surrounded by a feeling of presence in all directions and dimensions. I have no corporeal form, but am framed by the feeling of potential: limbs will be available when needed. I am surrounded by hundreds or thousands of conscious entities who deeply understand millions of human experiences. The underlying feeling sent to me from many simultaneous directions by this cosmic crew is, cousin, we’ve been there. They are going to welcome me at my own pace.
There are conversations, revelations and understandings. I am there, experiencing a feeling of relief so palpable that I sit in it like a warm bubble. After dwelling there for joyous moments, curiosity compels me to move forward through the spiral only slightly, or if I so desire, at speeds beyond light. But for now, I am content to take the slow ride, and to ease into the possibilities. The party circles around me, and I can choose to experience it at any level of intensity or ethereality. I expand myself into a bodily form of the same half-lotus posture I assumed under the tree. The æther surrounds me, warm cosmic dust illuminates all directions and I can manifest anything. I choose to begin by manifesting grains of sand, dancing with them between my projected thumbs and forefingers. The tactile sensation is unparalleled, as I toss the sand and manifest new grains after each toss. I transform the sand into wisps of sparkling light and cast them into infinity.
From this seated position, I move forward through this interspace. There is an ethereal geography here, although it can be changed at will. There is also an understanding that I am progressing through an introductory training program. I am learning to manifest thought, with absolute freedom to create more complex thought forms at any pace. The beat progresses endlessly forward, and I follow. My spectral spine sways to the thrumming at the eternal spiral center. I abide in this metaphysical joyride, a meditation accompanied by a lightshow beyond time, and know that I have arrived. I have won.
The ethereal presences begin assuming bodily forms, and the geography assumes closer resemblance to a physical locality. No movement from my seat under the tree occurs, but now I am on the dance floor. The Dance Temple in parallel, but proximal reality, and why wouldn’t I be here now? This is a place beyond Earth, beyond Malkuth, a fully configurable environment and I am simultaneously poised in this universal center. Hundreds of people surround me, a non-egocentric hub. The presences smile at me, transforming and unfolding into human dancers, the daytime dance tribe. They exist beyond time, patiently inviting me to explore the configurable experiences of hyperspace. Accepting the invitation, I want to perform a victory dance. This party at the end of time mirrors the locus point where I departed physical and temporal reality. It takes the form of this festival as I experience it on day four that was three. And so it is. The party at the end of time.
As I move to sit on disembodied knees, dancing with grains of sand falling from my fingertips, I conjure one of the many dance floor islands of water bottles, shoes, inflatable toys and other celebratory detritus in front of me.
I begin to dance, rotating my light body in a slow complete spin. As people dance around me, they face me, and as I spin they shift and become a new group of people with each rotation. They look at me intently, each new face smiling in recognition. With conscious telepathy, they inform me that anything is possible. There is a slight preciousness to the proceedings and the unspoken psychic declaration, “Boom”! is ubiquitous. Then, in submission to this preciousness, my repeated response remains, “Why not”? In service to the beauty of this constantly morphing cast of evolving and revolving characters, I surrender.
Movement and freedom intensify. With no lust for result, I pilot my light-body in triumphant exultation, knowing that these movements are beyond representation of this victory, they are an embodiment of victory itself. Libidinous communication is unassumingly possible. Sexual limitation is obliterated, and thus its expression is unnecessary. This union is so totalizing that it encapsulates and eclipses physicality. We are riding the waves of our own luminosity, hundreds of pairs of seduced and seducing eyes. And we dance.
The parade ebbs and flows forward and backwards on a glorious spinning wheel. I revel in mutual waves of adulation with the understanding that the party can be endless. Perhaps after hours, days and weeks, the party will morph into more complex playgrounds. The dance floor’s grand cavorting craft can be piloted and transformed into infinite vistas. These denizens of dance will share endless creation and adulation in eternity, morphing into new scenes and revelations, transforming forever. Assured of this infinite timeframe, I decide to navigate further into the dream country outside of the dance craft. I wander into the sunlight, onto a bright landscape of rock and scrub brush.
On this blazing path, I encounter open-hearted others in dreamlike montages. These people shine with inner purity and radiance, make compassionate offerings and ask flattering questions. There is intense kinship on that path, but it fades slowly, transforming into a carnival version of itself, a hyperreal pleasure garden. I am returning to the physical dimension and am not to remain in the endless party. Walking again in three spatial dimensions within the perceptual confines of linear time, I am pleasantly disappointed in this gentle letdown.
As the overwhelming heat leads me again to search for puddles of shade, the recommended Healing Area offers no space in the shadows among hundreds of others. I hunker briefly outside, vomiting discretely into a coffee cup. Retreating from this meditational mirage, I seek refuge in spiny bushes and engage in more discreet vomiting. I follow the path further around the lake anti-clockwise. Always in laevorotation. Navigating the rocky heights slowly, I find a shallow outcropping, unsure whether to go back or forward. My condition seems to stabilize. I make my way down the steep cliffs to the water. Small groups of people swim in the crags and shoals of the deep lake valley. I pause on the rocks to remove my shoes and to make a lakeside bundle of my small possessions. And I swim.
Hours later, after undertaking a psychic debriefing, and animatedly asserting a fractured preliminary account on festival friends, the reverse transference process to physical dimensions completes itself. The next morning, after semi-normal sleep, I return to the main stage and almost immediately encounter Brother Longhair and the Gnostic Spellcaster between speaker banks. I am hugged and told I am beautiful. I smile and attempt to indicate with my expressions the stratospheric highs achieved.
I ask, “If you don’t mind, I would be interested in your perspective of what I did yesterday in physical reality”.
Brother Longhair lifts his hands upward and smiles, “You danced”!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTrsenzgJCQ “The Alchemy of Spirit”, part 1. Video credit: DROID ID (2013). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_IlHSSIvac “The Alchemy of Spirit”, part 2. Video credit: DROID ID (2013)
Thompson, Carey. 2012. “Dance Temple: Boom Festival 2012 – Carey Thompson”. Pod Collective. 24 October: http://podcollective.com/portal/portals-main-stage-boom-festival-and-burning-man (accessed 16 January 2014).
E-Clip. 2012. Live Set at Boom Festival, Portugal 2012. www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZaxpVhLUKQ (accessed 17 January 2014).
Gobi, Shane. 2012. DJ Set at Boom 2012—Podcast 14. http://www.boomfestival.org/boom2014/webtvradio/boom-radio/boom-2012-sets/podcast-14/ (accessed 17 March 2014).
Guiseppe. 2012. DJ Set at the Dance Temple (Boom Festival 2012 Podcast). Parvati Records. www.mixcloud.com/boomfestivalHQ/boom-festival-2012-podcast-15-by-giuseppe/ (accessed 16 January 2014).
DROID i.d. 2013. The Alchemy of Spirit. Lisbon, Portugal: Boom Team. Part 1:<www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTrsenzgJCQ>and Part 2: <www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_IlHSSIvac> (accessed 17 January 2014).
Klimmer, Torsten (a.k.a. Omananda; Liquid Crystal Vision). “Psychedelic Dance Temple – BOOM-Festival 2012”. 2012. YouTube, 2:52. <www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3KbBOa4dnw> (accessed 16 January 2014).