One morning in late July, I had a vision of things from the inside-out: in lieu of a leaf, for example, I saw a two-walled room devoid of green. Bark no longer belonged to the tree, but to the air around it. All flesh was glass.
The elephant-sized boulders scattered through the woods no longer reminded me of anything final. I saw instead that they were tongues of pure thirst, slowly dissolving, giving rise to gray clouds. I sat in a space between three boulders and listened to a hermit thrush. It began to rain.
Imagine if, instead, I had caught a sudden glimpse of what that woods would look like just six months later. No vision can measure up to the reality of a northern winter: the ground’s smooth pelt, the deep blue sky, the appalling distances that can open between two trees.
You don’t need a grand vision to feel connected to the universe; you simply need to to be mindful of basic ecological principles. However much we may try to pretend otherwise, we are each a part of the food chain, temporarily undissolved pieces of meat in a cosmic digestive sytem. Therefore, in a very real sense, every state is an altered state. And even in the more figurative sense with which mystics or drug-takers talk about altered states of consciousness, the pleasure is in the transition, which can be prolonged and intensified by artifical means, but is still relatively fleeting.
What you get out of those transition states probably depends very much on what you bring to them. Don’t believe the wilder claims of the cannabis-boosters: smoking pot will not magically turn violent assholes into peaceniks; it will only make them temporarily a little less dangerous. Likewise, a simultaneous global orgasm might be amusing, in a guerilla theater kind of way, but it would not bring about world peace, any more than making everyone profess the same faith would. Building peace is hard work. Hell, just remembering to be kind to those you love is hard work. Good visions and good vibes probably help, but only a little.
Speaking of visions, be sure to catch Nathan’s story about his adventures as a vision-questing gringo in Mexico in the comment thread to the “cathedral” post. Start here.