298 The rustic solitude that was so dear to my hopes had been banished for many years. Meditations, prolonged reading, walks on the moors and the wooded plains, little get-togethers with a small circle of intimate friends, all had been banished. It was necessary to bring an end to a plethora of encounters. I do not want to reckon all of this as a loss. Human beings certainly cause harm, but also bring advantages. Particularly at the Majestic, where they are now debating Vietnam, people were always coming and going. There, I saw the palette in all of its range of colors: from the chief of staff to the telephone operator, from the highest echelons of the SS to the proscribed Jew—idealists and realists, persecutors and persecuted, authors of assassination attempts, murderers, suicides.
All of these visits continued when I returned again to Kirchhorst. There was still a sense of unease in the air even several years after the entry of foreign troops. The house of the parish priest was located on the Hannover-Hamburg road—at the time, the highway did not yet exist. Cars followed one after another in a closely-packed line all along the old military avenue of Celle, whose cobblestones were polished by their wheels. Visitors came to spend a few minutes, a few hours or a day; many also stayed for a whole year.
One of my regular guests was Walter Frederking, a doctor from Hamburg, whom Keyserling once described as one of our most gifted psychotherapists. At the time he was treating my editor, Benno Ziegler, who was suffering from Bulbar Paralysis, a brain disease that is fortunately very rare. To be diagnosed with this disease amounts to a death sentence. Ziegler also visited me a few times; he offered me the distressing spectacle of a progressive decline. The symptoms of this illness include the gradual paralysis of the organs of speech, which among other manifestations implies the progressive incapacity to pronounce certain sounds. In his visits to the Majestic, Benno had already displayed an ominous aspect for cares that not only concerned his own fate. His wife suffered terribly from “second sight” and predicted the details of the catastrophe, which were later confirmed. Then new storm clouds gathered.
At first, I was fascinated by his views on the situation and his plans; he possessed an intelligent, active spirit, thanks to which he had attained, from very modest beginnings, an influential position. But the time came when he no longer paid attention to the content, but only to the form, of his words—to that whole vital apparatus which we cannot dispense with. There he had, once again, something that failed, as if a button did not work or a typographical character were erased. Then came attacks of asthma—he retired to the door to cough, while he pressed a tissue to his mouth. Afterwards we would continue with our conversation, as if nothing had happened—it was, however, disturbing.
In many illnesses, days and weeks will pass by during which the patient is no longer capable of speaking. Then we were obliged to look, in our wordless treasury, for coins that have not yet been coined so that the sick person feels that he can confide in us.
299 Concerning the outcome, there could be no doubt; but the aspect that displayed such sufferings is dramatic—the temporal decomposes, very close and unmistakable, with its terrors. It seemed to the doctor that the patient was at fault because he did not want to face up to his situation, but instead stubbornly submerged himself in his own private affairs. “He has not yet realized the seriousness of the situation.”
However, these small setbacks are precisely the most painful: the last trip you take, the last time you leave your house, the last time you sign your name. He still wrote his name on a postal money order, when the post office and even the world of names and numbers disappeared, as if they had exited the stage in the theater.
It seems to me that, in such cases, the therapist enters the domains of the priest. It is true that neither of the two can be denied the right, assuming that they have something to offer. Only then can they lead us by the hand, far away, towards the nameless and even a little further.
To what extent Frederking possessed this gift is something that is beyond my knowledge; in any case, I have heard him praised as a guide for patients who find that their vehicles have seriously broken down. At the time, besides “autogenous training”, he was also involved in “narco-analysis”, and therefore in the investigation of psychic problems in a state of profound ecstatic intoxication induced ad hoc. Sufferings that remain hidden, often, from the very person who endures them, must be made conscious and cured. To “conjure them” by way of the word or to give them a name can be enough as a remedy. Already, by itself, ecstatic intoxication can provoke a catharsis: purification. At the same time it can cause harm. These are drastic remedies, which not every patient can endure and not every doctor feels the vocation to administer.
Did Frederking introduce ecstatic intoxication with mescaline in the therapeutic arts? In any case, he was one of the first to use the drug for such a purpose. In essays published in Medizinischer Monatsspiegel and in Psyche, he goes into details. We elaborated on this theme, after conversing on Benno’s condition; later, when I moved to Swabia, we exchanged letters for a time. As my files show, our correspondence lasted fifteen years until Frederking’s death.
300 It was inevitable that we would agree to a session. At that time, mescaline excited my imagination with the prospect of all kinds of fabulous adventures. They were based on the monograph of Beringer, who had carried out experiments with the substance in Freiburg, and on the chronicles of travelers.
We did not make our first appointment until January 1950, when I moved to Ravensburg. We wanted to meet in Stuttgart; there, Ernst Klett had built a new house on a slope in the southern zone, replacing the house that was destroyed. It was spacious; the roof was covered with thatch, the walls with books—except for the large window in the front room which looked out upon a very populous neighborhood. The horizon ended, on the opposite slope, in a forest. The garden, an old vineyard with reddish clumps of soil, was situated in such a way that it faced the sun with so much protection that the Paulownia tree formed robust branches and the emerald lizard survived the winter.
From that January day, house and garden were indelibly engraved in my memory. The Paulownia tree had acquired Mexican contours; the lights, which glittered below in the blocks of houses and moved up the slopes of the mountains, assumed at moments the magic of a blizzard of cosmic snow. It can also happen that I am suddenly surprised to find myself in Mexico, on a street or at a train station. Human beings and things are mixed all together in all of it. I mention this because it leads us to the conclusion that engrams leave a profound imprint.
I cannot recall the exact date of our meeting; just then I had a lot of other things on my mind. The house was too small; I was obliged to leave some of my books behind, and others were piled up in the vestibule. The manuscript advanced with difficulty; our correspondence was not going very well. The Mediterranean was still forbidden to me, that great, time-honored source of serenity. Banine129 tried very hard to obtain a visa for me; but in vain. She had a falling-out with Perpetua—or, more accurately, she had once again taken advantage of an opportunity to get angry with me. She went to Goslar, where we had spent a series of happy years before the war.
People with hot tempers do not hold a grudge: they soon forget. When she disembarked from the train at Goslar and Fritz Lindemann asked her what had happened, her anger had already cooled. “Bah! Another row with the old man”, and she had been thinking in these terms for about half the return trip. For me, my anger would usually last longer. When Martin said of me, “He is not loyal, but he is devoted,” this is also true of my bad moods. The waves do not break at a great height, but, like the tide, only recede very slowly.
These are different, even Zodiacal temperaments. One day, while I was eating breakfast, she was reading an astrological column and suddenly said, “Of course, I have already said it: Aries devours Pisces.” It is true that my reply—“there are whales, too”—was not entirely correct from a zoological point of view, but I had expressed it as a polite rejoinder and that is how she received it. She was splendid in her sentiments, thoughts and actions. Theodor Heuss once said to me that, “She is a woman to whom you could entrust three estates”. Unfortunately, I did not have such properties in my possession.
That morning, then, I was in a bad mood; the house was unfurnished and unheated. Besides, I was obliged to get up early to arrive in Stuttgart on time. The alarm clock is an appliance that I have always hated. I went to the train station without breakfast, after having cleared my head with a cold bath.
Walter Frederking was waiting for us in Stuttgart; we immediately got to work. By chance, Mathias Wieman was at home; his presence was comforting, as usual. He had to leave on a long trip, however, later; he was only able to attend the preliminaries of our session. We did, however, incite him to carry out his own personal experiment, which he undertook, a short time later, with his wife, Erika.
The first lift-off took place at about three in the afternoon, and an hour later we took a second dose, which made the trip last for approximately twelve hours. Frederking also indulged in a small dose, obeying one of the rules of the Persian, Yazdi: “In mixed company, the non-smokers must at least partake symbolically of a small piece.”
I came prepared with paper and pen, but I could not write down even one word. The doctor had warned me in advance. After spending about an hour experiencing mild nausea, I was stunned by a bang that sounded like a pistol shot. Our host’s wife had opened a jar of instant coffee next to me. Immediately afterward, a fern began to come to life in a flowerpot, moving in a way that was both vital and mechanical, as if a chain of caterpillars were advancing—or it could be the segments of a green centipede.
That was the beginning. A private exhibition (Vorweisung) absorbs and captivates us. It was as if an artillery piece had fired and was echoing or as if a banner was raised over great spectacles: ex-hibition (Vor-weisung). If we turn our head and look back, there is someone right behind us. This is certainly how the modern world must be seen, the precision, the extraordinary force that drives its events. This reveals the essence of the signs.
We were immersed in visions, meditations, visual and auditory perceptions of images and compositions, until six in the evening, when the world had already completely wound down, but at the same time the tension increased painfully. It was as if the flow of images was no longer sufficient; they had to fall back to the rear. We insisted on taking a third, stronger dose; the doctor thought this was reasonable.
If you want to make sure that such incremental additions are fruitful you have to add a big leap forward in quantity to your quality. It is analogous, if we wish to use an image from mechanics, to breaking the sound barrier. The jet reaches a border where the accumulated air is traumatically breached, and with it the vehicle enters a new phase: supersonic flight.
This is, as I said, a crude example taken from the physical-titanic world, but it is typical of its insatiable voracity and of its tendency to “escalate”. After generating an extraordinary momentum, gravity is overcome along with sound. At the critical points, and with regard to thermodynamics as well, there is no more elevation, but there are surprises. It is likely that such a point is to be found where time and eternity are contiguous.
301 Frederking had drafted some protocols. It is hardly worth the trouble to quote them, since these forms of verbal fixation affect the experience. In any event, Frederking’s abilities embraced much more than psychologists could offer, in general, or than they claim to offer. In him there was something that no specialist should lack and whose absence turns knowledge insipid, as if it lacked salt—I am referring to the artistic substance. I had felt it immediately in him, since without that requirement we would not stayed in touch with each other for such a long time, but that night this substance became more evident, as in general happens to the substantial behind phenomena. And I also told him this, and I would like to quote the following passage from his report:
“17:10—“How powerfully the world can expand! More than a century. No, it is the stone age, with fish and saurians. Then one observes Frederking. A man who is sensitive to art, a great man. It is surprising that I had not seen him earlier.”
He does not mention the fact that, once again, from the next room, he approached, dancing a Chinese dance. He had a lampshade on his head, as if it was a conical straw hat worn by the peasants of the rice paddies and he asked: “What do you think of me?”
“Now he looks Portuguese. He is in a dark house and is contemplating a town square illuminated by the sun. Between the square and the house, the persiana. He follows her with his eyes. Now the house becomes completely dark, as if the darkness was concentrated in an inkwell.”
302 I repeated this excursion two more times in company and once alone. I did not succeed in re-experiencing the intensity of the first trip. Erika Wiemann wrote to me after her experience, and told me that it was incomprehensible to her that anyone would risk doing such a thing a second time—she recalled voyages that were in part sublime, in part frightening, in halos and bathyspheres. Besides, she had observed me and a few of our mutual friends, and expressed a view that would later be confirmed. Some of us stared with wide open eyes from the open spaces under the trees, like owls, like birds of ill omen.
Mathias added: “Of course—and I seem to see it clearly, again, in the presence of Erika—it is a necessary foretaste, an eruption in that interregnum, where the soul spends its first season, after having abandoned the body. I am uncertain whether a violence of this type, which employs chemistry and alchemy instead of levers and gears, is not a sacrilege; whether the legitimate road does not lead to enlightenment by means of fasting and prayer, by seclusion and looking inward, whether the human being would be better off with spiritual guidance rather than magical trances.”
This recalls Baudelaire’s assessment. But neither of them has paid attention to the prescribed rules of the game—and have come out winners.
Once is enough—in this respect, he is obliged to admit that Erika is right. Gurdjieff was also of this opinion, at least with regard to adepts. The latter have gained an image of the dimensions, within which they move like blind men, they have plumbed, just once, the abysses that yawn under the keel of their ship. There, they are allowed to touch bottom, and this disembarkation is a long-lasting settlement.
303 I think the following situation led to a bad trip—an afternoon gathering, which Frederking had harmonized by way of doses tailored to the various spirits; in this sense, he was a connoisseur of scenic arts. His wife was also present.
That night, the lights flickered below, at a distance that surpassed that of the galaxies. It was not a spatial difference. They were not malign lights, as in the paintings of Bosch—lifeless, impossible to revive, a crystallized nothingness. The cosmic cave was deserted and desolate—it did not want to shine any new light. It was even a situation in which it was disdainful of all of this.
No less melancholy was my solitary excursion in Ravensburg, which lasted until nightfall. I was sitting by the window and looking at the snow-covered field. The snow is iridescent, as every painter knows quite well—but that day it radiated, in emanations increasingly more vivid, clouds and waves of luminous matter. Interwoven in this blanket of snow, minuscule sparks glittered, scintillulae. The flames flickered.
In those environs I also felt the distance—I heard a dog howling, it was the Wolf of Fenris. From the foam that splashed from his jaws the Milky Way was born. But here, space did not lack life; it pulsated with expectation. Half of my being breathed empathy, but the sinister predominated. I paced back and forth, I made myself comfortable in the armchair, and observed the books. Their spines rose up like towers—I was not conscious of how much energy was concealed here. That they were printed, that they had frontispieces and texts, was irrelevant, it was the simple reflection, a Platonic shadow, of a spiritual power. Authorship was a minor loan limited in time.
I could not bear to always see phenomenon that way, not even a simple phenomenon. It is good that our perception filters it, that our senses divide it, that the word fixes it. I went to the other room, where my son was sitting at the table; he had just finished eating. My wife came through the door with the gesture of a priestess, her hands crossed over her breast. Her smock hung down to the floor. She was standing, it is true, in a dark part of the room; I saw her attending to her duties and her responsibilities, and I also saw the totemic animal of the sun, just as I had seen the books.
Everything was in order, all was going well. So I sat there a long time, contemplating the two of them in a silent and peaceful room. Just as previously the fire was engendered from the snow, now my power and my confidence flowed. When I reflected on this later, I realized that I had not spoken a single word.
Insurmountable distances seemed to promise to cleave us from being, if the approach is frustrated.130 But if it succeeds, being will begin to concentrate; outside and inside, past and future, begin to merge, the world becomes hospitable.
Anxiety is born from the perception of the sinister. This disturbing guest approaches us and penetrates into our entrails. But only thus does the mask fall and we recognize that the sinister is in reality our home—only by passing through estrangement can we recover the confidence in what is normal.
304 It is dangerous to reconnoiter frontiers with others, where the behaviour [in English in the original] in which we dress ourselves and in which we take pleasure becomes transparent. We experience this when we go on drinking binges and even more wherever ecstatic intoxication batters down doors that everyone thought were locked shut, even to them. In his treatise on opium, Yazdi says, for this reason, that one must not smoke alone, nor should one smoke in the presence of strangers.
In any case, propriety, when it is authentic, is rooted in the undifferentiated. We see it in sick people who still strive to keep up appearances, even when it is hard to speak—“they still have their dignity”.
States of mind of ecstatic intoxication do not strictly deviate from the norm; they are interwoven on the margins of everyday life. The thread certainly takes on an unusual color, but it is woven throughout the whole cloth. This entails certain bold actions and misunderstandings, which are characterized by the effect of comedy—reality plays on diverse planes.
Scenes of this kind can appear in Mexican festivals. It is the usual practice for them to start early in the day because they ordinarily last a very long time, and keeping order in the house poses requirements—particularly in epochs when a shortage of lay brethren and sisters is becoming increasingly more obvious. But they have to be reckoned with, too, or at least they have to be pleased, so that they can be ready, as in an opera, where no one delivers a letter or sweeps the floor without singing. This makes life in cities like Naples easier, a priori, while in the North the people are content with the libretto, when they do not just remain silent.
We are now very animated and carrying on a natural conversation, while the mistress of the house has gone downstairs to the ground floor to prepare a snack. She soon returned, horrified, and told us that the fried eggs had come alive in the pan. Suddenly, they formed yellow cones. The devil held sway down there—the environment was suffocating and sinister. Was something burning? Yes, it was the central heating. Perhaps we should go downstairs and set things in order—but first we should take off our jackets.
For a moment a breeze blew from downstairs, as if it came from a den of evil death; the atmosphere became confused. But it was temporary and was nothing but a strange sensation; listening to bad music would have been dangerous.
305 One cannot say that mescaline is as inoffensive a substance as Huxley claims it is. It is true that the kind of harm that it could be expected to inflict is less serious if you compare it with the damage caused by alcohol, tobacco or pills. But one must take into consideration that mescaline reinforces the initial state of the person who takes it, which might be weak or confused. Thus, a child could acquire, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, a power that he is not capable of controlling or that might reinforce his tyrannical inclinations. It could also potentiate the banal, as in the case of the typist who had visions of mountains of whipped cream.
In such a case, one does not take a “trip through some chemical Door in the Wall into the world of transcendental experience”, nor does one attain to the “brief but timeless illumination” that Huxley yearns for, and rightly so, in our study programs. In this respect there is nothing to do, for
“If they were to possess the philosopher’s stone,
the philosopher would miss his stone.”
We must point out that the Mexican drugs are not erotic stimulants like ether and alcohol. They lead to deeper sources of character than the crux that divides the sexes. Character receives influences from gender, but it is not determined by gender. Thus, a graphologist can offer a good analysis, even if he is unaware of the gender of his subject. Age, education, the style of the epoch and temperaments confer a more constraining imprint.
The risk is of another kind. In an instant one can recognize what, otherwise, would take years to be revealed. No confession goes so deep.
By the way, where does this sudden feeling of resistance that we experience when we read words like “transcendental” come from? Undoubtedly from the fact that the categorical delimitations of idealism no longer allow us to divide the cosmos. Certainly, we do not have a better knowledge, but we do have a different kind of sight. Just as there is a grammatical instinct, so, too, is there a philosophical instinct.
Refined matter 306 I quote: “What is even more disputable about the character of revelation of some of the experiments with mescaline is the circumstance that the mysterium tremendum not only emanates indistinctly from an object, but also from expressly banal objects” (Dr. Peter Ringger).
Thus, describing an experiment he conducted on himself, the author points out how he remained, for a very long time, absorbed in the contemplation of a half-open door…. “It seemed to me as if I had in my hands the meaning of the world.”
On this point I can only disagree. Perception of that kind or that kind of capacity for perception is a sign that we have advanced a long way towards approach. A door begins to open—this is certainly an everyday banality. But already in Rembrandt this everyday banality becomes disturbing. He not only painted the door, but also what was hidden behind it. The door begins to open … we are scheduled to be tried in court or we have been called upon to testify as witnesses, the judge enters the courtroom to pronounce the verdict, the doctor returns from the radiology lab, we experience the tribulations of the proscribed, the raptures of the lover who has waited all day long for his beloved. All of this orchestrates, with clear and obscure sounds, the symphony of fate.
The door is like a mirror—it returns to us the usual image. However, now it becomes transparent. Or even better: we begin to suspect that it can become transparent. It is not this or that particular fate, with its fleeting happiness or misfortune, which will enter. Time is now raised like a curtain. Not this or that fate, but fate in summa, fate as a solid mass, which projects its shadow ahead of it.