I found myself drifting in this world, unemployed, lost and lonely. To recap, after after finishing University I went to the Far East for a bit and came back to London after a troubled period while over there. On returning to the UK I discovered that the economic situation was really bad and I wasn’t able to find a proper job. So I fell into a lifestyle of living off government payments, living in the seedier areas of London and exploring modern society’s darker underbelly. I lived for a while in a squatted house with a very deviant crowd. After an interesting, turbulent and rather dangerous time I left this scene because it got too risky for me to stay there.
So in the Spring of 1993, I moved to Archway North London and lived in a bed and breakfast owned by a lovely Irish landlady. This was a much needed halcyon period of reflection and getting myself together. I started going out with my first girlfriend and had sex for the very first time. Her name was Sara and she was the same psychology student who would visit me back in the squat. The fact that she was studying psychology and was interested in neuroscientific things was probably one of the things that attracted me the most about her. Someone I could talk about the brain and mind with, whilst we were together. She was quite a grounding influencing on me, a regular, well adjusted and straight young lady. From time to time, she would pester me to go find a job and become more integrated into society. I found this a little tedious. Anyway, there weren’t many job vacancies availible in the UK at this time, especially not for those without work experience. Nonetheless I really enjoyed being with her, she was my only connection at the time to the world of normalacy and correctness.
If my girlfriend was a respectable influence on me then another friend of mine would steer my life toward back to wild and deviant side of life. Christopher was someone I had met back in the squat scene who was the Brother of the Girlfriend of the Brother of one of the people I was living with in the squat whom I had know from my home town Ipswich. He came over to visit from time to time. After seeing my book collection and being something of a book lover himself, he noticed my Philip K. Dick novels and my extensive collection of books about the brain; we struck up an intense and stimulating conversation and quickly developed a bond. Christopher was a seasoned denizen of the alternative and counter culture underworld having been given an early start by his father who as a product of the 60s Woodstock generation was also something of a free radical himself. Christopher was attracted to the wildness and deviance that he encountered in the squat and associated scene. Later on, my friend would act as a sort of guide and teacher to me on various things counter culture or alternative. We kept in touch and he would visit me in my new lodgings to hang out and chat.
It was in early Summer immediately after I moved out of the squat that Christopher introduced me to a friend of his called Fraser Clark who was an old hippy who edited a counter culture magazine and organized underground parties. He took me to his flat in West Hampstead which was very messy and filled with very large house plants that made the place look a bit like a conservatory with a big desk in it. There was a funny scruffy looking dog that trotted about all over the place adding to the slight sense of chaos. I didn’t know it then but I was entering into the land of the Lotus Eaters and Fraser was the local de facto king and sage of this domain. He was just about to start up a regular weekly club night which was to be called Megatripolis and during my visit he was talking about it a lot. It promised to be something different.
Fraser started a magazine in the 80s called Encyclopedia Psychedelica which was dedicated to the promotion of aspects of the counter culture and later another journal called Evolution which concentrated on rave culture. It was largely through the connections that he made through his magazines that he launched himself and his crew into the world of party organization and promotions. Most of London psychedelic partying scene from the early 90s to the present time of writing 2009, emerged either directly or indirectly from events that he’d organized. Including club nights such as Return the the Source, Club Alien, Escape from Samsara, Synergy and Luminopolis SE1 parties and Planet Angel. In effect he was a sort of Johnny Apple seed of the psychedelic counter culture, this interesting, colourful and charismatic character acted as the Timothy Leary or Ken Casey of London’s psychedelic crowd. They being two famous, or infamous depending on how you look at it, 60s promoters of psychedelia and ‘mind expansion’ through the use of psychoactive substances.
So at this point in time back in 1993, the Megatripolis event was to be his next venture and it was going to be held in London’s famous Marquee club on the equally well known Charing Cross road, best known as a music venue and a place I sometimes used to go to as a student to see the live rock bands. This Megatripolis event would be something quite different however. Not only would there be music, dancing and socializing. There would also be talks given by underground writers and academics with interesting things to say. A place where new ideas and trends would be given an airing. It was billed as a festival in a club. Anyway, out of loneliness and an interest for exploring other aspects of life I found myself going to the early Megatripolis parties with some regularity.
At Megatripolis I seemed to be meeting a lot of people with the same interests and outlook as myself and made some friends. There were a lot of people involved in the arts, media and also technology. There would always be a significant contingent of old hippies from the sixties or early seventies. The kind of people who told stories about dropping acid at Pink floyd and Jimi Hendrix concerts. I met many new age types and many people who were either current or ex members of the Osho sect renowned for their hedonistic ways. Many of the people there were the children of the children of Woodstock. Young adults the same as I was whose Mothers and Fathers were involved in the 60s counter culture. Also of course a lot of more ordinary people such as curious students or kids from the suburbs would show up. Anyway, it was a pretty eclectic mix of people.
I distinctly remember at this point coming across the phenomenon of people who thought that they were God. meeting many people who quite openly expressed that they were God or else admitted that they believed they were God only after you got to know them a bit better. I also met quite a few people who seriously thought that they were either the Messiah, the second coming of Christ, or something else along those lines. It was all a bit bewildering at first but most of my life afterwards would be spent making sense of this kind of thing.
I hung around this scene for several months and would dabble with a little drug experimentation here and there but at this point the pull of the psychedelic crowd wasn’t that great. Mainly I would experiment with the drug LSD.
I would then do other things for about a year or so without very much involvement in the land of psychedelia. My attention shifted completely to the main passion of my life up to that point. My interest in computers, brain science and artificial intelligence returned. At this time my life was more of a technological and scientific odyssey rather than a mystical or spiritual one. I dreamed that one day I would gain recognition for my ideas and theories about how the brain worked. It was also always in the back of my mind to commercialize my ideas. I had grand plans to one day go to silicon valley and start a software company. Around this time I would avidly read books about how the microcomputer revolution happened. Also from books and magazines I loved to learnabout the work going on in hi-tech research institutes around the world. It made me feel closer to a world I yearned to be a part of but was very distant from, in my circumstances at that time. I also read the biographies of people like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and found them inspiring and instructive.
For the rest of 1993 from the Autumn onwards and throughout 1994 my involvement with the psychedelic scene would on a fairly sporadic, on and off basis, more off than on. I really got heavily back into my life goal of figuring out how the brain worked and the creation of artificial intelligence. So I spent a lot of time reading, computer programming and thinking. My life was back on on its default track and I enjoyed a productive halcion period. I got a lot done, my skills and ideas evolved a lot.
However after a few fateful twists and turns in my life, I found myself gravitating back to the land of psychedelia. I would come to call this crowd the world-wide psychedelic scene, the modern day ‘lotus eaters’. Alternatively they might also be called the modern Soma drinkers or perhaps the new age manna munchers.
It was in early 1995 that I started to get more involved with the London psychedelic scene. This came about indirectly out of loneliness and the desire to meet girls. Around this time I used to go to psychedelic parties with a friend called Joe, I’d met quite randomly at a house gatheing in Brixton.
Joe and I had a shared interest in all things technological. My friend would a little later on be be working as a journalist, writing reports for the technological section of the UK newspaper the Guardian and also Wired magazine UK. We used to talk a lot about all the future technological possibilities. I used to tell Joe about my dreams and aim of working out how the brain worked and creating Artificial Intelligence. I felt he respected what I was up to and kept an open mind about things. This was not the reaction I got from a lot people who learned about my ambitions. The common response was derision and incredulity. It was Joe who first introduced me to the burgeoning World Wide Web and growing online scene. Joe’s Dad was a New Age writer and helped to coordinate an organization called Alternatives which organized public speaking events and was based in a central London church near Piccadilly circus called St James. We would go along from time to time to hear the speakers who talked about various spiritual and ecological issues. It was my first introduction to the New Age at a time when I thought ‘New Age’ was what happened at around the time of a person’s birthday. I didn’t know it at the time but years later I would gain a lot of familiarity with St James and the various events that took place there. Apart from an interest in technology another thing Joe and I had in common was that we were both single young men who wanted to meet young women. So during this particular period of my life, with some regularity I would be venturing out, together with my friend Joe, to various Psychedelic parties.
In February of 1995 I used the drug MDMA, better known as Ecstacy, for the first time in a monthly party event that gave itself the quite mystical sounding name of ‘Return to the Source’. Together with the kind of repetitive, pulsating and quite hyponotic dance music played in these sorts of events and the quite spontaeneous dancing that the drug illicited; this added up to produce a state of incredible euphoria, excitement and bliss that lasted for an hour or so. The drug also produced a wonderful sense of empathy together with feelings for love and kindness for all the people around you. These feelings would slowly subside over the course of the night but even the day after there would be a sort of after glow of the feelings and sentiments of the previous night.
In this way, the drug was powerfully reinforcing. In a sense it was addictive but not in the same way as say nicotine and cigarette smoking. The main difference is that with cigarettes there was a two fold process of addiction. The would involve on the one hand the rewarding carrot and on the other a sort of punishment stick. The carrot was the initial rush, stimulation and feeling of satisfaction derived from smoking. The stick was the feeling of unease and state of dissatisfaction that would arise when a person addicted to nicotine hasn’t had his or her fix for a while. The situation with Ecstacy was rather different. The stick or negative reinforcement effect was much weaker and wouldn’t produce the treadwheel style addiction of nicotine. Though there was a come down or drop in mood associated with Ecstasy which would occur several days after, the thought of taking more ecstacy to cure the negative feelings associated with this phase would never occur to most people. Not in the same way that every smoker knows how to cure the effects of not having had a cigarette in a while simply by lighting up another one. However there was a positive reinforcement or rewarding carrot effect produced by Ecstacy and this was very powerful indeed. Once you had experienced the effects of the drug in a friendly social setting together with the correct kind of dance music, you just wanted to do it again. And again. And again.
Inexorably and irresistibly I was drawn back towards the land of the lotus eaters. If psychedelic trance music was the siren song that drew me close then it was the drug ecstasy which acted as the bait and hook, which would bind and keep me in this druggy scene.
The 1995 had begun productively, my head was in gear and I was getting a lot of productive things done, reading, thinking and computer programming. However as the year progressed and my time spent in hedonistic pursuits increased then inevitably my discipline and level of gainful activity diminished getting to the point where most of my time was spent going to clubs, taking drugs and spending time with people large number of people that I would meet in London’s psychedelic club land. As this happened I saw less and less of my friend Joe. As my life was becoming more degenerate, Joe was devoting himself to his career in Journalism.
So a little later on I progressed from being a casual party goer, to a more regular patron and then becoming more involved and helping to organize and promote the parties. Something which definitely encouraged this transition was that in the Spring of 1995 I moved to the Farringdon area in London which is just a little West from the City of London’s financial and business district so quite centrally located. My new home was very conveniently located next to all the most useful transport links. So my new base positioned me perfectly for going to any and every psychedelic event in London. And this I did a lot of. I lived in this place from May 1995 right up to the January of 1997. Many of my memories of this time are associated with drug experimentation, recovering from these activities and hanging out with people who were obsessed with psychedelic drugs. This was a time in my life when I really neglected my studies and I didn’t really do all that much reading, thinking or writing in my notes.
In the Summer of 1995, a few months after my move to Farringdon, a new club called the Parallel Youniversity opened in a large warehouse style club called Bagleys in Kings Cross, which was a short walk from where I lived. Living so close I went every week. It was partly as a result of this that I became totally immersed in the world of psychedelia. Initially I volunteered to help with the setting up of the club event, mainly in order to get in for free. So I would show up a little early a do a little work. This was quite enjoyable and was a good way to meet the people involved. Anyway, I progressed over the Winter of 1995 and 1996, to taking control of the booking of DJs and selection of music for the club. This put me in a good position to meet a lot of people and this I did with much interest and enthusiasm. So during this time I was able to get to know the strange and non conformist denizens of this druggy counter culture. Also I happened to be in the perfect context and social milieu for the systematic exploration of psychedelic drugs. And this I did for a couple of years, on and off, mostly on.
My life around this time was very strange. I would go out to psychedelic night clubs and parties, Thursday, Friday and Saturday every week, for months on end and sometimes also going out on Sundays as well. It was a very social time and I got to meet a lot of interesting people. I would typically go to bed at around 7 or 8am in the morning, sometimes later, and then wake up in the late afternoon or early evening. At one point in the Winter of 95/96 I was jolted by the realization that I saw some daylight, having not experienced it for weeks. It was a completely aberrant lifestyle. I existed completely outside of the mainstream of society. The only people who I spent my time with were the loose collection of odd balls, strays and drop outs that would congregate regularly in psychedelic night clubs. I would start to encounter a lot of people in this scene who were very interested in Indian culture and going off to visit India as often as they could. This was at the time when a certain kind of psychedelic music call Goa Trance was making headlines in various fashion magazines. Through getting know and talking to such people I was given introductions, though superficial, to elements of Eastern Philosophy and Religion which would have been new to me at the time. It was enough however to arouse my curiosity and some of what I heard seemed to resonate with thoughts about God and reality I was already having. I remember that I would spend a lot of time thinking about philosophical questions relating to things like the nature of reality and also the nature of consciousness.
My interest in computers and science was very neglected during this time. However I did maintain a keen interest in brain chemistry. Indeed I did spend a lot of the time thinking about my own brain chemistry for my life was completely centred around acquiring, taking and recovering from taking psychedelic drugs. The sort of substances I used were drugs like LSD, DMT, 2CB, Ketamine and Ecstasy. Also there would be occasional use of various types of psychedelic mushroom and Cactus. Mostly the experiences I had during this period were neither mystical nor mind expanding, but rather more mind numbing and purely hedonistic. I recall at this time getting into a lot of discussions about drugs with the people I knew and exchange notes on their effects, it was all part of the culture.
Still I had the chance at this time to systematically explore the mystical properties of some of these psychedelic substances and gain various insights. Through these experiments with psychedelic drugs I did obtain several full scale mystical experiences and these probably numbered around a dozen or so. Many of these experiences were of a vivid but fragmentary nature and some were extremely powerful and totally out of this World. On a few occasions I even managed what may be described as ‘At one with the Universe’ or ‘Union with God’ experiences, completely stepping out of space and time and transcending the confines ‘normal’ consciousness. However there was a problem with this method of obtaining mystical states. Due to the short cut way in which they were brought about, i.e. through the ingestion of psychedelic drugs and also due to the lack a spiritual framework or discipline through which these experiences could be interpreted; there was an inability to successfully integrate these mystical experiences usefully or meaningfully into my wider existence, i.e. my life outside of the world of psychedelic drugs. Therefore though I experienced these interesting and extreme states of being, there was a separation between, on the one hand, this exciting laboratory of consciousness and on the other, my day to day existence. There was an almost complete separation between the two worlds. Apart from the use of these substances producing a massive come down after their effects wore off, which involved a state of extreme tiredness, impaired memory and concentration, which lasted perhaps a few days; when not under the influence my normal perception of things wasn’t radically altered. This highlights one of the limitaions of using psychedelic drugs in order to gain mystical insights. It’s the difference between finding the Holy Grail versus obtaining the prize and also bringing it back to Camelot where it is able to make a difference in normal everyday affairs. Psychedelic spirituality is analogous to Heroin happiness, it wears off when the drug wears off.
One of a my closest associates at this time of my life was a like minded soul called Patrick who was a few years older than me and came from Manchester in the North of England. We met in London’s psychedelic rave scene in late 1995. Someone who might have been seen by some as a bad lad, Patrick had explored some of the illegal avenues in life and had been in prison once or twice. Though when I knew him he was trying to reform his life. Apparently he had something of a turn around a few years earlier after he was hospitalised as a result excessively drug use when he had a close call with death. Though he survived he had unfortunately suffered permanent liver and kidney damage from this episode. Patrick was a keen fan of the US band The Grateful Dead and would even fly over to America specially to see the band play live. Pehaps the heavy druggie LSD sub-culture associated with this band, inspired in Patrick a major interest in psychedelic drugs or perhaps he already had an affinity for psychedelia and gravitated towards that particular scene as a result, I’m not sure now. Anyway this interest in Psychedelic drugs was one of things that we had in common. Also Patrick, as a part of his efforts to get back on the straight and narrow, had taken on a degree course in Philosophy with special interest in metaphysics and the Philosophy of Religion. We used to have endless discussions on these matters and talk a lot about life in general. Also we would go to night clubs and parties together and experiment together with various exotic psychedelic drugs. Patrick was a real adventurer and explorer of life going to places and situations I wouldn’t risk entering into myself. I learned a lot from my friend and he probably influenced my behaviour pulling me more towards modes of being that I might have otherwise avoided. In retrospect he was an important influence at that stage in my life and gave me another angle on things. Our association probably contributed to my degeneration. Though I see now that this was a necessary stage I had to go through in order to arrive at better things.
A particularly destructive pattern of drug abuse started in the beginning of the Summer around late July which lasted right through to the end of the year. In the Summer of 1996 I started to use the drug ecstasy with careless regularity and reckless quantity. Anyway, the upshot of this is that I had some pretty good times. However as the Autumn of 1996 wore on my life steadily fell into increasing states of decadence and degeneration. By the time December rolled by, I was pretty messed up. After one last major binge around the time of the Winter Solstice, just before Christmas time, my head was definitely in an altered state. The chemicals that I had been indulging in over the preceded 3 to 4 months, left me in a state of significant dysfunction. My life was a complete mess, my values and life goals seemed to be erased and I sort of became a different person for a while. In retrospect now it is clear to me that I went through a process of self destruction which was brought about partly through excessive drug use but also through the neglecting of my personal health. I was not eating or sleeping properly during this time which added to the weakening of my body and mind. Looking back on it now, I call this my travel down the road of excess. I was taking far too much ecstasy and my life really got into a bad way. It was a time of self destructive hedonism. I paid a personal cost in terms of physical and mental deterioration for the way I lived. My life had gone off the rails and I was stuck in a terrible rut. My engines of motivation were functioning only weakly and it was difficult for me to see how I could extricate myself from this sad predicament.