The Byron Bay vision
A powerful vision that happened during a musical, mystical odyssey around the World, which revealed deep truths concerning the nature of time, causality and purpose.
Here I will describe a powerful vision and mystical insight that I had in the month of April 1998. It occurred in Byron Bay which is a town on the East Coast of Australia. I'll also relate some of the events and circumstances surrounding what happened.
At the time I was working as a musician playing guitar for a psychedelic trance dance outfit called Cosmosis. I was hired to give their live show a little more of a kick. So I happened then to be touring the East Coast of Australia with the act. We had already played in Tasmania, Melbourne and Sydney and now we were coming towards the end of our time in Australia. The last date was to be in a town called Byron Bay. The performances that we had already done in Australia were very successful. I had encountered many people from the very international psychedelic trance scene that I had met at trance parties in the UK. It was great to see them again. In particular the gig in Melbourne was attended by many familiar faces. This event was held miles out in a national park which really did seem like the middle of nowhere. It was in the middle of an endless expanse of eucalyptus forest. A psychedelic trance party was organized at this location and the band I was touring with played there as the main attraction.
During the party familiar faces seemed to pop out from nowhere and all over the place. For the first time I got a real sense that this small but internationally scattered sub-culture, called psychedelic trance, was really like some kind of family or secret society. A society bonded together by a shared interest in a certain type of music, a passion for travelling, a certain constellation of shared beliefs and also a fondness for taking powerful psychedelic drugs. I had first encountered this scene back in London during a particularly decadent and hedonistic phase that lasted a couple of years. Back then I would often go out clubbing and take large quantities of drugs. I was involved in the organization of parties and club events so was able to get in free everywhere. However this privilege only served to encourage my self destructive behaviour. There was a period when it was typical for me to go out clubbing Thursday, Friday and then Saturday as well. The rest of the week would be spent mainly recovering from this exertion. I would become quite nocturnal and find myself sleeping all throughout the day, only to awake in the early evening. Anyway, this lifestyle of going to clubs frequently exposed me to the kind of people I was encountering a lot during my time in Australia, whilst playing music at psychedelic trance parties. Collectively the people in question may be called the International Psychedelic Traveller Community. They came from many countries and from all backgrounds, although people from the more industrialized countries and also the middle classes were disproportionately represented. Their lives were characterized by a tendency to travel a lot, often to back packer destinations and in particular to places like India and Thailand.
The kind of music produced by the band I was working with was for a time, in the mid nineties, labelled Goa trance after the former Portuguese colony in India. This was because during about this time and before, the place Goa was an important centre for the world psychedelic scene and attracted many free spirited people from all over. Just the kind of people who would gravitate towards taking psychedelic drugs and going to trance parties. Also a lot of psychedelic trance dance music was produced by people with a strong affinity for Goa, so during the mid 90s the expressions Goa Trance and psychedelic trance were interchangeable. In recent history there has always been a connection between psychedelia and India. The late 60s and early 70s witnessed an explosion of interest in Eastern mysticism which was to a very large degree precipitated by the large scale use of the drug LSD. So many people in the West started to explore Hinduism, the religion of India. During that period India became a premiere hippy mecca and many young people from the industrialized countries made their way there on journeys of self discovery or else in order to take more drugs. Anyway, it seemed like there was a resurgence of interest in India during the mid 90s when I was exploring the psychedelic counter culture in London. As a result of this I would often meet a lot of Western people with a great affinity for India while I was going through my druggy clubbing phase. This probably helped to form in me an initial interest in Indian philosophy and religion. It certainly exposed me to ideas which helped to shape my outlook and encourage certain mystical tendencies that I already had.
In a not so subtle way my life became entangled with the international psychedelic trance scene and I can see now that this relationship has been an important factor in my personal evolution. I'm still in the process of understanding what is the role of this unique and global sub-culture in the wider scheme of things. This strange family and secret society, may I suspect, have some role to play in the proper unfolding of world events leading towards the fulfullment of the prophecies contained in the World's religions. And maybe not. But back to my story...
So I was in Australia on tour with the band and we were coming towards the end of our time there. We had one more date to play in the country and it was to be in a coastal town called Byron bay. I remember that I was feeling quite exhausted by the tour. Before coming to Byron bay I had contracted a strange lung infection which caused me to cough a lot and drained my energy. Also the strains of being on the road had caused my relationship with my travelling companions to deteriorate. These were the circumstances that I found myself in as we made the drive from Sydney to Byron Bay. As we were nearing the town our driver and guide was telling us something about the place. I discovered that Byron bay was the most Easterly point on the land mass of Australia. Also I found out that whales would converge upon the waters around the town during their breeding season. Our driver was quite new age and also talked about strange new age energies and how these energies were concentrated in Byron bay. He went on to elaborate that this was why the whales came here but then he said something which I totally dismissed. He said that these strange energies would often have a powerful influence on people mentally and that the more savvy inhabitants of Byron bay tended to live in the surrounding hills where this mysterious 'energy' was less intense. I found these ideas suspect and thought what an imaginative hippy our guide was.
We had arrived a few days before the day of the party at which we were to perform. We were staying in a small suburb a few miles from Byron bay town centre, called Suffolk. Which incidentally is the same name as the county in the UK where I grew up. I took some time to explore my surroundings and look around the place. Byron bay is an extremely beautiful part of the world with some great countryside and many stunning beaches. The town itself is rather small and is rather characterized by the strong new age and hippy presence. It was quite a paradise but at the same time a little dull. I soon became quite bored of my surroundings and settled into a routine of going off by myself in order to read and think.
this photograph the headland of Byron bay that is the most Easterly point on the landmass of Australia. It is a beautiful and quite unspoiled part of the world. In the photo you can see some of the stunning white sand beaches. You can also see the wild wooded areas where many of the hardcore psychedelic crowd live. Behind the cliffs you can see the buildings that comprise the town of Byron Bay and its suburbs.
The time came when I had to do the performance with the band. The gig was held in the most unusual of places. We were to play at a psychedelic trance party that was to be held in a warehouse that used to be a whaling processing station. That is a place where the bodies of large whales were turned into heating oil, whale meat and various other industrial raw materials. I remember that the party wasn't very well attended with perhaps no more than five hundred people. The crowd were mainly young with a lot of teenagers but I distinctly remember that a lot of the people present didn't seem all that happy. I also remember that the whole place smelled strange and I couldn't help thinking about all those slaughtered whales. At some point that evening I made the connection. I realized that if the whales came from all around the world's oceans to the waters just off Byron bay to breed then this would have been a convenient place for the whaling industry to have set up a base. It was a horrible thought and it did bring me down a bit. And so in this unhappy context together with the rest of the band we did our performance. It wasn't very inspiring at all and I didn't get the same high that I'd normally get while playing music in front of an audience. Also the virus or infection that I had contracted in Sydney our previous port of call, was still affecting me adversely. Looking back and reflecting on that night, it all seems a bit surreal to me now. A psychedelic party full of unhappy people held in a place were whales got chopped up and processed. It isn't the kind of place I'd associate with a good time.
After the show, in the days following, my mood dipped noticeably. We would be staying in Byron bay for another week and I remember that I got very bored. My health seemed to deteriorate. My lung infection got worse and my immune system didn't seem to be able to shake it off. But what was getting really bad was my mental state. I felt agitated, restless and my head would fill with intrusive and strange thoughts. I thought back to what I had been told by the driver when we first arrived at Byron bay. His words seemed prophetic. Here I was, feeling as if I was going a little bit insane.
I remember one day, I was sitting in the back garden of the house where we were all staying. All around were the famous cane toads. They would stop in their tracks when they walked into an obstacle and would remain motionless for hours. I knew about their potent psychedelic properties and was aware of the practice of licking the toad's glands in order to obtain a dose of their psychoactive agent. However I abstained. I thought that in my present state it would not be a good idea to indulge in anything like that. I was quite concerned that I was going quite insane and didn't want to exacerbate the situation. I really was only just managing to hold it all together. Also slightly less than a year previously, a close friend had died from drug abuse. This shocked and saddened me greatly and made me completely quit taking psychedelic substances. Sitting surrounded by all these psycho active cane toads would have been an irresistible indulgence for me a couple of years previously. But now here I was adamantly not wishing to alter my consciousness but rather wishing that my head would go back to normal again.
So in this general state I remained for several days. I found myself at the house a lot avoiding company, reading and playing guitar a lot. I recall at this time I was reading a translation of the Bhagavad Gita I had purchased in Sydney and also a book I had recently bought in Byron bay called 'The Power of Myth'. This book contains the transcripts of an American TV series of the same name which consisted entirely of Joseph Campbell being interviewed by renowned US journalist Bill Moyers. It was these activities which probably helped me to keep some sort of a grip on my mental health. Anyway.. something would then occur which interrupted this most unagreeable state of affairs I found myself in. I decided to go to a party in a house located deep in the woods surrounding the town. Certain things I did at this gathering would help to trigger a mystical experience, a series of visions and some vivid metaphysical insights later on.
So I found myself at a smallish hippy psychedelic traveller gathering in somebody's house which was in the middle of dense woodland. It was quite an idealic spot, there were bright stars in the sky and it made me think of Endor, the forest planet in the movie Revenge of the Jedi. The crowd gathered were hardcore psychedelic types, friendly and laid back. I recognized some more people that I had met back in the UK at trance parties and it was fun to learn more about them. At some point an attractive young hippy chick handed me a biscuit from a tray containing several. I didn't think anything of it, so naturally I accepted one and happily bit into it. It didn't taste very good and then it dawned on me that the biscuit was probably laced with psychedelic plant extracts or perhaps even some strange fungaloid. I had already swallowed a bite and was feeling a little concerned about possible adverse effects it might have on me, particularly in my current weakened and slightly unstable state of mind. Hard drugs were something that I had carefully avoided for almost a year since the death of my close friend, so I had a feeling that I had broken a strict taboo. I wrapped the rest of the mostly uneaten biscuit in a disposable hankerchief and would end up flushing it down the toilet before the party was over. I stayed on a while chatting and drinking red wine. Then it was time to go, the small crowd I had come with all drove back to the house.
Feeling rather tired I wanted to go straight to bed. I went to my room, lay on my back a while, had a think about the nights events and then decided to go wash, brush my teeth and turn in for the night. But the bathroom which was next door to my bedroom was occupied. I laid down on the floor and waited for the person in the bathroom to leave. As I was waiting I could feel a warm sensation come all over my body. I lay there with my eyes closed but as if behind my eyelids I could see pulsating colors and small lights that jiggled about. I was quite drawn into the spectacle at first but then felt a gentle anxiety that all was not right. I remember visualizing quite vividly, that the virus from my lung infection had invaded my brain en mass, and I lay there thinking that it was this which was causing me to see these things. Looking back on it now, it was probably a combination of the illness, the exhaustion, the unpalatable biscuit and the few cups of red wine I had, which was causing the experience. And perhaps also the strange new age 'energies' which are thought to be particularly concentrated in and around Byron bay.
Anyway, as I lay there motionless witnessing and contemplating weird things, the nature of the things I could see with my eyes closed changed. The simple patterns and lights gave way to more complex images. I saw people, animals, trees and a lot more besides. At first these images were disjointed and seemed to come in and out of view, mixing randomly then disappearing. Gradually things became more coherent and I slipped into what may best be described as a very vivid lucid dream. Everything seemed as real as 'normal' reality. It became so real so as to be no longer dream like. It was as if I had been transported to another place. What I saw was this.. there was snow everywhere, it was very bright with the Sun low in the sky. There were trees here and there and I seemed to be located on the edge of some woodland. All around me were people, perhaps a few dozen. Everyone was dressed in clothing made from furs and animal skins. There was a fire or the remains of one and I could detect the strong smell of burning wood. There were the beating of drums or perhaps just the rhythmic sound of primitive and improvised percussive instruments. It was a kind of ritual, some of the people were moving about in a strange stylized way, others were seated and looking on. I also noticed that those around me were a mixture of oriental looking and also nordic looking people. Some of them had Blonde hair and fair skin and some of the others had black hair and a darker complexion.
Then I suddenly shifted back to 'normal' reality. I was back in Byron bay laying on my back. Now I felt I was being given a message. I seemed to be thinking thoughts which were not my own. It was being impressed upon me that somehow the events I saw in the vision were somehow intimately related to my present situation. A little later I drifted back into another set of images and visions. This time I experienced myself as a small child with my Mother. It was before the time I started school, I must have been about 4 years old. I remember I used to wait for my Mother to wake up, while playing in an upstairs room that was the living room of the house. Then my Mother would carry me down the stairs, and make me something to eat. After this time spent together my Mother would get down to work preparing food to sell for the family business which was downstairs from the upstairs apartments where my family lived. I would go off into the yard and play by myself. But here I was almost a quarter of a century later transported back to my early childhood not merely recalling these memories but actually reliving these experiences and seeing through my own eyes as a 4 year old. It was as real as real can be! It was as if I had been transported back in time, everything was so incredibly vivid and clear. The sights, smells and sounds some of them long forgotten came back to me with a shocking familiarity.
Then things shifted again and I was back in the present, back in this small Byron bay room lying on my back. I was fully aware and thought to myself that I was having a mystical experience. I also thought that I was losing my mind, perhaps never to return. There was a feeling of excitement but also one of apprehension. I could feel my body pulsating now, I imagined that my body was glowing like a hot charcoal. Then I crossed over a little to the infinite but not completely. I was straddled on the borderline between the mundane and the mystical, the temporal and eternal and between micro-cosmic and cosmic. I was not myself yet I was not the universe. It was as if the universe was about to enter me but was stuck in the process and here I was at the half way point.
In this state I had a powerful mystical vision and insight that was a great metaphysical truth being communicated to me. I saw in a series of abstract images that the future was caused by the past which is what we normally understand but also that the past was being caused by the future. I saw clearly that past and future were totally immeshed with one another. Everything that would be considered the past was necessary for future events to happen, just as everything that was in the future was necessary in order to construct the past. There was perfect symmetry, the future and past fashioned one another in a perfect and harmonious entanglement.
My mind was directed to think about the two vivid visions that I had slightly earlier. It was revealed to me that the events I had witnessed in the snowy, wooded landscape with the peoples dressed in skins and furs, was something that had happened in the distant past. It was also revealed to me with a powerful impression that somehow those events were a very important and decisive point in the history of the human race. I saw vividly that all that has happened in human history had somehow emanated from that strange mystical gathering that happened so very long ago. Then I saw that the situation and circumstances of the world today, were directly related to what I had seen. The present age and those events that probably happened in prehistoric times were inseparably bonded together. That little mystical gathering in the snow was necessary for and set off the process which led to the construction of the present world. At the same time the existence of the state of the present world had brought those prehistory events into being.
After that I went through the same process with the vision that I had of myself as a child. This time I was seeing the nature of the past and the future in relation to my life. I was shown what is obvious, that my destiny and present situation were caused and set up by all those defining events in my childhood. But then I was shown that my eventual destiny and the ultimate purpose of my life had caused all those events of my childhood to happen in the first place. The future was setting up the conditions of the past necessary for its own realization! The future was causing the past, just as the past was causing the future. It was a shocking and stunning metaphysical truth that was being intentionally and forcefully projected into my mind. I was being shown an important aspect of the nature of space, time and existence. Even to this day, this insight feels as though it had been seared into my mind. I was in a state of awe and wonder. I could think quite clearly and I contemplated what I had seen and what had been communicated to me.
Gradually I came back to a more normal state of mind. I went to the bathroom next door. Everyone in the house was asleep by now, it was late and I must have been away for some hours. I brushed my teeth and did the necessary final acts for the day and finally went to sleep.
After the mystical encounter that night we would stay on a few more days in Byron bay. I didn't feel much better and still felt a little insane, slightly agitated and also a little hostile. Although my mood would also enter into clearer periods. Finally it was time to leave Byron bay and also Australia. There was to be a performance to do in Tokyo so we were driven to Brisbane airport and flew over to Japan. While on the plane I remember my mood and state of mind changed noticeably. I felt clearer, focused and more peaceful, exactly the opposite to what I had been experiencing for the past couple of weeks, especially during the stay in Byron bay. By the time we got to Tokyo's Narita airport I felt completely transformed and back to my normal self. At some point I thought a while about those strange new age energies concentrated around Byron bay and the powerful effects that they were supposed to have on some people. I was seriously entertaining the possibility that there was perhaps some truth after all, in what I had at that time considered to be new age hippy nonsense.
This is a photograph of the small room I stayed in while in Byron bay. It was while lying on the floor here, that I would have a powerful mystical experience and receive a vivid metaphysical insight. During my stay in Byron bay I would spend a fair amount of time here, playing guitar, staring at the wall and ceiling. All the while during this time I really felt borderline insane. My head wasn't feeling right at all. Perhaps there is some truth in the idea that certain types of 'energy' are concentrated at specific points on the Earth, and that these 'energies' may affect some people in strange ways.