The Swiss Hillside experience
An episode of imminent danger and a state of terror that precipitated a powerful vision of the Cosmic Tree and insights into the nature of the structure of the Physical Universe.
This section relates a mystical experience I had in the Spring of 1998. I also describe the events and circumstances leading up to the encounter.
It is the Spring of 1998 and during that time, life was very unsettled and I led a semi nomadic existence. I discovered on returning from a month long trip to Australia that I no longer had a fixed abode. That is, I didn't have anywhere to stay. As a result, for a while I slept on friend's sofas, on various living room floors or sometimes in peoples spare bedrooms. I was at that time playing guitar for a psychedelic trance band so also had the opportunity to travel quite a lot. So it was quite a nomadic existence. I remember I was reading the Bhagavad Gita a lot at that time and had 3 different translations in my holdall travel bag. I effectively lived out of my holdall and guitar case. My religious studies were probably adversely affected by my semi homeless state but I still found the opportunity to meditate a lot, mainly using my breath as the focus.
The day before the mystical experience happened, there was a lot of activity which probably helped to precipitate the events that happened the following day. I was in Brighton, on the South coast of England, staying with a friend. It was a Friday night and there was a party in the house where I was staying. There were several interesting people at the party whose company I found stimulating. I drank a couple of beers but avoided the cannabis that was going round. I didn't get very much sleep that night because I turned in really late and also because I had to wake up early in the morning, around 6am'ish. I had to make an early start because I had a concert to play on the next day which was a Saturday. This gig was to be at a psychedelic trance party in Zurich, Switzerland, so there was a lot of traveling to do that day.
The long journey to Switzerland started with a bus journey to Brighton train station. Then I took a train to London Victoria, followed by getting the tube to Pinner in periphery of North west London where the rest of the act lived. A short break and then a taxi to Heathrow airport. From there a plane to Zurich. The time on the plane could have been a time to rest a bit but at the airport we bumped into somebody else from the UK who was scheduled to DJ at the same event later that day. So there was a lot of chatting and the whole atmosphere made it difficult to switch off. As the plane approached Zurich there was a lot of turbulence and also lightning. Finally there was a car ride from the airport to the house where we would be staying after the gig. I distinctly remember how quiet Zurich was though it was Saturday. We drove through near the city centre but saw not very many people about. I got the impression that Zurich is rather a quiet town. We then stopped off briefly at the place where the party was going to be happening later that day. It was to be held in a quarry site located half way up one of those very steep hills you find in the immediate country side surrounding Zurich. On arriving at the house, I felt that my body and mind were really exhausted but the excitement of being in a foreign country and the enthusiastic hospitality of our hosts, made it hard to relax. My travelling companions and I ate some food together. There was time for a few hours sleep but I recall my mind was racing, so only managed to have a bit of a lie down.
The quarry where the party was to be held and near the spot where I would, a little later on, have a powerful mystical experience. In the foreground are my two travelling companions
Around close to midnight we were again driven to the open air site where the party was now in full swing. It was quite surreal as these kind of events can often be. All around things looked like an alien landscape, complete with rocks and boulders everywhere. Also of course there were masses of people, many hundreds, perhaps more than a thousand even. There were fluorescent decorations strewn about everywhere and ultra violet lighting which gave everything a strange luminance. As we set up the music and sound equipment on the small stage where we would be performing, I remember it started to rain just a tiny bit and also there was some lightning. It was a very dramatic and exciting scene. I thought that all the expensive audio equipment was going to get rained on but we continued to press on and finished setting up all the gear. Luckily the rain didn't really get going very much. And so after a short wait it was time to get on the stage and the performance began.
The work I did with the psychedelic trance act Cosmosis mainly involved me dancing and moving about in front of the audience being a sort of stage presence. I actually played guitar for a total of less than 10 minutes during each show which lasted about 90 minutes. However the guitar playing during this time was fast and furious in order to keep pace with the energetic dance music. Though these performances were billed as a live show, the actual dance music was actually played off DATs or digital audio tapes, that were pre prepared and brought over from London. Special sections were written into this recorded music for me to play live guitar over. Anyway... the shows were always a pleasure to do and the feeling of excitement and adrenaline I felt during them was intense. I would have a beer before going on, but during the show I would also drink a lot of caffeinated beverages. This psycho-active input combined with the general circumstances and physical exertion from dancing meant that during these performances I got really high. This would have been clearly visible in my expression and movements. There is something distinctly spiritual about losing yourself in front of an audience while dancing to rapid and repetitive beats. I would often feel a sort of merging with the audience, and could get into these what I would call borderline mystical states quite easily. This is how I felt that night but it was after the show that the real mystical experience happened.
After coming off the raised platform that served as the stage I felt very very good. People came up to express their appreciation for the show and this reinforced my feeling of well being. I was drenched in sweat and my shirt stuck to my body. I got myself a drink from the refreshments tent and sat down on a boulder. As I sat the exertions of the past few days and the just finished live performance were now catching up with me. I started to feel very very tired. Then my mood dipped rather noticeably, from a feeling of exaltation to one of uneasiness and irritability. People would still be approaching me saying things in German or Swiss, but I didn't understand what they were saying. I suddenly felt very agoraphobic and a little hostile. So I got up and wandered off.
I wanted to be alone but there was no chance of getting back to the house until one of the people I came over from the UK with, had finished doing his Disk Jockeying slot which was quite a few hours later.So I walked along a steep path going up one of the tall hills. Walking a while I put some distance between myself and the crowd below. It felt like something of a relief to be away from the party but then I realized how cold my body had become. My clothes were still damp and this worsened the situation. Not just feeling cold, my body also felt as if every molecule of glucose and all reserves of energy had been used up. I started to shiver and wondered what I was going to do next. It was pitch black, however I could see the lights from the party down below which provided the only light. At this point a state of panic set in. Now I really felt totally exhausted. I sat down cross legged and at this point my body was shivering quite violently, almost convulsing. I recall thinking to myself what a disaster this all was. There was a real sense of danger and jeopardy. I remember thinking how an air ambulance might have to be called and how embarrassing it would all be. I was in a terrible state, sitting there in my damp clothes and shivering like mad. This went on for a short while, with all sorts of worries going through my head but then things changed. A state of calmness descended upon me and my body became at rest. I seemed to lose sensation of my body and my mind strangely became indifferent to what was happening to me. In retrospect, what happened to me was that I was going into a trance. This was strangely appropriate, as I was at a trance party.
So I sat there, half way up the top of a tall hill, motionless and in a trance. I no longer felt cold but I do remember that insects were crawling all over my skin and body. However I was totally unconcerned and didn't react to these intrusions. I distinctly recall that I thought about a picture in one of the Bhagavad Gitas, I was reading around this time. It depicted a meditating indian yogi whose meditation was so protracted and intense that the plants around him over time grew all over his body. He seemed to merge with nature. I remember thinking that I was like this yogi. A little later my thoughts ceased and the visions began. First of all there was a cascade of geometric forms and Islamic'esque patterns. They swirled, danced and pulsated. Gradually these patterns receded more into the background and then I saw an awesome vision of a tree. This tree was so immense it was the size of the universe. It was intricate and vast. It would also change its appearance in a mysterious way. One moment it would seem like an organic tree like the ones we normally see and then it would seem crystal like and semi transparent. Then I apprehended that this tree was the universe and that everything within the universe was a branch of this cosmic tree. It was given to me to see, that I too was a branch of this cosmic tree. I apprehended also that the tree branched into the core of my being and that I too was like a miniature tree. I was a branch of the cosmic tree but I was also a tree on my own. I was a microcosmic tree that was a branch of this all encompassing cosmic tree. Then I saw the things of the universe, atoms, people, animals, nations, planets and even galaxies and I apprehended that they too were all like trees. And all these things and everything else also branched off and radiated from the cosmic tree, that was also the universe. The vision came to a peak when I saw that not only was I a smaller tree and a branch of the cosmic tree but also that at the same time the cosmic tree was also me! I contained within me the entire cosmic tree and I was the universe! I became God...
...I returned. It was dawn and the Sun was shining directly onto me. I slowly came to and remembered where I was and the events of the night before. My whole body ached and I felt stiff all over. I was covered in ants and so I had to pick them out and brush them off; they had gotten everywhere even in my ears! I tried to stand but my legs were completely dead. I looked down and could see that the trance party had died down and most of the people had gone home. At this point I could see my travelling companions from the UK walking up the hill towards me. They had been wondering where I had got to. Still feeling a bit weak and my legs very wobbly, we made our way down the hill together. After a short wait we were all driven back to the house. I went straight to bed and had a very very deep sleep. We returned to the UK later the same day. I recall on the flight home I couldn't stop thinking about the vision and was very introspective.
View from the hillside walking back down to the party after the mystical experience and powerful vision. It's sometime past dawn and most of the people have gone home