“DOM appeared on the streets in the 1960s under the name of STP and it proved to be for quite a while my hair shirt or, as Albert Hofmann would say later about his discovery, LSD, my problem child.” — Alexander Shulgin, Pihkal, a Chemical Love Story
The year was 1970. The psychedelic revolution had been in full swing for a decade. I had passed through Huxley’s proverbial Doors of Perception many years previous by way of peyote, psilocybin, hashish, and LSD.
My initial experience with psychedelics had been eye-opening surrealistic voyages to alternate realities or states of heightened awareness and expanded consciousness. Such substances often provided me with insightful side glances at life and the human condition that are not readily perceptible in the normal waking state of consciousness. In time these insights would pale through repetition, however. At this stage my mind’s eye began instead to scrutinize the inner planes of my own psyche. For many other people, I knew that this stage of psychedelic use would often be the point at which they would decide to discontinue further usage of such substances. Things would begin to get too frightening, too confusing, and too overwhelming for them to maintain some semblance of control.
I had already weathered many an emotional and psychic storm in the real world as well as the psychedelic one. This in some measure induced me to take even bolder approaches in my experiments. I reached a point of solo tripping, preferring it over mutual tripping with associates. My solo trips enabled me to reach even deeper levels of experience and insights without distractions or outside influences in play.
And so it came to pass one drear overcast Sunday afternoon in November that some associates had come to visit at my residence. One of the individuals, Frank, had half a dozen pills. He explained that he had just acquired them from a friend. They were a mix of psilocybin, LSD, and a drug known in the common parlance of the time as STP. The problem, Frank explained, was that he couldn’t remember which pills were which. He invited me to take my pick from the pills displayed on the palm of his hand. For some reason I chose the large, greenish-colored tab. Frank remarked unassuredly that he thought the one I had chosen was the psilocybin. I quickly ingested the pill.
The visitors stayed for another half hour, listening to music and conversing, then announced that they had to get going and departed. Fine, I thought to myself, as I could feel the first effects and sensation of the drug beginning to steal over me. So, I was left to my own devices once they had left. I had taken psilocybin on many previous occasions and had found it to be the most congenial of the hard psychedelics. I had never experienced any anxiety-ridden “peak time” as was always the case with LSD, when one tends to grind their molars and wring their hands in an uneasy state bordering on despair. With psilocybin the effects generally lasted between four and six hours, as opposed to the usual 12-hour ordeal that LSD provided. So it was with a deep sigh of relief that I bid my guests farewell and closed the door. It was great to be alone again — or so it seemed for the moment.
The effects of the chemical began to grow more pronounced. Nothing new in that. This was the manner in which it always was. An hour or so on, the intensity did not “plane out” as it did with even the largest doses of LSD that I had previously taken. Instead, it continued to accelerate in its intensity — so much so, in fact, that I found it imperative to lie back on a living room couch, now barely able to lift my head! Meanwhile, visions and images began to flow through my mind in a seemingly endless metamorphosis of incoherence. The visions became so intense and rapid that it was beyond all of my efforts to comprehend or process any of it. The knotty pine walls in which the apartment had been paneled (having formerly been a dentist’s office) became alive all around me. The knots in the wood became hundreds of female nipples, navels. Swirls in the grain became swaying, undulating hips in an obscenely choreographed orgy of dancers. My mind was projecting a veritable moving picture show.
“Enough,” I thought to myself, as this was beyond my coping with any further. Never before had I experienced anything of this intensity. I struggled to my feet and staggered down a short hallway, using my hands on the walls to steady my progress toward the bedroom. Once inside the room, my only thought, my sole desire was to turn off the overhead light in the hope that it would turn off the visual “show.” I reconnoitered the position of the bed, hit the light switch on the wall off, and crawled in under the blankets. I closed my eyes hoping for a respite, but the lights and luminosity within my own mind shone brighter than before. I rolled back and forth in abject despair. “Would this ever be at an end?”
I began to experience a sensation of folding into my own self, down, ever down compacting into the microcosm, somersaulting down into a claustrophobic density of matter. Panic! I began to unfold backward out toward the macrocosm. Suddenly I became aware that my very soul was striving to tear free from my sensate bodily form. I began to resist with all the energy, will, and resolve that I could conjure. My whole self was vibrating, humming with the intensity of the struggle. The harder I struggled to maintain oneness with my physical self, the greater the intensity of the vibrations became, reaching what seemed like a convulsive state. It dawned on me that I was in fact dying.
Finally, in exasperation and defeat, I surrendered to the force that was taking hold of me — my struggle ceased –, and with its cessation ended the vibrating convulsive state. I was being swept away as though in a tremendous current of a multi-colored river. My soul had abandoned its earthly material abode. A great tranquility and peace settled upon me. I realized how futile and unnecessary the struggle I made had been. Once free of the struggle, my soul had effortlessly soared off into the current of the river. From the river’s current I proceeded into a realm of blazing fire, and finally into a vast and boundless void of space with intermittent scenes of otherworldly dimensions. Deities as though straight from Hindu religious art appeared.
The image of Vishnu, one finger pointing upward, a transparent ring around it of energized light revolving. This image appears on a picture supported on a sort of upright easel. The picture flutters as though caught in a breeze and falls forward only to reveal a subsequent identical image to the one before. The images fall forward, one after another, again and again, like the newspaper headline pages that rise and fall in succession in old film noir movies where the director wishes to capsulate a progression of events. The entire scene is bathed in an otherworldly golden-yellowish light. There are Hindu deities in ornate golden chariots beside the easel with the Vishnu images. It is resplendent in tones of ornate golden designs.
Then, unexpectedly, a journey begins through other realms: regions of wrathful deities; regions of lewd and obscene sexual orgies; domains of benevolent archetypes; alien landscapes populated with shrewd-faced dwarfs, giants of greedy demeanor, chimeras, gargoyles; indescribable beauty, sorrow, joy, and horror; world upon world, realm upon layers of realms. All the while, I am aware that I must not succumb to any of these illusions, that I must not become attached to any of these regions, but must instead remain resolute and unafraid, unattached, aloof, and transient in continuing my journey to its completion. Finally, after what seems an infinity of space and time, a small pinpoint of light appears as though at the end of a very long tunnel. I strive to overcome the distances. The light grows brighter, larger. Into its blinding radiance, floating, I descend and am enveloped in it . . .
. . . I awaken. I am once again aware of my body lying on the bed. The sunlight is slanting through the window. All seems absolutely still and silent. The chirping of birds outside is reassuring. I swing my legs off the edge of the bed and sit upright, rubbing my eyes. I feel haggard and hungry inside. I open the door and walk out of the bedroom into the main part of the house. The record player is still spinning and playing the same 33-rpm record I had on the phonograph: Santana’s Abraxas album. It’s been playing over and over again the entire time I have been gone.
I open the front door. It is a balmy autumn day. There are two rolled-up newspapers lying outside the threshold. They are the Monday and Tuesday papers. It has been over two days since I began my journey and it feels good to be back, good to be standing still at ground zero. I feel I have learned something of dying and death and the afterworld. I have ridden the tiger and survived. There will be much to recount and muse upon, much to think and analyze, but first things first: I had better attend to making some breakfast.
DOM (STP: Serenity, Peace, Tranquility) is a hundred times stronger than mescaline. The use of DOM is associated with a high incidence of overdose. Because it is potent and street doses are poorly controlled, acute toxic doses are common. They consist of tremors that may lead to convulsive movements and prostration, may be followed by death. Because of the frequency of these effects, the use of DOM is not widespread. — Robert M. Julian, MD, A Primer of Drug Action, sixth edition
Alexander Shulgin, the originator of DOM, gives his own account:
It was many years later, in 1967, that some enterprising chemist introduced DOM to the street, where it was called STP and, unfortunately, it was distributed in doses of up to 20 milligrams. When you consider that the active level, a plus-three effect, is closer to five milligrams, it is not surprising that the emergency wards of numerous hospitals began seeing young people in states of confusion and panic. They had taken the new drug, and when nothing seemed to happen within the first hour, some of them believed they had taken too low a dose, and took another pill. The Hippies and street people were used to drugs like LSD which come on relatively quickly and are completely developed by one hour. The person responsible for this debacle must have realized his error because within a relatively short period of time, he had put out new tablets which were only ten milligrams each. This was still a whopping amount. — Pihkal, A Chemical Love Story
It was Shulgin’s own son, Theo, who was the first person to ingest DOM.
Several days after my experience with DOM I encountered my friend, Frank, whom I had gotten it from. He had come over to visit me to find out how my trip had been. He had learned that the pill I had taken was the STP. He had also given the same type of pill to another person, a local farmer’s son who was committed to a state mental facility as a result of his taking the pill.
As for what appeared in my trip of almost classic Hindu images, I can only wonder. At this time I was totally unacquainted with Hinduism and its imagery. There is a line by Fitz Hugh Ludlow in his classic book The Hasheesh Eater: “It is hashish which makes both the Syrian and the Saxon oriental.” One could appropriate and apply this as well to all psychedelics. Perhaps much of Hinduism and its imagery is the outcome of some types of psychdelics such as the famed Soma of the Rig Veda.
A number of years later, I obtained and read a copy of the Wentze translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead which describes the after-death experiences in much the same manner as I had experienced with DOM. For me, this was the first and last time that I would take DOM. I felt that any subsequent experiments with it would be redundant at best. I had found something of what I had set out to experience on my quest with psychedelics and had come back to tell about it. It was time to move on to other adventures.
* * *
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