The fall of 1970 was a difficult year for my brother and me. Our mother died on October 25th, at the young age of 57, after a long battle with cancer. My brother Terence had been hanging out in the jungles of Indonesia, for most of the previous year collecting butterflies, keeping a low profile and trying to avoid being noticed by Interpol. Following the hash bust in India in 1969, we assumed he was a wanted man. This may or may not have been true. Eventually he made his way to Tokyo for a stint teaching English, and thence to Victoria B.C., where I visited him that fall. It was as close as he could get to our mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment in Grand Junction, Colorado. We feared that if he tried to visit her, that he would probably have been intercepted as soon as he tried to cross the border, due to the supposed bounty on his head. It enormously complicated his attempts to see her in October. That misadventure is further described in my memoir, The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss (2012).
For my part, I was living in Boulder at the time and was in the first semester of my sophomore year at the University of Colorado. I was busy studying botany and anthropology, enjoying hanging out with my girlfriend, one of the first serious loves of my life. In many ways it was a happy time for me, marred, of course, by our mother’s illness and the looming prospect of her imminent death. When it came in late October it was devastating, if not unexpected. It was traumatic for both Terence & me, made all the more so for Terence by the fact that he was unable to reach her in time.
THE CALL OF THE SECRET
Autumn of 1970 was thus a significant transitional time for both of us, and marked a change in trajectory that would determine the direction of the rest of our lives, though we did not realize it at the time. Terence and I had been exchanging correspondence over the previous two years, as regularly as possible given the limits of international mail and Terence’s ever-shifting addresses, to discuss our plans and share ideas about an expedition to South America. Like many of our contemporaries, we were both immersed in the counterculture. Psychedelics were one of our preoccupations; we felt that they must be significant in some way that went beyond the rather casual way they were being used and portrayed in the popular media of the day. Along with many of our contemporaries, our first psychedelic encounters were facilitated by LSD, in part because LSD was what was available; there was very little else. But several years prior, Terence had managed to work the Matrix to find DMT, very rare at the time, but available if you knew the right people. Our first encounters with DMT were revelations; LSD was interesting, but this… this was weirder by orders of magnitude; in fact this … DMT seemed to us to be more than ‘just another’ psychedelic. Anyone who has experienced DMT will confirm that the effects have a consistently ‘science-fictionish’ quality, replete with apparent encounters with non-human intelligences, strange machinery or other artifacts of uncertain purpose. The smoked DMT trip is like taking a fast ride on a neon-lit roller coaster through a hyperspatial cosmic carnival.