(the events occurred in 1992, this piece was written at least 10 years later)
It has come to the time at last when I must try to write down the details of my "great vision" on the plains of South Dakota and maybe afterwards try to pass some comment on it though to this day there are various aspects which still puzzle me and several interpretations I have made that have changed over the years. With this in mind I think for now I will simply write the account of what I "saw" and leave the commentary until later.
First it is important to set the scene, the extraneous circumstances that surround any visionary experience are vital to the understanding of it. I do not however subscribe to any notion of arbitrary or random hallucination, the mind is a powerful tool to link the individual with much that is outside of immediate experience and all wellings of the subconscious have roots somewhere in a reality, the visions one can achieve "artificially" with such things as mind affecting drugs are no less valid for their mechanism of generation however in such cases I think it is almost always the act of memory of the vision and the subsequent description and interpretation that is the thief of their significance. What I mean, in simple terms, is that it is possible to induce a visionary experience of great importance with drugs but almost impossible to place any interpretation upon it due to the affectation of one's sensory experience due to the drugs.
I was not taking any form of drugs or any sort of hallucinogenics when I had my great vision and the unusual step of being allowed in and out of the vision to record my experiences during the period provides, I believe, a uniquely accurate description, writing as I was almost as events were happening.
I had been in Pierre, South Dakota for a week or so when my money finally ran out and so it was with some trepidation that I took to the plains with only my tent and a very few rations which would, I suppose, have constituted no more than enough for one or two average meals. Camping as I was away from the beaten track, I guess at least 15 miles from any road or building (since it took me most of the first day to walk) I was utterly alone and I saw not another human being during the whole time. By the morning of the third day I was ill, my stomach was emptying itself of all content through the usual channel and this was almost constant. It was cold too, a chill wind blew through the night and there was a hint of frost on the ground each morning. I spent most of day three huddled in my sleeping bag in my tent for warmth but my teeth chattered constantly and I had to get up so regularly to facilitate my stomach's activities that I could not get warm. Eventually I gave up leaving the sleeping bag, there were no flies, it was too cold.
During the third night I caught a mild frostbite on my left foot and I was in agony though at least my stomach troubles were subsiding, there was simply nothing left inside me. I felt light-headed through most of the fourth morning and I tried to build a fire to heat up some of the remaining water I had. It worked but I vomited the water almost immediately and it was by the afternoon that I began to seriously entertain the prospect that I might not survive this adventure. I was strangely indifferent to such a thought, it did not scare me or encourage me but I lay shivering as the darkness gathered and a multitude of thoughts swept across my mind, none of which I can either recall or decipher from my notebook into which I was writing almost constantly. I drifted asleep, I know this because when the rain woke me with a start it had grown dark outside my tent. I felt very light headed and everything around, enhanced no doubt by the high atmospheric pressure and breaking storm, seemed extremely dreamlike - from this point on I have no knowledge of whether I was awake or asleep.
The storm was coming in from the horizon, I could see huge crackles of lightning across the sky and after a time I could hear the thunder and in my stupour I began mumbling to myself about an rock song called "God Of Thunder" (the band was Kiss, I think, with some amusement). I rambled on the edge of coherence and mentally wandered as the storm approached and the rain came down thicker, at one point I was outside the tent but since I was soaked inside also it made no real difference. It is odd but I cannot recall feeling especially cold during the storm. I lay down, I think it was outside my tent, and I looked up into the dark and purple mass of sky above me. Then I saw the clouds moving, as I watched I fancied I saw horses among them and I remember thinking that I had seen exactly the same scene during a storm once in my childhood. But the horses were running now, lightning lit up the whole sky above me and they were coming from a gate made of the clouds, galloping forth as if on some great errand. The gate widened and I could see a staircase in the cloud, something was calling from within through the noise and I somehow felt myself lift up and ascend onto the first step. As I climbed I looked through the clouds all around me and caught glimpses of numerous animals which was a great surprise to me. The clouds shaped themselves into deer (or antelope of some sort) and then rabbits and birds of all descriptions until one cloud looked like a huge eye and as I watched (still climbing steadily) a great hooked beak sprung out from the same cloud and I thought straight away "eagle".
Behind the eagle were faces, huge empty faces in the dark clouds with eyes like tiny pinpricks of white and electric blue light. They were huge, ancient and benevolent faces and I began to shout to them to help me climb more. Slowly they turned and there were many of them, too may to count, all piled up behind one another and I shouted louder. Suddenly the mouth of the nearest face, which was human and an old man, opened and an eagle shot out straight at me, beak open and eyes staring. I fell back as it swooped down on me and I felt the back of my head strike the muddy ground. I was awake again and I felt a great pressure in the air around me and I knew I had to get my book and start writing.
Crawling back into my tent I began to write and it was as if I heard a voice, deep and calm, inside my head helping me to go over the events I had just seen. As I was writing the voice grew more "real" until I was physically hearing it instead of it being in my mind and I wrote down "It is not my own". The voice continued, it was low and deep and soft, a "powerful old man".
When I had recorded all the visions I had seen the voice told me to go outside and lay down which I did. The rain was still coming down in stearods but I picked the driest ground I could and obeyed. I was not frightened now but swathed in some ghostly kind of calm inside my mind. The voice told me I had to "Find the canyon" and, incredible though it seems I drifted into some semblance of sleep.
I was floating, a great river was carrying me upstream(!) and I passed over several sets of rapids as it flowed through first a city (which looked definitely American) then a forest, then jungle, and lastly into a rocky crag and upwards into a great mountain range. There was snow on the tops but around me it was springtime (or maybe autumn) and the water was gentle and alive. (Remember at this point I had not visited the Rocky Mountains and had no plans to go there at all)
I sat up and I was on a small shore where the river ended in a large pool. I looked around and I was in a canyon, the tops of the surrounding rocks were perhaps fifty or a hundred feet high. Then I heard more thunder and realsied it was something approaching. All of a sudden, over the top of the canyon came more animals, hundreds of them of every species, lizards, birds, dogs, lions, giraffes (!) and smaller ones, stoats or weasels, rabbits then fish, whales and dolphins and I suddenly began to know things about them - they were "people" who had left the earth, dead or otherwise, the first people to have lived on the earth now returned taking the bodies of animals and they were running, running from the people who now lived on the earth. The voice said, very clearly; "Two legs, four legs". Then came men among the animals, some running with them, helping them, some running themselves from others behind and there were hundreds of people from every stock and culture, I saw indians, Europeans in suits, old men in vests, women in furs (rich westerners and poor eastern Europeans), and all were running behind and among the animals. Then there was a great crack of thunder above and the blue sky went dark and another eagle appeared. It was vast, stretching across the whole sky and its eye contained all the faces I had seen in the clouds earlier. It screamed and dived downwards scattering the men and they flew up into the dark clouds which now contained millions of tiny pinpricks of light - stars I realised suddenly.
And from the eagle's eye came three men, all dressed in grey and all old but sure footed and they came down the edges of the canyon (which is hard for me to describe since they were very sheer though the men did not appear to climb or have any difficulty).
And we sat by the shore of the lake while the canyon was circled over by the eagle, smaller now it was so much higher up, and the men began to talk to me. I listened as they told me a great number of things which went on for a long time, among which they said that I was not to be sorry that I would not remember all their words later. They showed me the cliff face and a cave entrance through which they said "men have come". They said they had watched them learn to "kill animals and enslave birds". They spoke to me in several languages which I didn't understand and finally they sat and watched me, smiling as they did so. I there was a small fire in a neat little ring of stones and it all felt very calm. They were looking peacefully but expectantly at me but I did not know what to say and (for once!) kept silent. The silence went on for a while, during which I was aware of even more information being passed to me. At last I felt a pull on my shoulders, I was being dragged gently back into the pool and back down the river, back out of the gorge, down the river heading for the sea. I was bobbing this time with the current and the journey went on so long without event that I fell asleep.
When I awoke I was warm inside my tent. I had dried out considerably though I have no recollection of going back in or of drying off. I picked up my notebook and wrote what I could of what had just happened. Then it was quiet and I could hear the rain outside though the storm had apparently passed over. As I was writing I heard something move outside my tent and I got up and went outside back into the rain. I lay down again (but I don't know to this day why) and closed my eyes. I was going to sleep again, drifting off and I was no longer cold or wet. I thought to myself "This is it - I am going to die here" but I wasn't scared, it was as if it were all necessary for me to do this, and that dying was ok.
The next part of my experience has a different quality to it. By that I mean the first part was very real, as I recall it now it seems to be a memory of something that actually happened to me, the sights, the sounds, the canyon etc. though I can't remember what it really felt like as it was happening. This part now is much more like a normal dream, the sort of dream I usually have at the end of a night's sleep where I seem to have more control over my actions in the dream - perhaps this is familiar to the reader. That said it was definitely not such a dream. It was still more "real" than such dreams, I had complete control over my actions, indeed I was acutely aware as it was happening that the next event rested firmly on my own actions, like I was at a keyboard but the keys weren't labelled, a learning experience as to which key performs which action.
I was in the woods beside the river again and I was at by a fire. My companion was not an old man, about 40 years old (if he were human and I knew instinctively he was not) and he was telling me a story which I couldn't follow. Then he looked up and said "It's time now" and he told me the following (I have used quote marks though of course I cannot recall with 100% accuracy the exact speech, the information is however are correct):
"You have been disconnected from your spirit. You gave it up and surrendered your body to the world. Your spirit has been on a long journey and your body has been withering without it. Your spirit has now chosen to come back but it does not for the moment want to be re-connected to your body. You must not allow it to remain free any longer or your body will die of the cold and illness it is suffering from. You need to find your spirit in the forest where it was born - you did not come from the canyon".
I interrupted but he silenced me with a raised hand.
You must go out into the forest and find your spirit again, it is an animal now, one that you will know. There are other creatures in the forest, but you will know your own spirit. When you re-connect it will be very strange for a long time, it may be many years and it may never let your body know what has happened to it. You will be afflicted and blessed with many things in the rest of your life, you will learn things about yourself that worry you greatly, but do not be troubled so long as you know you are treading your path. I cannot help you anymore until you have your spirit back and everything is a choice you must make for yourself. We have met from time to time in your dreams. I am Elan."
The account of the return of my spirit and my re-connection is told in part 5 of my series called "The Game"
I "woke up" back in the mud in South Dakota. the storm was receding in the distance and the rain had all but stopped. Over the horizon I could see dawn breaking though it was still very dark. I was freezing but as I made my way back to my tent I saw something coming towards me. It was a horse! Out here, miles from anywhere and it was making straight for me. I felt scared straight away. In my mind I called it "The Spirit Horse" and I may have even said that name under my breath as it drew up short of me and stood looking. I don't know why I thought of it but I bent inside the tent and took my camera from my rucksack. I photographed the horse (and I still have the picture today) before I replaced the camera and the horse shook his head a couple of times, bared his teeth and whinneyed then turned and galloped off in a different direction.
I was aware of legends of spirit horses that come to carry the souls of those who are about to die over to the other side and I sat, in the rain, unable to move for fear and fascination. I was cold now and noticing it.
During the morning the sun got up and the day was warm. My illness had left me weak and my experiences left me dazed. Constantly I wrote during that day, trying to go over in my mind everything I had seen and to record it as faithfully as I could in my notebook. I felt better towards the afternoon but as evening arrived I was acutely aware that I was physically weak through lack of food, the dysentery type illness I had suffered and my lack of sleep. I was fearful to go to sleep for fear I might not wake up again, it was turning cold with the end of the sunshine and I scanned the horizon anxiously for signs of further storms promising myself that if there was to be a storm I would strike camp and head for the road - even though I could not clearly remember the direction.
Darkness fell and though it was cold it was also clear, I readied myself for a cold night and stuffed all my clothing around me inside the sleeping bag and slept fitfully. Suddenly I woke with a start though I could not say what it was that aroused me and, in a half daze, not knowing why I began to write the series of short stories that were later to become my (unpublished) "Tales Of Traveller". I wrote some introductory background to the character and a lot of scribbled notes about nothing and everything and then I slept again.
Dreaming, hallucinating, I don't know which but I was certainly in an altered state of consciousness, I lived the events of a story I wrote down called "Traveller And The Valley" (it is a very important part of my vision but I don't want to publish it here). I had other dreams/visions, the character Elan returning to my awareness very vividly. It was cold, very very cold and each time I awoke I seriously wondered if I would ever wake again. By the silent, pre-dawn hours I could see the frost on the outside of my tent and as the sun finally peeped over the far horizon the frost was on my sleeping bag inside the tent. I lost it then, screaming some sort of defiance I yelled and thrashed, daring the "Gods" to do their worst and kill me off, laughing at the irony of revealing so much to me only to snatch away my chance to put it into use and as I lay and ranted I eventually wore myself out and began to drift off to sleep once more.
It was clear moonlight in my "dream" (I was back in that state of dreaming which seemed so much more than just a dream) and there was a fire outside the tent. I crawled out to it and saw a man sitting wrapped in fur across the fire from me. He was not old, older than Elan but bearing a striking resemblance to him though he was clearly not Elan and was of Indian stock. He prodded the fire and looked expectantly at me. I could do no more than slump down before him and finally he spoke. I can remember him speaking the words clearly even now and I scarecely need to refer to the little notebook I have quoted so heavily from to write this piece, he said:
"You must go back, the river is not yet at its end. You think that you don't want to return but it is not time yet to cross the river. You must understand this. You will know when it is time, I will tell you and you will not see me again until then." Then he got up, came over to me and embraced me before he went off behind me and disappeared, his direction was obscured by the tent.
I woke up still slumped half in and half out of my tent, there was no fire and no old man but the scene outside the tent was identical. I knew at this point the visions were over for now.
Feeling better I struck camp later that morning and made my way to the road where I was able to hitch a ride on into Rapid City and a bank that could give me money at last. For now it has drained me to write all of this but I will one day begin to piece together my assimilation of my vision and attempt, at last, a commentary, such as it will be possible . . .