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Lions Roar : November 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 77 the Columbia bookstore looking around and thinking about this and that, suddenly a sense of sea change of my conscious- ness overtook me again, and I got scared because everyone in the bookstore looked like some sort of wounded, neurotic, pained animal with the “marks of weakness and marks of woe” on their faces that Blake speaks of in “London.” A night later, wandering around the Columbia campus, it hap- pened again with a poem called “The Sick Rose,” which goes: O Rose, thou art sick! The invisible worm That flies in the night, In the howling storm, Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy: And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. And I had a sense of the black sky coming down to eat me. It was like meeting Yamantaka without preparation, meeting one of the horrific or wrathful deities without any realization that it was a projection of myself, or my nature, and I tried to shut off the experience because it was too frightening. By 1950 or 1951, because of those experiences, I was curi- ous about the Tibetan thangka paintings that had the wrathful deities, but I had no idea what their functions were. I also began experimenting more with peyote and other psychedelics—mes- caline and later LSD—to see if I could approximate the natural experience I’d had. My experience with them was very similar, although the natural experience was much more ample and left a deeper imprint on my nature, and it certainly turned me around at the age of 22. BY 1956 THERE WAS some poetry and fame. The impulse of my own poetry, Burroughs’, and Kerouac’s was still based on some kind of examination of the texture of consciousness. That was probably the key to why we were of interest to others. Ker- ouac, in spontaneous prose, trying to track his mind and give some imprint to the actual sequence of thought forms as they rose during the time of writing. Burroughs, similarly interested in alternative modes of consciousness, getting away from ste- Ginsberg at the 1995 Venice Biennial Festival of Contemporary Art, in front of a 1961 photo-mural of him with several Beat poet contemporaries. Left to right: Peter Orlovsky (seated), William Burroughs, Ginsberg, Alan Ansen, Gregory Corso, Ian Summerville. ©ARICIGRAZIANO/CORBISSYGMA