Tonight is a harvest moon. I am reminded of one that occurred two years ago, which came to my attention as I was walking home well into the evening. I don’t think I have the ability to describe just how lovely of a night it was, but lovely it was. I remember thinking it was the perfect ambience for supernatural circumstances, as my mind entertained thoughts of werewolves, mist-enshrouded landscapes, dilapidated yet alluring abandoned houses, and the like. Funnily enough, a song on my shuffle playlist just started playing, entitled ‘Wolfman’ by Sandro Perri, although it doesn’t sound anything like what this particular night made me feel.
Anyway, I do have a story to tell, but I feel it necessary to recount some observations of a similar nature to give the story a fuller flavor:
As we can all relate, weather can affect our moods drastically. There have been days and nights of an extraordinary kind that have put me in an elevated state, with a sense of being attuned to some strange stirring of stuff in the air, as if the ordinary world had momentarily intersected with another, imparting ours with its otherworldly hue. I mean not to go on and on in the attempt to illuminate your imagination, but instead trust that something similar in your own life answers to this. The range of this otherworldly affect is wide, and the effects resulting proportionally varied, but for me the general sense has been one of approaching a special kind of moment, a delicate in-between place where possibilities reside.
On more than one occasion, I have had incredibly lucid, powerful dreams happen on the night of a full moon, all without me being aware of this pattern until it kept happening. Added to this is an entire half of my life replete with sleep paralysis, ‘out-of-body’ experiences and varied success in achieving altered states with and without drugs. It is difficult to emphasize just how powerful and realistic these experiences are to a person who only ever has just a fuzzy recollection of yesterday’s dream, which brings to mind this passage from Lovecraft:
“Of our studies it is impossible to speak, since they held so slight a connection with anything of the world as living men conceive it. They were of that vaster and more appalling universe of dim entity and consciousness which lies deeper than matter, time, and space, and whose existence we suspect only in certain forms of sleep — those rare dreams beyond dreams which come never to common men, and but once or twice in the lifetime of imaginative men.”
It is as if there is a trap door that enables the mind to accompany the transformation undergone during our transition into dream. Once opened, it never does quite shut close again. This door brings one into a vivid world that is just as much wonderful as it is strange and terrifying. Throughout my own personal efforts to navigate this uncharted terrain, I have suspected a titanic significance to it all, and this suspicion has only grown as I have gone further and further into its unknown depths. This significance is one that I suspect even applies to the ordinary world it seems so apart from.
“Nor was the vision like the dreams of sleep,
But seen whilst vigilant you brave the deep;
While from your eyes you shake the gloom of night,
The glorious prospect bursts upon your sight.”
I may eventually outline some methods I have developed along the way, but for now I will only point out that the process is exceedingly delicate, with sudden shifts that can submerge the consciousness. A very precise balance is needed to both maintain awareness without waking up and yet relax. I can only think of surfing as an analogue; you have to ride upon the very thing that will drag you down if you so much as slip. Additionally, the seasons seem to provide propitious opportunities, as is probably the case with surfing. But enough of all that for now, I have a story to tell.
I didn’t intentionally mean to wake up in the state between sleep and awake. I have done it so much that I occasionally end up there without trying. But as soon as I found myself there, I could recall the harvest moon. I felt the excitement as the energy coursed through my body. It felt like the energy that was responsible for the spectacular ambience outside. I could hear voices outside, they sounded like teenagers or young adults, but having experience in this state could not be sure if it wasn’t a form of auditory hallucination. I decided it didn’t matter whether the voices belonged to people real or imaginary. I would pay them a visit.
I knew I could apparently separate from my sleeping body when in this liminal state, having done so before, and I was also aware of connotations of shapeshifting being the result of altering and projecting one’s ‘double’ or ‘subtle body’ in the trance state, as suggested in Carlo Ginzburg’s historic Ecstasies or Julius Evola’s Hermetic Tradition. Of course, I didn’t know if these interpretations of shapeshifting were anything more than educated guesswork, but I figured I might as well make the attempt, seeing as I was in a specially endowed position for the experiment. So I decided I would change into a werewolf.
However intoxicated by the surging force coursing through me as I was, I still retained my sense of ethics. I wouldn’t do anything malicious, just mischievous. Just spook ’em, that’s all, and then I could run wild into the moonlit horizon. Who knows? maybe there would be reports of an apparition in tomorrow’s news.
As all of this plotting took place, I could see a kaleidoscopic object like a vault above my field of vision. It was all sorts of colors, in an electric pulse. It looked like some sort of dome to a cathedral. My breath began getting heavier. My sleeping body began to twitch uncontrollably, and uncomfortably. The force I meant to use to catapult my mind outside my body began to resist arrest. I still remember the awful sensation of this force as my right shoulder started spasming; it felt like the muscle between my shoulder blade and my neck was reaching escape velocity.
Unfortunately, the power and terror of this is all very difficult – if not impossible – to portray with words. But it doesn’t matter. Finally I let out an exhale, and my chest felt heavy with weight. I tried and I tried to inhale, but it seemed as if the harder I tried, the more difficult it was to breath. When I finally managed to intake oxygen, the effort involved disrupted the delicate balance upon which all of the foregoing depended.
And it is probably for the best. Perhaps I would have become too enamored with this entrance into primordial instinct to consider caution. I certainly wish to maintain control, and not delve too far, too quick into a range of experience whose consequences are difficult to fathom. But tonight is another harvest moon, and the night is calling.
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