the day I uncovered the secret of the universe (and then forgot it)

Estimated reading time is 5 minutes.

I CAN TRULY SAY that I knew it all—The Secret of the Universe. Once. Briefly. I can also say that this essay has little to do with record collecting, but it does touch on psychedelic music of the ’60s, so here it is (instead of on my other, eponymous blog). I wanted to provide this memory about doing acid for the first time in the Fall of 1970.

No, wait . . . was it 1971?

It’s all the same now.

There is no Past.

There is no Future.

Hell, there may not really be any Now.

Now, here’s what happened then: John S, Rick B, and Steve P took me under their experienced wings and guided me through my first ‘experience.’ It happened then in Steve’s father’s hunting cabin in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

It included a massive dose of acid, more than I could have ever understood, more than my friends ever intended for me to take. But that’s another story.


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I kept a journal with pink pages!

The cabin included a massive sound system, care of the amps that Steve and John brought from their respective bands. A there was the requisite selection of albums for me to hear psychedelically for the first time.

Being a nerd (at least, a nerd as the term was understood then), I kept a journal throughout my trip—a spiral notebook with pink pages! That I even thought to bring it to that cabin in the hills of Northeastern Pennsylvania gives some insight to my expectations: I would be keeping a journal of my first trip!

For who?

For posterity?

Dimmed if I remember!

At the very least it indicated that I thought I would be rational and linear enough to keep writing and making sense while writing!



Universe: cover of Jefferson Airplane's AFTER BATHING AT BAXTER'S album from 1967.

Jefferson Airplane’s third album AFTER BATHING AT BAXTER’S was released in time for the Christmas shopping of 1967. Click on the image above to hear The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil, the album’s the opening track.

That’s where I wanted to go today

The guys brought along the usual batch of records: including the Dead’s LIVE/DEAD, Quicksilver’s HAPPY TRAILS, the Moody Blues’ IN SEARCH OF THE LOST CHORD, the Airplane’s AFTER BATHING AT BAXTER’S, and of course SGT. PEPPER!

I know I grokked them all, but during The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil I melded into my environment and became one with the walls of the cabin (all natural wood!) and then the ceiling (all natural wood!!) and then the whole of the cabin (all natural wood!!!).

And it wasn’t the lyrics (you know,“If you were a bird and you lived very high . . .”) but the whole of the recording—the beat rhythm momentum feel or, as Paul Williams would have said, the kineticism—that took me away and brought me to the Now. To dancing with the cabin’s crossbeams.


If you were a bird and you lived very high, you’d lean on the wind when the breeze came by. You’d say to the wind as it took you away, “That’s where I wanted to go today.”


At some point, I decided I had to be outdoors and sallied forth into the night, where God/Universe/Void/He/It teased me about my schizophrenic lack of intimacy with “nature.”

And it was okay—I needed to be teased.

Throughout the eternality of my trip, I jotted down notes (lots and lots of Important Insight, of course) and made sketches—all lines, arabesques and parabolas of lines all over the page. No shading. I remember doing a bird that had showed up at one of the windows. I could see the lines of his backside through his body; the sketch was quite lovely, or so my tripping friends assured me.

Needless to say, at the peak of the trip I uncovered The Secret of the Universe!

“Oh pooh, Neal,” you might be thinking.

It’s true!

I did.

And I wrote it down.

Thank the Void I did because, needless to say, I forgot The Secret of the Universe the very next day.


Universe: cover of the Byrds' FIFTH DIMENSION album from 1966.

The Byrds’ third album FIFTH DIMENSION was released in time for the summer of 966, where it stood out like a sore thumb as the Byrds boldly went where no man had gone before. Click on the image above to hear the flop single 5D (Fifth Dimension) that was nonetheless the inspiration for the album’s title.

I opened my heart to the universe

As I said, thank the Void that I kept that notebook/journal. I knew the importance of those pages, and I showed them to my roommates, John R and Donny C. They too recognized the cosmic significance of my writings.

We agreed to put the journal safely away where it couldn’t be lost or damaged. Where we could never stumble over it stoned some night and mess with it, or misuse it, or lose it.

Of course, we were stoned when we made this decision and stoned when we hid the journal.

Of course, I haven’t seen it since.

So the best way I can explain what remains of THE SECRET OF THE UNIVERSE in my consciousness—because, of course, I recall it all in my cosmic consciousness—is through the words and music of the Byrds’ 5D (Fifth Dimension):

How is it that I could come out to here and be still floating,
and never hit bottom and keep falling through,
just relaxed and paying attention?

All my two-dimensional boundaries were gone,
I had lost to them badly.
I saw that world crumble and thought I was dead,
but I found my senses still working.

And as I continued to drop through the hole,
I found all surrounding
to show me that joy innocently is—
just be quiet and feel it around you.

I opened my heart to the whole universe
and I found it was loving.
And I saw the great blunder my teachers had made:
scientific delirium madness.

I will keep falling as long as I live, without ending.
And I will remember the place that is now,
that has ended before the beginning.

Or something like that. But it was a secret, and secrets are supposed to be kept, right? Not blathered about, right?

So, maybe things ended the way He/It intended: I’m supposed to know that I know, that I have always known, that I will always know and not fritter about the day thinking on these things but just, you know:




And listen to lots of Jefferson Airplane and Byrds records while you’re here.


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FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page is an artist’s interpretation of gazing into the cosmic eye of God/Void/Cosmos. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the artist’s name (at least in a language I could understand) to give proper credit.


1 thought on “the day I uncovered the secret of the universe (and then forgot it)”

  1. Most trippy & psychedelic album “In The Court of The Crimson King”. Is not “Epitath” the most amazing song ever recorded? (Okay, perhaps that is a tad hyperbolic). “The wall on which the prophets wrote is cracking at the seam/Upon the instruments of death the sunlight brightly gleams”. Are you kidding me! Plus Greg Lake sang the sh*t out of that tune!


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