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.


CosmicEye art 600 crop

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.


CosmicEye art 1000

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.


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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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