The Dog Turned into a Lion

In a recent post I made reference to a hallucinatory experience I had many years ago. It's a simple story that took place in the spring of 1979, at a time when I experimented with LSD. (Girls: remember, you are NOT to emulate your father!) Well, on one ocassion, I think it must have been a Saturday, we decided to take some LSD around midday. Before long people started to wander off and I got the bright idea that a bike ride would be just the thing. So off I went, headed for the country roads not far from campus. The landscapes I thought I was so familiar with were looking both distorted and more beautiful than ever. I felt as if I were inside a constantly changing English landscape painting. I was enjoying myself tremendously, but I recall feeling a touch of sadness about the impossibility of sharing this enjoyment. Yes, I was having a grand time, but was also feeling intimations of loneliness. (In retrospect, I suspect many twenty year olds experience this; not necessarily loneliness itself, but an acute awareness of its threat.) At one point I found myself coming up a long but not steep hill at the top of which there was a small farmhouse. As I got to the top of the rise I could see there was a big dog on the front porch of the house. When I was just passed the house I noticed that the dog decided he was going to chase me a little. At first it seemed he wanted to have fun, but as his trot gathered speed I started to fear his attitude was perhaps a little too aggressive for fun. I pedaled harder. He was getting really close to me. A little further and I'd start to pick up speed on the downward slope. I looked back and, oh my, the dog had just turned into a big lion! For a couple or few seconds I felt really terrified, but I still had enough of the rational part of my brain functioning so that in very short time I was able to remind myself that, in fact, dogs do not turn into lions and that my brain was simply experiencing a particularly strong visual hallucination due to the effects of the LSD. And what a hallucination! What I mean by that is the utterly convincing, "photographic" quality of the hallucinatory image, which, for a short time also had a scary auditory component. Roar! Right at my heels. It's not that the dog 'looked kind of like a lion'. Not that at all! No, for a brief moment I was seeing a real lion, big mane, long tall... a lion in every detail. Scary! Fortunately, the lion quickly turned back into a dog which stayed within the bounds of its yard. As I coasted down the hill I tried to process what I had just experienced, but I imagine I didn't get much past "wow!"  I don't remember too much of the rest of the day except that the bike ride was followed by a gloriously wonderful walk in the woods (with no scary hallucinations!) during which I determined that big old trees were the true sages of the universe. Innocent nonsense for the most part. For days and weeks afterward I kept coming back to the experience and I think my curiosity about it even prodded me to pay closer attention in my symbolic logic class. Truth claims! And it also led to some extra time in the library and the beginnings of interest in neurology! (Above, "Dedham Vale", by John Constable.)