The use of psychedelic substances to induce altered states of consciousness has divided the human race.
On the one hand we find archaic populations, whose discovery of plants allowing immediate access to staggering realms of spiritual existence led to these plants being revered as divine, as the physical manifestation of the divine. We also find large groups of twentieth century humans rediscovering the power that chemicals can exert on our psyche, or to propel us beyond the psyche, into hyperspatial dimensions that cannot be held within our standard frames of personal reference.
And on the other hand, we find reactions of bewilderment and terror at these compounds, reactions barely disguised as either religious or moral indignation… or even as concern for those ‘unfortunate’ enough to have been lured into such ‘devilish’ and ‘corrupting’ activities.
The Spanish Catholics, vigorously suppressing native mushroom and peyote rites when they arrived with the One True religion on the shores of Mexico… the medieval witch-hunters, persecuting women using psychotropic drugs for healing and visionary voyages… the interlocking political and media machinations of this century, clamping down on chemical hedonism and spirituality… All these have demonized and suppressed psychedelics for precisely the same reasons that their advocates use them: psychedelics dissolve boundaries, induce ecstasy, facilitate gnosis—personal experience of the divine.
Dogmatic, dictatorial institutions thrive on the suppression of individual power and knowledge, and on a rigidification which hardens and limits all levels of being: politics, spirituality, morality, psychology, sexuality, and inevitably physiology. Individuals who have surrendered their flexibility and authority to linear, repressive structures of collective activity recoil in horror at the effects (felt or seen) of psychedelics. The rushing streams of visceral energy in the body, the powerful flowering and unfolding of the mind that psychedelics impart; these must be the most immediate and tangible enemies of the rigidified human—hence the widespread association of hallucinogens with the Devil among the patriarchal monotheists.
Those who would hold spirit and matter apart to perpetuate their dualistic warfare against all that is Other must vigorously suppress the transcendental experience of unity and union, and even more vigorously guard against people discovering that this experience is possible through ingestion of a plant—a living, fleshy part of this ‘fallen’ world. Those who would dismiss spirit altogether, and hold matter to be a blind mass of meaningless particles, must conjure up a plethora of illogical, fervent objections to anything that induces a state of consciousness where particles melt into a sea of vibrant meaning.
Many modern users of psychedelics (particularly the softer drugs used in a purely social hedonistic context) may be dismissive if they are asked to see the suppression of these substances as part of a war against spiritual freedom that has been waged throughout history. Those who have grown up smoking dope and dropping E’s may think that this is overly melodramatic, making a vast issue out of something so everyday. I am certainly not against joy and bliss being felt every day—I can’t imagine a finer goal in life. But I wish to present this collection of writings as a reminder that we need to get more involved in the exploration of consciousness and feelings if we are to follow our respective paths to their limits, and beyond.
Through the rediscovery of psychedelic drug use, we have begun to pick up the threads of true humanity, living in harmony with nature and exploring new, strange, and hopefully more fulfilling modes of being together. These threads were severed and left dangling long in the past by the rise of cultures that grew increasingly alienated from life, increasingly afraid of ecstasy, uninhibited sexuality and true insight. And it seems no coincidence that the emergence of synthetic psychedelics from modern laboratories has been paralleled by, and informed by, the West’s growing awareness of the so-called primitive cultures who have carried a precious few of those threads of mystery from the past into our times. Hopefully the industrial West can cease its rape of these peoples and their environments in time to learn more from them. And hopefully we can learn from them with respect, not through a superficial plundering of their culture and ignorance of the gaping wounds in our own.
For in the end we need to evolve our own techniques of ecstasy, and find methods of plumbing our depths in order to more wisely and intelligently utilize the powerful technologies we have inherited from our recent ancestors’ dangerous trek away from nature.
Now, in the present extremes of human alienation, there are emerging shards of hope. Here is documentation of a few of them for you…