Mind Altering Substances: The Use of Drugs
Past-time and therapy
Creator: Mother Nature
Game II Core Wave: "Ancient Ideas in Modern
Times" or "Time Transcendent Ideas."
Modern man, when he wants to 'get out of his head' most often turns to Cannabis (grows wild commonly near tobacco and coffee plants, but only one of the three is illegal), Psilocybe mushrooms (very easy to grow at home), LSD, Ketamine and Tryptamines (e.g. DMT), the last two most connected to out-of-body experiences. No longer is there so much ritual involved, unless you count locking the door.
.... for me, most intriguing are the motives for occasional or habitual uses of these drugs.
Are the people 'experimenting' today a similar slice of society to those of yesteryear (in personality terms), or are they a crackpot fringe, bored of life on the eve of the Age of Aquarius?
And are the realms that they explore, the spheres and dimensions of consciousness the same ones that they always were, or have THEY changed too?
Finally, why is such psychonautry so frowned upon nowadays? You get funny looks if you mention meditation, let alone lucid dreams (shock!), astral travel (horror!) and hallucinogens (lock him up!!). It is as ancient as the human race.
The drugs have changed, as has the intent.
I read a couple of very interesting books on Shamanism (pronounced SHAH-manism) recently, with lots of interesting background historical information. (The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner, and Soul Retrieval by Sandra Ingerman, both from Harper SanFrancisco of HarperCollins Publishers) For example, I learned that while some shamans in some cultures used hallucinogenic plants to journey, others did not.
The common thread between the shamans of all known ancient cultures, though, was the travel outside of ordinary reality. Those performing this were usually highly respected members of the community. A difference between then and now is that the astral/nonordinary/SSC experience was used mainly for the benefit of another person. Modern laws prohibit this practice, where any helper plants are involved. And the respect?
So yes, there are other routes to Destination X, involving focussed intent, movement, visuals, repetitive beats, abstentions from the senses, etc. People still think you're a weirdo if you let on that you do these things, though, legal or illegal.
And yet many of us do it, or attempt it, in our free time.
* Drugs today are used mainly (I venture to suggest) as entertainment, as an escape from or an escape to; rather than so much as a doorway. I take your point, though, Erik, about the strong/remote likelihood of our ancestors smoking, tripping or whatever, socially and for fun. This could be because the popular ones are stimulants or mood-alterers, rather than hallucinogens.
* Why is society down on mental exploration at the end of the age of Pisces? (Symbol of the fish. Christianity, anyone?) Why? Why do the governments not want their citizens exploring inner space with mushrooms, peyote and ayahuasca? 'Owsley Bear' (can't remember his proper name) put it well in a recent issue of the magazine Island Life: I think he said something like "the government wants lots of TV-watching, hamburger eating, mall strolling solid citizens." I should be careful quoting him without the article here with me (it was a friend's, he is abroad), but his gist, as I remember, was that it was time to take back the personal power which has been taken from us by organisations.
A couple of vaguely connected spinoffs from the hallucinogen angle.
Thank you Shirley for taking the time to make a Full Submission. This is a subject that really makes me question. Mostly, it makes me question the stupidity of our current drug laws and the drug "war." That I can't legally grow a peyote cactus or a pot plant to me is ridiculous. I also question and wonder what the psychedelic experience may have been like to ancient shamans and their societies. I wonder if perhaps there was more recreation involved than we ordinarily assume. Anyway, a fascinating subject, I'm sure I will have more to add when time allows. - Erik J. Lundquist
I think the majority of the problem the "so-called authorities" have with general consumption of mind-altering substances centers around the fact that there is so much more trouble that we, as advanced creatures, can get ourselves into. As a civilized society, we created laws which serve to govern the population, but mostly to protect the general populus from the undesirable members of our race. Deranged serial killers and child molesters are not incarcerated for our protection, so much as to encourage their dismissal from our minds. We, as a society, like to erase what is unpleasant to us, rather than educate and learn from the example. Drugs, especially marijuana because it is such an easily accessible narcotic, represent what is uncontrollable and unknown, therefore what is undesirable.
Perhaps these are gross generalizations. Even I can admit that one or two may, in fact, be just that. But how gross is a generalization when we have a virtual "black market" in marijuana going on everyday in high schools and colleges, involving every race, religion, and economic rank? Perhaps, instead of wondering why the sudden resurgence in the use of mind-altering drugs, we should look at why our government is so quick to put a stop to the use of such substances. I would postulate that the sheer impossibility of our government's abilities to tax the narcotic, so as to make it contribute towards our gross national product, is the main reason why mind-altering drugs are still illegal. If you give drugs a positive slant, such as helping to deeper understand human nature and our place in this world, they no longer exist as a scapegoat for the reasons why things in our society are going badly.
Just a thought...
I spent many years researching altered states of consciousness and health with Dr. Andrew Weil. One of the most important things that I learned was that drugs are mearly triggers. The states are within us. Addiction occurs when we confuse the state with the trigger. States are processes. Processes move through time. In my experience every variation in state involves variations in the perception of time. -- r.c. cohen