Entheogens

Thursday 23 March (2006)

I use entheogens. I like them. It’s very easy (especially if you’re small minded) to label this as simply ‘drug taking’ but it’s not. There’s a whole world of difference between psychedelics and quick-fix party drugs like cocaine, but anti-drug propaganda tends to take the approach of demonising all drugs under the same breath to the extent that the very word ‘drugs’ conjours an entire menagerie of images and associations, and none of them positive. The so-called ‘war on drugs’ is a perfect example of these scare-tactics – an invisible war with an invisible battleground, ridiculous penalties for victimless crimes.

Of course, I’m not saying ‘drugs’ are good. And only a fool would claim that there aren’t victims from drug-taking; that thousands of lives haven’t been ruined. But that isn’t what this is about – it’s about entheogens. My point is merely that ‘drugs’ aren’t all the same – if you want to put substances like heroin and LSD into the same bracket, then that bracket has to include things like paracetamol as well. Most illegal drugs are illegal for very good reasons. Some are not. If you’re interested, read on as I explain why as a (reasonably) intelligent, responsible – and most importantly – consenting adult, I think that to the legitimate psychonaut, entheogens represent the first steps on the path towards spiritual enlightenment.

(Warning – very long post)

Of course, drug-taking isn’t the only way to achieve enlightenment – and taking drugs isn’t necessarily going to enlighten you on its own either. Personally, I don’t consider myself to be ‘enlightened’ but I do feel as though my entheogen use has changed the way I view the world, and changed how I feel about things. Follow me on something of a whimsical flight of fancy, which is in fact my belief system:

Life exists. This is certain – we are proof. Life exists in the physical (our world, our bodies) and the metaphysical (consciousness – the soul) and in general we experience the physical world via the metaphysical one. Everything we see and touch and hear and smell passes into us, where it is filtered somewhat and then ‘experienced.’ There is more going on in the air around us than we are, essentially, aware of – from magnetic fields to radio waves, there are plenty of invisible things happening all the time. Thus technology can provide us with a camera that has ‘night-vision’ because it can filter out different parts of the light spectrum than the human eye can, in much the same way as nocturnal animals presumably do. I do not for a second claim to know exactly how much of this information the human body is aware of – but everything that passes into the eyes is information we are receiving. If I look at a mobile phone whilst it is in use, I see just a phone. In reality, there is some kind of abstract data transfer going on between that phone and some arbitrary location far away. My eyes have taken this in, because it is there. But I don’t see it.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that we live in an environment that is multi-layered, like an onion. On one layer our consciousness exists and we can see what we see and hear what we hear, and this to us is ‘life’ and it’s all fantastic. Animals are on a different level to us, which is why a dog will hear a whistle that to a human is silent, and birds will fly away from the building a second before the controlled implosion takes place. That, to those animals, is ‘life.’ Their concept of time is undoubtedly different to ours – just as our own concept of time changes as we get older. To a child who has experienced four birthdays, a whole year until the next birthday is a lot longer than it would be to a seventy year old waiting for their next birthday because a year represents a quarter of that child’s entire life. Everything they have ever experienced has occured over four years, so a day essentially feels longer than it does once you’ve lived through thirty thousand of them.

So what I’m at length getting it is that there is something profoundly interesting about the way LSD affects your brain. Here we have a chemical that not only alters your perception of time, but removes the self-imposed ‘filters’ we place on our consciousness and let us see, to use the saying, “behind the veil”. Once you’ve seen the world through acid-soaked eyes, it’s very hard to look at it the same again.

Originally, I was interested in LSD for less noble reasons. I wanted to hallucinate. I liked the idea of seeing this mundane world transform into a living breathing technicolour surrealist painting – and I also assumed it would be some kind of short-cut to enlightenment. In this latter point I was correct, but not in the way I had thought. You cannot take LSD and suddenly understand the nature of the universe – but you can use it as a stepping stone.

Over numerous trips and several substances, I began seeing the world as being simply planes of consciousness. We, humans, exist on one plane. Animals exist on others, plants on still others. Our physical bodies all occupy the same space; the same world, and it is only in this physical sense that we can interact. Until we bring entheogens into the equation. Datura, for example: a highly, highly dangerous plant that will kill you if you don’t respect it. I for one would never take it because… well, it’s fucking terrifying. If LSD lets you peek behind the veil, Datura fires you ten miles behind it from a cannon in the dark. But I have spoken to other people who have taken it, and I’ve read still more accounts of people who have taken it. There is something of an interesting correlation between their accounts – several of them claim to have ‘spoken’ to their pets, or household plants during the three day ‘trip.’ Could it be that they had, in a metaphysical sense, travelled to their respective pet / plant’s plane of consciousness?

This is my belief. The only truly non-physical part of any person is their soul, and through entheogen use we can abandon this familiar physical plane of existence and travel to others. Incorporated into this idea are dreams; when we sleep our soul is free to travel between planes at will.

I don’t understand it all myself, but I sure as hell am planning on investigating it further. I don’t want to come across like some kind of new-age crackpot, or for people to mistakenly think “Jeez that acid really screwed him up.” I was looking to understand the nature of existence, and through entheogen use I’m exploring the possibilities. I could be wrong – hey, who am I kidding, I probably am – but so what? At least I’m looking 🙂

(As a sidenote, several so-called paranormal occurences would make a lot more sense under the whole planes of existence scenario. Also, I haven’t read any philosophy books or subscribed to any current religion or belief system, so if what I’m talking about sounds like something else that you know, please tell me! I would like to know I’m not the only person who feels like this. And I don’t want to rip anyone elses ideas off either.)

Update: This post has instigated further discussion here on The Lycaeum – check it out.

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3 Responses to “Entheogens”

  1. itsall1 Says:

    elTee, good thread. I’m with you most of the way–looking, trying to get something that feels real. I am disappointed with the religions I’ve been “in”, and studied. I want to find my own spirituality and understand that connection to creation I can feel all the time.
    I’m wary of “getting high” because, let’s face it, it’s intoxication. I like to do it, but I don’t think it’s anything more than a pleasant sensation. No spiritual payoff expected or delivered.
    On the other hand, when I do the work and prepare myself and my setting for an honest attempt to understand I do learn things, real things I can explain to others.

  2. stan Says:

    You’re right – it is intoxication, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t trip out sometimes just for fun and not to try and comprehend the universe. However, substances like LSD and Psilocybin are relatively easy-going on the body, as far as psychedelics go. Other shamanic substances such as Ayahuasca and Mescaline hit the body a lot harder – it’s an ordeal, you vomit (the so-called ‘purge’) and it’s just generally not the kind of thing you’d want to try at a rave or anything.

    I suppose the very fact that almost all entheogens I can think of are natural chemicals that exist in nature (the exceptions being LSD, which is derived from ergot anyway, and research chemicals which have yet to prove themselves) makes them seem ‘valid’ to me. It’s not a man-made gateway to these other realms, and that is a good thing.

  3. Neil Says:

    Hi,

    I read your page about “behind the veil” experiences, and I also read the forum at The Lycaeum. Most of the responses are very philosophical and intellectual, but I just wanted you to know that I have had “that” experience which you are trying to describe!

    I took a drug and suddenly became aware that I was really a sort of dog like animal – the thin veil of human consciousness had been removed. I had the opportunity to observe my basic self. It was so bizarre, I could understand what I was doing at a very simple level – for example, when I was eating I could feel the job my tongue was doing, which was to massage my food and check for nutrients and posions.

    I experienced a lot of stuff like this that night, including getting stuck in recursive self-aware thought processes, and being fascinated by my own complexity (e.g. wearing clothes). At one point, I was amazed that I could be so confident as to sit on my back with my soft underbelly exposed (i.e. sit like a human)!

    Anyway, I just thought I’d let you know that I understand exactly what you experienced, but I also have no idea if it has been documented – I’m currently seeking books on the subject…

    Neil.


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