Drugs and spirituality

iBrian

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We are all no doubt are various hallucinogenics have traditional use in various cultures, but I'd like to ask a particular and pertinent question:

Can spritual experiences through drug use be regarded as objectively real?

The importance of this question is that I'd like to pursue issues of physical reductionism against the conscious experience.

Simply put: because we know that hallucinagenics physically affect the brain, then can spiritual experiences from use of hallucinagenics really make claim to be an exploration of anything truly beyond the self?

The root of this question is the relationship between our physical bodies, consciousness, and the "reality" of the spiritual experience.

A discussion point.
 

Marsh

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To qualify the question...

I said:
Can spritual experiences through drug use be regarded as objectively real?

Quote (Tommy Chong): One time I played Black Sabbath at 78 speed, man.

Quote (Cheech Marin): And then what happened?

Quote (Tommy Chong): I saw God!

What exactly do you mean by spiritual experiences, Brian? Do you mean 'visions' (by this I actually mean visual or audio)? Do you mean revelation, like you 'receive' an idea that you think you never could have thought of on your own? Or is it both? Or neither?

I'm asking because, depending on the precise nature of your question, I will have different answers.
 

louis

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drugs

I said:
We are all no doubt are various hallucinogenics have traditional use in various cultures, but I'd like to ask a particular and pertinent question:

Can spritual experiences through drug use be regarded as objectively real?

The importance of this question is that I'd like to pursue issues of physical reductionism against the conscious experience.

Simply put: because we know that hallucinagenics physically affect the brain, then can spiritual experiences from use of hallucinagenics really make claim to be an exploration of anything truly beyond the self?

The root of this question is the relationship between our physical bodies, consciousness, and the "reality" of the spiritual experience.

A discussion point.

From Louis...
An ineresting point - one thing I've noticed about
religeous belief is its resemblence to a drug.
It's a form of DEPENDENCY - people say they NEED it -
can't function without it - experience panic when they
first try to go without it.
It ALTERS PERCEPTION - causes people to feel BETTER
when things around them are really getting WORSE.
It acts as a PLACEBO - aleviates pain by fooling the
brain into releasing natural sedatives. ( Or the opposite -
as in VOODOO - it CAUSES pain by fooling the brain into
a psycho-somatic reaction as the victim sees the DOLL
being damaged )

It's used
 

samabudhi

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An ineresting point - one thing I've noticed about
religeous belief is its resemblence to a drug.
It's a form of DEPENDENCY - people say they NEED it -
can't function without it - experience panic when they
first try to go without it.
It ALTERS PERCEPTION - causes people to feel BETTER
when things around them are really getting WORSE.
It acts as a PLACEBO - aleviates pain by fooling the
brain into releasing natural sedatives. ( Or the opposite -
as in VOODOO - it CAUSES pain by fooling the brain into
a psycho-somatic reaction as the victim sees the DOLL
being damaged )

Now replace food for drugs and your paragraph still stands.

I must remind those that are not familiar with Hallucinogenic drugs that they are in a different class to alcohol, narcotic analgesics (heroin), stimulant euphoriants (cocaine, amphetamines) and a few others.
Their effects are not physiologically addictive and are only as psychologically addictive as anything one would want to do again, is. Who doesn't want to feel good. But don't be fooled. They're not all sun and beach.

Can spritual experiences through drug use be regarded as objectively real?
I'm sure you've seen the Matrix, so I'll repeat what Morpheus asked Neo: 'What is real?'
What one observes on a hallucinogenic trip is made of the same stuff that ordinary perception is. It's just interpreted differently.
Remember that it is not the senses that are effected by hallucinogenic drugs, it is the mind, the interpreter of the information. However the mind chooses to interpret the information, we can not argue with. What would we say, that the realisations it comes up with, although rarely expressible, are unreal? The realisations that arise during a trip are so far from normal experience, that we don't have the language, nor the structure of the brain to cope with them.

What do we do in early life. We program the brain to act in certain ways. To accept information and dish it out in an orderly fashion. It is not able to cope with the realisations the brain reaches when tripping. It's like a CPU sending back bytes of information to memory that are 10bits long instead of the usual 8bits. What is memory supposed to do with this information? It is built for 8bit bytes. Does it mean that the information is junk? No. It just means we can't express it or store it meaningfully. We have serious trouble trying to integrate this information into the brain that we have developed. This is why LSD users often get depressed after tripping because they feel like they're in a straight jacket, unable to share their experience with others or understand what has just happened to them.

Simply put: because we know that hallucinagenics physically affect the brain, then can spiritual experiences from use of hallucinagenics really make claim to be an exploration of anything truly beyond the self?
If I understand you correctly, you're saying that because drugs physically effect the brain, the realisations we experience are not from somewhere/one else, such as God, but can only be from ourselves.
What about prayer then. Why would prayer be anything different. It all happens in our head. The same with meditation. The most important question is where does the self end. Define this and you have your answer.

Objectively real. This is the problem. There is no objective standpoint. It's all just a matter of probability. All things are impermanent. The Buddha taught this. Therefore nothing can be known for sure. How do you know the self is real, because it is conscious of experience. Then how do you know experience is real, because it is perceived by the self. There is no high without low. There is no big without small. Everything is relative.
 

louis

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what's real ?

What one observes on a hallucinogenic trip is made of the same stuff that ordinary perception is.

From Louis...
Fascinating stuff to in which to poke around ... !
I've read that it was a common practice in primitive times
for a "holy man" to wander about in some wilderness area,
going without sleep until he began to HALLUCINATE.
He would then assume that his hallucinations were
MAGICAL VISIONS coming from somewhere OUTSIDE his own mind. Maybe because he did not understand things
like "the subconscious" or the fact that our brains record
EVERYTHING we ever see or hear - but we consciously access only about five percent of it. We ALL know far more
than we THINK we know and under some conditions,
such as when the Bhudda took a nap, a bit more of it makes its way to a conscious level.
 

louis

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what's real, continued

I'm sure you've seen the Matrix, so I'll repeat what Morpheus asked Neo: 'What is real?'

From Louis...
Yes, I've seen it and both its sequels ( saw part 3
at the Imax theatre just down the road from where
I live - still not as good as part 1 )
Another old movie plot seems even more appropriate :
The one about an investigator who goes undercover
as an inmate at an asylum. After awhile, he's no longer
sure who's really crazy - them or him. That's how I
feel after listening to someone trying to recruit me
into a church - that happens to me a LOT !
But so far, I THINK I've managed to maintain my "sanity".
P.S. Sorry for my mistake - he wasn't "the Bhudda" until
AFTER he woke up ...
 

samabudhi

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Fascinating stuff to in which to poke around ... !
(hee hee) That's why people do it. There's nothing more interesting than watching your own brain at work, and nothing more revealing.
I recently figured out a good way of describing some of the visual distortions one sees when tripping on Psilocybe mushrooms. I was rollerblading the other day, and going for about 30 minutes non-stop. Then I stopped and everything looked like it was pulling away from me. Well that's what mushrooms look like, except some things pull and some things push. Just had to share that with you.

The one about an investigator who goes undercover
as an inmate at an asylum.
Yip. That's on my 'to do' list for sure.
You know, Jung did a similar thing. He actually tried to cause himself to suffer from disorders which he cured, in order to understand them better, and find more effective treatment.

louis said:
P.S. Sorry for my mistake - he wasn't "the Bhudda" until
AFTER he woke up ...
Kay, but it's spelt Buddha.
I can't stress how deep the first movie was. I can't speak for the others. In my opinion, half the reason it did so well was because it had something profound to say...that actually makes sense and that we haven't heard before (in the west anyway.)
 

mcedgy

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I,Brian
Drugs and Spirituality: Hallucinations seem to be an encouraged tradition in most religions. Fasting for forty days and nights as in Matthew chapter 4 could cause hallucinations just as surely as Native Americans smoking peyote or a shaman blowing some funky dust up one’s nose or sharing the smoke from some wacky weed. Apparently many cultures accept religiously inspired ritual hallucinations as truly spiritual. McEdgy
 

samabudhi

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It is thought that the infamous Saint Anthony, who lived in the deserts of the Sinai peninsular, ate bread which was infected by the ergot fungus (the source of LSD.) Hallucinatory drugs were everywhere, before they became illegal.
 

louis

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thaks

Kay, but it's spelt Buddha.

From Louis...
Thanks for the correction - I've never practised
any religion so my knowledge of such things
is very limited. Any help is appreciated.
 

iBrian

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But back to the original question - how much worth can we put on drugs providing spiritual insight, which comes from without the self? Or do such drugs only present an exploration of the human psyche only?
 

Shih Yo Chi

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I've always thought that the term "hallucinogen" was inappropriate. The effects vary, but one of the most prominent effects they can have is removing the structure that you have given existence. We all have developed a structure that we view the universe through, things that we believe can happen, or exist, and things we don't accept in our world. If that structure is temporarily removed, it is possible to experience things that we could not otherwise since we don’t believe they are impossible.

Sometimes spiritual insights are blocked by our belief system and such experiences can help remove those blocks. I think that the hallucinogenic experience would not provide insight, but could sometimes provide an aid to overcoming our own resistance to the experience of spiritual awareness.

The only exploration of “Beyond the self” would come from accepting and exploring things that were there all the time, but removed from consciousness by our belief system.

I want to be clear that I don’t condone the use of such drugs. They can be very dangerous and there are much safer ways to obtain the same experience.
 

samabudhi

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Shih Yo Chi said:
I've always thought that the term "hallucinogen" was inappropriate.
Mind-altering is too general. Psychotomimetic is too limiting. Psychedelic is better. Psyche (mind) delic (clear, visible).

You can find the following quote at -
http://www.psychedelic-library.org/dreams2.htm
At first Huxley proposed the word phanerothyme, which derived from roots relating to "spirit" or "soul." A letter to Osmond included the following couplet:
To make this trivial world sublime,
Take half a Gramme of phanerothyme.

To which Osmond responded:
To fathom hell or soar angelic
Just take a pinch of psychedelic.

And so it came to pass that the word psychedelic was coined.

Sometimes spiritual insights are blocked by our belief system and such experiences can help remove those blocks. I think that the hallucinogenic experience would not provide insight, but could sometimes provide an aid to overcoming our own resistance to the experience of spiritual awareness.
I do believe it provides insight, but that insight is so fundamental, it's difficult to integrate in back into normal life, let alone remember.

I want to be clear that I don’t condone the use of such drugs. They can be very dangerous and there are much safer ways to obtain the same experience.
I have not yet had an experience which comes anywhere near those that I have had on psychedelics. Approach with caution and humility though.
 

Marsh

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The bottom line

Here's the thing: Drugs kill brain cells. You need brain cells to think and, in my opinion, thinking is the beginning of spirituality. Therefore, drugs by definition hinder spirituality in the long term.

I agree that in the short term certain drug-related experiences can be eye-opening-- to a degree. For example, by altering your perception drugs also alter your personal narrow-mindedness (I believe that we are all narrow-minded to various extents), which allows you to look at things in a new direction. Nevertheless, in order for those new ideas and possibilities to ever amount to anything, you need to be able to think.

I don't know if any of you has ever hung out around someone who's done drugs for more than 20 years of their life, but I have. Words like sharp and clear don't really describe the long-term effects on the mind.

I would posit that a much better path would be to exercise one's mind by reading, having conversations, and writing in a diary or a journal, rather than to try and take a "spiritual short-cut" by following in Jim Morrison's footsteps.
 

samabudhi

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Drugs kill brain cells.
Massive generalisation. What's your definition of drug? Panado's a drug.

You need brain cells to think and, in my opinion, thinking is the beginning of spirituality.
Kay, so I don't have 20years to my name, but I have yet to see any depreciation of my intellect.

I don't know if any of you has ever hung out around someone who's done drugs for more than 20 years of their life, but I have. Words like sharp and clear don't really describe the long-term effects on the mind.
I hang out with people who've been doing Marijuana for variable lengths of time, and yes, the results are not pleasent to the intellectually inclined, such as myself. I don't condone the prolonged use of Marijuana.

I would posit that a much better path would be to exercise one's mind by reading, having conversations, and writing in a diary or a journal, rather than to try and take a "spiritual short-cut" by following in Jim Morrison's footsteps.
This is the thing. People won't accept Psychedelics because it's just too easy. Let me explain that Psychedelics are not easy at all. They're very difficult actually. They take a lot of getting use to and a lot of understanding and I'm glad I've taken the time to get to know them.

The biggest problem with peoples' perceptions of Psychedelics and Visionary herbs is when they are ignorant of their nature and clump them together with drugs such as opioids, cocaine, amphetamines, barbituates, solvents, alcohol, nicotine and marijuana (which is a slight psychedelic along with it's other analgesic effects.)
Psychedelics are in a field of their own and should be treated as such.
Pure psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Mushrooms) have no known long lasting effects on one's body. Peoples ideas about things may change, sure, but there is no conclusive evidence against them from years of use by modern and ancient cultures. I won't go into the real reason why governments are perpetually on their case. You can look it up if you want. If you haven't done any research of your own, then remember that probably all you've ever heard about drugs is what the government has told you.

The problem with psychedelics is that the realisations and thoughts they throw at you are difficult to stomach. You end up thinking about all your anxieties and buried sub-conscious thoughts. This along with the possibility of ego-death on a deep trip, and the whole thing becomes a bit much. This is why people use marijuana in conjunction with psychedelics, so that they can enjoy themselves. This is a mistake, because anything you learn on the trip is shrowded in confusion because marijuana slows down your brain.
Marijuana is the cause of the fuzzy looking drug 'addict'. It is an analgesic (a pain killer,) like heroin. It is different to the psychedelics I'm talking about.

Please do not prejudice against psychedelics without adequate research.
An excellent and unprejudiced site where you can find all the information you want about most drugs can be found at this link: http://www.erowid.org
 

Tariki

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As a contribution to the original questions posted on this thread I would like to quote from a letter of Thomas Merton (to Aldous Huxley) as published in the book "The Hidden Ground of Love".............

"Are you not endangering the whole concept of genuine mystical experience in saying that it is something that can be 'produced' by a drug? I know, you qualify that statement, you say that a drug can induce a state in which mystical experience can be occasioned; a drug can remove obstacles in our ordinary everyday state of mind, and make a kind of latent mysticism come to the surface. But I wonder if this accords with the real nature of mystical experience?..................

Ought we not to distinguish between an experience which is essentially aesthetic and natural from an experience which is mystical and supernatural. I would call aesthetic and natural an experience which would be an intuitive 'tasting' of the inner spirituality of our own being - or an intuition of being as such, arrived at through an intuitive awareness of our own inmost reality. This would be an experience of 'oneness' within oneself and with all beings, a flash of awareness of the transcendent Reality that is within all that is real. This sort of thing 'happens' to one in all sorts of ways and I see no reason why it should not be occasioned by the use of a drug.......

What would I call a supernatural and mystical experience, then? I speak hesitantly................

It seems to me that a fully mystical experience has in its very essence some note of a direct spiritual contact of two liberties, a kind of flash or spark which ignites an intuition of all that has been said above, plus something much more which I can only describe as 'personal', in which God is known not as an 'object' or as 'Him up there' or 'Him in everything' nor as 'the All' but as - the biblical expression - I AM, or simply AM. But what I mean is that this is not a kind of intuition that smacks of anything procurable because it is a presence of a Person and depends on the liberty of that Person. And lacking the element of a free gift, a free act of love on the part of Him Who comes, the experience would lose its specifically mystical quality.

But now, from the moment that such an experience can be conceived of as dependent on and inevitably following from the casual use of a material instrument, it loses the quality of spontaneity and freedom and transcendence which makes it truly mystical."

On other forums I have raised the issues surrounding the phrase that Merton has used.............."The contact of two liberties"...........many good discussions have followed! It does seem to get to grips with profound difference between religions, as least as they are expressed within history - time and space. Between "duality" and "non-duality".............and the true meaning of "personhood" and its essence.

Anyway, hope this helps in moving the dialogue along!

Derek
 

iBrian

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Hi Tariki, and welcome to CR. :)

And good points, too - the distinction is certainly interesting. But I'm curious whether there's room to overlap. In a way, if the hallucinagenic process deals with the sensory processes, and Divinity remains observable through the sensory process, then is there room to argue that Divinity is merely observed through a more "purified" sensory process in the drug-induced state?
 

samabudhi

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Are you not endangering the whole concept of genuine mystical experience in saying that it is something that can be 'produced' by a drug?
Are you are able to accept that the reason one experiences mystical states is because of your own efforts and not simply a divine blessing which you try to invoke from a superior being, like a beggar would ask for money?
If so, then yes, drugs are not your path of choice.
If however, you believe the potential is fully within yourself, and that you are responsible for your own 'salvation', then I don't see psychedelics as a problem.

Psychedelics don't 'add' mystical experience to your present state of mind. They change the way you think. If you couldn't have that mystical experience in the first place, drugs would not help. It's like computer software. It can do amazing things. But it can never go outside the boundaries of computer hardware. Reseachers found that when someone trips of LSD, the LSD is removed from one's system by the body, and the trip continues. So LSD is just the catalyst which starts an inherent, though truly remarkable process.

Remember that whatever we think, whatever is going on in our heads is just a serious of chemical reactions. There is nothing 'magical' about it. It may seem that way since we can't explain them, but it's not.
 

Tariki

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I said:
Hi Tariki, and welcome to CR. :)

And good points, too - the distinction is certainly interesting. But I'm curious whether there's room to overlap. In a way, if the hallucinagenic process deals with the sensory processes, and Divinity remains observable through the sensory process, then is there room to argue that Divinity is merely observed through a more "purified" sensory process in the drug-induced state?

From my own perspective "observing divinity" has no meaning. Perhaps you could expand on this? Are we speaking of visions?

The world I DO observe - and act within - is tainted by my own "self", by constant self-reference, desires and egoistical demands. Perhaps drugs can clean such perceptions momentarily? Yet I feel that it is only within the totality of the human situation that perception can truly be "cleansed", by awakening to true reality*. I think the use of drugs can get us "ahead of ourselves", in the sense that our "cleansed/purified" perceptions overtake our actual lived morality and total embodiment of truth and our total capacity for it. I hope this makes sense!!

*My own path is Shin - Pure Land - so for me "true reality" is double sided..............being grasped by infinite compassion "never to be abandoned"......and becoming totally aware of myself as a foolish being forever motivated by blindly self-centred desires and ignorance. Two sides of one coin.

(Another quote has come to mind in reading through this.............from one of my favorites.........William Blake.........

From memory..................."To the eyes of a miser an old bag worn with the use of money is far more divine than grapes hanging on the vine..........the tree that brings tears of joy to one man is just a green thing that stands in the way of another...........as a man is so shall he see.......What! you may ask.....when you see the sun appear do you not see a round disc somewhat like a coin in the sky? O! no no no! I see a whole company of the heavenly host singing Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty!"

Blake certainly "observed divinity"!!!)

Thanks
Derek
 

samabudhi

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Perhaps drugs can clean such perceptions momentarily? Yet I feel that it is only within the totality of the human situation that perception can truly be "cleansed", by awakening to true reality*. I think the use of drugs can get us "ahead of ourselves", in the sense that our "cleansed/purified" perceptions overtake our actual lived morality and total embodiment of truth and our total capacity for it.
You're saying you become enlightened for however long the trip lasts?
I agree if this is so. I've always felt that the states of mind achieved during a trip can be entered by more gradual means. This is because I feel like tripping is not actually a different state of mind. It may seem so, but in fact, it is just a different position on the same continuum of sensory perception/awareness.

I do believe that occasionally experiencing a trip can keep us on course and remind us of where we're heading. I've felt this on many occasions. For instance, my goal as a Buddhist is to achieve enlightenment. I got involved in Tantra which is very complex, and as such I got caught up in the details of everything and forgot about my basic meditation practice. Then I tripped and realised, 'Hey dude. :D You're aiming for enlightenment all the way over there. I'm accusing you of looking at my finger when I point to the moon. (a common Buddhist saying.) What about these people right here right now. Be good to them.'
The mushrooms allowed me to take a step back and look at myself objectively. It allowed me to criticise myself openly and without prejudice.

After the trip, things slowly slip back into old/bad habits, but not completely, and you find you've moved one notch closer to enlightenment. Little by little, deed by deed, waking moment by waking moment. This is why I try to avoid politics. People never get anywhere cause they're so focused on the future they don't deal with the immediate issues. If you don't deal with immediate issues they become the future. (babbling. cheers)
 
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