Philosophical Reflections on the Drug War

A cloud of misunderstanding and confusion hangs over us as the world attempts to deal with the drug problem. No one seems to know what to do and no one seems to understand how we arrived at this predicament.

A judge of India’s Supreme Court has stated that opium and other psychoactive drugs are the new religion of the people and like God they are omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He describes how evil this new hydraheaded religion is – he called it a monster – and instructs us on how to stamp it out.

A United States drug czar suggests that we behead sellers and incarcerate users in concentration-type boot camps for rehabilitation, while a police chief said even casual users should be executed by firing squad for treason since we are at war. Another law enforcement officer said smugglers should be hanged at the airport as soon as they are caught while a high level cabinet minister said all drugs should be legal and that the government has no business in peoples’ personal lives. A medical doctor said drug taking is a disease and soon they will isolate the defective gene and find a cure, while a minister of the gospel proclaims drug use is an affliction of the spirit that only Jesus can cure.

In many countries civil liberties are being sacrificed as the legal establishment fortifies itself in a hopeless war of morality it cannot win. They are fighting against the evolutionary process and have yet to realize that drugs are not only here to stay but are an integral part of our human and planetary growth, and have been since our days as hominids when language was little more than a grunt, and foraging for food a dangerous, twenty-four hour occupation.

One day a certain kind of plant was found and eaten—maybe a mushroom, maybe the fruit of the hemp plant—and our hairy ancestor shot straight up to heaven. Thus was religion born. The next day the first religious war started when another band of ape men who had heard the good news tried to take over the territory. Everyone wants to go to heaven. We’ve been fighting ever since over the best way to get there.

Most people in the developed countries come into the world “on drugs”, the exceptions being those whose mothers choose a natural childbirth without anesthesia, but the majority of us had our first drug experience in the uterus. Mother and baby are sedated, tranquilized, and the baby thus gets his first taste of what is essentially an altered state of consciousness and an escape from his, or her, pain and suffering.

The substances we use—and if we are honest we must admit that we all use something—give us a little boost, a little rest, a few moments to smooth out the sharp edges of existence; tea, coffee, tobacco, chocolate, aspirin, marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, tranquilizers, sleeping pills; something to ease the stress and anxiety, the suffering, of our modern life. All is suffering as the Buddha said, everyone has some kind of pain; physical, psychological, spiritual, and everyone seeks a comforter, a way of changing the chemistry of the body or mind or heart to a place that is more comfortable or interesting by a variety of means, drugs being just one of them. But we are all questers;  Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Theosophists, heroin addicts and hemp smokers, we are all seeking, we all want to enter into that non-ordinary state of consciousness that is the peace that passeth understanding.

What all these substances have in common—both the so called soft and hard drugs—is that they facilitate a change in consciousness that allows one to perceive realities from different perspectives that are not ordinarily available to us for a variety of reasons; not sensitive enough, not advanced enough in our own psycho-spiritual-evolutionary development, etc.

Chemistry and constitution are at work fueled by the stress and strain of modern living in conjunction with our deep yearning to return to the Godhead, nirvana, moksha, liberation—whatever we choose to call it. If we look at drug taking in this light we can see that it has all the attributes of a religion: ritual, liturgy, priesthood, scriptures, sacrament, transformation, even angels and devils as well as millions of true believers, some organized, most not, but all being able to recognize one another as a fellowship of spirits, seekers of truth who have entered the mysteries, for there is something in the eye, something in the soul, that has changed. And many of the sad ones we see wandering around “on drugs” are those without a guide or guru, without a ritual format to help steer them through the dark abyss. These are the spiritual emergencies, the lost ones, the disconnected, the questers who have taken a wrong turn, gone through a wrong inner door, who have gotten lost in that labyrinth of consciousness that is so vast and all encompassing.

The use of mind-altering plants has been a part of man’s experience for thousands of years, but we are only now becoming aware of the influences they have had in shaping our lives, and their full potential for human health and growth has not yet been fully understood. Many of these plants contain chemical compounds that induce such profound changes in sensation and perception that they have been employed in shamanic healing and ritual since man’s earliest experimentation with the vegetation that surrounded him. There was no better way in a primitive society to contact the spirit world than through the use of plants that enabled one to communicate with the far off inner realms of the supernatural. There was no more direct method to free oneself from one’s everyday confines, from one’s painfully frightening existence and to enter, temporarily, the fascinating, indescribable, ethereal wonder of the spiritual world, than by the use of these plants that nature had so abundantly provided.

Since the LSD scare of the 60’s however it has been illegal to have these experiences, to tune into the knowledge that these plants elicit, to experience cosmic consciousness or transcendental orgasm as it has sometimes been called. Some drugs are legal, like caffeine, sugar and tobacco that kept us hyped-up in order to slave at boring and meaningless occupations, while alcohol and television prevent us from exploring the depths of our existential despair too deeply. The psychedelics, the entheogins—God or spirit manifesting — in contrast, are deconditioners and deconstructors of hierarchical relationships and catalysts of consciousness, that self reflecting ability that has reached its highest expression in man, and the primary factor that distinguishes him from his monkey brothers and sisters.

There are many paths to enlightenment and explosions of sudden insight, clear vision and comprehension have come about through meditation, fasting, near death experiences, sickness, sex, drugs and even rock & roll, some claim, and sometimes the third eye opens for no apparent reason, spontaneously. If one does not have an adequately developed sense of self one can become lost in the unfamiliar landscape of one’s psyche and not find the way back to home territory; the mental hospitals are filled with such people as are the streets of our cities. A person can become seduced by the power of his destructive energy, or he can become infused with the white light of love and peace and wisdom. After these experiences it often becomes difficult to return to that consensual reality that we all share with each other, to make that reconnection with the so-called normal life. Depending on the culture and the time in which they live such people are referred to as saints filled with divine madness, God intoxicated, or demons possessed with evil jinns. All of these labels mean the same thing; he has lost his core identity, his personality, his persona, his mask and cannot, or does not wish to, return and reconnect with ordinary life. Some stay lost in madness, others become monks or sadhus, theosophists or hippies.

The ancients had the time for the gradual unfolding of insight and wisdom. We don’t. The phenomenal advances in science and technology have far outstripped our understanding of the energies that drive us, the emotional and mental forces that reinforce our old ape men habits of wanting to be king of the pack, of fighting the enemy that is always The Other—the other tribe or country, the other religion, the other part of ourselves that we do not choose to recognize so we project it out to the other. In this case it is the dope fiend, the drug addict; those people who choose to explore their inner-space with chemicals. In the past it has been witches and Jews and other unbelievers, the dark side of ourselves that won’t go away no matter how much religion we get. Self knowledge, the understanding of our own psyches, is the only answer to this dilemma; the ability to recognize our self-destructive habits and relinquish them, to live in the awareness of our true nature with the knowledge that we are The Other as surely as the next person. And these substances help to teach us this; to overcome the archetypes and dualities and the hidden forces that drive us, thus allowing us to consciously choose what  kind of human being we wish to become, and the power to Become That, to evolve to that next plateau.

Euphoria, which simply means a feeling of well being and does not mean drunk or intoxicated, stupefied or living in a state of fantasy or illusion, is the physical and mental ability to cast off depressing or negative circumstances for a limited period of time. This is what religion attempts to do; to put us in that state of mind, body and soul where we leave our pain behind and enter into that intimate state of well being that we call grace or enlightenment—a highly attuned brain and nervous system that opens to that supramental energy which graces us with euphoric well being permanently.

As the world waits for the Second Coming, the Elect, the Chosen, the Teacher of Righteousness, the Supermen, Maitreya, the Messiah and the Sixth Root Race, we might ask ourselves from where will they come, and from where have they come in the past? Are these future saviors of humanity that group of people emerging from the dark waters of the drug experience, the spiritual emergencies, the questers who have rearranged their DNA and whose offspring are the mutant species of new world servers that are to save us from ourselves? Will a phoenix rise from this shadow religion that has swept across all national, ethnic, racial and economic divisions like a wildfire?

All of the great religions have had more than a passing acquaintance with mind changing, mind manifesting substances used as meditation aids, sacraments and oracles, from pre-Christian mushroom cults to the Eleusinian Mysteries, to Shintoism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and the Sufi’s of Islam who all gave a place to the Goddess Hemp or the Soma God in their rituals, their mysteries that are now no longer mysteries but open to all for a few pennies. Even those channels of wisdom tapped into by the great teachers of the world are suspect if we are not afraid to inquire too deeply. Just what was it that made Jesus believe he was the messiah? Did Buddha have any help while sitting under the Bo Tree? Just what was the burning bush and what fueled Mohammed’s winged flights into the heavens?

All of these movements brought with them an elevation in consciousness which translates into an evolutionary step forward. These are questions of ultimate concern for everyone; the mystery of human existence, the genesis of consciousness and religion and the evolving blueprint we pass on to our children. It is important to pass on to them the truth, and allow them the benefit of their intelligence. They will walk the true way if they are given true direction.

We are all born with an innate drive to experience other forms of consciousness, to plumb the depths of this mystery that we call me, to peek into those secret doors of the mind, and to understand this world in which we find ourselves. Surely the cultivation of this knowledge is basic to the education of children yet we hide from them these valuable treasures in exchange for trinkets. True knowledge is not head learning but soul wisdom, the experience of communion and the perception of unveiled truth. The gift of clarity, or heaven, is passed on when there is no obstruction, when the pathway if clear, when the ground of innocence has opened to that which is beyond our selves, to that metaphysical dimension that is so needed for our survival.