Twenty-One Thoughts On Psychedelics
“If the words ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”
~ Terence McKenna
***PREFACE: Drugs are bad and the government is your friend. Only rebels and subversive dissidents use psychedelics, so you should never, ever do them under any circumstances or it will make you a bad cog in the machine. Everything you’re about to read should be interpreted as a work of fiction or sarcasm or something. Obey.***
The Institute of Psychiatry in London has begun recruiting volunteers for a study on depression treatment using psilocybin, the psychedelic component in magic mushrooms. Late last month the Food and Drug Administration authorized a similar study in the US. About once a week, give or take, we are now seeing new studies, academic reports, books and mainstream media articles about psychedelics and their potential effects on human wellbeing.
They’re calling it the psychedelic renaissance, the first resurgence of mainstream scientific interest in the benefits of psychedelic substances since the government slammed that door and threw away the key in the 1960s. More and more studies are showing that ingesting psychedelics can be a powerful tool for treating disorders ranging from anxiety to depression to addiction to fear of death in hospice patients. These studies are always new and surprising revelations to people who have never tripped.
Here are a few thoughts on psychedelics (or entheogens, as spiritual nerds call them) and their place in the revolution:
1. It has been a few years since I’ve last tripped on any psychoactive substance, but the times that I have have been some of the most profoundly humbling, educational, and formative experiences of my life.
2. The only psychedelics I’ve tried have been LSD, psilocybin, ecstasy, and pot.
3. LSD is like being launched through a forest with a gigantic slingshot, smashing through tree trunks and tearing your flesh on thorn bushes and coming crashing out the other side with a howl of rainbow smoke and elephant tears.
4. Psilocybin is like being gently guided through the forest by a wise, ancient dragon made of tree roots who periodically compliments you on how well you are doing and loves you more than you’ve ever been loved in your life.
5. Ecstasy is like staying on the edge of the forest and licking the bark of the nearest tree.
6. Weed sucks and I hate it. It makes me scared and confused.
7. I recommend psilocybin. Obviously.
8. The first time I tried shrooms I remember being outraged that the law is keeping this experience from people. Everyone is searching for a direct experience of the divine all their lives, whether they realize that that’s what they’re seeking or not, and here it is in a harmless fungus and these bastards put a lock on it. They tell us “No, you can’t have this. Keep having imaginary interactions with God on a hard wooden pew while some douchebag in a costume waves his hands over some wine and a cracker.” Psychedelics should be legal for adults, and the fact that they aren’t is inexcusable.
9. That said, they are illegal. Don’t get arrested.
10. It is well and good that psychedelics are being explored as solutions to psychological disorders. But they are so very, very much more than that. They are so very, very much more than tools of social engineering to fix what’s perceived as broken about people so that they can become useful cogs in the societal machine. A psychedelic experience that is sufficiently deep delivers transformative, penetrating insights into the nature of consciousness, self, love, and indeed the workings of the societal machine itself.
11. Your own self-realization is the greatest asset you can bring to the revolution against the Orwellian oppression machine that is driving our species toward extinction. Your own corner of the oligarchic propaganda matrix is the part that you are most immediately capable of attacking, so freeing yourself from all delusions is the best thing you can do to help take down the unelected power establishment which uses mass media to manipulate the way people think, act and vote. The insights which psychedelics can deliver are extremely useful means toward that end, so if you feel moved to use them, they are there for you.
12. The late, great psychonaut Terence McKenna recommended taking psychedelics in massive “heroic doses” in order to get at these penetrating insights, which for psilocybin mushrooms he defined as five dried grams.
13. The late, great psychonaut Terence McKenna also died at 53. We should probably take better care of ourselves than he did. Don’t build up an ego around how much you’ve taken and what you’ve taken and how regularly you’ve taken it. There are no trophies or awards for out-tripping everyone you know. The goal isn’t to amass a large tally of how many exotic substances you’ve ingested and how much, it’s to come to an authentic personal understanding of the nature of life and your place in the universe. If your own inner wisdom guides you to taking a “heroic dose” in order to get there, I’d be the last person in the world to tell you not to, but any inclination to do it because that’s what the cool kids are doing or so you’ll have an impressive story to tell afterward is born of ego, not wisdom.
14. On a related note, if an experience doesn’t take you to an abiding insight or shift in perception which informs your life once the effects of the substance wear off, it was essentially a wasted experience. As far as self-realization goes, you might as well have spent that time binging on Netflix. Having a cool memory or a cool story won’t take you an inch closer to the truth of your being.
15. People with severe mental health problems, especially schizophrenia, should avoid psychedelics altogether.
16. Psychedelics alone are not enough to take you to self-realization. You must devote your attention to self-inquiry and resolving the fundamental matter as much as possible in each waking moment, ideally training your attention to habitually examine the nature of self and consciousness before even taking your first trip so as to ensure that you get the most out of it. Simply ingesting psychedelics and expecting them to do the work for you is like buying a treadmill and letting it gather dust in the corner. It’s a tool, and you get out of it what you put into it.
17. Just as doing rigorous inner work will enrich your psychedelic experiences, psychedelic experiences will enrich your inner work. They act like how colored dye works for doctors who are trying to see things in imaging scans of the body that they’d otherwise miss; they highlight things about the nature of consciousness and ego that you normally overlook, and those insights act as signposts showing you the way during your regular day to day self-examinations. While conventional drugs have various kinds of numbing, dissociative and escapist effects, psychedelics do the exact opposite: they make everything clearer and more conscious.
18. I like to begin a trip by silently and sincerely asking to be shown what I need to see, and then humbly waiting to be shown. It’s led to surprising insights I couldn’t have gotten at otherwise.
19. Environment is important. You’ll want to be outside in nature and you’ll want to be with people you deeply trust. Having someone experienced with you for your first time will make you feel a lot safer, and that will help you go deeper. At at least one point you’ll probably need someone to tell you “It’s okay, you’ll come back soon enough, just enjoy the ride while it lasts.” If that doesn’t happen, remember me telling you right now that it’s okay, you’re safe and you are loved, this is just a short adventure. You’ll come back soon enough with lots of deep-sea treasures to examine, and everything will be as normal as it was before. Just enjoy it while it lasts.
20. As you shed your illusions and get clearer and clearer, your inner wisdom will come more and more to the forefront. That inner wisdom will advise your psychedelic use, and it will advise your psychedelic disuse as well. If you are tuned in to the inner guidance system which lies beneath the babbling mental narratives, you will at some point stop receiving the guidance to use psychedelics anymore at all, at least for a time. Trust that that is because your psychonautical adventures are heading into different waters, uncharted waters, and enjoy the rest of your adventure.
21. You are responsible for your own consciousness. Not me, not your parents, not your teachers, not the church, not the government, not the police; you and you alone. Do what you think is best. To quote from the Gospel of Terence one last time, “You have to take seriously the notion that understanding the universe is your responsibility, because the only understanding of the universe that will be useful to you is your own understanding.”
Amen, brother Terence. Amen.
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