From the archives of some theosophical e-mail lists.English
Date: Sun Jan 28, 2001 1:32am
Subject: Psychotropic & Mystical Experience
Wondering what peoples' views on this list are on psychotropic such as mescaline and mystical experience. I haven't used any of this stuff myself but have been intrigued for a while by the literature on the subject and how accounts of experiences on such substances correlate to the sort of mystical unveiling of the Ground of Being and transcendent unity of existence one would read about in the Wisdom traditions. Thoughts?
From: "Nima Hazini"
Date: Wed Jan 31, 2001
Subject: Re: Psychotropic & Mystical Experience
>Don't know anything about this stuff. You are talking about two drugs?
Psychotropics are hallucinogens like magic mushrooms, LSD, mescaline, devils weed, etc. What I'm basically asking is what people's views are on the 'sacremental' use of psychotropics like Peyote or the San Pedro cactus as commonly used by groups like the Native American Church or the Sonoran Indians of Mexico. If anyone remembers, it was the publication of Aldous Huxley's *Doors of Perception* in the late 50s which initiated the 60s drug revolution. Huxley took the active ingredient in Peyote, i.e. mescaline, and had a profound vision of the Unity of Being, experiencing the universe as the unfoldment of Love (with a capital L) no different than the one reported by mystics throughout the traditions, and wrote about it. There's also another account he wrote, in one of his short stories, which I enclose below. The experience could've been written by a Zen master or Vedantin.
There was no pain any longer, no more need to gasp for breath, and the tiled floor of the lavatory had ceased to be cold and hard.
All sound had died away, and it was quite dark. But in the void and the silence there was still a kind of knowledge, a faint awareness.
Awareness not of a name or person, not of things present, not of memories of the past, not even of here or there - for there was no place, only an existence whose single dimension was this knowledge of being ownerless and without possessions and alone.
The awareness knew only itself, and itself only as the absence of something else.
Knowledge reached out into the absence that was its object. Reached out into the darkness, further and further. Reached out into the silence. Illimitably. There were no bounds.
The knowledge knew itself as a boundless absence within another boundless absence, which was not even aware.
It was the knowledge of an absence ever more total, more excruciatingly a privation. And it was aware with a kind of growing hunger, but a hunger for something that did not exist; for the knowledge was only of absence, of pure and absolute absence.
Absence endured through ever-lengthening durations. Durations of restlessness. Durations of hunger. Durations that expanded and expanded as the frenzy of insatiability became more and more intense, and lengthened out into eternities of despair.
Eternities of the insatiable, despairing knowledge of absence within absence, everywhere, always, in an existence of only one dimension...
And then abruptly there was another dimension, and the everlasting ceased to be the everlasting.
That within which the awareness of absence knew itself, that by which it was included and interpenetrated, was no longer an absence, but had become the presence of another awareness. The awareness of absence knew itself known.
In the dark silence, in the void of all sensation, something began to know it. Very dimly at first, from immeasurably far away. But gradually the presence approached. The dimness of that other knowledge grew brighter. And suddenly the awareness had become an awareness of light. The light of the knowledge by which it was known.
In the awareness that there was something other than absence the anxiety found appeasement, the hunger found satisfaction.
Instead of privation there was this light. There was this knowledge of being known. And this knowledge of being known was a satisfied, even a joyful knowledge.
Yes, there was joy in being known, in being thus included within a shining presence, in thus being interpenetrated by a shining presence.
And because the awareness was included by it, interpenetrated by it, there was identification with it. The awareness was not only known by it but knew with its knowledge.
Knew, not absence, but the luminous denial of absence, not privation, but bliss.
There was hunger still. Hunger for yet more knowledge of a yet more total denial of an absence.
Hunger, but also the satisfaction of hunger, also bliss. And then as the light increased, hunger again for profounder satisfactions, for a bliss more intense.
Bliss and hunger, hunger and bliss. And through ever-lengthening durations the light kept brightening from beauty into beauty. And the joy of knowing, the joy of being known, increased with every increment of that embracing and interpenetrating beauty.
Brighter, brighter, through succeeding durations, that expanded at last into an eternity of joy.
An eternity of radiant knowledge, of bliss unchanging in its ultimate intensity. For ever, for ever.
But gradually the unchanging began to change.
The light increased its brightness. The presence became more urgent. The knowledge more exhaustive and complete.
Under the impact of that intensification, the joyful awareness of being known, the joyful participation in that knowledge, was pinned against the limits of its bliss. Pinned with an increasing pressure until at last the limits began to give way and the awareness found itself beyond them, in another existence. An existence where the knowledge of being included within a shining presence had become a knowledge of being oppressed by an excess of light. Where that transfiguring interpenetration was apprehended as a force disruptive from within. Where the knowledge was so penetratingly luminous that the participation in it was beyond the capacity of that which was participated.
The presence approached, the light grew brighter.
Where there had been eternal bliss there was an immensely prolonged uneasiness, an immensely prolonged duration of pain and, longer and yet longer, as the pain increased, durations of intolerable anguish. The anguish of being forced, by participation, to know more than it was possible for the participant to know. The anguish of being crushed by the pressure of too much light -- crushed into ever-increasing density and opacity. The anguish, simultaneously, of being broken and pulverized by the thrust of that interpenetrating knowledge from within. Disintegrated into smaller and smaller fragments, into mere dust, into atoms of mere nonentity.
And this dust and the ever-increasing denseness of that opacity were apprehended by the knowledge in which there was participation as being hideous. Were judged and found repulsive, a privation of all beauty and reality.
Inexorably, the presence approached, the light grew brighter.
And with every increase of urgency, every intensification of that invading knowledge from without, that disruptive brightness thrusting from within, the agony increased, the dust and the compacted darkness became more shameful, were known, by participation, as the most hideous of absences.
Shameful everlastingly in an eternity of shame and pain.
But the light grew brighter, agonizingly brighter.
The whole of existence was brightness -- everything except this one small clot of untransparent absence, except these dispersed atoms of nothingness that, by direct awareness, knew itself as opaque and separate, and at the same time, by an excruciating participation in the light knew itself as the most hideous and shameful of privations.
Brightness beyond the limits of the possible, and then a yet intenser, nearer incandescence, pressing from without, disintegrating from within. And at the same time there was this other knowledge, ever more penetrating and complete, as the light grew brighter, of a clotting and a disintegration that seemed progressively more shameful as the durations lengthened out interminably.
There was no escape, an eternity of no escape. And through ever-longer, through ever-decelerating durations, from impossible to impossible, the brightness increased, came more urgently and agonizingly close.
Suddenly there was a new contingent knowledge, a conditional awareness that, if there were no participation in the brightness, half the agony would disappear. There would be no perception of the ugliness of this clotted or disintegrated privation. There would only be an untransparent separateness, self-known as other than the invading light.
And unhappy dust of nothingness, a poor little harmless clot of mere privation, crushed from without, scattered from within, but still resisting, still refusing, in spite of the anguish, to give up its right to a separate existence.
Abruptly, there was a new and overwhelming flash of participation in the light, in the agonizing knowledge that there was no such right as a right to separate existence, that this clotted and disintegrated absence was shameful and must be denied, must be annihilated -- held up unflinchingly to the radiance of that invading knowledge and utterly annihilated, dissolved in the beauty of that impossible incandescence.
For an immense duration the two awarenesses hung as though balanced -- the knowledge that knew itself separate, knew its own right to separateness, and the knowledge that knew the shamefulness of absence and the necessity for its agonizing annihilation in the light.
As though balanced, as though on a knife-edge between an impossible intensity of beauty and an impossible intensity of pain and shame, between a hunger for opacity and separateness and absence and a hunger for a yet more total participation in the brightness.
And then, after an eternity, there was a renewal of that contingent and conditional knowledge: 'If there were no participation in the brightness, if there were no participation...'
And all at once there was no longer participation. There was a self-knowledge of the clot and the disintegrated dust; and the light that knew these things was another knowledge. There was still the agonizing invasion from within and without, but no shame anymore, only a resistance to attack, a defense of rights.
By degrees the brightness began to lose some of its intensity, to recede, as it were, to grow less urgent. And suddenly there was a kind of eclipse. Between the insufferable light and the suffering awareness of the light as a presence alien to this clotted and disintegrated privation, something abruptly intervened. Something in the nature of an image, something partaking of a memory.
An image of things, a memory of things. Things related to things in some blessedly familiar way that could not yet be clearly apprehended.
Almost completely eclipsed, the light lingered faintly and insignificantly on the fringes of awareness. At the centre were only things.
Things still unrecognized, not fully imagined or remembered, without name or even form, but definitely there, definitely opaque.
And now that the light had gone into eclipse and there was no participation, opacity was no more shameful. Density was happily aware of density, nothingness of untransparent nothingness. The knowledge was without bliss, but profoundly reassuring.
And gradually the knowledge became clearer and the things known, more definite and familiar. More and more familiar, until awareness hovered on the verge of recognition.
A clotted thing here, a disintegrated thing there. But what things? And what were these corresponding opacities by which they were being known?
There was a vast duration of uncertainty, a long, long groping in a chaos of unmanifested possibilities.
Then abruptly it was Eustace Barnack who was aware. Yes, this opacity was Eustace Barnack, this dance of agitated dust was Eustace Barnack. And the clot outside himself, this other opacity of which he had the image, was his cigar. He was remembering his Romeo and Juliet as it had slowly disintegrated into blue nothingness between his fingers. And with the memory of the cigar came the memory of a phrase: 'Backwards and downwards'. And then the memory of laughter.
Words in what context? Laughter at whose expense? There was no answer. Just 'backwards and downwards,' and then the cachinnation, and the sudden glory.
Far off, beyond the image of that brown slobbered cylinder of tobacco, beyond the repetition of those three words and the accompanying laughter and brightness lingered, like a menace. But in his joy at having found again his memory of things, this knowledge of an identity remembering, Eustace Barnack had all but ceased to be aware of its existence...
From: "Elizabeth O. Bickham"
Date: Wed Jan 31, 2001
Subject: Re: [US] Re: Psychatropics & Mystical Experience
This is a new group for me, and I had just planned to lurk for a while, and try to catch up with the archives (you really have a lot going on! It will take me a while to read it all.) However, this particular subject has been set before me synchronistically too many times lately for me to keep quiet.
In "Newsweek" magazine, Jan.29, 2001, p. 59, there is an article entitled, "Searching for the God Within." I would encourage you to get it if you can; it's very interesting, and pertains to this subject. To summarize: They have done brain scans of Tibetan monks during meditation, and found that there is an area of the brain that has to do with our orientation of the border between self and the non-self (or universe) that quiets down to the point that the meditator perceives the self to be endless, as one with all of creation.
It discusses a connection between temporal lobe epilepsy and religious experience, and how ritual behavior induces spiritual feelings because the brain is wired to work this way. The last paragraph says, "If brain wiring explains the feelings believers get from prayer and ritual, are spiritual experiences mere creations of our neurons?" (fodder for the non-believer) "Believers of course, have a retort: the brain's wiring may explain religious feelings--but who do think was the master electrician?"
Dr. Andrew Newberg and Dr. Eugene d'Aquili of the University of Pennsylvania have named this research: nuero-theology. They have a book about it to be published in April.
In the Edgar Cayce material, specifically the model of the states of consciousness developed by Herbert Puryear, (also based on the Jungian model) there is the idea that there is a barrier or gate between the conscious and sub-conscious mind (and superconscious mind) that has a small opening that only allows access to that which we need at any given time.
This barrier opens up naturally during sleep (thus dreams) and meditation. It can also be broken down artificially with drugs, alcohol, and ritual, etc., at which times we can get all kinds of uncontrolled hallucinogenic garbage. This is the reason it is so important to be sure of ideals and purposes, when we meditate, because we will then induce experiences in line with our needs.
There is also a very interesting Biblical connection, here. It has to do with the symbolism of the Temple. The main parts of which are the outer court, inner court, sanctuary, and Holy of Holies, and how they relate to the human body as the temple of the Living God, and in this case to levels of consciousness. At the entrance to the Holy of Holies was a veil. Only the high priest was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies once a year after much fasting and preparation. At the moment Jesus was crucified, the sky grew dark, there was an earthquake, and the veil in the Temple was torn assunder. This was a cosmic event! It would now be possible for anyone to access that Holy of Holies within themselves. We are each our own High Priest, and there is no longer a veil. We have access to those levels of consciousness that are Universal.
Please forgive me for carrying on so long. I do get wound up on certain subjects. I look forward to enjoying this group!
Love & Light !
Elizabeth O. Bickham
(on a blueberry farm in Franklinton, Louisiana -- 60 miles north of New Orleans)
From: Katinka Hesselink
Date: Thu Feb 1, 2001
Subject: Re: Re: Psychatropics & Mystical Experience
this is quite a coincidence, my brother (19 years old) is reading this precise book by Huxley and wants me to read and comment. I am beginning to think I'll have to comply.
> From: "Nima
> Psychotropics are hallucinegens like magic mushrooms, LSD, mescaline,
> devils weed, etc. What I'm basically asking is what people's views are on the
> 'sacremental' use of psychotropics like Peyote or the San Pedro cactus as
> commonly used by groups like the Native American Church or the Sonoran
> Indians of Mexico. If anyone remembers, it was the publication of Aldous
> Huxley's *Doors of Perception* in the late 50s which intiated the 60s drug
> revolution. Huxley took the active ingredient in Peyote, i.e. mescaline, and
> had a profound vision of the Unity of Being, experiencing the universe as
> the unfoldment of Love (with a capital L) no different than the one reported
> by mystics throughout the traditions, and wrote about it. There's also
> another account he wrote, in one of his short stories, which I enclose
> below. The experience could've been written by a Zen master or Vedantin.
Seems to me that Huxley writes rather more about the agony of the experience and the difficulty of it, than most Zen masters do? In fact, the account sounds to me to be of someone not ready for this experience experiencing it.
Now my bias is anti-drug, so I may be exaggerating, but I find my usual difficulties (addiction, not standing on your own two feet etc.) but this makes me think the drug does do what Huxley says it does, but it also leaves the personality in agony, because it is not ready for this experience it is forced into. In my experience bliss leaves the personality in a state of wondering happiness, not an agony at what it cannot, but is forced to face. The personality can always (again in my experience) turn away from the kinds of bliss I have been blessed with a few times, when the light becomes too strong. Huxley's experience seems to go beyond the personality and leaves it out of control. Not something I would like to try. And not something I would recommend either.