What Can Entheogens Teach Us?
In 2010 I was fortunate to be a presenter on the subject of entheogens at a fascinating conference in San Rafael, California, titled "Beyond the I... the end of the Seeker." The conference organizers had recruited a remarkable collection of physicists, neuroscientists, consciousness researchers, and spiritual teachers, all with a common interest in what turned out to be the rather hazy subject of 'Science and Non-Duality'. (I say that I was fortunate to present because I was also able to attend workshops and lectures with some of my personal heroes including the physicist/authors Peter Russell, Amit Gotswami, NASA's zero-point scientist Bernard Haisch, anesthesiologist Stuart Hammerhof on his and Roger Penrose's theory of Quantum Consciousness, and a remarkable presentation by Nassim Haramein exclusively on his paper about the Schwarzschild Proton). The entheogen section of the conference -- titled 'Entheogens as a Portal' -- was a panel comprising of myself, Rick Doblin (MAPS), James Fadimann, Dr. Martin Ball, and a couple of other speakers (whose names I must confess I don't remember) all who received 20 minutes to speak about entheogens and (I presumed) 'non-duality'.
Since my normal presentation (which is mostly about my theory for a quantum nature for the transpersonal entheogenic experience that I outline in my book Tryptamine Palace: 5-MeO DMT and the Sonoran Desert Toad) takes at least an hour, and since I was considering 'non-duality' to be another way of describing the 'classical' mystical experience of 'transpersonal Oneness' that occurs with the complete dissolution of Ego and Identity ('the loss of all opposites'), I decided to talk about a subject that I had been thinking about more recently, namely the correlation between the effect a 'drug' has on the Ego (one's personal sense of 'I') and its relative toxicity.
So for this conference, rather than discussing my usual subject (the endogenous entheogens, DMT and 5-MeO-DMT), I decided to consider the broad spectrum of different 'mood-enhancing' compounds available, and rather than considering how each particular 'drug' affects our bodies or our 'mental well-being' as most scientific studies would, I would instead rank each compound on how it affected our sense of Ego, our sense of "I". Since the total loss of Ego and the sense of "I" is the core of the transpersonal mystical experience (and I am an experiential-mystic at heart), I decided that I would assign each 'drug' its own 'Mystical Value', with the compounds that can induce the transpersonal state of total loss of Ego and Identity having the highest value (most value to an experiential mystic), while the compounds that reinforced or inflated the sense of the Ego would have the lowest. After ranking the various compounds (according to experiential reports in literature, EROWID, etc), it was obvious that the scale naturally descended by the chemical class of the compound -- tryptamine, phenethylamine, opiates, amphetamines, alcohol -- and that this corresponded to a noticeable increase in physical toxicity. My conclusion from ranking these various compounds by their unique 'Mystical Value' and then comparing their relative toxicity could then be expressed quite simply (as):
Oroc's First Law of Entheogens: The more a compound disrupts the Ego (the sense of 'I'), the physically safer (less toxic) that compound will be, while the more a 'drug' reinforces and inflates the sense of Ego, the more physically harmful (toxic) that compound will be.
For the purpose of elucidation, here is how I ranked the various compounds, along with my personal commentary on the effects of each compound, the relative toxicity, and a brief summary of its human history.
Warning! This table ranks PHYSICAL TOXICITY, and DOES NOT consider the well-documented potential PSYCHOLOGICAL SIDE-EFFECTS of psychedelic compounds that can occur for psychologically fragile people, from being unprepared for the psychedelic experience, or from taking too-high dosages of psychedelic compounds. All compounds in this table (other than alcohol) are currently illegal in the USA and most other countries. (For a summary of the 'Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use' I recommend consulting Fire and Earth Erowid's excellent article @ http://www.erowid.org/psychoactives/basics/basics_article4.shtml)
The Oroc Mystical Value Scale
The endogenous entheogens/ Simple tryptamines:
1. 5-Methoxy-DMT: Regularly capable of inducing a ‘classical' mystical experience of transpersonal oneness with complete dissolution of Ego and Identity, even at dosages as low as 5 micrograms. Endogenous. (Which means that it is naturally produced within our own bodies and thus 100% physically ‘non-toxic'). Also present in nature in the leaf, bark, and roots of trees, and in the venom of the Bufo Alvarius toad. 5-MeO-DMT has been used in South America in the forms of snuffs for an estimated 3000 years. While 5-MeO-DMT's modern use, first in the form of smoking toad venom, and then as synthesized 5-Meo-DMT, is approx 35 years old, this compound is still extremely rare.
2. DMT (dimethyltryptamine): Capable of inducing a ‘classical' mystical experience of transpersonal Oneness, with complete dissolution of Ego and Identity, mostly at higher dosages, and in certain individuals. Endogenous. Found in the leaf, seeds, bark, and roots of plants, DMT has been used in South America as snuffs, and as the active alkaloid in ayahuasca, for more than 1500 years. These plant admixtures are regarded as sacred medicines amongst the Amazonian cultures from which they originate. After being discovered to be psychologically active by the Hungarian psychologist Stephan Szara in 1957, DMT was used by IM sporadically throughout the early 1960's (most notably by William S Burroughs and Timothy Leary) before experiencing a brief burst of popularity in the late 1960's (after the underground chemist Nick Sand discovered that the fumurate was smokable) before disappearing almost completely by the end of the 1970's. The writings of Terence McKenna subsequently rekindled interest in the compound, (and its natural analogue ayahuasca), which along with the fascinating but still unsubstantiated theories of Dr Rick Strassman (presented in the more recent book DMT: The Spirit Molecule), and the endorsement of numerous visionary artists, DJs, and musicians, has resulted in the creation of a significant modern mythology for DMT amongst the current psychedelic counter-culture despite its comparative rarity.
The Complex Tryptamines:
3. LSD-25. (lysergic acid) Also a tryptamine, LSD is capable of inducing a ‘classical' mystical experience of transpersonal Oneness, with complete dissolution of Ego and Identity, in high dosages, and in certain individuals. Synthetic, with close analogues found in nature. The Eleusinian mysteries-which could only be attended once in a lifetime-were considered the high point of Greek Society and ran for more than 2000 years, tremendously influencing Greek Philosophy and thus Western Thought. Kykeon, the entheogen at the heart of these mysteries, was most likely an LSD analogue produced from an ergot (grain) fungus. (The Temple at Eleusis was dedicated to Demeter, the Goddess of Wheat). LSD-like compounds have also been isolated from the Aztec ololiuqui (morning glory) seeds. Lysergic Acid -- LSD 25, which captured the public imagination like no other entheogen in modern history during the late 1960's and early 70's -- when an estimated 75 million people tried the drug -- is the synthetic counterpart of these natural plant analogues. While the very high dosages (800+ micrograms) recommended by Leary, Metzner, and Alpert in ‘The Varieties of the Psychedelic Experience' (1963) to induce a transpersonal-mystical experience, ultimately proved to be more than most people liked to handle psychologically, LSD is physiologically one of the safest compounds known to man, since it requires the smallest known amount (1/10,000th of a gram) to be psychologically active, and is thus has an incredibly low toxicity to dosage. (You can ingest the same amount of cyanide, or even plutonium, and it will pass through your body with affecting you). Wikipedia reports a suspected fatal overdose (Kentucky, 1975) medical literature on LSD, which involved the IV injection of a ridiculously large amount of LSD (1/3rd of a gram ... more than 3000 of today's hits!) but notes 'most sources report that there are no known human cases of such an overdose'.
4. Psilocybin (4-OH-DMT). Can induce transpersonal-mystical experience in high dosage. Naturally occurring in some 200 mushroom species. Used in various shamanic cultures around the globe for centuries, most notably in Mexico. Gordon Wasson's 1958 article on report of ingesting psilocybin mushrooms with the Mexican shaman Maria Sabina can be considered the birth of the modern psychedelic age. (Wasson would be the first westerner to suggest that Humanity discovered God through the accidental ingestion of magic mushrooms). The least powerful (by dosage) of the tryptamines, psilocybin is of low toxicity, although overdoses are reputedly possible on synthetic psilocybin, such as in the death of John Griggs, the leader of the notorious LSD-and-hashish cartel, The Brotherhood of Love. (Although none are reported on EROWID.)
5. Ketamine/PCP: Capable of inducing a ‘classical' mystical experience of transpersonal Oneness, with complete dissolution of Ego and Identity, (mostly at high dosages or when administered IM, and in certain individuals). The only legal PCP analogue (estimated 5-10% the strength of PCP), Ketamine, which acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system, requires inclusion due to its impressive record for inducing mystical experiences in individuals (mostly by IM injection) and it could be argued that it deserves a higher ranking than the complex tryptamines. Since it is used as a medical anesthetic, it is considered physically very safe and overdoses are rare. While PCP was first synthesized in 1926, with an illegal street use that peaked in the mid-70's, Ketamine's illegal use as an entheogen (and increasingly as a party drug in small doses) is a relatively recent human development.
6. Mescaline: Can induce transpersonal-mystical experience in high-dosages. Naturally occurring in various cactus species, mescaline is one of the oldest psychedelics known to humans. The San Pedro cactus cults of Northern Peru are the longest known continuous shamanic tradition having existed for at least 3000 years, while there is evidence of peyote use in Mexico and North America dating back 5700 years. In these cultures, the mescaline-containing cacti were considered sacred medicine. Although very rare today, synthetic mescaline was the main subject of Aldous Huxley's ‘The Doors of Perception', which helped spark the 60's psychedelic revolution. (Mescaline, Psilocybin, LSD, and DMT would be the 4 compounds listed in the introduction to Leary, Messner, and Alpert's ‘The Psychedelic Experience' in 1965.). Like all ‘true' psychedelics, mescaline is physically non-toxic and non-addictive.
7. 2-CB, 2-CI: Structurally related to mescaline, both 2-CB and 2-CI can induce transpersonal-mystical experience in high-dosages. Synthetic phenethylamines, these are notoriously dose-sensitive and little is known about their toxicity, but due to the extremely low toxicity of mescaline and virtually all psychedelics, they can be assumed to of low physically non-toxic and non-addictive. (I can find no reports of fatalities linked to 2CB -- but due to its extreme dose sensitivity, extreme caution should be used! One death has been attributed to 2C-I on March 17, 2011, though it is probable that it was actually 2-CE). Both are creations of Alexander Shulgin (most famous for popularizing MDMA), which rose to popularity due to the LSD drought of the early 21st century caused by the infamous Kansas Silo bust, which the DEA claim stopped 95% of the USA's LSD production. Proving once again that prohibition simply results in diversity!
FATAL OVERDOSE LINE
8. MDA: (Sassafras). Empathogen. The original 1960's ‘Love Drug'. As with all the compounds in this class, empathogens can decrease the effect of Ego by inducing love and compassion to others, weakening the sense of ‘I'. Empathogens also differ from psychedelic/entheogens in their acute toxicity, with deaths caused by cardiac arrest/brain hemorrhaging at a fatality rate of approx 2 in 100,000 users, approximately the same as the more popular (though less toxic) MDMA.
9. MDMA (Ecstasy). See MDA. Rediscovered and popularized by chemist Alexander Shulgin in the 1980's, MDMA held great promise for psychiatry before becoming illegal in a wave of Federal paranoia. Currently being used in hospital trials in Israel, the organization MAPS (Multi-disciplinary Association of Psychedelic Sciences) wants to start clinical trials on returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress syndrome here in the USA.
Other Popular Illegal Compounds:
10. THC (Cannabis or ‘marijuana'). Decreases the effect of the Ego by shifting perspective, often towards the humorous side. Relatively low toxicity, no possibility of physical overdose. While cannabis related crimes are the number one reason for incarceration in the USA, with over a million people in jail for its sale, distribution, production, or possession, there has never been a single death related to THC consumption itself.
11. Opiates/Heroin: Nullifies the Ego by negating all desire although not the sense of "I". Highly physically addictive with regular fatal overdoses, heroin was involved in 213,118 Emergency Room (ED) visits in 2009. Meanwhile Oxycodon fatalities (OxyContin is a semi-synthetic opiod pain reliever derived from opium) have increased 66.7% over the last five years due to this pain-medicines relatively high toxicity. (14,459 in 2007 ... 82,724 people died from FDA approved drugs in 2010.) ED visits involving nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals (either alone or in combination with another drug) increased 98.4 percent between 2004 and 2009, from 627,291 visits to 1,244,679. OxyContin sales currently exceed $4 billion per year.
12. Cocaine: The ultimate ‘Me' drug. Physically and psychologically addictive. Highly toxic. A nervous-system stimulant, cocaine dependence (addiction) can result in cardiovascular and brain damage. The Greed Culture of the 1980's that came only 15 years after the ‘Psychedelic Revolution' can almost be epitomized by its reverence to cocaine, the most expensive drug that does the least for the shortest amount of time. In 2009 Cocaine and crack cocaine overdoses were responsible for over 400 000 ED room visits in US hospitals. While the first ‘cocaine epidemic' in the USA was in the 1880's, cocaine has greatly grown in popularity since the 1970's, with the estimated U.S. cocaine market exceeding $70 billion in street value in 2005 -- a greater revenue than a corporation such as Starbucks. The multi-billion dollar ‘War against Cocaine' has been waged at the military level in foreign countries since the 1980's with no noticeable affect on supply, while drug violence long the border of Mexico -- mostly over the cocaine and methamphetamine trade -- is killing more than 5000 people a year.
13. Methamphetamines. Physically and psychologically addictive. Highly toxic. The highly lucrative illegal underground market of the USA's most-popular legal drug (Ritalin and Adderall are legal methamphetamines -- the USA consumes 85% of the world's prescription speed.) Sometimes called ‘white-trash cocaine', methamphetamine abuse is reaching epidemic proportions at many levels of American society with over 93,000 ED room visits in 2009. Crack cocaine and methamphetamine addiction have long been associated with both forced and voluntary prostitution in every country that they appear in, while the violence associated with Mexican drug cartels fighting for control of a cocaine and methamphetamine market valued in excess of $50 billion is currently responsible for over 15,000 fatalities a year.
(And finally, our Society's chosen legal ‘inebrient')
14. Alcohol: Considered a psychoactive depressant. Highly toxic and physically addictive. The United States Center for Disease Control estimates that medium to high consumption of alcohol leads to the death of approx 75,000 people a year in the USA. While the last three compounds on this chart -- Cocaine, Methamphetamine, and Alcohol -- are the only three compounds most likely to reinforce the Ego to the point of physical violence, alcohol is the one your most likely to do yourself physical harm on due to self-loathing. Alcohol is the most common extenuating factor for homicides, rapes, beatings, and suicides, not to mention vehicular fatalities. Alcohol is arguably the least sophisticated drug in both its production and its crude inebriating effects. The first alcoholic beverages can be traced back 9000 years to Neolithic times, which is why I like to call it our ‘stone- age drug'. Paradoxically, (or perhaps because of its ancient origins) alcohol it is the only 100% legal drug on this list in the vast majority of countries around the world. According to the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, retail sales of alcoholic beverages totaled approximately $115.9 billion (!) in 2003, up from $102.4 billion in 2000.
After my presentation a number of the enthusiastic audience asked me if I had ever written anything about this ‘Mystical Value Scale' and I had to confess that I had not, promising that some time in the future I would try to. But in all truth, I would probably have stored it away in the back drawers of my very messy mind, had not the former ‘Chief Advisor on Drugs' to the British Government published a very interesting report (in the respected Lancet medical journal) that was released just a month later (Nov 2010) and made world-wide news. In this report by the ‘Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs', every common drug in British society was scored by a panel of social health experts on the harm it created, including, mental and physical damage, addiction, crime, and costs to the economy and the community, thus basically ranking the public health effect of the various drugs. The maximum harm score was 100 and the minimum zero. When the results were tabulated, the most harmful drug was alcohol (72), then heroin (55), crack-cocaine (54), methamphetamines (33), cocaine (27), cannabis (20), ketamine (15), and MDMA (9), with LSD (7) and magic mushrooms (5) being ranked as the least harmful substances to British society! (Neither DMT or 5-MeO-DMT were on the list). The esteemed authors also wrote that ‘our findings lend support to the previous work in the UK and the Netherlands, confirming that the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm.'
Based on this highly scientific report, my observation about the related toxicity of my Mystical Value scale would seem to have been validated, with those ‘drugs' that most eradicate the effect of the Ego being deemed (by public health experts) the safest. Non-addictive and of low or zero toxicity, psychedelic ‘drugs' offer no threat to your physical health, and yet they are considered by our Society to be extremely ‘dangerous' and are amongst the most illegal substances on the planet.
The word drug incidentally -- which means (in this context, according to the Webster's dictionary) ‘a chemical substance which enhances physical or mental well-being' -- is a ridiculously misleading and almost meaningless word if you think about it, since nearly everything we eat and drink can be considered a drug. Nitrous oxide, a gas, is a drug. Coffee, tea, sugar, and chocolate are all drugs. Even McDonalds french-fries under this broad definition could be considered a (highly addictive) drug. Now, as much as I love chocolate, coffee, and even -- I hate to admit it -- the occasional McDonalds French-fry, I see little purpose in comparing them in any way, shape, or form, to LSD, DMT, or 5-MeO-DMT, which are far more likely to completely change your consensual reality then they are ‘enhance your physical or mental well-being'. But the very use of a word/term as broad as ‘drugs' (drug law, drug war, illegal drugs, dangerous drugs etc') to describe and legally regulate (DEA) such a ridiculously broad range of compounds is in it's self a verbal smokescreen designed to help limit the distinctly society-changing possibilities of psychedelic-entheogens.
If I may diverge for a moment, it is my personal opinion that the ‘first' psychedelic revolution in the United States (1963 -- Saturday 6th December 1969) ‘failed' ultimately due to the mass influx of a variety of distinctly non-psychedelic ‘drugs' into the chaotic and highly exploratory youth culture of that time. Psychedelics when used in high-dosages have proven to be safest when used in a thoughtful and controlled ‘set-and-setting', but as the Youth revolution took hold many teenagers were exposed to super-powerful entheogens like LSD-25 and STP (DOM), in what can only be described as a cavalier and Dionysian manner. Considering the fact that an average hit of LSD in 1968 (400-500mg) was 5 times stronger than a hit of street acid (80 to 100mg) today, and that first-timers LSD users were frequently encouraged to take two hits if they wanted to see Tim Leary's promised ‘white light' (often with little thought to their ‘set and setting'), then it is easy to see how a large number of young hippies feared acid as much as others revered it. (You still witness this same phenomena today ... many of the 20 something's that I talk to at festivals seem to love DMT but are terrified of LSD having already experienced a trip too long and arduous for them ... and they probably ate a quarter of what their parents did for their first time in the 60's!). This tendency to push all experiences to the limit (‘the Prankster ethic') opened the backdoor for the more seductive and much easier rides of first heroin, and then cocaine. (Which when it was first introduced was not thought to be addictive.)
Disregarding the potential (and well-documented role) that the CIA played in the introduction and distribution of virtually all the illegal drugs that became available, by failing to recognize the essential difference of psychedelics/entheogens -- that they are best used carefully in a sacred manner with trusted guides and not wildly in recreation amongst crowds of strangers -- and then by lumping the wide-variety of compounds that followed into a singular ‘Drug Culture' that fails to distinguish between the wide variety of experiences that this vast family of so-called ‘drugs' can produce, the Alternative culture that had been inspired by psychedelics and the chance for change, ended up settling for uppers-and-downers and the Status Quo, as heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines became the most popular ‘illegal drugs' of the last thirty years of the 20th century. (And the use and abuse of legal ‘prescription drugs' has sky rocketed).
It is interesting now -- with more than 40 years perspective -- to realize the fact that our Society's so-called ‘Drug Culture' has increasingly turned away from the 60's psychedelic ethos of the shamanic-destruction of the Ego (and consequently the social structures that the Ego creates) towards a range of compounds that actually reinforce the concept of the Ego (and thus maintain the existing social structures that the Ego has built). It could be argued that the last thirty years of the twentieth century that came after the failed psychedelic revolution of the 1960's were in fact the most egocentric years in human history, as television and a global communication network have increasingly relentlessly promoted the cult of the Individual Ego as the highest human ideal. For the post-World War Two generations of techno-capitalists, the constant need for the accumulation of individual wealth and power has been cast as a Darwinian function inherited from our hunter-gatherer days, promoting an obsession with the ‘rights' of the Individual within Society that has resulted in 5% of the world's population now controlling more than 50% of its wealth. The current model of power for the 21st century would appear to be an increasingly integrated network of multi-national corporations and banks, controlled by this handful of families, who are engaged in the systematic stripping of the globe of its natural resources, creating ‘legal' profits for shareholders and board members of those industrialized nations whose military are effectively the World Law -- a treacherous and seemingly unstoppable situation that is now threatening life on this planet as the military-industrial complex lurches increasingly erratically through the last of its days. The cult of the Individual Ego has now grown so predominant, we have a societal case of what I call ‘extinction denial' where the fate of the individual has become paramount, best expressed in the concept ‘You better get yours while you can.'
A radical reassessment of the effect of capitalism and consumerism on both the human condition and our planet is clearly required, but what can bring about a change in a viewpoint that has been steadily being programmed into us by the very technology whose reckless use we need to reassess? According to the Dalai Lama ‘achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about a transformation in your outlook, in your way of thinking, and this is not a simple matter' and I believe this applies to us as much as a Society as it does to each of us individually. But what can any of us really do other than reorganize deck chairs on the Titanic? What action can actually have a chance of bringing about a fundamental transformation in the way Humanity perceives and values Life on this planet?
In July of 2003 when first introduced to the super-entheogen 5-MeO-DMT, I underwent what I now believe to be a ‘classical' mystical experience of transpersonal unity with the Source of Being. This event had a profound effect upon my world-view since I found myself changed from an agnostic scientific-rationalist to believing in the existence of a God far greater than I could have ever imagined, all in the space of a single 40 minute drug-induced ‘trip'. The result for my subsequent search for answers on how such a radical transformation could have occurred is contained in my book "Tryptamine Palace: 5-MeO-DMT and the Sonoran Desert Toad." (Park Street Press, 2009), and within the pages of that book I make the claim that this discovery of a spiritual element to the Universe, and the realization that God not only CAN exist but exists -as the mystics have always insisted-as a part of you, is the most exciting realization that a human being can make. More than eight years have now past since I myself made that unexpected discovery, and while I still agree that is ultimately the most exciting discovery possible, I must concede it is not always the most practical, a dilemma that mystics have known and have suffered for since the beginning of time. The personal discovery of God -- any kind of God or Buddha-State, for they are all streams of the same Cosmic river -- can never be ‘scientifically' proven and inevitably any entheogenic realizations or enlightenment can only offer the same proofs as any other ‘spiritual' system ... the sticky dual-problem of personal testimony and ‘faith'.
I have however come to realize that while entheogens can never ‘prove' the existence of God (rather one can only ‘experience' God-Consciousness through the use of them and thus form your own opinion), true-entheogens can be used as the most powerful tools of exploration available for investigating some of the most perplexing philosophical questions that humanity has managed to conceive, especially those concerning the role and reality of Consciousness, and its human-shadow, the Ego. As our Society and technology begins to progress beyond the Newtonian-Darwinian paradigm, we are coming to scientifically realize that nothing in the Universe exists as an individual point in space-and-time, since the quantum view of the Universe that has been emerging for over a century, states that all things are linked and connected thru a matrix of fields of energy that far surpass the energy of physical matter, matter is merely the froth on the wave of reality if you like, while our consciousness, the vehicle of this discovery, far from being an accidental by-product of chemical reactions produced within the matter of the brain as purported by the old paradigm, increasingly seems to be a part of an infinite field of consciousness that both permeates, and creates, the Universe itself. I can also personally testify that thru the use of entheogens one can actually experience a moment outside of time and space as pure Consciousness, with no idea or memory of who you are or where you came from, and in that instant the realization arises of the interconnectedness of all things, that all is truly One -- the transpersonal experience as Stanislav Grof calls it -- and that this is quite possibly the most profound human experience available, a speculation that the recorded history of all varieties of mysticism supports.
Which brings about the about the very interesting possibility -- as suggested by the psychologist Julian Jaynes in his increasingly influential book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind -- that the modern highly-individualized human Ego that has been so venerated in the 19th and 20th centuries may be a comparatively recent development in both human history (and perhaps the history of the Universe), and that ‘the voice in our head' that we now all constantly hear, a few thousand years ago would only arise only in times of severe crisis and danger. (And was often thought to be the voice of the Gods). The non-denominational spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle in his modern classic ‘A New Earth' argues that our highly refined sense of ‘I' has come from the development of our technology-driven Society, since the narrowing of our mental focus away from the transpersonal has allowed us to develop our fantastic technology, but at the expense of disconnecting ourselves with another deeper layer of consciousness that we share with all other things in the Universe. We can no longer see the woods for the trees so to speak, as we have become prisoners of our own inflated sense of Self.
As our scientists start to discover the outer realms of Quantum Consciousness, and our psychologists and spiritual masters begin to return our attention to the idea of a Cosmic or Absolute Consciousness that both unites and transcends all religion, with the role that the Individual Ego plays in our Society coming under increasingly critical scrutiny, then it would seem clear the lesson that the careful use of entheogens can teach virtually any of us. It is a scientifically verifiable fact that entheogenic compounds can cause a human ego to be disrupted or even momentarily wiped away, and that when this happens, to paraphrase the poetic words of William Blake, ‘the doors of perception are cleansed, and all things appear to man as they are, Infinite'. Throughout the recorded history of Humanity there has been no experience considered more profound or more valuable then the singular realization that All is indeed One, and now as the scientists have begun to catch up with the mystics on realizing the simple undeniable fact that all systems are linked, and that concepts like ‘a single point in space and time' and the ‘sacredness of the individual' is somewhat absurd, we now need to reform our governments, our religions, our financial institutions, our schools, and most importantly ourselves, to this fundamental Universal Truth.
In a world where we have been programmed by the constant sounds and flashing images of our exponentially developing modern technology since we have been born, the ancient schools of meditation and contemplation have had little chance to reform the Ego, and thus even less to reform the society that our love of technology -- the human child of the Ego -- has built for us, since we have long since forgotten that the shamanic ideal of a psycho-spiritual death and rebirth, the death of the Ego, is a most desirable goal. (Despite the fact that this ritualized realization (at Eleusis) was considered the greatest discovery of the Greek Society that our Western Society claims to have philosophically descended from, for more than 2000 years). Deepak Chopra once wrote that synchronicity is the universe showing its intention, and therefore I do not find it strange that mescaline was first synthesized the year that Röntgen discovered radiation, or that Albert Hofmann had a strange premonition to reinvestigate a compound that he had put on a shelf many years earlier, thereby instigating a chain of events that would cause him to discover LSD-25's remarkable psychoactive qualities while the Manhattan Project was mere months away from igniting the world's first atomic bomb, arguably humanity's most egocentric invention. Lysergic Acid (LSD) is a remarkable 20th century invention in the fact that it is the only entheogen that a competent chemist can make a million hits of in an afternoon, and its mass-production qualities (for a mass-production society) should not be under-valued, since it has been responsible for reintroducing the mystical/shamanic concept of the death-and-rebirth of the Ego into our Society at a time when it is most desperately needed. An entheogenic moment outside of space of time can cause a lifetime of egocentric programming to come tumbling down like a house of cards, an illumination almost impossible to ignore, and it is for exactly this reason that our Governments so fear them. If we build the foundations of the Entheogenic Revolution -the 2nd Psychedelic Revolution- upon the basis of a constant awareness of the potentially toxic influence of the Ego, and seek out a deeper connection with the Mind of the Universe that we all share in a process of ‘liberation theology', then we will have a chance to rebuild our tribes into a true World Family that will find a way back to balance with Nature, and through the troubling times that are going to come. For if there is one thing that is for sure, it is that none of us will make it alone.
James Oroc, the author of Tryptamine Palace: 5-MeO-DMT and the Sonoran Desert Toad. A journey from Burning Man to the Akashic Field (Park Street Press, 2009) will be making a rare US appearance at the Symbiosis Pyramid Eclipse Gathering [LINK: http://pyramideclipse.com] on May 18th, 2012, speaking on ‘Entheogens, the Ego, and the Akashic Field'. His first book of short-stories Argotia: Tales from the Underground is due in late 2012. He curates the new e-info site www.dmtsite.com.
Image by retinafunk, courtesy of Creative Commons license.