The Drug Experience
That got your attention didn't it. Drugs; a word that perks up the ears of students and wastemen alike. When I say drugs, I of course mean illicit drugs, not any of the other drugs that we use and condone in our society and daily lives all the time, some of which from a very young age. You know: tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, aspirin, ibuprofen, acne-cream, anti-dandruff shampoo, your own nervous system... Apologies, I digressed. No, what I mean is drugs that alter your perception on reality. Be it from the ever so slight and mild change (for the most part) that cannabis endows you with, to the ego killing antics of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), up to the interstellar cannon which sends your conscious mind screaming through the cosmos into the realms of higher dimensions and utter tranquillity under the guise of dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
Let's start with cannabis, as these things often do.
Now I'm going to say something quite controversial here, something that the propagandists and prohibitionists alike will revel in... In my opinion, cannabis IS a gateway drug.
"But Alex, you self identify as an open minded liberal. One who not only educated himself thoroughly on this topic, but was also an avid user of it until just very recently?!?!"
I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you you've jumped the gun a tad there. I don't mean to state that cannabis makes you yearn for ever stronger substances. What I mean is cannabis simply leads you to other substances. At least for me it did. It did this not through turning me to a "stupid stoner" who simply didn't understand that these drugs are indeed harder on your system, nor was it through any addictive qualities that ol' Mary secreted into my drug addled brain (addiction and what causes it being an entirely different discussion in and of itself). No. What led me to other substances after smoking cannabis was the fact that having spent my youth being told all sorts of scary anecdotes about 'weed', watching those (in hindsight) hilarious Talk to Frank adverts, and being led to believe that it was a genuine danger to me, was the fact that upon sparking it up, toking her down, and letting that magical haze of love and contentment wash away all thoughts of anxiety and resentment was the sudden and impactful realisation of "HOLY FUCKING SHIT! THESE FUCKERS LIED TO ME! ALL THESE FUCKING YEARS! JUST LYING. RIGHT TO MY FUCKING FACE!
Well I wonder what else they've been lying to me about..."
And boom. The floodgates had opened. Not literally in a progression as instantaneous as that, but that was pretty much the driving force behind my eagerness to step out into this newfound forest of enlightenment, and dip my toe in the many different recreational rivers.
Of course what I found over time is that not all of these rivers are recreational. Some are recreational in the sense that the buzz you get from swimming in these rivers is really very fun right up until you fall over the precipice of a waterfall. Some of these rivers are medicinal, if you can believe it! And some of these rivers are in fact the very same spiritual waters on which Vishnu floats atop of in his lotus of enlightenment. Although most of them tend to be a combination of all of the above.
I know... Wow. Pretty stupendous revelations about dirty, addictive, unrelenting, unforgiving, ambition inhibiting, killer drugs!
So which ones fall into which category? Well, I think that comes down to half what the scientific data tells us, and half interpretation and experience. After cannabis came methylenedioxymethamphetamine (have another go) or MDMA or "Ecstasy" which as the street name suggests slips you into a state of ecstasy (as well as causing you to dehydrate, gurn like there's no tomorrow, and talk your absolute nut of, often about how incredible the person you're speaking to is). Studies being carried out have shown conclusively that with the correct dosage, and right setting, under the guide of medical professionals, MDMA can be an incredibly therapeutic drug used to treat PTSD and depression alike. However, in the doses and settings in which I took it, coupled with the crippling come down the following day when you awake to find what feels like your entire life's supply of serotonin has dried up as quickly as your mouth did the night before, I've found it to be recreational only to a point, and one that I have no further interest in pursuing currently.
Other drugs that I have found fall into this category includes, but is not limited to, basically anything that you can put up your nose. Valium. Cocaine. Co-Codamol. Paracetamol. Morphine. Even pro-plus on one frivolous occasion.
Next come the truly medicinal, and for me the spiritually awakening variety. Starting with psilocybin, though most know it as "magic mushrooms" or simply "shrooms". Having had the media portrayal of 'hallucinogens' evoke images of shrooms, in my head, as being chased by dragons down the yellow brick road, I was very scared to try them. Even after friends who had taken them several times before tell me wondrous stories of these psychedelics (not hallucinogens) being nothing remotely like that, I was incredibly nervous. Still, in the true spirit of perseverance and seeking thrills I prissily sipped down a shroom brew, and within 30 minutes was lying on a bed, in a position that to this day I'm convinced it would take a contortionist to rest in with zero discomfort, happily for several hours seriously contemplating on whether or not if I allowed myself to fall asleep, I would die.
Not exactly the crazy trip I was hoping for, but incredible nonetheless. Despite my absoluteness that I might not wake up if I allowed myself to slip into a dream state, I was utterly content. Eyes closed for the duration I could see everything, with absolute clarity. Vivid depictions of my innermost connected being, dancing elaborately on the building blocks of space time, and woven into the all loving, all understanding consciousness that we all share. I was reborn. It was naive of me to assume that this experience would be comparable to any of the others I had experienced under the influence, but something I had to fumble into naively to understand that psilocybin is no recreational drug. Nor is it something to be taken lightly. It is a tool. A powerful tool for sculpting the future progress of human beings.
If psilocybin is like sitting in the back seat of a car and being taken for a ride, then LSD is like being the driver of the car. It seems to offer a much sharper image of whatever meandering thought happens to cross from one side of your mind to the other. There is a kind of perfectness about it that offers far greater clarity than that which is offered to you by mushrooms, though it's often not as implicitly deep as what you learn on shrooms. It's like psilocybin is planting your roots, and LSD is spreading your branches. You feel plugged into the universe. And as such, an intriguing effect emerges. Crumbling down comes the walls of your ego. Your sense of self that you've spent years developing and associating yourself with since birth is suddenly incredibly fleeting. Every thought you think, every word you speak, every action you make comes bolstered with the question "why did I do that?". This is something that stays with you even after the twelve hour trip has worn off, albeit not permanently, for it takes many journeys into your own sense of self to hold on to and apply what you've learned to your life on a daily basis, and is something that I'm not convinced can necessarily be mastered entirely, merely continuously honed. These are drugs that, for me, embodies everything meaningful in this life. A sense of community, belonging, love. All things that the world we inhabit is in dire need of. Needless to say these are experiences that I have no desire to give up and walk away from. I'm still in my infancy in these fields, and have much more to be taught by them.
Then comes the big one. DMT. A substance that is so elusive as to be comparable to Bigfoot. And probably for the best also. Having never tried it personally, I can only rely on the tales told by those lucky enough to have explored these hidden realms. In the same way that many, myself initially included, think of shrooms as a party drug, I can only imagine the potential damage that could be caused by the same inadequate research being applied to this majestic beast. Not just for people's psyches, but for drug legislation on the whole. Drugs like this need to be experienced in the right setting, with the right people, and most importantly, with the right mindset. Whilst I don't doubt that many people would simply experience God itself and subsequently adjust their world view accordingly, I equally don't doubt that it would simply fuck many people up. But for those who inhabit the former group, what a voyage it would be. Those who try to recount their trip as coherent and adequately as they can talk of higher dimensions, other beings, literally the answer to every possible curiosity both deep, philosophical questions of the nature of life and time and human purpose, and those simply incomprehensible to our three dimensional monkey brains alike. Some even recognise the place they go as the waiting room for souls between lives. Infact, that's what an overwhelming number of people report, is simply the feeling of recognition. Of familiarity. Like they've been there (wherever there is) before. Whoah. Heavy. Heavy but beautiful. Something I am so eager to experience myself one day (only when it's legal of course 😉). Not only because it sounds like one of the ultimate spiritual experiences, but because it seems like a fundamental experience... Now I'm not advocating the use of drugs willy nilly, as I said, these are powerful tools to be treated with the utmost respect, but I do think that there isn't one human being who wouldn't benefit from such experiences. How the world could rejoice if we all realised our oneness, started genuinely loving everyone as we should love ourselves, embraced the point at which spirituality and science coincide and mesh into a complete understanding of all reality, both internal and external, and stopped this silly game of 'let's destroy our planet and ourselves as quickly as possible'. Oh rejoice it would... Rejoice it will. We just have to hold out hope.
I'll leave you with the beautiful summation put forth by the mighty prophet Bill Hicks:
"All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. We are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectivley. There is no death. Life is but a dream. And we are the imagination of ourselves... Here's Tom with the weather!"