When Alan Watts, the foremost American exponent of Zen asked a Roshi, “How long will it take to reach Satori?” He replied, “It may take three minutes. It may take 30 years. I mean that!”
Taking pot for personal or recreational use is now legal in the State of California, due to a recent ballot box initiative. This is the first time such a proposal has passed here in decades, reversing the illegalization of marijuana that took place in the late 1960’s.
We don’t yet know how this will all shake out. Will a higher court overturn it? It is most intriguing that California has moved far left while most of the rest of the nation has moved far right.
To what degree will federal law override this initiative? Are citizens actually free to make their own decisions on how to use their bodies and how they consume substances? The major political parties have us believe otherwise.
Given the political clout and influence of California, along with several other states having decriminalized pot, we might wonder about the implications. Even Timothy Leary, the high priest and prophet of the psychedelic revolution, was all for having the use of substances like LSD registered and controlled, even though they might be legally dispensed and ingested.
The world has never been in more need of a consciousness revolution, now that we face rampant religious terrorism, environmental and climate disruption and financial instability at a global level.
Business as usual has stopped working for a number of years, and people are beginning to think deeper and lean toward institutional change, as witnessed by the recent Presidential election. Two different candidates, one on the right, one on the left, reminded us that our system is broken.
At the base of the disconnect in politics, economy and the environment is what Dr. Fritjof Capra, in his Tao of Physics, labeled “a crisis in perception.” This crisis is both at the individual and collective level.
Dr. Capra arrived at his breakthrough insights around physics after having taken LSD by the ocean. He directly experienced the intricate interrelationships the new physics and ecology revealed as the divine dance of Shiva.
We all must alter our consciousness, one way or another, if we are going to have the cosmic perspective we are going to need to create a sustainable economy and reinvent both our mindstyle and our lifestyle the world over. Only within a profoundly empowering context can we then bring our new vision into reality.
In the late 1960’s, Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert (now Baba Ram Dass) challenged the youth culture to “tune in, turn on and drop out.” They had already been thrown out of Harvard for publically advocating the use of psychedelics.
During the long “Summer of Love” in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, they felt they had nothing to lose. However, they had altogether different interpretations on how to execute on that vision.
Dr. Leary pressed for a worldwide revolution where people took responsibility for their lives, opened up their minds and began to work for profound institutional change, much as was later seen in the communes of the 1970’s. He literally wanted to bring on a new age through collective action, using the new mind-opening tools.
Baba Ram Dass, however, in an attempt to arrive at a new cognitive map that might explain his profound experiences, went to India and found a Mahasiddhi, a great master with supreme powers in the person of Neem Karoli Baba, or Maharaji.
Ram Dass saw it that there were people “who knew,” and all the rest of us who didn’t. Ram Dass had zero faith in his former Harvard colleagues ability to arrive at the truth.
In the decade that ensued, the vast majority of Americans who went to India seeking enlightenment were powered by a psychedelic encounter of one kind or another, usually through illegal pot, hashish, mushrooms or LSD.
They all sensed there was something profoundly missing in how they held reality, and were determined to do anything, literally anything to find out.
Related article: Can The Human Brain Create Consciousness?
How then should we look at psychedelics today? Should we take the newly legalized ones on a routine basis?
Ram Dass counseled the youth after returning from India with his classic, Be Here Now: A Cookbook for a Sacred Life, that these kinds of drugs could be very helpful in shaking people from their unconscious assumptions about reality, but they were hopelessly limited in their ability to convey a person to the other shore.
The problem Ram Dass encountered after several hundred LSD trips is that he always came down. No matter how glorious the experience, after a few hours it dissipated.
Until going to India, he had very little context for integrating it into his life and self-identity. His guru, Maharaji, was amused and annoyed by Ram Dass’s dependency on psychedelics. Maharaji ingested a couple of very large doses in front of Ram Dass, which did absolutely nothing to him. Ram Dass had to conclude that it was because his master was already there.
I have found in my youth that taking marijuana and hashish always took a toll on my energy. I enjoyed wonderful insights, but it was difficult, if not impossible, to share them with anyone.
The one LSD trip I had with a trusted friend who worked as a guide was wonderful. However, I didn’t feel I needed any more. After I had taken the est training, transformation became my focus. I couldn’t see the point of an artificial high, as I had a way to get high “just in the process of life, itself,” as the seminar had originally promised.
In 2016, a remarkable study by Douglas Osto, a university lecturer, was published by Columbia University Press, Altered States: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America.
Doug has grown up practicing Buddhism and is still relatively young. He also managed to take some psychedelics along the way, and was impressed with their potential to open up consciousness.
Doug is close enough to the age of the millennials to be interesting. He maintains there is a new attitude in Eastern religious circles that taking psychedelics carefully and judiciously can be very helpful in having a direct experience of enlightenment.
He conducted in-depth interviews with well over a hundred practitioners of all ages and found that most of them had ingested psychedelics at some point, and that this experience was very helpful to them in making the most of the Dharma.
He found that a significant percentage of interviewees maintained that sustained use was an integral part of their practice, and that psychedelics revealed insights beyond the classical tradition.
A few of them had found that they were dangerous and others that they were primarily helpful as door-openers, but useless, thereafter.
It would seem that we need to consider every possibility in awakening humanity in time.
Perhaps the new legalization of Marijuana in California is a harbinger of a consciousness revelation that can go global in record time, thanks to the pervasiveness of the Internet, social networks and media and mobile devices. For the first time ever, we have a global brain that can talk instantly with virtually anyone, anywhere.
With new possibilities opening up so dramatically, you may want to re-assess what you do with your head and heart. Getting high comes in many forms, including climbing the Himalayan mountains.
We all can undergo sudden illumination, including falling head over heels backward in love or undergoing a near death experience. Digital media, themselves, are now a powerful way to get high, perhaps even more promising than hallucinogenics.
If you love our Planet and would like to contribute is some way, the first step is to get high, yourself, and then help others get high. While this poem may be entirely tongue-in-check, the great Romantic French poet, Charles Baudelaire, wrote a tribute to getting high:
You must get drunk without stopping.
When someone asks you, “What time is it?”, tell him, “It’s time to get drunk.”
Get drunk always… with wine, with religion, with poetry, according to your taste.
Just go get drunk.