Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
~Jesus Christ in the Beatitudes
As a child, you may have wondered how it might be possible to see the invisible God. Since God has no inherent form, how can we possibly behold Him? If there could be a way, would it not be through the radiance of His creation, what has been called the beatific vision? As William Blake put it:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
If you are not a master poet or profound mystic, how can you see with William Blake’s eyes and revel in the mystery?
Psychedelics may be the fastest way to see God in everyone and everything. We hear confirmation from a full range of sources in every religious tradition, as well as secular and humanistic people, people who suddenly awaken to cosmic consciousness, that the experience they triggered has utterly transformed their life.
What is truly surprising is how many people simply playing around with psychedelics stumble upon a direct experience of God, something they weren’t at all anticipating. All the more so for people seeking God who use psychoactive substances to open up into their direct experience. You find the world is not so solid after all; things seem more like waves than particles.
The last couple of generations have discovered what the ancients and primal people all over the world have known for millennia, that plant substances can be powerful allies to enter into other dimensions and have a direct encounter with the Great Spirit.
Psychedelics are not drugs in the ordinary sense. While they are certainly used by indigenous people all over the world in the process of healing, they are seen as something far more. The Aztecs of Mexico saw the Peyote buttons as “the flesh of the gods.” Dr. Huston Smith, who founded the field of comparative religion with his perennial bestseller, The World’s Religions, honored the way of the shaman as on par with any of the Great Traditions.
In the final years of his life, Dr. Smith successfully waged an impassioned campaign for Native Americans to simply have the legal right to use peyote in their worship services. In the process, he popularized a whole new term for psychedelics used for spiritual pursuits: Entheogens, agents that generate the direct experience of God. The original use of psychedelics was to find God, to attune our sensibilities and awareness to the Transcendent.
Legality is always an issue, even if you think you can get away with it. It sets up a karmic predicament whereby, in order to find your Higher Self, you must break civil, or even criminal, law. Fortunately, decriminalization of at least marijuana has begun in earnest. These substances can be controlled, just like tobacco and marijuana. They need not be prohibited, and certainly not classified as felonies for possession.
70,000 people a year die from overdoses of various drugs, not necessarily psychedelic. Marijuana, and even LSD, are not nearly as dangerous as heroin, opium and crack cocaine. They lead to psychological, but not physical, addiction. Bear in mind, even the effort to stop smoking creates withdrawal symptoms. Not so for marijuana or LSD.
A more serious concern with the heavier psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, peyote, Ibogaine, mescaline and DMT, is the danger of insanity if you are utterly reckless with them. People who go through the experience of ayahuasca, for example, typically take weeks and months to integrate their experience. They usually do so with native guides who have profound respect for its powers.
The greatest issue in relation to finding God through these substances is that you always come down. You can never sustain the state, no matter how often you keep smoking the reefers or popping the tabs. What goes up must come down. This is what woke up Baba Ram Dass, who eventually gave up on this and went to India to find those who “knew.”
It would not be a good idea to plunge into psychedelics and try the hard stuff first. Begin with a trusted friend, or better yet, a professional guide, especially if you genuinely seek enlightenment. You may actually want to consider the Native American Church with its peyote ceremonies, or even the Santo Daime Church in Brazil, that bases its ceremonies on ayahuasca and the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. American participants have had life-changing experiences and are generally enthusiastic.
You might start by developing literacy on psychoactive substances. The classic exponents have been Dr. Timothy Leary, Terrence McKenna and Daniel Pinchbeck. They made a lifetime effort to study these compounds. All of them, even Dr. Leary, would urge a certain caution. McKenna and Pinchbeck advocate a good deal of discretion.
Relish the experience, and then give weeks and months to integrate it into your life.
You might seriously consider ecotourism, which combines exercise, healthy eating and living in gorgeous natural preserves with vibrant people and the chance to experience new cultures, whether in Costa Rica or the exotic Island of Bali. Even participating in Burning Man might be helpful. The crucial thing is to get your information from reliable sources and ingest any substance in a meditative fashion.
When we go back to the early days of LSD, we consider Dr. Leary’s March Chapel Experiment where he tested psilocybin on a group of 40 or so divinity school students. This was before Dr. Leary was thrown out of Harvard, when psychedelics were still legal. I met one of the guides years later who helped those who ended up with only placebos. He was deeply impressed with how just having the right setting and mindset encouraged mystical states with or without the chemicals.
Setting is extremely important. You don’t want to be fooling around with stuff in prison, or even a hospital environment. Preferably it would be with a wise, benevolent guide in a chapel, shrine or temple. Being out in a beautiful place in nature would also be highly conducive.
Mindset is also important. If you are just out to have a lot of fun, you are squandering your life energy and a precious substance that could deliver the supreme experience, much like Zen satori. Think of the Zen tradition. A number of contemporary Buddhists are deep into their practice, but also use psychedelics in a most judicious fashion.
Perhaps the most serious accusation against psychedelics is that it is a frivolous pursuit, a dangerous distraction from the global environmental crisis. We all need to be increasingly alert, both to the constant danger in our daily lives from superstorms, but also the thoughtless actions from government, the military, the private sector, the public and the petroleum industry.
When you consider that psychedelics skillfully used are entheogens that can give people a direct hit on the radiance of God in all creation, that somehow, everything and everyone is sacred, what could be more helpful in promoting deep ecology, compassion and a reverence for life? Even though experiences triggered by the various plants will eventually fade away, there will always be a reminiscent awareness of that sacred time and place when you pierced through the veil of illusion and saw things as they actually are.
When I think of Dr. Matthew Fox, and his techno-cosmic mass, I think of the perfect vehicle to wake us up and inspire us to celebrate the incomparable beauty of our Home Planet. The Rave Movement discovered an exciting new way to worship, to celebrate life. If psychedelics were once again legal, it is most intriguing to see how this new consciousness might spread throughout the Earth.
Perhaps psychedelics are taken from the “Tree of Life,” not the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” At their best, psychedelics compel us to reach toward the end of separation and the reconciliation of opposites.
Is it possible that we could literally eat our way back to the Garden of Eden?