A Waking Dream, Ctd

A reader isn’t convinced that psilocybin’s effects are analogous to those of “long-term intensive meditation and prayer”:

For what it’s worth, there is one big difference between experiences on mushrooms and “unusual” experiences as a result of intensive meditation. And the difference is an underlying sense of confusion that exists in drug-altered states and the lack of that confusion in meditative states. Realization from meditation is like stubbing your toe on a rock. It’s obvious and clear. There is no “this is other than it is supposed to be” or “this is strange” feeling despite some very unusual circumstances surrounding the realization. Drug states ultimately leave you confused and doubtful eventually. At least that’s been my experience.

Another passes along the above video, from the Flaming Lips:

Except for the guy in a mushroom suit, the video doesn’t reference psychedelics explicitly. I think it’s safe to say it’s drug-addled, though. Most people hate it, and the comments on the video are mostly from people who couldn’t make it through it. I kind of like it, but I used to be a big acid head.

Here’s the thing. That video seems to get a lot closer to what psychedelics are all about than the talk about expanded consciousness and spirituality and all of that.

Yes, I have had those experiences where the borders between you and others seem to melt away and you feel the presence of the divine. But if you buy your blotter acid by the sheet, you end up at a place that’s closer to the world of this video than you do to God.

When you trip, your brain gets knocked out of its normal ruts, and the experience can be pretty unusual. Then you sober up, and you process it. You put it in a box, you decide what it meant, you create a narrative that describes what happened. “I felt a strong sense of the unity of all things. And the wood grain on this table looked like it was liquid, and moved around a bit.” Or whatever.

Those narrative boxes tend to be narrow and very much reduced from the experience itself. They’re true, as far as they go, but they aren’t really what it was like. Whenever I trip, even if it’s been years, I have a moment when I think, “Oh, I’m back in this place again.” It’s a feeling that’s completely inaccessible to me now that I’m sober, yet completely familiar when I trip. The point is that what people say about the trip afterward is actually fairly different from what it was like in the moment.

The video linked above is actually a pretty good document of that place. It’s not complete, and watching it isn’t the same as tripping. It’s reductive just like the religious narratives are, emphasizing some things, leaving others out. But the product of this reduction is really different from the stuff you usually publish. And as a guy who used to buy his blotter acid by the sheet, I think it’s closer to the mark.

Some people seem to fall into sainthood naturally, as if it’s their destiny. For most of us, though, finding God takes effort – meditation, prayer, a lot of rational thinking to try to come to terms with our ideas about theology, etc. We have to get kicked around in the world, make mistakes, digest those experiences. Mostly, we have to be with people, find sustenance in our connections, give that nurturing back, grow our compassion. It just doesn’t come in a pill.

I love acid. If I weren’t old and long out of touch with drug people, I’d probably take it frequently; as it is, I probably won’t get the chance to do it again. But I love it because I find it fun and interesting, not because it brings me closer to God.