By Wes Annac, Culture of Awareness
You hear about psychedelics often in the spiritual community, and while most people are brought up to believe they’re harmful and should be avoided, some will tell you that they aren’t harmful at all. In fact, they’re believed to be quite beneficial for the spiritual seeker who wants to glimpse a higher consciousness.
Spirituality is interesting because it draws in people with all kinds of different beliefs, and some people use it to stay away from drugs. They embrace the power of meditation and other spiritual practices to raise their vibration instead of getting high, and they have spirituality to thank for their sobriety. They’d probably regularly indulge in their drug of choice if it weren’t for their faith.
Russell Brand and David Wilcock are two good examples.
But for others, psychedelic drugs enhance their spirituality and bring them closer to what every spiritual person wants. Some are passionate about all of the psychedelics out there, and they’ll tell you all about the power of psilocybin (magic) mushrooms, LSD, DMT (commonly used in the Ayahuasca brew), salvia and others.
You can read hundreds of drug experiences, some powerful and transformative and some decidedly negative, on the popular drug database Erowid.com. If you decide to check it out, prepare to read some interesting stories.
You could read about some kid’s profound spiritual experience that was caused from a magic mushroom trip, or you could read a negative experience from someone who probably won’t be touching psychedelics again any time soon. Or, you could read about an experience from a kid who just wanted to get messed up on psychedelics and, lo and behold, they did.
Those experiences don’t seem valuable, and for the experiencers, it’s less about transformation and more about getting intoxicated. But not everyone who’s interested in psychedelics is only interested on a superficial level; some are passionate about using them as a meditative enhancer.
So what potential do these drugs have to initiate spiritual transformation? I’m not the best authority on the subject, because I only have experience with one psychedelic: cannabis.
I don’t have much to say about the other psychedelics, and I can only go by other people’s experiences with them. We’ll focus on cannabis for this article, because I consider it partially responsible for my “awakening” and my interest in spirituality.
I can remember using it at parties as a teenager, and I feel like my experiences with it invalidated what you’re supposed to expect from it. I didn’t get giggly; I had amazing visions. In fact, I couldn’t (and still can’t) tolerate a lot of stoner stereotypes, because they contradict my experiences with the herb and my attitude toward it, which was formed from my experiences.
I could be wrong about being the only kid in my group of friends who got something genuine out of it, and the other kids could’ve had similar deep experiences from it, but from the first time I experienced it, I was interested in it for a different reason than I think most teenagers are. Instead of just getting high, I wanted a genuine spiritual experience. The funny thing is that as a sixteen year old, I still didn’t know or understand anything about spirituality so I didn’t really know what I was seeking until later on.
Like most kids, my perception of spirituality was formed for me by my parents, the church and other religious influences. I was brought up to believe that all drugs are bad without exception, I went through the devious D.A.R.E program, and I remember watching my brothers use the herb on occasion.
So I was pleasantly surprised as a teenager to discover what cannabis can really do for you, and it didn’t take me long to become almost obsessively interested in spirituality after my first experience with it. Again, I don’t know if my friends were getting the same good vibration from it that I was (I didn’t even know I was getting a good vibration because I didn’t know what that was and I had to find out with research), but most of them were passionate about cannabis too so maybe they were. Maybe, like me, they just didn’t have a way to define it.
I can remember the meditative visions cannabis gave me as a teen, and they were unlike anything I ever experienced. It’s as if my mind was blown wide open to the existence of some awesome higher reality that, to this day, I still don’t know much about but try to explore as much as I can. I quickly became interested in new age spiritual concepts like the chakras, meditation, channeling, spiritually evolved extraterrestrials, etc.
These concepts were the closest things I could relate to what I was experiencing, and while I’m not as heavily involved with some of them now, they still interest me and I think they can bring you closer with a higher consciousness than most other beliefs or practices. I’ve read advice from a lot of gurus, and while most of it is helpful, none of it has helped me as much as new age concepts and teachings.
I’m not saying you should listen solely to channelings or new age gurus, but it worked for me at the time so I embraced it. In doing so, however, I quickly fell into the trap most religions catch people in and became more interested in these beliefs and their accompanying movement than the spirituality they’re meant to define.
When you prefer to read channeled messages over looking to your own inner guidance, then it might be time to retreat deep within and rekindle your connection with your higher consciousness, which has all of the wisdom you’ll ever need.
Shortly before becoming heavily involved in the new age, which cannabis was somewhat responsible for, I realized that this herb has incredible meditative potential. I can even remember calling it “the meditation herb”, because one of my deepest and most profound meditations happened shortly after using it.
It changed me for the better, but while it can be a savior in many ways, I’ve also learned that relying on it can lead to unhappiness and bitterness. Why? Because it isn’t always around and the minute it’s not there, the reliant user tends to feel like life has become worse or, if they use it spiritually, has become void of the good vibration that was once abundantly there.
Relying on it for spirituality or creativity isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you consider that this is why it’s here, but if you do rely on it, you might feel depleted in both areas when you no longer have it. You could lose the spark or the inspiration that keeps you moving, and you could lose the will to meditate if you convince yourself meditation isn’t as good without the herb.
Regardless of what some might think, meditation can be powerful with or without any external substance that’s intended to enhance it. Creativity can flow with or without it too. The key is to remember that spirituality and creativity live in us, and we can call on them regardless of whether something is there to enhance them.
Knowing we can enjoy life whether or not we constantly use cannabis or another psychedelic is the key to using these gifts without feeling miserable every time we don’t have them, and while cannabis isn’t physically addicting, it can be psychologically habit-forming. Psychological dependence is basically the aforementioned feeling that life is worse if you don’t have that thing you think you need, and while that ‘thing’ is cannabis or other drugs for some people, it can be anything.
Food is a common example, and with the effect that, say, a cheeseburger or a sleeve of Oreos has on the brain, psychological dependence on food is just as common as drugs. There’s a reason big food corporations like Burger King and McDonald’s make so much money (even though McDonald’s is losing money and closing restaurants like crazy as more people turn to natural and healthy foods), and it’s because their food stimulates your brain while satisfying your taste buds.
Your health doesn’t really matter when you’re dependent on fast food. For a brain that’s addicted to fried and sugary foods, the less healthy, the better.
Food and drugs aren’t the only example, and you can become dependent on anything that makes your brain release feel-good chemicals. You can become dependent on exercise if it makes you feel good, and plenty of people will tell you they’re hooked on meditation, which isn’t a bad thing.
It comes down to what you’re hooked on or if you want to be hooked on anything in the first place, and you can really enjoy life if you practice moderation. Just because something’s good or even great doesn’t mean we should overuse it, and when it comes to cannabis, overuse is not good.
Terence McKenna, who was famous for using and speaking about psychedelic drugs, used to say he didn’t understand why everyone says cannabis is “no big deal” when referring to the fact that it isn’t dangerous.
Even though it’s safe, it was a big deal to him because it’s a powerful meditative enhancer if used for the right purpose. While he was a noted and self-proclaimed pothead, he once said he thought the best way to use the herb is once a week in a dark room all alone with a high dosage for the maximum meditative effect, as opposed to all the time.
For the spiritual cannabis user, it can be hard not to want it all the time when you see people like the late great Bob Marley, who was always seen with a spliff. Most Rastas believe cannabis should be used all the time as a sacrament and a way to show pride in the Rasta faith, and plenty of other people use it constantly, whether spiritually, medicinally or recreationally.
You can’t really help it if you have to use medical marijuana often to treat pain or symptoms of awful diseases, but the spiritual and recreational user doesn’t have to use it constantly and could, in fact, make life worse and the spiritual path harder if they do.
If constant cannabis use works for you, then do whatever you feel is best. Especially if you’re Rasta or you practice another faith that involves near-constant use, then that’s your choice. Life is ours to live how we want, but I think the general spiritual user would benefit from using the herb in moderation. Don’t get me wrong; it really can make everything better, but if we rely on it, we’ll have a hole in our hearts the minute it’s not there.
I’ll always stand up for cannabis, but too much of a good thing can make it bad. If you constantly feel the urge to light up, maybe replace some of your sessions with a good long nature walk or by writing (articles, music; it doesn’t matter) without it. You might be surprised to see that life can be great without using it all the time, and it’s just one of many aspects of life on earth we can enjoy and appreciate without letting consume us.
Cannabis enhances life and puts us in touch with our authentic spirituality, but like religion, new age beliefs or anything else, relying on it could distance us from our higher consciousness and our ability or willingness to bring our spiritual awareness up from within.
The ideal life in my opinion is lived free from the desire for anything, beyond wanting to share awareness and enlightenment with the masses and make the world a better place, and cannabis is at its most potent when the user could just as easily put it down and carry on without it. There’s no potential for dependence in this case, and the less frequently it’s used, the more powerful it is.
I can’t speak for the more powerful psychedelics, but I can say that cannabis will either help us transform or help us dig a deep psychological hole that we can’t seem to climb out of. It all depends on how we see it and how we use it, so remember that life is worth living with or without it and try to make the world better for everyone, regardless of how much or how little you use it.