“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
The obvious effects of the drug war are well known and understood by anyone paying attention: massive incarceration of non-violent citizens, black markets and criminal cartels that serve them, extensive violations of human rights, bloated and ineffective criminal justice systems, easy access for underage users, and virtually no improvement in rates of use and addiction. Those are plenty of reasons to end the disastrous drug war. But there is a deeper danger the drug war has imposed on us.
One of the underlying tenets of the drug war is that altered states of consciousness – particularly those accessed by powerful psychedelics and entheogens like DMT, LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin – are bad. Starting with reefer madness, our culture learned a particular sort of terror of altered states. Although drunkenness has (bizarrely) earned a hallowed place in Western society, these other mental universes are perceived to be the source of insanity, laziness, violence, lack of motivation, being out of touch with “reality”, and psychosis. With these substances scheduled by the FDA, they are effectively prevented from being researched or better understood.
Human cultures going back to ancient times have used plant medicines to achieve altered states of consciousness. These states are not dangerous; they are essential to human growth. They can help us understand who we are, why we are here, and what’s truly important. They can offer us perspective and vision. Cutting ourselves off from this has resulted in a culture pathologically obsessed with a left-brain, analytical viewpoint and approach to living. Science and technology have given us marvels, but without the balance of wisdom and emotional health, we get what we have now: rigid scientific dogma more like a religion than a system of inquiry, a slow march toward transhumanism (the integration of man and machine), and a hierarchical society hell bent on total control.
What is the moral objection to altered states of consciousness, and how did it become so entrenched in our society? There seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to “non-medical” use of mind-altering substances, a sort of moral outrage at people who desire to alter their consciousness and disdain for those who do (with anything other than alcohol). With marijuana, we call it “recreational” use, but the term makes it seem frivolous and silly. Recreation is only one reason out of many to seek altered experiences, and what is wrong with recreation anyway? We don’t drink cocktails for medical reasons.
I would propose that this is an engineered philosophy, crafted by those in power to ensure that human evolution and growth freezes in this left-brain paradigm and that we remain trapped in our mental cages. Why is it a criminal act to ingest substances that are natural, harmless if taken responsibly, and by all accounts often have miraculous healing properties? Because:
- Expanding perception might result in the recognition that our society is controlled, and not for the benefit of the masses.
- Self reflection might lead to deep fulfillment and thus cut down on consumerism.
- True healing will cut into profits going to the medical and pharmaceutical industries.
- Feelings of oneness may allow people to remove themselves from the hierarchical pyramid that keeps us trapped.
It’s true that without a cultural tradition helping us to safely access altered states of consciousness and understand and contextualize what we find there, we have the resulting abuse of these chemicals and medicines. There is no guidance or accepted method to obtain and use plant medicines, so you have teenagers purchasing street drugs of dubious quality and people self-experimenting. Imagine, instead, a culture in which people are educated about altered states of consciousness, guided into them by knowledgeable practitioners at a reasonable age, and have access to communities that support and share their experiences. Where safe environments are accessible, and appropriate psychological support is available.
What waits in store for us when we can explore the inner space as voraciously as our scientists have explored our physical universe? We can expand from one infinity into another. Consciousness, that mystery that today’s scientists treat as a mere accident of evolution, is waiting for us to become truly self-aware beings. There are many tools to do so, such as meditation, music, wonder, dance – and visionary plant medicines.
The trend toward decriminalization and even full legalization of marijuana is wonderful, and it is only the first step. It’s time to end the war on drugs and the war on consciousness. The government and criminal justice system have no business dictating what substances we are allowed to ingest or not ingest, recreationally or not. The only reason they have that power is to have another tool of control and a massive source of revenue (just think of all the jails, law enforcement, pharmaceuticals, black markets, and bureaucracies that the war on drugs supports either directly or indirectly).
It’s time to take a reasoned approach, in which we can study and educate ourselves about mind-altering substances in order to develop mindful methods of using them. In order to do this, they need to be legally accessible with intelligent laws to prevent minors from abusing drugs and to provide resources to combat drug abuse. Prohibition – making it a crime – only benefits those making money on the system, and is a completely irrational approach.
Drug abuse and addiction are not a criminal justice issue, nor are they a medical issue. They are a cultural issue. Watch Johann Hari explain in his Ted Talkwhy everything we think we know about addiction is wrong:
We need the wisdom of altered states of consciousness to reverse the frightening trends of blind consumerism and ultra-conformity. We need a different perspective to heal the world.
For an incredibly cogent and insightful discussion on “the war on consciousness,” watch Graham Hancock’s Ted Talk, which was banned from the TEDx YouTube channel:
For a funnier discussion, watch Bill Hicks share his positive drug story:
This article first appeared at http://www.naturalblaze.com.