Psychedelic Transcendence: Spirituality and Materialism in the Modern Age

“Reflecting on my [psychedelic] experience, I find myself agreeing with the eminent Cambridge philosopher, Dr. C. D. Broad, “that we should do well to consider much more seriously than we have hitherto been inclined to do the type of theory which Bergson put forward in connection with memory and sense perception. The suggestion is that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful.” According to such a theory, each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet. To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages. Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born–the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things. That which, in the language of religion, is called “this world” is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed, and, as it were, petrified by language. The various “other worlds,” with which human beings erratically make contact are so many elements in the totality of the awareness belonging to Mind at Large. Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by the local language. Certain persons, however, seem to be born with a kind of by-pass that circumvents the reducing valve. In others temporary by-passes may be acquired either spontaneously, or as the result of deliberate “spiritual exercises,” or through hypnosis, or by means of drugs. Through these permanent or temporary by-passes there flows, not indeed the perception “of everything that is happening everywhere in the universe” (for the by-pass does not abolish the reducing valve, which still excludes the total content of Mind at Large), but something more than, and above all something different from, the carefully selected utilitarian material which our narrowed, individual minds regard as a complete, or at least sufficient, picture of reality.

In the final stage of egolessness there is an “obscure knowledge” that All is in all–that All is actually each. This is as near, I take it, as a finite mind can ever come to “perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe.”

—Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception

I took LSD today. Always a therapeutic experience. Of course I know better, but I’m always… apprehensive… of the unknown, when I decide to trip. You never know what is in store, what will manifest, for better or worse. But I always know that my fears are irrationalities, and a natural response to the potential loss of control. Fear is the ego’s defense mechanism, a way to retain the illusion of control. The greatest insight is that there is no control, that control is an illusion we create for ourselves and others to pacify our ego’s desire to self-preserve, and when that illusion is gone, there is nothing to fear.

”It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going. Not consciously, of course—for consciously he is engaged in bewailing and cursing a faithless world that recedes further and further into the distance. Rather, it is an unconscious factor which spins the illusions that veil his world. And what is being spun is a cocoon, which in the end will completely envelop him.”

—C.G. Jung, Aion

Jung’s work on the collective unconscious is something I think about whenever I trip, and tap into that state of… oneness. When the doors of perception are made clear.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.

—William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The real pickle is translating spiritual experiences to others without codifying them, which perverts the essence/internal back into the material/external.

We use symbolism and signs to capture the sublimity of spirituality, to point to higher archetypal truths that resonate on a deep level with that unconscious, the collective unconscious, the universal forms governing experience/reality. I’m not necessary saying “truth” exists as something you can point to and possess, but there are patterns that yield insights into the present, which is a wisdom that comes close to truth.

“Truth” is a present condition. Outside of that it’s speculative. Truth is what is, presently, being. Accessing truth is facilitated through meditation, but I also feel it’s facilitated by the seeker, the one who has “faith” that truths are accessible the more present our conscious experience remains, when are are, free from speculation, and open to the now. Acceptance. Faith in embracing whatever is, regardless of our preconceptions, assumptions, conditioned state of being. Freeing the mind from that— via mediation, “prayer”, psychedelics, or any activity that allows the mind to transcend the material pull away from the present— allows being, and accessing the reservoir of universal wisdom.

Practice is crucial, but practice is no substitute for execution. Going through the motions does not substitute progress, or enlightenment. Relying on the preacher for your weekly fill of the unity of being is inadequate, just as relying on people or things for inspiration or guidance. I think there needs to be a self generated, self guided intention to submit to the present state of being, however that manifests. But the habit of relying on external forces or ideas to supplant that intention is where things fall apart.

Maybe.

It’s hard because books are and continue to be a source of incredible wisdom and revelation. But after a long journey of seeking for truth in books, I realized it does not exist there. The best Books and texts are trying to capture “something else”, those higher truths about the human condition, and those that successfully capture that reveal that something else to my mind. But it’s not the power of the text. It’s in the mind’s willingness to draw connections to something else, those higher truths. Every book or person contains a perspective of this something else. Assimilating and synthesizing them all with personal experience occurs when we’re open to that revelation, which requires present being, and tapping into the Mind at Large.

I feel the best teachers, spiritual leaders, understand this, whether they are real or not: Jesus, Socrates, Buddha, whoever else. They didn’t write anything down, and they didn’t follow any dogma. They followed that inner genius, the same that Emerson speaks about in his essay Self-Reliance. They believed to know something is to impress it deep within you, and relying on texts and outside media or teachers causes you to become reliant on them, and a failure to internalize the wisdom and knowledge. They sought to walk the walk, and not worry about talking the talk, and codifying the “right way”.

The gatekeepers of “spiritual enlightenment” say: That’s not how you meditate. That’s not how you pray. That’s how how you show thankfulness. That’s not what mindfulness looks like. Look— do as i say and follow these steps and you will get there. Say your Hail Mary and other prescribed chants. Go to communion. Do the Hajj. Attend temple. Follow this ritualistic curriculum for daily meditation. These routines are what a spiritually minded man does, they say.

But these prescriptions reveal nothing of the heart, of the intention to seek communion with a present state of being, the willingness to shed the ego and access the Mind at Large. This is where the symbolic imagery of sacrifice of crucial— found in all religions. Sacrifice attachments— be willing to give up that which is most sacred— and recognize you are nothing, no one, know nothing, have nothing, that these attachments are illusions, neurosis of the ego, the flesh.

Socrates, regarding writing, or codification of “knowledge”:

”For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.” (Phaedrus 274c-275b)

I feel that technology as a whole is facilitating this decline in spiritual self guided thinking (whatever that means, i.e. willingness to seek “truth/wisdom”), as much as it’s increasing our capacity to accumulate webs of abstract information to build upon, which only serve to veil the mind in the end.

Anyway. I have no idea what I’m saying. These are just intuitions. I’m not a spiritual or enlightened person by any means. I’ve had some profound experiences and that changed the way i think about things, but in the end I’m just a cog in the machinery, squeaking with the rest.

I think it’s hard to judge anyone. Religious folks and philosophers and academics and politicians scientists and everyone is just in this soup together. It’s hard to know where we’re all at on this journey.

I think people like Sam Harris are great. But there is always an irony. We often become what we are most afraid of becoming.

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

—Friedrich W. Nietzsche

Stoicism is hard in practice, but it’s truly the way to approach the world. Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

A man may be convinced in all good faith that he has no religious ideas, but no one can fall so far away from humanity that he no longer has any dominating representation collective.

—C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

The things that come to light brutally in insanity remain hidden in the background in neurosis, but they continue to influence consciousness nonetheless. When, therefore, the analysis penetrates the background of conscious phenomena, it discovers the same archetypal figures that activate the deliriums of psychotics.

—C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

Being able to suspend judgement is scary. We want to judge, in our effort to control. Understanding requires a suspension of judgement. It requires being. Just embracing what is, being. Instead of leveraging preconceived ideas to perceive, in an effort to label and control and judge and organize and know, the seeker is open, observing, perceptive, listening, embracing every reaction the percolates and releasing ideas and tensions with equal ease, until there is an honest alignment between the mind the the world. A communion. This is where truth and wisdom seem to be revealed.

But then again I’m a giant contradiction. So there’s that.

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