Psychedelic Use Is a Tool, Not the Goal
Psychedelics are tools that can be helpful in accessing a certain kind of experience. That experience… well, today I’m going to call it “Union”: universal connection; the lived experience of connecting to, and uniting with, the entirety of everything. That experience has been called realization, because it is understanding and actualizing your true essence. It’s been called enlightenment, because it clarifies what was previously obscure to you. It’s been called consciousness, because you become aware of your capacity to choose and create. You can call it whatever you want to; like psychedelics, the words are not the point.
Now, I am thrilled to see modern psychiatry start embracing psychedelics as the very useful, not very harmful tools for expansion that they are. I also know that Western science is much more fixated on forms than on experience, so I assume it’s likely going to spend a while mistaking the source of healing as the means (the psychedelics), rather than correctly assessing it as the experience (Union).
Psychedelics can help us heal because they can help us access the experience of Union. Union is healing, because in the lived experience of unity with everything, it becomes real-ized that there is nothing to fear, no conflicting will that could frustrate one’s own, no possibility of lack, and literally nothing but love. Love (taking something as a part of yourself) is yet another word we can use to describe this same experience.
Like with every form, the mushrooms and the DMT are not the point. The point is the lived sensation of Union. Union can be accessed through tripping and through yoga and through justice and through Jesus. All of these are means, and each is but one of many means to the same end. Religious ceremony, meditation, kirtan, psychedelics, cognitive behavioral therapy — these all are tools. We can use them to build the experience, but they are not what we’re trying to build.
Like with actual building, we typically need many tools to build well. You cannot build a house with a screwdriver alone. If all you have is a screwdriver, you won’t be able to build a thing; you’ll just be sitting there with a screwdriver. If you didn’t know any better, you might mistake it for a house and try to live in it, which would probably leave you confused as to why the experience of it feels nothing like going home.
The point is — any one of these tools, when not understood correctly as a tool, can transform into something that hinders you from the experience of Union.
For example, to make an unscientific generalization, I’ve noticed that friends of mine who only or predominantly access Union through psychedelics seem to have an oddly ubiquitous obsession with conspiracy theories. Don’t get me wrong — as an anarcho-communist in the United States of Halliburtonia, I am well aware that many nefarious theories about the government turn out to be accurate. What I find interesting, though, is how I am feeling when I’m regularly thinking about them. There’s a sense of disconnection in me, of fear, paranoia, anger, powerlessness and distrust that pervades my experience. I’m not experiencing Union at all — in fact, I’m feeling pretty awful — and so I seek other means through which to feel better.
I certainly don’t know that there’s any causality between heavy psychedelics use and a focus on pervasive fear about the powers that be, but there’s enough of a correlation that I’ve noticed it. I’ve noticed that every pathway to the experience of Union, when fixated upon too much, starts leading me away from Union.
To make more unscientific generalizations, those I’ve met who primarily access spiritual experience through meditation or yoga don’t seem to have the same paranoia about the government, but they also tend to be more judgmental of behaviors they see as “impure” in some way. Those who find Union in tranquility tend to think they’re being pushed away from Union when they encounter revolutionary social justice movements. On the flip side, those who access Union through the feeling of collective liberation tend to think focusing on an individual experience of ending suffering is harmful. People who’ve found Union through Christianity tend to have their set of material and moral hang-ups, and people who find it through Magick tend to have others.
No matter what tool we’re used to using, we can end up hurting ourselves and others when we mistake the tool for the goal.
This isn’t just about spiritual Union of course; I’ve written a lot about how we make this mistake with just about all of our needs, all the time, and how this cycle causes and is the addiction relationship. Our needs are only ever states of being. Any form, thing, action, event, or practice is a tool or strategy we can use to meet our needs. These forms are never the need itself.
As anyone who travels knows, if we stay confined in one culture for our entire lives, we often accept that culture’s beliefs as the one and only truth. We mistake the subjective judgments of one culture for objective reality. It is by having a diversity of experiences that we realize: most of what we thought was a fact was just an opinion, and reality has a wholly different character. Our opinions can then be chosen and assessed by how they impact our own experience, rather than by the erroneous notion that any of these judgments is the objective truth.
In order to keep our judgments in right relationship with reality, and our minds in right relationship with our judgments, it can be helpful to regularly expose ourselves to a variety of perspectives, so that we don’t attach too strongly to any one of them. When our vision is not obscured by erroneously believing that a subjective perspective is objective reality, it’s easier to keep objective reality in sight.
In fact, that very experience of sensing reality and having it in sight — that is the experience that heals. That is the experience that psychedelics, at their best, can give. They offer us a glimpse into that experience, but they are but one door through which to walk. Each door enters from a different perspective, and each can lead to experience at the center. Like the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita, like nature walks or spell-casting, like kirtan or kinhin or good ol’ fashion prayer, psychedelics are a means we can use to help us experience Union.
As we embrace their power in the mainstream, let us remember their purpose: they are not the cause or the goal. Remembering that any means is a means gets easier when we allow many different means into our experience. This is why I think it is crucial to eat a diverse spiritual diet, so to speak — so that each and all of the means to healing can be remembered as means, and the cause and goal of healing can be correctly understood, and experienced by us all.
Each of these tools is a doorway, and the point of a doorway is to walk through it, not worship it. When we believe there is only one doorway to an experience, we so often mistake the doorway for the place it leads to. Let’s not make that mistake this time around, and remember to keep ourselves open to a variety of doorways.
When you have multiple tools available, and you know how and when to use each of them, it gets much easier to build a house worth living in.