by Rose Man
When I was about 9 years old, I read Autobiography of A Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, which includes a chapter entitled, “An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness.” That chapter (and book) can be read online here:
In my opinion, that contains the premier first-person description of a supremely exalted mystical state. The description is similar to a trip report, including 360 degree vision, consciousness expansion to the reaches of space, and a defocused universal identity.
In an unusual development for a 9-year-old, I began to hanker for such a state and I believed that I could achieve it by the practice of yoga. My parents were unconvinced and would not give me permission to take the lessons that Yogananda developed, which are available from the organization he founded. Parental permission is required for students under 18. If I had got those lessons then, I might never have taken psychedelics.
In 1960, no one could’ve foreseen the psychedelic upheaval that was to happen just a few short years later. Incredibly (by today’s viewpoint), Timothy Leary would be on talk shows promoting LSD and Bob Hope was telling LSD jokes (and watching to see how the audience would react). Seeing Leary and hearing about the LSD experience, I thought that this seemed similar to the yoga experience and all you had to do was take a pill. This was an idea easy of uptake because, in the ’60s, all progress was seen positively and it was fully expectable to the people of the day that modern science would put yoga experiences (or anything else) into a pill. We had laughable expectations in those days but not as laughable as the ones we have today.
So I took LSD 25 times when it was legal. Before the hysteria. Before anybody said anything bad about it. Before I ever got drunk. 🙂 So I well knew that LSD had value, before the hysteria began (and endures even to this day).
As I expected, these experiences served to reinforce my outlook on life; i.e., by affirming the value of the mystical states induced by yoga. At the time, I knew, as I suppose we _all_ knew, that the achievement of those states needed to be achieved without recourse to anything outside oneself, using one’s own resources, properly applied. Useful and attractive as a pill may be, it wears off. Enlightenment is only achieved using your own resources. Perhaps a pill can give a glimpse of what that might be, but that is not, strictly speaking, an achievement. Really, cosmic consciousness is a matter between you and God; not you, God and your dealer. Even your guru leaves it to you and God, while offering as much help as he may.
I know that a lot of people bristle at the guru concept but really, it’s like this: If you need to get from Miami to Seattle, ASK SOMEONE WHO KNOWS THE WAY! It’s SO sensible! Otherwise, you’re going to spend an unbelievable amount of time not getting there and eventually will come to believe that Seattle is some non-existent city in the clouds with a long grey beard and that people only try to convince you of its existence in order to serve their own agenda. Know what I mean? What’s worse, you may come to consider that all persons who tell you that Seattle is a real place are mentally ill, deluding themselves, wishful thinkers, etc. If only you had taken directions at the outset! How different things would have been.
During the psychedelic heyday of the ’60s, EVERYBODY was taking them. It seemed that everyone had to know the answers to the eternal questions: What is this world? What is reality? Who am I (are we)? Where am/are I/we going? And everybody seemingly needed to see just how much shamanic experience was appropriate for their lifescript. Even those people who adamantly refused to take them had to listen to trip reports and philosophical speculation from all the others around them who _were_ taking them. That’s just the way things were at that time. Psychedelics were wall-to-wall; and up the walls and across the ceiling. Psychedelics totally transformed all the arts during that period, especially popular music. After 65 years of two and a half minute pop songs, music had morphed into 45-minute instrumental melt-downs. Woo hoo!
I am the first to admit that my outlook on life is unusual. 😀 But only in degree. So perhaps I should move from my outlook to my insights from this time (and the intervening years). These are probably more germane and of more value to more people.
I think that there are two principal and urgent issues that need to be addressed by society at large, before we enumerate and chase down a lot of other smaller ones:
1) FACE REALITY
Religious/philosophical/shamanic/mystical inquiries, aspirations and practices are a natural and intrinsic part of human life and, by extension, an inescapable fact of all societies. Any society that attempts to eliminate them will not only lose, it will fail entirely and be supplanted by one that allows humankind to be fully human. Virtually all societies, except our own, respect their shamans. We need to de-institutionalize the phobia. Hey, it’s our collective mental health as a society we’re talking about here.
2) DO THE WORK
The work needs to be done to discover just how these substances can be effectively employed to improve the lives of whole, integral persons, whether those improvements are of a physical, psychological or metaphysical nature. The sad fact is this: The hysteria of the past short-circuited all the research and put the substances into a legal limbo. Two entire generations (and how many graduating classes?) of potential researchers have had to content themselves with studying other things simply because the legal limbo made it too hard to undertake the work. People who really wanted to do these studies have had to do less fulfilling work instead. Here we’re talking about wasted resources and missed opportunities.
Let’s ask someone who knows the way. Let’s become the people who know the way.