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Getting Off Your Face For Jesus

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 22, 2010

I wrote this about three years ago. A friend posted this Huxley quote, which has made me think a bit.

A similar conclusion will be reached by those whose philosophy is unduly “spiritual.” God, they will insist, is a spirit and is to be worshiped in spirit. Therefore an experience which is chemically conditioned cannot be an experience of the divine. But, one way or another, all our experiences are chemically conditioned, and if we imagine that some of them are purely “spiritual,” purely “intellectual,” purely “aesthetic,” it is merely because we have never troubled to investigate the internal chemical environment at the moment of their occurrence.

Mushroom Jesus


Furthermore, it is a matter of historical record that most contemplatives worked systematically to modify their body chemistry, with a view to creating the internal conditions favorable to spiritual insight. When they were not starving themselves into low blood sugar and a vitamin deficiency, or beating themselves into intoxication by histamine, adrenalin and decomposed protein, they were cultivating insomnia and praying for long periods in uncomfortable position in order to create the psycho-physical symptoms of stress. In the intervals they sang interminable psalms, thus increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the lungs and blood stream, or, if they were Orientals, they did breathing exercises to accomplish the same purpose.

Today we know how to lower the efficiency of the cerebral reducing valve by direct chemical action, and without the risk of inflicting serious damage on the psychophysical organism. … Knowing as he does (or at least as he can know, if he so desires) what are the chemical conditions of transcendental experience, the aspiring mystic should turn for technical help to the specialists-in pharmacology, in biochemistry, in physiology and neurology. And on their part, of course, the specialists (if any of them aspire to be genuine men of science and complete human beings) should turn, out of their respective pigeonholes, to the artist, the sibyl, the visionary, the mystic-all those, in a word who have had experience of the Other World and who know … what to do with the experience.

– Aldous Huxley ‘Heaven and Hell’

I am not at present sure if we have a spirit as such or where it interacts, but I agree with my friend that we are much more physical than many believe. It’s been one of my hobbyhorses for years that, if one accepts Y’shuan theology, Jesus was physically resurrected, now has some kind of body, and there will be a new earth in teh world to come.

I have only recently realised i am, by my practice, a supporter of drug-induced happy states. I must be, I drink alcohol, which is a drug. I also take caffeine, another drug, rather more than i used to. My alcohol use is sometimes with the intention of getting tipsy. (I stay away from getting really plastered, but it’s a slippery slope definition.) Which is not to say i therefore support ALL drug states.

I haven’t ever had what i consider a spiritual experience while drunk. And I am still of the opinion that drug experiences aren’t spiritual, although will ponder Huxley’s point that all our experiences are chemical-physical ones in the brain. Two of the practicing neopagans i know are adamant that drug experiences are not spiritual experiences, and i’ve already quoted a buddhist monk saying the same thing.

I am wondering if drugs could be a gateway to the spirit, but we are not equipped to handle them in a discerning way, much like we are not equipped to handle encounters with other spirits well, if they exist. (See http://www.christian-thinktank.com/sh6end.html and http://www.christian-thinktank.com/eyesopen.html for what i think are insightful discussions of this topic)

What do you think?
See also my Buddha and Drugs.

12 Responses to “Getting Off Your Face For Jesus”

  1. SugarPop said

    Some say that “spirits” of the alcoholic variety are thusly named because of the way they mess with your spirit. Not sure what I think about that.

    And from the depths of Scotland, November 2009, comes this…

  2. The Agnostic Pentecostal said

    This is a very interesting post. Here’s an example of what it looks like when people supposedly get literally plastered in the spirit…without actual drugs but, if we take Huxley’s perspective, possibly by creating their own internal chemical cocktail via whatever their methodology may be…

    (And if you’re interested, here was one of my recent posts from another perspective on the topic: http://theagnosticpentecostal.com/2010/02/08/two-ways-to-use-a-drug/ )

  3. Iain said

    Richard Dawkins cited a study in one of his books (The God Delusion, perhaps?) where they gave the participants peyote (or at least, the chemical involved). A certain percentage of them said that the ensuing experience was the most powerful religious experience that they had ever experienced and a fraction of them concluded that this experience was a genuine experience of the divine.
    I think Huxley used peyote, I can’t remember now. I had read all about that about a year back when I was in the midst of a cognitive science course and was interested in the neurochemical aspects religious experiences.

    Newberg and Waldman have a book called ‘How God Changes Your Brain’, which I own and have read half of. If you are interested in further analysis of the brain-side of religious experiences then I recommend anything by Newberg.

    I’m too conservatively weak minded and lacking in courage to bring myself to experiment with the “harder” drugs associated with what some consider to be full-on religious experiences. Alcohol and caffeine are my staple, but I can’t say they contribute to that issue.

    I am extremely curious about peyote and its ilk, though, and a small part of me wishes I knew what they experience while under its effects.

    Terence McKenna has a huge following in the spiritual side of psychedelics. I consider him to be largely too trippy to take him seriously as any kind of guru, but I would recommend you check out his website (I think he has one) or some videos by him:

    • Iain, your faithfulness in commenting amazes me 🙂

      Like you, I was really reticent about trying stuff. Since writing this post I concluded that morally drugs were ok, which was the main thing stopping me from trying them.

      I’ve tried marijuana several times and LSD once. The LSD experience was euphoric and fun, but also really not great, particularly in the comedown. If you do ever try these, only do it with experienced and sympathetic people. Even then, it’s no guarantee, as my one trip attested.

      Others tell me that mushrooms are less abrubt in their effects. I have a spiritual Canadian friend who is only into ‘natural’ drugs, which would include marijuana, shrooms and peyote.

      I haven’t done anything of that nature for some time, and the last time I did weed I threw up, which is not uncommon. It’s not all good all the time, and certainly not what I would call spiritual, merely a different form of drunk. Buyer beware.

      • NB: I’m thinking there would be some kind of argument along the lines of “just because some things can mimic spiritual experiences doesn’t mean that spiritual experiences in themselves aren’t real” & also the stuff on “ALL experiences have locii in our physical brain, so whoop-de-doo” 😉

      • Iain said

        > Iain, your faithfulness in commenting amazes me 🙂

        Haha, well I’m afraid that as long as you keep having interesting posts then I’ll keep posting. Or unless I get busy with work!

        I don’t know you personally (except, admittedly, a blog can be somewhat personal when sharing inner thoughts), but I can only guess that we share quite a lot of interests. A great majority of your posts seem to overlap with my own interests or thoughts. That’s cool 🙂

        I’ve tried marijuana, too. I tried it once while drinking alcohol and decided that the only accurate way to know what experience was alcohol and what was weed was by trying it again a second time sober. I wasn’t that impressed, to be honest. I haven’t bothered using it since.

        > “just because some things can mimic spiritual experiences doesn’t mean that spiritual experiences in themselves aren’t real” & also the stuff on “ALL experiences have locii in our physical brain, so whoop-de-doo”

        Yes, I have had both of those thoughts. Newberg’s material and other neurological studies on religious experiences can often be overdone in what they imply (usually by the general population rather than by more careful philosophers or psychologists). The fact that some external activity correlates with a brain state doesn’t really tell us whether a “spiritual” experience is genuine or not. I’d be worried if a person could do ANYTHING with no brain states. That would make them dead, presumably. 😉
        Newberg doesn’t go that far, however, as his interest is to merely analyse what happens. He does some interesting work on the study of long-term, experienced meditators and his results show that meditation makes significant changes in the brain leading to the ability to actually experience different things e.g. loss of sense of self, etc.

        As for psychedelics being religious experiences? Well, we can’t say they are and we can’t say they aren’t. They are just experiences that people have. When we do things, or consume chemicals, our brains do things too. I might fall on the skeptical side of things with respect to that, but what is it to me if somebody else imbues it with a greater sense of profundity? Honestly, good for them.

        • > As for psychedelics being religious experiences? Well, we can’t say they are and we can’t say they aren’t.

          I think the people I mentioned (and I myself, perhaps) would say they’ve experienced both and make a distinction between spiritual experiences and drug experiences. Though I imagine a really profound drug experience could certainly ‘seem’ religious.

          TBH, the ‘best’ experiences of marijuana for me have been weed + alcohol. That makes it really “wow”, but getting the balance right I haven’t worked out, and my vomiting experience kinda made me less keen. Remember, I am fairly inexperienced. I guess we should really be talking about this offline 😉 I’m making this up, officer.

        • Iain said

          Haha, I had the same thought when I posted before. I guess I’m screwed if I try to run for U.S. President. (although, not if you examine W and Obama’s history…)

          p.s. if you have Skype I’m currently trying to update my friend list. I’ve decided to get with the times and use this new fandangled Inter-Tubes thing to its maximum potential.

    • BTW, I’ve seen a couple of Terrence McKenna or Timothy Leary vids. Can’t remember which. It was certainly trippy.

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