Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Psychedelic Experience

First, I got quoted by a Huffington Post writer about Kalachakra, a big feel-good "Buddhist" festival going on right now in Washington DC. Here's the article:

I just returned from spending four days at Starwood, a pagan festival held in the Wisteria campgrounds in Pomeroy, Ohio. They had wifi there, which surprised me. But I was there to present two workshops and also to gather some data of my own, so I didn't spend much time on the web.

This festival is held by a group called A.C.E., the Association for Consciousness Exploration. Near as I can tell from simply walking around, watching and listening (and not doing any in depth research at all), ACE appears to be a group of older hippie guys who did a lot of their exploration of consciousness back in the sixties and seventies through ingesting large amounts of psychedelic substances. Some seem to have moved on to other things. Some have given up the drugs as their main form of exploration and now just smoke a little weed to get mellow. Others are still pretty deeply committed to so-called "entheogens" as a means of accessing so-called "higher states of consciousness."

Anyone who has read my book Hardcore Zen or, indeed, spent much time reading this blog knows already that I am not a great champion of the use of drugs as a means of spiritual advancement. I don't feel bad about not being a convenient go-to guy for encouragement to pollute the body/mind with toxic substances in order to achieve great awakenings at a cheap price. There are already plenty of people out there who advocate that.

While I was at Starwood, I was getting mightily annoyed by all the people out there who were deluding themselves and others into believing that a cheap dose of acid, 'shrooms, peyote, "molly" or whatever was going to get them to a higher spiritual plane. So I logged on to facebook and I wrote:

Drug users annoy the fuck out of me. Losers.

This received 49 "like" votes and has so far gathered 96 comments, the most recent of which showed up just six hours ago even though the status update appeared around 36 hours ago (if my barely adequate math skills are correct). I have no reason to believe the comments have stopped completely yet.

This is how I felt at midnight after spending several hours around some really energetic, intelligent, creative and fun kids who were loading themselves to the gills on psychoactive substances. Many of these substances appear to have been provided by older folks in the community who believed they were helping these young folks explore the frontiers of human consciousness or some such thing. Again, this is just my "eyeball" observation and is not based on in-depth research into the source of the drugs they were using. It was certainly clear that some of the older folks were very much encouraging this behavior even if they were not directly contributing to it.

These young stoned kids were really nice people, by the way. They went out of their way to generously provide free food for anyone who showed up at their campsite. And their food was way better than the overpriced stuff down at the main cafe on site. So I ate a lot of it.

I found myself becoming extremely fond of these folks. They were definitely a lot more fun to hang around with than just about anyone else at Starwood. They seemed to be asking questions rather than trying to revisit their glory days or wallow in a sea of bad cliches and dull role-playing games.

And yet they were destroying the very things that made them like that by numbing themselves to the real world with dangerous drugs. Moreover the very people who should have known better and should have been guiding them away from that kind of behavior were, instead, encouraging it.

I am not a fan of drugs. Never will be. And that makes some people really mad. I'm guessing these people feel like if they could convert me to their way of thinking it would be a double delicious coup. Getting someone like me to say drugs were The Way would count way more than getting Terrance McKenna to say it for the 30,000th time. But it's not going to happen.

At the same time, I am a huge, huge fan of much of the drug-influenced art, music and writing of the sixties and seventies. While I was at that campsite I sat and read most of the book The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (aka Baba Ram Dass, later of Be Here Now fame). It's a book about the authors' deeply mistaken reading of the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a guide for the drug taking experience. It is also the inspiration for The Beatles marvelous song Tomorrow Never Knows.

It's a pretty cool book. I even went on-line and ordered a copy for myself. The fact that it's dead wrong doesn't make it any less cool. But, folks, that book is as old as I am. We're both copyrighted the same year! The brave new world Leary and Alpert envisioned would come about in the 21st century (aka now) when everybody tuned in, turned on and dropped out never happened.

Drugs did not make everybody become beautiful and loving and spiritual aware. Instead they led to death and crime and waste. Lots of my friends were bright young consciousness explorers when they were the age these kids I hung out with are now. Some cleaned up, some became waste cases, a few are dead.

It was one thing to believe in 1964 that a brave new tripped out age was about to dawn. It's quite another to still believe that now, having seen what the last 47 years have shown us about where that path leads.

If you want some examples, how about Jimi Hendrix, Sid Vicious, Syd Barrett, John Entwistle, Kurt Cobain... Do I really need to get so cliched with this? Come on now.

A number of people on my Facebook page took me to task for what they saw as a violation of "Right Speech." Listen. Right Speech isn't about being meek and mild and only telling people what they want to hear. Right Speech is saying what needs saying when it needs saying. Any speech that supports the use of drugs as a means to really get to know yourself is bullshit. Speech that softens the real hit some people need to get that message is useless.

You can comment all you want, but you won't change my mind about drugs. You will always and forever be wrong if you try to equate true spirituality with frying your brain on chemicals (even if they grow inside cacti and fungi). Put it this way, if you want me to say drugs are cool, you're gonna lose. And what would that make you?


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Anonymous said...

I love getting high and gaining enlightenment by reading Brad Warner's words.

Anonymous said...

Why not just quote yr favorite RA Swinelein passages, Nixon-wiccans

nada mas que..blanca basura

Anonymous said...

Crowley probably needed to keep up beastly appearances to sell his books. Who knows what he was really like. He might have been the Victorian version of Brad, a guy who really wanted to be a pop-star.

anonymous anonymous said...

I love it when mysterion uses his groovy 60's beatnik persona Pretaville.. It's hilarious.

Harry said...

You might be on to something there, anon:


...Milo Duquette wrote in his 1993 work The Magick of Aleister Crowley that:

"Crowley clothed many of his teachings in the thin veil of sensational titillation. By doing so he assured himself that one, his works would only be appreciated by the few individuals capable of doing so, and two, his works would continue to generate interest and be published by and for the benefit of both his admirers and his enemies long after death. He did not—I repeat not—perform or advocate human sacrifice. He was often guilty, however, of the crime of poor judgment. Like all of us, Crowley had many flaws and shortcomings..."


from wikipedia.

Brad has, however, yet to make a clear statement on human sacrifice.


Sir Eggs N. Bacon said...

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Awakened Yeti said...

"do what thou wilt" was actually stolen by crowley, from a book called Gargantua and Pantagruel, written by a man named François Rabelais

but why the hell should we let facts stand in the way of our endless chatter?


Anonymous said...

Nixon? Ha! You're stuck in the distant past mysti, You're fooling no one.

Anonymous said...

"but why the hell should we let facts stand in the way of our endless chatter?"

You never did mysti, you never did.

Harry said...

Readers, friends, if you turn these pages
Put your prejudice aside,
For, really, there's nothing here that's outrageous,
Nothing sick, or bad — or contagious.
Not that I sit here glowing with pride
For my book: all you'll find is laughter:
That's all the glory my heart is after,
Seeing how sorrow eats you, defeats you.
I'd rather write about laughing than crying,
For laughter makes men human, and courageous.


Trans. of intro to Gargantua and Pantagruel.

10101001 said...

Mysterion always uses his name and links to his site, Nixon-wicca-hick. So yr just lying and trolling, as per usual, mason-trash. Not to say trying to bully people

Yes Crowley had read Rabelais. How many of the wicca-hicks here have? I wager a ...null set

That said AC was a creepy mutha-f-er and a charlatan like 99% of occultists, including the pseudo-scientific types (L-Ron, Swinelein, RA Wilson, Leary,etc) But he did play a mean game of chess.

anonymous anonymous said...

The following selection from Gargantua and Pantagruel (written 1532-1542), contains a description of life at an imaginary monastery, the abbey of Thélème, whose rules are quite different from those of the medieval monastery.

The Rules According to Which the Thélèmites Lived

All their life was regulated not by laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their free will and pleasure. They rose from bed when they pleased, and drank, ate, worked, and slept when the fancy seized them. Nobody woke them; nobody compelled them to either eat or to drink, or to do anything else whatsoever. So it was that Gargantua had established it. In their rules there was only one clause:


Nice one mysterion!

Awakened Yeti said...

should we be impressed by the fact that you cant discern individual minds from your own shadow due to its collective hatred?

anonymous anonymous said...

OK Professor Marvel, whatever you say. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain right?

You don't have to keep doing this mysterion. You can come out. Gniz never thought you'd take him up on his challenge. And in fact, you didn't so why pretend?

Corpse of L-BongRon Hubblard said...

mysterion's not here.

nor is the booooodha, nor.....witty decadent english poets.

just ...wicca-hicks. texan baptist-zionists on dope. whoop de doo--maybe like go back to the site, basura--they'd even like you Yetistein.

Anonymous said...

Haha.. Ok..mysti.. Whatever.. You fooled us all sho-nuff!

10101001 said...

kill mormons, yeti, and their allies. Or at least ...sedate them in masse--before they get you.

Even Uncle Crowley would agree with that.

Anonymous said...

The good thing for you is that you can post more than ever now. And it's really been quite entertaining if not more than a little strange. You have the energy of a 60 year old!

up Anne Romney's butt said...

Mysti's not here, Anny hick--more like yr a mormon pink sneaking over from the log cabin for Romney site. Save yr pink-bully tactics for them, puto

Anonymous said...

All right then M.. I'll leave you to your fun games. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

fuck you, Romney pink

Anonymous said...

No need to get angry M. By the way, no one under the age of 70 uses the word hick. It kinda dates you. I'm just saying.

Anonymous said...

mysti's not here, mormon pinkboy.

but yr mama izz

Anonymous said...

Holy Shit!

Anonymous said...


anonymous anonymous said...

Its not Mysterion, its Ran having yet another psychotic breakdown.

Anonymous said...

Just when you think mysterion can't sink any lower, he sincerely flatters anonymous anonymous by pretending to be him. Thank you M. This is truly an honor!

Anonymous said...

I have never used psychedelics, weed, and dont feel I missed anything.

What I do find interesting is that when many 'psychonauts' learn that I never used the stuff, they have tried hard to win me over, prosyltizing.

This is what I find strange:

*My not using the stuff, leaves more of it available for those who want it.

*If they are so convinced of the benefits, why waste their time on a non user like me--its as though they're the ones who have doubts and feel they have to suppress thier doubts by trying to win over a nonuser.

Brad made a good point too when years back he noted that if one uses drugs and gets to those supposedly higher states of consciousness, the drug user needs to be looked after by a care provider to keep the druggie from taking risks.

And, one wakes up from the trip feeling cruddy and off kilter because its skewed one's body chemistry.

No thanks. One doesnt need any recovery period from zazen, and zazen is free.

And there's no such thing as a good or a bad 'sit' anyway...

Ted Bundy's Bodhi-treeee said...

Colder is cooler, as Father Moroni foretold

chakra37 said...

Hi Brad - We were there (at Starwood) and we are also NOT into drugs - used to be way back when but we can now be way more intense without - although we do admit to a bit of wine sipping. I think if someone wants to trip that it would be better for them (and us) if they would do it under controlled conditions away from a public venue - even if the def of public is quite unusual as it was.
The multi-sensory overload and sound pollution (although nice at times)makes me long for quiet. The birds and frogs and even the rhythm of someone snoring can be better than continuous electronic music. Ear plugs did help - also overpriced. Too much fake bliss (psychelic variety) not enough magick for me. BTW Mt. Equity was the place in PA.

Sofan said...

Very entertaining post. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

anonymous anonymous said...

Is it just me or does it seem like mysterion is.. Bat-Shit Crazy? I know he thinks he's an artist with his groovy comments and all but I think he needs to talk to someone. Brad???

Adolph and Eva 4-evah said...


needs some-body.......

somebody to Wuv

temple of the Iguana said...


why the preoccupation with mysterion? Could it be mysti's fairly authentic devotion to the...dharma (ie, not the bogus whitey-wicca BS) bothers the living fuck out of yr dyslexic mormon-WASP reptile mind? yeah something like that. Yr not even an interesting lizard for that mattter, snitch

Anonymous said...

Everything Is In Motion

The most radical philosophical move, the one that changed the way I approach everything, was to say: everything is in motion. This one move radically recasts knowledge, being, ethics, and selfhood.

Affect as Knowledge

Nietzsche's Ecce Homo and the Affirmation of this Life

Bound Infinity

Nietzsche's Will to Power

Anonymous said...

"That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling ‘consciousness expansion’ without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him too seriously . . . All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours, too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped to create . . . a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody — or at least some force — is tending the Light at the end of the tunnel." ~ Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 1971

Awakened Yeti said...

be leary of timothy, clear light and all that.. if you want light go stare at the sun - now, that boy dont know crap

if you wanna know paradise, you wanna know hell.. wanna drink that cool clear liquor? better dig a little deeper in the well, my friend

Skull island said...

wow Bubba-troll discovers Nietzsche-lite for fratboy flunkies

he'll probably try to sneak in some mein kampf later.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE that Brad opened up this discussion. Despite being part of the older generation who (sometimes) used drugs to open up frame of reference, I agree with Brad. If I had been wiser and able to foresee where what it would lead to, I would not have done it.

Anonymous said...

Being open minded is not being an idiot. Those drug infested cool and trendy new age idiots and pagans are perverting the sacred on the alter of the ego - at base level they are no different than Dick Cheney.

Anonymous said...

It comes down to a the simplest of concepts. If you do drugs the mind is seeking liberation. True liberation will never come on drugs; period. If you have courage then seek true liberation. We need the courage as big as our difficulties to flourish in this world.

People who do drugs are suffering; period. The more they do the more they suffer yet they are deluded enough to believe they are solving the problem.

Awakened Yeti said...

oooooh! you logged onto facebook?!!

thats fucking HARDCORE, dude!


adamas said...

If all is self and self is empty, then how can anything be a pollution to the body. The pollution thing comes out of a rather dualistic view that the body and anything one puts into it are inherently different. I come from the dzogchen view that everything is pure and perfect from the start not one thing is out of place or not exactly as it should be. Our suffering comes out of desire or aversion to an outcome we do not like, but it just is and we can either trash the moment by not liking it or accept it and see the inherent purity in it and then suffering ceases to exist. i believe the combination of substances and dharma is incredibly powerful but not for everyone. Those of the left hand path who are willing to engage powerful stimuli to facilitate their path through the six realms can benefit enormously from substances but can also burn out. It is really just a question of knowing what works for you and what doesn't. Taking substances consciously to facilitate my path towards complete liberation is definately in my nature but I do not miss them if I do not have them either. You do not put a chainsaw in the hands of a child, but in the hands of a lumberjack it can build houses.

To fearlessly use anything and everything for me is the path as since all is self what is there to fear. I have definatley become smarter through my drug use as it is not the number of neurons one has but the way they are connected which constitutes genius. The idea of frying your brain is quite simply infantile, as if one keeps it at a delicate simmer it works better than when it is cold. I am not advocating free range drug use but additive drug use to deepen the areas one can get to in conjunction with the dharma, then it becomes very powerful indeed. My experience of enlightenment is that in order to cross to the island of jewels one needs to drive the boat with everything one has as the ego is perpetually reforming. What can i say, it works for me, and i would just like to leave it open to peoples personal choice to allow them to make their own informed decisions to use or not use substances to propel them to the other side. It does not matter how one gets there as long as one gets there and STAYS THERE.
For more detail on my view check out my book at


Jurz said...

I hope Brad Warner realizes he only speaks for the psychedelic pop culture, those who still believe that taking these substances will automatically grant you a one way ticket to nirvana. of course this is a misconception. anyone that truly is interested in the history of human contact with psychedelics/entheogens should know that shamans take years to discipline their students. current psychedelic pop culture underestimates whatever they are messing with and brad warner is so too. just like meditation practice involves discipline and guidance, the shamans way does so too. unfortunately their knowledge is a lot more obscure than for example zen praxis is. and both ways are laden with fools that pretend to know something special.

Unknown said...

i am surrounded by drug abusers in my daily life/interactions. Especially with my bandmates, who seem to favor 'entheogenic ideas' concerning personal or 'spiritual' growth of whatever stripe. it is a refreshing form of concentration for sure to play music, and engage the action of the present moment without distractions. at a certain point in the life cycle (the thirties it seems) a person should wake up and smell the truth that altered states via drug experiences have a diminishing return, and a confused static is the result from that type of punishment to the brain...

Netlorn said...

"You can comment all you want, but you won't change my mind about drugs. You will always and forever be wrong if you try to equate true spirituality with frying your brain on chemicals (even if they grow inside cacti and fungi). Put it this way, if you want me to say drugs are cool, you're gonna lose. And what would that make you?"


Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like ... your opinion, man.

Ralph-Michael Chiaia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ralph-Michael Chiaia said...

Awesome article and interesting comments. Spirituality is an ever flowing thing like a river or a waterfall. Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna are the best psychedelic masters in out culture. If you go south you have Maria Sabina of Oaxaca, Mexico -- another giant of hallucinogenics. There's a long part about psychedelics in Latin America in my book Glyphic. Click my link if you want to learn more about it (

Anonymous said...

Your disparaging of psychedelic drug use shows your ignorance of true religion and its history.

Psychedelic drugs are the origin and ongoing wellspring of religion. Anything else is snake oil.

Start here:

Anonymous said...

What an ignorant idiot you are......

I know that it may sound rude and insulting, but, unfortunately, in this particular case this is nothing more than just an observation. This is not even the question of your views per se but only of your argumentation.

The only thing that you seem to be capable of doing is mechanically repeating the cliches and platitudes that we normally hear from "Just Say No" camp, and doing so in a parrot-like fashion while being totally ignorant of the topic you are trying to speak about(and even to criticise).

>I am not a fan of drugs. Never will be. And that makes some people really mad. I'm guessing >these people feel like if they could convert me to their way of thinking it would be a double >delicious coup.

You are getting it all wrong....

No one is trying to "convert" you to anything. The only reason why people are pissed off about you is because you are trying to criticise something that you very obviously have ABSOLUTELY no clue about, let alone personal experience with. When people see an ignorant fool who is trying to teach them how to live their know,it may be really,really annoying and irritating. This is the only reason why you get a negative feedback.

Anonymous said...

What an ignorant idiot you are......

> If you want some examples, how about Jimi Hendrix, Sid Vicious, Syd Barrett, John Entwistle, > Kurt Cobain...

Sorry, but how is this "argument" related to the topic you are trying to speak about? Let's face it - all above mentioned musicians (apart from Syd Barrett, who suffered from schizophrenia ) abused heroin,cocaine, amphetamine, barbiturates and all other stuff that is associated with anything but self-exploration. The only thing that above mentioned substances may possibly have in common with entheogens like psilocybin, LSD, DMT, etc is that, from Mr.Ignorant's perspective, they are all "dangerous drugs". This is where their "similarities" end.

In terms of stupidity, mentioning these musicians in context of this discussion is pretty much the same thing as speaking about Charles Manson or Guyana mass suicide in context of discussing Zen Buddhism while warning people about "the dangers of any spiritual practice other than mainstream Christianity" (no, I am not making it up -after all, Mr.Ignorant is always willing and ready to warn us about the "dangers" of anything that his tiny brain cannot grasp, is not he)

>And yet they were destroying the very things that made them like that by numbing themselves to > the real world with dangerous drugs

Yet another classical platitude of"Just Say No"camp....

The very use of the term "numbing" in context of speaking about psychedelics says volumes about your "knowledge" of the topic you are trying to speak about. Sorry, but you sound like a guy who assumes the role of a music critic despite his congenital deafness. I'll tell you the secret - the worst experience you may possibly have in your life is feeling a physical pain while tripping, because psychedelics tend to amplify the pain (as well as other bodily sensations) orders of magnitude, rather than numbing it down,i.e. the way you seem to believe.

>Drugs did not make everybody become beautiful and loving and spiritual aware. Instead they led >to death and crime and waste.

Of course, mushrooms and acid "led to death and crime and waste". What else are you trying to scare us with, Mr.Ignorant?

Surely psychedelics have their own very real and serious dangers, and, hence, have to be treated with HUGE respect. Furthermore, saying that every trip leads you to a psychological/spiritual/intellectual breakthrough would be a GROSS exaggeration as well.
After all, these substances are nothing more than very potent and powerful tools of self-exploration. The final result depends on the user's attitudes before,during and after the trip( for example,loading yourself with the information that you want to investigate in the days preceding the trip; courage and willingness to face unpleasant and difficult issues that may arise during the trip, no matter how tempting avoiding them may be; integrating the experience in the days and weeks after the trip; etc,etc,etc).

However, all this is totally unrelated to the ignorant nonsense that you are trying to spread..

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