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: http://tinyurl.com/3texsfo.
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?