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Intoxication and Religious Experience

 
 
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 05:03 am
Many scholars, teachers, clerics, and ordinary people claim that, through some means of intoxication, they can experience/have experienced the sort of religious experiences described by the major faith traditions. First, let me clarify intoxication - I mean the use of any mind altering substances, psycoblin, marijuana, MDMA, LSD, peyote, alcohol, cocaine, ect. Many psychoactive substances play a significant role in faith traditions. Marijuana and peyote are typical examples. In the sixties and seventies, many esteemed thinkers claimed that LSD has spiritual benefits.

I maintain that one would not be able to know, even for himself, that a supposed religious experience was indeed such a thing while intoxicated to a significant degree (which is why I have ignored caffeine, nicotine and other drugs not usually used to such an extent). Religious experience is something that, by nature, cannot be proven to an individual who did not have said experience. Thus, only the agent who had the experience has any grounds to establish the validity (for himself, though, such an experience seems to be significant only to him) of the experience. How can someone, who's mind is significantly altered by an intoxicating substance, be able to tell the difference between the drug and the divine?

Having made some use of such substances, and having had experiences that, at the time, seemed to be spiritual in nature, I find myself to be in the minority with those who are also experienced with such substances. I have had such experiences (in order from most significant to least) with: LSD, peyote, psyclobin, a combination of cocaine and alcohol, and marijuana. Through these experiences, it seems to me that supposedly religious experiences have an extreme limit on their validity. While my objection from the above paragraph remains, I would like to say that I find room for some spiritual use - in that, through using such substances, a student can easily see that reality can be experienced in many different ways. Having seem this through the use of, for example, marijuana, one might be more inclined to recognized that each individual has uniquely individual perceptions of any given event. Past such a use as this, I can find no spiritual value in psychoactive substances.
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molok69
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 05:46 am
@Didymos Thomas,
I have some experience with `mind-altering` drugs, and have had some `strange` experiences, but I can`t say that they where religious. Religious experiences may be the result of a psychosis triggered by the drugs, and in a psychosis you can not tell what is real or not.

I find a discussion concerning the use of such drugs very interesting!
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 10:15 am
@molok69,
molok69 wrote:
I have some experience with `mind-altering` drugs, and have had some `strange` experiences, but I can`t say that they where religious. Religious experiences may be the result of a psychosis triggered by the drugs, and in a psychosis you can not tell what is real or not.

I find a discussion concerning the use of such drugs very interesting!


molok69,Smile

Smile I think the idea of intoxication needs to be expanded upon, for it is my belief that intoxication can result from an idea, certainly most religious beliefs must be some form of intoxication. I say that because the ideas introduced to a given population often shows the desired effect, a delusional belief in another world, a devalueing of this world in favour of this imagined world------Christianity the first nihilistic tradition? Remember the old saying you are what you eat, there is an element of truth right, so it is true of anything you consume, intoxication comes in many forms, perhaps what you believe is nothing more than the ideas you have become intoxicated with. Your thoughts----------the drinks are on the house!!
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 05:37 pm
@boagie,
I wasn't using intoxication in some symbolic fashion - I mean actual intoxication; being drunk, high, whatever.

Also, boagie, you make a great many statements that show a great deal of bias towards religion. I hope this is not the mistake of criticizing the whole of a population based upon the actions and thoughts of a portion of that population. I know you can do better.
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 06:02 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
I wasn't using intoxication in some symbolic fashion - I mean actual intoxication; being drunk, high, whatever.

Also, boagie, you make a great many statements that show a great deal of bias towards religion. I hope this is not the mistake of criticizing the whole of a population based upon the actions and thoughts of a portion of that population. I know you can do better.


Didymos Thomas,Smile

Smile I did not intend to imply the use of the term intoxication to be limited to the symbolic. About my bias against religion, yes indeed, no mistake there on your part. Criticizing must be done in general when we are speaking of a generality such a Christianity. I assume somewhere there are exceptions to the rule. "I know you can do better." Well, thanks much, but I think I am doing fine!!
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 06:06 pm
@boagie,
Quote:
I did not intend to imply the use of the term intoxication to be limited to the symbolic. About my bias against religion, yes indeed, no mistake there on your part. Criticizing must be done in general when we are speaking of a generality such a Christianity. I assume somewhere there are exceptions to the rule. "I know you can do better." Well, thanks much, but I think I am doing fine!!


So, because some Christians do X, all Christians are guilty of X? As I said, you can do better.
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 06:14 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
So, because some Christians do X, all Christians are guilty of X? As I said, you can do better.


Didymos Thomas,

There are two sides to most coins no matter how disappointing you might find that-----------pray for me!Wink Christianity is an institution I do not intend to deal with the characteristic of a billion forms of Christianity, a billion individuals. In essence the kind of mentality involved in the faith of Christians takes in many religions.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 07:27 pm
@boagie,
You are still making blanket generalizations about a wide variety of conflicting view points based on only a portion of those particular view points. Yes, there are twi sides to each coin, and many more sides to Christianity. If you do not intend to deal with the variety of viewpoints, that is fine; but instead you have dealt with them - you have ignored the variety, and insist on pretneding that such variety does not exist.

Philosophy requires that we be willing to examine issues that complicate our subjects.
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 08:01 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
You are still making blanket generalizations about a wide variety of conflicting view points based on only a portion of those particular view points. Yes, there are twi sides to each coin, and many more sides to Christianity. If you do not intend to deal with the variety of viewpoints, that is fine; but instead you have dealt with them - you have ignored the variety, and insist on pretneding that such variety does not exist.

Philosophy requires that we be willing to examine issues that complicate our subjects.


Didymos Thomas,Smile

Smile I get the idea you want to play the victum, the majority playing victum is a real bore. Actually I would not have anything against Christianity if it had not turn itself into a political animal. I do not have any respect for Christianity, and I would just a soon not know of its existence, but as a political force it has made sure I cannot ignore it. Alright, you know I have no respect for Christianity, what is the particular you wish to have considered? Now don't pout, I am all ears!
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 08:49 pm
@boagie,
Victim? Hardly. I have enough intellectual honesty to be fair to other view points.

You continue to judge an entire population based upon but a portion of that population. Yes, the politization of the church is horrendous - Christians have caused many problems; however, whatever issues you might have, whatever issues I might have, with some Christians, there is no reason to condemn all of Christians.

I am sorry if you do not have the intellectual integrity, constitution or interest to honestly consider topics such as this. We can criticize Christianity all day - I'll join you, and I'll bet that our we share most of our criticism of Christianity.

Personally, I have not asked you to consider any particular opinion that might be related to Christianity - other than the opinion you have presented: "Criticizing must be done in general when we are speaking of a generality such a Christianity."
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 09:05 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Victim? Hardly. I have enough intellectual honesty to be fair to other view points.

You continue to judge an entire population based upon but a portion of that population. Yes, the politization of the church is horrendous - Christians have caused many problems; however, whatever issues you might have, whatever issues I might have, with some Christians, there is no reason to condemn all of Christians.

I am sorry if you do not have the intellectual integrity, constitution or interest to honestly consider topics such as this. We can criticize Christianity all day - I'll join you, and I'll bet that our we share most of our criticism of Christianity.

Personally, I have not asked you to consider any particular opinion that might be related to Christianity - other than the opinion you have presented: "Criticizing must be done in general when we are speaking of a generality such a Christianity."


Didymos Thomas,Smile

Smile I do not know how much clearer I can make this, the basic stories of the bible,the garden of eden, walking on water, talking serpents, the whole fantasy. If someone tells in this day and age that they believe this stuff literally, they instantly lose my respect. You are quite good at trying to manipulate but I really do not need you approval. If you can deal with the fact I do not hold Christianity in high reguard, and you still wish to dialogue, then we have a communication going, if not, its been nice!
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 09:12 pm
@boagie,
"I do not know how much clearer I can make this, the basic stories of the bible,the garden of eden, walking on water, talking serpents, the whole fantasy. If someone tells in this day and age that they believe this stuff literally, they instantly lose my respect."

As I said, many of our criticisms are the same. To take any of such stories as being literally true is silly to say the least. But my point is that not all Christians take these stories literally, and many would tell you that to do so is to miss the point of the stories.

"You are quite good at trying to manipulate but I really do not need you approval."

Manipulate what? Honestly, what have I manipulated? As for my approval, no you do not need it for anything. You can think and believe anything you like; however, I can also point out your errors, which is what I have done. In turn, you could respond with reasons why what I have called errors are nothing of the sort, though, you have not done so, rather you have asserted that I am "playing the victim" and "manipulating" something or another.

"If you can deal with the fact I do not hold Christianity in high reguard, and you still wish to dialogue, then we have a communication going, if not, its been nice!
Thanks"

I dont particularly care what your opinion of Christianity is; as long as you keep posting, I'll respond with reason as best I can.
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 09:34 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
"I do not know how much clearer I can make this, the basic stories of the bible,the garden of eden, walking on water, talking serpents, the whole fantasy. If someone tells in this day and age that they believe this stuff literally, they instantly lose my respect."

As I said, many of our criticisms are the same. To take any of such stories as being literally true is silly to say the least. But my point is that not all Christians take these stories literally, and many would tell you that to do so is to miss the point of the stories.

"You are quite good at trying to manipulate but I really do not need you approval."

Manipulate what? Honestly, what have I manipulated? As for my approval, no you do not need it for anything. You can think and believe anything you like; however, I can also point out your errors, which is what I have done. In turn, you could respond with reasons why what I have called errors are nothing of the sort, though, you have not done so, rather you have asserted that I am "playing the victim" and "manipulating" something or another.

"If you can deal with the fact I do not hold Christianity in high reguard, and you still wish to dialogue, then we have a communication going, if not, its been nice!
Thanks"

I dont particularly care what your opinion of Christianity is; as long as you keep posting, I'll respond with reason as best I can.



Didymos Thomas,Smile

Smile There is a saying from the Upanishads that states the following, "The Truth Is One,The Sages Speak Of It By Many Names." There is a basic human quest for the divine. Actually I know you are right, there are Christians out there somewhere that can indeed recognize a metaphor, unfortunately they have never appeared in my social circle. I do believe it is a very large majority that accepts a literial interpretation.

It is however Christianities political activites that really get me worked up, the attempt to replace evolutionary biology with intelligent design or creationism. It is this kind of intelligence that wants to run the show, the American taliban, that simply frightens me. The self-righteous Christian, the self-righteous Islamic tell me what the difference is. Do not tell me Christianity cannot be brutal and self-serveing history tells us different. As a political force Christianity needs to be stopped.

Surely you can recognize even as a Christian, that the mindlessness of a literial interpretation is what really has the power to move the population, they do not wish to think, and the church assures them that they never will have to.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 11:53 pm
@boagie,
"Actually I know you are right, there are Christians out there somewhere that can indeed recognize a metaphor, unfortunately they have never appeared in my social circle. I do believe it is a very large majority that accepts a literial interpretation."

This may not be your social circle, but here I am. I condier myself a Christian in the sense that I find value in the teachings of Christ. Apart from that, most Christians would call me a heretic and be ashamed of me.
As for the prevailing thought among the majority - I dont know, I've never seen any numbers on the issue, though I would not be surprised to learn that most practitioners are generally fundamentalists. To be honest, I would question if we should call fundamentalists Christians at all - but that's another topic.
What is encouraging is to find good Christian scholars. There are many out there.

"It is however Christianities political activites that really get me worked up, the attempt to replace evolutionary biology with intelligent design or creationism. It is this kind of intelligence that wants to run the show, the American taliban, that simply frightens me. The self-righteous Christian, the self-righteous Islamic tell me what the difference is. Do not tell me Christianity cannot be brutal and self-serveing history tells us different. As a political force Christianity needs to be stopped."

Absolutely. Christianity should not be political at all; "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, give to God what is God's". The political fundamentalist movement around the world (Christian in the West, Islamic in the Middle East, there is even a growing Hindu fundamentalist movement which is equally as dangerous) is a terrible force, and does need to be stopped.

"Surely you can recognize even as a Christian, that the mindlessness of a literial interpretation is what really has the power to move the population, they do not wish to think, and the church assures them that they never will have to."

Absolutely. But at the same time, surely you can realize that, despite the faults of so many, there are some that are not so sinister. Perhaps even a few worth respecting.

Surely we can be fair in this - we can be fair, and honest, if we say fundamentalism is a terrible problem, and worthy of little or no respect, while also being mindful that not all who use the same title are in agreement.
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Nov, 2007 12:01 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas,Smile

Smile It is late, it would be my pleasure later.
Harby phil
 
  1  
Reply Sat 1 Dec, 2007 02:13 am
@boagie,
Well that went off-topic...

Anyway, I've some experience with mind-altering drugs and I intend to get more in the near future. An important entheogenic drug that you neglected to mention and I am yet to try is Salvia Divinorum, which was used by the Mazatec Shamen to achieve a state of trance and ultimately enlightenment. While I don't believe religious enlightenment in the true sense can be attained via drugs, one purely of mind can. Even if one does not truely attain enlightenment while drugged, it surely feels like it at the time, and that feeling cannot be replaced by nigh anything else and could, in my opinion atleast, only help on the path to find the real deal.

The main problem in seeking enlightenment in drugs, beside addiction and adverse effects that is, is that the moment is rather fleeting. Neither the thought nor the feeling endures long, and all you are left is the rememberance that it was infact something good.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 1 Dec, 2007 11:13 pm
@Harby phil,
I am familiar with salvia. You will have an intense trip for a few minutes; you will feel a powerful sinking sensation. I was never particularly fond of it, but I imagine under certain circumstances it may at least appear stimulating. Completely legal, though. Just dont drive.

Quote:
Even if one does not truely attain enlightenment while drugged, it surely feels like it at the time


How do you know what true enlightenment feels like?
Harby phil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Dec, 2007 06:43 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
How do you know what true enlightenment feels like?

Ah, got me there. The only thing I can state with some certainty, and seeing how I'm not at all certain true enlightenment in the literal sense even exists, is that I'd notice when it happened.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Sep, 2009 01:02 am
@Didymos Thomas,
(I know this is a very old thread, but it is something that has been on my mind.)

I was into recreational intoxicants when I was very much younger. I never took opiates of any kind, and never cocaine, but as for experiences with entheogens, I lost count. I definitely had real spiritual realisations through these. There is a phase you go through where you have hallucinations, intoxication, flights of ideas, and so on. But there is another stage appropriately called Clear Light. At this point I was completely taken by the realisation that everything in life was holy, life itself was holy, there was nothing lacking, nothing to be gained, nothing the matter anywhere. This manifested as being spellbound by nature - saplings, moss-covered boulders and the like (doesn't sound much when you write it....) Particular objects would seem to be extremely beautiful - for the first time, I really saw how beautiful nature was, it was like an artwork, very much like what Huxley wrote in Doors of Perception. It was also realisation of what a uniquely amazing thing it is to be a human. In fact it was a taste of self-realisation, of that I have no doubt.

This was a long time ago now, more than 30 years. And I realised then you couldn't stay in this state artificially. You always would come down and back into the normal mundane existence. So the question was, how to realise that state naturally? Because enough of it remained to know it was real, not just an induced fantasy. Subsequently I studied mysticism and learned to practise Buddhist meditation. (And to be honest, maybe I have a pre-disposition to mysticism which this all was tapping into.)

Of course, dharma completely forbids intoxicants, as it should; I would now not advocate going down that road and I have been a non-user of any such things since the 70's. But I still believe the entheogen experience is real. And maybe that is the reason for the stigma attached to them. It is normality protecting itself. They really did make me realise that the reality of many lives is basically habit and convention. Conventional existence really does have shallow roots, and I think there is a deep realisation of that which we are not allowed to acknowledge. A lot of what goes on in the world is built on that denial.

It doesn't matter any more. I have started to discover the inner truth of dharma and don't need anything further. But in a way it does validate what I saw back then; that state of mind is starting to become more real in everyday life. So I guess when it comes to 'sacred intoxicants', and subject to the above caveats, I have to vote 'Aye'.
Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Sep, 2009 02:22 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;92909 wrote:
(I know this is a very old thread, but it is something that has been on my mind.)

I was into recreational intoxicants when I was very much younger. I never took opiates of any kind, and never cocaine, but as for experiences with entheogens, I lost count. I definitely had real spiritual realisations through these. There is a phase you go through where you have hallucinations, intoxication, flights of ideas, and so on. But there is another stage appropriately called Clear Light. At this point I was completely taken by the realisation that everything in life was holy, life itself was holy, there was nothing lacking, nothing to be gained, nothing the matter anywhere. This manifested as being spellbound by nature - saplings, moss-covered boulders and the like (doesn't sound much when you write it....) Particular objects would seem to be extremely beautiful - for the first time, I really saw how beautiful nature was, it was like an artwork, very much like what Huxley wrote in Doors of Perception. It was also realisation of what a uniquely amazing thing it is to be a human. In fact it was a taste of self-realisation, of that I have no doubt.

This was a long time ago now, more than 30 years. And I realised then you couldn't stay in this state artificially. You always would come down and back into the normal mundane existence. So the question was, how to realise that state naturally? Because enough of it remained to know it was real, not just an induced fantasy. Subsequently I studied mysticism and learned to practise Buddhist meditation. (And to be honest, maybe I have a pre-disposition to mysticism which this all was tapping into.)

Of course, dharma completely forbids intoxicants, as it should; I would now not advocate going down that road and I have been a non-user of any such things since the 70's. But I still believe the entheogen experience is real. And maybe that is the reason for the stigma attached to them. It is normality protecting itself. They really did make me realise that the reality of many lives is basically habit and convention. Conventional existence really does have shallow roots, and I think there is a deep realisation of that which we are not allowed to acknowledge. A lot of what goes on in the world is built on that denial.

It doesn't matter any more. I have started to discover the inner truth of dharma and don't need anything further. But in a way it does validate what I saw back then; that state of mind is starting to become more real in everyday life. So I guess when it comes to 'sacred intoxicants', and subject to the above caveats, I have to vote 'Aye'.


Great post, thanks for sharing your experience. I have a very similar experience to yours, so there must be something to say about it. I have an affinity with Buddhism even though some parts of it, I am in conflict with. My experiences similar to yours have reaffirmed that mind is everything and perception of reality is biased. I had moments when I completely forgot who I was, what I was or where I was while under the effects of several different intoxicants.

I came to the same conclusion as you in a way. I no longer use any drugs but I am not against their use, in fact I promote their legalization because I feel its current view creates additional harm onto humanity than it solves. But that is also not the topic. I have never had any experience during sobriety that I have had intoxicated, despite the mentioning of the spheres of realizations that come with prolonged Buddhist meditation. I blame my societal education as blocking my ability to transcend the poor information. Something that the intoxicants made possible to bypass without much effort.

I don't like to use the word holy to describe the interconnection of all things. For me that word is polluted and ironic since it implies the purity of existence. If life is so pure, if existence is so pure, why is conflict of existence so rampant? It seems rather absurd, like a piece of fruit that looks so appealing and has the sweetest and greatest taste, is nothing but poisonous.
 

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