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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 15. August 4, 1971

2. drugs

2. drugs

I recently had the good fortune to take a tablet of Pscilocybin, an hallucinogenic drug safer, but more power ful than LSD. In writing this article I draw on no authority but my own experience under this drug and subsequent thoughts relating to the experience.

The two principal effects of the drug were: an intensification and distortion of sense data, and an experience of alienation. Alientation not only from people, who appear simply as configurations of sense data, but an experience of alientation from the world, and of myself. It is this experience of alienation that I consider to be the important effect of such drugs. To use hallucinogenic drugs constantly purely for sensory effect indicates to me that the user is incapable of perceiving the world with sufficient sensitivity to be aware of the intense beauty of simple patterns and colours, to be found in the most mundane of objects. The appreciation of things is not the same under the drug, there are important differences between the "straight" sensualist and the person under an hallucinogenic, but to take the drug purely for this purpose is to deny oneself the experience that the sense changes facilitate.

The experience is one of alienation and the possibility of seeing different relationships between things. It is facilitated by the fact that the objects of sense experience become essentially meaningless. Meaningless in the sense that objects, sounds, etc., do not represent or imply the existence of any other thing, nor do they indicate that they have a function or purpose. Objects (my experience was of a predominantly visual nature) are seen to be of themselves and simply existent, important by virtue of their existence and for no purpose whatsoever. This is no great revelation, that beauty is to be found when one looks hard enough, but the important difference between the experience of the sensualist and the "tripper" is that the sensualist is totally involved in these perceptions. He "goes out" into the perceptual world and is preoccupied with the objects of his perception. The "mind" is captivated in the sense that it has lost itself to the objects of its perception. What occurs under such a drug as Pscilocybin is that the perceptual world is made "meaningless" (in the sense defined earlier but one is not involved to the same all-absorbing degree, rather the meaninglessness creates a detachment, the world becomes quite unimportant, whereas it is all to the sensualist. The world-orientation of the tripper facilitates mind expansion whereas the involvement of the sensualist denies it. There is a qualitative difference between the intensification of sense data experienced by the tripper and that experienced by the everyday sensualist, and the non-drug user seems incapable of transcending the awareness of sense objects and achieving the state of feeling the total unimportance of the world. It is only when this latter stage has been reached that the mind-expanding experience occurs, and this freedom to be in the hostile world, unbounded or defined, gives rise to the possibility of reviewing the relationships between things, between the self and other, the world, etc. It seems that only when the cryptic chains of language have been removed, and the structured importance of objects, symbols and intellectualization have been swept away can we really see clearly beyond the horizons of garbage to clarity and a sense of knowing it is then that one realizes the importance of "notions". Once we have become non-abstract, non-intellectual and all-important can we really start to explore the vague nebulae of inner space.

The popular objections to drug use can be seen to be no more valid than the sensualist's contention that he can get the same effect by being susceptible and sensitive to the objects about him.

Such accusations as "weakmindedness" and "escapism" can easily be countered. The assertion of the "real' world is one that has its foundations in ignorance. The normal world is by no means the easily explicable thing, that people would have it. There is, for an easy example, no proof of the past, yet its existence and validity is accepted in order that the "real", i.e. "normal" world may continue to function. Normality is rather more an independent matrix of delusions than the rational and justifiable thing it is accepted, indeed asserted, as being. It would seem as if the maxim of discovering reality is rather more "ignorance is bliss" than an attempt to discover as much as can be discovered (including the use of chemicals to allow for the perception of those parts previously denied) and to reconsider our assumptions in a clearer light.

If we are to determine the nature of the real world at all, it would seem clearly necessary to experience as much as possible of that object with which we experience the world: our own mind. It is absurd to proclaim that experience is escapist or invalid simply because it does not happen to be within the (assumed) bounds of normality. The fact that such awareness is facilitated by the use of chemicals does not deny its validity. The function of the chemicals is rather to remove the inhibitors of experience than to generate the experience itself. What the drug user experiences is changing qualities in himself and the world about him, and not the drug itself. Each person has his own unique experience, for it is simply that the mind is freed to re-experience, and is not inundated with meaningless "meaningful" information To say that this is "running away from the world" is clearly absurd, and the person who says this is indicating his own ignorance. The "world" is not a thing sufficiently defined or constant to run away from (nor is it validly "real"). There is no 'running away from" involved. The user is increasing his experience, he is extending and progressing into the realm of the inner mind and rediscovering the nature of perception. It is rather more he who squats smugly on his heap of illusions and denies the use of drugs as valid who is the one unwilling to stand up to doubt cast on the validity of his world, and the integrity, or rather lack of it, that it expresses. This person is effectively denying the validity of the unexplored regions of the mind; his assertion indicates a blind Faith in ti "realness" of his systematic construct, and an unwillingness to explore, to admit the possible inconsistencies in this world. This person lives in a limited and oppressing page break conception of the world. There is so much of a universe within each one of us, so many possibilities of deep and beautiful experience, of the capacity to re-experience the world and come closer to an understanding of the world, will and idea that it seems pitifully absurd that someone will denounce such activity and experience as pure escapism.

The overwhelming mountains of trivia presented as necessary to get on with the world forces the mind to filter out only that which is immediately necessary for survival; concern for unimportant things such as the patterns that can be seen at any time in abundance about us is seen as a deviance. If such interest is not extended too far the person is a "character", if it goes further he is in danger of being labelled deviant. Most of us, however, do not have this intense (or odd) artistic perception, and the real and valid world is what filters down to our desiccated souls after being passed through the overladen super-selective sieve of our minds. All I wish to do is employ various hallucinogenic drugs to facilitate the conditions outlined earlier so that a greater understanding and experience-in-depth of the mind may come about.

I am aware that the use of chemicals is not essential to bring about these conditions but my present living conditions and responsibilities are (oddly, you may be thinking) of more importance than devoting my life to experiencing these things. If it can be brought about by the use of artificial means then all the better, even the most way-out head accepts implicitly the Wool worths world. People appear to be insistent on living out their lives in the way in which they have been patterned for them; there seems to be little desire for intense experience, and a distinct aversion to experiencing more of themselves. This arises out of a failure to delve below the asserted absoluteness of the "normal" world as the only valid context in which to exist, and is reinforced by the inability (possibly arising out of fear) to experience themselves as distinct from the perceptual world. People are reliant, in fact dependent, on the routinized, patterned, and ostensibly efficient world for their sanity. A world-orientation is destroyed the moment the world begins to act in an predictable manner; when phenomena occur that cannot immediately be explained people will question their sanity before the world. People's sanity is reliant on the people-imposed constancy of the world. There seems little left of the self, little left of a person when the world is removed and he is forced to reflect upon himself as he would reflect upon world-phenomena. For some, such an experience could be too much, they may not "return" or may do something which causes death, an end to an unpleasant vision. But for most it would mean possibly a re-orientation and understanding of oneself, and one's world. It could mean that 'I" becomes an operative and influential being, with the ability to transcend the systems inflicted on us, equipped with doubt one could go on to discover.

The objections to the use of drugs can not only be countered but can be effectively reversed. The normal folk are essentially denying (i.e. escaping from) the possibility of a dis and subsequent re-orientation of themselves to the world, and to themselves. There is weakness in such arrogant and unqualified insistence of the "normality" of the everyday world, and the dependence upon the constancy and validity of the world for one's security and sanity.

The insistence of many people that such drugs should only be administered under medical conditions and supervision and that they would only take them under such conditions themselves reflects a fear of leaving behind the comforting order of the "real" world. To take an hallucinogenic drug in a laboratory puts the experience (hopefully) within the context of the normal world. It becomes a "scientific exploration" and one need not begin to doubt the whole context, but only the phenomena in the restricted context of scientific research. These people are essentially hoping that the doctor and the medical surroundings will be like an umbilical cord, they will be there to re-assure the tripper that all is really normal, they will be like that cord back to the blissful world of wobbly non-sentience. It is an attempt to evade doubting the context as a whole, it is hoped that the experience would be interesting, possibly enlightening, but still within the context of the "real" world.

I indicated earlier that tripping purely for the sensory effects was suggestive of a lack of sensitivity to everyday sense-perceptions. This still holds true, but there is a good possibility that once one has learned to pause and be sensorily appreciative with the aid of a drug, then this would continue on after the actual effects of the drug have worn off. When watching the average normal folk mundaning their way about the world, I cannot help but feel that one trip might startle them into enjoying a simple everyday pattern of sense-data, into seeing that objects are valuable by the simple fact of their existence! If only they could stop and see the essential "meaninglessness" (my definition) of objects they might suddenly smile at the rust under their ice-skates. If the experience of acute alienation could generate sufficient doubt to sweep away the gods and brickwalls of belief, to heal the sickness of faith, they just might come to a closer and more perspicacious orientation to the "facts". (If everyone tripped there would be no more wars, there would be no-one duped enough to be a patriot!)

Perhaps in a couple of hundred years time Mother will say, "Have you taken your acid tab today, son? You wouldn't like to slip back into mundane existence, would you'" I personally hope this is not the case. The experience is rewarding, but continued reliance on the drug for experience of sensory intensity and alienation is both unnecessary and possibly harmful.