Blissful is he among men on Earth who has beheld that! He who has not been initiated into the holy Mysteries, who has no part therein, remains a corpse in gloomy darkness.
-- The Homeric Hymn to Demeter
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The Politics of Consciousness
By Jennifer Wilks Christian
IN 1976, STEVE KUBBY was diagnosed as having terminal cancer of the adrenal gland and was informed of the grim prognosis by specialists across the country. There was not a single recorded case of anyone having ever survived the disease. So, at the age of 28, he made the decision to take his life into his own hands. No, he didn't try to kill himself-- quite the contrary -- instead, he learned how to live. He administered a self-prescribed holistic healing program which included occasional micro-doses of LSD. The LSD worked with him to awaken him to his body and spirit's own innate wisdom of what he needed to do in order to heal himself and overcome this disease; in short, to teach him right-living. Twenty-eight years later he is still alive and is the first person in recorded medical history to have recovered from this disease. In addition to being a former candidate for the California governorship, he is a now leading advocate in the fight for the legalization of medical marijuana, and to the end to the "War on Drugs."
Kubby is not just some old stoner fighting for the right to party. He is deeply concerned with fighting to protect our right to own our bodies, minds and consciousness, and our right to work with the sacred plant wisdom of our Earth to understand how to heal ourselves and our ecology. He is dedicated to this fight because he understands what is actually at stake; the values and rights clearly set forth by the Founding Fathers in our Constitution; in other words, our freedom and our sovereignty.
One aspect of this issue of personal sovereignty, ownership and rights, can be easily seen in the current ongoing debate on abortion: do we really own our own bodies or are they ultimately governed by laws outside of us? Do we have the right to decide for ourselves what happens to and inside of our bodies, and if so, just where do those rights end? It seems a reasonable assumption that the boundary line of my personal ownership and sovereignty begins where the rest of the world's ends, at my skin. My skin surely marks the legal boundary line of my private property, and I alone own the deed to this corporeal estate. That's clear enough, right? Well, apparently plenty of people think not.
The issue becomes even less clear when the question of rights and personal sovereignty is extended to consciousness itself. Consciousness is, after all, not a visible, tangible, physical thing that is easily quantified. Unfortunately, we don't often stop to look at things that we can't actually see. And because we can't see it, we are even less inclined to find out where it's boundaries lie or if there are any at all. "Out of sight, out of mind," as the saying goes. Truth is, though, that consciousness is never really out of sight and it is never out of mind but is, in fact, the wiring under the boards, always there and permeating everything. It is the totality of our thoughts, emotions, perceptions and awareness. It can be expanded, heightened and explored or it can be dulled, diverted and suppressed. It can be extended to connect with a collective consciousness or it can be reduced down to a filtered and constricted isolation. Even if we do stop to ponder what this consciousness thing actually is, rarely do we scratch our heads over whether we think we own it.
That's convenient, because the dark reality is that our government has already decided for us.
Earth is a planet of free-will, and by natural law we can exercise our right to choose our actions. By natural law, then, what we do with our consciousness is up to us. But under the laws imposed by our government if we choose to alter or expand our own consciousness through the use of psychedelic plants or herbs we are criminals and are liable to be imprisoned for our actions and have our property seized. Furthermore, under these laws, we are often considered criminals if we seek to obtain natural medicines for our health, to grow natural medicines for our community, or even to grow certain sustainable natural fibers to save our forests and heal our ecology. The government has decided on our behalf that certain plants and fungi which occur naturally on our planet are against the law; that, in this instance, nature itself is in fact, illegal. Not only is nature against the law, but our consciousness is not our own, and to explore it through controlled substances is an act of criminal transgression.
It's beyond interesting that while we are culture that is told to "say no to drugs," we are a culture that is largely based on drugs. The kinds of drugs which doctors can prescribe and from which certain corporations profit are considered virtuous. The kinds of drugs which doctors cannot prescribe are considered evil. Somehow, the drugs in the first category are drugs but they are not drugs. There is an arbitrary distinction made between tobacco and cannabis, for example, even though both alter consciousness and even though tobacco is extremely dangerous to one's health. When certain drugs are regulated, two things are controlled: permissible states of mind, and where money may legally flow.
The lineup on the blacklist of controlled drugs includes the female, smokable marijuana plant and the male hemp plant, psilocybin, LSD, ecstasy or MDMA, amphetamines, cocaine, opium and heroin. Which one is headlining the gig and which are the support acts is not clear; in some respects all of them have top billing. All are illegal to possess, to manufacture or grow, and to sell. (Interesting here to note that it is NOT illegal once any one of these substances is actually inside your body; you cannot be charged with possession of the 100 micrograms of LSD you took half an hour ago even though you may be heroically tripping your nuts off.) If we should dare to ask why all these drugs are illegal, the well-programmed answer choruses back in parrot-fashion: "Why?? Because DRUGS ARE DANGEROUS, of course!"
Now, are they illegal because they are dangerous or are they dangerous because they are illegal? Are drugs, the illegal kind, dangerous? Yes -- mostly because we have made them that way. We have denied them and ourselves a cultural, spiritual context in which to work with them in a sacred manner. We have forced them underground into a black market, a subversive drug culture. We have hidden and withheld information and education about them from our children, who need it most. Are all drugs as dangerous as each other? No, clearly not. But this is not reflected in our legislature nor in the conditioning of our collective social attitudes towards illegal drugs.
It is far more socially acceptable to be prescribed Prozac for a few years by your doctor than to be popping an ecstasy pill on the weekend. How can we expect our children to be discriminating and make intelligent informed decisions when the message we give them is that all (illegal) drugs are dangerous in equal measure, whilst at the same time they are continually exposed to the mainstream and accepted use of prescription drugs which are just as dangerous, arguably more so, and are completely legal, government-approved and accepted by society? Mom may be prescribed Paxil for her tension and Prozac for her depression. Dad may be an alcoholic chain-smoker on Viagra and Vikadin. But, when Junior is suspended for smoking marijuana at school, he quickly comes to understand that certain drugs are ok and certain ones aren't and it has absolutely nothing to do with how dangerous they are. After seeing first hand that the "War on Drugs" is based upon hypocrisy and disinformation, he reckons he might as well find out the truth for himself.
We are constantly reminded of the popular stories which warn of the dreadful dangers of taking drugs: how they instantly create lifelong chemical dependencies with the first experience; how they destroy our health, minds, relationships and lives; how they fry our brains like eggs; how they turn us into stupid zombies or desperate junkies; how they'll give us treacherous flashbacks that could render us permanently insane; how they make us jump out of high windows to our deaths thinking we can fly. Basically government has a message to push: drugs are evil, dangerous and off-bounds. Not all drugs, just the ones they don't like, and especially the ones they don't manufacture themselves. As children we are taught to believe that laws are always created to protect the citizenry, ensure justice and safeguard our rights and liberty. Even as adults we are once again supposed to unquestioningly accept that these laws are for our own good, put our hands in our pockets and "Just Say No."
Well, like the bumpersticker says, "I said no to drugs but they didn't listen."
What is it that makes the psychedelic drug experience so threatening? So dangerous? What is it that we are being urged, bullied, coerced into "just saying no" to, and why?
Here we come back around to that thing called consciousness, this wiring under the boards. In exploring illegal drugs, we explore our consciousness. We experience altered states of reality, expanded states of being, unfamiliar and unique sensory perceptions which overwhelm us and fascinate us in turn. Depending on what kind of drug we take we experience an amplification of certain aspects of our consciousness and our perception is temporarily recalibrated to measure a reality that is normally beyond our reach. We experience some part of ourselves that we had forgotten existed, that we were seeking, with which we wished to reconnect. I would venture that most of us have within us a certain feeling-- a hunch --that there is something more, that there is something we have lost, something that we want to find to become whole. We have this feeling because a part of us on a higher level knows it to be the truth.
Herein lies the original motivation to explore drugs: the need to heal ourselves.
As far back as our recorded history, mankind has used psychoactive plants and substances for healing and communing with spirit for the good of the community. The roots of this shamanic model of healing can be traced in the culture of indigenous peoples all over the world. In a tribal community, the shaman is able to journey through the spirit world and commune with the ancestors to gather information and return with wisdom for healing. This shamanic journey is generally achieved by the use of psychedelic plants. Psychedelics (now called entheogens, or drugs which induce the direct experience of God) serve to dissolve belief-systems. Under the right conditions (Tim Leary's "set and setting"), they are extremely effective de-conditioning agents. They offer direct experience of a reality beyond the parameters of this sliver of reality within which we normally exist. This might be described as spirit, God, the Tao, the interconnectedness of all things, the realization that everything is alive, the direct encounter with our essential existence. Whichever words we clothe it in, the result is that the seeker has a direct and personal experience with something beyond, and returns from this experience with a expanded awareness and a new understanding of reality. All the encrusted, toxic belief systems and out-dated paradigms we took with us into the psychedelic experience are broken down and the energy it took to keep them there is repotentialized.
In our Western culture we have lost our roots and are no longer connected to the shamanic concept of reality. We have no rituals for introducing us to these plant teachers and allies, to honor, respect and work with them as sacraments to the divine. We have no shamans to learn from, to retrieve our souls for us, to heal us. Since it is against the law to experiment with any drugs other than the ones our doctors prescribe us (well, admittedly, that does leave us hundreds and hundreds to play around with, we could have a real ball with the contra-indications) or the ones that are already steadily killing us legally (like cigarettes, alcohol, TV), we are forced to become criminals, taking our consciousness into our own hands and out of the hands of the pharmaceutical companies, the doctors, and the government. We have to become our own mind guerillas, conscious renegades, brave pioneers, urban shamen.
The questions are not "Is it right? Is it wrong? Is it ethical? Is it evil? Is it dangerous" Rather, the question is "Can we really trust our consciousness, our health, our minds, our bodies, our evolution to our government to take care of?" Hardly. Unless you happen to feel that a lifelong dependency on prescription drugs, drip-fed propaganda soundbites from the 36 inch widescreen wetnurse in the corner, slow mutation by genetically modified foods from contaminated food chains, a poisoned and polluted environment, and a steady diet of fear and hatred is your idea of being taken care of. Not to mention, if you get really sick (maybe from the prescription pills themselves or maybe simply because their function was never to heal us anyway but instead blot out one symptom with a handful of different ones) then there is always surgery! Chop it off, cut it out, blast it with radiation, let the surgeon get his knife out as long as it's covered in your insurance policy. Make no mistake, your health (or the prevention of it) is BIG BUSINESS. Poisoning the environment by bleaching tree pulp to make paper is BIG BUSINESS. Fear, Terror and/or the War Machine is BIG BUSINESS. Keeping the population under control, sedated, mind-washed and under surveillance is BIG BUSINESS. Ironically, even though tobacco and alcohol may be number one killers, they're not only big business, they're legal, too; providing Sin Tax revenue to federal, state and local governments.
Can we really kid ourselves for just one microsecond that we are in good hands?
We might ask why the government hasn't leapt to cash in on the colossal profits involved in drug trafficking. Why not grow government-sanctioned hemp and make a new sustainable and profitable source of fuel and fiber to meet our own supply and demand? Why not tax these controlled substances, cutting out the middle man and associated crime in the same fell swoop? Why not, instead of spending billions on the inexhaustible War on Drugs, bring what is otherwise dirty money into the legitimate economy by regulating the supply of controlled substances? Why not indeed. The reason is simply because it is ultimately about the politics of consciousness.
The truth is that the government couldn't give a flying shit if your brain did fry like an egg when you take drugs. Well aware that your brains are probably first sizzling from the bombardment by radiowave frequencies from your cellphone, they can flip your brain over-easy with the technology of HAARP (High Altitude Auroral Research Project) before anyone can say the breakfast is burnt. Don't expect it to come sunny-side up, either.
No, the government line in anti-drug hype is not centered in a well-meaning concern for our fragile little heads and psyches. To the government, the real dangers of illicit drug use are not that our youth might become addicted, involved in crime and be robbed of their future career in the Rat Race. There seems to be a concern about the possibility that our youth, or anybody for that matter, might somehow, accidentally, inadvertently, see beyond this shared illusion we call reality. Here lies the real danger, the real threat -- that more and more people might do as Leary urged, "turn on, tune in and drop out." Turn on the inner lights, expand the consciousness, tune in to a bigger picture and a wavelength of love, and drop out of this fear-based, dominator-culture version of reality which is hell-bent on creating destruction and suffering. In other words, people might find out that the emperor really has no clothes; discover the truth is our consciousness cannot be imprisoned. If the prison bars over our minds were to be dissolved, why, before you know it, people might start having direct experience with The Other, with the Divine, with Gaia, with their own spirit.
What need would they have then, for the dogma of organized religion? Why would they want to fight and kill their brothers in violent wars rather than trying to create peace? Why would they run to allopathic medicine and its vast selection of pharmaceutical band-aids when they could heal themselves and connect directly with their own source of guidance? Why would they invest in insurance policies if they no longer fear the future? Why would they continue to allow worldwide ecocide when they have realized their connection to all living beings, including the Earth? So you see, to the government, this consciousness stuff is dangerous. If let loose it would threaten the very foundations this prison was built upon.
"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern," said William Blake, in 1793 (this quotation is the source of the title of Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception, and the namesake of the band The Doors). Cleansing the doors of perception. Seeing the infinite.
Can you imagine this happening? The government would rather you didn't. It would mean the end of their reign of power, control and manipulation by fear, and gosh darn it, they're just getting good at it. They'd rather have you imagine a scenario in which all hell would break loose, that the inmates would riot, kill the screws, bugger the first god-fearing homophobic man they encountered as they escaped to terrorize and murder the rest of the public. But in reality, there is no public on the outside, we are all on the inside doing time. And ,bright and shiny, hanging on the big ring on the head prison warden's beltloop, are the keys to our consciousness.
What if we took those keys back, unlocked the doors of perception and freed ourselves? Can we dream of what lies on the other side of our tiny little jailcells? Our fear programming tells us it will be something like anarchy and chaos awaiting us. In our most courageous and unbound heart, we know that it will actually be something more like
uh, well, how about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
What would we do with our new-found freedom? Where might we go with our newly reclaimed consciousness? We would first collectively stop "dreaming the wrong dream," and envision a new one with the Earth. This new dream and this new culture, informed by the psychedelic experience and innate holistic Gaian wisdom, would restore these outlawed substances and teachers to their rightful, sacred and respected place in our culture. We would grow sustainable hemp to make paper, fibers, oil, high-protein food and efficient fuel, whilst cleaning the air and saving our forests. We would once again use the knowledge of healing with sacred herbs. We would build upon existing research which shows that both LSD and ayahuasca have been proven to successfully cure alcoholism with a one-time dosage, and explore a new healing model using these pyschedelic entheogens (entheogenic meaning "releasing/generating the deity within.") As urban shamans, we would create ceremony and sacred ritual to work with these allies to explore our consciousness, and then communicate our experience into a vision for the benefit of the whole. We would initiate our children in a rite of passage to navigate their own consciousness as if it was their very own pea green boat in the cosmic ocean. Much as now we teach (or remind) our babies how to swim, we would teach our youth how to be competent psychenauts, knowing that one day it might save their life and planet.
"Psychoactive foods and drugs are as necessary to nourish the brain as air, water, and food are necessary for the body. Neuro-transmitter chemicals are information codes which allow us to activate and boot up circuits in our brains. Young adults should be taught how to use info-chemicals in order to navigate their brains." -- Timothy Leary, PhD.
It is time to reclaim our consciousness, our bodies and our planet as our own. We cannot sit on the fence and watch this one play itself out without us. We must be prepared to make a stand for our rights and fight for what is really at stake. Should we, however, choose to remain ignorant as to what is really at stake, then we surely cannot cry or blame anyone else but ourselves if it is lost.
The politics of consciousness is about freedom and sovereignty: Will we reclaim our rights? Or would we rather have them read to us? The choice is ours. ++
Link for Further Reading
The Politics of Consciousness; Steve Kubby, 1995
Hallucinogens, a reader; edited by Charles S. Grob, 2002
Invisible Landscape; Terence McKenna, 1994
Flashbacks; Timothy Leary, 1990