As many of you may know, entheogens are an important part of my practice (well, primarily just a few specific ones that I’ve developed relationships with over time), and I am a strong advocate of their responsible, knowledgeable use in ritual contexts, when appropriate. This stance, however, is very much at odds with the cultural and political climate in this country regarding “drugs.”
I am fortunate that the entheogens I’m most interested in are, for the most part, still under the radar, as they are not exactly “get high for fun” sorts of plants. But I’ve ranted previously about how that is changing, especially in the case of salvia divinorum, which is now being used recreationally by incredibly stupid young people who like to get high and post videos of it online, and have sparked a backlash that has gotten it outlawed in several states now. (My personal experience with salvia leaves me perplexed as to how anyone could do it so casually, as it’s been incredibly powerful and heavy for me in a way that makes me approach it with great care, but then again I know my reactions to entheogens are often significantly shaped by my spirit-work, i.e. they are not always typical physiological reactions.)
I just recently found a clip from the CBS evening news that discusses the proliferation of detailed information on entheogens on the internet, and specifically targets one of my favorite sites, Erowid.org. Those objecting kept remarking on the breadth and depth of information available, as if that were an obviously bad thing. But to my mind, more information about potentially dangerous activities can only be positive, in that it facilitates wiser and more informed choices. One would have to be very ignorant to think that a lack of information will prevent kids from doing drugs. But the information that websites like Erowid provide might very well discourage someone from trying certain things – just read the Experience posts on any of the more dangerous entheogens, and you’ll find a lot of horrifying accounts that serve as warnings to the curious.
And at least if they do go ahead with their experimentation, they’ll have proper dosing information and recipes to avoid a more serious disaster. Considering that many of these plants are readily and legally available (and not just from online botanical supply shops – did you know that morning glory seeds and nutmeg can both give you hallucinations? though I strongly recommend against both of them), it only makes sense to encourage correct information on their usage, effects, dangers, etc.
But all this aside, what makes me so very angry about this kind of thing keeps coming back to mind control. We supposedly live in a free country. We have freedom of speech. But what’s the point of having the freedom to speak your mind if you don’t even have the freedom to control your own mind? To effect changes of consciousness if you so desire? (Well, you can do so if you subscribe to one of the few culturally-approved consciousness-altering substances, such as alcohol, but that’s another rant…)
In fact, this also directly impinges on our freedom of religion, since many spiritual systems (especially but not exclusively polytheistic/animistic ones) have included some form of entheogen use in their rites. This is exemplified by the long battle by the Native American Church to legalize their sacred use of peyote. But what of the rest of us who find spirituality within these plants?
Forget all those crazy conspiracy theories and futuristic scenarios about governmental mind control. It’s happening now. They will never truly be able to stop us from altering our consciousness (after all, besides entheogens, it can be done with sensory deprivation, hyperventilation, meditation, chanting, fasting, along with experiences of beauty, art, sex, pain, etc.), but they do what they can.
I, meanwhile, am happily awaiting the annual return of amanita muscaria mushrooms emerging from the lush soil here in Oregon. I may live in a country with some fucked-up perspectives, but at least I live on land that magically provides spirit-work allies from the ground itself.