A lot of ink has been spilled over civil rights battles. Blood too, for that matter. And pontificators have given us our last civil rights fights for a long time. They say affirmative action is the last battle. They say gay rights is the last battle. They might even say that political correctness is a civil rights battle. But what has not been addressed is the freedom of consciousness movement.
Let”s get this out in the open: I”m talking about psychedelics the taboo little topic that few have dusted off since the fallout of the “60s. But that word “psychedelic” is loaded with fear. A more straightforward label is entheogen, which literally means “generating the divine within.” In laymen”s terms, that means “becoming god.” We could also go with a purely phenomenological description and call them “consciousness expanding agents” because that”s what they do.
Whatever the case, I”ll let you in on a little secret: The last decade has been secretly psychedelic. And we have all been primed and ready for an explosion of consciousness. To get to that point, we must have an idea of where to direct our energies. The best way to do this is through a common goal of cognitive liberty.
Cognitive liberty is the belief that we have the inalienable right to achieve, through the use of mind-altering plants and drugs, any state of consciousness we choose not just the socially acceptable ones.
What we need is a new definition of the word “drug.” The late philosopher of consciousness, Terence McKenna, said a drug is anything that causes unexamined, compulsive behavior. A drug, then, is something that consumes our lives. By this definition, a cigarette is a drug, caffeine is a drug and alcohol is a drug. When we look at it from this perspective, television is also a drug. And the average American spends three to seven hours every day getting intimately hooked to the flickering I-V of the cathode ray tube. Yet television eats at our creative faculties like a cancer, alcohol dumbs us down (and helps us mingle woohoo), while cigarettes are nothing but dirty syringes for nicotine injection. These substances are socially acceptable and perfectly legal all the while causing serious harm at astronomical social costs.
It all comes down to allowing people the right to experiment with marginal states of consciousness. Right now most of us operate on a very narrow band of habitual behavior that is closed to realms of imagination and possibility. We are a species in crisis.
Pioneering minds have used entheogens. It”s no secret that Steve Jobs, the creative zest behind Apple Computers, dropped acid. Bill Gates, in an obscure Playboy interview, all but admitted that some of his formative experiences came from mind-expanding substances. Entheogens break down boundaries of habitual, unexamined behavior and aid in the creative process. Yet most of us are still locked in the termite mind of man. This cannot stand. We”ve been lied to. It is time to rise.
The war on drugs is not a war on substances it”s a war on states of mind. Entheogens are not illegal because a loving government is concerned that you”re going to hurt yourself by smoking pot or tripping in your bedroom. Entheogens are illegal because they make you question authority. They break down socially constructed fables and cleanse the doors of perception. They make you question the wrongs of society in a fundamental way, making you dangerous. You”re like Neo in The Matrix when all of the illusions of reality have been irrevocably stripped away.
Not that everyone should use entheogens. Far from it. Experiencing ecstasy is not pleasant. It”s like being grabbed by the spine and shaken until every sense and emotion blurs, recombines, expands, digitizes and becomes unspeakable. Yet it is also a birthright and is as fundamental to the human experience as sex.
Consciousness determines everything. An important battle for the freedom of our mental landscapes is brewing. And it never takes more than five percent of the population to start a revolution. Actually, it”s never been more than that.
Josh Wickerham”s column runs every other Wednesday. Give him feedback at www.michigandaily.com/forum or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.