Symbols of the world's religions



Allan Y. Cohen

The attachment to illusory and limited experience has a contemporary symptom — the use of consciousness-altering chemical intoxicants. Needless to say, any psychoactive chemical that interferes with physical or mental functioning is no great boon to the spiritually inclined. Cultural experience has shown the inefficiency of using drugs to try to solve nonmedical problems.

Recourse to alcohol for drowning one's sorrows is the perverted form of solace. Solace afforded by things outside of you is synonymous with doping which gives a certain amount of relief or relaxation. Real and unalloyed solace is within you.(1) Any drug when used medically for diseases, under the direct supervision of a medical practitioner, is not impermissible and cannot be classed with individual usage of a drug for what one can get out of it — or hope to get out of it — whether thrills, forgetfulness, or a delusion of spiritual experience.(2)

This latter delusion is especially interesting because of the explosion of drug use for spiritual purposes during the 1960s. Mind-changing, or "psychedelic," substances have been used in other cultures to stimulate religious experiences, and many Westerners, already preconditioned to the drug ethic, saw them as shortcuts to enlightenment. Meher Baba acknowledged that a few sincere seekers had aroused their spiritual longing while using consciousness-altering chemicals. However, he was explicit about the limits of drug-induced spirituality.

All so-called spiritual experiences generated by taking "mind-changing" drugs such as LSD, mescaline and psilocybin are superficial and add enormously to one's addiction to the deceptions of illusion which is but the shadow of Reality.... The experience of a semblance of freedom that these drugs may temporarily give to one is in actuality a millstone round the aspirant's neck in his efforts towards emancipation from the rounds of birth and death.(3)

In personal conversation with a young American in 1967, Baba commented,

Many people in India smoke ganja [marijuana] and hashish — they see colors and forms and lights, and it makes them elated. But this elation is only temporary; it is a false experience. It gives only experiences of illusion and serves to take one farther away from reality. Indulgence in drugs is harmful physically, mentally and spiritually, and people should stop taking them. They bring more harm than good. Tell those ensnared in the drug-net of illusion to abstain.(4)

Aside from the obvious physical, mental, and psychic risks, mind-altering chemicals have a profound ability to confuse the seeker.* It is somewhat like a dreaming man taking a dream capsule and experiencing that he is truly awake. In actuality, he is more deeply asleep than ever, although his illusory experience of wakefulness seems similar to the actual awake state. In other written communications, Baba indicated that the highest of all drug experiences reflect only the shadows of the next higher plane of consciousness. Thus, all considered,

It is absolutely essential for a spiritual aspirant who genuinely longs for union with God — the Reality — to shun experiments with the effects of certain drugs.(5)

*Evidence grows about unusual psychic and "astral" symptoms from the use of mind-altering chemicals. Apparently, drugs can play havoc with the astral or semi-subtle body, prematurely opening up certain psychic centers and increasing vulnerability to "obsession" or "possession" by disembodied entities (commonly called spirits), some pretending to be spiritual guides. These side effects are parallel with the similar dangers of mediumism, the use of ouija boards, unsupervised practice of kundalini-yoga, and various forced techniques for psychic development. (A collection of such findings is being prepared for publication. Write to Allan care of Harper & Row for details: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10022.)     BACK

(1)Quoted in The Answer: Conversations with Meher Baba, ed. Naosherwan Anzar (Bombay, 1972), p. 26     BACK
(2)Meher Baba, God in a Pill? Meher Baba on L.S.D. and the High Roads (San Francisco, 1966), p. 6     BACK
(3)Ibid., p. 2     BACK
(4)Conversation with Robert Dreyfuss, Fall 1967     BACK
(5)God in a Pill?, pp. 5-6     BACK

1977 © Ira G. Deitrick


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