Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On Psychedelics by BEAR OWSLEY

There has been a trip taken by many people over a number of years, starting in the 1960's. It is a trip to renew our connection with the planet we live on and its lifeforms. It seemed as though this journey was a natural and important one for our survival and the survival of the world as our home. We thought of ourselves as exploring new ways of looking at the universe, but as it turns out, the adventure is almost as old as man himself.
One of the ideas that developed throughout this period was that the psychedelics (I still feel most comfortable with this old term coined by Humphrey Osmund) were some sort important hormone -like substance which was necessary to the human race, like the various hormones which the body produces within its structure. Unlike these hormones, there are others, perhaps you could call them "planetary hormones" which the plant world produces for the use of animals, and are part of the Gaia or conciousness of the biomass of the whole planet. Healing plants are part of this category. The ones which alter our state and perception of the universe around us are no less important to our development as enlightened entities than those which heal our bodies. Research into the ethnobotanical practices of indigenous peoples around the world show that only the "modern" or western (ie. ours) cultures place any opprobrium on the use of these plants. In fact only the "west" is in the business of trampling on the environment with out regard for the conciousness of the whole or of its importance to us as a part of it. Indigenees almost universally hold that the planet is something alive and that their role is as the protectors of that life. The concept of "owning" the land is nearly impossible for these people to grasp.
I thought that we might just survive and the planet with us if we could manage to get enough people to experience the view which the psychedelics sacraments give. I know that some of you who will read this will object to the term sacrament, but the word is completely appropriate. With the advent of Christianity sacrament has come to be divested of the old meaning and to assume a more ephemeral definition. The magical plants used by folks for tens of thousands of years have been for the most part forgotten. People need to alter their perception of the world around them, in fact it seems to be something done by all animals. In the west there is only two permitted options Alcohol and tobacco. I'm not going to belabor the point, but this "choice" is not something which leads in any way to higher ground.
Shamanism and the use of plants to alter conciousness has a long and respected history in the development of human society. Today it is still found in parts of the world, coexisting with the modern forms of accepted religious activity. In fact, in places like the remote areas of Mexico some of the old ways are openly part of the worship rituals of the Catholic church. Not usually the plants, but the Native American Church in the US has certainly achieved a synthesis of sacred plant use and a form of Christianity. Perhaps this (the inclusion of aspects of Christianity) was necessary to be accepted as a real religion, although that seems odd, the scientologists have succeeded in having their organization accepted as a "church", and it has nothing even remotely suggestive of a spiritual nature about it. Or perhaps it's to do with the fact that the people are the dispossessed Indigenees of a land of colonial immigrants. Or with the fact that they are using the plants.
Today the followers of the Grateful Dead have been preyed upon by law enforcement at many of the venues the Dead visited. They could not peacefully practice what is to them a true religious practice without persecution. I guess it'd be the modern version of feeding Christians to the lions practiced by the government of Rome a couple of thousand years ago. So much for the rhetoric of "freedom of religion", so oft repeated nowadays. So what if the psychedelic of choice is LSD rather than peyote? Is it OK to eat peyote if you are a native American indigenee but not if you are a white or black or other native of America? Since when is there any difference? Why should there be some sort of barrier to joining any religious group? There is only one answer: you are not allowed to be different, to think original thoughts, to act as if you were really free. You are not supposed to experience the world in any way differently to the way those in power wish you to.
It is a fairly modern turn which has led us to this point in time. Plants have only in recent times been unlawful. Although there have been reactions to the introduction of various kinds of psychically active plants into social use...coffee caused a bit of a stir when it was first introduced, as was chocolate. Still, the prohibition movement is a phenomenon of this century. First the war against alcohol, which failed to successfully introduce laws through Congress outlawing booze (the Supreme Court declared that Congress didn't have the authority to do that), succeeded in pushing through an amendment to the Constitution. This was a terrible mistake, and the country still has a powerful Mafia as a direct result of the huge "money for nothing" fees people paid to have access to the drinks they wanted. Even the Volstead amendment didn't criminalize use or possession.
With the repeal, those used to the easy money, having acquired money and therefore power, set about to have introduced new laws which would recreate the money tree. This time they were able, by claiming that the drugs represented a "health and safety" problem, to get passed and approved by the court laws outlawing a variety of plant derived drugs from cannabis to coca and opiates. The inclusion of cannabis may have been the desire of certain industrialists to limit the competition hemp fibers presented to the emerging synthetic fiber industry. Funny thing the court actually said that a tax stamp created with the express intent of never being issued, therefore a defacto prohibition was constitutional! Harmless and joyful cannabis, the wonderful plant which has adapted itself so completely to the service of man, was depicted as a Killer of Youth, Creater of Madness, with all the power of a popular press in the full vigor of its prime. Whether Hearst was paid off to do this, or just thought that anything sensational enough to sell newspapers was ok, will probably never be known.
Today we are seeing a more moderate approach to the hemp matter. People are rediscovering all the uses to which this plant can be put, from making paint to paper. Still there is a weird aversion to the medicinal and recreational values so celebrated throughout history until recent times. "Drug free" strains are touted for the production of fiber and oilseed. What a load of nonsense, as if the conventional recreational drugs were safe and desirable? Even the opiates wouldn't be much of a problem if they weren't illegal, forcing a myriad of eager dealers into the streets for the money for nothing of the black market created by the laws.
Society should never intentionally create a black market. All black markets are a danger to the community due to the lack of controls and the high delivery fees that they force on the delivery system. Likewise there is a huge loss in revenue to the normal flow of commerce through the community. The amounts of money available leads to the inevitable corruption of all who attempt to interfere in the flow of goods in this black market. Black markets made fortunes to the entrepreneurs of the world wars. Tires, fuel and meat made fortunes for those who could divert supplies to their clients. Anything can be a black market. The only thing required is scarcity, or illegality, and a demand for the items.
The use of psychedelics as a part of the religious experience has forced literally hundreds of thousands of otherwise law abiding people into the black market for their supplies. Due to the dangers and costs many have had to turn to dealing to gain access. Within a community which is devoted to the ingestion of these sacred substances there are many who feel that it is a noble calling to be the source for their friends and fellow worshippers. Hold on, some may say, what about those who are merely thrill seekers? Well, maybe the first time a person uses LSD or the other entheogens, they may be motivated by such a motive. The nature of the experience is that of a profound union with the universal mind. This takes place over time, at first things happen one way, then they change with further trips.
The term, "War on Drugs" is a non sequitur. There cannot be a war on anything except people. The question is, why does the government want to wage a war against its own people? The simple principle of harm reduction dictates that all drugs should cease to be illegal. Very few people would become junkies without someone on the street corner offering it to them, with the added attraction to the young of defying authority. Likewise the widespread belief that advertising is a form of speech which should be protected, and therefore unregulated, is wrong. Advertising is a form of coercive behavior, directed at producing a response without regard to the real merits involved, as long as there is a profitable result for the advertiser. This has nothing to do with the value to the individual or to the community. Tobacco is an excellent example. Joe Camel has been implicated in the early commencement of tobacco use by children. Why advertise tobacco? Any one would not have any trouble knowing about the stuff as long as it was available. No coercion can be intelligently defended.
As well, what about the ads "You can win a million" promulgated by the usually government run lottos? Anyone with any knowledge of gambling knows that the odds against winning are around 50 million to one. You are far more likely to be struck by lightning, or even a meteorite than to pick the winner in a lotto. But the ads imply that it's easy...not one word about the odds. Somebody has to win, I hear it said, but the roll over to super jackpots should put paid to that one. Even so, it's the people least likely to afford it that wind up pouring their money into it in the vain hope of being the lucky one. I don't think such things should be outlawed, people want to gamble, take drugs, smoke tobacco and/or pot, and they should not have these activities criminalized. But neither should they be the subject of advertising.
The US Constitution directs the government to "provide for the general welfare" illegality of drugs creates a health and welfare crisis of immense dimensions. Unknown dosages, unknown composition, contamination both chemical and biological. Death and disease are the direct result of the laws, not the use of various drugs. So far as I know the Supreme Court has never ruled as to whether the laws on drugs violate the powers given to congress. Judging on the basis of the Volstead Act, it would appear that they should throw the lot out. But there is no mechanism whereby a case may be forced to the attention of the court. Perhaps in the current climate of illogic, where a kid who introduces a couple of people he knew, one who grew, and one who sold marijuana, can be given life in prison, although he didn't see the weed nor share in any monies, the electorate might pass an amendment to the constitution to continue the insanity.

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