What to say with a background like this? And with what colour lettering so it will be readable? Large type may be a solution. Do you have the patience to scroll through all of this? Assuming you exist.

Okay. I'll provide a text-only version: click here.

For those patient and visually adventurous souls who continue, let's start by saying the obvious: drugs are here.

By this i mean that they are an unavoidable part of every culture, and those who would pray, legislate or nuke them away are simply on something themselves, perhaps not an actual chemical, but a belief system just as potent and reality-denying. Better all-round, no matter what one's attitude, is to understand why we take drugs, understand how they can be of benefit and understand their limits and the need eventually to go beyond them. In short, understand rather than bully ourselves and others with moral bludgeonings.

The best source i know of to look at these issues is Andrew Weil's book, The Natural Mind, written long before he attained his status as pop-cultural-alternative health guru. In it he examines the drug practices of cultures all over the world with the non-judgmental eye of an eager-to-learn anthropologist. These new cultural perspectives – which are among the priceless intangibles diminishing in the homogenized global culture developing as we surf – imbue his book with a freshness that could well be applied to the miasma of our current drug policies. Quite frankly, the longevity of our authoritarian approach is testimony only to our tenacity in clinging to old ideas and our leaders' skill in manipulating us.

The central illuminating theme in The Natural Mind is that drug use in most cultures is channelled into socially approved and appropriate niches of experience, usually religious, to allow and encourage experiences of consciousness beyond the everyday sober consciousness. Weil found an almost universal need to leave this imprisoning sobriety behind from time to time. From Arizona to Amazon, from Kamchatka to Kalahari, individual and society alike benefit in obvious ways. The individual gets her religious experience, her communion with the rest of existence, relief from the isolation and stress of separation from the whole. The society gets a recharged, satisfied member prepared to continue as a full participant in its collective endeavours.

Now compare this with caucasian/Christian-based societies. Whatever drugs and attendant rituals may have been sanctioned in pre-Christian Europe are long gone, replaced with a forbidding attitude toward anything resembling celebration of our unity with existence. Christian rituals, aside from some charismatic/pentecostal types, are sober and serious and in no way encourage transcendence of normal consciousness. Many "primitive" religions infuse daily life with a sacredness and significance that uplifts every act, every step, every breath. Christianity goes in the other direction, infusing religion with business and a bureaucratic, judgmental morality that all but smothers our individual yearnings. And this banal, torpid mindset is reflected in our drugs.

We get, in fact, the drugs we deserve. Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine are drugs whose purpose is to keep us functioning as efficient cogs in a mechanized society. This takes care of society's needs, but we have forgotten to think of our own; the social contract does not work here. Confused and alienated, we have turned recently to chemistry and the drugs of other cultures, randomly generating addiction, overdoses, psychosis, transcendent experiences, lethargic stupors, manic week-long highs, etc. Since for the most part our "new" drug experiences are conditioned and governed by earlier experiences with legal drugs, and by our whole social milieu, most of that list is an uninspiring dead end. This drug dysphoria appears everywhere a culture has been uprooted or a personal-transcendence-based religion has been replaced with organization.

Okay. Now let's add Osho's insight. He has of course said many different things on the subject, some of it contradictory, since he is speaking to different people with different needs. Some things shine through, however, as applicable to large numbers of us, and his lack of moralizing is refreshing. He is concerned with practicalities. When sannyasins in the old days came to him with heroin problems, he did not judge them, but gently tried to ease them away from their habits, about which their self-judgments created as much pain as the habit itself.

With LSD and other psychedelics he is rather sterner, in terms of trying to dissuade delusionary habits. First, agreeing with Weil to a point, he says drugs can give you a vision, show you that some possibilities exist beyond normal consciousness. Then, again practical rather than moral, he says these chemicals may have started you on the path – all well and good – but they cannot finish the job. Not only that, they can mislead you into thinking you are on the right track, never mind whatever habit-forming properties they might have. (And of course these habits can be much more subtle than physical addiction).

My own experience is more or less a microcosm of this. LSD indeed started me on the path, exposing me to vast possibilities i never would have dreamed of in my previous life, like a blind man being given sight. I never did it often, but three or four times a year for ten years adds up to a fair whack. My big habit was smoking grass, not as destructive as heroin or alcohol but hard to pass off as transcendent. Still, not the stupidest thing i could have done either, and i did learn a few things. What is pertinent here is that once started on the path, i came to see the value of just accepting the present conditions, both inner and outer. Taking drugs says i do not accept my current state of consciousness. On one level this is a no-brainer, but there is a subtle point.

If i cannot accept my "normal" consciousness, i will not be able to move past it; what i cannot accept i am doomed to remain stuck in. Acceptance is central here; more than a strategy, it is a keystone of my experience and understanding of the search. Accepting myself as i am does not mean abandoning growth. Accepting, really being here now in this present moment and state and not wishing for a higher, better present, is utterly key to going beyond, for it helps remove the barriers to vision, insight and understanding, which alone – in my view – can transform the mundane present into a transcendent present. This is both a herenow modus vivendi and a long-term view. What's more, it is the only thing i am really capable of. In my experience, i cannot will myself to be more aware, more total, more loving, etc. Where i do have a choice is to accept or not. This is the most accessible of all the qualities that have any bearing and value in the search. This means no more drugs.

For those to whom risk is the most accessible and useful quality, go for it. Whatever Osho or anyone else says should matter little. But some intelligent risk assessment may be in order. Drugs have a very poor track record in terms of permanent transformation. No one has ever arrived this way and the field is littered with casualties. Mostly people just come back to where they were before. Those that don't have not gone beyond the mind but have gotten stuck in some tape loop in the mind. Brrr. The odds seem much better playing Russian roulette.

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