Psychedelics and Religious Experience

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Zetherin
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 10:21 am
@Pangloss,
jeeprs wrote:
Well I have been high, and I have had spiritual experiences. They're different.


You have to understand "spiritual experience" is not clear. The conjoining of these two words is ambiguous, open for interpretation. Spirituality, in my opinion, is a personal endeavor. Thus, in order for me to really understand why you feel "They're different", we would have to come to an understanding concerning what "Just smoking" and "Smoking in order to induce a spiritual experience" mean. Everyone in this thread most likely has their own conception, and it's very possible we're bickering of nothing (literally, as in, we've created a false dilemma).

jeeprs wrote:
You need to admit the possibillity that you find this an affront because of your ideas of propriety and the perceived odium of drug use.


I have no qualms about drug use in general, and I didn't mean to imply I did.

jeeprs wrote:

"The idea of mystical experiences resulting from drug use is not readily accepted in Western societies"


What does this mean? I haven't a clue what 'mystical experiences resulting from drug use' implies. Does it mean I am simply thinking of the Virgin Mary whilst smoking a blunt? Does it mean I'm going through a series of traditional practices? The proposition must be clarified before I can 'accept' or 'denounce' anything.

However, I do believe many attempt to personally justify actions which are considered "vices" in society. This is not to say there aren't those that achieve a "spiritual experience", but it to say there are many little Jimmies who just want to toke up and justify it as this deep, meaningful, intellectual experience.

Pangloss wrote:

Nobody has yet to answer these two questions that I initially raised, aside from relating personal anecdotes about their own use of drugs or their own spiritual experiences. Those responses do not cut it, and I am still interested in actually coming up with some set rules for qualifying something as a "spiritual experience", and for associating at least the tryptamine derivatives (psilocybin and DMT), if not other psychedelic drugs, with this spiritual experience. :brickwall:


There are no set rules. And that's the point - spirituality is a personal experience, an experience that can (and must, in my opinion) only be evaluated by the one experiencing. If I sincerely stated I had a "spiritual experience" while taking a ****, what evidence or justification do you have to tell me I'm lying? You're absolutely right: "Spiritual experience" is not defined, as there are no ontological properties with which to evaluate. We're just playing with cards here.

Once again, I'm not saying someone can't come to a "spiritual experience" and/or that experience can't be worthwhile and the whole laundry list of *good* things perceived from it. On the contrary, I'm saying people can and do, and I'm sure many are fulfilled from partaking, but to attempt to prove or disprove the proposition stated above is pointless (unless we come to some mutual understanding -- which is very difficult when we speak of "spirituality").
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 01:01 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
There are no set rules. And that's the point - spirituality is a personal experience, an experience that can (and must, in my opinion) only be evaluated by the one experiencing. If I sincerely stated I had a "spiritual experience" while taking a ****, what evidence or justification do you have to tell me I'm lying? You're absolutely right: "Spiritual experience" is not defined, as there are no ontological properties with which to evaluate. We're just playing with cards here.

Once again, I'm not saying someone can't come to a "spiritual experience" and/or that experience can't be worthwhile and the whole laundry list of *good* things perceived from it. On the contrary, I'm saying people can and do, and I'm sure many are fulfilled from partaking, but to attempt to prove or disprove the proposition stated above is pointless (unless we come to some mutual understanding -- which is very difficult when we speak of "spirituality").


I completely agree. This is exactly the point I was trying to raise with my first response. If we are going to throw around these terms with any meaning, we have to have a clear definition. It seems clear to me, that there won't be a clear definition we can agree upon.

The original article by Watts admits as much:

Quote:

The terms "religious experience," "mystical experience," and "cosmic consciousness" are all too vague and comprehensive to denote that specific mode of consciousness which, to those who have known it, is as real and overwhelming as falling in love. This article describes such states of consciousness induced by psychedelic drugs, although they are virtually indistinguishable from genuine mystical experience.

...

I am trying to delineate the basic principles of psychedelic awareness. But I must add that I can speak only for myself. The quality of these experiences depends considerably upon one's prior orientation and attitude to life, although the now voluminous descriptive literature of these experiences accords quite remarkably with my own.
While Watts admits that this article is essentially just his own experience involving psychedelics, he also makes the claim that, psychedelic "states of consciousness" are "virtually indistinguishable from genuine mystical experience".

He first states that he can't say anything specific about these ambiguous experiences, beyond his personal knowledge, and then says that a psychedelic experience is indistinguishable from a genuine mystical experience. Of course, as we know, we can't use any type of measurement or set of rules to distinguish between "genuine" and non-genuine mystical experiences, or perhaps psychedelic drug experiences (unless we know for a fact that someone ingested the drug). So, he is really just stating the obvious and not saying anything.

This is why I initially posted what I did; I found the article to be problematic; vague, overreaching, and without a real thesis. It reads like a conglomeration of a report, and an opinion piece/political essay. No wonder there is confusion in this thread over what exactly we are attempting to debate here...
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 05:42 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss;58664 wrote:
This is why I initially posted what I did; I found the article to be problematic; vague, overreaching, and without a real thesis. It reads like a conglomeration of a report, and an opinion piece/political essay. No wonder there is confusion in this thread over what exactly we are attempting to debate here...


All of the confusion appears to come from a couple of participants who seem to know little about either using psychedelics for spiritual pursuits, or the mystical experience. I contributed to this thread because I've both done psychedelics (many years ago), and I have practiced meditation daily for 35 years. As I intimated on the first page of this thread, it was peyote specifically that got me wondering if I could achieve that experience without the drug. Now, thousands of hours of meditation later, I can confidently say it is not only possible to naturally achieve the peyote "high," but one can surpass it.

Your contributions, however, are another story. It does no good to post mere skepticism in a thread if you have no experience to draw from. To have a strong objective opinion, you have to first show your own expertise, along with what you've studied, and then specifically counter claims or points made. I emphasized "objective" because you are certainly entitled to be against drug use, and refuse them for yourself. But in a philosophical discussion, we consider possibilities. In that setting only experienced opinions are allowed to be strong; inexperienced opinions need to tread lightly.

But too often these forums attract skeptics, and cynics, who frustratingly offer little more than to keep repeating "how do we know _____________ ?(fill in the blank)" It is soooooo easy to disrupt and derail any discussion like that. If you claim you breathe, all I have to do is say "how do you KNOW you breathe? Maybe you just think you breathe, maybe you are dreaming you breathe, maybe maybe maybe . . . ." From your room where you write you can't "prove" you breathe to me here in my room; so if I won't tentatively accept that you do for the sake of discussion, such doubt/skeptic tactics stop or sidetrack a discussion every time.

When one participates in someone's thread, he has to tentatively accept his theme; or, if rejecting it, he must list the reasons and experience that justifies rejection. It isn't enough to doubt, any fool can do that. If a participant can't give sound, evidence-supported reasons for his doubt, then he should back the heck off and let people who are interested explore the topic.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 05:55 pm
@Theaetetus,
Wanting an objective account of a subjective reality is an impossibility.

To answer Pangloss' question:
Quote:
How do we define a spiritual experience? How do we know that drinking isn't just as spiritual as mushroom eating?


Well we don't know that. If you tell me that Scotch Whisky does for you what psychedelics did for me, I couldn't prove it either way - but I wouldn't believe you. I don't think it is possible to come up with a 'statutory definition of mystical experience'. You can only define it by living it, it takes commitment and also the risk that you might fail at it. (I think this is my interpretation of 'faith'.)

Watts refers to the psychedelic experience as 'real and overwhelming as falling in love'. So: define 'falling in love'. How do we know what love is, anyway? Well - we FEEL it. And if you have never felt it, then obviously you won't really get what people mean when they say they have 'fallen in love'. So if you have a sense of a shared experience, then you can say, well I understand what it means to fall in love. I've been there. (Seems to get more remote as you get older:sarcastic:) But you will never be able to 'explain', or to 'define' what it feels like. Which you have more or less acknowledged anyway.

More to the point of the original article and debate, with regards to the interpretation of spiritual experience, the normative bodies for those phenomena are actually esoteric religious movements, for example, Kabalah, Zen, Vedanta, Rosicrucian, Gnosticism, etc. These movements DO have a way of classifying and validating such experiences, through the tried and tested methodology of initiation, explanation, catharsis, discipline, under the supervision of a Master who has been through this and who knows what the experiences mean. (See Evelyn Underhill). So we return to the point that some of the 60's users of psychedelics - maybe not including Alan Watts, because he never did actually practise a 'sadhana' - graduated from the transitory realisations provided by these substances to really engage with some of these traditions. And by so doing, they began to import a completely new cultural stream into the West. Some Eastern-influenced philosophies and thinkers have become extremely influential in modern culture, and in my view present a real and humane alternative to the dogmatism of either fundamentalist Christianity or its opposite. I am very much part of that movement, and I got turned onto it through those experiences in the 60's.

So I can see the 60's psychedelic period as a window which opened briefly, in through which came a number of extraordinarily fecund ideas, perspectives and practises, which are now and will continue to be hugely important for the development of Western culture. We felt then that we were changing the world. And I think we did.
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 06:11 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
All of the confusion appears to come from a couple of participants who seem to know little about either using psychedelics for spiritual pursuits, or the mystical experience. I contributed to this thread because I've both done psychedelics (many years ago), and I have practiced meditation daily for 35 years. As I intimated on the first page of this thread, it was peyote specifically that got me wondering if I could achieve that experience without the drug. Now, thousands of hours of meditation later, I can confidently say it is not only possible to naturally achieve the peyote "high," but one can surpass it.


Congratulations... :flowers: Anything else you need to add here? This is supposed to be philosophy, not story time.

Quote:
Your contributions, however, are another story. It does no good to post mere skepticism in a thread if you have no experience to draw from. To have a strong objective opinion, you have to first show your own expertise, along with what you've studied, and then specifically counter claims or points made. I emphasized "objective" because you are certainly entitled to be against drug use, and refuse them for yourself. But in a philosophical discussion, we consider possibilities. In that setting only experienced opinions are allowed to be strong; inexperienced opinions need to tread lightly.


I'm not inexperienced. I think we already went through this. The problem with countering claims or points made here is that the original article didn't leave us with much to counter. It was an experience report and admitted that everything was entirely subjective.

I'm not going to just completely shift my opinion on "spirituality" and psychedelics simply because one person, namely you, comes on here with a nice report. That's great. But according to my own experience, and many accounts from others in the real world (that can be verified, and aren't just anonymous posts on the web), the "spiritual" aspect of the trip is likely yet another delusion created in your mind when you flood it with serotonin.

Quote:
But too often these forums attract skeptics, and cynics, who frustratingly offer little more than to keep repeating "how do we know _____________ ?(fill in the blank)" It is soooooo easy to disrupt and derail any discussion like that. If you claim you breathe, all I have to do is say "how do you KNOW you breathe? Maybe you just think you breathe, maybe you are dreaming you breathe, maybe maybe maybe . . . ." From your room where you write you can't "prove" you breathe to me here in my room; so if I won't tentatively accept that you do for the sake of discussion, such doubt/skeptic tactics stop or sidetrack a discussion every time.


Right. Go ahead and continue the terrific discussion that was going on here, I wasn't aware that we had one. This thread was totally dead before even going one page, until it was revived with yet another experience report, after you thought it fit to give yours. So, go ahead with discussion, I won't be wasting time in this thread anymore anyway. As for the original article, I've stated my response on it clearly and my issues with it, as well as with everything else.

Quote:
When one participates in someone's thread, he has to tentatively accept his theme; or, if rejecting it, he must list the reasons and experience that justifies rejection. It isn't enough to doubt, any fool can do that. If a participant can't give sound, evidence-supported reasons for his doubt, then he should back the heck off and let people who are interested explore the topic.


I think I have. The problem is that there was no argument made to begin with. No disrespect to Theaetetus because I like his posts, but he posts a lot of articles up here without giving any of his own ideas or arguments, which I would like to hear in response to the article. So when left without an argument, I post my reaction. That's what I did, same as you.

Anyway, continue on, uninterrupted, with the drug experience reports. Erowid will have a solid contender here on PF in no time! :a-ok:
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 06:26 pm
@Theaetetus,
LWSleeth wrote:
When one participates in someone's thread, he has to tentatively accept his theme; or, if rejecting it, he must list the reasons and experience that justifies rejection. It isn't enough to doubt, any fool can do that. If a participant can't give sound, evidence-supported reasons for his doubt, then he should back the heck off and let people who are interested explore the topic.


I believe it was noted using sound, evidence-supported logic how language will not help us in clarifying the issue, as spirituality is a personal experience (unless all participants come to a mutual understanding). Your experience may not be my experience, and that is the point. This isn't like looking at a pencil on your desk; we could both come to an intersubjective conclusion on that -- it's either on the desk, or it's not. But here, when we speak of abstract notions, such as "God", "spirituality", we may not be using the same set of properties with which we're defining our terms. Both participants must clarify in order for an intelligent discussion to had.

I don't know what exact justifications you wish to seek from me (or us), in "accepting" my questions and believing I'm not a 'skeptic fool'. Why you immediately assume we aren't 'experienced' enough, and don't even entertain any of the material written, is beyond me.

Quote:
When one participates in someone's thread, he has to tentatively accept his theme
And often times the specific 'theme' is not clarified. For some reason, you readily assume that there is just some universal intersubjective understanding of all you speak, when there just clearly is not.

It's not that anyone is doubting anything; it's further inquiry for clarification (the participant you quoted was not explicitly doubting anything). I don't believe you're understanding this, and for some reason take all critical questions (which you don't presume to be "sound") to be from the mouth of a 'stupid skeptic'. I've addressed this with you in past threads, but it doesn't seem you will even entertain questions I present because of your preconceived notions of 'who I am'.

Could it be you're incorrect in your analysis of the individual, and should consider giving them the respect of at least attempting clarification, instead of assuming they aren't worth it? Or won't you be fussed with that?
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 06:46 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss wrote:

I think I have. The problem is that there was no argument made to begin with. No disrespect to Theaetetus because I like his posts, but he posts a lot of articles up here without giving any of his own ideas or arguments, which I would like to hear in response to the article. So when left without an argument, I post my reaction. That's what I did, same as you.


I post a lot of other people's thoughts in the philosophers forum without my own so I don't influence other peoples thoughts about the work. This is one of the tactics that I picked up from my mentor in philosophy. Offer readings that you find worthwhile and offer them to others, while allowing them to form their own ideas and opinions on the work. For the sake of understanding and to help guide discussion on the forum though, I can give more of my own personal interpretations, thoughts, and arguments on the works of others. Thanks for the constructive criticism!
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 08:22 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss;58713 wrote:
Congratulations... :flowers: Anything else you need to add here? This is supposed to be philosophy, not story time.



I'm not inexperienced. I think we already went through this. The problem with countering claims or points made here is that the original article didn't leave us with much to counter. It was an experience report and admitted that everything was entirely subjective.

I'm not going to just completely shift my opinion on "spirituality" and psychedelics simply because one person, namely you, comes on here with a nice report. That's great. But according to my own experience, and many accounts from others in the real world (that can be verified, and aren't just anonymous posts on the web), the "spiritual" aspect of the trip is likely yet another delusion created in your mind when you flood it with serotonin.



Right. Go ahead and continue the terrific discussion that was going on here, I wasn't aware that we had one. This thread was totally dead before even going one page, until it was revived with yet another experience report, after you thought it fit to give yours. So, go ahead with discussion, I won't be wasting time in this thread anymore anyway. As for the original article, I've stated my response on it clearly and my issues with it, as well as with everything else.



I think I have. The problem is that there was no argument made to begin with. No disrespect to Theaetetus because I like his posts, but he posts a lot of articles up here without giving any of his own ideas or arguments, which I would like to hear in response to the article. So when left without an argument, I post my reaction. That's what I did, same as you.

Anyway, continue on, uninterrupted, with the drug experience reports. Erowid will have a solid contender here on PF in no time! :a-ok:


I'll just leave you to your smart ass retorts.

---------- Post added at 07:40 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:22 PM ----------

Zetherin;58716 wrote:
It's not that anyone is doubting anything; it's further inquiry for clarification (the participant you quoted was not explicitly doubting anything). I don't believe you're understanding this, and for some reason take all critical questions (which you don't presume to be "sound") to be from the mouth of a 'stupid skeptic'. I've addressed this with you in past threads, but it doesn't seem you will even entertain questions I present because of your preconceived notions of 'who I am'.

Could it be you're incorrect in your analysis of the individual, and should consider giving them the respect of at least attempting clarification, instead of assuming they aren't worth it? Or won't you be fussed with that?


I understand perfectly what a fair, information-packed, properly reasoned response is. And I also can spot a harassing, picking-apart, skepticism-invoking debater from a mile away. You can always tell because all they ever do is pot shot and snipe. Wait for a fact-filled, studied, scholarly, charitable response and you'll die of starvation waiting for a tidbit of informed opinion.

What exactly do you know about mysticism? What exactly do you know about inner practice? What exactly do you know about using peyote in an attempt to achieve the mystical experience? Who have you studied? Where's the evidence of your scholarly study that you should have long ago shown us to prove your questions have merit?

Every word you and Pangloss have said here has been proof you know nothing about this subject; yet here you are picking, challenging, questioning to death any effort to get to a more enlightened discussion.

You've been trusted with moderatorship, so it must be that the administrators of this site agree with your approach. As someone who has studied, and still studies his butt off before discussing a subject, I personally find it discouraging.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 11:02 pm
@Theaetetus,
As a moderator and the original poster of this thread, I think we need to move beyond the rifts that have been created by different members voicing their opinions. I think there is much value to comparing psychedelic drug use to those of true religious and spiritual experiences. Going to church is only a superficial religious experience. It takes a commitment for real spiritual and religious experiences, which is a similar commitment that a user of psychedelic drugs must undertake. Obviously experience has a major role in the mediation of this subject, but from now on the focus of this thread must approach the four major claims of Alan Watts' paper comparing psyhedelic experience to that of true spiritual or religious experience.

1. slowing down of time
2.
awareness of polarity
3.
awareness of relativity
4.
awareness of eternal energy
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Sat 18 Apr, 2009 12:47 am
@Theaetetus,
As for Myself I have been activley meditating for 15 years and can only reliably produce within my mind and spirit 1) Slowing down of time. I don't particularly find that spiritual per se, I do find it like a pre-cursor or a pre-requisite to a real spiritual experience, of which I have experienced in brief but life altering flashes of the eternal. I am fairly certain that within my mixed up method I need the hyperawareness of the percieved slow time simply so that I can be still enough to have the chance to even notice and hopefully touch what is out there/ in here.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Sat 18 Apr, 2009 01:49 am
@GoshisDead,
LWSleeth wrote:
I understand perfectly what a fair, information-packed, properly reasoned response is. And I also can spot a harassing, picking-apart, skepticism-invoking debater from a mile away. You can always tell because all they ever do is pot shot and snipe. Wait for a fact-filled, studied, scholarly, charitable response and you'll die of starvation waiting for a tidbit of informed opinion.


I don't quite understand what you believe I'm challenging. I'm simply asking for a clarification of "spiritual experience", as I believe spirituality is a personal experience, an experience that can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways. I do not find this an unfair, harassing, picking-apart, skeptic question. In fact, I find it be the question if I am to denounce or accept anything (regarding any of the propositions I've been presented).

Quote:

What exactly do you know about mysticism? What exactly do you know about inner practice? What exactly do you know about using peyote in an attempt to achieve the mystical experience? Who have you studied? Where's the evidence of your scholarly study that you should have long ago shown us to prove your questions have merit?


I never made any claims to knowledge of using substance to induce a "spiritual experience". Where's the evidence of my scholarly study to ask for clarification on a conjoining of two words, one being an abstract notion that has varying interpretation? LWSLeeth, I'm seeking clarification, not challenging your status or experience in any way, and I don't need a set number of credentials to ask for clarification, do I? I haven't a clue why you're being so defensive. I'm trying to work with you, not against you.

If you'd like a list of things I have worked on, think about consistently, study, just PM me. I find it insulting you immediately assume those you speak with are inexperienced, uneducated, fool skeptics just trying to harass. How you've come to this generalization, I haven't a clue. Please do not treat everyone on this forum this disrespectfully.

Quote:
Every word you and Pangloss have said here has been proof you know nothing about this subject; yet here you are picking, challenging, questioning to death any effort to get to a more enlightened discussion.


These sentences are just so insulting I don't even know where to begin. Are you familiar with Ad Hominem? Your prejudice against those you perceive to be "harassing debators" is astounding.

Quote:
You've been trusted with moderatorship, so it must be that the administrators of this site agree with your approach. As someone who has studied, and still studies his butt off before discussing a subject, I personally find it discouraging.


I truly wonder if you read any of my writing or if you just scrolled to the bottom of my post, found a grouping of words, and then quoted just to tell me how much of fool skeptic I am. Now you even patronize my moderator status? Once again, I am not challenging you, I am trying to clarify with you. I'd really like to come to an understanding with you, but your abrasive tone and presumptuous judgments are very hard to work with. If you seek to enlighten others, which I'm hoping you do, I ask to please approach this from a different angle.

Thanks,

Zeth
 
 

 
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