If you are a superior person in any way—morally, intellectually, physically—you have no means of knowing that you’re a superior person except through the presence of relatively inferior people. And were they to disappear, you would be in limbo and you wouldn’t know where you were at all. The higher always depends on the lower in the same way as the flower of the plant depends on the soil, the rows upon the manure. And so, too, the subjective (the self) goes along with the objective (what the self knows) in an inseparable union.
It’s really a matter of semantics as to what is self and what is other within you. It depends where you draw the line.
These substances tend to do something very different from producing sleep. They tend, instead, to produce a peculiar kind of wakefulness: a sharpening rather than a dimming of consciousness.
It is a commonplace of these spiritual disciplines that what you do in them is die in the midst of life: you are born again a second time. And that death refers to the death of the ego—that is to say, you leave behind the state of consciousness in which you thought you were no more than an isolated individual center of consciousness. That drops back. And so, in that sense, you’ve died.
Gurdjieff once said that if anything would possibly save mankind from its idiocy, it would be the clearest possible recognition by every individual that he and all others around him are most certainly going to die.
When you have accepted your own death in the midst of life, it means that you’ve let go of yourself, and you are therefore free. You are not any longer plagued by worry and anxiety. You know that you’re done for anyhow. So there’s no need constantly to fight to protect yourself—because what’s the point? And it isn’t just, you see, that people spend all their time really doing something to protect themselves—like, say, taking out an insurance policy or seeing that they eat properly—it’s what we do that doesn’t issue in any action at all: the constant inner worry, which leads to no action except more worry. And that is what is given up, you see, by a person who really knows that he’s dead.
A Zen saying says: that monk who has a satori goes to hell as straight as an arrow. In other words: to have it is to cling to it. And if you think that the ecstasy is the important thing in it—it isn’t. The ecstasy is an intermediate stage to bring you back to the point where you can see that everyday life—that your ordinary mind, as they say in Zen—is the Buddha-mind. That everyday life, as it is, is the great thing. And there is no difference between that and the divine life.
What one tends to do under the influence of a psychedelic chemical is to become aware of being aware—that is to say: you turn your senses back on themselves. And one is only inclined to do this when there is an alteration in the normal form of perception.
You begin to realize it’s a sort of secret that you are willing what happens to you without your will. Because you see that you couldn’t will anything unless there was also that that was other, that you couldn’t will, that was beyond your control. And it begins to dawn. You begin to see the whole thing: that you’re not just something fighting the world all on your little lonesome, but that the whole thing that you think you’re fighting is the other side of you.
You begin to experience an extraordinary kinship with all other forms of life—not only kinship with insects and worms and bacteria and so on, but also with people. Because you begin to see that everybody’s faced with the same problem you are. Everybody has the same death problem, and that everybody’s workings aren’t to be easily dismissed as good and bad.
You see all these human games running together, and you begin to feel: gee, isn’t that marvelous! You know, at first it starts being kind of cynical. You see everybody’s out after himself, and that some people are very loving and very cooperative because they realize that this pays, that this makes other people love them and that they’re playing a game just like the people who are hostile and grumpy and aggressive and rude, and they get their way that way. You will see everybody’s playing the game of being selfish.
You realize that what you love when you love yourself is always some other object than yourself. You like eating ice cream. You like beautiful views. You like your house. You like your friends. You like kissing beautiful girls. You like this. But it’s all not me! See? You suddenly realize you can’t separate your self that you love from everything else that your self implies. Then, you know, you begin to wonder which end is up. But it soon clarifies, and you suddenly see the whole thing—and this can become with psychedelics a very, very vivid thing—the whole universe as a colossal energy play going this way and that way, totally indestructible, and it’s all you, and you didn’t know it. It doesn’t mean you’re the only one. This thing proliferates in millions and millions of centers, but it’s all one center. And you can get the physical sensation of the thing being an enormous, as it were, sort of center of light: of joyous, whooping, glorious, loving BOOM, like that. And this will only usually last for a few moments, where you feel you’ve actually put your finger on the center of reality. And it’s this tremendous luminous energy. Just beautiful!
One of the strongest effects that I had from the use of psychedelics was a vastly renewed appreciation of this dimension of the natural world; a kind of perception that the whole world is pattern.
You have to remember one of the famous stories of Sri Ramakrishna. There was a student who had been with him and had been learning that all things in the world are Brahman; are manifestations of the divine. And having heard this, he left the master’s ashram and went walking down the road. And there comes along an elephant swinging its trunk and looking rather fierce. And there is a mahout riding on the elephant, and he says to this man, “Hey, get out of the way! This is a fierce elephant.” But he thought, “I am Brahman. Elephant is Brahman. We are all one Godhead and no trouble can come.” So he didn’t get out. And as he approached, the elephant swatted him with his trunk and threw him into the bramble bushes at the side of the road, from which he eventually extracted himself bleeding and bruised. And he went back to the master and told what had happened. And the master shook his head and said to him, “But you should have realized that the mahout warning you was also Brahman.”
There is no way of not interfering with life. Even when you glance around this room, you make an effect on it. The slightest little breath upsets things—not very seriously, not very much, but still it does. Our existence, the mere fact of existence, is an interference. There is no way of not interfering because you are absolutely connected with everything that goes on, and every move that you make has repercussions.
If you have to go around, in other words, challenging everybody with your insight, it shows that you are not secure in it. You don’t really believe it, otherwise you wouldn’t have to brag about it.
Religion is not just believing certain ideas and following certain patterns of behavior, but must indeed involve a transformation of consciousness—not in the sense of an emotional blowout, like a revival meeting, but something which involves a crucial change in the sense of human identity. There is, therefore, weaving together at this time, a whole pattern of movements. More and more it becomes (in the biological and ecological and physical sciences) clear that the individual is inseparable from the cosmos. That, after all, you are an expression of everything that’s going on.