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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

The ultimate high

For most, the psychedelic generation is thankfully dead and buried under heaps of marijuana ash. But the ghost of that era may still have a few spiritual lessons for New Age.

india Updated: May 11, 2006 13:54 IST
Saurabh Bhattacharya/ Life Positive
Saurabh Bhattacharya/ Life Positive

...On one level, I was still a fetus experiencing the ultimate perfection of a good womb. On another level, I became the universe; I was witnessing the macrocosm with countless pulsating galaxies and was it at the same time...

...I expanded all at once into a glowing conscious circle, growing larger and larger, until a maximum was reached, the 'I' remaining as it was, but instead of a confining unit, now encompassed by a shining globe of vast dimensions...

The excerpts given above describe two spiritual-mystical experiences-one resulting from meditation and the other from a drug 'trip'. Can you figure out which is which? In all probability, you can't, unless you have either come across these passages earlier or are plain lucky. Or, of course, if you have had what is popularly known as the 'psychedelic experience' and can recognize a high when you see one.

The similarities between a drug-induced experience and a mystical vision are far too alarming for our anti-drug conditioned mind to completely appreciate. It is a historical fact that, all over the world, drug visions have always been considered redundant, if not downright heretical, by established mainstream spiritual traditions. Over the years, the term 'drug' itself has been successfully stigmatized by society. Not without cause, as is evident in the havoc wreaked by drugs on the world's youth from the '60s till today.

Yet, it is also a historical fact that for centuries, psychedelic drugs such as marijuana, mescaline and psilocybin have been integral to the spiritual practices of various tribal cultures and yogic traditions respected even today for their wisdom. Shamans of South America's Yaqui tribe use psilocybin and mescaline extensively during meditation.

In India, the Aghora sect of Tantra and a significant section of Shaivite Tantrics ritually partake of marijuana as part of their sadhana (spiritual exercise). The third most important deity in the Vedas, after Indra and Agni, is Soma, symbolised by the intoxicating plant soma and its juice. Even the first sutra of Kaivalya Pada in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra recognises the path of drugs thus: "Janmaushadhi-mantra-tapah-samadhi-jah siddhayah (The siddhis  (occult powers) are the result of birth, drugs, mantra, austerities or samadhi)." 

(This article has been taken from Life Positive, May 1997 issue. For more log on

First Published: May 11, 2006 13:54 IST