Sunday, March 7, 2021

Psychedelics and Spiritual Cultivation


I have often been asked whether there is any utility or value in the use of psychedelic drugs while engaging in spiritual practices, and specifically cultivation practice like that found in Yi Fa Qi Gong and other authentic Qi Gong cultivation systems.

 My answer has always been that one has to be very cautious and prudent in how to approach the question of psychedelics. And in fact, people who are already engaging in or have previously used psychedelics will probably have very little benefit, and potentially drawbacks, from any attempt to use them in the context of cultivation practice.

Not because "drugs are bad" or anything like that, but because in the context of just WHAT they're useful for in terms of spiritual development.  Psychedelic drugs need to be used ideally only at very carefully selected moments and in very specially selected contexts. The ancient shamanic cultures throughout the world understood this, as did some of the hermetics and some of the eastern sects.

The central feature of the psychedelic experience is twofold: it temporarily breaks down the ego, and it opens the doors of perception (to paraphrase Huxley).

The latter means that suddenly you're having a sensory experience different to anything you experienced before.

This is what leads to the effect of breaking down the ego: the mind's ability to lock-in to personality is based largely on imprinted behaviors from memory... what you could call "conditioning". Basically, ways you've programmed yourself, some of which is essential for daily living but a lot of which is also highly limiting, including in the spiritual context.

When you use a psychedelic for the first time, it makes your brain unable to refer back to any past experience that was sufficiently similar to allow the ego to assert itself (in the sense of "I know what's happening here, I know what to do") and so you have the potential to have an experience that can break some barriers the Ego has created that could be very hard to break otherwise. It is the inability to put what you're experiencing into some comfortable box of context that makes the experience so potentially charged with the opportunity to make serious Change.

But by the second time you use a psychedelic, you already have a context by which the brain can compare it to in memory; namely, the first time you used it! So even just the second use of a psychedelic will be, spiritually speaking, enormously less useful than the first time.

I would say that generally speaking, the real spiritual utility of psychedelics for transformation (in cultivation practice) is limited to the first two or at most three times you use a drug. Any use after that will, at best, only be useful for attaining a kind of trance state (but that can be done in a lot of ways, including meditation). It's no longer useful as an ego-overwhelming tool. It is just re-creating a former experience.

That means that if you had wasted the first time you used a psychedelic (say, at a party or something), you would wasted a big potential tool that you could never use again.

So you want to think carefully about when you use psychedelics. If you do use them, it should be at a carefully planned moment and in a carefully prepared context so as to make the best use of the power of the ego-overwhelming experience.

1 comment:

  1. Nice perspective, and I agree mostly. I would say that within various Qi Gong practices, particularly the longers ones where I am in the zone for more than 45 minutes, is when I'm able to trigger a mild psychedelic condition within my own body, usually accompanied by an emotional release. I find that these incidents can be rather reliable and become something kind of like a little bonus for a really good practice. The effects may last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes generally.