I was going to get to bed early tonight until one of my Facebook friends linked to this article: I went to Mexico and took Tabernanthe iboga (Ibogaine) just to see what it was like. It is an interesting read about one young man’s decision to experience a powerful hallucinogenic drug, and what he experienced. It reminded me of when I was 20 and decided to take LSD (in my pre-Christian days). But what has spurred me to write is not to argue with any of his experience, but to explain what is missing from it – yea, and from ALL such explorations – the knowledge of God, and the understanding that such revelatory experiences are actually and often spiritual deceptions leading us towards death, or at least AWAY from eternal life.
For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:14
My Course Towards LSD
In college, I pursued and attained a B.S. in Biochemistry, but I was also a man on a search for I didn’t know what. Leaving my unpleasant High School experience, I lived out my anger and rebellion in trying many personas – I was (sequentially) a punk with a Mohawk, a redneck who drank and dipped and listened to Bocephus, a regular recreational drug user and Bob Marley freak, and finally, I started listening to the Dead and tripping – right before God intervened and I became a born-again. And for good measure, I left Xianity after 10 years for a 6 year period to explore Yoga and Buddhism. Having exhausted those avenues to my satisfaction, I have returned to Christianity to become a pastor – in my experience, convictions, and opinions, there is no truer or more reliable world view than the Biblical one. Really.
Should Anyone Condemn LSD?
As a Christian Pastor, I am expected to whole-heartedly condemn recreational drug use, and report that my experience was all bad. Except, it wasn’t. I enjoyed most of the many drugs I tried, and took some of them regularly. I still have some fond memories of, for example, cooking mac and cheese while getting high, knowing that the munchies were only 20 minutes away. Or jamming with Bob Marley and getting revelations of our mutual brotherhood and the beauty of nature. Now, I’ve quit those things for many reasons, though mostly because they’re played out for me – their benefits are limited, and their detriments are many.
I am not libertarian – I think we should have some strong drug laws, but neither is keeping MJ out of the hands of college kids my biggest concern in life. But LSD changed my life.
My Marijuana Gateway
It was a typical warm Carolina night, and I was in my third floor apartment with my three roommates, two women and one other guy. We had a party, and the stereo was blasting Bob Marley while we all sat around, very high. When I closed my eyes, I saw sheets of colored paper coming in from the distance, overlaying themselves to the beat of the music, with different colors and patterns. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “this is cool. I wonder if this is what tripping is like.” Soon after, I went to the library to research it – I mean, I’d heard scary things about it, and wanted to know more before I took it. I found and read Drug, Set, and Setting: The Basis for Controlled Intoxicant Use, which helped me plan a non-awful trip (can’t believe I can remember the name of that book 25 years later). One of my earlier roommates was a construction worker, and he had drug connections, so he got me a couple hits of red dragon acid, which I put in my freezer for a few months while I prepared.
The Day of My LSD Trip
I went to the local park, put down a blanket, had a jam box and some water, and dropped a hit. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, and I had nothing to do for the next 48 hours – more than enough time to enjoy this. An hour later, or what seemed like an hour, nothing happened. So I took the other one. Within the next hour, I was on my way, tripping. The first thing I experienced was that LSD, at least for me in this experience, was not primarily a visual experience, but a mental one. I had no experiences of tracking or of things morphing into strange shapes, or trees and animals talking to me. Nope. I had perhaps four important revelations that day.
1. The Revelation of Self
The most intense and surprising experience I had taking LSD was that of taking stock of myself – it seemed to strip away my pretenses and forced me to look at myself like an inventory manager in a warehouse. I perceived my strengths and weaknesses, my emotional assets, and my liabilities. I realized that I liked myself, and had some great potential. I also realized, though in retrospect, hardly enough, my own lack of kindness and concern for those around me. Most of us never assess ourselves soberly (cf. Romans 12:3) and honestly, and to be ‘forced’ to do so by a drug that removes our mental defenses and amplifies our feelings about ourselves and others is intense, if not dangerous.
However, even though my experience was intense and enlightening, I’m not so sure it was entirely objective, since, during and after my experience, I overlooked some serious arrogance issues that were perhaps only intensified by my experience.
2. The Revelation of Interconnectedness
As I lay on my blanket and up at the tree leaves, I saw the incredible order of the leaves, an incredible math, a universal equation. “Life is like that,” I thought to myself, seeing an interconnecting design, not just within the tree, but the ecosystem. I felt that the same equations that govern the gathering and separating of soap bubbles on the surface of water was at work in, for example, patterns of car movements on the highway, and was amazed at how it was all governed by similar principles. I’m not sure that this revelation really changed my life morally, ethically, or in a meaningful way, but it did impress me that there was some universal order at work that I had formerly missed. I was amazed at how little I had seen before.
3. The Revelation of Lesser Considerations
As a scientist who also enjoyed writing poetry, I liked to frequent poetry reading events in bars. On one occasion, I met a guy who had taken a LOT of LSD over his lifetime, and I noticed this – it had fried his brain. His speech was halted, and he had a second or two gap between each word – it seemed he could barely eek the words out of his brain, and the words were not profound. Most of his ideas were now not readily available from his memory – and this relationship between present and stored memory is part of my ‘revelation’ of Lesser Considerations. This guy showed me the type of memory frying that can occur if you trip too much. In fact, after I came down from this trip, I realized how dangerous it was, and decided to only do it maybe once a year.
But anyway, in my mind, ideas started gathering into categories, which for some reason, I though of as ‘lands.’ You know, the land of science, the land of government, etc. Profound, I know. But the land that really grabbed my attention was ‘The Land of Lesser Considerations.” That was the place that ideas went when I was either not thinking about them, or could not remember them. It fascinated me that my brain could store and retrieve information – put it in the background somehow, then bring it to the foreground. And this storage area, this land of lesser considerations – i.e. stuff that was not in my thoughts NOW, was funny to me.
But my inebriated inability to remember information led me from an intellectual land of forgetfulness to a land without will or ambition – what I called The Land of F**k It. So I took down the big Coors label poster on my wall, turned it over, and wrote “Welcome to the Land of F**k It” on it (I did not use asterisks). Why is this important? I was deeply impressed by this concept, enjoying my abrogation of ability to care about my affairs. I guess it’s just fun to un-shoulder our responsibilities on occasion and enjoy a few hours not caring about our troubles. The only down side is, with too much drugs, we end up living in that land of will-less incapacitation, and like the LSD poet mentioned above, the connections between what we know and can remember or care about can become seriously damaged.
About 6 hours into my trip (an hour after peaking), my girlfriend showed up, and good thing too – the park was gonna close in a few hours, and I hadn’t eaten all day, and I was in NO shape to drive. In fact, I could not even make simple decisions like should I sit up or lay down. Any decision making was pretty much impossible, and extremely stressful. But I got a look at her hair in the sun and something strange happened in my brain – it just looked so AWESOME! That moment, I decided to grow my hair long. It was just groovy and natural – like the grass and the trees, and I dug it. Other natural things that had the same easy, unforced beauty, like certain types of music, or organic designs, suddenly appealed to me. I’m not sure why. They just did. Perhaps I was awakening to both truth and beauty instead of being fooled by the pleasures, power, and possessions the world offers to satisfy us (see 1 John 2:16).
Secondary Shifts After Taking LSD
Again, looking back, the secondary shifts in my world and self views were really more important than the ‘revelations’ I had while tripping.
1. Drugs as a source of knowledge
I felt that I had some real breakthroughs from my trip. I felt that I had a better appreciation for and understanding of myself. I felt that I had gained a great appreciation of nature and the interconnectedness of all things. I felt I had experienced a spiritual and emotional space that I had not previously – realizing an ‘expanded’ reality is really mind blowing. After years of thinking you know what the world is and what it’s like, then to be shown that there is so much more, well, it’s awesome.
This is one of the strange secondary effects that I can not explain fully (to myself at least) with natural explanations. It’s more than an appreciation for the ‘circle of life,’ and how death is part of ongoing life. Death seemed peaceful, almost beautiful – it was relaxing and easy, like the music of the Dead. I guess it was an extension of the Revelation of Grooviness, but it was something more – something I came to see later as possibly a dangerous spiritual deception. More on that later.
3. Pacifism and Non-Violence
Part of the credo of many hippies is a commitment to kindness, a dislike for conflict, and a desire for justice. Some of this, I am convinced, comes from the emotional shift towards wanting things to be more groovy, more low key, more enjoyable. The mantra here could be ‘mean people suck,’ but I think what may be lost in that simple calculus is the love of truth – of the reality of evils like Nazism or Islam, the need for virtues like hard work, chastity, self-control, and justified conflict and war.
I now suggest that the emotional openness and vulnerability of the LSD experience makes us want to avoid conflict and emotional danger, and so we thereafter gravitate away from even necessary conflicts. Not that hippies don’t protest or address social issues, just that they do so in ways that align more with personal comfort, hedonism, and a disdain for traditional morality – and I mean ‘traditional’ not in the sense of outdated rules from bygone paternalistic eras, but in the sense of time tested principles and virtues that produce prosperity and freedom.
So What’s Wrong with LSD?
As someone who has experienced a few paths of enlightenment, and ended up back on the Jesus-following path. let me share a few ideas with those of you who wish to explore psychotropics in your search for – well, whatever you are searching for, or think you need to find.
There is no doubt in my mind that LSD mellowed me out, and expanded my experience and understanding of the natural world, and of the value and brotherhood of all beings, especially other humans. But did I really become more loving? Hardly.
In fact, the arrogance I had groomed over years of insecurity was only heightened by my newfound ‘understanding.’ It hurts me even now to think of the selfish, arrogant things I did since that time. What I am saying is that, not only did I hardly learn anything substantial, I had no deep character change. But let me say that soon after, after a couple encounters that taught me the gospel message, I was personally transformed by asking the living God to enter my life. My experience of the presence of a God who loved me intimately broke down years of hurt in a matter of weeks, and many other powerful truths have since humiliated the paltry ‘truths’ I thought drugs had given me. I could fill volumes (and hope to, I’ve got 8 books outlined already, see WhenYouReturn.com for my first steps) with the practical, transformational, insightful, and hope-giving revelations I’ve learned from Christ.
2. False perception of enlightenment
If you’ve ever gotten high, you may have had the experience of being able to see ‘into’ people more by looking at their expressions, or in their eyes. Somehow, you ‘see’ them better, more accurately, more deeply. Now, this may be partly true since most of us have little experience or skills ‘reading’ people, but if we just pay a little more attention to their subtle body language and facial cues, we can see more than we do before doing so. Perhaps the amplification affect of drugs cause us to think we are somehow seeing more, and perhaps we are. But in general, we are NOT becoming more insightful, we are just becoming more convinced in our own minds that we are. Along with the few other real truths we learn, and perhaps even the experiences of profundity or of hearing a higher voice in our heads, we think we are on the path of enlightenment. But my experience is that this is more perception than reality. Want some real enlightenment? Try some Vipassana Meditation, or try asking Jesus into your heart. Drugs will soon seem like a fool’s gold. Heck, even Yoga will teach you much more.
3. Drugs are the path of death, not enlightenment
As I mentioned above, a second deception of drugs is that of making death beautiful. The Bible speaks of death as the great ENEMY to be overcome with eternal life:
The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:26
What really happens as we take drugs is a progression like this:
- We experience revelations and expanded awareness
- We start experiencing diminishing returns, and start frying our brains
- We end up dead. That’s pretty much it. Even the “God” drug mentioned in the initial article above won’t actually make you meet God.
But I swear, you can meet God in your experience. I first understood the gospel through this simple presentation – The Four Spiritual Laws (non-flash version). A few months later, I tried it. I am alive.
As I quoted above, there is a spiritual principle regarding Satan – that he is not a huge angry goat-man in a red suit, but rather, a beautiful fallen angel, expert at deception (cf. Genesis 3:1-7, 14-15, Job 1:6-12, Job 2:1-7, Isaiah 14:12-15, John 8:44, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 6:11-18, 1 Peter 5:8-9, Revelation 12:9-10, Revelation 20:10), bent on destroying humanity. He will give you as much truth as you can handle through alternate paths, as long as you miss the one truth that can save you from eternal death and damnation – the beauty and work of Jesus. I’m not saying that God can’t lead us to Christ through whatever avenues are available to us – I mean, look at the Zoroastrian astrologers who found Jesus after his birth (a.k.a. the ‘Wise Men from the East.’) I’m not saying that, for example, Buddhism is demonic because it is devoid of the Christian gospel. It *is*, however, incomplete without it. And drugs are different than a daily Buddhist meditation – they have real, detrimental short and long term physical effects, and limited revelatory potency, even if they have big emotional impact. What I am saying is this – drugs are a path to death, and may be part of a spiritual deception masquerading as enlightenment. So watch yourself. The spiritual world is quite possibly real, as well as demons and other fearful things.
5. Alcohol, though dangerous in its own right, is a better alternative
Alcohol *is* significantly different from drugs, even MJ, even if they share similarities. Alcohol’s unique qualities include:
- No health problems from regular moderate use
- Actual health BENEFITS from regular moderate use
- Biblical sanction (with warnings, see my article 10 Biblical Points about Alcohol and Drinking)
Why do I mention this? Only to say that the Bible does acknowledge some value to at least one intoxicant – and describes this benefit as “making glad the heart of man.” Sometimes a drink can lubricate what has been a hard week. My summation of the Bible’s teaching on booze is “tipsy OK, drunk NO WAY.” But it’s never mentioned as a revelatory tool – rather, as a mocker and deceiver if we look to it for light. Drugs are the same.
I think that the original article alarmed and maddened me – there are a lot of 20 somethings commenting on that thread, and many are seekers like I was. Seekers after experience, and truth, maybe even God. I want to keep them from dying. And I want them to really live.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. ~ Jesus, John 14:6.