Wednesday, December 3, 2014

“The whole Revolution turned upon, asserted, and, in theory, established, the right of each and every man, at his discretion, to release himself from the support of the government under which he had lived. And this principle was asserted, not as a right peculiar to themselves, or to that time, or as applicable only to the government then existing; but as a universal right of all men, at all times, and under all circumstances.

What was true of our ancestors, is true of revolutionists in general. The monarchs and governments, from whom they choose to separate, attempt to stigmatize them as traitors. But they are not traitors in fact; inasmuch as they betray, and break faith with, no one. Having pledged no faith, they break none. They are simply men, who, for reasons of their own—whether good or bad, wise or unwise, is immaterial—choose to exercise their natural right of dissolving their connexion with the governments under which they have lived. In doing this, they no more commit the crime of treason—which necessarily implies treachery, deceit, breach of faith—than a man commits treason when he chooses to leave a church, or any other voluntary association, with which he has been connected.

This principle was a true one in 1776. It is a true one now. It is the only one on which any rightful government can rest. It is the one on which the Constitution itself professes to rest. If it does not really rest on that basis, it has no right to exist; and it is the duty of every man to raise his hand against it.”

— Lysander Spooner, No Treason No. 1

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

“Anarchism swept us away completely because it both demanded everything of us and offered us everything. There was no remotest corner of life that it failed to illumine; at least so it seemed to us. A man could be a Catholic, a Protestant, a Liberal, a Radical, a Socialist, even a syndicalist, without in any way changing his own life, and therefore life in general. It was enough for him, after all, to read the appropriate newspaper; or, if he was strict, to frequent the café associated with whatever tendency claimed his allegiance. Shot through with contradictions, fragmented into varieties and sub-varieties, anarchism demanded, before anything else, harmony between deeds and words (which, in truth, is demanded by all forms of idealism, but which they all forget as they become complacent). That is why we adopted what was (at that moment) the extremest variety, which by vigorous dialectic had succeeded, through the logic of its revolutionism, in discarding the necessity of revolution. To a certain extent we were impelled in that direction by our disgust with a certain type of rather mellow, academic anarchism, whose Pope was Jean Grave in Temps Nouveaux. Individualism had just been affirmed by our hero Albert Libertad. No one knew his real name, or anything of him before he started preaching. Crippled in both legs, walking on crutches which he plied vigorously in fights (he was a great one for fighting, despite his handicap), he bore, on a powerful body, a bearded head whose face was finely proportioned. Destitute, having come as a tramp from the south, he began preaching in Montmarte, among libertarian circles and the queues of poor devils waiting for their dole of soup not far from the site of Sacré Coeur. Violent, magnetically attractive, he became the heart and soul of a movement of such exceptional dynamism that it is not entirely dead even at this day. Libertad loved streets, crowds, fights, ideas, and women. One two occasions he set up house with a pair of sisters, the Mahés and then the Morands. He had children whom he refused to register with the State. ‘The State? Don’t know it. The name? I don’t give a damn; they’ll pick one that suits them. The law? To hell with it.’ He died in hospital in 1908 as the result of a fight, bequeathing his body (‘That carcass of mine,’ he called it) for dissection in the cause of science.

His teaching, which we adopted almost wholesale, was: ‘Don’t wait for the revolution. Those who promise revolution are frauds just like the others. Make your own revolution, by being free men and living in comradeship.’ Obviously I am simplifying, but the idea itself had a beautiful simplicity. Its absolute commandment and rule of life was: ‘Let the old world go to blazes.’ From this position there were naturally many deviations. Some inferred that one should ‘live according to Reason and Science,’ and their impoverished worship of science, which invoked the mechanistic biology of Félix le Dantec, led them on to all sorts of tomfoolery, such as saltless, vegetarian diet and fruitarianism and also, in certain cases, to tragic ends. We saw young vegetarians involved in pointless struggles against the whole of society. Others decided ‘Let’s be outsiders. The only place for us is the fringe of society.’ They did not stop to think that society has no fringe, that no one is ever outside it, even in the depth of dungeons, and that their ‘conscious egoism,’ sharing the life of the defeated, linked up from below with the most brutal bourgeois individualism.

Finally, others, including myself, sought to harness together personal transformation and revolutionary action, in accordance with the motto of Élisée Reclus: ‘As long as social injustice lasts we shall remain in a state of permanent revolution.’ (I am quoting this from memory.) Libertarian individualism gave us a hold over the most intense reality: ourselves. Be yourself.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

“Man is here to affirm himself in the universe, that is his first business, but also to evolve and finally to exceed himself: he has to enlarge his partial being into a complete being, his partial consciousness into an integral consciousness; he has to achieve mastery of his environment but also world-union and world-harmony; he has to realise his individuality but also to enlarge it into a cosmic self and a universal and spiritual delight of existence. A transformation, a chastening and correction of all that is obscure, erroneous and ignorant in his mentality, an ultimate arrival at a free and wide harmony and luminousness of knowledge and will and feeling and action and character, is the evident intention of his nature; it is the ideal which the creative Energy has imposed on his intelligence, a need implanted by her in his mental and vital substance. But this can only be accomplished by his growing into a larger being and a larger consciousness: self-enlargement, self-fulfilment, self-evolution from what he partially and temporarily is in his actual and apparent nature to what he completely is in his secret self and spirit and therefore can become even in his manifest existence, is the object of his creation. This hope is the justification of his life upon earth amidst the phenomena of the cosmos. The outer apparent man, an ephemeral being subject to the constraints of his material embodiment and imprisoned in a limited mentality, has to become the inner real Man, master of himself and his environment and universal in his being. In a more vivid and less metaphysical language, the natural man has to evolve himself into the divine Man; the sons of Death have to know themselves as the children of Immortality. It is on this account that the human birth can be described as the turning-point in the evolution, the critical stage in earth-nature.

It follows at once that the knowledge we have to arrive at is not truth of the intellect; it is not right belief, right opinions, right information about oneself and things—that is only the surface mind’s idea of knowledge. To arrive at some mental conception about God and ourselves and the world is an object good for the intellect but not large enough for the Spirit; it will not make us the conscious sons of Infinity. Ancient Indian thought meant by knowledge a consciousness which possesses the highest Truth in a direct perception and in self-experience.”
“We’re going into the labyrinth. She had proposed that we start a business together, and in fact that happened. The business is called Pharmacophilia. And so instead of talking about psychopharmacological engineering, and theorizing, we’re going to start doing it. With whatever we can do now, undercapitalized without a lot of resources. And our first product will be Pharmahuasca. Those who are familiar with The Entheogen Review and other publications surely know that it’s more or less a code-word for an ayahuasca analogue made with pure compounds, as opposed to plant extracts or teas or infusions. And there are possibilities of making them legally. The MAOI—the ayahuasca alkaloids—ß-carbolines, are not controlled anywhere to my knowledge except in Japan. As for the tryptamines, in Europe DMT is the only one that’s controlled, unless you classify LSD and ibogaine as tryptamines, which certainly they are. But of the simple, what I call the short-acting tryptamines, DMT is the only one that is controlled. And so that gives you quite a lot of latitude for different tryptamines that can be added. So we’re going to make this as two separate pills, one of which is the Natural Herbal Relaxant, which is a minimal MAOI dose of ß-carboline, and the other one is the Natural Herbal Tonic, which is a minimal psychotropic dose of a short-acting tryptamine which is legal. And so one tablet of the one, plus one to three tablets of the other will give a three- to four-hour pharmahuasca experience.” 

Spiritual and Mystical Experiences

“For many, perhaps most, people the main reason to partake of Ayahuasca is spiritual. In all traditional and institutionalized contexts of Ayahuasca the consumption of the brew is a sacrament, a sacred ritual. It is not for nothing that psychoactive plants have been called ‘plants of the gods’ (Schultes and Hoffman, 1979) and that for many the term ‘entheogen’ (i.e. that generating the god within) is currently replacing the older and, to some, pejorative, terms ‘hallucinogen’ and ‘psychedelic.’  Personally, if I were to pick one single effect of Ayahuasca that had the most important impact on my life (there were many and the choice of one is not all that easy), I would say that before my encounter with the brew I was an atheist (I used to define myself as a nineteenth-century-middle-European-like intellectual who is a devout atheist with a strong affinity to Jewish history and its scholarly tradition) and when I returned back home after my long journey in South America, I no longer was one. Likewise, a significant number of informants I have interviewed indicated that the main lesson they received from Ayahuasca was religious or spiritual. ‘Ayahuasca showed me that God exists,’ ‘I have come to appreciate the place of the sacred in human life,’ ‘I have encountered the Divine,’ are all statements I have heard more than one person say. There are many individuals who, in direct consequence of their experience with Ayahuasca, underwent a radical religious or spiritual conversion. Towards the end of sessions, it is very common for members to tell the group of the great impact that the encounter with the ‘tea’ has had on their lives. Many times in such testimonies I have heard people proclaim that this encounter was the single most important event in their lives, that it had totally changed them, that with it they found healing and new meaning to their human existence. For some, the transformative impact of Ayahuasca is long-lasting and its effects remain throughout the course of the person’s entire life.  The consideration of the spiritual and mystical experiences associated with Ayahuasca extends beyond the cognitive-psychological domain proper. A serious theoretical examination of these experiences should include analyses pertaining to personality theory, clinical psychology, metaphysics, and theology. This discussion is bound to involve observations and reflections of a personal and speculative nature, ones calling for a style of discourse very different from that I have adopted here. Hence, the topic is outside of the present framework. Here I would only like to make several brief phenomenological remarks and to relate the experiences encountered with Ayahuasca to those reported in the literature on mysticism; for pertinent general discussions the reader is referred to Bucke (1901), James (1902), Underhill (1911), Stace (1960), Maslow (1970), and Scharfstein (1974), as well as Masters and Houston (1966), and Wainwright (1981) who specifically discuss substance-induced mystical and religious experiences.”

Encountering the Divine

“Earlier I examined visions in which God, deities, and divine beings are encountered. The emphasis there was on the visual aspects of the visions; here I would like to focus on their spiritual aspects and on the experience people characterize as encountering the Divine.

Not surprisingly, it is not easy to describe experiences of this kind. Here, indeed, we reach the realm of the ineffable. There is no question in my mind that when people say that they have had ‘an encounter with the Divine’ they are referring to a genuine experience that they have had. I have had such experiences too. Explaining what this experience consists of, however, is less clear. Nor is it clear that all people employ the phrase with the same facility. I have asked several of my informants to explain what they meant by this term. Their answers included references to ‘a presence which is full,’ ‘the ground of all that exists,’ ‘the source of all life,’ ‘the fountain of all wisdom,’ ‘the utmost perfection,’ and ‘sublime happiness.’

An experience that for me was very powerful occurred at a Daime session:

‘I was sitting in front of a white wall on which a golden star of David (the seal of Solomon) was inscribed [this was real—this symbol is central in the Santo Daime Church]. The star-shaped figure was shining and I felt a presence very strongly. The expression ‘behind the Veil’ (traditionally employed in Judaism to characterize indirect encounters with the Divine) came to my mind and I engaged in a silent communication with whatever power was there.’

Subsequently, in a letter to a friend I wrote that I was washed by grace and that I understood that all Existence is infused with the Divine, with sacredness.”

Mystical Experiences

“As noted, various aspects of the Ayahuasca experience are reminiscent of patterns found in reports of mystical experiences encountered in many religious traditions. In particular, I would like to point out that all the classical characteristics of mystical experiences defined by Stace (1960) are encountered with Ayahuasca (see also Bucke, 1901; James, 1902; Forman, 1990; Wade, 1996; and Merkur, 1999). Stace distinguishes between two types of mystical experience which he labels the ‘extrovertive’ and ‘introvertive.’ Each of these is defined by a series of seven characteristics. However, out of the seven only the first characteristic significantly differs for the two types.

Stace further claims that only the introvertive type can be induced by external means. I disagree: all the experiences he associates with the extrovertive are also encountered with Ayahuasca. In the light of this disagreement, and since with respect to most features the two types are the same, I have opted to combine the two aspects in one paragraph and present just one list of characteristics, not two, as Stace does.

With Ayahuasca all the patterns associated with both types can be encountered. Following is a list of these patterns along with commentary on the comparable phenomena encountered with Ayahuasca.

1. Unity. In the extrovertive case, unity pertains to the mystic’s perception of the world; in the introvertive case, unity pertains to the mystic’s state of consciousness. Consequently, in the former case the mystic directly feels that behind the multiplicity in the world there is oneness that is apprehended as unitary consciousness devoid of sensual form and conceptual content. In the latter, the mystic feels that the boundaries of the self dissipate and that he or she becomes one with an existence larger than him- or herself. Both patterns are encountered with Ayahuasca.

2. Transcendence of time and space. The mystic feels that time and space are no longer relevant.

3. Noesis. The mystic regards what he or she experiences as illumination or true knowledge. In particular, visions and ideations are taken to pertain to an objective, independent reality. The assessment that this is the case is grounded in a direct, intuitive feeling.

4. Positive feelings of blessedness, joy, peace, happiness. All these feelings are very marked with Ayahuasca. Harmony is yet another pillar of this experience.

5. A sense of sacredness. This is manifested in whatever is being apprehended is taken to be holy and divine. This is the general atmosphere that Ayahuasca induces.

6. Paradoxicality. Mystical experiences seem to defy the standard cannons of logic. The medieval philosopher and mystic Nicholas de Cusa said explicitly that in order to reach the higher realms of the Divine one has to leave rationality behind:

‘The abode wherein You [God] dwell unveiledly—an abode surrounded by the coincidences of contradictories. And this coincidence is the wall of Paradise, wherein You dwell. The gate of this wall is guarded by a most lofty rational spirit; unless the spirit is vanquished the entrance will not be accessible. Therefore, on the other side of the coincidence of contradictories You can be seen—but not at all on this side.’

7. Ineffability. Many facets of the Ayahuasca experience are described by drinkers as being beyond any verbal description. I reckon that the most fitting thing is not to say anything further here; for general philosophical discussion on this matter, see Stace (1960) and S. Katz (1992).

Lastly in the literature it is also pointed out that mystical experiences often have concrete, pragmatic effects. Indeed, some have taken the transformative impact to be a defining property of these experiences (see Pahnke and Richards, 1966; Pahnke, 1972). This impact may manifest in religious conversion, changes in world-views and belief systems, and in new definitions of one’s personal and ethical values. As indicated in the introductory comments to this section, with Ayahuasca such manifestations are common, and often they are quite radical. For general discussion of the long-term psychological and psychotherapeutic impact of psychotropic substances the reader is refered to Masters and Houston (1966) and Grof (1980, 1994, 2009).

In sum, all the paradigmatic characteristics of the mystical experience are encountered with Ayahuasca.

By way of conclusion, let me point out that the foregoing comparative statements also bear on the more general question regarding the status, meaning, and value of religious and spiritual experiences induced by the ingestion of psychoactive agents. Are these comparable to the experiences of mystics attained without external agents? Are they as valuable? With respect to the first facet of the question, the phenomenological, my empirical study of Ayahuasca leads me to answer with a categorical ‘yes.’ The second facet, that of value judgement, is to be discussed elsewhere.”