September 21st, 2005


My problem with drugs :P


I imagine all of us have subjects we never discuss on LJ, simply because we don't want to get into arguments with people we love and respect. I have several: ego-trips, common initiatory errors, artificial intelligence, dangerous pets, music downloading, among others.

Yeah, and drugs.

This will be oblique, then, and I don't much want to debate it. YMMV. Fine.* But I'm gonna mention it this once, because I think somebody should.

My problem with drugs is very simple: they tend to impair one's judgment, often invisibly: to change the thinking of otherwise reasonable people in ways those people often cannot see. Perhaps the worst example in magical circles is the notion that drugs, any drugs, provide enlightenment. I respectfully disagree. So do some who have used, and say they have benefited from, drugs...e.g., St. Robert Crumb, who recently wrote:** "You can't make spiritual progress in a drugged state. You've got to be sober." I take St. Bill Hicks's point that if you're anti-drug, you might as well burn your music collection, because a lot of the people who made that music were reeeeally high when they did it.*** I also note that Bill was into a number of drugs I consider ego-destroying****, hence dangerous to one's continued survival...and that he died of cancer, aged thirty-two. But hey, beyond that there are plenty of writers I adore who lived long lives using everything under the sun: St. Hunter Thompson, for example (though he also wisely wrote something like, You can turn your back on a human being, but never turn your back on a drug: that is, he knew what he was doing better than most, IMO).

And then there's Aleister Crowley, who used plenty of drugs -- legal at the time, but still -- and wrote "Damn the man that isolated cocaine!"...AC himself a heroin addict, though that came from a doctor's prescription for bronchitis, not from experimentation. Yes, like Crowley I really mean it when I say "Do what thou wilt," and I am not here to tell you how to live your life. I am here to warn you of what strikes me, anyway, as a dangerous and under-discussed pitfall for spiritually-minded people. Take it FWIW.

Given I don't ever discuss this stuff publicly, why am I now? Because I am tired of beautiful people dying when they didn't need to, and even of those destroying the clarity of their thought: tired of the endless discussions with people who don't realize how obvious it is to others when a drug is doing their thinking for them. I even use three drugs myself -- all legal, as it happens, but no less dangerous for that -- coffee, cigars, and alcohol (the last once or twice a year, tops -- my family tree is filled with alcoholics). I am well aware how much each one impairs one's thinking -- the first two because I'm clearly addicted to them, and the third because I have known so many others addicted to it. I have never used any other drug, even in the Sixties growing up, so doubtless I'm not qualified to talk about them.

When people die needlessly, those left behind can end up posting screeds. Let me just tie this off. In sum, then:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz

who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kaballa because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,

who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels,

who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy

(From Allen Ginsberg, "Howl," Part I, here: )

I love that one line, by the way: who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels [and] who were [themselves] visionary indian angels [if only they knew it].

Thanks largely to Saints Frank Zappa and Harlan Ellison, who were prominently anti-drug, and to St. Kurt Vonnegut who made it plain what booze and cigarettes will do to you -- and to my dad, who made me promise never to drink while writing -- I have been spared a lot. I am grateful for that. If one kid reads this and figures that he or she can be enlightened, happy, and surrounded by admiring love objects of their choice without doing damage to brain cells, hey, this here sad post has had its intended effect.

So, Do what thou wilt, everyone. But be careful out there, okay?

93 93/93 -- AJ

* And, yes, before someone says it, not all drugs are the same, and lots of things subject to abuse aren't drugs -- food and sex, for example. See? Now you don't have to remind me.
** The R. Crumb Handbook, R. Crumb & Peter Poplaski, 2005 EV. Damn cool book, btw. :)
*** Then again, a lot of them played better when they weren't. But why quibble.
**** One of the great dangers of mysticism, too, btw: a lot of mystics start to prefer the internal to the external world, lose the ability to handle the latter, and give up. Drugs aren't the only pitfall, natch.