Humming sight, alight in grace,
living, buzzing, budding space,
dying, fizzing, fading time,
no one, no thing appears as mine,
and all belongs,
and all is fine,
living, dying, being, not,
loving, longing: a gain, what’s lost?
I am full, an empty promise,
a sheaf of reeds,
fluttering trees’ leaves.
I’ve wanted to say something(s) regarding the intersection of the titular topics for some time. However, as it often happens, I don’t quite know what it is I want to say until I’ve begun saying it, and haven’t felt impelled until now to begin interpreting the inchoate urge into legible prose. At the prompting of my second date with Dimethyltryptamine, let us away, then.
I’ll begin by situating myself within Douglas Osto’s taxonomy of Buddhis(t/h) users of psychedelic drugs. There are those for whom psychedelics “opened the door” to altered experience(s) of self/world in ways which encouraged further meditative exploration within more or less traditional Buddhist institutions and soteriology, as well as a second camp to which I suppose I must now belong, though I was for a while in the first. Rather than psychedelics simply “opening the door” to a more sober, mature spiritual practice, this second camp keeps the door open, as it were, considering psychedelic use either an adjunct to traditional practice or an integral part of one’s continuing development. I can see either of these camps as being useful places to stake one’s tent dependent on personal priorities and spiritual ideals.
For myself, I’ll explain the appeal of the open camp by way of a neater dichotomy between Buddhist traditions than actually exists. There are schools of Buddhism which regard visionary experience as, at best, stumbling blocks. Exemplary here is the denigration of odd perceptual phenomena as mere ‘makyo’ (illusion) in Zen, or the ‘corruptions of insight’ in the Theravada. Bliss, light, vivid and immersive imagery, noetic encounters with beings of various sorts, all these are considered pitfalls. Not something to be avoided, per se, but side effects of proper practices which are potential distractions from advancing on to genuinely liberating (non) experience(s). If all phenomena are inconstant, impersonally fabricated, and unsatisfactory as dogma dictates, best to leave all behind for the deathless, the unfabricated, nirvana, the end of birth, the end of experience. “There is nothing further for this world.”, and all that. So goes the renunciant cant.
Let us grant that all phenomena are indeed inconstant, impersonally fabricated, and unsatisfactory. As it is elaborated in later Buddhism(s) (I am thinking specifically of Mahayana and Vajrayana), however, that unsatisfactoriness, the whole of samsara, is not inherent to phenomena, but a product of the ignorance of their empty, fabricated nature. The fading and eventual complete cessation of fabricated phenomena and therefore of perception (nirvana, nirodha) is reinterpreted and instrumentalized as a means to this realization, and not an end in itself. What reappears, remains, and fluxes is what was there all along: empty, which is to say dependently arisen (see MMK 24:18-19), phenomenality, though now free of habitual reification of self/world and opened to an abundant play of perceptual malleability.
What has all this to do with psychedelics? My view is that their use may, with suggestive set and setting, provide not only an abrupt, perhaps rude and at worst traumatizing, introduction to the fabricated, dependently arisen, empty nature of self/world and all phenomena, but also the possibilities of more or differently functional, blissful, compassionate modes of perceptual auto/mythopoesis. A groundless, creative freedom to inhabit myriad senses of self/world, of space, of time, of awareness, of identity dependent on what appears useful and/or enjoyable.
I believe that the full depth, and perhaps more importantly, the day-to-day availability of this groundless freedom is not accessible without meditative development. That said, psychedelic use may, for the serendipitous individual, act as a spur to such development and a delightful recreation in the hyperbolic possibilities of consciousness. If bizarre, blissful, unitive, synesthetic transformations and disappearances of phenomena and identity laden with mythic significance are available through substances, why not engage them, enjoy them, cognizant of their emptiness? Unless one is wedded to traditional proscriptions against intoxicants, or valorizes the equally empty unfabricated at the expense of the fabricated, I see no reason.
So goes my elaborate justification of getting high out of my mind.
Thanks to All, though relevantly Rob Burbea and his book, Seeing That Frees.
For a time we were not two,
And all the words were I love you.
Then all around the walls were whirling,
Space palpated its patterned twirling,
Your face fluoresced,
Enveloped, caressed, and
There was a sense that you and I
Were the Beginning of All each time,
And knowing the harm in Being,
In love we’d keep repeating This,
The burning world born of a kiss.
and this is how it goes
floes and blues and burnt hues
and we wonder how to lose
and this is how it’s fine
won’t quit borrowing time
what’s the interest, we’ll pay
day on day on day we
talk slow-walk and balk back and say
and this is how it goes
and it goes
Behind the eyes and ear to ear,
There’s nothing to this head up here.
Boundaries but a wisp of pressure,
This body’s unbound, light as a feather.
This vivid space of love and light,
Of form, of sound, of touch, of sight,
Shimmers as though refracted through heat,
Fades as time tumbles and ticks offbeat.
One mind not mine pervades, perceives,
Not apart but the whole of the slippage and heave.
This heart in and of our hollowed hallowed All?
Its rest is as and of and in turbidity’s empty quiddity,
Its play for the rest of days delights of liminal liquidity.
Some snippets composed and collected in contemplation of collapse:
We are not born of Earth to last,
Rather to thirst, to crave, to fast.
And when we’ve torn and bred our blood,
Or failed and fallen in the flood,
Our minds and bodies both are food,
Anon for every hungry brood.
In all due fear and faith, my dear,
Listen well, as dawn draws near:
That this was always already our lot:
To live, to laugh, to love, to rot,
And by desire birth anew,
This life and death for All to chew.
I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
Yahweh, Tathagatagarbha, Kamma, Jesus, Brahman, on and on, will we never be freed of our desperate dreams of justice, safety, reconciliation, union, separation, and retribution? Theodicy has never satisfied, but there are things we don’t tell the worldlings.
Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha.
–Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta SN 56:11
One night in long bygone times, man awoke and saw himself.
He saw that he was naked under cosmos, homeless in his own body. All things dissolved before his testing thought, wonder above wonder, horror above horror unfolded in his mind.
Then woman too awoke and said it was time to go and slay. And he fetched his bow and arrow, a fruit of the marriage of spirit and hand, and went outside beneath the stars. But as the beasts arrived at their waterholes where he expected them of habit, he felt no more the tiger’s bound in his blood, but a great psalm about the brotherhood of suffering between everything alive.
That day he did not return with prey, and when they found him by the next new moon, he was sitting dead by the waterhole.
If we continue these considerations to the bitter end, then the conclusion is not in doubt. As long as humankind recklessly proceeds in the fateful delusion of being biologically fated for triumph, nothing essential will change. As its numbers mount and the spiritual atmosphere thickens, the techniques of protection must assume an increasingly brutal character.
And humans will persist in dreaming of salvation and affirmation and a new Messiah. Yet when many saviours have been nailed to trees and stoned on the city squares, then the last Messiah shall come.
Then will appear the man who, as the first of all, has dared strip his soul naked and submit it alive to the outmost thought of the lineage, the very idea of doom. A man who has fathomed life and its cosmic ground, and whose pain is the Earth’s collective pain. With what furious screams shall not mobs of all nations cry out for his thousandfold death, when like a cloth his voice encloses the globe, and the strange message has resounded for the first and last time:
“– The life of the worlds is a roaring river, but Earth’s is a pond and a backwater.
– The sign of doom is written on your brows – how long will ye kick against the pin-pricks?
– But there is one conquest and one crown, one redemption and one solution.
– Know yourselves – be infertile and let the earth be silent after ye.”
And when he has spoken, they will pour themselves over him, led by the pacifier makers and the midwives, and bury him in their fingernails.
He is the last Messiah. As son from father, he stems from the archer by the waterhole.
–The Last Messiah
Transient are all compounded things, Subject to arise and vanish;
Having come into existence they pass away;
Good is the peace when they forever cease.
–Mahaparinibbana Sutta DN 16
Now imagine a situation in which the lucid dreamer would also phenomenally recognize herself as being a dream character, a simulated self, a representational fiction, a situation in which the dreaming system, as it were, became lucid to itself. This is the second possibility for selfless consciousness under the theoretical framework proposed here. I am, of course, well aware that this second conception of selflessness directly corresponds to a classical philosophical notion, well-developed in Asian philosophy at least 2500 years ago, namely, the Buddhist conception of “enlightenment.”
-Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity
Form is like a glob of foam;
feeling, a bubble;
perception, a mirage;
fabrications, a banana tree;
consciousness, a magic trick—
this has been taught
by the Kinsman of the Sun.
However you observe them,
appropriately examine them,
they’re empty, void
to whoever sees them
Beginning with the body
as taught by the One
with profound discernment:
When abandoned by three things
—life, warmth, & consciousness—
form is rejected, cast aside.
When bereft of these
it lies thrown away,
a meal for others.
That’s the way it goes:
It’s a magic trick,
an idiot’s babbling.
It’s said to be
No substance here
–Phena Sutta SN 22:95
No Where to turn that is not Here. No Time apart from Now. No One to save us, and no-one to save, and no Thing from which to be delivered.
A knowledge master, peaceful and restrained,
is rid of concern for this world and the world beyond.
Unsullied in the midst of all things,
they know the arising and passing of the world.