A lot of my clients have been to several healthcare professionals and often to rehab centres as well before seeing me. I hear from many of them that when they raise the possibility of having had spiritual experiences on drugs including LSD, ice, speed or ecstasy this is immediately dismissed. They are told that what they had were hallucinations or symptoms not spiritual experiences. I don’t agree. Speaking as both a long-term drug-user and then a spiritual seeker I think the states derived from drugs and deep spiritual practices are similar and connected. The major difference, apart from the way the state is induced, is that drug experiences decline over time whereas spiritual experiences derived from specific practices improve constantly. There is a limit to how high you can get on drugs but not on how high you can get afterwards.
The reluctance to make a connection between drug states and those derived from spiritual practices is due to a number of factors. Drugs are illegal so we don’t have a place for them in society and non-drug users don’t understand them. Mainstream research in the area focuses on prevention or recovery. But recreational drugs take us into the invisible worlds, the spiritual realms and create states that Western science and medicine cannot explain. Mainstream religions won’t go there either. You can’t go to a priest to discuss seeing God on LSD as, according to Catholicism at least, the connection with drugs rules out the possibility that you have had a genuine spiritual experience. Given that many religions may well have developed as a result of hallucinogenic drug experiences (and that there is an increasing interest in the ayahuasca churches underway) the denial of a connection between drugs and spirituality seems short-sighted.
The studies into LSD therapy in the 50s and 60s were heading towards developing a new cross-disciplinary approach to understanding psychoactive drugs and spiritual dimensions, but as people began to experiment with those drugs outside the academic environment that research was abruptly banned. So now we have the situation where millions of people have had spiritual and life-changing experiences on drugs but no way of processing this or making the connection with spirituality. This is why we have so much chronic emptiness, loss, frustration and bitterness in ex-users. Unless we understand what it is that the drugs are actually showing us any potential gain becomes a liability. We need to educate people who have had those experiences into working with them.
Recreational drugs initially deliver excitement and magic but those states become harder and harder to recapture. Within a year or so of regular dope-smoking for example, I was already missing the ‘good old days’ where a couple of puffs on a joint was all it took to make me crack up about the smallest thing from the appearance of the postman to the way a TV reporter styled his hair. Unfortunately that simple spontaneous joyfulness and that bent sense of humour disappeared and I had to turn to harder and harder drugs to recapture it. I became a habitual drug user and fell into the trap of chasing the past and eventually resigned myself to a life of hard-core drug use where the primary focus was staying one step ahead of pain. When I finally stopped using drugs all my focus was on not relapsing. In the beginning I was excited by being able to get through a day without substances but soon the buzz wore off and post-drug depression replaced it. The memory of my great drug experiences never left me but I was told that I would never be able to recapture the emotional, physical and spiritual heights encountered on drugs. I believed this for a long time and by doing so condemned myself to a half-life of depression and grief. It was years I before I had my first glimpse that this state might not be permanent and that maybe there could be highs in life after drugs.
I met a spiritual teacher Bhai Sahib who introduced me to psychedelic experiences through VCM, a meditation technique that he had developed. According to the World Spiritual Foundation website, VCM (Vibrant Celestial Meditation) is a technique for quicker spiritual advancement. It is a set of tools and methodologies to sharpen the mind, awaken the sub-conscious and super-conscious mind, optimise the use of the human conscious mind, awaken the dormant Kundalini or the serpent power, also called the Holy Spirit or Dath Para Shakti, for achievement of Turiya puth the fourth state of Transcendence.
VCM originated in Transcendental Meditation (TM) a movement under the leadership of the Maharishi, the guru of the Beatles during the sixties. But VCM differed to TM primarily in that the meditation is done standing as opposed to sitting. Bhai Sahib believed that this allowed maximum expressive freedom of the body. VCM brought me instantly back to my first drug experiences. I felt the same dream-like quality of being asleep while being awake. I felt emotional freedom, celebration and bonding, experiences which until then I had only achieved by taking illegal substances. It was like a mix of cocaine, heroin and orgasm all at once. (In TCM terms, the state derived from psychedelic practices involves all organs and is balanced in Yin and Yang, as opposed to drugs which target only one organ and are either Yin (Heroin) or Yang (Speed)). Not only that but I wasn’t dependant on dealers for supply and I was able to enjoy the experience without watching out for the police.
The whole experience lasted around thirty minutes but provided an afterglow which lasted for several days. This ‘afterglow‘ feeling returned each time I meditated within the group long after Bhai Sahib had left. ‘Afterglow’ was identified in the psychedelic drug therapies of the fifties and sixties and was recognized as a motivational force for implementing personal (beneficial) changes. During my early stages of drug use, it was afterglow which encouraged me to try more and more intense drugs. But when I stopped the drugs, the afterglow also came to an end and life became mundane and difficult.
However as soon as I engaged with this meditation technique the afterglow feeling returned into my life and inspired me to implement changes to make life exciting after drugs.
Bhai Sahib’s technique was immediately appealing because it provided a means to explore psychedelic states without drugs. It was also rapid and intense, and after long-term recreational drug use you need something that matches the accelerating nature and intensity of drugs. I had done what I thought was meditation many times before discovering VCM. But after VCM that I realised that I had been doing relaxation techniques. In drug parlance this was like taking no-doze instead of speed!
My first meeting with Bhai Sahib also re-introduced me to the crazy sense of humour that I missed after giving up drugs. I spent time with him in to research my application of TCM and I always noticed the high energy party-like atmosphere he created with his presence, you felt like you were with a rock star ready to hit town. I realised that spirit loves to play, that spirit is full of joy and that spirit wants to have a good time – all the things I was looking for in drugs but never associated with spirituality. These days I know that not even the best designer drug on the planet ever will be able to produce the state that we are destined for via spirit.
Terence McKenna, a pioneer in researching psychedelic drugs, believed that drugs were more powerful than spiritual practice simply because drugs were more overwhelming. He stated that he studied Yoga and similar spiritual disciplines but that he never discovered an experience similar to drugs. But charismatic forms of meditation can take us within minutes to a state that otherwise would have taken decades of disciplined practice of Yoga and Tai-chi. However, during my sixteen years of practicing and teaching VCM I observed that in order to use it to create the life you want, you have to constantly upgrade the body to ‘run the program’ as it were. The technique in itself is simple, effortless and extremely blissful but in order to materialize the gain the body needs to be brought up to the level of the spiritual experience. This involves effort as it necessitates developing an organ system that is capable of synthesizing the altered states.
I developed what I call my psychedelic practice where this meditative technique was a component of a broader program that drew upon ideas from TCM, western weight training (once called the yoga of the west) and also contemporary success strategies. I saw in myself and in my patients that the default state of many ex-drug users tends towards mental confusion and chaos. It is now understood that we are what we think, so we need to change this. ‘Psychedelic’ can be interpreted as ‘clear thinking’ and the psychedelic practice is specifically designed to generate clear, powerful thoughts and align them with a system to make them manifest. Only then can we advance further and further into that psychedelic territory to states beyond those generated by drugs. I took the best drugs available in my time and the phenomenal heights I experienced I have now surpassed by doing my psychedelic practice on a daily basis. However, contrary to drugs, the psychedelic practice constantly improves in intensity and I know each day will be better than the last, and that this will continue to peak endlessly. It’s the ultimate drug.