Hidden in a dense green forest sits the remote village of a close-knit tribe. They are a simple people, one of the few remnants of ‘uncivilized’ culture not yet blemished by well-intentioned travelers. They all work as one to hunt, gather or cook food, tend to the young and elderly and perform all the various daily tasks any tribal village must. They sing together, eat together, dance together, tend to each other’s wounds and share in every aspect of life. But there is one person whom they all must turn to, someone who possesses a quality unlike any other member.
The shaman sits alone in a dimly-lit shack, only thin beams of sunlight penetrating the leather walls. A look on his face reveals how removed he is from the outside world. Within his mind a connection is being made, however profound or illegitimate, to the spiritual realm. Communication is made between dead ancestors, deities, and even abstract concepts.
In the days before missionaries and indoctrination, thousands of these men and women existed, some even in places removed from all outside influences. Shamans are seen in anthropological history as a common figure throughout most cultures. They are looked upon with mystical reverence, though sometimes seen as a bit of an “other.” Their unique ability to connect to a spiritual realm makes them a desirable addition to a society, but it also has a tendency to cause hesitation in fully accepting them into a civilization.
Still, the shaman was generally considered simply a normal person, if one with a rare and difficult to comprehend profession. While they are sometimes paid well for their efforts (most times in food or other trade items), they generally still have to work hunting or farming just like all the others. Many times they have children and act as a completely typical member of society, however the solitary ones are not uncommon.
In our modern world of advanced medicine and science, the role of shaman has been replaced by men in lab coats, or doctors bearing needles and pills of now-commonplace synthetic chemicals to cure our ills. Though some of us still turn to a more modern version of a spiritual leader, it’s one who doesn’t communicate with an alternate reality, they simply fantasize about it.
It’s a tragic loss, one that is magnified by the common perception that people who attempt to communicate with alternate realities are weird, crazy, or worse, junkies. This brings about an important question to me, one that most likely has a fairly depressing answer. What has become of the shaman, a person once revered and thought as integral to humanity as we know it? And the follow up to that; what will become of the collective human psyche without them?
I believe the first question, at least, is fairly easily answered. It started with the advent of religions and societies that say, “this is how everything works, you can take our word for it. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” It’s a trite concept, but one that I think has at least some merit, that a major reason drugs are outlawed is to keep people from thinking too much. ‘They’ want you to keep working, playing and all around existing as ‘they’ want you to.
Whether or not a large conspiracy exists to keep the masses from having a spiritual awakening is up for debate. But it certainly seems that a large consequence of the disappearance of shamans and tolerable drug use is a near-complete cessation of any semblance of spiritual and shamanic experiences. Only a very small minority of “civilized society” makes any attempt at achieving a higher level (or at least a different level) of consciousness.
The second question, addressing the implications of that phenomenon, is much more difficult to pin down. It may contribute to the utter collapse of good will and human nature, or perhaps it will help all humans become logical, rational actors. Or, equally likely, it will have no perceivable effect whatsoever. One thing seems to stand out, however, when looking at the history of humans. We have generally always needed or, if nothing else, possessed, some sort of “larger than ourselves” concept to appreciate.
At first glance, the two ideas of logic and spirit don’t seem to be cohesive. We have all but eliminated the possibility of a sky-god, we seem to have pinned down the sun’s antics to a fair degree, and the cycles of weather and season don’t seem to mysticize us all that much anymore. It would appear that eventually science will outperform religion and spirituality on all or most explanations of the universe.
But that doesn’t rule out utilizing both at the same time. There are certain notions science may not ever address, some of which we couldn’t even begin to explain, let alone set up an experiment for. It has also been shown that while medicine is a true miracle, it isn’t necessarily the only means to an end. In some circumstances, shamanic healing has done just as much good as medicine could have. The brain is, after all, a very powerful tool.
Many of these mysterious, unintelligible notions can be experienced and discovered through the use of psychedelics. Natural psychedelics like psylocibe mushrooms, mescaline-containing cacti, DMT containing plants, tobacco, marijuana, and countless more have helped spirit-seekers achieve new planes of understanding since we’ve recorded history. There’s no reason the newer psychedelics, like LSD, the 2c series, the DO series and anything and everything else that exists or does not yet exist shouldn’t be shown the same attention.
Most psychedelic users would probably agree that something completely novel and sometimes magical seems to happen when they ingest their favorite chemical. However, even among many pro-psychedelic use people, it has become somewhat taboo to utilize them for any spiritual purpose. People who do so are sometimes stigmatized as new-age hippies at best, and amoral drug-addled junkies at worst.
In a different world, one focused more on meditation and cognitive understanding, psychedelics are used universally and with great reverence. Instead of turning to blind faith, people turn to a very real experience to cope with reality. In this fantasy, there exist a number of ‘shamanic’ individuals, who are more experienced than most with the art of the mind-expanding chemical use. When the average person needs guidance with a trip, or needs some abstract insight on a personal issue, they see this person.
The role a psychedelic enthusiast could have in modern society is one that could be very useful to our culture, and one that doesn’t necessarily involve strange, drugged-up individuals running rampant on the streets. They could be like the common shaman, simply an average citizen who happens to have a large hobby involving deep spiritual experiences.
It would naturally take a huge divergence from the current mainstream perception of drug use. Something generally reserved for experimental young adults. A pursuit that is essentially forbidden by any self-respecting, upstanding member of society. A pursuit that is, at best, looked upon as a phase to grow out of, and at worst a dangerous habit to be severely punished and outlawed.
Does it seem likely that psychedelics are a doorway to mystical dimensions, separate from and equal to our own? Well, perhaps when LSD still has a firm grip on your serotonin receptors. But in general, of course not. Can we make productive use of the strange, seemingly other-worldly, experiences they produce? Absolutely. Go forth, shamans of the modern era, experience what you can, and expand the collective human consciousness so that we may become more in tune with ourselves and our reality. After all, life is nothing but a chaotic molecule in the limited perception of an incomplete reality in an abstract universe.
Tags: acid, dissemination of the information, DMT, drug policy, drugs and spirituality, fractals, hippies, lotus, LSD, mescaline, mushrooms, psychedelics, science, shaman, spirituality, stoner activity, trippy, writings