Just so you know, I’ve never been a Kool Kid. That does not mean I haven’t smoked some dope — I have — and I even did a hit of LSD once when I was about 18. It was supposed to transform my life, but instead it did absolutely nothing, even while all my fellow trippers were freaking out around me. That probably says more about my brain than anything else. Keeping it real is my core ethos.
So I guess I’ve always been Old School about enlightenment in general. I do know Kool Kids, some of whom are dear friends, who tolerate my general attitude of sardonic stoicism. And it seems like a couple of years back there were more than a few taking the Shaman trail down to South America to take ayahuasca or some such icks. It just doesn’t interest me — and while I like to drink wine (I’m up for a bicycle tour of Austria’s Wachau Valley!) I’m definitely more of a Wim Hof kind of guy — get high on my own supply.
I always find it interesting when a new wave of various activists (not going to mention names here) start promoting some version of a new brain drug to raise consciousness. I do believe in the medicinal benefits of nutrition, so I’m not dismissing this stuff out of hand. My own green tea pills I take definitely make me more clear-headed. But once you get beyond that realm, I’m most definitely a nay-sayer. I’m more in the camp of the old Buddhist masters. You want enlightenment? It ain’t free. The brain has 4.5B years of evolution honing its emergent possibilities. The odds you’re going to hack yours up another level is extremely likely to be BS — or long-term damaging. I’d rather take a dunk in freezing water. And I do.
If drugs work in any real way in the brain as far as accelerating function, they’re far more likely in accentuating the v-Memes and knowledge structures your brain already has in it. Accentuation MIGHT give you an edge in creating some more branching. But if you see yourself jump up a significant level, it’s far more likely that it’s made part of your brain mushy, giving you temporary neuroplasticity in the short run. And that might be a good thing — sometimes we just have to shake things loose.
But as a chronic practice? More likely that your brain starts deforming after a couple of cycles, like a bad run of thermoplastic polymer. It’s not long until your brain starts resembling the half-melted candles from that last Hippy Party you went to. You can redline your car engine also. Get back to me on how that affects long-term reliability.
As far as general enlightenment, you really have to put on the blinders to believe this. I’ve written earlier about the Nazis and drugs, here’s the Guardian’s take, and here’s another fun, short piece with similar insights. Published in the online journal, Psymposia, there are a welter of examples of exactly the kind of “bad stuff gone wrong” with contemporary Nazis that possess eery parallels to history. The past didn’t go anywhere.
I’m all about self-improvement, up to some narcissistic limit. But I’ve never found another path to enlightenment, or status as an übermensch, outside of experiencing, thinking or not-thinking. So if you ask me, you want the good stuff — get out on your bicycle, cut sugar out of your diet, and take a cold dunk every now and then. Get high on your own supply! And for me, I’ve never found a better place to both ponder and meditate than on a 30 mile ride, on a no-car bike path. Perfect.