September 13th, 2012

Artificial (?) Inspiration Peyote v Quest


Near the end of his book, Lame Deer ("Don't Hurt the Trees" in Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions.pp. 218-224) gives over seven pages to Leonard Crow Dog who describes a meeting of the Native American Church.  It is quite descriptive and moving and includes the following description of a member's experience:

"...It takes time for the peyote to have its way.  For an hour or two there is maybe nothing.  Suddenly you notice a change.  Things are no longer what they were.  The man sitting next to you may suddenly seem to be a million miles away, or the drum across the room may seem to be in your lap.  The dividing line vanishes between what is physical and what is of the spirit.  Lights, voices, scents blend into one another.

"A new understanding dawns upon you--joyful and hot like the fire, or bitter like the peyote.  People tell me they get out of themselves, far away, up high in the air, seeing their bodies way down there on the floor.  You'll see people drawing themselves up into a ball, like they were still inside their mothers' bellies, remembering things from before they were born.

"Time, like space, grows and shrinks in unexplainable ways--a lifetime of being, learnining, understanding, pressed together in a few seconds of insight, or time standing still, not moving at all, a minute becoming a lifetime.  Think what you can do with such a minute...."

Lame Deer asks Leonard Crow Dog to describe the Native American Church meeting to his co-author (Richard Erdoes) because he is no longer part of the Native American Church and no longer uses peyote.  Peyote is not indigenous to the Northern U.S. and  is not a part of Lakota/Dakota cultures.  Lame Deer is traditional Oglala healer and wishes to retain his tradition in as pure a way as possible.  Leonard Crow Dog is also an Oglala (i think) medicine man but sees no conflict to being also a roadman for the "Peyote Cult."

Huxley thought that mysical experiences induced by drugs and those achieved through meditation were the same experiences.   Ram Das reported that he once gave a hit (a large hit) of LSD to a Tibetan monk and that the substance had no discernable effect.  I have always chosen to stay away from mind altering drugs (aside from second hand marijuana smoke on very rare occasions).

(Well, i do take an antidepressant which, thank goodness, is mind altering.  I also smoked commerial cigarettes until about 20 years and i still drink caffiene. both of which i started when i was way to young to make wise choices about what i put in my body.  Also, any substance which i consume which has any kind of effect at all has a mind altering effect, even cold water on a hot day.)

Especially now that i know that i have a neurological abnormality, i am glad that i never experimented with with consciousness altering substances.  Meditation is a different story.  I do not understand the fear that some people seem to have of zazen, contemplative prayer, or other forms of disciplined quietness.

Of course, if one chooses to meditate (I usually don't) with a group of other persons. reasonable caution is called for.  Destructive cults have used meditation as a mind control device and people have died in sweats organized by people who did not have the sweat lodge as part of their tradition.

But how wonderful it would be to experience "eternity in an hour" at the cost of a sour stomach and a sleepless night.  Unfortunately i think i will have to pass.