Letters to the Editor
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I recently received a copy of WCJ, thanks to the article in Genre magazine, and have poured over it, enjoying every word. I even shared it with a friend, also a gay male, who has a Christian-based belief system. (My own is more rooted in the Druid or Faerie way of life, balanced with a dash of eastern philosophy.)
I think your inclusion of all spiritual beliefs in the format chosen works well. Since we, as gay men create our own network of family, loosening the binds of conventional dogmas, why not create our own way of finding spirit as well? Hooray for your vision!
To The Editor,
The other day I received the Fall 2000 issue of White Crane. The theme of Solitude seemed to be something very much of interest to me so, I immediately began to read. I'd say on the whole this was a very good issue, but I must take a stand regarding "Circuit Spirit" by Steve Kammon. I fail to see how this article fits in with the overall theme of Solitude.
It has been quite some time since I've heard the praises of drug taking being sung. With all due respect I can no longer see how drug taking can be seen as a 'spiritual path.'
I also once held the same position as the writer, but after a lifetime of searching I can see drug taking as just that. Gee, I wonder where all my fellow 'shamans' have gone? I'll tell you--to the grave or the cremation pyre. The writer clearly informs us of the perils of such a quest, saying that the majority of the so-called 'party boys' have no interest whatsoever in a spiritual experience. He claims that there are only a few who will survive this journey through the shadows. Who will be there to help them out of the shadows when they need it but don't know it? I suppose you can escape any responsibility by placing that task on someone else.
The problem arises when we try to parallel rites of our ancestors with a modern day happening. Our ancestors knew how to use a particular substance then. We no longer have that knowledge (except for the Native American peoples). One cannot achieve Self-Realization, Enlightenment, Nirvana, or whatever term you choose, with an injection, a pill, something eaten, smoked or drank. It simply doesn't happen that way, and to claim that it does flies in the face of sincere seekers. Inner work is work; it requires a commitment. Growth takes time, patience, and a lot of practice. Then the results will be genuine. Drug taking is only a very temporary fix--no pun intended! If you want the fast way to Spirit you'll need to look somewhere else! My unasked for advice would be to first try turning inward. Listen to the small still voice. It's been proven to be a good place to begin.
Steven Pfeiffer, St. Louis
The Editors respond:
The major reason for selecting Kammon's article, which originally appeared in GENRE Magazine, was that we hoped it would provoke discussion. So we are pleased to have received Steve Pfeiffer's letter. We hope other readers will want to give consideration to this issue.
Both Pfeiffer and Kammon acknowledge that shamans (many of them probably proto-gay Two-Spirits) used drugs for mystical purposes. To condemn use as necessarily abuse is to ignore significant and mysterious teachings and learning that can and are being derived from many substances today known as "entheogens," (literally "god vision inducing") such as peyote, ayahuasca and psylocybin mushrooms. It is also ignoring a rich history of the use of consciousness altering substances which some believe might even have been responsible for the leap from animal consciousness to human consciousness millennia ago.
To be sure, drug abuse has become a problem in modern society, with particularly telling manifestations in gay culture. It does not appear to WCJ that the American solution of reactionary and puritanical abstinence, suppression and criminalization solves the problem. What is needed is a transformation of the context of drug use. So Kammon's call for remembering the shamanic uses is a reminder of an alternative context.
We might agree with Pfeiffer that the drug experience is different from mystical experience, but we don't agree that they are in conflict. One doesn't necessarily preclude the other. For many people the discovery that consciousness can be altered by ingestion of a botanical substance is a first step in observing consciousness from a higher perspective. The drug may not produce Enlightenment--neither might meditation for that matter--but both might help demonstrate the possibility of detachment from ego. For those more experienced seekers, some "medicinas," as they are called in the Amazon along with the proper "set and setting" can produce a profound deepening of their path.
We disagree with Pfeiffer that all our "fellow shamans" are dead. Peyote "road men" and Amazonian "ayahuasqueros" are with us today and are rich sources of spiritual teachings. Under their learned guidance "set and setting" can be not only an appropriate context for learning, but a fertile ground for spiritual growth. Many of them are available to those willing to make the journey--both physical and spiritual--to find them.
Finally, blaming drugs for HIV is no different from blaming homosexuality. It was the virus that was at fault, not the vector of transmission.
The real lesson here is that consciousness exploration is potentially dangerous. All serious spiritual seeking is. Life itself is a death-defying act. No one gets out of here alive.
Since there certainly is controversy, not to mention an historic link between sexual variance, drug use, and spiritual consciousness, we ask readers to share their experience of the spiritual use of drugs for a future issue.
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING:
The Cosmic Serpent: DNA & The Origins of Knowledge, Jeremy Narby
Ayahuasca: Hallucinogens, Consciousness & the Spirit of Nature, Ralph Metzner
Food of The Gods, Terrence McKenna
The Sacred Mushroom & The Cross, John M. Allegro
Blossom of Bone, Randy Conner
Last update Dec 15 2000