Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Jottings: Slice of life. - 9

Jottings: Slice of life...
William Blake is better known for his Dionysian energy that filled his verses than for his sensitive poetical nuances. Unlike Keats, Shelley’s and Wordsworth’s who are read purely for aesthetic pleasure, Blake is read for sheer force of his mystical convictions. In his masterpiece “the marriage of heaven and Hell”, he writes: “ If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern…” No contemplative philosopher, modern or medieval ,have escaped the power of sentences like these, and in the same vein, some of Blake’s ecstatic outpourings have also led to justifications of Drug use in the literature of modern thought. It was, Aldous Huxley - a thinker, novelist, and philosopher, I greatly admire, who wrote a pivotal slim volume in 1954 titled “The doors of perception” ( a title borrowed from Blake’s quote above) that more or less established the philosophical basis of experiences born out moderate use of drugs. In fact, Huxley’s interest in mystical thinking led to experiment with Mescaline – an age old plant that induce alternative consciousness. Over a period of three weeks, Huxley carefully observed the paradigm shifts in perception occurring under its influence; and immediately thereafter , within a month of the experiment produced this magnificent book. The literary artist in Huxley managed to raise the act of drug induced liberation to heights of written excellence. It is unparalleled in its intensity, language and honesty. Many thought It was almost an apology for using and entertaining drugs for “right” purposes; which in Huxley’s term meant - expanded and deepened consciousness. However, Towards the end of his book, Huxley made an important observation
“ The need for frequent chemical vacations from intolerable selfhood and repulsive surroundings will undoubtedly remain. What is needed is a new drug which will relieve and console our suffering species without doing more harm in the long run than it does good in the short.”
This statement, along with many such similar pronouncements, has become the lingua-Franca for those who believe the drugs and intoxicants of all kinds should be decontrolled and freely available in the marketplace. After all, it helps one spiritually. The Hippie movement during vibrant sixties that literally changed the social, ethical and moral landscape of America took Huxley’s words at its face value. The cult of intoxicating oneself to the point of self- annihilation became a spiritual fashion. Thankfully, legislation controlled the degenerative process quickly enough then. However, In recent years, a spate of States in the US has deregulated marijuana (pot) and similar intoxicants for reasons best known to them. When I first visited Denver in 2009, Colorado was a drug free state, but a couple of years ago marijuana was legalized and is now available as easily as one could get a cigarette in a store. While this undoubtedly increased state revenue manifold times, I could see parents and elders visibly disgruntled over this decision in the long run.
Well, The reason I started this short essay is because I read few days ago about Sister Kate in California , a self proclaimed Nun along with a fellow helper, growing Marijuana in her back yard and mixing them in concoctions that would help alleviate pain. They have a wonderful website to aid their sales. What is interesting is that Christine Meussuen (now Sister Kate) never in her wildest dreams wished to become a Nun. She spent 10 years of her life living in Amsterdam living quite a sordid existence , before divorcing her Husband and migrating to California. With three children, not enough income, she was virtually homeless, when she read about a curious legislation by congress that if a Pizza has three tea spoons of Tomato sauce in it, it shall be considered Vegetarian. That is when Kate decided to become a Nun. If Pizza could be considered veggie by virtue of its dressing, then by wearing a white robe robe, she would be a Nun as well. She has not taken any oaths, she is not a celibate, she does not profess the bible. She is what we theologically call the “third order” ( a name commonly given to groups we cannot categorize). When people come to her with pain, she prescribes her plant based remedies. No sermons, no spiritual healing, no advices; only purely unadulterated doses of Cannabidiol infused remedies to expand consciousness and relieve physical and emotional pain. That is all. And going by statistics she is doing unbelievably well. Her central theme is this : “ We disagree that suffering an pain is part of normal life. It is only a way to criminalize plant-induced remedies…” I wonder what Huxley would have thought of this rationale. With Sister Kate's success, the establishment of organized church has now began to question the validity of her vows, and the local county have began to take steps to stop cultivation of Cannabis.
My point is very simple. Any kind of intoxicant taken in moderation, and under controlled circumstances can yield a sense of “selflessness”. This is quite obvious. During a social gathering, after a few rounds, tongue loosen, inhibitions shed and people present themselves more truly, authentically than what they normally are. It is also a fact, that physical pain subsides, and senses become more diluted and clear. There is clearer perception. Color, light, shapes – all of them begin to look fresh and exciting. These symptoms point to a state of consciousness that seems out of grasp in daily life and more in tune with what Mystics along the ages have been pointing out. The doors of perception are opened to reveal a new sensory experience. But one has to be careful. It is very easy to exhaust sensory limits to the point of physical exhaustion and cause irrevocable damage to oneself. And in cases like sister Kate’s adventure, it can quickly become habitual delusion, and the thin line that separates genuine “out of self” experience from caricatured acts becomes blurry. While Sister Kate and her associated may have stuck upon a wonderful business proposition to lead comfortable lives, it may end doing irreparable damage to the community around. But again, if history is any witness to human follies, then there has never been a time when Man has not invested in shortcuts to ecstasy. So, I am not surprised at all.
God bless...
Yours in mortality,
Bala



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