The Real Reason for Bad Trips

Bad trips are not the result of indigestion, malevolent spirits, wrong dosage, or infelicitous set or setting. They are the result of personality disorders. As it says in the Theologica Germanica, “nothing burns in hell but self-will”.

Unless and until you burn away all trace of self-will, you will suffer mental and emotional distress, confusion, anxiety, paranoia, disturbing imagery, negative thought loops, nausea and physical discomfort. Plant medicines hold up a mirror to your ego, and an ugly ego is a frightful and fearful thing.

Beware of your ego. You will suffer in your own personal hell if you are a grandiose or covert narcissist; you will suffer if you are a sadist; you will suffer if you are borderline, dependent or obsessive-compulsive. There is always the possibility of redemption and healing, but the only way out is through: you must suffer into truth.

“And in this bringing back and healing, I can, or may, or shall do nothing of myself, but just simply yield to God, so that He alone may do all things in me and work, and I may suffer him and all his work and divine will. And because I will not do so, but I count myself to be my own, and say ‘I’, ‘Mine’, ‘Me’, and the like, God is hindered, so that he cannot do his work in me alone and without hindrance; for this cause my fall and my going astray remain unhealed. Behold! This all cometh of my claiming somewhat of my own.”

The Frankfurter

Seeds and Soil

Sometimes apparently simple stories can have deep psychological significance. Consider the parable of the sower:

“Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.”

Mark 4: 3-7

What do these three lots of seeds represent? Jesus immediately expounds the hidden meaning to his disciples:

“The sower soweth the word.

And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”

Mark 4: 15-19

So this allegorical story about a sower sowing seed on different types of ground is actually about imparting “seeds” of spiritual truth via “the word” in people’s hearts. The seeds fail to grow sufficiently to give fruit, signifying that the spiritual truth fails to produce any tangible results. Why? Not because there’s anything wrong with the seeds, but because the soil is bad. In other words, there’s something wrong with the human heart.

In the parable, Jesus describes three ways in which the heart is indisposed to receive his teaching. If what he describes is true to life, we shouldn’t be too surprised to find that these three unfruitful personality types actually correspond to modern psychological typologies.

Consider the classical clinical diagnosis of mental health patients into different personality disorders. Theodore Millon helpfully describes them in the following way:

Narcissists are “Egotistical, arrogant, grandiose, insouciant. Preoccupied with fantasies of success, beauty, or achievement, See themselves as admirable and superior, and therefore entitled to special treatment. Is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other’s feelings.”

Sadists are “Explosively hostile, abrasive, cruel, dogmatic. Liable to sudden outbursts of rage. Gain satisfaction through dominating, intimidating and humiliating others. They are opinionated and close-minded. Enjoy performing brutal acts on others. Find pleasure in abusing others. Would like to engage in sadomasochist relationship, but will not play the role of masochist.”

Dependents are “Helpless, incompetent, submissive, immature. Withdrawn from adult responsibilities. See themselves as weak or fragile. Seek constant reassurance from stronger figures. They have the need to be taken care of by a person. They fear being abandoned or separated from important people in their life.”

Obsessive-compulsives are “Restrained, conscientious, respectful, rigid. Maintain a rule-bound lifestyle. Adhere closely to social conventions. See the world in terms of regulations and hierarchies. See themselves as devoted, reliable, efficient, and productive.”

Borderlines are “Unpredictable, manipulative, unstable. Frantically fear abandonment and isolation. Experience fluctuating moods. Shift rapidly between loving and hating. See themselves and others as all-good or all-bad. Unstable and frequently changing moods. People with borderline personality disorder have a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships.”

Of the three types of “bad soil” in the parable of the sower, the first is typical of narcissistic personality disorder or sadistic personality disorder. In my psychological schema, these are represented by the Diva and Demon archetypes; the second is typical of dependent personality disorder, represented by the Victim and Addict archetypes; and the third is typical of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder or borderline personality disorder, represented by the Muggle and Muppet archetypes.

What about the “good soil”, that is, those people whose hearts are capable of receiving and nurturing spiritual truth and producing “good fruit”, that is, real, tangible results?

“…these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.”

Mark 4:20

Again, just as there are three types of bad ground, there are three types of good ground – some produce more fruit than others. What are these three good types? Let’s suppose that they would be the converse of the negative archetypes. We can imagine the following hierarchy:

Philosopher Kings produce “thirtyfold”.

Warrior Monks produce “sixty”.

Mystic Shamans produce “an hundred”.

The Raven and the Dove

When the raven was released from the ark, it didn’t come back. It was interested only in its own self-preservation. But the dove returned with an olive branch.

The ‘worldly-wise’ have no time for religion. They are too busy seeking their own advantage in the world. Worldly success is their highest value, and they use all the worldly arts at their disposal to secure it. But they have no wings to fly with.

The ‘birds of appetite’ on the other hand, do have time for religion. But they use it for their own ends, and twist it into the dark arts of occult self-aggrandizement. They pick at religion like a raven picking at a dove.

The ‘birds of appetite’ are divas. ‘Yapping dogs’ and ‘ignorant pigs’ are muppets and muggles.

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6)

But neither should you give that which is holy unto the ravens.

In the shamanic universe, there are black magicians and there are white magicians. Black magicians use their powers for their own personal advantage and self-interest:

“You are seeking something along with God, and you are acting just as if you were to make a candle out of God in order to look for something with it. Once one finds the things one is looking for, one throws the candle away. This is what you are doing.” (Meister Eckhart)

White magicians don’t seek their own benefit, whether that be fame, riches, pleasure, power or influence. They don’t seek “something along with God”, but trust in God alone. Thus, the fruits of their work are not for themselves only but for the higher good.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Why pray? Why meditate? Why work out? Why practice kundalini yoga? Why study religious or philosophical texts? Why go to church? Why have therapy? Why take psychedelics? For your own power and glory or for the glory of God?

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

All is One

When a trippy hippy says “All is One” the natural response is to roll your eyes. Yet there is no other way to say it. The universal message of a breakthrough “spiritual” experience on psychedelics is just this: the world of separation and division is actually an illusion and the Ultimate Truth of Reality and the Ultimate Meaning of Life is contained in the fact that All is One.

But then what to do with this knowledge? When you come down from your high, all that One seems to be very many separate people and things indeed. Soon the vision of the One is just a distant memory and ordinary everyday reality is just “one damn thing after another”. Either you just forget about it, or you keep the knowledge in your heart as a precious secret, jealously guarded against the scoffing and mockery of unbelieving cynics and skeptics.

Some people have a full-blown experience of this mysterious Unity of Being or Being-ness, which they might describe using more philosophical or religion language, depending on their background. Others will have only heard about it second-hand through the reports of mystics and more traditional religious channels, and will take it on trust (call it “faith”), even if what they actually believe is a little hazy.

Talk of the One is a very Greek way of talking, basically Platonic and Neo-Platonic. The more common religious term is “God”. So what do you do with the belief or certain knowledge that All is One or that All is God? How do you reconcile the One with the Many or God and the world? At the very least, you try to live the best you can in the light of this knowledge, loving your neighbour as yourself, and so on and so forth. This “so on and so forth” is what is commonly called exoteric religion, or the “Outer Mysteries”. It is a complex of symbols, rituals and teachings designed to help you remember the One/God and is most concerned with, although obviously not limited to, moral conduct.

Some people are not satisfied with this “acting as if” and want to experience this All is One/All is God not once, not fleetingly, not vaguely, but over and over again, powerfully, incontrovertibly, ecstatically. They may follow a calling to dedicate themselves to prayer and meditation as a monastic. They may heed the call of psychedelics. Some will fail in this quest for the Holy Grail, the Beatific Vision, and some will succeed.

Those that succeed establish a cycle of remembering and forgetting, journeying back and forth between the One God and the the world of multiplicity. This is often expressed as a kind of death or ego death, as the separate self dissolves into the Oneness, and a rebirth or resurrection, as the world reemerges with the freshness of a new creation. Here we are dealing with the “Inner Mysteries”, the esoteric, hidden teachings of religion.

Eventually the One and the Many become experienced simultaneously, so that neither one nor the other is completely forgotten. This is described in religious terminology as the Presence of God, in which we “live and move and have our being”. Finally the One and the Many fuse in a non-dual synthesis, where Samsara is Nirvana. It is the third step in Shankara’s famous formula, “the world is illusion; Brahman is the only reality; the world is Brahman”. Here there is no more doubt or confusion. Thou art That. The One and the Many are One. You are now one of the hidden children of the living God.

Addendum – a text exchange with a friend

>You put it well – although I don’t see why ‘all is one’ is synonymous with ‘all is God’; they seem very different propositions. … Do you think consideration of the universe’s causal closure could lead to the same conclusion, that all is connected? If all that is has a common big-bang origin, then all is connected, nothing is separate. …

>No that’s not ‘all is one’, that’s ‘everything is connected’.

>I was happy to go from ‘everything is connected’ to ‘all is one’ – what’s the bridge there?

>If the physical universe is causally closed there is no possibility of Unity.

>You mean between God and Her creation?

>I described two unities – the unity of all existence (‘All is One’) and the unity of God and His creation (‘the One and the Many are One). But it’s the same unity, just realised dualistically or non-dualistically.

>So why does causal closure disallow unity?

>Because it’s a system of separate interconnected causal relations. If you were a causally closed physical system it would make no sense to say that you are ‘one person’.

>These fish are slippery and the wriggle. I thought the thought was that, because all things are connected, they are part of a single system. I thought the common psychedelic experience was that all things are intimately connected and that therefore all is one.

>No it’s deeper than that. That’s just an abstract thought. Think of a watch. For the sake of argument let’s say that it’s a closed system (although it’s not). It derives its identity (i.e. unity) as a ‘watch’ only from a human observer.

The observing person has an abstract concept of ‘watch’ associated with the object in front of her. This confers a borrowed abstract watch-identity that wouldn’t exist without the observer outside the system of cogs and wheels.

But both this conferred abstract watch-identity and the conferred abstract universe-identity projected by a human consciousness contemplating the totality of existence are just thoughts. They’re just concepts. They’re not actual Unity.

The relation between a human consciousness and a watch is not analogous to the relation between God and the universe because God IS the universe. A better analogy is the relation between your consciousness and your body.

Human consciousness cannot grasp that ‘All is One’ except as an abstract concept similar to ‘Everything is Connected’. The experience of ‘All is One’ is only possible through participation in God consciousness.

Which explains why ‘All is One’ is the same thing as ‘All is God’.

>Isn’t it heretical to suppose God is the universe? Isn’t the universe his creation, independent of its maker, but tweakable by him?

>No.

>You aren’t very Christian.

>That’s a quasi-Deist heresy (although apparently Deism was never really much of a thing).

Christians who don’t understand Christianity aren’t very Christian. I’ve done my homework. My understanding is perfectly orthodox.

>Further mysteries then: how the ‘ maker of heaven and earth’ becomes heaven and earth.

>That’s for Him to know and you to wonder!

Christians believe that God made heaven and earth out of himself not out of some random stuff that happened to be lying around. In Genesis 1 he sets himself against the void and separates the waters from the waters etc. but it’s all Him. Creation is a descent and division of the One as Plotinus describes in The Enneads. But it’s all contained in the One.

>Not the Christianity I’m familiar with, but fine. Creation becomes God’s extended mind, in the same way our phones are now integral to our being.

>Something like that.

>But I think my first point is valid. It’s a boring old conceptual point but still valid. Consideration of the common origin of all things in the Big Bang leads to the conclusion that all is connected. (But if the past were infinite, then some things might have remained independent of others.)

But maybe this point is: all is connected under the aspect of history.

Maybe the psychedelic insight is: everything is connected now in the present (and forget the past).

>Well now you’re getting into time and space…

Time is contained within the One (which is timeless). But it’s even weirder and harder to describe than the unity of space in the One.

Your point at least points to a kind of aboriginal unity, which suggests a subsequent unity, but if a family sense (‘we are family!’) But because it presupposes emergence rather than emanation it cannot support real unity. The original unity must transcend time and space and create from above not below (so to speak).

There is an interesting comparison to be made between the Jewish idea of history and genealogy (as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and the Christian revelation, which cuts through history, so that you don’t have to be part of the Jewish clan to be saved or have a special relationship with God.

Christianity is both historical and ahistorical.

“Before Abraham was, I am”.

But also, “before the Big Bang was, I am”.

John 1:1

Alone Before God

“The flight of the alone to the Alone” is to be alone before God. This is the essence of Christian Zen. The saint must walk alone.

Mental Slavery

In his essay ‘Self-Reliance’ Emerson wrote, “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.” The Apostle Paul reminds us that whoso would be a Christian must also be a nonconformist. Any Christian who blindly accepts the opinions of the majority and in fear and timidity follows a path of expediency and social approval is a mental and spiritual slave.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

A conformist conforms to Babylon. He is a muggle slave, a muppet slave, an addict slave, a victim slave, sometimes a diva slave and a demon slave. Muggle slaves are the most recognisably conformist. They are slaves to things like social media, soaps, gossip, football, pop music and popular culture, and the strict demands of family and friends. Any deviation from the norm is curtailed through ridicule and peer pressure.

Muppet slaves are also conformists, while often deluding themselves that they are nonconformists. They are slaves to ideologies, often of a counter-cultural hue, whether political, philosophical, artistic, psychological, theosophical or religious. Many modern Westerners are slaves to a materialist worldview, which prevents them from straying beyond the narrow mental space delimited by the natural sciences. Others are slaves to the latest trends in the culture war. The defining features of muppet slaves are dogmatic fundamentalism and cultishness; they are easily identified by their fighting talk and tone of strident self-righteousness.

Addict slaves are slaves to the passions, both substance and behavioural addicts, slaves to alcohol, weed, sugar, nicotine, smart phones, box sets, shopping, gambling, sex. Victim slaves are constantly haunted by a victim mentality, and labour under persecution complexes and conspiracy theories. Certain minority ethnic groups, such as African Americans and secular Jews, are particularly prone to this form of mental slavery. It is also ubiquitous among radical feminists and those who fly the LGBTQ+ flag.

Fear God and you will fear no man. The fear of God is both the beginning of wisdom and the beginning of freedom, freedom from mental and spiritual slavery to man-made idols. Bob Marley sang, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, only ourselves can free our minds.” But the enslaved mind cannot free itself. Only God can do that.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Romans 8:15

The Religious Imagination

It makes no sense to ask whether Jesus actually rose from the dead on the first Easter.

All religious stories, maxims, doctrines, come from the religious imagination.

And what is the religious imagination but the mind of God?

And what is sacred scripture but the word of God?

If you think that the products of the imagination are human-all-too-human, man-made, made up, you don’t get it.

Where is God if not in the numinous, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans?

The religious imagination is the only possible interface between God and Man:

The kingdom of God is within you.

But why should I believe any of it? I hear you ask.

Well, faith is also part of the religious imagination.

Ye of little faith, where is your imagination?

Where is your God?

Outside Babylon

Beyond Babylon is Gaia; beyond Heaven is Jah.

Approach Jah in Heaven and return to the Source;

Approach Gaia in Earth and remember your Original Face.

Outside Babylon is Zen, Satori, Enlightenment, Salvation.

What is Babylon?

Disconnected from Jah and Gaia, Ba is Babylon:

Ba, Babel, Babble, Babylon.

When you have Gaia and Jah, you also have Ba.

Who needs Babylon?

I’m not here to make improvements to the Matrix,

But to help people out.

“Turn on, tune in, drop out.

My kingdom is not of this world.”

The Awful Privilege

“The great intercessor must possess an extreme sensitiveness to the state and needs of souls and of the world. As those who live very close to nature become tuned to her rhythm, and can discern in solitary moments all the movements of her secret life, or as musicians distinguish each separate note in a great symphony and yet receive the music as a whole; so the intercessor, whether living in the world or enclosed in a convent (for these are only differences in technique) is sensitized to every note and cadence in the rich and intricate music of common life. He stretches out over an ever wider area the filaments of love, and receives and endures in his own person the anguish of its sorrow, its helplessness, its confusions, and its sin; suffering again and again the darkness of Gethsemane and the cross, as the price of his redemptive power. For it is his awful privilege to stand in the gap between the world’s infinite need and the treasuries of the Divine Love.”

Evelyn Underhill