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peter d pipinis
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'There is none who is worthy of my love or hatred'. - Krishna, Bhagavad Gita.
The Natural Mind by Andrew Weil is not so much concerned with drugs per se as it is with the nature of consciousness. Having obviously experienced profound mystical states of being, Weil outlines his 'conceptual model' of a world in which the 'limitless' powers of the mind have been freed from the restraints of non-intuitive, 'straight' thinking reponsible for virtually all our social problems and allowed, via 'non-ordinary', or 'stoned' thinking, to restore sanity, balance and health to our Western world.
It is vital to stress the overwhelming nature of attaining the highest levels of consciousness, through such methods as meditation. It is difficult to understand where the more visionary aspects of Weil's beliefs come from if we are unable to accept the self-authenticating validity of these experiences. They leave us - at least initially - with virtually no doubts as to the perfect rightness of the spiritual and psychological insights gained.
To my mind, the most valuable of these insights is emotional detachment from personal prejudices and biased thinking. The experience of highest consciousness permits us to look at social, personal and medical problems with a fresh perspective and find effective solutions, rather than continue using methods that have patently failed and too often only exacerbated them.
Weil shows how the problem of drugs has been so mismanaged that instead of facts (alcohol and tobacco, our two most damaging and addictive drugs, are considered safer than relatively harmless ones such as cocaine, and especially marijuana), we prefer to hear only the 'evidence' of 'experts' who pander to our fears and prejudices.
People are using substances, Weil asserts, because of an innate need to achieve an 'altered state of consciousness', in other words, to get 'high'. By linking this need to the ultimate high of meditation, he suggests drug users have been misled into thinking highs can only be found in things external to themselves (he calls this a 'materialistic' view) instead of experiences they can find within themselves that are infinitely more satisfying.
Many of Weil's beliefs are eminently sensible and useful, but a large number are problematic. He discounts the pharmacological properties of drugs and denies they are directly responsible for the highs of the user. Drugs are merely 'active placebos', he claims, that in the right 'setting' trigger the mind's natural tendency to enter into altered states. When he tells us psychotics are 'the evolutionary vanguard of our species' who 'possess the secret of changing reality by changing the mind', and that physical manifestations of disease are caused by 'non-material factors', we know the line between science and faith has been well and truly crossed.
As a 'spiritual' way of thinking, a lot of the views expressed by Weil are very attractive. All things within and without oneself - however 'bad' - must be loved whole-heartedly, thus encouraging them to respond positively in return. Wasps, and bees, can 'appear to behave differently' towards someone who sees them as similar to himself, who sees their 'extraordinary beauty'. Diseases are to be embraced rather than fought against, causing them to minimize the suffering they cause. We are assured 'all things tend to go in one direction only - always toward equilibrium, balance and harmony'.
Weil has been swept up in the euphoria of experiencing 'oneness', and come to believe - as many have before him - all of creation is working together for the common 'good', that all life - despite appearances - is inseparably united and harmonious. Accepting life in all its manifestations means, if this is true, the only options are co-operation and love.
The highest state of consciousness, however, when one takes a closer look, teaches a much tougher lesson. Attaining the perfect freedom of mystical experience takes us infinitely above our human need to love or to hate anything or anyone. From this level of complete detachment we see truly accepting living beings means wanting in no way to discourage their natural impulses to fight for survival and advantage for themselves and their own kind. We are as unaccepting of others if we expect them to suppress the anti-social, recalcitrant and deadly aspects of their nature because we are loving them as we would be if we were hating them.
I agree entirely that acceptance is essential to maximizing the degree to which co-operation is possible. But, where Weil believes transcendence will all but eliminate difference, conflict and suffering, I think irreconcilable differences, unending conflicts and the most terrible suffering can become, via highest consciousness, things we are able to endure with no damage done to our joy.