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Psychedelics & Paths
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8/30/19 10:28 AM
I’m reading Michael Pollan’s amazing book on psychedelics - How To Change Your Mind. Highly recommended! But it’s got me stuck on a burning question, which I’ll try to make straightforward and brief. Many folks these days talk of using psilocybin and ending up in a trip that feels like a dissolution of the self, a oneness with everything, etc. There are also lots of comparisons to meditation and the stages of insight. 

So, my question goes like this. For someone who has completed a path (or 2 or 3 or 4), would the use of such substances give them something even more advanced than where they’re currently at in their mental development, or would they experience less than a newcomer to both substances and meditation because they’ve already covered so much of that territory? Another way to get at this is: can anyone on a higher path attest to the experiences being even more powerful, inspiring, illuminating, whatever, having eliminated ‘personality view,’ etc? 

I ask because after SE, I’m intrigued by whether a trip on, say, psilocybin would be even more awesome, or less, or something entirely different that meditation attainments have little or no bearing on. Since SE, meditation seems on a whole new level of intensity and capability, and coupled with the right substance, maybe it could be a worthwhile booster, eye-opener, etc. I hope this clarifies what I’m seeking to understand. Ultimately I want to know whether it’s worth going to a ‘retreat’ somewhere and giving it a try. And yes I’ve read the sticky thread here - DhO is in on way promoting or encouraging such things, and we are aware of the illegality of the substances. Still, we’re adventurous adults, so... ;-)

RE: Psychedelics & Paths
Answer
8/30/19 11:50 AM as a reply to Paul.
Paul:

So, my question goes like this. For someone who has completed a path (or 2 or 3 or 4), would the use of such substances give them something even more advanced than where they’re currently at in their mental development, or would they experience less than a newcomer to both substances and meditation because they’ve already covered so much of that territory? Another way to get at this is: can anyone on a higher path attest to the experiences being even more powerful, inspiring, illuminating, whatever, having eliminated ‘personality view,’ etc? 

Vincent Horn seems to think so:
https://thethirdwave.co/podcast/episode-19-vincent-horn/

RE: Psychedelics & Paths
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8/31/19 7:47 AM as a reply to Paul.
My experience has been that post-SE, psychedelics do indeed take on a new character. They're still wildly unpredictable, but I have had one LSD trip this year where I pretty effortlessly got to fruition, and had repeat fruitions shortly after. When I was heavily into psychedelics prior to meditation, they were cool, fun and insightful but also overwhelmingly confusing. That confusion seems to have vanished when I have tried it since. Like, having the wisdom/dhamma eye really helps to understand the trip phenomenologically. I do think we can often get stuck in plateaus and psychedelics can help to break unconscious limiting beliefs and views that are highly disruptive to progress. 

RE: Psychedelics & Paths
Answer
8/31/19 5:03 PM as a reply to Paul.
During a period in which my meditation practice was particularly strong (between 1 and 3 hours daily) I had a very strong psychedelic experience. I had taken half a tab and it was many times stronger than any other time I had tripped and sort of blew my socks off and knocked away my stability for a period of time. I chalked it up to somehow getting a "hot-spot" on the blotter that other people partook in but I've always also wondered if it could have felt stronger based on a different level of baseline awareness that I was operating on at the time. Something was different because others who had some reported the expected intensity of effects relative to intended dose.

I'm not really certain about where I would place myself on the maps at that time or at the present. I am skeptical nowadays about the potential benefits of psychedelics in the cultivation of insight. I believe they can be a easy way to get a crash course in impermanence as Vincent Horn put it, but think that many of the states brought on are orthogonal to states cultivated in meditation. Maybe some territories appear similar but the lasting effects seem to be vastly different in my experience. Additionally over time as I've seen some of my peers who enjoy taking them regularly the more I believe that the beneficial effects are capped early on. I haven't come across many examples where one's life and mental health continuously improve while engaging in frequent use, but perhaps that says more about my circle of friends as opposed to the nature of the substances themselves.

That being said I have no qualms with people trying these things out in a responsible fashion. It seems they are effective tools for really grokking the nature of impermanence, and for knocking people out of persistent mental states (both positive and negative).