‘Our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit’

Despite a bit of predictable straying down rabbit trails (which the host admirably tolerates in preference to “over-moderating,”) an interesting discussion developed not long ago beneath the first part of her recent interview with me at Claire Wolfe’s site ( www.backwoodshome.com/blogs/ClaireWolfe/2015/01/03/ ), albeit mostly among people who of necessity (since it had only just come out) hadn’t yet read “The Testament of James.”

“As for entheogens,” one commenter offered, “if there is a real God, I want to know Him. I mean the *real* one, not some chemistry set ‘god’ that comes from a pill or from a fungus filtered through a caribou’s kidneys, or a weed, or some tree bark distillation.

“And if there is no real God, I want to know that too. I want to know what *is*, not just what *seems*. I don’t want to believe in some chemically-induced phantasm that exists only in my addled brain. I’m interested in the God whose existence and reality are in no way dependent upon anyone’s perceptions.”

An interesting goal, given that the world as we know it can exist only as a model re-constructed in our brains by our organizing intelligence, or “minds,” based precisely on our “perceptions,” which are necessarily limited. (Unaided by “artificial” means, can you perceive X-rays? Microwaves? Sounds above the frequency range of human hearing? Then how can you “know” they exist, any more than — barring reliance on your “perceptions” — you can “know” Napoleon lost at Waterloo, or that the battle was ever even fought, or that your mother loves you, or anything else?)


Furthermore, those perceptions, to even arrive at a place where they can be collated by our neurons into any meaningful pattern, are endlessly moderated by the chemical actions of serotonin and other neurotransmitters which, I suppose, could lead to the whole mess of inputs being dismissed as “chemically-induced phantasms,” if we so chose. The brain itself is known to generate endorphins that alter our states of perception and awareness, and even its own tryptamines, including DMT. Where in this chemical soup are we to find truths not derived from “perceptions”? How are we to know which ones to reject as “not real”?

A reluctance to be duped by fakery is admirable. But to “know” things “in no way dependent on anyone’s perceptions”?

Meantime, as to distrusting all plant allies, doesn’t the book of Genesis tell us what should be self-evident, anyway — that man has been given “every herb and flower-bearing plant for his use?” Should we decline to allow our fellow men, suffering great pain, to salve that pain by using the opium poppy, since that’s not “real,” any more than “some chemistry set ‘god’ that comes from a pill or from a fungus filtered through a caribou’s kidneys”?


It’s increasingly evident that mankind has been using plants — including intricate investigations of the interactions of plants that can temporarily change our states of consciousness, enabling the experience of a religious ecstasy — for tens of thousands of years. Are they OK so long as we don’t grind them up and put them in capsules? As long as they’re not favored by caribou? Or must they all be rejected as somehow artificial, impure, “not real”? How about if we get there by fasting and chanting — “artifices” designed to “trick” the pineal (yes, it reacts to vibrations) and other parts of the limbic system into altering our brain chemistry? How is that different?

Sleeping and dreaming are different states of consciousness — are they “unreal”, “invalid,” or “not to be allowed” — especially if promoted by drinking chamomile or valerian? Evil plants; not natural; any sleep or dreams that ensue can’t possibly be valid or “real”?

Though the most important question, I suppose, is this: Granted that there are many who don’t wish to explore or find about about the nature of consciousness — whether our understanding of the world could be enhanced by the temporary lowering of internal, learned filters that limit our perceptions — does that give them any right to limit such explorations of our own minds by those of us who do?

in the Notes and Bibliography that follow “The Testament of James,” I recommend a number of books, including “Psychoactive Sacraments / Essays On Entheogens and Religion,” published by the Council on Spiritual Practices, San Francisco 2001, and edited by Thomas B. Roberts of Northern Illinois University.

That book contains numerous short essays. One is by Alexander Shulgin, another by Albert Hofmann, biochemists far smarter than I ever expect to be, both now departed and sorely missed. Two brief excerpts.

Sasha Shulgin recalls the first time he consumed 400 milligrams of mescaline sulfate:


“More than anything else the world amazed me, in that I saw it as I had when I was a child. I had forgotten the beauty and the magic and the knowingness of it and me. I was in familiar territory, a space wherein I had once roamed as an immortal explorer, and I was recalling everything that had been authentically known to me then, and which I had abandoned, then forgotten, with my coming of age. Like the touchstone that recalls a dream to sudden presence, the experience reaffirmed a miracle of excitement that I had known in my childhood but had been pressured to forget. The most compelling insight of that day was that this awesome recall had been brought about by a fraction of a gram of white solid, but that in no way whatsoever could it be argued that these memories had been contained within the white solid. Everything that I had recognized had come from the depths of my memory and my psyche. I understood that our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit. We may choose not to find access to it, we may even deny its existence, but it is indeed there inside us, and there are chemicals that can catalyze its availability.”

Albert Hofmann discusses his best known discovery:


“LSD is not a product of planned research. I did not look for it, it came to me. This means to me that a higher authority thought it was necessary now to provide mankind with an additional pharmacological aid for spiritual growth. LSD is not just a synthetic substance from the laboratory. After the discovery of lysergic acid amide and lysergic acid hydroxyethylamide (very closely related to lysergic acid diethylamide) as the entheogenic principles of Ololiuqui, an ancient sacred plant of Mexican Indians, LSD had to be regarded as belonging to the group of natural entheogenic drugs of Mesoamerica. These two characteristics of LSD legitimate its use in a religious framework. . . . The characteristic of entheogens, their faculty to improve sensory perception, makes them inestimable aids in the process of expanding consciousness. It was LSD, the most potent entheogen, that to use Blake’s famous line, cleansed my doors of perception and made me see every thing as it is, infinite. In my childhood I experienced spontaneously some of those blissful moments when the world appeared suddenly in a new brilliant light and I had the feeling of being included in its wonder and indescribable beauty. They remained in my memory as extraordinary experiences of untold happiness, but only after the discovery of LSD did I grasp their meaning and existential importance. . . . The insights I received, as described, increased my astonishment about the wonder of existence.”

Alright, perhaps one more, in which Sasha Shulgin deals directly with the critical question:

“There has been an avalanche of other legal impediments to these forms of free behavior. The laws have robbed us of all the sacred materials that might be used for sacramental purposes. And robbed us of the right to explore new and unknown materials that might have potential sacred properties. The enactment of the analog substances law has made it a crime to explore any substance that might be a catalyst in opening a door to one’s own psyche. The chemical induction of a change in one’s state of consciousness is now illegal. . . . There must come a parallel acknowledgment of the individual’s right to explore his own mind as he chooses.”

— V.S.

5 Comments to “‘Our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit’”

  1. Steve Says:

    I already made a comment about the drugs. And feel it worth stating I have no issues with people using them…I know I used my lifetime allotment before I turned 23…I will stay with the demon alcohol, I believe I can see all I need and want to see for now.

    I liked the story and I look forward to more from you.

    As for the blog comments …. that was a real troll that was attracted to the board..I would have banned it after the very first overly repetitious use of the letters H and A. This was done only to piss off as many people posting to that board as possible.

    I remember my last experience with acid..back when the Atari console was popular. We were playing “warlords” and it was great…really. The display was so vivid while the walls, ceiling and floor of the room were completely melted into each other and breathing at a rate I had seen only once prior…on some windowpane from a guy I knew while in high school…he made his own and it was good. I have been to Dead concerts and had some liquid from it being freely shared, not in the eyes, on the skin, it worked. Good thing I knew what the effects should be or I would have been a bit off. (to say the least)
    To this day, if I relax and allow it, I can see some of the same effects. Probably due to the fact, once in your system, LSD never leaves the spinal cord.

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  3. Caleb Says:

    Beyond the question of “What works” vs. “What Doesn’t Work” is “Who’s Choice is it?”.
    I assert that “I, and I alone, own me”. Beyond that, what other “permission” is needed?

    Nowhere have I seen Vin write that he wishes to force me to experience his vision, and i don’t seek to stop him. I don’t know where i would acquire such a right, even if i wanted it (i don’t).

    I just finished “The Testament of James”. Great book! I recommend it without qualification. Thanks, Vin!

  4. R R Schoettker Says:

    Indeed, what is ‘reality’? I think the older I get and the longer and deeper I have experienced the effects and discerned the intentions of ‘society’ , that its main effort is to control; not only the physical actions and property of individuals but to ultimately define and dictate what those individuals regard as reality. Irregardless of the path those individuals choose to take; be it philosophy. religion, natural or synthetic substances, the ‘herd’ and it’s pathological institution, the State, insists and demands that it’s decision be the ONLY one. That it can continue to so demand this in the repetitive and ever increasing exposure of it’s blatant and flawed error and ignorance about far more elementary things makes its pretensions about knowing ‘reality’ all the more absurd!

  5. Don Duncan Says:

    While I agree the state is a product of society, i.e., society’s faith in force as the ultimate mechanism for social interaction, I do not believe society controls the state. That is done by TPTB, the ruling elite. They are so addicted to the power bestowed on them by the masses that they would rather destroy the world than give it up. While this always ends in cultural collapse, it is logical, not absurd, given the powerful effects on the psych of concentrating power. It changes productive people into monsters. Few are immune. Gandhi and Ron Paul come to mind. I believe Gandhi sensed the danger and rejected political power. Ron was probably better off personally, not getting elected president.

    The absurd becomes understandable when we view all politics from this perspective. A corrupt politician is the normal outcome of political power. Political power is the result of the most dangerous superstition: Faith in force expressed by the institution of government. Until this superstition is rejected by the masses the plagues of war, poverty, and institutionalized violence will exist. They are the natural products of failure to recognize our only means of survival, the sovereign individual. And it starts with each of us, when we decide to be independent or not. It takes a psychologically mature person to demand autonomy and accept responsibility for actions. The choice to reject self responsibility and be a slave to anyone by subverting our mind to others is not conducive to survival. It is dangerous personally, and could result in species extinction, certainly it has led to the extinction of civilizations.