Do Magic Mushrooms Work Like Meditation?

Let me try this again.

Every time I make yet another attempt to explain the difference between the experiences available through the use of hallucinogenic drugs and the realities of long-term meditation practice, I vow that it will be the last time. And then a few months later I find myself doing it again.

My last article got re-posted a few places on Facebook, where it received some colorful responses. One commenter eloquently labeled me an “ignorant cunt” because I did not support his belief that drugs could get you enlightened quick and easy. On that same thread, a Facebook friend of mine posted this article that supposedly shows that magic mushrooms produce the same effects as meditation. Science has proven it. So it must be true.

To me, this is a bit like saying that if you do 150 push-ups, two hours on an eliptical machine, go on a treadmill for thirty minutes and then jack off, your pulse, your endorphin levels and the blood flow to the high-level association regions and connector hubs in the brain are exactly the same as they are if you have three and a half hours of vigorous sex with two Russian ballerinas, one of whom has dyed her hair chartreuse for the occasion because she knows you like anime characters.  And then concluding that a combination of exercise and masturbation works like sex and is therefore the same thing, or at least an adequate substitute.

It doesn’t matter to me if science says it’s the same thing. It’s not. It’s not the same thing because the scientists doing this kind of research aren’t researching the right aspects of the question. They generally have little or no experience of meditation. The philosophers whose musings I have read on the subject have no idea what they’re talking about because they’ve only tried drugs, and have rarely (if ever) made the real effort needed for meditation.

Saying that the psilocybin in magic mushrooms produces the same effects as meditation is like saying that romance, marriage and family are an inefficient way to achieve an orgasm. Maybe they are if you put it like that. But this misses the point entirely. The physiological effects of an orgasm experienced with someone with whom you are deeply in love and those experienced after an hour on may be precisely the same. But those two orgasms are not the same thing at all.

That being said, a lot of people who do meditation make exactly the same mistake as these scientific researchers. These meditators think that the Big Moments that sometimes happen during the course of meditation are the point of meditation. If that’s what you think, it’s easy to conclude that drugs might be a more efficient way of producing the same results. There are entire schools of meditation, some quite old and respected, that have enshrined the view that the purpose of meditation is to have some great moment of awakening. So it’s no surprise to find people who have approached meditation in this mistaken way concluding that “either hallucinogenics or meditation can take you to very similar, if not the same, experiences,” as Gary Weber says at the end of his article referenced above.

The core of the mistaken belief that drugs and meditation are doing the same thing is this belief that meditation is about results. But in the real world there are no results. There is only this.

Let’s go back to my earlier example of exercise and masturbation vs. a night with two ballerinas. Exercise and masturbation are relatively cheap and easy. Join the YMCA and get an Internet connection and you’ve got all the equipment you need. There is no necessity for any kind of personal connection or commitment. But getting with those ballerinas is going to take some work. You have to meet them, which in itself is going to take a lot of sustained effort. You have to convince them you’re not a psycho. You have to form a relationship of trust and perhaps even love. This relationship will continue when the three of you wake up all disheveled and hungry in the Motel 6 the next day. Someone’s heart will probably get broken. Maybe yours. Maybe you’ll still be crying about it three years later. It’s a big investment. Can exercise and masturbation “take you to very similar, if not the same, experiences?” My feeling is that they cannot.

My decades of meditation have not been as cheap or easy as scoring a hit of E or a bag of ‘shrooms. They have taken me to some pretty crazy places, both in terms of location and in terms of interpersonal connection. I formed a strange bond with an elderly veteran of the Japanese Imperial Army. I sat for days on end in sweltering sweat boxes alongside people with whom the only common interest I thought I shared was an interest in figuring out what the fuck life was, and then I saw that there really was no difference at all between us. I have faced boredom so deep it felt like it might destroy me. And I’ve watched myself dissolve and come right back together again, then noticed that even that was not the point.

If you’re telling me I could’ve done the same thing in a couple of hours on a dose of some drug, I’m going to tell you that you’re completely mistaken. Over and over and over again apparently.

We live in a society that worships medicine. It’s a quick solution that allows you to sustain an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle with a degree of comfort. We get so stressed out that we get migraine headaches and instead of reducing our stress, we look for a pill that will get us through it. We’re seduced by offers of medicines that promise we can eat all the fast food and ice cream we want and still not gain weight. We want results and we want them now with the least amount of effort. We don’t like it when someone challenges our belief in quick solutions.

But what kind of results do we get when we don’t put in real effort, when we aren’t willing to change, when we aren’t willing to accept that maybe there’s something fundamentally wrong with the way we live our lives?

People get very angry when you tell them that quick solutions don’t work. People get very angry when you tell them that the cartoons they see in their heads while they’re on hallucinogenic drugs might not be signs of enlightenment. Just because you sometimes see cartoons in your head during meditation doesn’t mean that the point of meditation is seeing cartoons in your head.


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109 Responses

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  1. Leah
    Leah October 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm |

    LOL on your last line.

    Dude, I hear ya. I read your previous post on this, and I totally get what you’re saying. I’m in complete agreement. Wish I had time to make a more astute comment than that.

    Maybe some don’t agree with you (and maybe never will), but people who might be reconsidering don’t come around right away. And of course they feel attacked and defensive when someone tells them what they’re doing or what they believe might not be the best/right/most effective/whatever way. If they didn’t react (thinking of what you said about some name calling or whatever) then what you write wouldn’t hurt them>result in anger>fighting back.

    I never realized that some people see the point of meditation as some sort of peak experience or whatever. I’ve only been realizing this in the last few years, partly due to your ranting about it.

    Also every time I see you ask for donations I think of ways you could be earning money online ~sigh~

  2. buzzard3000
    buzzard3000 October 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |

    please stop

  3. blake
    blake October 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |

    Can’t we all just agree that ‘shrooms are awesome and just be okay with that? Do we really need them to “open our minds” or whatever?

  4. Daniel
    Daniel October 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm |

    Hi Brad,

    I’m new here and one of the guys who stumbled on your page via your stuff shared on Facebook.

    Now I don’t know much about Soto-Zen etc. and Buddhism in general. But I’ve read some quotes from Zen-Masters like Dogen who at some point realised that Body and Mind dropped off. Which is something that I resonate with somehow.

    I’m sorry to say this but to me it looks like Zen as it’s core is about there being the realisation that there is no one there. And that “thing” then disappearing, in other words, there was Daniel and then suddenly there’s no Daniel there anymore. This is not an experience like “enlightenment” or something like that, and it doesn’t happen. Maybe you know what I’m talking about, if not you’ll now probably think I’m just crazy.

    From what you wrote here, “And I’ve watched myself dissolve and come right back together again, then noticed that even that was not the point.” it looks to me like you just had some sort of “enlightenment-experience” but that’s just that…as you wrote it’s not the point. The point is much more scary…it’s when “you” don’t come back and there’s just THIS.

    Now can drugs help that this is being realized? No clue…! 😉


  5. AManiglia
    AManiglia October 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm |

    I think that hallucinogenic drug usage implies some quest for meaning beyond the ‘everyday experience.’ That is to say that those who advocate it are probably bored with reality. They cannot find (or create) meaning in the everyday. I’d say that those bored with reality are similar to those who cannot enjoy simple and basic natural foods and need to be stimulated with sodium and sugar at each meal. It’s a reliance upon stimulation. Your point is well put, but I think that the chartreuse hair alone would result in a more elevated pulse/physiological state (vs. the gym-internet routine).

  6. Josh
    Josh October 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |

    Familiar theme, but good points well explained. Up there with my favourite article you ever wrote – the one about bad hair days and Sekiso & Ungai’s koan.

  7. Rehn
    Rehn October 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |

    People take hallucinogenic drugs because they like the fun or frightening world that the drug creates for them. If they are constantly running toward these peak expereinces, they are mostly likely attached to them. And I believe that most every Buddhist will agree that attachment–even to enlightenment–only leads to suffering.

  8. Zen Maoist
    Zen Maoist October 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    Hi Brad,

    I’ve been reading your books since last spring (I read them all in May and June) and feel that I resonate with much of what you say. Indeed, as a long-time student of Buddhist philosophy, but not a “Buddhist” per se, it was your work that helped me understand that I needed to sit in order to understand and “see.” So now I sit most days, and I participate in the sangha at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago, where I live and work.

    If I can, I’ll attach a picture, and you’ll see one reason why I resonate with your books. It’s the profile picture I use on Facebook, so you can see it there if I’m not together enough to attach it here.

    I was never attracted to drugs, in large part because, in my family, my high school scene, and in the music scenes in which I participated, drugs were everywhere, and the results of drug use looked very bad on the whole. I struggled with the drug use of others (in my immediate family, four out of five had very serious drug problems, and three our of five died before their time), but fortunately I never had to struggle with it in myself. I think what Rehn says above goes to the heart of the problem. There are some hard drugs that a person probably cannot use “casually,” so attachments come very quickly (or perhaps the attachments come from getting to that point); there are other drugs that are perhaps not so bad if only used casually, but still these dangerous attachments can form–and it seems like some of the people who responded to this post and the one before it are attached to the very idea of drugs and are having difficulty giving up that attachment. I sympathize with this struggle very strongly, I have had my own strong attachments of this sort. With drugs, and I’m sure with certain other kinds of attachments, it seems the big struggle is to see the attachment for what it is–a conception of one’s self as permanent, and with these attachments as a permanent part. I think your books do a very good job on this question.

    I appreciate the fact that you give us a good dharma talk every few days, and I intend to show my appreciation with a little dana.

    Rock on,

    Bill Martin

  9. Grimmace
    Grimmace October 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |

    Not that I think that my words will make a difference, but I’ll throw them in there anyway.

    In my younger, wilder days, I was a drug user… a heavy user, too, with a main preference for hallucinogenics. I lost count after my 500th hit of acid, with a smattering of mushrooms, mescaline, and extacy. If it would melt my mind, I was up for doing it at least three times unless it hurt really badly. I got as close to that urban legend of the guy who believes that he is a glass of orange juice (not the straw! not the straw!) as I could, and I am lucky I came out the other side as a coherent human being.

    Messing with your brain chemistry will change you. It is completely unavoidable and I can see where some would confuse it with enlightenment. It made me aware of my place in the universe, a point in a net of interconnectedness with all other living beings. I realized that all of reality is an illusion and that perception is creation.

    By far the strangest realization I had was that the drugs were unnecessary to achieve these states. Ultimately, it is your mind doing these trips and, through proper mental focus, you can turn any of these experiences back on. I once read about a Zen monk visiting one of these ‘Zen’ hippy drug conclaves and pointing out, “If this is the boat you used to cross the river, why do you still need the boat?”

    I also lost many things, and I think that is the difference between the ‘doing it’ in meditation vs. the ‘having it done to you’ of drugs, and I mean this beyond the friends and family trust. It took me years to stop seeing trails, and though the actual visual hallucinations were a rare occurrence, I was still seeing things that were not there for years. I am also now under the heavy burden of introversion that I did not have before I started taking the drug blowtorch to the sensitive surfaces of my mind. The kicker is that I remember being a different person, and that this introversion makes no sense, but I cannot seem to shake it.

    I am sure that you, Brad, have lost things through meditation as well, but they were things that you chose to lose, and I suppose that is the real difference. It all comes down to a matter of control.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel October 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm |

      Hi Grimmace,

      nice post but the idea that you have control about if you do meditate or not and about what happens when you actually meditate is an illusion. You don’t. There’s no choice and no one who could make the choice.

      Plus I’ve seen more people who got mentally sick in meditation centers doing meditation, needing clinic help afterwards than you might imagine. It’s not talked about that too often but many people would be better off to not start meditating. So that argument doesn’t count against drugs.

      Again I don’t say do drugs…but meditation is not the cure it’s proposed often compared to LSD etc. What most of the time get’s screwed up regarding this is fucking up cause and effect. A calm person will more likely meditate then another one, it’s not that they all get calm because they sit. Same is true for drug users just the other way. Of course there are exceptions to this…

      Same is true for realisation/liberation in regards to sitting still. When it happens you’ll just sit there a lot afterwars naturally…it’s not the other way around. You don’t get it because you sit, you sit afterwards. But people saw guys sitting around and thought they became like that because they sit. Bullshit. But this happens not only in the world of meditation but everywhere nowadays. Like people think pro swimmers look like they look because they swim a lot and then start swimming… 😉

  10. senorchupacabra
    senorchupacabra October 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm |

    The problem is nobody really wants to listen to you. They want to do drugs and they want some kind of authority to tell them it’s okay. It probably is better to quit trying to convince anyone of anything.

    I like what you had to say about physiological vs. experiential effects. I use a similar argument when I argue against “mental illness” as a physical “disease.” (N.B. that I do believe there are people who have psychological issues/problems and that these issues should not be taken lightly. I just think they are a “disease” that can be truly and permanently fixed with chemicals.)

    My example is hunger. In the brain, when someone is hungry, a lot of different kinds of stuff is going on. Certain synapses are firing, certain chemicals are being emitted, certain signals are being sent to and from the brain to and from certain parts of the body. Now, a person could look at the physiology of the situation and deduce that hunger must be a mental illness, because such and such and such is happening in the brain. And, because of such a deduction, a pharmaceutical company develops a pill that impedes those processes occurring in the brain. The hungry person might take it, and he might stop feeling hungry, but he hasn’t actually fixed what the problem was. What he really needed was a sandwich. Or an apple. Or some milk.

    It’s fashionable in some circles to believe science is infallible. And to a certain extant it is, data-wise. But how that data is INTERPRETED isn’t infallible.

  11. Fred
    Fred October 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm |

    Mescaline is a color show for your ego so that it can pretend that it is having a
    spiritual experience. Yes it is masturbating without going all the way.

    The ego is wearing new clothes by taking a drug.

    In Zen, “It”, the universe, the Absolute is wearing the ego.

    Mysticism and drugs are nice trips for an exhuberent 20 year old, but they need
    to be dropped. Because they aren’t it.

  12. boubi
    boubi October 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm |

    High five Brad

    I think it’s the first time i agree with you 100%

    Popping down a pill has nothing to do with meditation, jerking with real sex, a threesome doesn’t need “love” but “eros”.

    Just a word to Leah :
    “Then an image comes into my head of a monk with a bowl on a dusty road or something and I get on with other things :)”
    🙁 🙁 ??
    do you really mean what you wrote? You are talking about another culture where people give to bowl carrying monks, where those monks have a place to sleep and live (called monastry), where those bowl carrying folks have a place in society (psychological role in easying conscience, taking care of after-life and so on).

    You don’t need to be so defensive Leah justifying why you get on with other things 😉

    1. Leah
      Leah October 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm |

      Actually I was attempting to not imply any meaning nor to assume Brad had communicated any meaning beyond his simple question of “Really?” Perhaps I should have simply said “Yes,” but laconic isn’t my style. It’s sort of a practice thing for me, to not make assumptions about meanings in things people say beyond the words they use.

      The reason I get the (symbolic) image in my head (in the event you may be interested) of the monk with the bowl is a part of not making assumptions (that is, to not assume Brad is not capable of figuring out how to earn money online should he wish to do so). Just like the monk with the bowl (yes, another culture, as you say, in a different context) makes a choice to request donations. In both cases, both are completely appropriate requests even if different contexts, hence the symbolism.

      Whether I meant what I wrote or not may be up to you to decide, depending on the meaning you attach to the words.

      May your frownies turn to smilies 🙂

  13. zacharythax
    zacharythax October 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |

    Both drugs and zazen are both mind-altering, no doubt. I do zazen every day and I don’t WANT to do drugs. The idea of getting a buzz on just isn’t something that occurs to me to want to do which is pretty amazing since I HAVE done mushrooms, pharma-grade LSD-25, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and pot (many years ago) and was a really bad alcoholic for years. [BTW: The weirdest thing that ever happened to me on an LSD trip was when I was really for real hallucinating watching THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD. It was a black and white movie but it was in color that day. Then a commercial came on with a preppy guy and girl having a split screen telephone conversation where one said to the other:”Disco sure is making a comeback.” and I thought for sure it was an hallucination.] Being a punk, I was more than happy to put down all that hippie dope stuff. Punk is about looking straight into the eye of reality–unblinking–and it’s OK even with all life’s ugliness and unpleasantness and THAT’S what zazen is about to me.

  14. boubi
    boubi October 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm |

    I forgot about something …

    “what is the effect of meditation and what is the effect of whatever it is you gulp down”.

    Rightly Brad said it’s not the same, OK. But he didn’t say “what” it is, i believe it’s because he wants us to read the next episode … smart guy 😉

    Agree, it’s rather difficult to say what it is, most probably that’s why ancient master and modern teachers wrote volumes upon volumes trying to say “what” the heck it is or isn’t.

    But we, common mortals, are rambling about something we don’t seem to grasp.

    In the previous article it was even written about that strange animal called “enlightenment” (cousin of the unicorn or of the hippogriff i came to believe) … anybody saw it/she, how many legs, with or without horns?
    But a lot of people were talking about the similarities or differences between chemical and “bio” enlightenment … ? Between transformer’s Megatron and King Kong. WOW ! What a movie!

    “that the purpose of meditation is to have some great moment of awakening.”
    From my very limited knowledge those tearing of the sky are not the ultimate goal but rather a way as another one to … yeah to do what? cut bamboo and go to the market …

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm |

    How discouraging it must be for Brad.

    He writes a very clear-minded, well-reasoned post and is immediately met by all of these idiotic comments wherein people volunteer their life circumstances in order to let Brad know that he resonates with them.

    At least your last blog had anonymous commenters who would take things in totally different directions.

  16. Fred
    Fred October 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm |

    Come on anon. If I had done 500 hits of acid, I ‘d be sitting in a big highchair
    with pablum running down my face.

    Boubi seems to be taking things in totally different directions.

    1. Kman
      Kman October 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm |

      One near-death experience is all it took? Pharmaceutical sales reps must love this guy.

  17. Grimmace
    Grimmace October 9, 2012 at 10:21 pm |

    Wow, Daniel… way to pull the double speak. I said very little of meditation, and a lot about my experiences doing way too many drugs. That was my argument against it, not people getting mental in meditation. You can fly in a plane or be shot from a cannon: both will get you airborne, but it comes down to how you land. I only spoke up because this argument sounds like a lunch table in high school, and how I sounded when I first started LSD. Though I fully respect the straight edge life style, ‘never did drugs’ and all you one hitters really don’t come from an experience where you can say you’ll be fully enlightened on this path nor make a good argument against it.

    Ultimately, this is about drug users looking for validation. Well, here you go: there is no respected tradition in Buddhism that makes the allowance for smoking, let alone drugs. Buddha and others achieved enlightenment without it. You are acting irresponsibly by trying to force others to agree that your drug addled path works, and if you believe in Karma, doing great harm in touting such a philosophy to anyone who wouldn’t consider the drug because it contains poison, can cause mental damage and is illegal. Peddle your drugs elsewhere, Pusher Man. No one here is buying.

    Oh, and Fred… I would never recommend anyone taking 500 hits, but for you, I would recommend you go no further than Tylenol.

  18. Patrick
    Patrick October 9, 2012 at 11:44 pm |

    I think it’s a bit naive to have such strong opinions about two things, one which you have more experience with than 99% of people on the planet, and the other with which you have barely scratched the surface.

    There are just as many people if not more, that have the same attitudes about sitting meditation as psychedelics, that they produce a moment of enlightenment or complete realization. Obviously either attitude is incorrect.

    Meditation and psychedelics are tools for understanding. One is not greater than the other, although I would say meditation is more sustainable in my personal experience. I think it is healthy to have experience with both, but not to have an attitude of attainment with either. I think that this attitude is more a product of our instant gratitude society than anything else.

    There is really no need for an argument here, they are both two profoundly different ways of experiencing, and thus I do not think they really belong in the same conversation.

  19. HaliRob
    HaliRob October 10, 2012 at 6:02 am |

    Really great post Brad. It must be so fucking annoying having to say the same thing a million times over using different words. Though, I don’t think these people, (those who criticize your stance on drugs vs meditation), are stupid as they want you to believe. They just want to believe that they can argue, albeit online, with someone who they feel is a venerated person or whatever.

    I think the point here is that the effect of taking drugs can’t be the same as the effect of meditation because they are two different things. I’ve always consumed intoxicants out of selfishness. I do zazen out of selfishness and selflessness. Or more accurately some weird hybrid of the two, for which I do not have a word.

    People never want to put in the required work. The exercise analogy is great! I can get my heart rate up and even use an incline and a decent speed on a treadmill for 5k, but it ain’t ever going to be the same result or feeling of going for a 5k on a track, and that ain’t gonna be the same as a 5k outdoors.

    Thanks for the continuing work Brad!

  20. AnneMH
    AnneMH October 10, 2012 at 6:54 am |

    I liked the comparison of the entire courting, relationship, marriage, family, to an orgasm.

    I have a personal pet peeve about taking meditation as just a relaxation technique. The more years I do this (hey I am over 20 years) the less I really understand why I do it and the more absolutely essential it seems to be. I also get more opinionated about it. I get together with a group, no teacher in the group but a nice bunch of people to sit with. We trade off leading and most people are more comfortable with a guided process to some extent. I have let go of my pickiness and done a more guided thing when it is my turn, and it is good to not be such a hermit about my practice. However I still argue against a lot of common ideas the best I understand it, such as thinking this practice is just a way to get quickly happy instead of something challenging.

    PS on the making money, I don’t know how to do it well either but when PHD’s are at food banks I figure we cannot assume we are doing something mistaken in not earning much.

  21. sri_barence
    sri_barence October 10, 2012 at 9:31 am |

    I stand by my previous comments. But I want to point out that my experiences with drugs may not have been typical, and that after all my experimenting, I decided to do formal Zen practice anyway. Partly this is because of a story I heard about the Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn. Supposedly he encountered someone who was tripping (I assume on LSD), and noticed that the man was wide awake. He looked at the man and said, “Yes, but is it real?” Another version of this story has him saying, “But can you keep it?” (I apologize to anyone who has heard the same stories and knows them better than me, in case I got some detail wrong.) I think this is the critical point of the drugs vs. practice question: is it real? Can you keep it?
    Experiences that we might have while on drugs may help us understand something, and maybe even help us make healthy changes in our lives, but I don’t think it is a good idea to depend on drugs. Ultimately we live in the real world, so we should learn to operate here. Zazen seems to be a much better tool for this purpose. Drugs are a poor substitute at best. (Just my opinion.)
    Whether it is safe to use certain drugs is a question that I think should be answered by scientists or medical professionals. I am neither.

  22. Andy
    Andy October 10, 2012 at 9:44 am |


    “There is really no need for an argument here, they are both two profoundly different ways of experiencing, and thus I do not think they really belong in the same conversation.”

    Drugs and Religious/Spiritual experiences/practices have been involved in such ‘conversation’ for a long time. The nature of this conversation received a particularly high-dose shot in the Sixties, and scientists have been regularly adding their voices to it too.

    This conversation has involved people making claims about such things as meditation, and so it is helpful for some voices to be involved in it which address the issues, interrogate those claims, and attempt to make some clear distinctions, from informed positions.

    It is wrong to suggest that a person with less experience of drug taking, compared with meditation experience, hasn’t all the knowledge and experience necessary to speak with authority on certain areas to do with this topic.

    In order to speak about certain things to do with meditation, one has to have practiced it over a long period of time, or refer to someone who has. If my long-standing commitment to sitting zazen was equal to my long-standing commitment to taking psychedelics, I doubt I would be able to even think, never mind write coherently.

    Some experiences don’t need to be repeated very often in order to have enough information not to go there again. Someone with a grounded experience of meditation can drop acid once and distinguish clear differences and understand some very important implications to do with that drug’s usage, especially if intended to effect the same sort of ‘understanding’ over the short or long term.

    Most people taking drugs for the first time, or those having had certain experiences on them, are not going to have such a grounded stand-point, or be exposed to views from it. What they are often exposed to though is a culture contextualizing their choices and experiences from some attractive notions and terms derived and reconfigured from religious practices and literature.

    “Meditation and psychedelics are tools for understanding. One is not greater than the other, although I would say meditation is more sustainable in my personal experience.”

    Meditation and psychedelics and anything else might be thought of, and used, as ‘tools’ for understanding. What is important is whether either is an EFFECTIVE ‘tool’ – if and where such notions like ‘tool’ are applicable. It is also important to find out if either involve harmful and unhealthy side effects.

    To say “one is not greater than the other” doesn’t really get us anywhere unless we define what we mean by “greater”. Is getting completely smashed on a bottle of whiskey ‘greater’ than any experience I might have while sitting zazen? If I have an alcoholic’s ‘moment of clarity’ is that experience ‘greater’ than a ‘moment of clarity’ I might get on my cushion?

    Equating what is, in the majority of cases self-administered drug use (the exact contents of which are unknown), and which involves, at least temporarily, changing one’s brain chemistry as a means to further one’s ‘understanding’, with sitting down, for periods of time over a long period of time, is irresponsible and naive.

    If one is going to take drugs, then it helps to know what one is letting oneself in for and what one isn’t. It might also be very valuable for folk who wish to keep on taking such drugs, based on the desire to have spiritual experiences, or based on what they would call ‘spiritual experiences’ to question their assumptions about them.

  23. fightclubbuddha
    fightclubbuddha October 10, 2012 at 10:50 am |

    The question posed is “Do Magic Mushrooms Work Like Meditation?” I cannot, empirically or otherwise, answer this question with anything resembling either authority or certitude. Were the question, “Do Magic Mushrooms Work FOR Meditation,” however, I imagine the answer would probably be “yes, if you can find one large enough.” I mean, we’ve all seen imagery of toads sitting on mushrooms, hence the ugly word “toadstool” with its fecal connotations. So, I suppose a large magic mushroom could suffice nicely for a Zafu. Make sure you’re wearing something under your robe however, because you certainly don’t want a magic mushroom enema. Someone might think you’re a fraternity boy from Nashville.

  24. DharmaApple
    DharmaApple October 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm |

    This is interesting… I don’t understand why people can’t just let be. There were lots of things I had issues within your books (OK not lots… but I did throw each of your books across the room at least once…) but here’s the difference. I didn’t get on your blog and start going off on you. I just let it be a difference in perception or opinion (or tradition). And I respect you for each and every one of those things. It allowed me to look at my own perceptions differently.

    Eventually when I looked back on those things that stirred me up it really meant nothing. And some things I even changed my way of thinking around. If everyone just let their opposing opinions be exactly that… we would all be much more content. I suggest people try that. When something doesn’t agree with you. Think about it and see if that perception is really true. Open your mind a little!! Jeesh…

    I recently had my first encounter with “bliss” and I have to say… very nice feeling. But what is it? It’s just a sensation. It’s not enlightenment. It’s nothing special. People need to chill and stop labeling “good” or “bad”. Floaty/orgasmic moments on the cushion are not anything more special than the pain in your ass…

    As far as drugs go … you who think the hard and fast way to enlightenment (whatever the fuck that is anyway) is the way to go… have fun destroying your brain and body while you’re at it! Stupid.

  25. shade
    shade October 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

    “We get so stressed out that we get migraine headaches and instead of reducing our stress, we look for a pill that will get us through it”

    On a side note, I would argue that migraine headaches are not caused by stress (though they can be set off by it). It’s a genetic neurological condition not unlike epilepsy that can be debilitating; for some people there are no effective treatments, pharmaceutical or otherwise. What you’re probably talking about are tension headaches, which can also be very painful, but are a whole other kettle of fish. I’ve suffered plenty of the latter myself, some of which were so horrendous I took to calling them migraines because “headache” did not seem a suitable appellation. After talking to a few doctors and migraine sufferers, however, I reluctantly had to admit that we were playing on different fields. Though people in this country (world?) probably use way too many controlled substances on pretty flimsy pretexts, not all medicinal use, even of a psychoactive nature, amounts to an excuse for getting high. Not that Mr. Warner was suggesting as much, but I think the distinction needs to be made.

  26. sri_barence
    sri_barence October 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm |

    fightclubbuddha: Very nice!! Brad, maybe you should have Magic Mushroom Zafus alongside the Skeleton ones.

  27. boubi
    boubi October 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  28. boubi
    boubi October 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm |

    L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle

  29. jas
    jas October 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm |

    Realization doesn’t destroy the individual, anymore then the reflection of
    the moon can destroy a drop of water.
    A drop of water can reflect the entire sky.(Dogen)

    It’s not good to cling to mistakes. But great to share lesson of the mistake from the vantage point of hindsight to another.

  30. SoF
    SoF October 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm |

    Shrooms and meditation are almost opposites.

    Meditation stills the mind (in time) while Shrooms stimulate flights of fancy.

    BTW De Free John is mentioned HERE

    I mention Da because emotional religions – like the Evangelical and Pentecostal flavors of Xtianity are MORE like Shrooms.

  31. ichabod801
    ichabod801 October 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm |

    I was going to leave well enough alone, since other ex-users have made good points on the topic. But then I saw Patrick’s post. Sigh.

    For the record, I’ve tripped about 150 times, about a third on acid and the rest on shrooms. There was the tab of peyote, but we all agreed we got ripped off on that one. And I’ve been meditating for about a dozen years.

    I had one friend who was so happy to find out that acid didn’t do any brain damage, it just rearranged your neurons. I’ve never thought much of that idea. Who says rearranging neurons isn’t damage? My dad used to beat the shit out of me. I’m sure that rearranged neurons, and I don’t think it did me any good. But I came to realize that drug addicts need a justification for what they do, because they know it is messing them up, and they know it is hurting the people who care about them.

    Acid is especially vulnerable to this. I remember one night I was depressed and I ran into a bunch of tripping friends. They were heading off campus, but I didn’t want them to leave. So I manipulated them into hanging out with me. It was so easy it wasn’t even funny. People on acid are incredibly open to suggestion given the way they key off their environment. Why do you think the CIA was interested in the stuff? Take a tab of acid and go out in the woods with me. I bet I can make you believe you had an enlightenment experience. That doesn’t mean you did.

    To me, Zen is about reality, and acid and shrooms are about avoiding reality. They couldn’t be more different. Acid and shrooms just made my life worse. Zen didn’t make it better, but it made me realize how incredibly awesome it already is. They couldn’t be more different.

  32. Kman
    Kman October 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm |

    Brad, you sound like the straight-edge version of a 50 year old virgin. It’s just like the time you wrote about edgeplay with God on SG to show that you’re super-spiritual, and everybody else’s experiences are shit in comparison, because you stared at a wall for WAY longer than the average bear.

  33. Dorg
    Dorg October 11, 2012 at 5:42 am |

    Hello, I’m a new user, I discovered Brad a few months ago and read most of his books, bla bla bla….

    My take on this is that I’m a manager of 20ish opinionated, cranky programmers, several of which are smarter than me, and we support a 24/7 service to thousands of businesses across the US who depend on us to process their financial transactions and a host of other things, our IT environment is a puzzle of incompatible platforms and technologies, and I’m constantly trying to deal with the quirks and eccentricities of the people, the hardware, and the software to keep this thing going and craft our software development so that it makes it better and not worse over time, and I’m regularly interrupted during off hours to deal with one emergency or another.

    I have limited experience with psychedelics, but I have been meditating for a few years, and it’s pretty obvious to me that when I’m dedicated and getting a couple of meditation sessions in every day, I can think much more clearly about the problem at hand, I’m much better at avoiding getting my ego and fears all mixed up with solving the problem, and generally do a much better job with much less burnout. Conversely, when I’m putting my practice last and missing days at a time, I both do a worse job and find myself feel trapped, frustrated, etc. I have a family to support so chucking it all and backpacking in the Himalayas to sort it all out is not an option.

    Is anyone suggesting that drugs would help me as much as meditation, or that they wouldn’t make things worse? Not to mention the obvious problem of getting a midnight support call about a critical system being down while I’m tripping the light fantastic. I’m all for peak experiences and I absolutely do want to “solve the philosophical problems”, but on the way there I’ve got to stay completely engaged and on top of the crisis of the day to have a chance at making my life work. Here’s the flame bait – I don’t see how drugs are going to work for the grownups.

    1. sri_barence
      sri_barence October 11, 2012 at 8:21 am |

      Dorg, I think the general consensus here is that you should not take any drugs except those prescribed by your physician, and even then you should proceed with caution when taking narcotics or stimulants. I personally don’t think there are any shortcuts, and anyone who tells you different is either crazy or trying to sell you something (or both). Such claims should be viewed with skepticism.

      On the lighter side, I recommend “The Daily WTF,” a website dedicated to finding the humorous side of IT weirdness.

  34. Daniel
    Daniel October 11, 2012 at 9:06 am |

    Hi guys,

    I want to give it another try here 😉

    @Grimmace: Sorry what I wrote wasn’t all directed at you, I just used (or maybe misused) your post to make some statements.

    As far as I see the discussion here maybe needs to be cut in two parts:

    1.) Meditation just as a help in daily life, to get more focused/balanced/concentrate/mindful or less addicted/depressed/angry and so on. I say nothing against that, meditation or zazen whatever you want to call it is a helpful thing and it’s nice on that level. It helps the individual to get along better in life and that’s a good thing. You do it for example once a day and it does it’s job, like going out for a walk every day or doing Yoga/Taichi whatever every day.

    Now here LSD loses big time. If you do it every day as a way to deal better with your daily stuff you’ll probably fuck your brain up over time. No question.

    2) Meditation to get an idea WTF this is. With THIS I mean everything, your life. To learn to look outside the box. To realise what you are and at the end maybe realise that what you thought you are never existed. Different playground…this won’t necessarily make your life better, you’ll still be unfocused, unmindful, angry etc. after this. Usually it even makes things worse for a while till your brain got used to it. Then everything is like before but there’s noone there to experience it anymore. Most people don’t like that at all and it just scares them right away to just think about it…that doesn’t make sense since it’s not like anything disappears but that’s another discussion.

    Now number 2) doesn’t happen to everyone who does zazen. Some guys sit there for 25 years and still didn’t get it. Actually it’s really rare…and you can’t control it. I wouldn’t even say that the people who sit are more likely for this to happen then those who are not. And it happens only once, after this there’s no point to sit anymore. Most continue to do so though simply because they enjoy it now…

    Here LSD can probably lead to a similar thing. I never tried it so I don’t know. But from what I’ve heard from people I talked to or books I’ve read, documentations I’ve seen the odds are there. To be honest I personally talked to more people who got it on LSD then people in meditation centers etc. who had a similar understanding. But that’s not representative of course, just an observation.

    The big difference now between 1) and 2) is that 2) happens once and then there’s no need at all to take another LSD trip. It stays. The perspective on life is completely different from there on. And that’s something neuroscience is also telling us lately about LSD. Like meditation it doesn’t just change your brain while you’re on the trip, it stays afterwards. Right now they’re starting to offer LSD again for people who’re close to their death because of diseases. And with the right dose a lot of them get a completely new perspective on what LIFE is and die in peace without any fear arising. But it’s not like they get LSD every day till they die. They get it ONCE…

    Again I’m not pro drugs, I’d never advice anyone to take LSD. But also I’m not that dogmatic about it, that too would be stupid.

    I hope this adds something to the discussion…


  35. Dorg
    Dorg October 11, 2012 at 11:13 am |

    Interesting point – Daniel suggested two categories:

    1.) Meditation just as a help in daily life, to get more focused/balanced/concentrate/mindful or less addicted/depressed/angry and so on.

    2) Meditation to get an idea WTF this is. With THIS I mean everything, your life. To learn to look outside the box.

    I expect 2 to include a supersized dose of 1 or to me it’s just entertainment. Also, the rewiring metaphor seems incomplete. Doing a concentrated activity like meditation (or playing the violin) every day is going to slowly grow new connections in your brain to accommodate your mental efforts, which I wouldn’t expect to be the same process or give the same results as bathing your brain in chemicals for a few hours.

  36. boubi
    boubi October 11, 2012 at 11:57 am |

    Don’t know if someone proposed this point of view.

    Substances leave you muddled, overwhelmed by this whirlwind of sensations, meanings etc.

    Meditation is the opposite, it takes away all that is not needed, it gives clarity, calm, don’t know how to say.

    By now the DEA already got all the IPs, address, phone numbers, email, blog posts, list of friends, GPS location of the last few months, credit card expenses, habits and so on of everybody and they are ready to knock at a few doors with some search warrant … LOL 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  37. Beezone
    Beezone October 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm |

    You may be interested in this article on my website. A link to the complete article is at the bottom.

    Here is a bit of it:
    BUBBA: Throughout history human beings have been looking for something to sustain them. Everything from Jesus to Amanita muscaria, the sacred mushroom, is claimed to be the panacea, the sustainer, Krishna, the thing that rejuvenates, that keeps us forever alive and full. Because of our metaphysical presumption of unlove, we are always seeking, then, for the Sustainer outside ourselves. And cults have developed around magical somethings-or-other all over the world and throughout human time. That magical something-or-other at the center of every cult means food, the connection to what sustains. All holy rituals are about food. Most often they literally involve food: sacrificing food, eating food, “this is my body, this is my blood,” killing calves, taking things from the holy place and absorbing their energies. The Sacrament of Prasad, or Universal Sacrifice,4 which all devotees in our Church engage daily, also tends to be used in this cubic fashion, if used at all other than in a merely mechanical way.

    The search for the cultic sustainer, or food, the food deity, the edible master, is a futile search, but still it occupies men all over the world. The root impulse of every single culture, every society, every religion, is to find the edible deity, to come into mystical and even direct physical contact with what sustains us perfectly. This whole search – and its fulfillment in these imaginative cultic occasions, these meals (including the ordinary daily meal) – is the product of our error, our suffering, our irresponsibility. It is true that we must be sustained. We must come into immediate Communion with what is absolute. But this cubic ritual, this coming into contact with the edible deity in objective form, the great parent sustainer, is not true sustenance. It is a form of delusion, of eating in the desert. It is plunder.

  38. boubi
    boubi October 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm |

    “Distinguishing his from other religious traditions, Adi Da declared that he was a uniquely historic avatar (incarnation of a god or divinity in human form). As such, Adi Da stated that devotional worship of him is the sole means of spiritual enlightenment for others”*

    No less? LOL


  39. Fred
    Fred October 11, 2012 at 5:41 pm |

    Broken Yogi said on his blog that Adi Da’s trip was about Adi Da and not others.

    Sitting with no purpose brings stillness and acid is a partial agonist at the
    stimulatory serotonin 5HT 2A receptor. So right you are, Boubi.

  40. Fred
    Fred October 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    Beezone, the edible Deity is as empty as you or I.

    BY was there with Da, and this is his response:

    “. This is why the Buddhist doctrine of anatta (no-self) flows so directly from the fact of dukkha and points back at it. Being an apparent self is like being a hungry ghost who doesn’t even know he’s dead. There’s simply no possible satisfaction given that situation. It doesn’t matter what we try to “eat”, or seek, the very core of what we presume ourselves to be – a “self” – isn’t even there to feed, much less anything viable to feed upon. The heart of a hungry ghost isn’t so much closed as simply dead and empty. ”

    So fill yourself with drugs and experiences under the pretence of gaining
    enlightenment, but it is just feeding the empty ghost.

  41. Fred
    Fred October 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm |

    “The year 2000 was the final end of “tribalized” ego-culture – for everyone.”
    Adi Da

    Not much has changed in 12 years. If anything tribalized ego culture runs

  42. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 11, 2012 at 9:55 pm |

    Well, well, well; oh, well.

    I like the article about the neurosurgeon who experienced his consciousness in some other place; of course, Robert Monroe in far journeys talked about a similar place, where just thinking about sex with someone resulted in doing it, although it was not exactly a physical act. Also everyone had to lie down and let the higher being walk across their stomachs, once in awhile.

    Monroe played with hypnosis, and figured out how to get out of his body (and eventually how to get back, without fail- pay attention to his own breath).

    I know Vanja Palmers spoke at Jikoji a couple of years back about one of his students, who had been sitting zazen for thirty years without any kind of spiritual experience (or that’s what they said, anyway). He thought maybe for such a person, a clinical dose of a psychedelic under controlled circumstances might be a blessing, something like that.

    “Most continue to do so though simply because they enjoy it now…”- well, the Gautamid spoke of an inner happiness, yet I continue to be struck by his description of enlightenment as “deliverance from thought without grasping”. My own nature is to experience consciousness that floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee, and in so doing supports the movement of breath. My sitting in the morning doesn’t change the feeling of wanting to pound my head against the wall when the code doesn’t come together and the team thinks I’m slow. Oh, well!!

  43. Khru
    Khru October 12, 2012 at 12:06 am |


  44. Khru
    Khru October 12, 2012 at 12:06 am |

    No…well, maybe.

  45. Khru
    Khru October 12, 2012 at 12:07 am |

    Just admit: “I don’t really know.”

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