People often write to me and ask if psychedelic drugs are useful for attaining enlightenment or gaining spiritual knowledge. They usually go away disappointed because I say no. Most don’t believe me because they want to believe that there is a shortcut to awakening. After all, all those ancient shamans can’t be wrong, right?
Psychotropic drugs make for an experience which is very powerful, the brain and senses connect in strange ways leading to the experience of all kinds of surreal images and thoughts. It is very intense at times. Well, so is drinking too much alcohol. All drugs operate by short-circuiting certain brain functions usually brain functions which are associated with serotonin and dopamine levels.
Now, of course, the subjective experience of being drunk or under the influence of LSD are different but they result from the same type of scrambling of serotonin levels. Some psychedelics also trigger a sense of universality the “we are all one” experiences. This seems to be located in a center in the forebrain. People who have tumors in this area of the brain will experience a sense of the mystical connection of reality. This is fascinating from both a scientific and a philosophical aspect. Why would we evolve this center? What is its purpose?
So, we have much yet to learn but drugs are not a shortcut to awakening.