A practitioner once shared with me his experience of taking Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic traditionally used by Indigenous communities in South America for spiritual and healing purposes…

A practitioner once shared with me his experience of taking Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic traditionally used by Indigenous communities in South America for spiritual and healing purposes.

“As the substance took effect,” he recounted, “I saw myself locked in a repetitive cycle of events. I could perceive that everything kept happening to me over and over again and always in the same way. And somehow, this large-scale repetition was rooted in the briefest unit of time; every breath contained the battle of awakening—to wake up or to sleep—a battle enacted from the beginning of time.”

“All in all,” continued the practitioner, “it was a terrible realization. It was accompanied by an underlying dread that I did not want to remain locked in this repetition. An inner voice kept urging me that I needed to escape from this.”

Drugs temporarily lift us above our mundane subjectivity. They seem to give us immediate access to perceptions that would otherwise take us months or years to achieve. They raise us to a state where we can see through the numbing chatter of our thinking function, through the illusion of time generated by our moving function, and through the complex social webs woven by our emotional function. Suddenly, we perceive ourselves as objectively and impartially as if we were observing someone else—for good and for bad. This prospect of taking a substance that generates profound perceptions is understandably attractive. Without its aid, we could only arrive at the same perceptions with great effort. The price we must pay is weakening the grip of False Personality over our Essence, constraining the demands of our Physical Body, and ultimately developing a governing Master—all of which require consistent and slow labor. Drugs can temporarily connect us with these perceptions even long before developing a Master.

“After the experience subsided, I felt that a door had been opened,” concluded the practitioner. “And yet, a strong part in me wanted to slam this door shut, mainly because this realization of being locked in recurrence was not in line with my imaginary picture of myself.”

That drugs can unlock such powers of perception proves that those powers are latent in us rather than non-existent. As long as Personality and our Physical Body keep dominating Essence, and as long as our functions continue manifesting uncontrollably, their very un-farmed nature clouds over these potential perceptions. This explains one aspect behind the mechanics of drugs: they numb our functions so that they temporarily pose less of a hurdle to these finer perceptions. For example, if our intellectual function is numbed so that we can no longer daydream, we experience a rare inner clarity in comparison to our normal state. If our instinctive function is numbed, then the five senses—the organs of perception of our Physical Body—no longer determine and restrict the experience of our immediate environment. Alcohol also falls into this category. It numbs Personality and lets Essence manifest more freely—although unreliably, as oftentimes alcohol will only make us tired and unable to function.

Another way drugs induce such unusual states is by artificially introducing into our organism the substances that can fuel higher perceptions. We use the term ‘artificially introduce’, because these same fine substances can be generated through our own efforts to transform impressions or transform suffering. But in the case of taking drugs, they are introduced from the outside without any psychological effort on our part. Once the volatile substance is artificially introduced, it roams freely in our organism and is readily appropriated, not only by our finer organs of perception, but also by the rest of our functions. This accounts for the psychedelic visions experienced while taking drugs. They result from our intellectual and instinctive functions being powered by an octane much finer than they have the capacity to process. Distinguishing between the fantastic and the objective aspects of a trip proves impossible. And even if it is possible to pull out an objective thread from the entwined mesh of drug-inspired thoughts, images, feelings, and visions, acting upon that perception is by no means guaranteed.

I asked the practitioner whether the powerful perception of being caught in recurrence helped him in any way: “As a result of witnessing yourself caught in recurrence, were you able to stop repeating some of the patterns that underlie this repetition?”

“No,” he responded decisively, as though he had already carefully considered this question himself. “The scale on which it had all been presented to me was so large that changing anything seemed hopelessly impossible. So while this was by far the most profound impression I had experienced of being asleep, of behaving like a machine, and of being locked in a cycle of mechanical repetition, I was not able to apply this experience. I could not find the will to stop repeating the pattern I had witnessed.”

If drugs generate perceptions that we cannot act upon, then the only option remaining for us is to take them again and again and again, hoping that in one of our trips, by a stroke of luck, we might stumble upon an actionable effort. Of course, this quickly translates into addiction, which is one reason why drugs are discouraged in this teaching.

The other reason lies in the unintended consequences of acquiring for free what would normally cost us long and diligent work. The objective visions we receive from taking drugs are like bank loans. We are held responsible for paying them off, which in the context of this work means acting upon them. If someone takes a loan to renovate a house, but wastes the loan without actualizing the renovation, the bank will hold them responsible. They may loan them more money, but at much higher interest. If they foolishly take on loan after loan, they will soon go bankrupt. And if we keep wishing for extraordinary realizations without concerning ourselves with actualizing what they are trying to show us, we crystallize in ourselves the urge to acquire something for nothing. We never develop will. Our Essence goes bankrupt.


  1. Great article zonta. Ayahuasca has been gaining a lot of popularity esp nowadays. I did feel tempted but stopped myself. I knew it was a sort of short cut and it has consequences. Mohamed salem

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