A Message about Drugs and a Reply
A conversation between Peter Meyer and Jochen Uebel

From: Jochen Uebel
Date: November 11, 2005
Subject: Drugs

Dear Peter,

Seems as if your parents came from Europe ...
Anyway: great site, yours.
With one exception: statements on drugs.
Think it over again.
Our brain is the most sensitive organ of ours.
Drugs force it to do specific things.
This is cruelty to our birthright to evolve free and in an evolutionary manner.

I know what I am talking about.
Know both sides — drugs and meditation techniques, which allow the mind (and therefore the brain) to find its way by its own. Not forced by any artificial man made chemicals.
Think it over again. You are absolutely wrong on this point.

Kind regards
Jochen F. Uebel
Germany

From: Peter Meyer
Date: November 11, 2005
Subject: Re: Drugs

Dear Jochen,

We are all entitled to judge things as we see them based upon our experience and our ability to think intelligently.

Drugs are of many different kinds, with many effects, good and bad, but since you seem the dismiss all drugs I'll treat them as a class: chemicals which have (especially in humans) some physiological or psychological effect, good, bad or indifferent.

> Our brain is the most sensitive organ of ours.
> Drugs force it to do specific things.
> This is cruelty to our birthright to evolve free and in an evolutionary manner.

I'll reply to these statements one at a time.

1. I don't think anyone would disagree that certain substances introduced into the brain can have a profound effect on consciousness, and since you seem to associate consciousness with the brain rather than, say, the heart, it's understandable that this seems to express some kind of important truth for you. What happens when certain chemicals are introduced into the human brain is a profound mystery. But whether you call the brain "our most sensitive organ" is simply up to you and it really says nothing, since you will no doubt define the sensitivity of an organ of the human body in such a way that it is tautologous that the brain is "the most sensitive". So your first statement is true but trivial.

2. Drugs force nothing. Drugs are chemicals. People choose to take drugs (some good, some bad) in order to induce certain effects or to open up certain possibilities. People choose whether, and what drugs, to take, and people are free to choose. That certain chemicals induce little-understood effects in the brain is something no-one would deny, but to suggest that drugs "force" the brain to do anything is to attribute some mystical powers to them (the chemical substances) which they almost certainly do not possess. So your second assertion is wrong, in the sense of false (I do not say 'absolutely').

3. Perhaps you identify yourself with your brain, and prefer to evolve "freely" and "in an evolutionary manner" (Darwinian or other), in which case you no doubt prefer to keep your brain free of outside chemical influence. You're certainly free to do that if you wish, but you can't maintain that this position is based upon some kind of reasoning (as you appear to believe) and is thus valid for everyone. There is no "cruelty" except in how humans act toward each other and to other living beings on this planet.

Your aversion to "artificial man made chemicals" is curious. There are drugs that occur by Nature's chemisty, which are no better or worse than drugs synthesized in the lab, and some of both kinds can have beneficial physical, psychological and spiritual effects, so I don't take kindly to your suggestion that they should never be used.

Everyone has to find their path to enlightenment by their own means, and if you have found one then good, but I'm sure it's not the only one.

Thanks for your message and for the occasion to think it over again. In what you wrote I find no reason to change my view.

Regards,
Peter Meyer

From: Jochen Uebel
Date: November 14, 2005
Subject: Re: Drugs

Dear Peter,

You confirm my main points anyway, since you are state: "I don't think anyone would disagree that certain substances introduced into the brain can have a profound effect on consciousness ..." In other words: Those substances are forcing the brain function in specific directions. This is also the basis of my point of view.

Further you say: "What happens when certain chemicals are introduced into the human brain is a profound mystery." Exactly. And because it is a mystery, one should never conduct drug experiments with one's brain. One does not know what one is doing. Why should one do this? There are proven mental techniques which we know to have no harmful side effects at all and which produce all the wonderful outcomes of mental, physical and sociological evolution, for which any drugs — at best — are aiming for, but combined with huge risks.

Also the following statement of yours needs to be corrected: "There is no 'cruelty' except in how humans act toward each other and to other living beings on this planet." This is only half of the truth. There is also the possibility to act in a cruel way towards oneself. And if we sharpen our view we recognize that acting cruelly to ourselves is one of the main reasons for our cruelty to others.

Last but not least, you say: "Your aversion to 'artificial man made chemicals' is curious. There are drugs that occur by Nature's chemisty, which are no better or worse than drugs synthesized in the lab." You are both right and wrong, I think. Nature by itself does not know any 'drug' whatsoever. Nature is offering chemicals — that's all. It is man's decision to use some of these chemicals as drugs — and to synthesize others. The fact that some of these substances are found 'as they are' in Nature can not be used as an argument for the hypothesis that at least those substances are fine and healthy for us. Nature is offering harmful and healthy substances both — and it is depending on our intelligence to differentiate between them. There is no difference between 'drugs' which are taken from Nature and drugs which are produced by man. In both cases we are using substances to 'produce effects on consciousness'.

Kind regards,
Jochen

From: Peter Meyer
Date: November 16, 2005
Subject: Re: Drugs

Dear Jochen,

I have to disagree when you claim that I confirm your main points. The intent of your initial message was, apparently, to assert that no drugs should ever be used which produce effects on consciousness. I think I've made it clear that I disagree totally with this assertion.

I have also explained in my previous message why it is misleading to speak of drugs as "forcing" the brain, so I need not repeat what I said earlier. But I'll simply point out that such language is halfway toward the demonization of drugs, a tactic favored by prohibitionists but one which is baseless, since drugs are in themselves simply chemicals.

To use drugs may, but often is not, to conduct experiments with one's brain. And if so, how else would one experiment with the effects of drugs on consciousness without one's brain being involved? Respected scientists have often conducted experiments concerning the effects of drugs on their own consciousness, one example being Alexander Shulgin, the author of two very detailed books on the consciousness-altering effects of phenethylamines and tryptamines.

From my statement (with which you agree) that "What happens when certain chemicals are introduced into the human brain is a profound mystery," (a mystery, by the way, which can only be fully appreciated by those who know of this by experience) it simply does not follow (as you claim) that one should never conduct experiments with consciousness-altering substances.

If we took your advice as to never doing anything unless we know exactly what we are doing then we would never discover anything new.

"Why should one do this?" Why should one use consciousness-altering drugs? I do not say that one should use drugs. I oppose people who say that one should not use drugs. Certainly some drug use carries risks (e.g., cocaine and the opiates), but the intelligent strategy is not to prohibit drug use but to provide accurate information as to how best to use drugs and what are the dangers (if any) of doing so. And this not in general terms, but with specific and accurate information concerning particular drugs. A blanket prohibition of drug use, and the attempt to suppress information about drugs, is a very unintelligent attitude toward drug use — and a very harmful one.

While there may be something to be said in favor of some of the many drugs which humans have been inclined to use throughout human history, it is the psychedelics which are the most interesting from a scientific and spiritual perspective. They have been called "non-specific amplifiers" in that they reveal to the conscious mind what is already present but unconscious (thus can be very helpful in psychotherapy), and can remove the limitations on consciousness which characterize our 'ordinary', 'day-to-day' awareness (showing us in Terence McKenna's words, "the wiring under the floorboards").

You claim that "there are proven mental techniques which we know to have no harmful side effects at all and which produce all the wonderful outcomes of mental, physical and sociological evolution, for which any drugs — at best — are aiming for, but combined with huge risks." I scoff at your "huge risks". That is mere fear-mongering. It is far more dangerous to drive a car than it is to use psychedelics. And although I acknowledge that meditation techniques can have interesting results (though they never did much for me) I believe you have no basis for claiming that such techniques can reproduce any experience (or at least, the "wonderful" ones) possible by the use of drugs. That is a wild claim, and reveals a lack of acquaintance with the further reaches of psychedelic drug experience, such as encountered when using DMT.

People who try to persuade other people not to use consciousness-enhancing drugs do so from a variety of motives. They might be meditation teachers (or priests) who have an interest in claiming that risk-free psychic benefits are only to be had by what they teach. They might be politicians or other members of the ruling power elite who understand (or vaguely suspect) that their propaganda and their mind-control cannot be effective when people are free to use psychedelics to free their minds from mental conditioning. They might simply be people who are afraid. Fear and greed are the real basis for drug prohibition. Greed, because prohibition allows some people (and organizations, governmental and otherwise) to make a lot of money. Fear, in the form of simple fear of the unknown, and in the form of fear of what psychedelics can reveal. Those who are afraid are certainly free not to use psychedelics, and to stay with their preferred drugs such as alcohol, nicotine and cocaine, or their nice, safe meditation practices. The most courageous explorers will go where the most interesting discoveries are to be made, with only disdain for those who would try to stop them.

Regards,
Peter Meyer

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