Drug Consciousness by Dr. Allan Y. Cohen
DRUG CONSCIOUSNESS: AN UPDATE FOR THOSE FOLLOWING AVATAR MEHER BABA
Allan Y. Cohen, Ph.D.
Series 1 of 1 (July, 2022)
Introduction and Purpose of the Series. As I write this, Rick Chapman has launched a new book, intriguingly titled “Bug Consciousness, Drug Consciousness & Flying Rug Consciousness” (Chapman, R.M. 2022. White Horse Publishing, Oakland, CA.) His subtitle is more specific: The Dope on Drugs—Pot, Peyote, Acid and Beyond—from the Source of Truth. Including engaging biographical experience and valuable historical material, the book becomes the most comprehensive publication regarding the context of Meher Baba’s statements and his perspectives on the use of consciousness-altering drugs.
Rick asked me to supplement Meher Baba’s statements with the most contemporary physiological and psychological data available that confirm the full scope Baba’s observations regarding consciousness-altering drugs. Recently, we’ve been concerned to learn of recreational marijuana use by some of those following Meher Baba, perhaps not educated about Baba’s views or denying that Baba is still “current” after some 50 years. We’ve also become deeply disturbed at the death and mental illness of several children of Baba-lovers, tragedies involving cannabis, other psychedelics, and opioids. We are tracking national and international developments involving the legalization and toxicity of cannabis products, along with the introduction of new and potent drugs available on the street (e.g. Fentanyl). These issues are of increasing importance, both from a secular and spiritual point of view.
Scope of this Discussion. It is quite possible that the reader has yet to read Rick’s book. The book contains almost all of the verifiable statements that Meher Baba has expressed about psychoactive drugs, particularly “psychedelic” drugs, including various marijuana and hashish products. I urge you to do so—there are scores of pages relevant to the topic, and we won’t duplicate many of the quotes here. Here, we’ll start with an overview of several topics that may give a broad introduction to important concepts. Some of these concepts were presented in The Glow magazine in 2017.
Some History: Unmasking the Illusion. Early on, especially in the 1960’s,, Meher Baba focused on disentangling his lovers and warning them away from the illusory spirituality of psychedelics. His intervention worked! Encouraging the spread of his messages about drugs, Baba broadened his focus to spiritual aspirants generally, piercing the popular delusion that psychedelic experiences offered valid progress toward God. He also emphasized the fatal flaw of all drugs to produce positive experience and better lives—they don’t last! Even the best experiences are not continuous and do not necessarily transfer to ordinary life. For decades, psychedelic drugs have been discredited as a means of spiritual transformation. Social essayists are beginning to acknowledge the role Meher Baba’s statements played in bring about this change.
Alleviating Suffering and Opportunities for Service. With particular emphasis on the young, Meher Baba flagged the physical and mental harms of drug misuse. At one point, he warned that if the spread of such drugs was not stopped, they could affect and potentially harm half the young people in America. Since Baba’s intervention, in the midst of epidemic waves of dangerous drugs, major programming structures have been built to provide education, alternatives, treatment and rehabilitation for those “caught in the drug net of illusion.” To this day, many Baba-lovers work in programs involving alcohol and drug abuse. Many are therapists, teachers, counselors or recovering addicts who help individuals and families beset by drug problems. Baba had indicated that any assistance to others protecting against drug dependency was among the highest forms of selfless service.
The Work Continues: The Case of Marijuana. Controversies about marijuana legalization and potential medical use have confused even Baba-lovers, not to mention their children. In an atmosphere of changing laws and policies, we thought it important to underscore Baba’s wisdom on the issue of marijuana use. In later articles, we’ll drill down into the detail of the harms of cannabis products. It is not a coincidence that Meher Baba included cannabis use in messages concerning psychedelic drugs, for example: …Beloved Baba is emphatically against the use of LSD and ganja [marijuana], and suchlike drugs and smokes. In several documented statements and conversations, Meher Baba forcefully dismissed the myth that cannabis is a natural, relatively harmless substance. In 1962, he told one devoted lover: “If you continue to smoke hashish, it will be your end. There will be nothing I can do for you then.”
In later articles, we will show how Meher Baba’s neuroscientific knowledge predicted precisely both the specific harms of consciousness-altering drugs but also their potential medical benefits. Especially stunning years later, scientists discovered products of the cannabis plant (marijuana, hemp, ganja, hashish, charas, or bhang) contains a potent psychedelic agent, a chemical called THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). Few people realize that THC, whether smoked or eaten, adjusted for dosage, is as potent and as hallucinogenic as LSD, mescaline or psilocybin, not to mention its disruption of the body’s endocannabinoid system. So, it turns out that everything Meher Baba said about the dangers of other psychedelics is also applicable to any cannabis product that delivers THC. The probability of harm has multiplied as cannabis variants are being grown and processed to maximize THC content, both in marijuana cigarettes and “edibles” (e.g., cannabis in candy bars or cookies).
Hundreds of scientific studies have shown a wide range of health problems stemming from long-term cannabis use, presumably due to its THC content. Confirmed effects include an increased probability of schizophrenia, brain, lung, and cardiovascular damage; cognitive deterioration; cannabis dependency; suicide risk; impaired driving; “amotivational” syndrome, and a host of other physical and mental disorders. Problematic effects, even from secondary smoke, are especially intense for children, youth and pregnant women. Particularly troubling, habitual marijuana use creates a physiological accumulation of THC in fat tissues for months. Finally, as is the case with most psychoactive drugs, tolerance eventually builds, gradually demanding higher dosages of THC for the same experience.
Hidden Effects. There is another potentially devastating effect of THC and other psychedelics, one that involves aspects of consciousness unknown to conventional science, but was no secret to Meher Baba. Meher Baba hinted at a mechanism whereby psychedelics can increase exposure to the lower astral world, specifically mentioning the existence of certain “nerve centers” that can be forced open artificially by LSD and the “enormous risks” involved. Supporting evidence suggests that psychedelics can weaken those subtle structures that protect ordinary consciousness against disruptive astral energies. The resultant loss of emotional and mental control may look very much like ordinary psychosis. For spiritual students, even marijuana can “clog” the appropriate flow of energies between the subtle and physical body. Also in the Discourses, Baba describes cases in which such chemically-induced vulnerability to negative astral influences can attract bothersome discarnate souls (“spirits”). In the same chapter of the Discourses, he describes also the dilemma of addiction carried over beyond physical death. In the book, Rick relates a corroborative story, and I will add another in a later edition column.
Medical Use of Drugs. Consistent with 21st century research, Meher Baba articulated the legitimate uses of certain psychedelic drugs to treat, under close professional supervision, severe depression, chronic alcoholism and relief in other mental illnesses. Researchers are exploring these applications, although the science is still somewhat undeveloped. Regarding marijuana, THC has very few legitimate medical benefits. Most of the positive therapeutic effects associated with cannabis come from another one of its constituents—cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is neither psychoactive nor a psychedelic substance and may have favorable impacts on such conditions as seizures, pain and anxiety. Those with legitimate prescriptions for medical marijuana might best try to avoid purchasing any marijuana with significant THC content,
How Important is the Issue? Skeptics might ask: “What’s the big deal. Compared with the totality of the Avatar’s work, why are you pushing the drug stuff? Or, “It sounds the Meher Baba religious police are coming down on us edgy explorers.” These are fair questions that we will fully explain in later columns. First, we understand that Meher Baba works in any individual to spark spirituality, that such work includes mistakes and sanskaras that have to be lived out. Baba’s only “rules” are those warnings that help people, especially his lovers, to make spiritual progress more quickly. Absent some common sense rules such as Baba Centers or Meherabad, Baba’s guidance does not presume that these materials are “evil,” nor those even who express criminal or addictive behavior as going to “hell” or “purgatory” after death.
Still, very, very few times in Meher Baba history has he proclaimed his direct intervention against a course of behavior that could be illusory and/or self-destructive. He gave no particularly public interest in political activity, national policy, or social movements. But he did get extremely involved in this one drug issue, especially in the last three years of his life. The only broad social issues he supervised, one which he allowed to interrupt his seclusion—was his involvement in the prevention and intervention of psychoactive substance use and abuse. It can be inferred that such drug issues were more important to humanity than even wars.
We will explore this fact and other details (physical, cognitive, and emotional harms) in the columns that follow by September 1. Feel free to use this space to communicate questions, offer experiences, or ask for scientific references.