Note from the Editors: This article is part I of a III-part series on the use of Psychedelics as viewed from the Right.
Psychedelics from the Right, Part I: A Conservative Case for Entheogenic Practice
For over fifty years conservatives have viewed entheogenic drug use through a post-Sixties leftist lens as a fast track to madness and cultural chaos. For a generation of straight-laced right-wing boomer parents, the main lesson of the psychological and social horror they experienced in their youth was that future generations should definitely avoid any similar activity.
But this caution was only somewhat effective, and only partly true. Despite all the damage wrought by the mass use of LSD in the Sixties, psychedelic drug use began booming again about a decade ago and is now as popular as ever. This resurgence is tied to both an increased availability of entheogens themselves and the increasingly horrific state of Western culture since the middle of last century.
Conservative criticism of psychedelics often turns on the idea that they represent forms of escapism, an absence of discipline and effort, and a misunderstanding of the relation between body and soul bordering on an enthusiasm for high-resolution deceit. Naturally, these attitudes are reflexively revolting to the conservative constitution. But this is not really what entheogens are about. What entheogen users are seeking is direct, transcendental experience in a world saturated with illusions. When language fails, only experience will suffice, and the harder they fail the more overpowering experience must be.
Entheogen use is not the problem. The problem is using entheogens without a liturgical and cosmological framework which enables the integration of the ecstatic experiences they produce. Modern Western culture offers no stable method for integrating mystical experience into everyday life. An individual transcendental experience alone is either not enough or too much. Without a framework for incorporating it into the broader culture after it is acquired, it can leave the recipient more confused than before.
Theophanies requires a particular kind of preparation and the integration of those experiences demands an environment that accounts for it within an essentially traditional system of symbols and practices. In other words, entheogenic drug use must be conceived in conservative terms to be meaningful, and conservativism should embrace this entheogenic dimension. Consider the surviving entheogenic cultures in the Amazon. It doesn’t get much more conservative than that.
Conservativism operates according to three different modalities. One group clings to tradition to the exclusion of the unknown in the cause of maintaining order. A second group carefully adjusts traditions to incorporate what they understand as unavoidable inflection points of evolution. Finally, a third group moves towards and seeks out the unknown on the back of the strength of their traditional virtues. The first group is useful in a siege scenario against an open enemy bent on their utter destruction. The second is useful for recalibrating society to incorporate change when it arrives on their doorstep.
The third group is the rarest and ultimately the most decisive. Not merely defending, but directly embodying the wisdom and discipline handed down by their ancestors they have composed the warriors and adventurers who led humanity through dangerous times and uncharted territory to ensure that civilization not only persisted, but advanced. These men were Gilgamesh and Hercules, Columbus, Magellan, Shackleton, and Neil Armstrong — all of whom confronted the terrifying unknown armed with the lessons of their culture and the faith of their forefathers.
These men have surmounted the mountains, rivers, hordes, beasts, missiles. But before they accomplished these deeds they all first overcame a spiritual obstacle: fear. These men understand that the way to rid themselves of fear was to become as comfortable with death as possible. Accordingly, it must have also been this group which first devised, as a method for confronting fear, a way of experiencing death before dying. This method demanded bravery, discipline, and intelligence, and was crafted, refined, and passed down to others like themselves over thousands of years.
One example is the mysteries at Eleusis. The details of the ritual itself have been lost, but the information that exists shows that the Greater Rite of Eleusis was an intensely conservative affair. It took place only once in a participants’ life. Anyone that attempted to access the experience without the requisite purification or approval or spoke of the details afterward, was sentenced to death. And if scholarship by researcher Brian Muraresku is accurate, it almost certainly involved entheogens.
For men like Plato, Augustus Caesar, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius, entheogen use had a profound effect that shaped not only the course of their lives, but world history. The difference between this group, and the group of people who burned out on entheogens is the use of culturally appropriate, time-tested rituals. Using mind-altering substances without rigorously-designed rituals is at best a hybrid of self-medication and self-help, and at worst a form of psycho-spiritual Russian roulette. If it clicks and you hear the message, the overwhelming rush of it could positively alter the way you see the world forever. But if the pin hits the shell, you’ve blown your brains out.
Western man today is radically alienated from the substances and rituals he’s using, and only partially knows what he’s doing and seeing. As such, there’s a hole in the software that may lead to problems when Westerners come face to face with the numinous after taking a dose. Some of the entities he encounters are probably hardwired across every race and culture. But archetypes also constellate differently. This matters a great deal with respect to one particular mythological figure almost invariably encountered in entheogenic states — the Trickster.
Mercury, Coyote, Eshu, Loki, Hanuman… there is no equivalent in mainstream Western religion, and as a result no ready means of understanding this character when he appears. You may suppose you’ve met an angel that has given you the golden key to unlocking your full potential — and perhaps you have. But it’s just as likely that you’re catching a spiritual juke from a fairie, or djinn.
The gods may wish no specific ill towards the gullible and weak-willed, but they don’t seem to have any qualms about making sport with them either. In myths across the world, the gods set snares to test the worth of seekers after wisdom. And even when these sly-fellows deliver the goods they often do so in a tricky fashion. It’s not a revelation, but an unfolding. Either one takes it literally, all in one go, and falls straight into a booby trap, or else one spends weeks, years, and decades attempting to understand. It is actually this quest for understanding itself which confers power on the recipient if ritually integrated within the context of their culture. Taking the “elixir” isn’t the Omega, but the Alpha: it is the first step of an ongoing experience requiring lifelong integration that is carried out through deeds.
Although no concrete details have come down to us about how this process was accomplished by initiates at Eleusis, an adjacent ritual exists to shed light on just how tricky the process could be without proper guidance. Prognostications at Delphi were interdimensional rituals accessible only at particular periods. Quarents would petition the priestess, as she was possessed by a spirit and suspended over a chasm. She would give them an answer, but it was never straightforward. The replies were open to interpretation, and if the discernment of the individual receiving them faltered — Croesus being a famous case— the prophecy would prove disastrous to the petitioner. Truth was guaranteed, but terms and conditions applied, depending upon the state in which you lived.
It’s not so much that the gods will wreck you — it’s that, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will wreck yourself. Throughout history, virtually every culture on earth has learned this lesson the hard way — that’s why they developed rituals in the first place. Algonquin pipe ceremonies for tobacco, Berserker Viking battle preparations, Shipibo-Conibo ayahuasca circles, Druidic mushroom trances — from Siberia to Sao Paolo, the list of ritual practices for managing altered states of consciousness is too long to list. Fundamentally, drug use needs ritual. In one civilization after another across all times and places, cultures understood that these experiences must be carefully managed and integrated because these substances provided benefits if handled properly, and damage if not. The historical record is clear about what happened to the individuals and cultures that allowed rituals to deteriorate into anarchic bacchanals.
Contemporary Western civilization is closer to the latter than the former and desperately requires a method for addressing the present spiritual crisis. The problem is to gather the most important parts of Western medical science, ancient historical records, still extant esoteric tradition, Christian mysticism, and also American Indian tradition to refashion a new entheogenic ritual — a Fort Apache to provision the trek across the astral plane that must be made in order to pass successfully through these evil times.
More than any other culture, the modern West has lost its methods for making safe spiritual crossing. We’ve lost our maps and lost our horses, and the consequences are still continuing to unfold. Consider what has happened over the past 8 years. What is a logically coherent framework for explaining the simultaneous occurrence of a globally forced vaccination plan in the face of a genetically engineered virus, the pan-global acknowledgment of the existence of UFOs, the growing evidence of an “elite” worldwide pedophile ring with Babylonian overtones, and men hacking off their genitals and mutilating children. Meanwhile, a semi-embalmed gangster running on MKULTRA neurogenic amphetamines has his finger hovering over a big red button that controls the world’s largest nuclear arsenal as he mumbles about ice cream. The world you live in is already a brown-acid nightmare and you didn’t even have to drop anything. If you think sheer stupidity is enough to explain what is happening, then nothing written here is going to help you cut through the Lovecraftian horror you’re attempting to nervously lecture out of existence.
God is not dead, but since the late 17th century humanity has been doing everything possible to attempt to murder him. Without ritual and tradition that can produce an immediate experience of the divine we are treading water in a sea of trash concealing circling demons. To RETVRN or ADVANCE means exhuming lost litanies and traditions and adapting and augmenting them to fit the modern context in a way that acknowledges the wisdom and traditions of the ages and overcomes the obstacles of the present.
The use of mind-expanding substances have always been ritualized, and therefore traditional, domains of transcendental experiences. The failure to keep them as such is one factor in why things have gotten so broken in the West. It is the conservative duty to re-ritualize these experiences, both for the sake of our heritage and the sake of our future.