That there are levels of enlightenment, gradations of colour and texture refining themselves into the pure white light of knowing-without-doubt, the oasis of stillness that is the surpassing of desire, has not only been obvious to me for decades but also to any dedicated seeker on the path. For those of my generation the early warning signs of such expansion were given out by musicians singing of their lsd influenced perceptions. Some of those perceptions were related to the encrusted ruts of society and its rituals and expectations. Others were closer, perhaps innocently, to mystical traditions such as the Kabbalah. When Jefferson Airplane sang “You, you are the crown of creation, and you’ve got no place to go” at least some of us nodded knowingly.
What if they gave a war and no-one came? was not a song lyric, but as a slogan much bandied about in those heady days it is emblematic of the shift I’m recalling. Psychedelics allowed the imbiber to stand aside from society, family and personality and see each of those categories as territories they were passing through rather than rock solid definitions. Perhaps immersion in something like zen meditation would have led us to the same understandings, but psychedelics had arrived as the avatars of the new consciousness and could not be avoided. They were a short cut, a Jacob’s Ladder with but a few rungs. In our excitement several toppled over the unexpected top into injury and derangement.
Yet the surge overcame the setbacks, as waves of change always do, and these were our first fledgling steps in uncovering our individuality, our sovereign identity unsullied by the spells of those who would marshall our energies into their preferred channels. There were several other steps on this journey that we as a generation took, blazing certain trails into the far and strange territories our predecessors had shied away from, if indeed they had ever seen them. Barriers of a political, cultural and interpersonal nature were broken down and clambered over. In the intervening years some of those barriers have been carefully and cleverly reconstructed by the shadowy elites who seek, as ever, to maintain and extended their control mechanisms. Now we live in a world with a multitude of options for our intelligence and entertainment, yet the sovereignty of privacy has gone out the window as the minions of Big Brother keep tabs on our choices.
And as we, generationally, move through middle towards old age and the return to eternity, we have learned, through turning to more ancient mystical and philosophical traditions, to see through those control mechanisms and understand them as the tentacles of fear growing from deeply entrenched belief systems whose tenets we need not bother ourselves with. We navigate the massive illusions with the appearance of compliance to comfort their deluded believers as we quietly encompass higher and higher degrees of enlightenment.
Sitting in Starbucks this sunny morning listening to a selection of late sixties songs from west coast bands, – Byrds, Doors, Beach Boys, Love, etc., I am struck by the chorus line of Scott Mackenzie’s San Francisco hit, composed by John Phillips of course, “people in motion, people in motion”, for it seems a very refined insight transcending all desire to make a radical political or cultural statement, seeing the most basic aspect of our existence here. As opposed to landscapes, trees, rocks and buildings, we are humans who move about. That is, in essence, what we do: we move about. It reminds me quickly of another song, “Terrapin”, the first song on Syd Barrett’s iconic album The Madcap Laughs, where he sings, in the middle of a laconic love song, “Cause we’re the fishes and all we do, is move about, is all we do”. (That Barrett, Phillips and the Airplane were regular ingestors of psychedelics needs no further elaboration here).
And so I see, despite later stumbles and pleasure seeking detours, our early steps were some of the most profound. As a Buddhist friend remarks to me from time to time, “We become enlightened several times every day but we forget it almost instantly, so busy are we in our schedules”. In those moments, suddenly free of form, desire and motivation, we know, as Janis sings, Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Nothing left to lose or gain, for there we are boundless. No fear of hell, no desire for paradise, no devotion to heaven. Beings of light basking in non-being. The cosmic version of couldn’t-care-less.