Cannabis, phlegm and William James

I have been taking low doses of Cannabis (dried flower buds) orally and intermittently to heal my phlegm. It has been quite effective. It does not give me a strong ‘high’ but lulls me to a kind of ‘uncaring’ state of mind which makes me calm and a bit sleepy. It also stimulates my appetite and makes my taste buds more sensitive. The daily chores and routine seems to have been drained of their relevance…..

William James, courtesy Wikipedia

Meanwhile I came across the ‘trip report’ of William James, an American philosopher and psychologists. He gained popularity after publishing his book, ‘Varieties of Religious Experiences’. He inhaled Nitrous Oxide to get into an altered state of consciousness. When the drug wore off, James found that his mystical insights had disappeared. What remained were incomprehensible words–“tattered fragments” that seemed like “meaningless drivel.” Being a philosophical visionary rather than a garden-variety recreational drug user, however, James was not inclined to let his sober consciousness have the final say. On the contrary, he took his experiences with nitrous oxide as evidence that human life was more richly varied than he had previously (and soberly) imagined. “Some years ago,” he wrote in Varieties ,

I myself made some observations on . . . nitrous oxide intoxication, and reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.

For James, these alternate forms of consciousness were accessible only by way of artificial intoxicants. Others, he hypothesized, were able to reach them without the aid of drugs: in his view the great religious mystics, and certain mystical philosophers including Hegel, were “unusually susceptible” to these extraordinary forms of consciousness.

He believed that religious experiences are psychologically real–powerful and palpable events that can have important long-term consequences whether the beliefs to which they give rise are true or not . Drugs helped James to understand what religious belief was like from the inside. When he took nitrous oxide, he was for all intents and purposes a religious mystic. (“Thought deeper than speech!” he wrote while on the drug. “Oh my God, oh God, oh God!”) Nitrous oxide was the passport that allowed James to see religion from the believer’s perspective, traveling between the worlds of science and faith.

I think that a lot of us can identify with this experience and know exactly what he is talking about !!

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