“If we as adults are not free to make sovereign decisions – right or wrong – about our own consciousness, that most intimate, that most sapient, that most personal part of ourselves, then in what useful sense can we be said to be free at all? And how are we to begin to take real and meaningful responsibility for all the other aspects of our lives when our governments seek to disenfranchise us from this most fundamental of all human rights and responsibilities?”
Graham Hancock, The Consciousness Revolution
The pursuit of altered states of consciousness is one of the primary drives of all living things, and one with which the Seeker will no doubt be acquainted. Indeed, the psychopharmacologist Ronald K. Siegel refers to this as the ‘fourth drive’, which ranks equally alongside the drives for food, water, shelter and sex. Consciousness may be altered by means of many and diverse methods, including hypnotism, chanting, rhythmic drumming and dancing, flagellation, meditation – and, of course, the ingestion of intoxicating substances.
The legendary psychonaut Terence McKenna advanced the theory of the ‘stoned ape’. In this evolutionary addendum, he posited that humankind’s evolution from our primate ancestors was symbiotic with naturally-occurring psychedelics – specifically psilocybin-bearing mushrooms. Indeed, as other thinkers including Graham Hancock have noted, the use of hallucinogenic substances appears to have catalysed the development of art and culture. The earliest traces of human creativity bear the unmistakeable hallmarks of psychedelia.
One such hallmark is the presence of therianthropic beings: supernatural hybrids of human and animal. They are the subjects of the most ancient of cave-paintings, appear throughout the visual culture of the ancient knowledge traditions, and today are reported by those who believe that they have come into contact with extra-terrestrial beings. The Seeker is referred to the work of Jacques Vallée for further thought on this supremely important matter.
Here we see a being who is both psychonaut and therianthrope, in a visual metaphor for the consciousness-transforming power of psychedelics. He stands astride two lions merged at the head. The lion, like man, is possessed of both a bestial, lower nature and a higher, noble nature – thus here they symbolise this conflict of opposites within the human psyche. Furthermore, their fusion represents the coming-together of the hemispheres of the human brain. Unlike many great cultures of the past, our own culture increasingly values only the rational, logical left brain as opposed to the creative and intuitive right brain. Indeed, in terms of their exploration or alteration, left-brain modes of consciousness appear to be the only ones permitted by the laws of society.
Thus substances such as nicotine and caffeine which catalyse these modes are not merely allowed but actively promoted, alongside alcohol which serves to deaden rather than broaden the mind. Psychedelic substances which expand perception and induce alternative modes of consciousness are, by contrast, banned. Their users are criminalised, often imprisoned - their lives destroyed to an extent that the substances from which they are being ‘protected’ could categorically never have done. In the words of Bill Hicks:
“If you want to understand a society, take a good look at the drugs it uses. And what can this tell you about American culture? Well, look at the drugs we use. Except for pharmaceutical poison, there are essentially only two drugs that Western civilization tolerates: Caffeine from Monday to Friday to energize you enough to make you a productive member of society, and alcohol from Friday to Monday to keep you too stupid to figure out the prison that you are living in.”
In alchemical symbology, the green lion is the innermost being. Here, therefore, the fusing of these beasts of the left and right hemispheres, as occasioned by the use of psychedelics, stimulates the pouring-forth into the world of their verdant inner essence. Question, Seeker, why this possibility should be so paranoiacally feared by those who rule us!