Psychedelics & Ancient Greece

Psychedelics are a danger I wish I had not touched. I wish I had not ventured onto that plane of existence. For on that plane, everything is obfuscated, nothing is as it seems, and in such darkness devils are known to dwell.  

What plane? What is it like? Where does it lie? What awaits those who go there? Is it beyond the physical? Is it beyond the spiritual? 

Let it be known, one that ingests psychedelics is purchasing a ticket to the plane of pure psyche. To embark on such a journey is to project the plane in which we dream into the physical world wherein our conscious minds exist. The uninhibited, sober-minded man exists on two planes that are impossible to meld together. One is the physical plane where the conscious mind functions and interacts directly with the material world. The other is the dream world, the world of the psyche, the metaphysical world where the subconscious mind springs to life. That dream world is where the untamed beast that is the subconscious mind is free to roam and act itself out. 

Psychedelics, I posit, bring that beast from the plane of dreams to the physical plane where the conscious mind maps onto the physical world. To ingest psychedelics is to bring an otherwise hazy, obfuscated and cryptic world- the subconscious dreamworld- and project it onto the clear, observable, and measurable physical world. This is not normal. An inescapable haze comes over the mind as a sense of wonder envelops the entirety of one’s being. The mundane becomes the miraculous. The bright becomes the holy. But the dark becomes the wicked. The innocent may very well become the terrifying. In other words, what takes place is a random, chaotic, and all to imprecise inversion of normal human perception mechanism. That is why a psychedelic trip feels like such a warped experience; it is literally warping reality. Though the distinction must be made that such a trip is not a total inversion of reality. A total inversion would be impossible(the closing thing to that would be lucid dreaming, i.e. the physical somehow walking in the dream world.) What happens is a sloppy and confused melding of two planes that would otherwise never meet. The result is a meeting in the middle, the emergence of a reality otherwise unreachable. 

Actually, the linguistics of the situation seem to flesh this out as well. The root of the word psychedelic provides invaluable context. The greek root, Delos, means clear or manifest. Specifically it is the ephemeral or a phantasm- a dream- that becomes temporarily manifest in the physical world like an apparition. Greek mythology illustrates this truth through the existence of a single island of the same name: Delos. 

In Greek lore, the island was one that lacked a finite location. It did not hold a fixed position. It constantly shifted and swayed as the ocean waves crashed and the howling winds blew. Leto, a pregnant goddess who was wandering aimlessly, eventually ended up on an island not too dissimilar to this, her wandering nature. This swaying, unstable nature is also the nature of the subconscious. It is a deep, choppy sea upon which we cannot set foot and whose depths we cannot know. Finally when Leto set foot on this ghost of an island, she and the island simultaneously became stable and the island was then called Delos – in this context meaning “the unconcealed one”. Another way of saying that would be to call it revealed. A spark of the divine set foot on a symbolic representation of the subconscious, Delos, and the two became one, the chaotic became the ordered.

Planes of existence are not meant to be mixed, or at least certainly not meant to be mixed without caution(after all the Christian God is a mixture of two previously unfamiliar planes of reality, the purely divine and the wholly human.) There is so much danger in such a mixture God himself cried out in pain. Revelation is not for the faint of heart. The book of Revelations is dark, dangerous, violent, and ominous. To consume psychedelics is to risk consciously stepping foot onto the otherwise unobtainable plane of Revelation. 

Think of a nightmare. The horror, the stress, the anxiety and the fear that can be present in such a subconscious experience. Now imagine the wedding of a nightmare with your physical reality. To use psychedelics can be to quite literally project a nightmare onto this physical world, into this conscious state. They call it a bad trip. What is a trip but a journey to a new destination? In such a psychedelic instance a trip is to go someplace else, but you are not driving, do not know the destination, and cannot voluntarily jump ship. This ship could very well be bringing you down to hell. To go to the underworld in a metaphorical sense is one thing. To go there in a direct psychological experience is to risk seeing things one may not unsee, to bring the underworld where it does not belong. Revelation is not meant for every man. Revelation, more likely than not, may well drive a man to the brink of madness.

Upon the island of Delos, women were not allowed to give birth. Why would that be? Perhaps because the ancient Greeks recognized that to give birth on an island revealed was to give birth between planes, to give birth nowhere. Such a birth may be dangerous to the soul of a child. Delos was an island of trade, an in-between place, marred by a history of invasion- just as man consuming psychedelics invades the plane in between the conscious and subconscious planes of reality. After all, an invasion is to force one’s way into a place uninvited. Perhaps the devil is at play, throwing out false invites in hopes of coaxing us fools into a promised land that begets no fruit but those of ephemeral ghosts. 

Delos is a treeless island as well, upon which there is no shade. This can be seen to mean that, once one has arrived, there is no hiding, there is no shade to serve as refuge. All is revealed. The God born there was Apollo, God of the sun. The Goddess born there was Artemis, Goddess of the hunt. This further symbolizes the reality of an in-between world, for nothing can hide from the rays of the sun, the star to which all men are vulnerable, and the hunt, that of which all men should fear. Just as man cannot hide from the scalding heat of the sun, neither can the world, after the coming of Christ, hide from the light of his face. 

Delos is even the name of the company in Westworld. The Delos corporation has created a theme park where man can go to escape reality. There guests can live narratives of cowboys, bank-robbers, cattle ranchers and small- town sheriffs. It is a place where dreams become reality.

There, “The Man in Black” is looking for something True, an ultimate Truth. He is searching for Revelation. Dolores, an A.I robot, becomes lost in her own dreams. She can no longer distinguish reality from the dream world, the present from the past. The Man in Black embodies the reason people wish to venture into the realm made manifest through psychedelics. Dolores, then, represents the danger in such a trip: the possibility that the melding of two planes can result in becoming lost in a world that isn’t True.  

As JP Marceau summarized in his essay, “The Symbolism of Anti-Vaxxing” “..we should be careful what we consume, since it might be consuming us.” This seems to be true of psychedelics. I have known many men who have been lost in that dream world, only to be later consumed by a desire to go back there. It was true for The Man in Black. He was consumed by that place Delos had built- the world where dreams and reality meet. That is the psychedelic world: a world otherwise hidden, revealed.

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