In our culture, knowledge is King. By knowledge I mean having an intellectual grasp upon something, or else to have read or been informed about a subject in one way or another. In many ways school is about the accumulation of knowledge. It is a way of viewing the world through the filter of intellectualism rather than though experience. The two are vastly different.
Sometimes people try and understand the world via knowledge and facts – and it’s a very good tool. But now and then, I have found come across people who stubbornly hold a particular view or belief. And that belief doesn’t come from experience, but from intellectualism. It can be a very dry way of view the world.
In the end experience cannot be replaced by ideas, notions, or concepts on and intellectual level. Nevertheless, society worships the intellectual mind, and therefore knowledge is often valued over experience. Such intellectuals become ‘experts’, and that becomes very dangerous because these sorts of individuals can only speak from a disassociated point of view.
Timothy Leary came up with some fantastic ways of indentifying those sorts of people in his book The Politics of Ecstacy. Timothy Leary himself served as a great example of the conflict between Intellectualism and Experience. Because of his experiences he was penalized by a culture of intellectualism which had / has no experience of the things he spoke of.
This sort of thing often manifests on a day to day level for me; people don’t necessarily accept the way I live because it isn’t traditional. And although I generally keep my views to myself around the people I know, I am nevertheless often considered ‘odd’ or ‘unusual’. I am sure many of you have experience of this sort of thing. At anyrate I found the following points to be very useful in many ways; not least when hearing ‘experts’ speaking, and when discussing certain issues with people. These points can be applied to just about every subject out there…
How to Handle Doubters
…it’s really quite simple. Whenever you hear anyone sounding off on internal freedom and conciousness-expanding foods and drugs, whether pro or con, check out these questions:
- Is your expert talking from direct experience, or simply repeating cliches? Theologians and intellectuals often deprecate “experience” in favor of fact and concept. This classic debate is falsely labeled. Most often it becomes a case of “experience” vs. “inexperience”.
- Do his words spring from a spiritual or mundane point of view? Is he motivated by a dedicated quest for answers to basic questions, or is he protecting his own social-psychological position, his own game investment? Is he struggling towards sainthood, or is he maintaining his status as a hard-boiled scientist or hard-boiled cop?
- How would his argument sound if it was heard in a different culture? (for example, in an African jungle hut, a ghat on the Ganges, or on another planet inhabited by a form of life superior to ours) or in a different time (for example, in Periclean Athens, or in a Tibetan monestery, or in a bull session led by any one of the great religious leaders – founders – messiahs)? Or how would it sound to other species of life on our planet today – to the dolphins, to the conciousness of the redwood tree? In other words, try to break out of your usual tribal game set and listen with the ears of another one of God’s creatures.
- How would the debate sound to you if you were fatally diseased with a week to live, and thus less comitted to mundane issues?…
- Is this point of view one which opens up or closes down? Are you being urged to explore, experience, or gamble out of spiritual faith, join somone who shares your cosmic ignorance on a collaborative voyage of discovery? Or are you being pressured to close off, protect your gains, play it safe, accept the authoritative voice of someone who knows best?
- When we speak, we say little about the subject matter and disclose mainly the state of our own mind. Does your psychedelic expert use terms which are positive, pro-life, spiritual, inspiring, opening, based on faith in the future, faith in your potential or does he betray a mind obsessed by danger, material concern, by imaginary terrors, administrative caution or essential distrust in your potential? Dear friends, there is nothing in life to fear; no spiritual gain can be lost.
- If he is against what he calls “artificial methods of illumination,” ask him what constitutes the natural. Words? Rituals? Tribal customs? Alkaloids? Psychedelic vegetables?
- If he is against biochemical assistance, where does he draw the line? Does he use nicotine? alcohol? penicillin? vitamins? convential sacremental substances?
- If your advisor is against LSD, what is he for? If he forbids you the psychedelic key to revelation, what does he offer you instead?
From The Politics of Ecstacy by Timothy Leary