March 27th 2015
Being a playwright ‘of a certain age’, I had occasion (well, many occasions) to experiment with LSD in the early seventies. Some of this was, I readily confess, ‘just getting high’ but there was also the belief that my friends and I were pushing “The Doors of Perception”, as Aldous Huxley’s book was titled. We were aware of Timothy Leary’s maxim “tune on, tune in, drop out” and we were certainly eager to try the first two if not the last. Dropping out seemed to require a farm. I know anecdotally that some people who tried this drug had bad trips but I, luckily, never did. I experienced a deep sense of unity in the world, a sense of the continuity of life, a transcendence of time and space, heightened senses and a Niagara Falls of bonhomie. All these feelings connect with what, in a less secular time, would have been called spiritual.
So it was with some interest that I read in the February New Yorker (“The Trip Treatment”) that there has been a resurgence of interest in psychedelic drugs, particularly psilocybin (a.k.a. magic mushrooms). One study, that has been funded by no less than the U.S. National Institute of Health, is looking at “the efficacy of using psilocybin in the treatment of anxiety in cancer patients.” But there are also positive results in the treatment of addiction and depression. An experience of the divine has fringe benefits. Take that Mr. Hitchens.
Last Tuesday I was experimenting with a very difference kind of spiritual experience, one that was not drug induced. I led eighteen people in a ninety minute process that involved singing sacred musical phrases over and over until we were nothing but the words and the music. Then we gently moved to pen and paper and expressed our longings to God. That’s right. God with a capital ‘G’. To emphasize how old fashioned we were, the process was done by candlelight to leave the modern world behind. I gotta say it was really cool. I know I felt much more centered, grounded and at one with the world as I walked out into the night.
Today I am going to see Roseneath Theatre’s excellent production of Spirit Horse directed by my friend and colleague Greg Banks. Tomorrow night Robin and I are hosting Jim Warren’s birthday party. Act Two of Frenchys is coming along nicely.
Have a great weekend.