The pioneering work of Ken Wilber, a foremost philosopher in the field of Consciousness, is rife with the theme of eternity. Arguably his most popular work, No Boundary, clarifies our understanding of our “selves” as respective illusions, and our ideas of time and space as products of our detachment from an overarching unity consciousness, or what we commonly call The Universe.
Wilber reminds us, “…time, as a boundary upon eternity, is not a problem to get rid of, but an illusion which doesn’t exist in the first place.”
By fully comprehending the absence of linear time, past and future, we are encouraged to evaluate our unwavering reliance on vice.
Our culture is dominated by both excess and entertainment, the accessibility of surfeit non-essential goods and services a touchstone of modern society. And somehow, we can never get enough. Being a consumer is not only expected, it is extolled, with the greatest success stories including both the greatest accumulation of wealth and the greatest chance of an enduring legacy.
The true measure of success in our culture, as with most cultures (despite differences in approach), is the extent to which a person or group of people have crossed over into immortal stature, celebrated posthumously to the same degree or greater than during their physical life on earth. Unlike most cultures, Western culture has become more and more focused on celebrating superficiality with respect to the legacies of the venerated passed, wealth earned in the absence of spiritual intention.
So how does immortality relate to the use of mind-altering substances?
Put simply, using any substance or engaging in any activity that alters your concept of time is what I call an Eternalizer.
Experiences of timelessness are spiritually connective, taking our selves out of our bodies and allowing our souls free reign in the universe. These behaviors are employed throughout the world, whether or not the intention is understood to be spiritual.
In the developed world, engaging in mind-altering substances – alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, cocaine, etc. – illustrates the desire to remove oneself from the trappings of physical reality, to exist outside the realm of what is considered “naturally occurring” with respect to our physical bodies.
Advanced spiritual practitioners utilize such substances as Peyote or Ayahuasca to induce an altered state of consciousness, wherein one is able to commune more easily with the spiritual forces governing the universe.
More often than not, addictions are borne of this same drive toward experiencing the eternal. Whether the addiction is to sex, gambling, shopping, drugs, or hand-washing, the practice of addictive behavior can be directly linked to an instinct to eradicate time.
It is common for those with intense addictions to spend exorbitant amounts of “time” satiating their respective impulses. Heavy smokers can spend half their day smoking, heavy drug users tripping, heavy shoppers spending, and heavy washers cleansing. And while the addiction is being fed, the thought-energy being expended is primarily focused on the act at hand, with “rational” thoughts taking an unconscious back seat.
The detriment to the addict is a displaced desire for eternity, manifested into physical form. Addiction can be broken down into direct and indirect experiences, each with its own pathology and accompanying difficulties.
Indirect Addiction VS. Direct Addiction
Whether overtly detrimental or merely a bit unhealthy, all addiction is an unconscious way the physical body strives for divine experience. Direct addictions such as drug use, sexual interplay, overexercising, and overeating are considered more dangerous because they represent a willingness to surrender the body’s physical well-being in the hopes of an eternal experience.
Often these behaviors are mistakenly linked to the future, giving the participant a door to the eternal through a fantasy for a desired outcome.
If I overexercise, I shall be more physically desirable than others. If I use this drug, I shall experience a sensation that exceeds any pleasure I will ever be able to feel.
Indirect addictions such as pornography, shopping, and gambling do not put the physical body at risk, but they represent a willingness to compromise one’s psychological and spiritual well-being in the hopes of an eternal experience. Like direct addiction, there is also often an expectation for a desired outcome. If I buy these shoes, I will be more desirable than others. If I spend $1,000 at this slot machine, I have the possibility of accumulating more wealth than others.
Addictions feel personal, but they are most often products of an unconscious striving toward Wilber’s unity consciousness, a supreme state of spiritual connection to everything within the universe.
When monks engage in hours of meditative practice, they are rarely labeled as being “Meditation Addicts” because the intention of their practice has no basis in competition or external displacement. A monk does not engage in spiritual practice in the hopes of being more spiritual than others, or because of a displaced need for self-validation. The act of meditating or praying is its own form of validation, independent of physical, external influence.
There are those who practice religion under the guise of self-actualization, while they secretly expect to retain a physical advantage over others. This striving for a competitive edge through the practice of religious rites is a hallmark of exclusionary sects, cults, and wars. The tools for spiritual advancement are then being used as an indirect addiction, because the practitioner presumes an ability to compete with others through these acts. This unconscious desire is not positive or negative, merely human. There are reasons why the greatest spiritual leaders never initiated war or promoted intolerance of others as a tenet of their respective belief systems. One approach is human, the other divine.
A man addicted to pornography has a displaced desire for the eternity achieved through the direct experience of sexual exchange. By indirectly engaging in sex, the man has distanced himself an additional dimension away from achieving timelessness.
A woman addicted to shopping has a displaced desire for the eternity achieved through self-actualization. By indirectly engaging in the promotion of self-worth through self-actualizing activity (i.e. meditation, therapy, purely social engagement), she has distanced herself an additional dimension away from achieving timelessness.
According to DrugFreeWorld.org:
According to US government estimates, domestic marijuana production has increased tenfold over the last twenty-five years: from 1,000 metric tons (2.2 million pounds) in 1981 to 10,000 metric tons (22 million pounds) in 2006. Not surprisingly, 58% of those aged 12 to 17 state that pot is easy to obtain. US marijuana users spent approximately $10.5 billion on the drug in the year 2000.
Despite the overwhelming pragmatism of the mostly secular mainstream, less and less inclined toward religious or spiritual practice, the interest in mind-altering experience is undeniable. Whether we are labeled as “addicts” or not, there are few participants in our culture who do not express the need to surrender to the universe, deny the existence of time, and lose themselves in the present moment.
Whichever vice you choose, sex, drugs, or shopping, it is a natural inclination to undertake this feat of surrender in a purely physical way. It is up to us to decide the best way to surrender, vice or spiritual practice? Are we, as the maxim says, “only human?”
You can always refer to a local addiction treatment center directory if you or a loved one needs addiction treatment help.
First published on Adam’s blog, Paranormalyte, on July 23, 2013.