Outer Pointing  ®2024 Eric Platt
Outer Pointing ®2024 Eric Platt

Psychedelics & Nonduality: Towards an Understanding of Ego Death , Openness, and More

Have you ever noticed how kids can have fun so easily, without any fancy toys or drugs or special circumstances? Playfulness and lightness are natural. A stick, a culvert, and a friend (or not) are all that's needed.


Some context for what this article is about: regarding psychedelics, the current culture either:

1. Denigrates, fears, judges, and/or criminalizes them, or

2. Worships, deifies (often through cultural appropriation), makes it meaningful in and of itself, or seeks it as an escape, or

3. Puts it in a psychological therapy or neurological-scientific context that, while highly useful and interesting, often limits the outlook to a psychiatric, material, or dualistic one.

This article, by contrast, puts such experiences in the context of nonduality.

One of the main points – after years of experimenting with psychedelics off and on when the author was younger, as well as "microdosing" using “plant medicines” – is that while I’m all in favor of "entheogens", including the universal legalization of all plants on God's green Earth as gifts to all animals and humans, as well as education about them – what one experiences is entirely dependent on one’s understanding going into it. We truly give everything all the meaning it has – not as a concept such as “human” or “person” or “body” or “matter” etc., but as the unnamable Reality-Intelligence we truly are, ultimately.

Therefore, why not focus on the understanding*.

So, given the view expressed here, then why use any psychedelic/entheogen in the first place? The answer is to:

1. Loosen up rigid mental structures (potentially), which can lead to productive personal growth – insights into oneself – for instance, seeing how one was limiting oneself for no real reason – more freedom from fear, trying new things, taking risks, etc.

2. As an enjoyable experience, or

3. An interesting experiment.

There is one big caveat or exception here: Occasionally, there can be an experience – not reproducible or repeatable or controllable – of the Infinite, such that it changes one's outlook, and opens up question that may not have been asked otherwise.

However, again, it's not the drug or plant or molecule doing that: it is universal intelligence, or Consciousness, the real Self. "God holds all the cards" so to speak (dualistically). There is no personal choice or will in that sense, nor determinism, but the play of the cosmic reality, of Life. We are being lived. There's no accounting of enlightenment or wisdom, by any factors in the world, the phenomenal existence.

Openness is a quality of Reality-Consciousness, not of a person or brain, which cannot be open, by their very nature, as biological machines repeating the training in order to survive, for the body. But we are not the bodymind phenomenon. We are mere instruments – in the service of Love, you could say, poetically. It's what comes through us that counts. What is important is the message, not the mailmna or the letter or the paper or the fibers in the paper (the scientists can have fun looking at that, processes in time).

That is why I don't think plants (or the drugs thereof) are spiritual or sacred in and of themselves, as it's a mistaken identity, a conflation of different levels of description. The sacredness is not in the (separate) object. And unfortunately it's why certain plants and animals are being decimated in the wild in the world (Peyote, Bufo toads, etc.) This essentially religious belief that they are in themselves the source of the spiritual experience, or that the spirituality is somehow in the material, the plant or animal, has consequences. This is primitive thinking, the same as believing happiness comes from the car you are driving, therefore you must have that car, or that herb, or plant or animal. Its Cargo Cult stuff. It's akin to New Age beliefs, and spiritual materialism.

In some other context, such as one believing one has some deep psychological wound that needs healing – such as the current popular belief in “trauma” – attached to the belief in being a person, then the apparent meaning would be different.

In the end, that’s all it was to the author. In other words, better to (first) spend your time on diving deep into the nature of life via Self inquiry. You’re going to have to do that anyway, unless you want to spend the rest of your life seeking something out there (including endless psychological and self-help and spiritual effort) or being unhappy. As one wise Greek said, "the unexamined life is not worth living". Of course, it depends on what you mean by "examined", and I wouldn't go so far as saying it's not worth living, but you (hopefully) get the idea.

(*not intellectually, but via insight – including intellectual insight, such as philosophical "ahas" – the “love of wisdom” – being just one way awareness peeks through the mind).
In other words – and I know this is hard to hear for true believers – it doesn’t have any meaning, in and of itself.

All The Power is in You

To state it as clearly and bluntly as possible: while psychedelics can be (potentially) very enjoyable and at times valuable tools for the mindbody in certain circumstances, to place faith in them to bring the true happiness you seek – something permanent and real – is the same mistake as placing faith in gurus, meditation, therapies, self-help trips, consumerism, money, relationships, houses, cars, or any other of the infinite objects appearing (and disappearing) in consciousness … truthfully, all the power is with You, awareness, and not the person, object, or circumstances – whether you see it or not.

People will give lip service to "all the power is with you, within you" but then go right on seeking states and feelings as the answer. They hear the words according to an interpretation, don't really stop to ask questions. And it's fine. However, I would like to clarify.

Where one points one’s interest, faith, attention; what one understands about Life, are the most important factors. What they call the “set and setting” for psychedelics or "plant medicines" — mindset and outward setting — are important, but the “set” is the most important thing – vastly more than most people realize. In fact this “set” is so important that, in the big picture, it is needed before one takes the psychedelic. Then, ironically, you don't really need it... though you may enjoy it. Yet, many still try and sell me on the idea – as if justifying their religion perhaps? They talk on and on and on... the Ayahuasca ego.

I'm sorry to be the messenger of the letter you don't want to hear, but non-dual understanding is the last answer.

It took me roughly 40 years to understand what happened when I took a entheogen when I was 21. Why waste all that time? There are these names like "the direct path", or "the pathless path" (kind of silly and contradictory, on the surface... but hey, pointers can be like that) that are called that for a reason.

An understanding of Truth, or Reality, or Love, or whatever you want to call it – let’s call it Awareness just to have a name –eternity now – via the non-dual awareness –completely eliminates the need, or desire for, psychedelics in the first place. No violence against egos or escape into nature other cultures or altered states is necessary. No destruction of objects is needed. Merely a gentle deconstruction, or letting go, which can even happen without one being consciously aware of it… you may just notice, “Oh, I no longer even think about that shit!” (whatever the “problem” or self-centeredness was…).

No special clothing, belief set, or incense needed. If there is the understanding: the “standing under truth”. That is a big “if”. Then you can “let go”. You can’t really do that of course, but it’s a limitation of language here – let’s say “not hold” on to any of the words, thinking and concepts like "awareness”, as if it were an object or state to achieve. Then you are free. Like a child, but one with adult awareness. It’s an easy, effortless, lighthearted way to live. No trips to deep Mexico or the upper Himalayas or with “heroic” doses of psilocybin mushrooms necessary (though that could be a fun and ecstatic adventure in this here “dream"…).

This all came up again, when I heard someone in conversation say a curious thing. Referring to friends that were big time into Ayahuasca, they said about themselves, they were “not ready for that much openness”. It struck me a strange or puzzling thing to say: who or what becomes open? When? And then what? Does it mean without that, we aren’t or can’t be “open”? Is it a special state, only happening under certain circumstances, such as out in nature, or under the influence of a drug, or in a ceremony?

The author experimented with psychedelics when younger – had a experience of the Absolute (death while alive, so to speak) – and more recently experimented with “microdosing”*, since so many friends from the spiritual community, as well as researchers and popular articles – seemed to be so intensely interested in it and making great claims for it. I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. And while such experiences can, as a young person or non-mature spiritual seeker certainly open one’s mind to asking certain questions, or even hijack one to a “glimpse” of Reality under certain circumstance; and while microdosing can potentially help loosen up mind structures and help reduce the brain activity associated with perceptual filters (at least temporarily), it’s an error to believe the plant or mushroom or chemical has the power. The mistake starts with the presumption of the imagined person at the center of it all – the fixed, thing-like character that owns and claims all the experiences, turning the verb of life into a noun. Then it all becomes about the “me”, the body, the person who seeks…whatever. Or believes. Or not. What do you want?

Surprisingly, it’s All Here Now. Or not surprisingly, depending on your outlook (yet with much gratitude and wonder). And is there really a “here” and a “now”, compared to something else?

It’s the same mistake made with gurus and teachers, and begins to smack of religion. All the power is truly with you, and in you. You are It.

The drug or plant medicine is only an outer circumstance, an appearance, and cannot account for (an experience) of This; only This can account for This, and the experience thereof (you could say “Enlightenment itself un-people's itself”). Am I enlightened? No, People do not, and cannot, become enlightened. It is not something for an object through time. It cannot be owned by a person.

"Liberation is the liberation from the need to be liberated." In other words, failure of every thing is needed. Every path.

And, no special circumstances are required. There are no prerequisites for Consciousness. (I hate even using that word, since it is so misconstrued). Even the experience of “pure consciousness” – consciousness without objects – is present and available at all times.

Understanding what understanding is – “standing under Truth” –and living that understanding is all that is required. Being dependent on a drug or a ceremony or a guru is an interesting “trip” but one only a person can take. And having embarked, one will see that the dead-end, the ultimate failure, is a success, in that it was all part of the dream. And here you are, awake.

The trip can be a valuable one, but it’s value is in its failure in a sense, just as the value of psychotherapy is relative, and ultimately valuable in seeing the limitations, and the going-beyond it – one climbs up a ladder, onto a rooftop, then finds that one was actually already there the whole time. Much time and energy was spent going through or across a sea, when perhaps time and energy might have been saved going more directly. But, ya gotta do what you gotta do: according to what one truly believes – the conditioning may still be there, and whether it dissolves on it’s own, or with help, whether something happens before or after a “glimpse” ,is relative only, and immaterial to consciousness, to awareness, to what is Now. If you can see it. Thus the “direct path”.

What you are is as open as the sky. There’s nothing to gain by being forced open or invited open through a chemical or mind trick – who or what is open?

A Person or Body Cannot be Open

Why is it that those going to “ceremonies” to take ayahuasca, seem to need to go again and again and again… yet talk of the same issue they are trying to resolve, such as of a deep fear or of “dirt” (a sense of badness or wrongness)? The issue seems to return, as does the need for other substances.

The Spiritual Car Wash

It’s as if one goes to a “spiritual car wash” and having felt clean for a while, quickly become dirty again, and have to go back… why such a dirt magnet? Who or what is the dirt magnet. The “original sin” so to speak, is that of the presumption of being a permanent, self-existing independent separate entity. The owner of the dirt. The focus of concern.

Who or what has an ego? A ego, as generally spoken, implies a person that has it. If then, there is an awareness, we now have three entities: an ego, a person, and an awareness of the person and ego. That’s a lot to manage, or quite a battle, if you want to in against the ego. A lot to juggle. Why not just stick with awareness: that which is aware? While it can’t be seen or known, you are the see-ing.

You are what you are looking for.

In a real sense, you, as a person or body, cannot become open. What you are appears in openness itself. What is not open, drops away. “You” do not need to, and cannot do that. That is to say, a person cannot be open or become open. The [doership is misplaced] The nature of a person is to be closed, to be a system – a system of thinking, seeing, believing: that is a self-reinforcing machine in a sense. A biological-psychological defense system for a body appearance, to move through time and space. What you are, really are, is not in time and space. It’s not the function of the person-appearance (bodymind) to be open, in this sense, other than in a completely relative way. This is not easy to explain unless you already “see” it.

You see, there’s an assumption of a person or body being open. The truth is, openness not a position or something to assert. What you are is not a feeling. It’s pure openness, before “you” ever came into existence, apparent existence! It was, is, and will be.

Can a robot be “open”? No, why would it? The psychological defense system, however, is something that was an add-on, an artifice, and that, with some help, can soften up, become more transparent, melt away. One begins to see that there is and was, nothing to defend. One’s nature is clear and pure, before the person, which is merely an added layer. You simply Are. Being and enjoying. No second-thought about it (unless you want to). See how the children play.

All the chemical or plant or mushroom can do is give you a glimpse of what is already the case, with no person present. It may reveal what’s already the case, but then may appear that it was the mushroom or the person that had something to do with that. If one goes into it with an assumption, a held attitude or faith in personhood, or a religious faith or belief, one is probably coming out of it with that same.

In other words, while it may temporarily alter perception or soften mind structures, it does not, cannot alter, any facts. Consciousness-Reality is still That, and you are That. One understanding going into it will merely be reinforced.


*Taking about 1/10 of a usual dose, so one functions normally at work or wherever.

Eric Platt

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