Hallucinatory Drugs and the Spiritual Path


I have seen many friends with very little spiritual disposition become interested in spiritual teachings due to LSD and other psychedelic experiences. Yet these things are not spoken well of in most teachings. Will you help me to understand why these things that can draw souls to spiritual interests are condemned?

—theotis, USA


Dear Theotis,

Thanks for your question regarding the use of hallucinatory drugs, such as LSD, to awaken spiritual yearning. In Swami Kriyananda’s book, Letters to Truth Seekers, he answers your question very well.

November 7, 1967

You ask what my views are on drugs. In a nutshell I might say that I do not approve of them, but nor do I condemn them completely for I have seen many people brought to the spiritual path as a result of them. Yet I don’t think it is drugs that have actually given those people anything concrete. What has been accomplished, rather, is that the drugs have released certain spiritual samskars, or impressions born of past spiritual actions, that were lying dormant within them, awaiting the opportunity to express themselves. Those impressions would have to come out sooner or later anyway. My claim that drugs release what was there already, instead of giving one anything new, is supported by the fact that some people, taking the same drugs, have had quite opposite and even terrifying experiences.

But I have noticed that when people take drugs not only once or twice, but continuously, the effect on their personality seems to be deleterious. One or two doses may at least make one aware that uncommon states of consciousness exist (though it seems foolish to me even then to offer one’s mind up as a guinea pig to dangerous experiments). But what I have observed is that, in time, a subtle form of egotism develops which is even more insidious than the competitive, worldly ego toward which drug users are so condescending.

The path to God – to Truth; call it what you will – is one of self-offering, not of self-indulgence. My Guru’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, said, “Many people forsake worldly attachments only to seek them again on a subtler level of miracles and astral phenomena.” It is not what God gives us in meditation in the form of visions and the like that determines our inner progress, but our increasing willingness to give all that we are to Him. Drugs seem to inspire a sort of spiritual self-centeredness, an attachment to experiences, that is the very opposite of self-giving. Quite apart from the fact that the experiences themselves are certainly of a lower order (subconscious, mostly, not superconscious), the very human attitude that these drugs engender is one of indifference to the “realities” of other people. In this sense drugs, in the long run, actually reduce one’s sensitivity to reality as a whole, in spite of the claim that they make one more sensitive.

I suggest you bear in mind the words of Sister Gyanamata: “Remember, your religion is tested in the cold light of day.”

In Divine Friendship, Swami Kriyananda

I will add here Paramhansa Yogananda’s words, “The path to God is not a circus.” One doesn’t find God through shortcuts but through total self-offering as mentioned above by Swami Kriyananda. It is difficult to offer one self to a Higher Reality if one’s consciousness is not under one’s own control.

Joy to you, Kristy