THE NATURAL MIND
An Investigation Of Drugs And The Higher Consciousness
The trail into the promises and revelations of "expanded consciousness" or "non-ordinary reality," opened, for this culture, by Leafy, Laing and Alan Watts, has in a few years become suspiciously wide, smooth, crowded and speedy. Here then is another easy ride down that Enlightenment Expressway in the guise of a new, neutral theory of how drugs work and how they ought best be used. Andrew Weil views them from several angles: as "a journalist, a user, an ethnobotanist, a physician, a laboratory pharmacologist, a 'drug abuse expert,' and a Federal government employee." Ominously, his latest role is as one more maverick "theorist of consciousness." The trouble's not with his theories themselves but with a combined carelessness and smugness of presentation that makes them impossible to take seriously. Weil suggests -- and then assumes -- that humans have an innate drive to experience nonordinary states of consciousness (why else do children whirl themselves dizzy?), and that this drive has a high evolutionary potential for the species. What's more, such states are dormant in the nervous system; drugs do not cause but only occasion them (just how is a problem Weil sidesteps with the mystifying phrase "active placebo"). Drug use and abuse are false problems, based on the "materialistic illusion" that the effect, good or bad, lies in the drug, not the head; the solution to the drug problem (as with disease, insect pests, neurosis) is "simply" to change consciousness from "straight" to "stoned" thinking, either by judicious use of drugs or by exquisite and painful nondrug (Oriental) paths which Weil summarizes breezily and misleadingly. A synopsis of what's often been better said; the vague is inadequate meeting ground for the medical and the ineffable.