Guzzling Some Godka – Altered States & Permanent Traits of Spiritual Consciousness

GodkaIntegral musician, actor and all-around hilarious guy Stuart Davis has just filmed a short commercial hawking the latest in potable ancient-future altered states of (higher) consciousness – Godka, or psilocybin-infused vodka.


StuartAbsinthe what?

I wonder if he’s met our pals John Crowder and Benjamin Dunn – or John Scotland and Emerge Wales and Red Letters crew, for that matter?

Have you missed John since my interview with him last year? He’s YouTubing up a storm…here’s one of the latest, on ‘spiritual exercises’…

In a perfect world, John Crowder and Stuart Davis would get along like gangbusters. Stuart does for sex – on his bleeding-edge Sex, God, and Rock & Roll – what John does for drug culture. Crowder Baby Jesus Toke

If you missed it last year, here’s my six-parter looking at the Pentecostal/charismatic avant-garde, kicking off with Charismatic Chaos or (Holy) Spirited Deconstruction?

…and leading into a five-parter dialogue with Mr. John Crowder himself:

Part I Crowder Blue

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Good times.

What do you think of spirituality and altered states of consciousness? What I’m thinking these days is inspired by and summed up nicely in a piece entitled Mystical Experience or Unitive Seeing? by integral Christian contemplative Cynthia Bourgeault, in Richard Rohr‘s Radical Grace magazine. Money quote (though I could easily take the highlighter of my life and highest aspirations to the entire article):

The word “mystical” is almost always immediately coupled with the word “experience,” and a mystical experience becomes something that you have—or want to have, anyway. It becomes a sign of God’s special favor—a kind of spiritual “peak experience”—and circumstances promising to deliver that experience are eagerly sought after: from sacred chanting and Eucharistic devotion to Sufi whirling, solitude in the desert, or peyote. In the usual way of looking at things, it is an altered state of consciousness, ecstatic, something that takes you far beyond your usual self, a straight shot into divine consciousness.

What’s so bad about that?

Well, nothing, really. [Mike’s note: And I’d want to emphasize that I agree 100% – there’s nothing wrong with ecstasy and spiritual peak experiences! In fact, I could really use one right now…John, if you’re reading this, could you email me a toke of the Holy Ghost? I’d like Jesus on the mainline, please!] But from the point of view of real spiritual growth, it’s an immature state— a “state” rather than a “stage,” in the helpful language of Ken Wilber. A state is a place you go to; a stage is a place you come from: integrated and mature spiritual experience. It’s true that a mystical experience can indeed be a sneak preview of how the universe looks from the point of view of non-dual consciousness. And it’s true that this consciousness does indeed operate at a higher level of vibrational intensity, which at first can overwhelm our normal cognitve systems. But the point is not to squander this infusion of energy on bliss trips, but to learn to contain it within a quiet and spacious consciousness and allow it to permanently bring about a shift in our operating system, so that unitive (or non-dual) perception becomes our ordinary, and completely normal mode of perception.

Amen and amen. I’ll drink to that.

7 Responses to “Guzzling Some Godka – Altered States & Permanent Traits of Spiritual Consciousness”

  1. 1 Irritable October 20, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I love Merton as much as the next postmodern Christian who went through a Catholic and/or monastic phase, and I appreciate the role that mystics play in their respective faith traditions. Hell, I’ve chanted Psalms with Borgeault (okay, with the Sounds True audiobook) and dabbled in centering prayer. And her lecture on St. Brendan is a gem.

    This post helps to identify part of my ambivalence toward the whole mystical schtick, though: by what rubric are we willing to suggest that any given state is also going to be a stage? A three-beer buzz is a state, and one that I appreciate. But I’d be a charlatan to suggest it as a stage one could attain. I’m even more reluctant to affirm the same of psychedelics or hallucinogens.

    I recognize the value of the mystical traditions for helping to bring about certain kinds of realization, especially regarding the ephemeral nature of our constructions of the self (as well as whatever goods are defined by the mystical path itself and the religious tradition in which it is contexualized, which are not amenable to my reductionism).

    As for the suggestion that long-term growth is more important than short-term peak experiences, I have no quarrel. I just don’t see how any of those peak experiences, or states, are necessarily,/i> indicative of or correspondent to stages of long-term growth.

  2. 2 Irritable October 20, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I didn’t finish one of my thoughts above:

    I affirm the value of the mystical traditions…but I am leery, as always, of suggesting a particular path as normative. If a friend says to me, “You know, Ira, a hunting trip might be good for you,” I understand my friend to be well-meaning and wanting to share that particular joy with me. If my friend says “Everybody should go hunting; the world would be a better place if we all did,” I think: whatever. Either way I don’t want to go, but the latter approach suggests that there is something wrong with me.

    This is not to say that everyone commending the mystical path is doing so from a normativizing standpoint. But many do, explicitly or otherwise, and Wilber certainly does.

  3. 3 "Heather's Page" on Facebook October 20, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    This is interesting Mike.

    My quandry with the whole “altered states” and even “meditative prayer” thing is that I wonder at times if people can distinguish between emotional/mental sensations that occur with altered states of consciousness (for instance, “I experienced a surpreme sense of peace and calm”) and know the difference between something that is merely physiological and something which is actually an encounter with the spiritual realm and/or God Himself.

    Just as in drug culture people are after a certain mental “zone” they wish to be in, I wonder if people in religious circles who are having ecstatic experiences are often just addicted to naturally occurring rather than drug-induced physiological states.

    On the other hand, I do indeed believe that wants us to experience His Spirit and many different things “in the Spirit.” The difference though is that these experiences are personal…aka, they revolve around His person, rather than just getting off on having a certain feeling. Feelings definitely are part of the package…but they aren’t the goal or the focus…. He is.

    The ultimate “altered state of consciousness” is the state of “having the mind of Christ.” Which is a huge topic indeed.

    Anyway, just to throw more interesting conscious stuff into the fray, here’s an interesting study including brain scans of people praying in tongues: What does this say to us about spirituality and consciousness? I don’t know, but it’s worth “thinking” about! 🙂

    Peace out…

  4. 4 Samantha October 28, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    All I know that the practice altered state of consciousness (centering prayer) comes from the Hindu practices to become one with the universe – this is a new age practice and even the satanists practice this. Why on earth is the church doing this?

  5. 5 Michael Creel October 28, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    The quest is not to live for the experience . . . but to experience that for which we live. It is to live for Jesus . . . live with Jesus . . . and all that is of His Kingdom. Which include the “peace that passes all understanding”. His Glory, His bliss, His Passion. And the flip-side of that same coin is to know His suffering (of which much has been misconstrued as well . . .)
    which leads us all into “the power of His Resurrection”.

    Iraeneous said “The Glory of God is humankind fully alive.”

    The Westminster #1 catechism:
    “What is the chief end of humankind?”
    Answer: “The chief end of humankind is to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

    I view what Iraeneous said and the WM # kind of going together.

    If our “mystical experience” does not lead to our transformation (in Him), if it does not give witness to His Love . . . if it does not come from Love . . . then it is nothing.

    On a good day, I don’t live for the experience. I desire to experience life in Him. On a good day. I don’t always get it right. And yes, there is a very “mystical” perspective involved.
    Sometimes very strong . . . sometimes not very perceivable . . . but it is there none the less. “Thin Places” abound. We need but ask (daily) for our eyes to be opened. But be not surprized if you find that “secret place” to be in a simple cup of water offered in Love . . .
    Shalom on The Journey.

  6. 6 natrimony November 7, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    I’d prefer conversating with an honest alcoholic/crackhead any day. If you want to get wasted choose something that actually works. Getting ‘high on God’ is simply another religious expression–formalism (however informal)—will never translate to truly practicing the presence of God. A relationship often has a drunken period but when that period ends is the fidelity of the bond threatened? In the end (in my own experience…ha ha…not that I couldn’t speak authoritatively on the topic) when people start getting high on Jesus, Jesus is brought down pretty low.

  7. 7 Frank Luke July 3, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    As we know, drugs have been used spiritually through time immemorial and continues to be so incorporated. Bengal, Bengladesh, Ganges are all derived from (bhang), cannabis.

    My Spiritual Awakening occurred in those heady 60s. Drugs still then being legal, then not so, we heads tried everything and anything and some lived to tell it and some crashed, not knowing when to say when. For myself, I experienced opium once, LSD several times but my high of preference was always grass, cheap and effective for my purposes-stoking me to paint, write and have a Spiritual Awakening. With deep gratitude, I do credit grass for opening doors of perception and higher consciousness to me. I know I’m not the only one but also know that it’s a blessing to have been Awakened.

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