Drugs And The Meaning Of Life

Does the altering of consciousness, through means chemical or otherwise, lie at the very heart of existence? Author and neuroscientist Sam Harris, usually known for ripping religion to shreds, delves into the meaning and value of drugs in an essay via SamHarris.org:

Everything we do is for the purpose of altering consciousness. We form friendships so that we can feel certain emotions, like love, and avoid others, like loneliness. We eat specific foods to enjoy their fleeting presence on our tongues. We read for the pleasure of thinking another person’s thoughts. Every waking moment — and even in our dreams — we struggle to direct the flow of sensation, emotion, and cognition toward states of consciousness that we value.

Drugs are another means toward this end. Some are illegal; some are stigmatized; some are dangerous — though, perversely, these sets only partially intersect. There are drugs of extraordinary power and utility, like psilocybin (the active compound in “magic mushrooms”) and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), which pose no apparent risk of addiction and are physically well-tolerated, and yet one can still be sent to prison for their use—while drugs like tobacco and alcohol, which have ruined countless lives, are enjoyed ad libitum in almost every society on earth. There are other points on this continuum — 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or “Ecstasy”) has remarkable therapeutic potential, but it is also susceptible to abuse, and it appears to be neurotoxic.

I have a daughter who will one day take drugs. Of course, I will do everything in my power to see that she chooses her drugs wisely, but a life without drugs is neither foreseeable, nor, I think, desirable. Someday, I hope she enjoys a morning cup of tea or coffee as much as I do. If my daughter drinks alcohol as an adult, as she probably will, I will encourage her to do it safely. Needless to say, if I knew my daughter would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or crack cocaine, I might never sleep again. But if she does not try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in her adult life, I will worry that she may have missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience …

Read the rest at SamHarris.org

103 Comments on "Drugs And The Meaning Of Life"

  1. well written..and honest.

  2. well written..and honest.

  3. Sam Harris is great but hes rather windy, even when making simple points. He’s a close third to Dawkins and Hitchens.

    I don’t believe this is True, I know that it is … something like the “Stoned Ape” theory.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI9RoE4qt6E

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5E5TjkDvU0

  4. Sam Harris is great but hes rather windy, even when making simple points. He’s a close third to Dawkins and Hitchens.

    I don’t believe this is True, I know that it is … something like the “Stoned Ape” theory.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI9RoE4qt6E

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5E5TjkDvU0

    • Agreed.  I loved Pinchback’s 2012: Return of Quetzalcoatl, but the garrulousness of his work was off-putting at times.  It seems these types of writers just feel compelled to use as much flowery prose as possible to get their point across.  And a lot of the time, it REALLY isnt necessary.

  5. A mind is a terrible thing to waste…if you’re wasted.

  6. StanChaz | Jul 6, 2011 at 2:30 pm |

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste…if you’re wasted.

  7. Hijacked Lantern | Jul 6, 2011 at 7:43 pm |

    When is the brain not on drugs?

  8. When is the brain not on drugs?

    • A pentagram!!  I had a dream about a pentagram the other night.  No idea why.  What’s your reason for the pentagram avatar?

  9. empty can | Jul 6, 2011 at 7:46 pm |

    If they were easier to get i would say they are the meaning of life. But I’m pretty sure the main addictions are air, water, food, shelter and non romantic involvement with the opposite sex for the sole means of procreation. Anything else is entertainment. And I don’t get lonely. 

  10. empty can | Jul 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |

    If they were easier to get i would say they are the meaning of life. But I’m pretty sure the main addictions are air, water, food, shelter and non romantic involvement with the opposite sex for the sole means of procreation. Anything else is entertainment. And I don’t get lonely. 

    • air and water could never be addictions, as they are a necessity to live. and i bet you don’t get lonely, with all your WOW friends.

      • empty can | Jul 6, 2011 at 9:35 pm |

        friends are for weak. are and water are neccesities thus they are addictions to our human form. It could have been base on anything but for some reason air and water were chosen. Open your dumb little head troll.

        • Bigdickmegaherz | Jul 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm |

          Friends are for the weak….ha ha ha… without social stimulation people die dumbass. Take a basic health class.

    • Narwhalnecropsy | Jul 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm |

      Music is one of the primary addictions on earth.

  11. Anonymous | Jul 6, 2011 at 8:33 pm |

    Agreed.  I loved Pinchback’s 2012: Return of Quetzalcoatl, but the garrulousness of his work was off-putting at times.  It seems these types of writers just feel compelled to use as much flowery prose as possible to get their point across.  And a lot of the time, it REALLY isnt necessary.

  12. air and water could never be addictions, as they are a necessity to live. and i bet you don’t get lonely, with all your WOW friends.

  13. Narwhalnecropsy | Jul 6, 2011 at 10:36 pm |

    Music is one of the primary addictions on earth.

  14. DeepCough | Jul 6, 2011 at 11:10 pm |

    Lotta people don’t realize that entheogens have played a serious role in the development human civilization itself, but the evolution of the human brain as well. It has been known for decades now that the brain has special receptors meant for opium and cannabis, because these receptors serve a biological purpose. I’ll grant that not every thing found in nature is exactly good for you, but if drugs like Cannabis, opium, stimulants, and every other drug on Schedule I were really bad for us, don’t you think we humans would have learned to avoid and eradicate the source plants for these drugs centuries before the Industrial Revolution.

  15. DeepCough | Jul 6, 2011 at 7:10 pm |

    Lotta people don’t realize that entheogens have played a serious role in the development human civilization itself, but the evolution of the human brain as well. It has been known for decades now that the brain has special receptors meant for opium and cannabis, because these receptors serve a biological purpose. I’ll grant that not every thing found in nature is exactly good for you, but if drugs like Cannabis, opium, stimulants, and every other drug on Schedule I were really bad for us, don’t you think we humans would have learned to avoid and eradicate the source plants for these drugs centuries before the Industrial Revolution.

    • empty can | Jul 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm |

      they are good but doing them without the proper techniques and doses is baaaad

      • Totally agree. But feel I should add certain combinations should be avoided at all costs.

        • stevieb71 | Jul 28, 2011 at 8:57 am |

          Some combinations, though not many I would agree, are actually pretty good.  Joint and a beer?  Coffee and a smoke?  There’s a few more but I won’t go there today….

    • Food of the Gods – Terrence McKenna

  16. Anonymous | Jul 6, 2011 at 11:51 pm |

    Aren’t all kids basically on meth these days?  Yeah, drugs are bad ummkay?  Unless a big pharmaceutical firm is profiting from them, then they’re A-OK. 

  17. Brandon46and2 | Jul 6, 2011 at 7:51 pm |

    Aren’t all kids basically on meth these days?  Yeah, drugs are bad ummkay?  Unless a big pharmaceutical firm is profiting from them, then they’re A-OK. 

  18. Anonymous | Jul 7, 2011 at 12:39 am |

    This reminds me how much I need to read Huxley’s work

  19. MoralDrift | Jul 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm |

    This reminds me how much I need to read Huxley’s work

    • yes, yes you do. The clarity with which he writes is staggering. He’s the first person that I felt was able to convey a percentage of what an actual mind expanding drug experience is like.  Plus, he has academic cred, so they kind of have to listen. . .

  20. empty can | Jul 7, 2011 at 1:35 am |

    friends are for weak. are and water are neccesities thus they are addictions to our human form. It could have been base on anything but for some reason air and water were chosen. Open your dumb little head troll.

  21. empty can | Jul 7, 2011 at 1:37 am |

    they are good but doing them without the proper techniques and doses is baaaad

  22. empty can | Jul 7, 2011 at 1:38 am |

    I wish music was more of an addiction most musicians have a hard life.

  23. justagirl | Jul 7, 2011 at 2:51 am |

    wow.  what a creepy dad!   D:

  24. justagirl | Jul 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm |

    wow.  what a creepy dad!   D:

    • creepy or…….just the coolest fucking dad ever!  There’s really no in between here.

      • justagirl | Jul 7, 2011 at 8:16 pm |

        oh… but, there is plenty of inbetween here. 
        “i will do everything in my power to see that she chooses her drugs wisely”.  even if calling him a creepy dad is too harsh, he still needs to get a life.  contrarilywise, by the time a girl is old enough to “choose her drugs” she doesn’t need daddy there to help her.  if she does, SHE needs to get a life.  lol.

        • Wellllll….your response isn’t really ‘in between’ but I get it.  I can see how he could be seen as a weirdo but c’mon, he’s not really wrong here.  “Drug” use is pretty rampant when you consider marijuana and cocaine.  Throw in the more hard core stuff and psychedelic use and it’s probably harder to find someone who hasn’t tried any of this stuff than those who have.  And he did say if his daughter used meth it would make him upset.  Personally I kind of wish I had an older wiser mature adult with psychedelic drug use experience who could have given me some insight before I experimented. 

  25. yes, yes you do. The clarity with which he writes is staggering. He’s the first person that I felt was able to convey a percentage of what an actual mind expanding drug experience is like.  Plus, he has academic cred, so they kind of have to listen. . .

  26. yes, yes you do. The clarity with which he writes is staggering. He’s the first person that I felt was able to convey a percentage of what an actual mind expanding drug experience is like.  Plus, he has academic cred, so they kind of have to listen. . .

  27. The only level 1 drug I have used is marijuana. I am not an advocate of it, nor am I an opponent. To each their own is my stance on drug use. However, I am in the fields of Psychology and Philosophy and I have been taught that Freud was using cocaine during much of his work, and Carl Jung was very interested in the psychological potential of drugs such as LSD. Jung thought that while under the influence of such psychedelics, one was able to illuminate things suppressed in the unconscious (which is something I think most people agree exists). The illusions patience would experience were not direct interpretations of the unconscious, but if deciphered the may hold the key to what we suppress. As stated before, I have not experimented with any psychedelics but I have an open mind and am willing to consider such hypothesis’. Fear of the unknown delays growth in the mind.

  28. The only level 1 drug I have used is marijuana. I am not an advocate of it, nor am I an opponent. To each their own is my stance on drug use. However, I am in the fields of Psychology and Philosophy and I have been taught that Freud was using cocaine during much of his work, and Carl Jung was very interested in the psychological potential of drugs such as LSD. Jung thought that while under the influence of such psychedelics, one was able to illuminate things suppressed in the unconscious (which is something I think most people agree exists). The illusions patience would experience were not direct interpretations of the unconscious, but if deciphered the may hold the key to what we suppress. As stated before, I have not experimented with any psychedelics but I have an open mind and am willing to consider such hypothesis’. Fear of the unknown delays growth in the mind.

    • Have you ever read about the studies and work of Dr. Richard Alpert and Dr. Timothy Leary?  Terrence McKenna?  In any case, the effects of strong psychedelics like psilocybin and lsd are so powerfully overwhelming that unless you try them, talking about it or hypothesizing about the effects are going to fail to take into account the experience itself which can be transformational when taken in the right dosage.  George Carlin called them ‘values changing’ drugs which is probably as good a description as I’ve heard.  There is a difference between someone who’s tried and had a true psychedelic experience and someone who hasn’t but has read the literature about them.  I’m not judging, just sayin.

  29. ” The beautific vision does not tell you anything about the birth of the
    cosmos—but it does reveal how utterly transfigured a mind can be by a
    full collision with the present moment.”
     Perfect! Although I don’t agree 100% with :”… whatever one has experienced after ingesting a drug like LSD is
    likely to have been experienced, by someone, somewhere, without it.”
    I’d need evidence to believe a claim like that. I have empirical evidence that says otherwise.

  30. ” The beautific vision does not tell you anything about the birth of the
    cosmos—but it does reveal how utterly transfigured a mind can be by a
    full collision with the present moment.”
     Perfect! Although I don’t agree 100% with :”… whatever one has experienced after ingesting a drug like LSD is
    likely to have been experienced, by someone, somewhere, without it.”
    I’d need evidence to believe a claim like that.

    • Then go read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The mind is capable of amazing things when the power of ones will is nurtured and augmented over time.

  31. Then go read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The mind is capable of amazing things when the power of ones will is nurtured and augmented over time.

  32. The meaning of life is love.  Enough said.  Save your drug money.

  33. The meaning of life is love.  Enough said.  Save your drug money.

  34. A pentagram!!  I had a dream about a pentagram the other night.  No idea why.  What’s your reason for the pentagram avatar?

  35. Have you ever read about the studies and work of Dr. Richard Alpert and Dr. Timothy Leary?  Terrence McKenna?  In any case, the effects of strong psychedelics like psilocybin and lsd are so powerfully overwhelming that unless you try them, talking about it or hypothesizing about the effects are going to fail to take into account the experience itself which can be transformational when taken in the right dosage.  George Carlin called them ‘values changing’ drugs which is probably as good a description as I’ve heard.  There is a difference between someone who’s tried and had a true psychedelic experience and someone who hasn’t but has read the literature about them.  I’m not judging, just sayin.

  36. Have you ever read about the studies and work of Dr. Richard Alpert and Dr. Timothy Leary?  Terrence McKenna?  In any case, the effects of strong psychedelics like psilocybin and lsd are so powerfully overwhelming that unless you try them, talking about it or hypothesizing about the effects are going to fail to take into account the experience itself which can be transformational when taken in the right dosage.  George Carlin called them ‘values changing’ drugs which is probably as good a description as I’ve heard.  There is a difference between someone who’s tried and had a true psychedelic experience and someone who hasn’t but has read the literature about them.  I’m not judging, just sayin.

  37. Have you ever read about the studies and work of Dr. Richard Alpert and Dr. Timothy Leary?  Terrence McKenna?  In any case, the effects of strong psychedelics like psilocybin and lsd are so powerfully overwhelming that unless you try them, talking about it or hypothesizing about the effects are going to fail to take into account the experience itself which can be transformational when taken in the right dosage.  George Carlin called them ‘values changing’ drugs which is probably as good a description as I’ve heard.  There is a difference between someone who’s tried and had a true psychedelic experience and someone who hasn’t but has read the literature about them.  I’m not judging, just sayin.

  38. creepy or…….just the coolest fucking dad ever!  There’s really no in between here.

  39. read through a scanner darkly, some people can get away with this stuff while other s never recover, LSD is far from safe and you don’t know if you are incompatible until after you have taken it.  Bad trips aren’t down to the drug this thing seriously mucks up your brain chemistry. Why not preach binge drinking, it’s way cool and really trendy round here, you get insights those straight people just don’t understand, if you haven’t been binge drinking you haven’t lived. Hey, heroin’s the business, those others just don’t understand, it’s got a bad rep but that’s because people don’t know how to use it. He let’s recruit lots of people to take this drug because it’s been misunderstood. Really, you should try some.

  40. read through a scanner darkly, some people can get away with this stuff while other s never recover, LSD is far from safe and you don’t know if you are incompatible until after you have taken it.  Bad trips aren’t down to the drug this thing seriously mucks up your brain chemistry. Why not preach binge drinking, it’s way cool and really trendy round here, you get insights those straight people just don’t understand, if you haven’t been binge drinking you haven’t lived. Hey, heroin’s the business, those others just don’t understand, it’s got a bad rep but that’s because people don’t know how to use it. He let’s recruit lots of people to take this drug because it’s been misunderstood. Really, you should try some.

    • Enlightened | Jul 7, 2011 at 9:36 pm |

      a person knows how mentally stable he or she is, and if they dont then they are not.  anyone who is not absolutely sure that they can handle a trip like LSD SHOULD NOT DO IT!!!  no one should take LSD in any form unless they have tripped on mushrooms several times, starting low dosages and building their way up.  LSD is completely harmless under these circumstances and highly enlightening unlike binge drinking and heroin which are both potentially fatal the FIRST TIME.  Get yourself some knowledge before you preach

  41. Hijacked Lantern | Jul 7, 2011 at 10:48 pm |

    It’s a seed. It must be growing.

  42. justagirl | Jul 8, 2011 at 12:16 am |

    oh… but, there is plenty of inbetween here. 
    “i will do everything in my power to see that she chooses her drugs wisely”.  even if calling him a creepy dad is too harsh, he still needs to get a life.  contrarilywise, by the time a girl is old enough to “choose her drugs” she doesn’t need daddy there to help her.  if she does, SHE needs to get a life.  lol.

  43. Enlightened | Jul 8, 2011 at 1:36 am |

    a person knows how mentally stable he or she is, and if they dont then they are not.  anyone who is not absolutely sure that they can handle a trip like LSD SHOULD NOT DO IT!!!  no one should take LSD in any form unless they have tripped on mushrooms several times, starting low dosages and building their way up.  LSD is completely harmless under these circumstances and highly enlightening unlike binge drinking and heroin which are both potentially fatal the FIRST TIME.  Get yourself some knowledge before you preach

  44. Wellllll….your response isn’t really ‘in between’ but I get it.  I can see how he could be seen as a weirdo but c’mon, he’s not really wrong here.  “Drug” use is pretty rampant when you consider marijuana and cocaine.  Throw in the more hard core stuff and psychedelic use and it’s probably harder to find someone who hasn’t tried any of this stuff than those who have.  And he did say if his daughter used meth it would make him upset.  Personally I kind of wish I had an older wiser mature adult with psychedelic drug use experience who could have given me some insight before I experimented. 

  45. justagirl | Jul 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm |

    precisely inbetween.  can’t get any farther from both extremes.

  46. omgz i welcome our new pentagramz overlords with able servant arms!  

  47. so you think he’s a good guy who sometimes is creepy and is sometimes cool….excellent.

  48. justagirl | Jul 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm |

    silence.

  49. Bigdickmegaherz | Jul 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm |

    Friends are for the weak….ha ha ha… without social stimulation people die dumbass. Take a basic health class.

  50. If you haven’t experienced a “psychedelic” state of mind, then your not really qualified to comment on the subject…

  51. If you haven’t experienced a “psychedelic” state of mind, then your not really qualified to comment on the subject…

    • Amen. I can honestly say, from someone who uses psilocybin that it has changed my life for the better. I have always said, and will continue to say, that you will never truly know yourself unless you’ve tried it.

  52. Anonymous | Jul 13, 2011 at 10:58 am |

    DRUG IS THE DANGEROUS OF LIFE ITS MEAN DEATH.
     http://www.bug.co.uk/forums/members/petterr.html

  53. Avishaismith | Jul 13, 2011 at 6:58 am |

    DRUG IS THE DANGEROUS OF LIFE ITS MEAN DEATH.
     http://www.bug.co.uk/forums/members/petterr.html

  54. ALL LIFE IS HELL, THATS THE MEANING OF LIFE

  55. ALL LIFE IS HELL, THATS THE MEANING OF LIFE

  56. Anonymous | Jul 18, 2011 at 11:38 am |

     Drug is the Dangerous for the Life.
    http://www.warriorforum.com/members/albehulz.html

  57. Valentinsmith | Jul 18, 2011 at 7:38 am |

     Drug is the Dangerous for the Life.
    http://www.warriorforum.com/members/albehulz.html

  58. New study finds no cognitive impairment among ecstasy users
    http://www.addictionjournal.org/viewpressrelease.asp?pr=147

  59. New study finds no cognitive impairment among ecstasy users
    http://www.addictionjournal.org/viewpressrelease.asp?pr=147

  60. New study finds no cognitive impairment among ecstasy users
    http://www.addictionjournal.org/viewpressrelease.asp?pr=147

  61. are you on meth?

  62. are you on meth?

  63. Anonymous | Jul 22, 2011 at 5:06 am |

    I think that drug destroy the all of the part of body and Minds.
    http://friendsite.com/Samurrick

  64. Radulfsmith | Jul 22, 2011 at 1:06 am |

    I think that drug destroy the all of the part of body and Minds.
    http://friendsite.com/Samurrick

  65. Excellent article. I can relate to the author because I too have been at both ends of the spectrum with psychedelics. Good is good and bad is down right unbearable. Wonderful read.

  66. Excellent article. I can relate to the author because I too have been at both ends of the spectrum with psychedelics. Good is good and bad is down right unbearable. Wonderful read.

  67. Totally agree. But feel I should add certain combinations should be avoided at all costs.

  68. Food of the Gods – Terrence McKenna

  69. Anonymous | Jul 26, 2011 at 5:13 am |

    If You have take a drug then life can be in dangerous.
    http://nghethuatxamvn.com/forum/member.php?6231-Heleunson

  70. Alphonsussmith | Jul 26, 2011 at 1:13 am |

    If You have take a drug then life can be in dangerous.
    http://nghethuatxamvn.com/forum/member.php?6231-Heleunson

  71. Anonymous | Jul 28, 2011 at 8:58 am |

    In the use of drug the Brain is fully damage therefore we must be avoid the use of drug.
     http://brass-band.ru/showthread.php?42784-Is-wall-street-contain-the-beauty-tips&p=76340&posted=1#post76340

  72. Cristianosmith | Jul 28, 2011 at 4:58 am |

    In the use of drug the Brain is fully damage therefore we must be avoid the use of drug.
     http://brass-band.ru/showthread.php?42784-Is-wall-street-contain-the-beauty-tips&p=76340&posted=1#post76340

  73. Anonymous | Jul 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    Some combinations, though not many I would agree, are actually pretty good.  Joint and a beer?  Coffee and a smoke?  There’s a few more but I won’t go there today….

  74. Anonymous | Jul 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm |

    Good can be amazing…..

  75. Anonymous | Jul 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm |

    Amen. I can honestly say, from someone who uses psilocybin that it has changed my life for the better. I have always said, and will continue to say, that you will never truly know yourself unless you’ve tried it.

  76. Being of Light | Jul 28, 2011 at 11:12 pm |

    Psychedelics are the key to becoming your true self…..used responsibly of course. Have a nice trip, see you soon

  77. Being of Light | Jul 28, 2011 at 7:12 pm |

    Psychedelics are the key to becoming your true self…..used responsibly of course. Have a nice trip, see you soon

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