As most of you who read this blog regularly already know, I have an intimate association with sobriety that dates back to almost 26 years ago, when at the age of 26, I realized I was an alcoholic, and made a solemn vow never to drink or take drugs again.
I am now going to raise some questions about a few spiritual teachers that get discussed in my blog, and their infamous abuse of alcohol and drugs.
It's well-known that Gurdjieff was a prolific drinker. Ouspensky, by some accounts, took to the bottle towards the end of his life and died dissipated, disillusioned, despondent. Chogyam Trungpa was a well-known abuser of alcohol. He unashamedly used other chemicals such as LSD.
In regard to all three of these men, I have heard myriad excuses for the behavior, some manufactured by the abusers themselves, others manufactured by loyal adherents to their teaching.
I don't buy any of them.
Anyone can drink. It is not good or bad to drink, from a moral point of view, unless in drinking you do direct harm to others. If you harm yourself, that's your own karma.
It is, however, unacceptable to abuse alcohol or drugs for any reason from a spiritual point of view. Anyone who claims that alcohol enhances the spiritual experience is full of crap. The same goes for drugs. Under certain unusual and very select conditions, drugs may be useful, but in the general sense of things they are nothing but damaging. Claiming that drugs or alcohol enhance one's spirituality is just as stupid as claiming that they enhance one's artistic or social abilities. The folks in AA have a little word for this claim called "denial."
If reading this makes you uncomfortable--if you are already erecting a defense of your drinking or drug use as you read this--now would be an excellent time to examine that reaction carefully, because you are already in trouble with the substances, and they are the ones speaking to you and through you.
I bring this up because there is a major alternative.
If one begins to work in a right way within oneself, and one understands how to bring the body into relationship so that the substance of the Holy Spirit, or prana, is available on not just an intermittent but a regular basis, there is absolutely no need for any drugs.
Cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana -- almost all drugs are shabby substitutes for an experience of inner bliss that should be produced on a daily basis by the organism itself. I suppose, if one is too lazy or uninterested to do the inner work that is required to open one's self to higher influences, taking the drugs makes a certain perverted kind of sense. However, to anyone who has opened the inner flowers, the very idea of drugs becomes absurd.
Can anyone legitimately claim they want to wake up with hangovers, a mouth that tastes foul, risk mental illness, heart attacks, and ultimately risk contracting cancer of the lungs, esophagus, stomach, or bowels--just so that they can feel good?
Just how good do we need to feel?
Would feeling dead be good enough?
I have a great deal of hard-won personal experience with drugs and alcohol. I know exactly what they do. I also have a great deal of experience with prana, and although I would not tell you that I know exactly what it does--there are mysteries in this work which come to us without words for explanation-- I know that it can be constantly present, and feed one's life in a new way.
The fact that this substance seems to be mythological to most people, and ephemeral even to those who are to some extent familiar with it, is immaterial. The fact is that if you open your flowers you can be fed in a way that will give you a constant connection to a bliss which cannot be described or contained within words.
Make no mistake about it. There is a right work within the organism that is objective in nature and can attain such results. All men have available to them the option of becoming the master of their own inner substances, rather than the victims of chemicals they ingest.
All of this raises the question for me of why Gurdjieff and Trungpa, who were clearly adepts at many forms of practice, smoked and drank.
I can only conclude that they missed something. (and apparently Ouspensky missed even more, the poor man.) They were masters, but I would call them 99% masters. They knew everything, except that they didn't know everything. Where was their daily understanding of joy, of residence within bliss?
Were they so desperately hungry for a regular contact with God that they had to seek Him in earthly bottles?
These questions do not invalidate the teachers or the teachings. They were real teachers, and they left us real teachings. I follow them myself with very great interest and utmost respect.
I will not, however, subscribe to the belief that they were infallible. In the end, perhaps it is their weaknesses themselves that make them believable, and attractive, to me. I, after all, share the same weakness.
The difference is that, as a mere 1% master, at least I know what I should not be putting in my body.
Beware of 99% masters. It's that 1% they don't know that'll bring you down, every time. It's better to be a 1% master of your own, than to sign on to someone else's 99%.
May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.