Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 16: The Sensitives > Chapter 11: Fanaticism, Money, Powers, Drugs

Fanaticism, Money, Powers, Drugs


Beware of the fanaticism shown by certain gurus and their followers. Intolerance of other teachings or of other interpretations of their own teachings, harshly denouncing every deviation, implies a narrow sectarianism.

The bands, small or large, which gather around a guru, or attach themselves to the latest movements, or join the organized groups, need to exercise much care if they are to escape from the zealotry and bigotry, the little-mindedness and carping criticism into which most of the members too often fall.

The fanaticism of these foolish followers is proof against all evidence and all argument. Faith kicks Reason out of the room, and then proceeds to lock the door against the discomforting intruder. Texts will be tortured in order to tamper with truths; history will be distorted; facts will be conveniently forgotten and even the clearest utterances will be mauled and misrepresented to suit their jaundiced minds. To make matters worse, the enthusiast is never satisfied with deluding himself but deludes others also.

They are less interested in arriving at the truth than in disseminating fiercely partisan propaganda for their beliefs.

They defend this vast credulity--this instant acceptance of commingled fantasy with fact--by ascribing absence of spiritual intuitiveness to the sceptics. But if doubters are really impervious to intuition, the believers are equally impervious to reason.

Mystical societies should in theory be the most co-operative of all groups. Yet in practice we find them quite often the least! They should be the most disciplined emotionally yet they are often the least! Quarrelling, jealous, back-biting, eccentric, and cranky members make them what they are.

The greater their enthusiasm for an anti-materialistic view of life, the blinder their narrow fanaticism in following some queer sect. This is a sad consequence.

Such frenzied fanaticism is remote from philosophy and impervious to truth: that is why it is so utterly humourless, too.

There is peril in joining the parties which tend to group themselves around strong personalities or particular ideas.

When we see these cults shaken by internal dissensions and their followers shocked by internal scandals, we see that they are unable to practise what they preach.

Reason cannot argue with such silly fanaticism, so utterly and so blindly sure that its apocalyptic predictions must come into being visibly in due course.

These devout converts pursue these illusory goals with fanatic intensity.

The fence which encloses his own group excludes all other groups. How much larger is the philosopher's outlook which encloses everyone, shuts out no one.

The hysterical fanaticism and misplaced loyalty of these unsophisticated followers are pathetic. Their foolish conduct quite rightly makes critics doubt whether they are ahead of the mass-level in evolution as they assert, or whether they are behind it.

To reach truth naked and unadorned, we must perforce thrust our way through the ranks of occult fakers and sectarian faddists who throng the path. Their circumlocuting minds are not satisfied with the straight and narrow way, but they would have all other seekers follow them in devious and weary wanderings. The time has come to lash out with stinging whips and cutting flail at all those whose stupid pretensions masquerade as profound wisdom.

Those very features of the sect and characteristics of its leader which create doubt and scepticism in rational minds, only increase the enthusiasm and fanaticism of credulous ones.

Some affiliations and organizations are actually hostile to the purpose, the spirit, the teaching of their founders.

In the mystical cults of our time, of which there is an abundant variety, the followers generally take an extremely hostile attitude towards the teacher, writer, or prophet who is not the one favoured with their personal allegiance. He is a devil in disguise, an arch-sinner, a black magician, and so on. The attitude taken toward their own guide is equally exaggerated. He is God on earth, an angel in the flesh, omniscience personified, and so on. A more moderate, more reasonable attitude rarely enters their heads. This is possibly one reason why these cults are hotbeds of gossip, criticism, envy, and bickering.

Too often sects breed tyranny, uncharitableness, and fanaticism. They shut out the freedom which permits spiritual adventure and hence true spiritual seeking.

When they push their sectarianism to extremes, as they often do, they become exclusive, blind to truth anywhere else except their own beliefs. Even where they accept in theory that truth has more than a single spokesman, they desert this liberalism in practice. The sectarians shut out the spirit bequeathed by the great enlightenments, and let in what suits them of the letter. As for sectarian public propagandists, it is from their ranks that, given the chance and the power, the great fanatics and even the great persecutors emerge.

Why should anyone denigrate the character of another man out of envy of his attainment or detract from his reputation out of scepticism concerning the attainment itself? To hear such news is good news indeed, and such confirmation ought to bring joy to the heart.

The number of followers of any established cult--short or long-lived--is neither a sign of its truth nor one of its closeness to God. Discords will come sounding through. The harmonies will be there but only to a measurable degree and for measurable times.

The automatic obedience which these credulous followers give their psychotically fanatical leader follows naturally from the unreason in their minds.

The imbalanced followers, the fanatical adherents, will usually ignore the most temperate criticism of their cult or, if aroused, meet it with abuse.

The wild abandon, the careless spilling of slogans which show up the user's ignorance, fanaticism, and deficiencies, may be left to the intellectually adolescent. There is nothing to interest the truth-seeker here.

The feminine disciples often begin to compete with one another for the attention and love of the master. This leads to jealousy, intrigue, and back-biting--to an unwholesome and undesirable atmosphere.

Sometimes it is hard to know where their high-mindedness ends and hysteria begins.

I have taken a view which conflicts with the conventional assumptions of the X-ists that all Y-ists are fools, and of the Y-ists that all X-ists are knaves. I believe that some X-ists are likewise fools and some Y-ists are also knaves.

Within these groups, schisms and rivalries, sectarianism, jealousies, controversies over the interpretation of the Leader's words appear just as they do in worldly organizations.

These small religio-mystical or occultist sects are as notorious as the large and old religions for splitting into opposing factions and suffering internal feuds. The troubles are sometimes personal, sometimes ideological, more often the two together.

Deluded guides, gullible followers

Mystical movements are often infested with half-crazy fanaticism and astonishing delusion. The earnest enquirer ought to be warned, even though in many cases the warning might as well be given to the waves. The subject is unpleasant, yet it must be addressed. Too many mystic paths have their beginning in mental aberration. Those who follow them with misguided enthusiasm bring harm to themselves and may bring suffering to others. Such paths are dangerous to their followers in particular and to society in general.

Those who follow one of these insane guides will in the end be led close to insanity themselves. But, with the cunning which so often is allied to madness, the guide may present them with great revelations and grand visions of the past, present, and future evolution of mankind, all of which may seem in accord with the teachings of the seers whose reputations time has established. From this impersonal level, there will then be an abrupt descent into tremendous personal aggrandizement on the part of the guide and magnificent promises of mystical experiences to the disciple. Both are nothing more than wild vagaries of a disordered brain.

An incompetent spiritual guide may cause mental, moral, or nervous injury to his followers as much as an unqualified physician may cause physical injury to his patients. He may bring about a serious nervous breakdown, a dangerous mediumistic loss of self-control, or a condition of hopeless impracticality.

The blunderer who meddles with an already half-unbalanced mind may bring his victim to a wholly unbalanced state.

During a long life I have observed many gurus and their followers in both East and West, many teachings and movements in religious, occult, mystical, metaphysical, spiritistic, and allied areas. And though there certainly are pearls of truth, there is also more lunacy than is recognized. In literary, poetic, and art circles the situation is the same. Several figures hailed as brilliant geniuses in the spiritual and cultural areas are in fact brilliant semi-lunatics. Their followers who are attracted to or try to copy them lose more and more sanity. This is why I have put forward so prominently the quality of balance, its importance to all alike, both teachers and taught. Give all things their just weight; put them in their proper place. In the figure of Libra, the scales are very evenly held so that justice may be done--that is, the truth may be found.

In Subud it seemed that the weekly meeting called Latihan had much of the flavour, or rather the atmosphere, of a spiritualist séance. The believers would sit in a group waiting for something to happen to them, some psychic experience. They were told by their guides, technically called Helpers, that the force at work would be God, whereas the spiritualists were told that it would be the spirit of a departed person. In both cases they were told to remain entirely passive and to yield themselves to whatever urge was felt. The results were certainly curious, sometimes alarming.

There is a sect of hippies in California who call themselves the Crackpots of Christ. The leader is a young man who travels throughout the country on a motorcycle and his name is Arthur Blessit, obviously an assumed name. They publish a journal called the "free journal of Hollywood."

What is interesting about them, apart from the fact that most of them were formerly drug-takers and have been freed from this habit by Blessit, is their communal prayer. This is done by raising their arms towards the sky out in the open, closing their eyes, and then beginning to hum all together. This hum gets slightly stronger and stronger until in the end it becomes a thundering cry. No word is actually uttered. How shall we interpret this prayer? Is it the anguished cry of the soul towards God?

The maniacal occurrences at these Subud meetings do not indicate the presence of God but rather the reverse. Such manifestations are not new in religious history. Christian, Hebrew, Hindu, and Muhammedan sects have displayed them, shrieking, shouting, singing, crying, yelling like animals, swaying, leaping, crawling, dancing. The delirium of madness is not spirituality.

Some of these gurus and more of their followers are to be considered as not quite sane. It is true that total sanity seems hard to find in the modern world anywhere, which is due to the lack of balanced development. But the oddities in occult circles show not only this lack but also other odd qualities.

There are insane leaders who form insane cults and gather unbalanced fanatics around them. The heads of the followers are constantly filled with mad dreams until there is little room left for the real facts of this world and less for those of the authentic spiritual world. The cheating, the betrayal, and the disappointment of these foolish people is inexorable but they may refuse to acknowledge the futility of their dreams and may resist disillusionment to the end.

They get swept into the current of imagination which flows through the master's mind, and are thus led to share his hallucinations.

The insane man's mind tells him that he is Napoleon. The deluded mystic's mind tells him that he is a master. The initial lie, once accepted, leads logically to the final delusion. This is why they are wrong who assert that one mystical school, belief, practice, or teacher is as good as any other for the beginner, so long as he gets started. It is a fact that men who live in mad fantasy or wild imagination, and whose teaching emanates from the same disordered source, can soon collect a following if they mutter the magic words "Indian yoga" or "Tibetan masters."

It is an unpleasant fact, yet one too serious to ignore, that quite a number of cults and teachers lead their naïve followers, not gloriously to spiritual reality, but unfortunately to spiritual lunacy. By the initial act of adherence to the cult or pupilship with the teacher, these followers make their own subsequent karma and fall more and more from the path of sanity each year. In their defense let it be said that their intentions were mostly good, but good intention is not always a sufficient virtue in life, especially in connection with spiritual seeking.

A certain proportion of what passes for occult doctrine and religio-mystic prophecy is sheer insanity. Its effect upon those who believe it is to render them still more unfit for philosophic truth than they already are, for it weakens their faculty of discrimination.

Subud's is a mediumistic method; the risks involved make it difficult to trust any such method.

There is too much sick apocalyptic neurosis in the new mystical cults, too much pessimistic assertion about the bankruptcy of the race and its leaders, to bespeak their mental health.

What I have seen in these circles convinces me that a mild insanity pervades many of them, from much reputed gurus to just beginning disciples. It was a man of the sharpest intelligence, of the acutest psychological insight, who first pointed out this fact to me. V. Subramanya Iyer illustrated his thesis again and again during our textual explorations and personal excursions in India itself, but it was found still valid when I continued the investigation in Europe and America.

If we turn away from philosophical circles to religio-mystical ones, we find less rational and more emotional practices. One of the eighteenth-century Hebrew Hassidic groups practised the turning of somersaults during their prayers. In defense they claimed that this turning over of the body helped to turn down their pride.

Those who found their manna in a robot-like personal relationship with Gurdjieff, so that they never awoke to the facts, got what they deserved. But they were to be pitied for grovelling at the feet of a somewhat boorish half-lunatic, a heartless exploiter of trusting women and men, a man who thrived on mystery-mongering.

Gurdjieff's training of disciples showed in their control. At his command they suddenly froze their position as if caught by a camera, in arrested motion. A theory of Gurdjieff's was that when one is so tired that collapse is imminent, strength will come from an inner source of reserve power, a second wind. A cardinal point in Gurdjieff's teaching was the breaking of all habits, to free life from slavery to them. Another was exercise to make physical nature obedient and responsive to the will.

There is one important quality that seems to be missing from the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky training, and that is the heart element of love.

Rosicrucians seemed to have taken the greatest pains to keep their teachings secret, and themselves in the background, but these American Rosicrucians offer to send you their sublime philosophy through the posts, while they take care to keep themselves in the foreground by plentiful use of the arts of publicity.

Gurdjieff, like Meher Baba, often made abrupt changes of policy at his Fountainbleau Institute in its early and floundering years. This confirms his lack of balance. Gurdjieff also made some of his male disciples drink vodka and himself slept with some of his girl disciples. This need not necessarily mean he was evil, it may mean that he was practising Tantra; but it was morally wrong and inexcusable.

These articles should be critically judged by students of the esoteric. Therefore, the idea of the King of the World and of his Subterranean City does not correspond with the physical facts. Similar statements about related ideas belong to fantasy.

In religio-mystical circles one meets from time to time those who believe they have a mission either to establish some utopian colony, community, or settlement, or to bring about a certain transition to peace on earth and goodwill unto all. Such visionaries usually fail to produce much practical consequence of their visions. No great change can be brought about in human history without first bringing about a great change in human nature: but lesser changes can be achieved.

Those who look eagerly forward to a time when all troubles have disappeared, all wars have been dismissed, and all society turned into a Utopia are merely fooling themselves.

If a crazy person declares that he is Napoleon, it may not be long before he finds himself in the confinement of a lunatic asylum; but if someone equally crazy declares that he is God, it will not be long before a worshipful following collects around him.

The claims of these cults are sometimes so plainly absurd that their followers must be too stupid to deserve anything better.

Some cults are merely foolish, others are quite mischievous. Some set up colonies intended to become utopias but never even approach the ideal.

Their published writings fail to show any logical basis; but they do succeed in showing a semi-pathological condition in the writers.

Some of the qualities, attributes, and practices demanded of spiritual aspirants are so queer, exaggerated, or unbalanced that the ultimate result will be not a human being, but a strange, half-insane creature.

A psychiatric study of the contents of these writings would show that they are the productions of a half-insane person, a psychopathic case, yet the followers read them with awe reverence and credulity.


Cults whose leaders mix the motive of extracting money from the wallets of their followers with the motive of helping them are immensely better than those which seek money alone. But they are still far from the pure spirit of service which is the mark of true attainment.

The wide sale of books which promise to bring the help of God for the furtherance of personal fortunes, or to increase the power of man over others or over circumstances without requiring the discipline of man, shows how confused is the public's understanding of their authors. The offer of quick returns for little or no moral investment, of cheap easy ways to get something for nothing, belongs really to the witch-doctor, the primitive magician, and the necromantic sorcerer.

Those who seek for gain financially and notoriety personally are one kind, those who seek to hide their unethical acts behind occult secrecy are another kind. But all the different kinds share one thing in common--they are animated by, serve, and worship their own ego.

In the hands of cheap imitators exploiting the grand tradition of Asiatic wisdom, truth has become a cover for personal ambition and financial exploitation. They are as much under the influence of worldly motives as those whom they denounce. They proffer sanctimonious precepts to living worldlings, for the benefit of others, drawn from the code of defunct saints.

The peril which, as history attests, plagues all organized movements is that the maintenance and power and wealth of the organization become the chief motives of those who control it, while the free spiritual growth of the individuals who compose it tends to be hindered and sometimes even smothered.

An amusing variant of this cult will, for instance, enjoin hydrocephalic followers to spend spare time thinking, "Money is coming to me!" This magical phrase is concentrated on, chanted aloud, repeated vocally or mentally ad infinitum and ad nauseam. Even when money is quite evidently not coming in sight, and poverty is becoming a more intimate companion, the hypnotic glamour of this startlingly simple method persists in lulling its practitioners into great expectancy. Its practitioners ultimately receive what they deserve. They receive nothing. A saner system would teach its disciples the straightforward truth: "If you want money you must work, beg, borrow, speculate, or even steal it from somebody else!" But wishful thinking is an ancient habit. Weak persons lose their heads when they find an extravagant teaching.

The cults which hold out a bait of teaching followers how to achieve prosperity in their financial affairs and how to bring therapy to their bodily ailments need careful scrutiny.

The divine self does not necessarily demonstrate "supply" as money; it may demonstrate it by reducing one's bank account still further. True supply is entirely spiritual, the bringing up of a set of circumstances to the personal self which will afford it the spiritual lesson, expression, or opportunity necessary at the time. Those circumstances may be either prosperous or poverty stricken, as the wisdom of the Overself determines. Destiny, too, has something to say in the matter, but it is best left in the background of our reckonings; for, needless to say, destiny always works hand in hand with the Overself because both arise out of the same great Source--God. Poverty for some has been a gateway to higher things, for in times of prosperity the necessity of obtaining some understanding of the deeper side of life is not so strongly felt.

Every cult that cleverly tries to turn the inner life into an instrument for acquiring health and wealth puts its followers in danger. They are either flirting with black magic or falling into self-deception.

There are religious adventurers just as there are financial ones. They start new sects, seek to acquire followers, play the minor king, and are too often sustained in idleness.

In the United States there are many who use these silly incantations. Those who use "Dollars Want Me" are perhaps the most credulous of all.

Every attempt to commercialize this knowledge betrays its own source--the grasping greedy ego. Consequently it cannot give what it claims--truth from the Overself--but only the deceptive imitation of such truth. No matter what claims are made by these commercializers, reject them.

When the relation between a spiritual guide and an aspiring seeker is one of greed, no truth can pass from one to the other, only the illusion of it.

The practitioner who "demonstrates" more money for his clients and better health for their bodies is using an occult power and not a spiritual one. By this I mean that it is a power of the ego, not of the Overself. He serves his clients at a great cost to himself, which the fees they pay will never balance. They may congratulate him on his successful demonstrations, but these succeed only in keeping him imprisoned within his ego and out of his Overself.

Those who would turn the kingdom of heaven into a convenience and replace its blessings by affluence, worship their own ego and violate the first commandment.

Father Divine does not allow his followers to accept gifts. That privilege is reserved for himself. That is the source of his Cadillacs, his elegant home, and his large luxurious wardrobe. He claims to be Christ, yet not a week passes without his putting an un-Christlike satanic curse upon some hapless person who has dared to criticize him or to express disbelief in his divinity.

When their personal career is involved in their movement or they have a financial relationship with their cult, the very Quest which might have advanced them spiritually now hinders them spiritually.

The wide gulf which separates these pseudo-mystical, prosperity-seeking, modern sects like New Thought and "Science of Mind" from true mysticism is lit up by the emanation from a single Arabic word facqueer, which has spread its usage throughout the Orient from Morocco to India. The word literally means "one who is poor" but usually means a holy man, while the condition of poverty has come to be associated with the Sufis, the most important order of Muhammedan mystics.

To be poor in spirit, in Christ's sense, is exactly the same as to die to self. More plainly, it is to achieve a total detachment from all things. How remote from truth, then, are all those who seek to turn the kingdom of heaven into a convenience for acquiring worldly goods!

These cults fall into the mistake of making worldly success and triumphant ambition synonymous with divine response to their prayer or divine reward for their meditation.

In his early days, Rasputin was sponsored by such men as Father John of Kronstadt, the Christlike healer, who declared that he was inspired by the Holy Ghost! Yet even then Rasputin refused to be parted from what he called his "spiritual sisters" with whom his relations were sensual as well as spiritual.

Instead of teaching people how to pray aright by praying for more strength, more wisdom, and more peace, they taught them to look for dramatic happenings following a useless practice like praying for national material benefits, when not one percent of such prayers were ever answered nor could ever be answered by the deaf, dumb, and paralytic Pantheon.

It is a foolish cult which makes worldly prosperity a measuring standard of spiritual effectiveness.

Their primary desire is a materialistic one, but it is mixed with such a thick serving of spiritual principles and quotations from Jesus that the cult is able to deceive itself into saying that it is a religion!

These cults never suspect their own motives, never see that they want to bring heaven into their little egos instead of bringing their egos into the kingdom of heaven. But then, they dare not desire the latter, for it would mean the vaporizing and vanishing of all their materialism, their attachment and acquisitiveness.

The abuse of power

When spirituality turns professional, when it begins to wear special clothes, possess particular titles, advertise its presence in certain men, it begins to become an artificial pretentious thing. It is no longer its pure self but an adulteration of itself, no longer spontaneous and natural but forced and self-conscious.

Before they can make fools of their followers, they have first to be foolish themselves. This is obvious enough in the case of those whose disordered brains breed wild fancies, but not in the case of those whose crafty self-seeking shows active intellect. Here the foolishness is moral, for the practice of such evil breeds a dark karma.

This is not difficult because his most devout followers are composed of the most impressionable, the most suggestible and easily deceived elements of society. They are the younger generation on one side and hysterically emotional women on the other, who readily come to believe what is constantly said, not what is rightly or rationally said. Their minds are too untrained to detect in his language that over-emphasis which conceals doubt. He resorts to the methods of a mountebank in order to impress such people. When persons become so mesmerized that the actual state of affairs no longer matters to them while the supposed state of affairs alone matters to them, when crazy rationalizations of wrong-doing enable them to justify it as right-doing, and when the will to believe wrongly has eliminated the need to reason logically, their doom is certain. The harm their teacher does to their possessions may be terrible but the harm which he does to their minds and hearts is worse. He turns morality upside down and they eventually accept the upset.

These evil teachers question the moral values offered by religious prophets and mystical seers. They proclaim the bad man to be better than the good one, the egoist superior to the altruist, and the bully a more evolved type than the meek.

All men who develop these mystic powers do not use them in a benign manner. Some use them malignantly.

Rom Landau writes in Sex Life and Faith: "Over and over again in the course of the last fifteen or so years I have been approached by men and women who had thrown themselves whole-heartedly into movements that practised public confessions, sharing, surrender, and all the rest. As a result of their conversion they imagined that they have solved all their spiritual, mental, and material problems, but after a short time they found themselves more entangled in their own complexes, phobias, and vices than before their `change.' Often their married lives had been shipwrecked; their business affairs, conducted in response to `guidance' and not to reason and professional knowledge, had become chaotic; and their sexual lives were either repressed, warped, and full of psychological ill-effects, or indiscriminately promiscuous. It seemed as if whatever moral stamina they had once possessed had deserted them; and they were left without self-reliance or the ability to discriminate between right and wrong. Believing that God had `let them down,' they substituted for their former religious faith an embittered cynicism, and, as a result, were lacking in most of these elements out of which they might have built a new philosophy of life. This was inevitable."

Any man who uses mental power to prey upon innocent victims is practising black magic. Any man who uses his occult knowledge to obtain his desires at the expense of other persons is practising black magic too.

He is one of those who failed in his own quest through a strong egoism and vanity, and in consequence became the instrument of evil powers. He is doomed to spend his years in the evil task of striving to drag earnest seekers down to the same miserable failure that he has achieved.

If the guru is only half-purified of egoism, he may transmit to the disciple something of his own darker quality.

Their followers are not fundamentally bad, as are the leaders whose evil spell is thrown over them. But they waste valuable years, or even whole lifetimes, struggling in the marshy pit wherein they have fallen.

If spiritual institutions and organizations had really spiritual persons at their head, and not merely power or funds-seeking administrators, they would be much more worthy.

The organized group too often falls into the hands of one man, or a few men, whose personal ambitions make them sooner or later oppressors and tyrants, imposing their will, ideas, demands upon the others.

The yogi who sits so solemnly or squats so obediently may think himself more spiritual than the artist who does neither. But this sort of professional spirituality can easily become artificial and self-deceptive.

They have lost control of their animal self and indulge in sordid amours and squalid dissipations miscalled "adventures," "being oneself," or "living one's own life."

Some find it a means of making a career for themselves. If they are also inwardly dedicated, their sincerity will not thereby suffer; but if they are not, then it will.

The outcome of all black magic is an unhappy one for the magician, the witch, or the sorcerer. Study the closing years of the professional practitioners of these cults and you will find that by dabbling in grey magic they have prepared a somewhat similar end for themselves.

The danger of these cults which stimulate desire and profess to reveal techniques for gratifying it is that they may easily lead their followers to slip by degrees into paths of grey magic and spiritual ruin.

Those who want to play with the sex practices of Tantrik yoga may do so at the twenty-to-one risk of becoming nymphomaniacs and satyrs.

Rasputin is reputed to have belonged to a religious society which believed that sin was the path to repentance and this in turn to salvation: and so to sin greatly was to be saved more quickly.

So powerful an urge as sex assumes, in the eyes and minds of young men, so dominant a place that it is often futile to advise all of them to renounce it entirely in favour of lifelong chastity. Most of them will be both unwilling and unable to follow such lofty counsel. They have little power to control what is happening to them here, for a universal force is behind it. Is it not more prudent to suggest a graduated discipline to them? Most people can move only from one level of thought and character to a higher one by slow degrees; very few by sudden jumps which miss those degrees. The case of a non-sectarian American monastery founded by a well-known religio-mystical writer and lecturer only a few years ago proves this point. He gathered more than a score of young men and put them under his direct personal supervision in this monastery. All practised meditation and asceticism strenuously. Within a comparatively short time, some of them took to homosexuality, others went mad, still others had nervous breakdowns, and a couple gave up mysticism altogether. The founder had to close down the monastery and he himself became a physically sick person. I do not assert that it was only his harsh unbending attitude toward sex which was responsible for all this. I say that it certainly was a powerful contributing cause, along with other causes, especially his anti-philosophical stand. "I will let no student of Brunton's teachings come here," he informed one candidate for monastic virtue. He also naïvely believed--and told the world in his books--that humanity could be saved by organizing similar groups. This is in direct disregard of Emerson's warning that "souls are not saved in bundles." Only an inspired master has ever saved anyone else in past history. The mere pooling of ignorance or multiplication of helplessness cannot save anyone.


The drugged mystic finds a counterfeit god, however exact the imitation may seem to be. The true mystic will know and show the differences in the after-effects of the experience.

Whatever "divine" experience the taking of a drug yields, however high seems the enlightenment it enables the man to attain, the God, Reality, or Truth thus known is at best a reflection as in a mirror, at worst a product of the liberated but wandering imagination.

Despite the pleas and assertions of the drug-takers, the two worlds are emphatically not the same. What the truly enlightened man experiences is the reality; what the drug-taker experiences is, in part or very largely, a plausible copy with dangerously misleading insinuations.

Success in meditation is most often hard and slow to achieve; patience, and more patience, is needed. So the drug offer of instant escape from this world of time, care, toil, problem, and suffering makes a better appeal to the ill-informed.

What they feel and find is not the genuine historic and traditional mystic experience but the mere semblance of it, a drugged mockery which delights but deceives its victims and actually blocks the way to the authentic real experience.

The heavenly conditions given by drugs are hallucinatory ones. They soon pass and have to be sought again until addiction to the drug is established, and with it all its harms and dangers to one's character and fortune. There is however another way, a natural way, to find this heavenly condition and not an artificial one like the drug way. That other way can be found through philosophy.

The glimpse brings him to himself, but no drug can do that. The drug brings him before a vivid mental picture which he lives; it is still only a picture--sometimes horrible like a nightmare, sometimes sublime like a mystical ecstasy. But never in these experiences does he enter his true self. Always he is looking at and living with a picture.

This higher condition cannot be attained by the use of drugs, but it can be copied, which is a great self-deception.

The real fact is that they are not the same, that many drug-induced experiences only look the same, if they are uplifting--and belong to the nether astral world if degrading, frightening, or fantastically absurd.

Although the mystic experience got through drugs is only a copy, not the genuine thing, it has been useful to some persons because it is both suggestive of new concepts and confirmative of old ones. In the first category is the possibility of higher realms; in the second is the factuality of religious beliefs.

These drugs--the bhang of India, the hashish of the Near East, the LSD of America--make it more difficult to find truth, not easier as addicts claim.

Those who use hashish (Indian hemp) as a means of obtaining temporary mystical glimpses really get hallucinatory experiences whose bringing on is helped by the temporary loss of memory. But these may be followed by a fall into sexual fantasies, since there is no real control of what is happening. It may be that clear inner experiences seem to present themselves, but this still does not do more than offer duplicates. Unless the danger is seen and the drug addiction abandoned, the man simply decreases the ability to open himself to genuine mystical experience.

The drug-born God-experience is only a mirror image, though it may still seem quite lifelike; such images are lifelike, as forged copies of Old Master paintings are. But it remains an imitation, not the real thing.

A drug which blows up the mind, explodes it into another dimension, substitutes a false reality for the real one when it seems to give the God-experience. What the taker does not know is that he has entered a region of consciousness affiliated with the image-making faculty, with imagination. This is a difference which is tremendously important.

Drugs yield no true enlightenment but only a parody of it. The experience passes, craving for it returns, so the dose or injection is constantly repeated. With time the dose gets larger, the injection more frequent, the addiction more dangerous to sanity or disastrous to health. The counterfeit Nirvana may turn into a frightening hell with dreadful nightmares.

Young persons are easily deceived by the sham uplift which drugs may confer. It is an astral plane experience, not a Buddhic plane one, as it seems to be.

Mind-tearing by drugs is not the same as mind-stretching by philosophy.

A famous contemporary member of the intelligentsia, who is also an adherent of Vedanta and Buddhism, has advocated the taking of a certain drug which, on the basis of an eighteen-month acquaintance, he declares harmless. My own acquaintance with natives of the country where it is produced shows it to be harmful. This writer thinks its use a shortcut to gaining both psychic and spiritual enlargement of consciousness. Let us be generous and believe that such advocacy must have been a temporary mental aberration on his part. All narcotic drugs make slaves of those who fall into the habit of taking them. The habit itself often begins with such seemingly harmless and apparently casual indulgence as this gentleman proposes. The end result of the addiction is to create physical moral and mental sickness and to produce individuals who injure themselves and become a menace to others.

The drug route to metaphysical enlightenment and spiritual liberation is too often taken to be the cheapest route, but in the end it becomes, again too often, one of the dearest.

Those who use intoxicants, drugs, or narcotics to escape from the common normal human condition will find that they have put obstacles in their own path when the time comes later to abandon these artificial methods for the natural ones which alone can give a permanent result.

What the drug-taker gets is imagined reality, not real reality. Consciousness assumes the experience of knowing Truth, gives him the most vivid idea that this is IT. The end effect is not to bring him nearer to the goal, as he wrongly believes, but farther from it. Such are the tricks that mind can play on self.

It is possible these persons puff their pipes of hashish because it quietens doubts and gives a benign feeling of personal welfare. Yet it could be illusory.

The drug experience, however exalted it is, never really gets beyond being an astral plane copy, a pseudo-contact with a pseudo-god. It is illegitimate for modern man to break Nature's safety barrier in this way. He may pay a penalty with health, sanity, or self-deception.

Each has his own personal reasons for using drugs; they can be widely different.

There is quite a detectable difference between serene profound withdrawnness in meditation and drugged immobility in addiction.

A happy feeling of freedom from care may be got from drugs, but the happiness is illusory and brief while the side effects or long-range effects of the drug may be harmful.

They experiment with drugs in hope of getting a personal experience of the Transcendence. But even if they get it, will it be real, authentic, safe, and not a personal phantasy? Is there any assurance that the earlier period of rapture, ecstasy, revelation, and mind-expansion will not turn into a later one of nightmare, terror, deception, and mind-destruction--as in quite a number of cases it does?

Because certain drugs seem to duplicate the psychic or mystic experiences in their effects, superficial minds have leapt to the conclusion that it is unnecessary to put in the hard unremitting labour which inner practices require.

Those who find the work of meditation too arduous, its diurnal regularity too tiresome, either abandon it or take to a substitute. This may be ceremonial magic or narcotic drug.

Drugs: (a) People take to these drugs like LSD and heroin for different reasons. One of the reasons is that they feel so full of tension that the need to relax becomes imperative. But this they are unable to bring about by themselves; so the easy artificial way is used. That a habit may be formed, that one day they may break up their consciousness through it, losing reason and control for short periods while hallucinatory heavens or monsters surround them, is something they need to be warned against.

(b) If you study the eyes of a fakir long addicted to smoking the Asiatic narcotics--hashish and bhang--you will observe that the irises often tend to become bloodshot. If, however, he is addicted to smoking opium the effect appears in the pupils, which tend at times to narrow down into pinpoints.

(c) All these narcotic drugs like opium, belladonna, and LSD which alter consciousness are poisons and, if taken in sufficiently large quantity, could kill a man, or at least bring about a state of stupor or complete unconsciousness. The habit of taking them is hard to break, and itself breaks the taker--morally and mentally and to some extent even physically by inducing convulsions.

Nirvana is not reached by LSD trips: the old way is still the only way. But just as you can get substitute paper suits that look like real wool or cotton cloth suits, so you can reach imitation nirvanas by travelling on certain chemical or plant drugs.

The danger is not in the marijuana itself: it may be comparatively harmless to many people, although positively harmful to others. The real danger is that, finding it so satisfying, there are those who will be allured to the more powerful drugs in search of more powerful satisfactions. Thus they graduate until they drive through red traffic signals or jump from windows or stare at the sun until they go blind.

LSD intensifies perceptions, vivifies colours, re-animates long-forgotten memories. A common experience with it duplicates one that comes to mystics. It is as if one part of the man is entirely outside the other part, as if he were two persons. As mind, pure "I"-consciousness, he is invisible. As physical body, he is the object looked at a short distance in front of the "I." Some subjects found the experience horrible and would have no more of it. But others found it delightful and could not get too much.

The normal safe dose of LSD is 100 micrograms, hardly a pinhead. The tremendous power of this chemical drug far exceeds all the old natural drugs hitherto known.

In The Island, his last novel, Aldous Huxley seemed to recommend drug-taking as a means of procuring spiritual glimpses, and to assert that there is no difference in result between them and orthodox ones. This is no more correct than the assertion that there is no difference between a real object and its duplicate in a glass mirror.

Drugs destroy character, weaken the will, and sabotage the memory. They pervert the reasoning faculty. Drugs taken long enough turn the taker into an addict. In the end, when dependence is complete, he will be a nervous, moral, or physical wreck, depending on the kind of person he is.

The conclusion of this matter on the moral level is that Buddha was wise to ban drugs. The dangers and delusions inherent in their use are too serious to permit it.

Hashish, bhang, ganja, and charas--to name the four principal drugs--have been used in India since the early historic days, but those who used them were to the lower, less cultured yogis.

A drug like LSD is favoured by the young on the claim that it opens the mind up to truth and love. That may be, but at the same time it opens the mind up to illusions and self-deceptions. These could be dangerously harmful.

In the secret Mysteries of the ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks the accepted candidates were put in the trance state. This was done in some cases by mesmerism, in other cases by the use of certain herbs such as the now well-known sacred mushroom. They did not have chemical drugs in those days and the knowledge was carefully controlled so that there was no risk in the use of mesmerism or danger in the herbs.

Instead of arriving in the future at a consciousness altered into a higher one, they arrive in the present at a rotting one. Such is the danger of these chemical hallucinogenic drugs.

The drug way of coming into this consciousness belongs originally to a distant era, when spiritism, of which ancestor worship was then also a part, was the most widespread religion on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. For primitive people, descendants of Lemurian and later Atlantean races, it was as far as they could develop at the time. A minority of the higher evolved followed, drew beyond the herd and prepared the way for higher teachings yet to come. The astral, or psychic, centres were sufficiently alive to need only a little prompting by the tribal leaders or priests--usually a group affair at certain festivals. It was then that their drugs obtained from Nature were used or, in the case of followers of her darker side, misused, even abused, resulting in sorcery, sex orgies, and black magic. In the more moral use of drugs, although the higher kinds of religious and mystical experience were not attained, the idea of survival was firmly implanted, along with respect for traditional codes teachings and ways. The development of intellect dimmed the astral centres. The use of drugs is an attempt to revive what is no longer proper for modern man.

The dangers of seeking an experience alone as the highest in life is shown by the drug-takers, the LSD addicts, the hippies and yippies, and, on a different level, the alcoholics.

The stronger drugs may turn their user into a robot, a victim of seemingly outside forces which compel him to do what he normally dare not or would not do.

The Greek guardians of the Mystery Temples put drugs in the bread and wine of accepted candidates and thus gave them visions.

It is a fact that many practitioners of the black magical systems have taken drugs, that teachers of such methods put many pupils upon the way of drug addiction.

Even the so-called harmless drugs, hashish and marijuana, cause a lack of energy and an aura of lassitude, which is not the effect of the tobacco smoking they are supposed to resemble.

During my researches in Egypt many years ago, I noted that men who were excessively devoted to the use of hashish formed the largest group in Cairo's insane population, and that another, smaller group suffered from religious mania, believing they had divine missions to fulfil or messages to deliver. It was interesting that autopsy revealed that in those of the first group who died, the brain had dried, shrunk, and become smaller.

When I lived in Mexico, the natives who had used mescaline told me also about marijuana which, in those days, was almost unheard of by young American students. The point is that the Mexicans who smoked marijuana cigarettes did not do so to expand their minds or to alter their consciousnesses--the common phrases today. They did so simply because these cigarettes were regarded as aphrodisiacs.

It is not surprising that in the past history of India, drug addiction among occult sects and yogic groups was not uncommonly associated with such activities as sex perversion, drunkenness, sorcery, and witchcraft.

Although the consequences of taking LSD vary so much and may be quite pleasant and, in a single dose never repeated, may in some cases be even harmless, its use is quite a gamble. Homicide, suicide, or insanity are always a possible result. In England there was a recent case of a nineteen-year-old student who tried to cheer himself by twice taking it; he jumped through a closed window, fell sixteen feet, broke a collarbone, and collapsed a lung. He had used the commoner, more available, less harmful, weaker, nonchemical drugs for five years without serious injury, but LSD was enough to make him demented!

The drug Nepenthe, which leads to "neutral emotions," is mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey as a drink which confers "freedom from chagrin" and "complete emotional indifference," so that even if members of one's family, including one's own son, are killed in front of one's eyes, one can bear to see it calmly.

The real danger is when the man begins to externalize some of these fantasies, to express physically in murder or suicide, or some other desperate act, the pictures and ideas which roam or rave within him yet outside his control.

In 1877 an Indian Government report stated that 30.6 percent of Bengal's lunatics were insane because of taking excessive quantities of ganja, a decoction of hemp, which is also a pernicious poison.

Those of us who know from personal observation of many cases that the harmfulness of taking drugs is a real possibility cannot be misled by those cases which seem to have escaped it.

The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.