Will the second machine age turn us into a nation of lotus-eaters? Will opiates, psychotropic drugs, intoxicants, and entheogens rise to dominance in an unstructured future? If you are regularly too high to visit your mother, read a book, or put your pants on, then you are definitely doing it wrong. If, on the other hand, consciousness exploration is a disciplined part of a well-rounded, social, intellectual, and creative life, then only puritans can still be horrified by it. The pursuit of transcendent experiences will become a connoisseur art when we’re all unemployed.
[S]piritual technologies [will] bring our minds into the present moment and help us overcome the cravings of consumer culture.
In traditional Hindu and Buddhist culture, parents fulfilled their roles as breadwinners, protectors, and teachers of their children, but when the nest was finally empty, they were released from their householder duties and (if they wished) wandered the world to explore the mysteries of consciousness, and metaphysics. So, a mendicant culture was supported, and “holy men” (and women, to a lesser degree) were free to explore inner space.
In the West now, we are realizing the restorative and therapeutic aspects of mindfulness (sati), and many schools, businesses, prisons, and social groups are adopting secular forms of this Buddhist meditation to help with epidemic levels of American stress, and the juvenile demands of the ego. When we’re all unemployed, it will be our opportunity to work with these spiritual technologies that bring our minds into the present moment and help us overcome the cravings of consumer culture.
Sam Harris discusses the virtues of psychedelics such as LSD and MDMA acknowledging their profound consciousness-altering properties.
Stephen T. Asma is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, where he is also Senior Fellow of the Research Group in Mind, Science and Culture. He is the author of ten books, including The Evolution of Mind and Against Fairness and writes regularly for The New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Skeptic magazine. Asma is also a blues/jazz musician who has played onstage with many musical artists, including Bo Diddley and Buddy Guy. His website is www.stephenasma.com
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