Is Utopia a State of Consciousness?: Drugs and Literature (Part 3)



Can any serious Utopia be built on an induced chemical high? The answer will invariably depend on the drug in question, and one’s own personal circumstance. In terms of hallucinogens such as mescaline and LSD, “the will suffers a profound change for the worse. The mescalin taker sees no reason for doing anything in particular”.[4] This prompts the possibility that human beings are already pre-programmed to strive for success. Demonstrably, people primarily enter a deafening laziness when the ‘strive’ has been chopped, as illustrated by mescaline’s entire liberation of the Mind at Large; what is the point of life without motivation?

Whereas in Ernest Callenbach‘s Ecotopia, marijuana as a psychotropic drug is an integral part of their ‘stoner’ society, with industry completely shutting down production to allow everyone to experience chemically induced highs in their designated smoking breaks. Such a policy does indeed conform to the particularly ‘ecological’ tendencies of this Utopian vision, with all the usual ‘hippy’ stereotypes associated with cannabis such as joviality, relaxation and stress reduction. Whilst these characteristics do result in a violence and aggression reduction, euphoria and a generally altered state of consciousness will largely decrease productivity in a Utopian society. However there are other obvious and far more critically important complications to deliberate for the long term performance, such as the onset of lung cancer, dead brain cells and paranoia within the public.

Here we can draw similarities between the psychotropic and the hallucinogenic drug in their tendency to both encourage paranoia. At a most basic level paranoia is a form of the mental disorder schizophrenia, discussed at length by Huxley. It’s particularly interesting to note his admittance of actually knowing what it feels like to be mad, after becoming overwhelmed by the intensity of his garden chairs. He also highlights how thin the line is between constantly and naturally witnessing an altered state of consciousness without the influence of mescaline itself, and living every day with a complicated mental disorder.

The lengths at which Huxley goes to explore the relationship between religion and drugs is amazing, devotedly channelling his faith and hoping it can provide the sort of self-transcendence his state of consciousness so desires. However he also realises this is rather optimistic. Whilst Huxley is adamant that mescaline “stimulate[s] the most basic kind of religious ecstasy”,[5] and we can subside evidence for this claim in the “Folk Utopia” (Cocaine Utopia) attitude. That particular Utopia pre-dates the heaven on earth conception, wholly acknowledging the religious viewpoint that heaven is a spatial place in which you can physically sit, rather than a state of consciousness, evident in Heaven and The Garden of Eden.

And whilst many will slate a Utopia which constitutes a strong religious outlook, there is certainly something to be said for faith, with millions of people worldwide residing together in this identical religious headspace. Huxley is convinced that Christianity and mescaline are a match made in heaven, and that

“ideally, everyone should be able to find self-transcendence in some form of pure or applied religion”.[6]

Why else would he strive, if he didn’t think there was a higher territory to explore?

The problem with any society is that effectively, we don’t really know what we are! Utopian ideologies challenge consciousness in an attempt to epitomize what cannot be fully represented. Is Utopia a state of mind? Is it in fact drugs which make the elderly want to die? Or the ego? Mind At large? Language? Huxley admits, “For perhaps this kind of ideal can never, in the very nature of things, be fully realized”.[7] The idea eventually surfacing in The Doors of Perception and to some extent in Brave New World, is that language is the material of human reality and the defining feature that separates us from the beasts. But it is also a contingent social construct and a limited, mortal system of signs. Huxley powerfully exposes the ambiguities and limitations of language through his experiments with mescaline and its fictional effect as soma upon an imaginary society, both vulnerable and formidable, alienating and liberating, a fragile yet powerful tool producing truth and lie. No intellectual should arrogantly undertake it, without being fully aware of its power to shape reality and of its flaws in restricting the possibility of a Utopian state of consciousness through a hindrance of a direct viewpoint upon our beautiful world.

Conclusively, it is the idea of an utterly successful Utopian society that drives us as human beings to strive instinctively. However the policies that conform to one man’s Utopia, are almost always going to adhere to another man’s dystopia. Individuality is the key to deciphering the capabilities of our human mind as a Utopian “place” (imaginary or visualised), since no two worldly creatures are able to share the same identical perception, and never will there exist such a thing as universal opinion. The notion is frankly impossible, since ultimately “we live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves”.[8]

“A map of the world that does include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing” – Oscar Wilde


[1] Huxley, p.51.

[2] Huxley, p.12

[3] Huxley, p.4

[4] Huxley, p.13.

[6] Huxley, p.47.

[7] Huxley, p.46.

[8] Huxley, p.12


-James Godwin, May 27th, 2011

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