I suffered from depression for years. For about a decade, I'd oscillate between deep and long-lasting depression and being okay. I described it once, to a friend of mine, as “the Cycle of Complete and Utter Shit.”
It has been five years or so now since the problem was fixed. I'm constantly amazed by how warped my perceptions were by the intense and long-lasting cloud of Doom that I felt hung over me. And I attribute the fact that I no longer suffer from it due to two things:
- A series of initiations that broke apart how I saw myself and what I desired in life, and more or less purged me of some of the bullshit expectations I felt I had to live up to.
I now realize that a lot of what caused my internal conflict was a struggle to try and be Everything to Everyone. It was a weird mix of having parents with serious Protestant values and who wanted me to “do well,” but had a very specific line of reasoning as to what that constituted. Plenty of other crap was involved, of course, but the thing that really triggered some of my “I Hate Everything” loops came from feeling like I needed to have very specific goals and status symbols attained to “Live Right.” It was complete and utter crap.
It probably would be fibbing to leave out my survivor's guilt, too. Because during my teens it felt like “I” was racking up a body-count. Almost every year until I was 19 involved a death during the winter, spring, and summer. I had friends that died in car accidents, were in a collision with drunk Marines, committed suicide... And quite honestly, it took a toll on my mental health.
The first and most intense period of depression was triggered by a suicide. I sometimes wonder if I was haunted, but it would be unfair to place any blame on the poor little girl who couldn't handle being alive anymore due to her conditions. So I don't, really. I just... wonder sometimes. If she was about, I'm pretty sure that she's left by now anyway. And I wouldn't dream of blaming her for my internal struggles; rather, she triggered them. She forced me to confront something that I very much consider part of my spirituality now.
- I made an alliance with the Mandrake.
While I have noted, and am very aware, of the plants alkaloids and their ability to positively affect mental health, I do believe that it quite literally opened me up to new possibilities as well. It helped me tie together practices I had been performing even while depressed and give them greater meaning. We are not alone. We live amidst a sea of souls, they swarm around us. Some buzz around us like flies; others glide and zip through the air like bees. It depends on the spirit.
When the Dionysian individual drinks, it is not simply to 'escape' reality. Because – and alcohol will certainly teach you this – there is no escape. It may, at times, lighten your mood and help you feel happy. And many people reach for different drugs for just that reason. But inevitably, there is no escape from those feelings.
For me such acts – whether they involve plants or they involve booze – are always sacramental. When I drink, I am joyously saluting both the divinity of the alcohol and those that have gone before me. In that moment, we are all one and the same. A part of a greater whole. Time stops. It reverses itself. I am now in the Roman catacombs; in the ecstatic dances of the past, in the presence of the dancers, the ancestors, the spirits, and most importantly: my friends, who are never far from my thoughts departed or not.
Long after I am dead, there will still be those that feel that way about different aspects of 'intoxicated magic'. Whether you're smoking a joint, or drinking a beer, or having a glass of wine, or downing shots: you are always in great company.
On the matter of pot, Hakim Bey writes (in Orgies of the Hemp Eaters):
“The Shiva who uses hemp is called Bhola, the Fool. He is the mendicant mad Shiva and himself a wild Saddhu, naked and ash covered, haunter of the cremation-grounds, etc. He's to be visualized blue-skinned, hair tied with live snakes, smoking a chillam, as the goddess Parvati sits beside him preparing more ganja. She would do this by slightly roasting palmate leaves and buds, washing them, wringing out the mass, then chopping it up with some tobacco. The chillam is lit with hot coals from lifted from the fire with Shiva's tongs, and the mouthpiece protected with a slightly damp cloth. (Obviously some of these techniques are modern, such as the tobacco mixture - others may be quite ancient.) In smoking a chillam, the point is not to touch the cloth with one's lips, otherwise any method of holding it will do. Some of the saddhus had fancy two-handed grips I could never duplicate.
Perhaps Bhola drinks bhang from his human-skull-cup, or serves it to his boon companions the graveyard ghouls, efrits, forest fairies, naga, ogres and magic dwarves. What would God say as he drinks or smokes? His followers on Earth, the saddhus, touch the chillam to their foreheads and repeat the mantra “Bom Shankar” (Hail Shiva), or “Bom Bom Bhola!” or “Bholanath,” Lord Bhola. (“Bom” is a form of OM, the basic mantra. “Bhola” is pronounced with the “h” in the first syllable, b-h-o, and the second syllable la becomes lay, as if the whole word rhymed with the Spanish Ole! – which of course is simply a "corruption" of “Allah!”)*
“Bom Bom Bhola!” is not really an initiatic mantra in the sense of being restricted to those who “receive” it from their Guru. It functions more as a prayer, or a toast! (It is even arguable that the slightly comic sound of bom bom is deliberate.) I learned it from the late Ganesh Baba in Darjeeling in 1969...”
There has long been discourse on how similar Shiva and Dionysos are in certain respects, and recent research has show intense correlations between certain Daimons (notably the Agathos Daimon) and other elements in Greek culture have deep Indo-European roots. Following Alexander's expansion of the Greek Empire into India, it is also highly likely that elements from Vedic religion also seeped back into Greek religion. Orphism, as a category of beliefs, certainly has a number of features that correlate to Vedic religion.
Thus, I see both using the sacramental consumption of alcohol and cannabis as being the “same thing.” The plants producing the intoxication may differ, but the result is very similar. Incidentally, I've found that praising Dionysos while taking bong-rips produces... interesting results. And a far more enjoyable high.
- After the crossed conditions of an initiation ended, I have simply never experienced depression again.
I wish I could convey just how wonderful it is... Both to be free of the shadow that clouded me before and which could only be fought off with sheer, unadulterated rage, and the fact that I can now wander around with the same “intensity” as before, but without the negative feedback loop that lead to inevitable self-destructive behavior and foolishness.
But, at the same time, I don't want to suggest that my practices have “fixed” it or will help anyone. I'm just... feeling very strange after being confronted by someone feeling very much like I once did, and wondering if there was a way I could someday confer those benefits on others.
After all – what's being happy if you can't share it with those you love?
On the other hand: I spent more than enough time as a teen trying to be Superman.
I'm very happy to just to be a guy, now, doing what he loves and living life on his terms. It doesn't always work out perfectly; or even well, sometimes. But it beats what I felt before...
* All italics in the quoted section are mine.