I’m no stranger to altered states whether chemically induced, self-induced or organically induced through mental illness. I have tread the shifting landscape of my mind many times only to arrive at the same location with different a perspective. When I was using substances, I was sure that the visions and thoughts I witnessed were the ultimate reality. When I was mentally ill I quite literally thought I had pierced the veil to ultimate reality. When I became mentally healthy and clean from all substances I was sure the visions I saw then, were it. The reality is they all held different elements of the truth and also different illusions.
Drug Induced visions
I became enamored with altered states at an early age. Through the use of various substances, often entheogenic, I was able to explore my thoughts from angles previously unavailable to me. I can’t in, all honesty, state that there is no value in altered states, as there can be. A large portion of my philosophy is based upon some of those experiences. The caveat is that there is also, pun intended, a lot of smoke and mirrors in trying to connect to the ultimate nature of reality through the use of substances. While we can perceive other truths that may not be accessible through standard consciousness, there is a lot of fallacies and false ideologies we can get lost in. Some of us never escape the medicinal “middle man” to our spirituality and ultimately find it the only path.
Psychotic Phantasmic Visions
Through the active pursuit of drug-induced tranquility, I eventually ended up at a place many active users of substances have an invincibility complex towards or complete ignorance about, drug induced psychosis. This will sound like a crazy thing to say and I honestly admit had I not experienced the validity of what I am about to say first hand, I would say yes it is, it may still be even though I find it to be true. As frightening, as beautiful, as horrible and as amazing as psychosis was, it was one of the best gifts I was ever given. Through having this shifting concept of reality I was to see the world through multiple “lenses”, perceiving each to be the ultimate nature of reality. In this state of exploring the visions that lay before me, there were also many traps and truths. From someone who has experienced extreme mental disturbances and entheogenic voyages, I can honestly say while drugs may be close to replicating states of mental illness, drug-induced visions have a shorter life span and can be far less convincing. When you experience a mental illness induced vision that lasts, days, weeks, months, it becomes easier to accept as a reality.
Self Induced Visions of Sanity
I said that my mental illness was one of the greatest gifts I had ever received and I firmly believe that. However, the best gift I have received was the ability to make it back to sanity and clear my mind of all substances. That being said, it can also be one of the most dangerous places to be blindsided by false visions in many different ways. You see when one is on drugs, we can say ok maybe that was the drugs and maybe what I thought wasn’t entirely true. Even in prolonged mental illness, there is a point where you can begin to question why everyone else is on a different “wavelength” about different topics. If you are viewed as mentally healthy and free of any substances it can become a lot easier to be misled by the ultimate deceiver, yourself. The trade-off for this is that through introspection, honesty, humility and philosophy you can come to a better understanding of reality.
Knowing you can’t know
After running the gamut of altered states and returning back to a state of reasonable mental well being free from mind or mood altering substances my understanding of reality is this. Regardless of what mental state we are in drug induced, mentally ill, or mentally well free from drugs, there is always a layer of illusion. Using substances can give us a better understanding of what the normal state of mind is. By stepping outside of this normal state we are able to see it as a whole. After direct experience with drug use and mental illness, I am better able to understand them from a state of mental well-being and clean living. We learn real things in all these different layers of consciousness about the nature of reality and we are able to peek through different parts of the veil. In the end, we usually end up standing in our own way and filtering the world through our own lens. For me personally, I have explored drugs to the end of the knowledge they hold for me or as far as I am willing to go. Mental illness opened up doors that are usually shut for many people and for good reason it can be terrifying and dangerous territory to navigate. Being mentally well and free from all substances and searching for truth can be a difficult hurdle to overcome because of this conscious or unconscious narcissism of the “pristine state of mind”. For me, clean living and mental health is the final frontier because through the other experiences I am equipped with the assets of all those realms to aid in dissolving illusion. What I have found from taking the fools journey and returning to where I am is the ultimate knowledge. Ultimately knowing we can’t know. The biggest barrier to knowing the ultimate nature of anything is thinking you can. Through this, I am able to keep exploring further and reflecting back on past experiences in all of those states, to compare notes, highlight underlying truths in them all and attempt the fool’s errand of pulling those threads to unravel the veil.
*The quote at the beginning of this article is from “365 Tao – Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao
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