‘Sacred sexuality’ isn’t a phrase you hear everyday. Indeed, our porn culture is so dominant that it hardly seems possible to conceive of sex in a spiritual light. One could say this is the result of being brought up in society whose most prominent religions treat sex as dirty and shameful unless for the sole purpose of procreation.
However, the separation of sex from the sacred is a relatively recent (and mostly Western) social norm. A brief study of ancient goddess-worshipping cultures such as Sumer, Babylon, Crete, and Canaan makes it astonishingly clear that in those times, sexuality was at the heart of spirituality and religion. Some archaeologists prefer to use the term ‘fertility cults’ rather then giving these traditions recognition as legitimate religions, yet another reflection of Western bias. These ‘fertility cults’ were widespread across the Near and Middle East for thousands of years in goddess (or should that be Goddess?) worshipping cultures that celebrated and honored the creation of life – namely, sex.
Originating in India, Tantra is another ancient belief system that celebrates sexuality and connects the carnal to the ethereal. These ancient Indian books (over two thousand years old) teach that sexual energy can be harnessed to achieve union with the divine. These traditions show a very ancient connection between sex and religion, sometimes pre-dating the rise of Judaism or Christianity.
Freedom of religion is one of the most frequently cited aspects of the 1st Amendment of the American Constitution. The signing of the Bill of Rights was a landmark in history for the rights of the individual to his or her own spiritual practices, free from prosecution. Those very rights came in question last week when the police raided the Phoenix Goddess Temple in Arizona, leading to the arrests of more than 18 people affiliated with the temple on charges of prostitution. They are still hunting the other 19. Among those arrested was the temple’s Founder and Temple Mother, Tracy Elise.
There have been no shortage of news reports on the raid. Not one has left open the possibility that the interdominational temple’s neo-tantra practices were in earnest; sexual ceremonies and tantric teachings as part of their religious belief system. The idea of sacred sexuality has no place in our society. Instead there are endless puns, jokes and quotation marks around every spiritual term used to describe their sacred sexuality.
Putting aside for the moment the actual temple in question, where in our society do we have room for this ancient tradition? And how could genuine believers in sacred sexuality practice their beliefs without the donations that all religious organizations rely upon to survive being conflated with illegal prostitution?
Nevertheless, the temple remains accused of being a front for a whorehouse.
“They were committing crimes under the guise of religious freedom,” Phoenix police spokesman Steve Martos said. “It’s a sad situation when people are trying to hide behind religion and church to commit a crime.”
So let’s take a look at Tracey Elise, the founder of the temple in question. Here we see her being interviewed earlier this year about the Phoenix Goddess Temple. Does this look like a madam covering up her illegal activity? (Excerpt from full interview here.)
No indeed she is adamant, evangelical even, in defense of practicing what she says is perhaps the world’s oldest religion: worship of the Goddess, the female aspect of the divine.
“Our temple is an open source for all who wish to better know the Great Mother and her unique gifts for healing body, mind and soul. We seek to help women, men and couples discover their own divine connection between soul, light body and sacred vessel. We offer group classes and one-on-one teachings and training, play shops and internships, all designed to bring HER wisdom back in this modern era. Our teachings are body centric, emanating from the resonating vessel, which is your own Sacred Self. We see the beauty of every person’s story in every age, body shape, color and gender. Our healing practices make use of the gifts of the Goddess, tools for transformation that have been with humanity since the very beginning.”
Police obtained a search warrant after initiating several undercover deals and determining that the Temple Goddess employees had been trained to use evasive vocabulary. “For example, ‘johns’ were not ‘johns.’ They were called ‘seekers.’ Sexual intercourse was called ‘sacred union,'” Martos said.
So what would have convinced police that these were sacred unions being sought out by seekers, rather than whores being sought by johns? The fact that other activities held at the Phoenix Goddess Temple include yoga classes, study groups, and High Holy Day celebrations? Or the fact that there are people who have testified to receiving healing sessions at the temple regardless of the fact that they couldn’t afford the suggested donation?
Testament to the actual goings on at Phoenix Goddess Temple can be found in the occasional comment left on news reports by those who have experienced temple life first-hand (buried in a sea of abuse left by those who haven’t.) One attendee of the church comments:
“The “donations” are actually donations, left in a basket at the end of a session, not counted and verified, and not required. The Temple also holds many educational events, (also on a donation basis), seminars and trainings, religious services, as well as social events. The vast majority of these stress communication, connection, outward focus, and clarity of intention; rarely do any of these events involve nudity or sex.”
“I know Tracy, and many of the goddesses, and have attended several rituals at the temple, as well as having attended the Daka – Dakini Conference in Sedona 2 years ago. The event was attended by Practitioners from around the globe, and I have had the opportunity to experience these people, meet them where they live, on their terms, in a non-judgemental environment of acceptance…I know from firsthand experience what Tracy and the goddesses’ intentions were, and it is simply this: to spread love and connection to others, to make the world a more whole and peaceful place. To them, it IS a legitimate religion. Upon opening in their present location, they extended an invitation to the mayor of Phoenix, as well as the city council. They gave many TV, radio, and print interviews, operating in a signed, clean, well-lit building on a major thoroughfare about 3 miles from city hall. They are most certainly not “disguised”, and if anything, their downfall is rooted in being TOO visible. I call upon those of you with courage and love for freedom and people to be of support to these women, who practiced and operated in love and good faith. I, for one, am chilled to the bone at the sight of masked, bodyarmored, helmeted, police militias armed with assault weapons and battering rams storming into a church filled with women in chiffon, armed with nothing more than candles and incense. How long will it be before those heavily armed government agents come for you and yours, because your beliefs fall outside of the traditional judeo-christian ethic?”
This case is a landmark in history for the sacred sexuality community in the United States. But it seems to be going unnoticed. In the meantime, Tracy Elise and many others face criminal charges for practicing their religious beliefs. Tracy Elise’s bail has been set at an unprecedented one million dollars.
God Bless America.
~ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ~
Would you like to help Tracy Elise and the others arrested at Phoenix Goddess Temple? Sign this petition to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer:
Click here for the official site to make offerings of love and support to help save The Phoenix Goddess Temple. All proceeds raised go directly towards the legal defense of members of the Temple members who have been wrongly accused. Help in the protection of all civil liberties, including the 1st Amendment: the freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble & the right to practice religion without persecution.
You can also visit End The Witch Hunt to file a complaint with the ACLU so they know there is support for this cause.
If you would like to volunteer, contribute or make an offering of support of any kind, please email GoddessBless@GoddessBless.org.
Onwards, with a little inspiration from Charlie Chaplin. “The Great Dictator” was Chaplin’s first talking picture, a controversial film that took on Hitler, fascism, and the Nazis. The speech Chaplin wrote for the end of the film (here edited with different visuals) leaves us with a powerful message that over seventy years later, still resonates deeply.
As a child in school, I was fascinated by the fact that only a few generations back, it was considered normal for a person to own slaves, for women to be denied the vote, for gay sex to be a crime worthy of imprisonment. At the outset, it is almost inconceivable that good people could have bought into a belief system that condoned such things. The vast majority of people living back then must have been so normalized to this oppression that they couldn’t see past their social norms to the greater injustice of it all. In fact, some of most ‘enlightened’ thinkers and leaders would still have been blinded to their own racism, sexism, and bigotry – all the while seeing their society as the new pinnacle of progress.
Carrying on from that idea, it seems only logical that a few hundred years in the future, people will view our society in a completely different light as well. They will most likely see themselves as more advanced than us, just as we see ourselves now. What aspects of our culture are so ‘normal’ to us that we fail to recognize their unfairness or backwardness? What laws are on the books, what beliefs are commonly held, that form our society’s blind spots?
It was from this point of view that I entered into my study of sociology. Taboos have always fascinated me, and sex and drugs are certainly two of our society’s most common ones. But regardless of a society’s acceptance or nonacceptance of certain taboos, once the government becomes involved in legislating them we are looking at a human rights issue.
One could chart the progress of human rights as modern society came to recognize, one group at a time, that regardless of gender or race all humans are born with certain inalienable rights. Since then we’ve examined more closely issues of personal liberty. The sexual revolution, the invention of birth control, abortion rights, and the retraction of anti-sodomy laws all progressed the idea of the individual’s right to his or her own choices, as long as they do not interfere with the well-being of another.
Looking back to drug policy and the sex industry, both issues concern the rights of consenting adults to make these very choices.
The ‘War on Drugs’ and the laws that come with it are very recent inventions. A hundred years ago there was little or no regulation of any substances. As it stands now, the government allows you to alter your consciousness through the intake of any number of prescription drugs or substances like alcohol, nicotine or caffeine – but not through others like marijuana, magic mushrooms, coca leaves, or peyote cactus. This seems random at best, an attack on cognitive liberty at worst. In the scheme of human history drug prohibition is but a tiny blip. Possession or sale of illegal drugs (many of which were sacraments in religious rituals not so long ago) will now land you with a jail sentence and a criminal record.
Prostitution might be the ‘oldest business in the world’ but it wasn’t always demonized and stigmatized in the way it is today. In fact, similar to the use of certain hallucinogenic and narcotic plants, prostitution was seen as sacred in many societies of the past. The idea of the sacred whore might seem like an oxymoron from a modern Western point of view. Indeed many anthropologists object to the term ‘sacred prostitute’, even while admitting to the existence of priestesses devoted to a goddess who accepted payment donated to the temple in exchange for sex. If that’s not prostitution then I’m not sure what is. In those times, the priestess was seen as an incarnation of the great goddess. In her role as priestess she was a teacher of the mysteries, of the healing and restorative power of sexual energy. Maybe what we need to look at is why we have imbued the word ‘prostitute’ with such strong negative connotations that today our society cannot bear to associate the word with anything spiritual or positive.
There are some who will object to the idea that past (and often considered more ‘primitive’) civilizations’ acceptance of sacred drug use and prostitution should bear any weight in the argument to permit them today. So let’s look rationally at the crux of these issues and get past the initial reactions we’ve all been programmed to have when we hear words like ‘drugs’ and ‘prostitute’ in news headlines.
The idea that two consenting adults agreeing to exchange sex for money can be a crime (as it is in the US) is moralistic, and (ironically) out of step with the very principles of a capitalist system. Any number of goods and services are exchanged for money under capitalism, regardless of whether we’d prefer if those services were granted for free by loved ones instead (nursing, childcare, etc). Sex and companionship shouldn’t be any different. We can’t seem to get past the idea that prostitution is selling one’s ‘body’ ‘ or ‘self’ – as if selling manual labor that involves the rest of your body is somehow different from physical labor that can involve one’s genitals.
Yes, we can all agree that the seedier side of the sex industry needs a serious clean-up, that some horrible things like trafficking and coercion do occur (indeed these are the only times the media reports on the sex industry). But exploitation and trafficking are already illegal, we don’t need anti-prostitution laws to stop them. The simple act of prostitution doesn’t pose any inherent danger to society, unless of course the government is enforcing Judeo-Christian ‘morals’ as law. In which case, we should surely start imprisoning adulterers again too.
Most illegal drugs, whether cocaine (from the coca leaf) or magic mushrooms, originate as a plant in the natural world. In fact human use of mind-altering drugs originates from copying animals in the wild who sought out these plants, after witnessing the unusual effects they had on animal behavior. Some now argue that the desire to consume psychoactive plants is an evolutionary drive that is fundamental to all animals. How can it be illegal for a person to ingest a plant that grows naturally (often sprouting like weeds) on our planet?
A more mature discourse about illegal substances and prostitution will inevitably lead to a healthier culture around them.
Anti-prostitution laws are a reminder that our supposedly free society still has a heavy hangover from it’s Puritanical past. Perversely, we have no problem with someone paying two ‘actors’ to have (often unprotected) sex with each other on camera (pornography), but to pay someone to have sex off-camera is strictly prohibited. These laws make the lives of working girls more dangerous, leaving them in vulnerable situations and unable to go to law enforcement to report true crimes like rape, theft, or violence. They also dehumanize women in the sex industry, feeding exactly the stigma and belittlement that allows some men to justify abusing them (as in their eyes prostitutes don’t need to be treated with the same respect as a ‘normal’ women.)
As Terence McKenna once said, “If the words life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”
So lets look again the next time we hear the local news report on a new ‘prostitution sting’ – in other words, the round-up of women who were only trying to make a living, who will now suffer public humiliation and criminal charges. Or when police brag of a huge ‘drug bust’ – imprisoning ‘dealers’ while doctors and pharmaceutical companies make their fortunes peddling legal heroin and speed in the form of prescription drugs.
Not only do these laws infringe on personal liberty, they also perpetuate a criminal underworld of gangs, pimps and violence. The harms often associated with illegal drugs and the sex industry are the product of the black market we ourselves create by forcing these activities underground.
So let it be our own children and grandchildren who gasp reading their history textbooks, incredulous at the idea that in the ‘old days’ people really thought it was okay to lock someone up for the crime of consuming a plant, or selling a sexual service.
When it comes to making policy decisions, science seems less and less popular these days. David Nutt was sacked as the UK government’s chief drugs advisor for publicly stating what science had already proven: that tobacco and alcohol are more harmful than marijuana, ecstasy and LSD.
Too often our society lets fear dictate how we deal with our children’s inevitable exposure to sex and drugs.
In an ideal world, teenagers would wait until they were more firmly settled psychologically before experimenting and making adult decisions about sex and drugs – due to the complications and risks that such decisions inevitably bring with them. However today’s reality is a culture where children are exposed to adult themes at younger and younger ages.
In America we teach abstinence-only education in the hope that by not teaching kids harm-minimizing techniques such as birth control and contraception, they will simply not have sex. Unfortunately, there is now concrete evidence that this doesn’t work. Studies show that, following a decade-long decline ‘U.S. teen pregnancy rates have increased as both births and abortions rise.’
As a teenager most of my friends’ parents were strong abolitionists. If any of them had found out their son or daughter were smoking the occasional joint or having sex, they would have permanently grounded them or even kicked them out of the house. Needless to say this didn’t stop them. So what can parents and teachers do to help teens mature into young adults who make responsible decisions?
Maybe if someone taught them how to minimize risks when imbibing mind-altering substances in the same way one learns about units when drinking alcohol. Maybe if schools taught about emotional and physical intimacy (and of course, contraception) alongside lessons on physiology and sex.
What passes for ‘sex education’ in America is, frankly, disgraceful. For over a quarter century, the federal government has supported abstinence-only education programs that censor information to youth. America still has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the developed world, 1.5 times the teen pregnancy rate of Britain (the highest in Europe.)
The United States’ teen pregnancy rate is over five times that of the Netherlands, over four times that of Germany, and over three times that of France. The obvious explanation is that young people in the United States are significantly less likely to use contraception than youth in these European nations.
These statistics come as no surprise when you look at the number of programs that teach abstinence-only-until-marriage: an unrealistic, morality-based agenda that ignores the fact that virtually all Americans have sex before marriage (a fact that has been true since the 1950s). Amplify Your Voice, a sex-education and youth-education organization, has published several videos featuring animated bears discussing real abstinence-only lessons being taught in classrooms. Losing one’s virginity as a girl can be difficult enough, never mind with lessons like these at school:
The organization says the “chewed up candy” exercise is from AC Green’s Game Plan, an abstinence-only program endorsed by the former basketball star that is used in many public schools in Illinois. The “Spit in a Cup” exercise is from “Why Am I Tempted,” a program which received funding under President Obama’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) to be taught in schools in Florida.
These programs censor information about contraception and condoms while stigmatizing and shaming students who have already had sex. Never mind the fact that they discriminate against LGBT youth by at best ignoring them altogether – or worse, promoting homophobia by teaching students that homosexuality is deviant and immoral.
“Until recently the dominant approach was Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), a programme developed in Los Angeles in 1983 and quickly exported to the rest of America. Cops would arrive in schools, sometimes driving cars confiscated from drug-dealers, and tell 11- and 12-year-olds about the dangers of illicit substances. They drew little or no distinction between marijuana and methamphetamine. Teachers liked DARE because they felt uncomfortable tackling the topic themselves, and because they got a break. Parents liked it because they felt their children would listen to police officers. Unfortunately, they did not. ”
Studies are constantly conducted to see if drug education is effective in preventing drug use. Maybe researchers are asking the wrong question. Accepting that the urge to alter one’s consciousness is actually a universal human (and animal) drive, we should be looking at how that can be accomplished safely. If kids were taught about harm reduction, the potential for compulsive use and addiction, how to make sure you don’t exceed the correct dosage, etc. would we not stand a better chance of eliminating unnecessary deaths from drug abuse?
But of course when it comes to drugs, we’re even farther away from this ideal than we are with sex. For at least most people agree that it’s natural for teenagers to want to start experimenting sexually, whereas our society can’t seem to accept drug experimentation in adults, never mind teens.
This mindset, based on stigma, judgement, stereotypes, and puritanical denial of basic human urges, can do nothing but make the situation worse. Teens see the hypocrisy of adults drinking alcohol and then telling them not to ‘do drugs’. They see their friends getting stoned and not turning into junkies. They find out their parents once experimented too.
So it’s their turn to experiment – and that’s exactly what they do. During this naive experimentation kids consume impure substances purchased on the street, combine drugs that shouldn’t be mixed, overdose because they didn’t know how much they were taking. But who was there to teach them?
At the same time, young adults inevitably explore their sexuality, either with or without guidance from the adult world in regards to physical precautions that can be taken and the emotional implications of becoming intimate with another human being.
Parents’ strict prohibitionist attitudes backfire as they’re no longer on the list of people their kids can talk to about these new and sometimes overwhelming experiences. They lose touch with their own children. Their ability to retain influence and stay involved during this crucial time in young adulthood all but disappears.
At the end of the day, the problem is that the majority of adults are not comfortable with their own sexuality or history of drug-taking, and they’re certainly not comfortable imagining their kids doing the same thing they did when they were younger. If parents don’t start growing up themselves, why should they expect their kids to?
Yet another drug headline with ketamine in the news lately, after a recent study in Bristol (Mason, et al, 2010) found that some users are suffering long-term bladder damage – a few even needing their bladders replaced at the tender age of twenty.
A Class C drug in the UK (or Schedule III in the US), ketamine is not generally seen to be one of the more harmful illegal drugs. The evidence to date seemed to show ketamine to be a relatively safe drug when coming from pure, pharmaceutical grade vials. Originating as a liquid, ketamine is usually ‘cooked’ into a crystalline powder which can be snorted like cocaine, although heavier users prefer to use the liquid form for intramuscular injections, as would be given in a medical setting.
Ketamine is widely stereotyped as a ‘horse tranquilizer’. Actually ketamine is an anesthetic that has been used in both human and veterinary medicine since the 1960s (although less so in humans today due to some patients’ negative reactions to hallucinations or ’emergence reactions’ as the medical community calls them).
In much smaller (recreational) doses, ketamine can have paradoxical stimulatory and dissociative effects. Some users take small ‘bumps’ up the nose when out clubbing – others take a larger dose to find themselves in the famed ‘k-hole’, a dissociated state where one can have out-of-body and near-death experiences, or seemingly travel to other mystical and magical places.
While ketamine is generally associated with the dance and rave scene, at these higher doses ketamine is safest taken at home, in a familiar environment to offset the possible dangers of being in a dissociative state in public surroundings. Many taking ketamine fall into the ‘psychonaut‘ category, like this user in a UK study on ketamine use (Muetzelfeldt, et al, 2008), who stated that ketamine allowed “new ways of thinking and an understanding of the mind/body question which 3 years of a philosophy degree could not reach.”
There is some interesting potential for ketamine use in exploring consciousness and success has been documented using ketamine to treat alcoholism and depression. What doesn’t seem to be properly investigated is the extent to which ketamine is harmful to the body, and in what quantities it becomes so.
The most obvious danger of ketamine is of injuring oneself while in the dissociative state. This has been the downfall of several respected members of the psychonaut community such as D M Turner:
“On New Years Eve, 1996, the noted author and lay-psychedelic researcher known only by the pseudonym D.M. Turner drew a hot bath, injected himself with an unknown amount of ketamine, and settled in for the last trip of his life. When his body was found weeks later, the cause of death was determined to be natural causes. It is assumed that Mr. Turner lost consciouness at some point during the evening, slid under the water, and quietly drowned.”
Another tragic loss to the community was Marcia Moore, the heiress to the Sheraton Hotel fortune, a yoga teacher and world famous writer on astrology and ‘hypersentience’:
“Marcia Moore named what she perceived to be the ‘highest’ level of her experiences ‘the cosmic matrix’ or ‘cosmatrix’, the source from which everything was said to be derived. She noted that ketamine produced a ‘higher, clearer and more real trip’ than LSD, although some people just felt ‘disconcertingly whacked out’, and that ketamine produced fragmentation into subpersonalities, including her role as ‘priestess of the Goddess Ketamine’. ‘The Priestess’, aged 50, disappeared on a freezing winter’s night in January, 1979. Her bleached skeleton was found two years later. She had gone at night into a nearby forest, and frozen to death after injecting herself with all the ketamine she could find.”
Aside from the danger of unsupervised pyschonautic exploration, the overall health risks of ketamine cannot yet be quantified. The Bristol study was not large enough to extrapolate the correlation between ketamine use and bladder destruction for light recreational users, with some in the study reporting incredibly heavy use of more than two grams a day (and others refusing to report the extent of their use altogether). Indeed perhaps another unexplored aspect of ketamine use is its potential for addiction; while not physically addictive, there seems to be a high potential for compulsive use to become a serious issue (even for its most thoughtful and educated users, as seen with D M Turner, Marcia Moore, and John Lilly).
Reading through frequent ketamine users’ discussions and reports online, aside from the common bladder complaints, there is recurring talk of what have been mysteriously termed ‘k-cramps’ – a kind of severe gastric pain. As the 2008 UK study cited above states:
“The classification of ketamine-associated ulcerative cystitis has recently been established, however the etiology and treatments of ‘K-cramps’ are still unknown. Nevertheless, it seems to be a prevalent symptom which may represent a broader public health concern if the use of ketamine continues to increase.”
“Ketamine causes ulcers in high habitual dosing. There is little information on this on the internet but if you search just hard enough you will hear rumors of it. Well why isn’t this a known fact? Well one would have to take ketamine daily or semi daily at least to get this nasty side effect.
I was unfortunate enough to have this happen on 3 separate occasions. The first time on a cruise ship, resulting in collapsing on the deck screaming for my life, which resulted in a diagnosis of ‘gastritis’ and a double shot of morphine. The second time at home which kept me pent in bed in the fetal position a few days. The third time in the snow in the midst of a rock scramble/ice climb, which made for a difficult, cold, and dire crawl two miles to safety.
From communication with 3 other habitual ketamine abusers this phenomena was familiar with all 3 and equally as gruesome. For the record all 3 consumed a minimum of 3-5 grams a week often more.
Now the physiology of it seems to be a disruption in the pH of the gall bladder causing an ungodly acid reflux. (literally feels like the acids going to eat clear through to your skin)
The way to end the agony is stop using ketamine till it subsides. It can take up to 3 days for it to go away with abstinence. Pink Bismuth (pepto bismol) was found to alleviate some of the pain, as did pain killers. Thought I would share as it took me nearly a year to figure it out, and found next to no information on the net about it.”
This is but one of dozens of reports of excruciating pain by ketamine users, accounts that can be found by googling ‘k-cramps’ and ‘ketamine’.
Once thought to be a ‘safe’ drug in terms of abuse due to the absence of physical dependence, ketamine is now known to be associated with bladder dysfunction when abused, but its effects on the gall bladder, liver and gastrointestinal system have been largely ignored.
The only two studies relevant to this phenomena I’ve been able to locate originate from Hong Kong, where ketamine has long been the party drug of choice. Those more medically inclined may find the following two studies of interest, certainly a place to start for UK and US investigation into this phenomena:
“In addition to urological problems, ketamine abusers may develop hepato-biliary toxicity manifested as recurrent epigastric pain, abnormal liver function, and biliary tree dilatation. The proposed mechanism for ketamine-induced cystitis is direct toxicity of ketamine metabolites on urinary tract mucosa. Because ketamine is metabolized in the liver and excreted in bile, mucosal toxicity has also been postulated as the cause of dilated bile ducts.”
The Daily Transmission does not believe any drugs should be illegal, but if one is to have a classification of drugs surely it should be based on relative harm. The UK has LSD and MDMA in Class A, cannabis in Class B, and ketamine in Class C. The US has cannabis, LSD, and MDMA as Schedule I, and ketamine as Schedule III.
David Nutt, the UK government’s former chief drugs advisor, was proposing reclassification of drugs such as MDMA, cannabis, and ketamine based on scientific evidence. Then he was sacked for being out of line with government policy. Which leaves us with politicians upholding the status quo at the expense of the health of the people.
I can’t see what kind of logic these categorizations are meant to be based on, but it would seem its time for a serious rethink (and some proper research) before more and more people find their way from the ‘K-hole’ to ‘K-Hell’.
Two very interesting stories making headlines in the past couple of days. One of the largest studies into the effects of MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, made popular in the form of ecstasy pills) to date has found that there is no evidence that the drug causes brain damage, and that it’s danger’s have been greatly exaggerated.
The Guardian article concludes with Professor John Halpern of Harvard Medical School saying “Ecstasy consumption is dangerous because illegally made pills often contain contaminants that can have harmful side-effects.”
Well that’s funny. You’d think the logical conclusion would be to regulate and legalize MDMA so no one had to suffer the consequences of illegal pill production. But changes to social norms come ever so slowly!
At the same time we read that UK deaths from liver disease have doubled in recent years, and that the total alcohol-related deaths are set to reach 250,000 by 2031 if the current trends continue. All that for a drug that encourages egotistical feelings of anger and belligerence rather than inducing human empathy, selflessness and understanding.
But we can accept that kind of harm to society from a drug like alcohol, just make sure you’re not taking any illegal drugs kids!
No better way to start off the new year than with a bit of good old-fashioned American hypocrisy.
The US has denied Bolivia’s request to the United Nations that it’s people be allowed their ancestral practice of chewing coca leaves. Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was petitioning to amend the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which currently makes criminals of those who maintain the coca tradition.
Not only is this stance hypocritical, as the US currently has exceptions to its own laws for native peoples within the US to use (otherwise illegal) psychoactive plants (ie. peyote) for religious purposes; it is blatantly denying the indigenous peoples of other countries their rights.
With many nations, including most of those in South America, having explicitly supported Bolivia’s proposal to the UN – it is the US that has blocked the way.
Maybe we should start by asking why the coca leaf was ever criminalized in the first place. Coca has been used ritually and medicinally by cultures of the Andes and Amazon for millennia. Archaeologists have found evidence that coca leaves were being chewed in Peru at least 8,000 years ago.
The coca leaf itself has many uses, whether cultural, medicinal or spiritual. As Morales rightly notes, coca leaf chewing “helps mitigate the sensation of hunger, offers energy during long days of labour and helps counter altitude sickness. Unlike nicotine or caffeine, it causes no harm to human health nor addiction or altered state, and it is effective in the struggle against obesity, a major problem in many modern societies.” Not to mention the fact that the coca leaf only contains 1% of the alkaloid used to make cocaine.
The US justifies its stance on the grounds that coca is the raw material for making cocaine. This would seem to imply that American policy should take precedent over native Bolivian culture, even in Bolivia.
All this as President Obama finally signs the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is meant to protect ‘cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.’ The US stance on this is discriminatory, given that coca use is so deeply rooted in the indigenous culture of the Andes.
“Wouldn’t you like to see a positive LSD story on the news? To base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstition? Perhaps? Wouldn’t that be interesting? Just for once?”
Well here’s your chance. Here are some people you may not have known were inspired by LSD:
• Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs called taking LSD “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.” To this end, Jobs said that Bill Gates would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once.”
• Many early computer pioneers took LSD for inspiration, such as Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse.
• Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced the double-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.
• Cary Grant (amongst many others in 1950s Hollywood) was treated with LSD by a psychiatrist in the 1950s, long before it was made illegal:
“All my life, I’ve been searching for peace of mind. I’d explored yoga and hypnotism and made several attempts at mysticism. Nothing really seemed to give me what I wanted until this treatment.”
“I have been born again. I have been through a psychiatric experience which has completely changed me. I was horrendous. I had to face things about myself which I never admitted, which I didn’t know were there. Now I know that I hurt every woman I ever loved. I was an utter fake, a self-opinionated bore, a know-all who knew very little. I found I was hiding behind all kinds of defenses, hypocrisies and vanities. I had to get rid of them layer by layer. The moment when your conscious meets your subconscious is a hell of a wrench. With me there came a day when I saw the light.”
Much to his friends’ surprise, Cary Grant began talking about his therapy in public, lamenting, “Oh those wasted years, why didn’t I do this sooner?”
• Kary Mullis, Nobel Prize winning American bio-chemist, told Albert Hoffman (the inventor of LSD) that LSD had helped him develop the polymerase chain reaction that helps amplify specific DNA sequences:
“Back in the 1960s and early ’70s I took plenty of LSD. A lot of people were doing that in Berkeley back then. And I found it to be a mind-opening experience. It was certainly much more important than any courses I ever took.”
Replying to his own postulate during an interview for BBC’s Psychedelic Science documentary, “What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR?” He replied, “I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.”
• Aldous Huxley is well-known for writing ‘The Doors of Perception’, an account of his experiences with mescaline. But on his deathbed, unable to speak, Huxley made a written request to his wife for “LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular”. His wife duly obliged.
• “My trip led me to some epiphanies about who I was as a performer, what I wanted to do and how I needed to create my own opportunities.” – Adam Lambert, runner-up on American Idol told The Sun.
Since 1966, we’ve lived under worldwide LSD prohibition. Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” said “We thought that by this time that there would be LSD given in classes in college and you would study it and prepare for it.”
Kesey gets right to the crux of the issues surrounding psychedelics in that statement. As tools, drugs such as LSD can used responsibly or irresponsibly – lead to good trips or bad trips, healing or trauma. Lacking a scientific or spiritual guide, the recreational use of psychedelic substances without planning, respect, or forethought can lead to some pretty unpleasant experiences. Which makes it all the more frustrating that there has been a complete moratorium on scientific research using LSD for over forty years (recently broken by a small handful of scientists who have finally been given permission to research LSD with terminally ill cancer patients.)
Stanislav Grof, pioneering researcher into non-ordinary states of consciousness, remarked “Whether or not LSD research and therapy will return to society, the discoveries that psychedelics made possible have revolutionary implications for our understanding of the psyche, human nature, and the nature of reality.” Isn’t it about time we awoke from our cultural amnesia?
After a few weeks of tabloid headlines, unverified police reports and public outcry, mephedrone (the preferred legal high of 2009) was made illegal in the UK in April of this year. The ban includes other chemicals sold as ‘legal highs’ in the cathinones category, such as the less popular methylone, butylone, and ethylone. Mephedrone was later found ‘not guilty’ in any of the teenage deaths that triggered the public panic over it’s legality. It would seem that facts are rarely important in times of media-fueled hysteria. Never mind that the ban was put into place before any scientist had a chance to study mephedrone’s effects in a lab.
But online websites selling ‘research chemicals’ (‘RCs’) hardly missed a beat, quickly rounding up the next bunch of unknown chemical analogues (that have no history of human use) for sale. The jury’s still out: there’s naphyrone, MDAI, 5-IAI, the list goes on. 6-APB is a likely candidate with it’s new – and misleading – street name ‘Benzo Fury’. Not a ‘benzo’ (benzodiazepine, or ‘downer’) but rather an amphetamine-like ‘upper’, there’s no toxicology data available for this stimulant, which is growing in popularity on the club scene.
Forum discussions on websites such as Bluelight document the first human guinea pigs and their experiences with new chemicals. Various precautions and harm-minimization techniques are used – ranging from those of a professional chemist to ‘eye-balling’ doses with the casual ‘fuck-it’ attitude of a bored teenager – all in search of the perfect high.
In the past, the kind of person likely to buy a ‘RC’ marketed by its chemical name and dose themselves with it would likely know a bit about chemistry. They might test first for any allergic reaction to the compound, then start with a carefully measured, low threshold dose. Increasing doses slowly, they would know to take enough time between each trial to gage the come-down effects. Still not an ideal situation, but not exactly a pressing social issue.
However, the trend is for sites that used to sell mephedrone and other ‘legal highs’ to the general public to stock an increasing number of truly unknown substances. To promote chemicals new on the scene, some will even send free 100mg or 500mg samples. (Necessarily sold ‘not for human consumption’ to evade the law, even the more ethical retailers are unable to provide dosage and usage suggestions to their customers.)
Many websites offer same-day delivery by courier. So if anybody was at a loss for something to do tonight…
I’m all for the testing of any interesting substances for their ability to produce empathogenic, entactogenic, and entheogenic effects in humans. But it would seem something best left to the experts.
In the meantime, we have decades of detailed and rigorous scientific research on illegal drugs, such as MDMA (currently Class A), with few to no adverse side affects. Ironic considering most among this newly created population of ‘RC’ consumers are self-dosing with packets of white powder arriving in the post from an unknown source. In actual fact, they’re willing to take those risks in the hope of finding a decent substitute for pure MDMA or ecstasy pills (increasingly hard to come by in clubs, and of course illegal.)
Yet another reason for the government to take a good hard look at its drug policy and do some crucial reevaluating. Unless of course, the ‘War on Drugs’ has nothing to do with protecting the health of it’s citizens.
As the Daily Transmission is on a summer hiatus, here are a few not-to-be-missed headlines that should keep those juices flowing:
‘Why do we so willfully cover up the failure of the war on drugs?’ asks Angus Macqueen in The Guardian. Macqueen has just completed a documentary series for Channel 4 called ‘Our Drugs War’ which is a well-needed examination of the global ‘War on Drugs’. (Save for another time a discussion of what exactly constitutes a ‘drug’ in the first place… possibly the ‘War on Drugs’ belongs in the same failed category as the ‘War on Terror’?)
For further evidence of failed drug policy look no further than ‘Mephedrone found not guilty, but the next legal high may be a killer’ from former Lib Dem MP Evan Harris. We’re on a road to nowhere, attempting to ban each new pharmaceutical ‘high’ that comes out of a lab. It seems the recipe that got MDMA banned still works: Take tabloid headlines, scare stories and incomplete research, mix in some panicked political bravado, season with a bit of ignorance, and bam! You got yourself a mephedrone ban.
And for a shining example of where rational thought ends and politics begins, Sky News reports on why legalizing prostitution works (in Australia) – but ends telling us why prostitution laws in England are not likely to be changed any time soon:
There are not many votes to be won by decriminalisation and, potentially, many votes to be lost if it sparked a moral crusade by opponents of reform.
But that’s why we elect politicians, isn’t it? So they can get in power and ignore what they think is right in order to ensure getting re-elected?
I can think of no better debut for the Daily Transmission’s culture section than Lana Del Rey. From the music blog Arjan Writes: Lana del Rey (aka Lizzy Grant) is an exciting new pop artist who crafts a distinct sound, best described as cinematic dark pop wrapped in smoky, sultry and glamorous overtones. Born in the rural town of Lake Placid, New York, Lana then relocated to a series of places – Alabama, New Jersey and New York City, but now spends most of her time in London.
Her press release sums things up pretty nicely, “No matter where in the world Lana is, her love of film noir, Italian landscapes, big churches, roller coasters and the memory of faded stars like Bette Davis, Kurt Cobain, Nina Simone and Elvis are the chorus line for her music, and her love of New York is her heartbeat.” Lana is currently in the studio writing her album, and you can see the video for “Diet Mtn. Dew” below:
Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter and for more tunes, visit her MySpace. Just in time to ring in the Summer Solstice. ♥
Last week the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) held its 2010 Conference in San Jose, California – and the press stood up and took notice. It only took 40 years, but the government has finally given a few researchers permission to study the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelic drugs. Based on the preliminary results, it looks like mainstream science, and the media, are finally ready to move past the stigma of 1960s drug taking.
Brain-imaging studies in healthy volunteers show that MDMA quiets the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that some researchers call a “fear center” due to its central role in triggering strong negative emotions. MDMA also releases a flood of the brain messengers serotonin and dopamine while increasing blood levels of the hormones oxytocin and prolactin, which promote social bonding. This potent mix diminishes fear and defensiveness and boosts empathy and the desire to connect with others, says Holland, so “the therapy work goes faster and deeper.”
For anyone interested in the use of psychedelics pre-Timothy Leary, I highly recommend this National Film Board of Canada documentary:
This documentary offers a compassionate, open-minded look at LSD and how it fits into our world. Long before Timothy Leary urged ageneration to “tune in, turn on and drop out,” the drug was hailed as a way to treat forms of addiction and mental illness. At the same time, it was being touted as a powerful tool for mental exploration and self-understanding.
A long time coming, but I think we’re about to conquer the final frontier: the human mind.
In the US, more people are now abusing prescription medication than heroin, cocaine and ecstasy combined. Pharmaceuticals like OxyContin, Xanex, Hydrocodone, Demerol, Adderall and Robitussin (Robo’s) are the new hipster drugs.
Those who have personal experience of oxycodone (branded OxyContin) know that it is an extremely euphoric and addictive opioid, hence its nickname as ‘hillbilly heroin’.
But doctors in Florida prescribe oxycodone at five times the national average. Florida has 50 of the top 50 oxycodone prescribers in the country, and 35 of them are in Broward county.
It’s effectively legalised drug dealing, motivated by greed. Doctors have an incentive to prescribe these addictive pain killers. People from all over the country flock to Florida’s countless walk-in ‘pain clinics’, ready to pay cash, often $300 or more, for their fix.
Florida has deregulated to the point that one can doctor shop and get mega prescriptions for conditions that don’t even meet the requirements for minor pain medications. When the state does intervene, it locks up addicts who are selling their prescriptions – not the doctors who are over-prescribing to begin with. The pharmaceutical industry happily supplies these drugs in excessive amounts without question.
Vanguard, Current TV’s original documentary series, exposes the pill pipeline that extends from Florida up the Eastern Seaboard: The OxyContin Express. The show won a Peabody award for shedding light on this unspoken but lethal national pandemic.
But don’t worry, there’s new anti-drug legislation sitting on the governors desk to be signed, passed unanimously in the Florida Senate this past week. HB 187 has been nicknamed the ‘Bong Bill’, and will effectively ban the sale of bongs and other drug paraphernalia in the Sunshine State. Glad that Florida legislators have their priorities straight – they’re tough on drugs!
The new law will be effective July 1st, and violators could face a year in jail. From StoptheDrugWar.org:
“Under the bill, only shops where the sale of tobacco products and accessories constitute 75% of income, or shops where the sale of pipes and bongs constitutes less than 25% of income will be allowed to sell a long list of smoking devices. These include pipes of any material, water pipes, carburetion tubes and devices, chamber pipes, carburetor pipes, electric pipes, air-driven pipes, chillums, bongs, and ice pipes or chillers.”
“I’ve been fighting the pipe industry for the longest, because it is all a part of the drug trade and the criminal enterprise that we know exists and destroys neighborhoods, families and order in our society.”
Damn those bong-buying hippies disturbing the neighborhoods of our good old American hillbilly heroin junkies!
David Bowie once said “I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, ‘Fuck that. I want to be a superhuman.'”
Of course he’s not the only one. It’s an aspiration as timeless as the quest for the fountain of youth, or at least mere immortality.
In the meantime, we’ve seen Michael Jackson use technologies such as plastic surgery and skin-lightening drugs over the course of his career. He effectively blurred all identifiers of gender, race and age in one of the most dramatic transformations publicly witnessed. He left us at a turning point in the development of technologies for human enhancement. We are now learning to perform body modification at the most fundamental level.
The scientists currently grasping at the reigns of evolution are known as transhumanists. In 2008 the World Transhumanist Movement became Humanity+. (The term ‘transhumanism’ is now often symbolized by H+ or h+, as in ‘human enhancement’.)
Last weekend David Wood led the Humanity+ UK 2010 conference, and I felt privileged listening to ten equally brilliant speakers representing a full spectrum of the transhumanist agenda. With technology advancing at the rate that it is, Mr. Bowie’s ‘repulsive’ needs just may be met. New developments blur the lines between high-tech and sci-fi.
The convergence of current technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science (NBIC) and future technologies such as artificial intelligence, mind uploading, cryonics, and simulated reality, is truly inspirational. Overwhelming however are the numerous moral debates which dominate the transhumanism Wikipedia page. There are so many different ways humans may be enhanced, so many ways of defining enhancement, and of course, the existential risks we face if those enhancements go wrong.
I think we all have a vested interest in Aubrey de Grey’s idea that aging is simply a disease, and a curable one at that. His plan is to identify all the components that cause human tissue to age, and design remedies for each of them through his approach called SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence). Once we can extend human life spans by thirty years, we’re well on our way to immortality. Aubrey de Grey claims that the first human being to live a thousand years has probably already been born. From the way he talks, the biggest challenge in the race against mortality is funding! So I highly encourage those of you with means and an interest to donate to the SENS Foundation.
Another fascinating speaker was David Pearce, advocating the abolition of suffering throughout the living world. This mission can be accomplished through the use of drugs or ‘wire-heading‘ but perhaps more interestingly through genetic engineering as we come into a ‘reproductive revolution‘. He argues that as we develop these technologies, it is both our moral and hedonistic imperative to rid all sentient beings of pain. He has a fantastic array of resources for you to read through online. Within a few decades, we will see breakthroughs in in-vitro meat. It will be grown in a lab without any killing or cruelty, but tastier than any ‘real’ meat. A cruelty-free world without even having to revolutionize our diets by ‘breaking our addiction to meat’!
On a final philosophical note, Amon Twyman reminded us that we are naturally unaware of the limits of our perception, and that trans- or post-humans may sense things imperceivable to us now. I’ll leave you with Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Future Shock Levels (SL), an interesting way of categorizing just how familiar or far out different technological developments or concepts are:
• SL0: The legendary average person is comfortable with modern technology – not so much the frontiers of modern technology, but the technology used in everyday life. Most people, TV anchors, journalists, politicians.
• SL1: Virtual reality, living to be a hundred, “The Road Ahead”, “To Renew America”, “Future Shock”, the frontiers of modern technology as seen by Wired magazine. Scientists, novelty-seekers, early-adopters, programmers, technophiles.
• SL2: Medical immortality, interplanetary exploration, major genetic engineering, and new (“alien”) cultures. The average sci-fi fan.
• SL3: Nanotechnology, human-equivalent AI, minor intelligence enhancement, total body revision, intergalactic exploration. Extropians and transhumanists.
• SL4: The Singularity, Jupiter Brains, Powers, complete mental revision, ultraintelligence, posthumanity, Alpha-Point computing, Apotheosis, the total evaporation of “life as we know it.” Singularitarians and not much else.
I say if you can speculate what SL5 is, you’re already post-human.
The year was 1973, and Penthouse’s Forum magazine was at the cutting edge of sexuality. It might have been nearly thirty years ago, but inside Forum, the ‘International Journal of Human Relations’, lies a forgotten manifesto that sounds as fresh today as it did then. Germaine Greer’s ‘Vaginal Revolution’:
It seems the feminist movement has split into two factions since then, those who think pole-dancing in the bedroom for their boyfriend is liberation, and the rest who think that women’s lib means competing in a man’s world by rejecting the potential of female sexual power. Not to mention those who find the ‘F-word’ simply uncool and irrelevant.
Germaine Greer gives us another option. She envisages a world where women realise the power of their sexuality, not by subscribing to a raunch culture that aspires only to titillate men, nor by denying the magnetism of female allure. It’s time we reclaimed the power of Cunt. But don’t take it from me, here is an excerpt from Ms. Greer’s fantastically bold piece:
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…In order that women might become sex objects rather than sexual people, sex itself was devalued. Instead of extending through all forms of communication into the “highest pinnacle of the human spirit” (Nietzsche) it became a “momentary itch” (Amis).
Women lost spirit and were made flesh. Desire was localised in the male genital, the visible doodle, the tag of flesh that could become as hard as a fist.
The interpretation of souls and bodies became the pummelling of one lump of meat by a harder lump of meat. Sexuality became as masculine a virtue as packing a good left.
If the softer flesh was further tenderised by pummelling, then the tremulous dangling thing in which the male located his sex was safe from any threat, except the anxiety which was the unavoidable result of having invested male sexuality in a lump of meat in the first place.
In his efforts to allay his anxiety that his tassle might not turn into a fist when required, that it might be smaller than the man-next-door’s, the male forbade comparison to his woman. From her he extracted fidelity.
Fast vehicles, bombs and male bonding were called into service to allay his persistent phallic anxiety. Women lost their interest in all of it, the competitive sports, the war game, the games of darts with the boys.
The female genital organ, in keeping with the desexualisation of her whole energy and the obliteration of her desire, became a mere hole, troops for the use of. Receptivity which is no more passive an act than eating, therefore became synonymous with passivity.
If gentleness was like feminine passivity, activity had to distinguish itself by becoming aggression. The world was to be conquered, knowledge was raped, virgin countries were exploited. The only becoming attitude for the masculine hand was a fist, and the only position in love or war was on top…
…The devices used to minimise the organs of femaleness became more sophisticated; women began to wear knickers, then to deodorise their genitals, douche them, shave them, pluck them. Their rich juices were discouraged from flowing…
…The relaxation of sexual taboos has not even been a reform, let alone a revolution. Revolutionary women may well join Women’s Liberation Groups and curse and scream and fight the cops, but did you ever hear one of them marching the public street with her skirt held high crying “Can you dig it? Cunt is beautiful!”…
…Cunt is a channel drawing all towards it. Cunt is knowledge. Knowledge is receptivity, which is activity. Cunt is the symbol of erotic science, the necessary corrective of the maniacal conquest of technology…
…Skirts must be lifted, knickers (which women have only worn for a century) must come off forever. It is time to dig Cunt and women must dig it first…
…It is absurd that women can only name their sex by the terms of phoney objectivity, the scientific terms which seek to push away the reality of the thing by talking about it in foreign tongues, clitoris, labia majora and minora, the glands of Bartholin for God’s sake!
The only other terms they may deploy have been deformed by centuries of sadistic male use. You cunt, gash, slit, crack, slot… Women have no names of their own for what is most surely their own.
It ought to be possible to establish a woman’s vocabulary of cunt, prideful, affectionate, accurate and bold.
But it is not enough to know what it is called. Women must know above all other people what it is. Feeling it with the fingers serves to accomplish much, but more must be known, of its prettiness, its varying expressions, of how it smells and how it tastes, so that the women’s magazines cannot frighten us into believing that what lies between our legs is rotting meat.
There is no substitute for confrontation: women must become expert in their own complexities and, because there is no knowledge without standards of comparison, the cunts of others.
It is no more true that all cunts are the same when you get down on them than it is that all cats are grey in or out of the dark…
…To know cunt is to love it and to love it is to care for it. To care for it is not only to avoid the maltreatment of it by such gross practices as inserting needles or bottles into its tenderness, but to keep it free of the germicides and deodorants which upset its balance and obliterate its essential character.
If women are to reconquer their sexual pride they must find a way to make cunt as important in medicine as cock is…
…There are doctors who are gynaecologists because they are into cunt, although most of them sooner or later are therefore struck off. These are the ones who should be the health officers of the women’s movement.
As things stand, they are more likely to be avoided by the militants who confuse sex roles with sexuality.
But while it is true that male-female relationships in our society are perverted, it is not a revolutionary solution to eschew all such contact.
What is certain, however, is that the patriarchal state could never survive the re-conquest by women of their own sexuality. The patriarchal family structure, the outward expression of the conjugal missionary position, would not survive the advent of self-regulating pleasure – seeking femaleness.
It is only by reinstating genuine potency in themselves, that women can avoid falling into the sterile perversion of male sexuality which is violence. Violence confuses aggression with power. Cuntpower is the only form of power yet devised which can avoid this arid syndrome.
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To read the article in its entirety, please see the scanned images below.