I have never taken recreational drugs. The only drugs which ever attracted me were heroin and LSD.
They were not available to me when I might have taken them.
By the time they were available, I had seen and read too much about people damaged by them.
But, when I was in my late teens, I remember there was a day when – for maybe ten minutes – maybe five minutes – I felt I could feel my position within the air around me, could feel my physical position in 3D or 4D within the room I was in… and that room’s physical existence within the house, within the street on the surface of the earth and that I was standing on the surface of a planet floating and rotating in space and its place within the solar system and the universe. I could mentally comprehend and feel my relationship within all those inter-related elements.
And I also simultaneously felt I comprehended my position in time – how time only exists as a ‘moment’ that, in a sense, does not exist because, as soon as it happens it is over and it becomes an infinity of time stretching backwards while the next not-yet-existing moment is part of an infinity of time stretching forward and, as you can narrow the existence of the exact moment of ‘nowness’ more and more and more down to the non-existent point of infinity, time exists as an over-all concept but the exact moment of ‘now’ never exists. I felt how, at the instant I felt this I could understand where I was in infinity with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and a woman scratching her nose in 1171 and an insect crawling on the sand in 5,000 BC and something that had not yet happened in the year 2373.
In the 1960s or 1970s I was told a probably apocryphal story about the rock guitarist Eric Clapton. Those of advanced years will remember common graffiti around that time proclaiming:
CLAPTON IS GOD!
The story was that Eric Clapton had taken LSD and seen God who told him the Meaning of Life, but he (Clapton, not God) then forgot the details.
The next time Eric went on an acid trip, he had a pen and paper by him. This time, he wrote down what God told him.
When he came down from the trip, Eric looked at the piece of paper. On it were the words:
“THE SMELL OF METHYLATED SPIRITS PERMEATES THE AIR”
That, as told by God to Eric Clapton, was the Meaning of Life.
The reason I think this 1960s story might be apocryphal is that there are other versions of it.
In his 1945 book A History of Western Philosophy, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell (very trendy in the 1960s) wrote:
William James describes a man who got the experience from laughing-gas; whenever he was under its influence, he knew the secret of the universe, but when he came to, he had forgotten it. At last, with immense effort, he wrote down the secret before the vision had faded. When completely recovered, he rushed to see what he had written. It was
“A SMELL OF PETROLEUM PREVAILS THROUGHOUT”
Before that, on June 29, 1870, the American physician and author Oliver Wendell Holmes delivered an address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard University. An extended excerpt from the lecture was published in 1879. He said:
I once inhaled a pretty full dose of ether, with the determination to put on record, at the earliest moment of regaining consciousness, the thought I should find uppermost in my mind.
The mighty music of the triumphal march into nothingness reverberated through my brain, and filled me with a sense of infinite possibilities, which made me an archangel for the moment. The veil of eternity was lifted. The one great truth which underlies all human experience, and is the key to all the mysteries that philosophy has sought in vain to solve, flashed upon me in a sudden revelation.
Henceforth all was clear: a few words had lifted my intelligence to the level of the knowledge of the cherubim. As my natural condition returned, I remembered my resolution; and, staggering to my desk, I wrote, in ill-shaped, straggling characters, the all-embracing truth still glimmering in my consciousness. The words were these:
“A STRONG SMELL OF TURPENTINE PREVAILS THROUGHOUT”
The other day, I was talking to someone about LSD.
He told me that, years ago, a girl he knew took LSD and, after the trip, she told her friends (who had also been tripping) that she had, during the trip, understood the nature of existence, the Meaning of Life and all the rest. But she could not remember what it was.
So they decided that, next time they went on an acid trip together, she would write down what she saw and felt. The next time they tripped out, there was a pen and a piece of paper. And, sure enough, again, she saw and understood the purpose and meaning of life.
She wrote it down.
When they came down from the trip, to keep it safe, they put the piece of paper in an envelope which they pinned to the ceiling for safety. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
And, of course, they forgot the envelope was there. They had been tripping.
A few hours or a few days later, someone spotted the envelope pinned to the ceiling and they remembered that the Meaning of Life was in the envelope.
They took the envelope off the ceiling and opened it.
The piece of paper said:
“IF YOU STAND ON THE CEILING, YOU CAN SEE THE FLOOR”
So there you are.
Life may mostly be methylated spirits, petroleum and turpentine but that could depend on your viewpoint.
And I would argue that taking LSD might be a confusing factor in thinking clearly.