I WISH people were willing to admit how much they are a chemical machine. I think it is confusing to set off all that comes as pills and capsules and call those things "drugs." By "drugs" we usually mean a chemical influence that changes the way we feel and hence how we think, too.
But everything that we experience in this blessed world contributes to the way we feel. For example, when I write, I turn out the most stuff when I'm on dexedrine (a legally purchaseable drug with prescription) or amphetamine-derivative drugs. But I also write more stuff more easily during the late afternoon following a good night's sleep, a shower, and a meager meal than I do at other times. Sometimes I can do some pretty good stuff after a couple of beers from the icebox. But never after any hard liquor; the only think I like then is sex or unconsciousness. It is easier to write while the Pentangle's record is playing than during anything by the Beatles (they're too distracting).
The concept of being "distracting" is interesting. It implies that we experience things distinctly from each other. This isn't the case at all. The experiencing of a certain time in your existence is not an additive construction piling together your imagined chemical sector, your sense perception sector, and your intellectual understanding sector. Isolating, for example, your sense perceptions as an independent phenomenon was something we did only to make out study of them easier. They are part of the whole thing that is you. And they only mean anything when it is seen how they fit in with the whole that is you in your given moment of being.
So there are no different kinds of experience. There is only human experience. Calling what we do "drugs" is merely an attempt to categorize experience. Experience is a great rainbow of variation -- a multi-colored spectrum of things that can make us feel different ways. "Drugs" are like the red of the rainbow. The things that we include in the sector of drugs blend in from the sector of food and out into the sector of climate. Just like the rainbow, it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The outstanding characteristic of 'drugs' is that they are small.
Now, people have a phobia about taking drugs because they think drugs will alter their natural condition and carry them into the unnatural sphere. But there is no condition for human beings which could be identified as the natural one. If you happen to drink a lot of coffee and eat bagels all the time, your natural condition will be tremendously different from what the man who eats beef and drinks wine feels like.
All ways of experiencing the world are probably equally valid.
It is true that taking a "drug" usually locks you into experiencing you actions through a given fixed perspective for as long as you are under the drug's influence. If, for example, you take LSD, you've got to be ready for clear light, revelation, and ego transcendence for the next eight hours or more. (A lot of people don't think they are ready for this. And since there is no real condition of being ready for an experience or not being ready, what they think they are capable of is all that matters. Too bad.)
But how is the influence of the drug different from surrendering yourself to the food you eat and the barrage of sensations you life puts you through every day? Perceiving the world through a marijuana haze does not change what there is to experience. It only changes how you experience the same old existence that always exists. It changes your values and your desires.
The mind-altering drugs change what you want to do. On this end of things their impact is probably for greater than other stimuli. But it is still only an extrapolation of the kinds of effects you get from food, light, and heat.
Also it seems that the philosophy behind most of the other stimuli we consciously subject ourselves to is to put us into neutral--to free us from stimulation. We eat food to free us from hunger and to save our bodies from weakness and deficiencies. We adjust the thermostat in our rooms so that we will have to feel neither cold, nor heat. We want to hang in the middle, to reach a stasis in how we feel. This is what we think of as our "natural" condition. From here, we presumably, we can experience anything that might happen.
Before I dared to take NoDoz for the first time, I thought it would turn me into a zombie, a being so dehumanized that he wouldn't feel the natural coming on of sleep. After a while I came to realize that the chemicals in my body that combined to produce the effect of sleepiness were merely being altered by others of their kind -- friendly, similarly structured chemicals. In other words, that sleepiness wasn't something spiritual that had been violated by chemistry.
It is time for man to realize that he is a chemical being. (The time has come now because things are getting out of man's conscious control--or rather, too much under his unknowing and accidental control. Automobile exhaust, Nytol, and the sheer noise of the subways are making man into what he feels like without his realizing it.)
Most of our complex emotions can be traced to the gurgling of enzymes. Even happiness. There is a pill of synthetic mescaline available in some corners of the underground, which, during its first four hours, gives you a gush of pure, unexplained happiness. And the same goes for tense, moral anguish. Perfectly above-ground psychiatrists have been giving their uncomfortably anxious patients a drug called librium (itself one of the atomic elements) to space them out a little more.
Think of all the ways you feel. Up. Down. Eager. Relieved. Curious. Hungry. Tired. Think of sexual ecstasy. Here we have the most intense human emotion we can feel. And it doesn't bother us to know that it's made up of the mustering of chemical stimuli, the organizing of the flow of desires.
And man needn't worry that a realization of himself as a chemical being defeats his ideas about spirituality. All true religions ultimately relate to concepts of higher human consciousness. That is, ideas of an awareness that transcends human bodies. These ideas don't have to be imagined as fabrications of cerebral chemicals. This higher concsiousness can be explained metaphysically as being a form of pure energy that pervades the universe and makes up the protons and electrons themselves. Indeed, astronomers have found that space has a constant temperature of 3° Kelvin held by the uniform spread of radiation from the original "Big Bang" which created the universe.