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TOTD 31 Aug 2001

In one way or another, all our experiences are chemically conditioned, and if we imagine that some of them are purely 'spiritual,' purely 'intellectual,' purely 'aesthetic,' it is merely because we have never troubled to investigate the internal chemical environment at the moment of their occurrence.

-Aldous Huxley

Even so, the use of drugs for spiritual purposes feels cheap and false. Perhaps it is our work ethic that is offended--you know, no pain, no gain. Or maybe it is the provenance of the chemicals that troubles us, the fact that they come from outside. Especially in the Judeo-Christian West, we tend to define ourselves by the distance we've put between ourselves and nature, and we jealousy guard the borders between matter and spirit as proof of our ties to the angels. The notion that spirit might turn out in some sense to be matter (and plant matter, no less!) is a threat to our sense of separateness and godliness. Spiritual knowledge comes from above or within, but surely not from plants. Christians have a name for someone who belives otherwise: pagan.

-Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-eye View of the World

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