Altered States of Consciousness, Part 2: God Gave Ecstasy

He did, you know.

The squinty-eyed fellow from the Living Way Christian Discernment Ministry* isn’t having any of this.

“No, no, you don’t understand,” he says.  “When you’re in an ecstatic state, you can’t think clearly.  Your defenses are down, you can’t think rationally, and that leaves you open to whatever influences may wander by.  It’s dangerous.”

“How about mid-orgasm?”  I ask him.  “I’d have to say, I’m not at the height of my reasoning powers just then.  Does that make it dangerous, something I should avoid at all costs?”

He looks at me funny, his face reddening.  I think he’s embarrassed that I said the word “orgasm” out loud in the middle of a Christian conversation.

But think about it.

I mean, do we really think that God looks down at a husband and wife and says, “You know Gabriel, if I’d thought it out a little more carefully, I would have done it differently.  Who knew they’d have so much fun with the plumbing?  They’re getting so excited that they’re not thinking about doctrine at all.”

But no.  God knew what He was doing, and every gift of God is good:

Go, eat your bread with joy,
And drink your wine with a merry heart;
For God has already accepted your works.
Let your garments always be white,
And let your head lack no oil.

Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vaporous life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vapor; for that is your portion in life; and in the labor which you perform under the sun.

But it gets better.  Read the Song of Solomon.  Then read the Ecclesiastes quote above, again.  Then read 1 Corinthians 7:3-5:

Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man possess his own wife, and let each woman possess her own husband.  The husband must give his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does, and likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

So taken in its proper biblical context, the command is for husband and wife to practice the Song of Solomon as often as at least one of them desires; in fact Paul specifically warns about the dangers of abstinence.

Now, Song of Solomon gives us a view of lovemaking as a mutually delightful feast for the senses.  And this necessarily involves a state of consciousness rather different from everyday waking awareness — that is to say, an altered state of consciousness.

Married people have no choice but to enter regularly into this altered state of consciousness.  It is a sin not to.

Hmmm.

It gets even better: God requires a husband to be drunk on his wife’s charms all the time.  (Here, not being a wife, I’m going to speak to husbands.  There’s an analogue for wives, but I’m not the person to discuss it.)

Solomon gives some very specific instructions to his sons on attitudes toward their wives:

Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts sate you at all times,
And always be drunk on her loving.

Yeah, I know, old King James says “satisfy” and “enraptured” instead of “sate” and “drunk” — I altered the translation for a reason.  The first word means to be drenched, satiated, well-drunk, with connotations of flooding or drunkenness, depending on the context.  The second word means to wander, stray, or weave about, and by metonymy, to be drunk.  Add it all up, and a husband is to be absolutely besotted with his wife, out of his head, all objectivity completely gone.  She is the only woman in the world.  He may know, intellectually, that there are other women in the world who are sexually attractive, but he can’t quite get over his wife enough to see any other woman that way.

You’ll note that the commands here are not of the grim, moralizing sort: “Young man, the woman you marry is going to get old, and she won’t be so attractive, and you’re going to want to stray, but don’t you dare.  Grit your teeth and bear it, and God will make it worth your while in heaven.”  That’s not at all what Solomon says.  Solomon says, “Son, your job is to be absolutely lost in your wife’s physical charms.”  At risk of belaboring the point, he is not just talking about her great personality.**  

It’s a truism in Christian circles that it’s not a sin to be tempted, but only to yield to it.  This is one case where that’s not really true.  A husband who is seriously tempted to stray (including mentally, in the way Jesus talks about) has already violated this command; if he’s thinking about some other woman’s body, he’s not sufficiently drunk on his wife.  By the same token, a Christian husband who thinks of himself as  “breast man” or a “thigh man” is a contradiction in terms; a Christian husband must be drunk on his wife’s breasts, not breasts generally.  The inner workings of this are another discussion; for now, suffice it to say that it’s a very enjoyable and God-honoring form of meditation.

And it is to be cultivated, not just some of the time, but constantly — note the word “always.”  This is not just when she’s present and in the midst of seducing him, but when he’s at work, when she’s eight months pregnant, when they’ve just had a fight – all the time.  Obviously, this is a profoundly altered state of consciousness.  In fact, the Bible even uses the language of drunkenness to describe it.  

This was just the really obvious example; there are other, similarly altered states we could discuss.  Proper exercise will induce euphoria, for example.  I’m not talking about doing something cruel to your body that kills brain cells and makes you see pretty colors.  I’m talking about inducing, and then pushing through, cardio-respiratory distress.  The result is neuro-immuno-endocrine adaptation; your whole internal physiology reorganizes to meet the increased demands of the exercise.  It’s a complete overhaul — neuromuscular coordination, lactic acid transport, oxygen uptake, the works — very, very healthy for you.  And oooooooooh my, does it feel gooooood.

Singing triumphant, God-glorifying psalms for a good stretch will induce a similar state of euphoria; physiologically, it has to do with the way singing regulates your breathing, and music enhances the effect upon your emotions.  Even an extended responsive reading, carried out vigorously in a group, can do it.  It’s not uncommon for a person in that state to be so overcome that he’s temporarily unable to speak or sing.

Now all these — sexual communion between husband and wife, proper exercise, psalm-singing, and public reading and recitation of Scripture — are things we must do, even if they do feel really good.  If it turned out that all of these things involved mild pain, say, like getting a papercut, then we would preach the joys of serving God in spite of how it may feel at the moment.  We’d quote Paul saying, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  And so on.  In short, we’d be all gung-ho about it.

Well, it turns out that these things are pleasurable instead of painful.  And something about that makes them hard to accept.  It’s hard to get a good self-righteous buzz going when you’re doing something fun.  It’s incredibly revealing — of uour character, of our view of God — that we have such trouble with pleasure.  

But we still need to just obey.  So may I suggest that at the very minimum, we should obey God in spite of how it might feel?  If it turns out that obeying God engenders a hit of endorphins, we’re just going to have to grit our teeth and trust Him to get us through it, in spite of the pleasure.  It’s a tough job, but Christian living can’t always be a bed of thorns.

Of course, we should go much further than that — we should thank God for His good gifts, and enjoy what He has given us, as we are commanded to do.

The squinty-eyed fellow thinks for a moment.  “But the Bible says that if we follow Christ, we’ll have tribulation.”

“So we will,” I tell him, “but does it ever say that it will be tribulation every moment?”

He is silent.  I continue: “Doesn’t it also say that God gives us all things richly to enjoy?  Doesn’t it also say, for example, that the heavens declare the glory of God?  Shouldn’t I enjoy the sunset?”

“Sure you should,” he says.  “But God’s doing that.  When you’re exercising so that you’ll get high, that seems a little different.  It sounds addictive.”

“‘Exercising to get high’ is not quite what I said, but maybe we can come back to that later.  Let’s talk about ‘addictive.’  What does that mean, exactly?” I ask.

“Well, you know,” he says.  “You do something, and you like it, so you get to doing it more, and you like it more, and pretty soon it’s all you can think about.”

“So your solution is to not do anything you like?”  I ask.  “Sounds a little drastic to me.”

“It works,” he says primly.  “I’m not addicted to anything, either.”

“That’s arguable,” I say.  “Paul has some pretty spiky comments about neglect of the body not having any spiritual benefit.  But let’s explore this addiction thing further, because I think you have a valid concern.  It is certainly possible to abuse the pleasures God gives.”

He nods.  “Exactly.”

“So let’s talk about alcohol,” I say.  “It seems like the ideal test case — it’s discussed quite a bit in the Bible, it can be physically addictive, and a person could avoid it altogether and live a perfectly healthy life, so it’s totally optional on that level.”

By this time, he’s a little suspicious.  “Okay…” he says doubtfully.

to be continued…

*See the disclaimer in Part 1.

**Real beauty begins internally, and the Bible has a lot to say about that.  It goes way beyond “having a great personality” — true beauty is both true beauty and true beauty; there is a physical outworking of the internal condition.  But here, Solomon is not talking about internal beauty, and in fact there are no exception clauses for internal ugliness.  He must still be absolutely besotted with her body, no matter what the state of her internal beauty.

3 Responses to Altered States of Consciousness, Part 2: God Gave Ecstasy

  1. Cory says:

    I really enjoy your articles I am bothered by many of the restrictions of my religion. Like meditation it is scientifically proven cats meditate many other animals probably do also. I have read your article on learning from animals and I loved it also the one about martial arts which I entirely agree with I just don’t see what can be so wrong with anything natural I have indulged in drugs and have seen the evils of chemicals and what man has done with nature. However I have had profound insight with natural plants that are psychoactive and the bible talks about abiding to the laws of the land so I don’t do anything illegal however there are natural legal chemical free plants I have indulged in such as Blue lotus, Kratom, Kava’ Kava has been a favorite of mine since it gives me a feeling like I had on pure mdma and at the same time makes me feel drunk but I can walk and talk perfectly useful as a substitute for alcohol and kratom has been helping people with oxycotten and heroine withdrawl since it acts of your opiate receptors give a high or “Altered state”. I am interested in using a mushroom sometimes called fly ageric its legal and some say that it is even in the bible possible evidence is in what I’ve copied and pasted below on legal amanita muscaria mushrooms.

    Another variety of the amanita muscaria grows south
    of the fortieth parallel, with the pine as its host-tree, and is
    equally hallucinogenic. That it was ritually used in Biblical
    times is suggested by an unwritten Hebrew taboo on mushrooms,
    broken only by the non-orthodox. (Arabs, by the way, are
    mycophagous, which perhaps accounts for the mushroom eating in
    those parts of Southern Europe occupied by the Saracens during
    the early Middle Ages.) I have elsewhere suggested that the
    golden ‘ermrods’ laid up in the Ark together with a pot of
    hallucinogenic manna really represented sacred mushrooms. A
    concealed reference to their use appears in the Book of Judges:
    the unlikely story of how Samson collected three hundred foxes
    and sent them into the Philistine’s cornfields [grainfields] with
    torches tied to their tails. The Palestinian fox is not
    gregarious and the task of capturing three hundred of them, at
    the rate of one or two a day, and feeding them all until he had
    collected the full number would have been a senselessly
    exhausting one. Besides, how could he make sure that the foxes
    would run into the cornfields and keep the torches alight? The
    truth seems to be that Samson organized a battalion of raiders–
    three hundred was the conventional Hebrew battalion strength, as
    appears in the story of Gideon–and sent them out with torches to
    burn the Philistine’s corn. Indeed, in the 1948 Jewish War of
    Liberation, a raiding battalion was named ‘Samson’s Foxes.’ But
    why foxes? Because the juice of the amanita muscaria mushrooms
    (which still grow under the pines of Mount Tabor) could be laced
    with ivy juice or wine to make the raiders completely fearless,
    and because this variety, when dried, is fox-colored. So are
    other mushrooms, such as the popular chanterelle which the
    Russians call lisichka, ‘little fox’; but to clarify its meaning
    the Bible specifies ‘little foxes with fire on their tails’. In
    the Song of Solomon the Shunemite bride, about to take part in a
    sacred marriage, urges her lover to fetch her ‘the little foxes
    that spoil the vines, for my vines have tender grapes’. She means
    Solomon must fortify his manhood with mushroom-juice laced with
    wine, the better to enjoy her young beauty.

    I also Know where to find possible evidence stating that the manna of the bible was the Psilocybin mushroom the illegal kind. If you want to know more on this ask. Anyways what I’m getting at and what frustrates me is that God made plants and everything god made was good. And I am told not to indulge in these things cause its an altered state to many questions stay in my mind why would these plants effect our minds in such profound revealing ways if were not supposed to indulge. God put them there and they just so happen to effect our minds in strange ways. It just bothers me natural things like meditation plants dancing. There natural how can they be bad? Anyways I’m ranting on anyways I really like your articles and I would love to hear some of your thoughts on this I like to live a christian life but If I am a true christian I’m a very skeptical and open minded one.

  2. Tim Nichols says:

    Cory,

    Thanks for your comments. I share your suspicion of any version of Christianity that gets nervous about people enjoying themselves. However, there’s also a matter of moderation to explore. God gave wine to make man’s heart glad (Psalm 104), but He also forbids getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18). Although the specific statement here has to do with wine, surely the same principles apply to other psychoactive substances. It would seem that drunkenness on one hand and fear of natural pleasure on the other are the two ditches on either side of the narrow road. The goal is to find, and stay on, the road. That may mean that some substances are just too strong to mess with. Taking belladonna, after all, has been known to have serious side effects of the corpse-making variety; it certainly doesn’t follow that something is sensible to take just because it’s natural. It’s a broken world.

    While I see no particular reason to believe that alcohol is somehow sanctified in some way that couldn’t possibly apply to any other substance, I find I’m suspicious of what seem to me fairly tortured efforts to find a variety of intoxicants in the biblical accounts. Nobody can live on psilocybin for 40 years, for one thing, and for another, I’m inclined to the curious notion that “foxes” refers to, well, foxes. The Samson story doesn’t seem particularly unlikely to me; having conceded that God made the entire universe in six days, parted the Red Sea, and raised Jesus from the dead, I don’t even blink at the idea of His appointed servant gathering up 300 reclusive foxes. God did far more for Noah…

  3. Cory says:

    Yeah I don’t know I feel as If psychoactive’s are here for a purpose but they maybe shouldn’t be tampered with because we just don’t know I just don’t know well god put them here and everything he made was good but humans mostly are not respectful of substances or responsible enough to use them. I have just had very revealing insights and revelations on psychoactive plants and A desire stays within me to engage in more excursions I’ve learnt my lesson from just jumping into things with a high dose I will never do anything chemical again in regards to mind altering substances but then again I’m still on med’s for mental illness and I don’t find that very natural I read some research that was saying that psychosis similar and maybe in some cases similar to mysticism induced by meditation and mind altered drugs anyways the research was implying that psychosis could be a natural biogenic altered state of consciousness interesting if you ask me I may leave plants alone for the reason that I just can’t get to the bottom of this and discover what god intended when he put them here like my friend said the other day when I was interested in partaking of a unknown psychoactive he said “Its good to have a healthy respect for the unknown” I believe he’s right to some extent like but i don’t belive in being so afraid of it you don’t explore at all but at the same time some things truly just should not be tampered with like quiji boards and tarot cards which I have learned my lesson from tampering with and will never repeat again., I have also learned lessons for mind altering substances and even In bad trips I have learned powerful lessons I have a respect for the substances but do not respect them more then the god that gave them. I have a certain way of going about these matters if I am going to indulge it just bothers me that I do not have the answer to these and maybe I should not indulge cause god may have not given direct instructions on the use and misuse of these plants. I was going to go to bc to the mountains to engage in this psychoactive excursion but I am going to engage in an altered state I know is accepted in the bible fasting this is very mentally physically and spiritually beneficial just as mind altering plants can be but before I indulge it wouldn’t be bad to go on a fast and pray long and hard and get guidance to whether or not I should do this I’ll bring my question to god and if he want’s me to stay clear I will find it in my heart to do so god is most important in my life and I wanna do whatever it takes to draw closer to him.

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