But also, as has been mentioned before, the problem with taking any mind-altering chemical – plant extract or chemist’s patent formula – is that the world seen through that filter is false, bogus, a deception.
I have to disagree with this. This is not a simple issue, but just because you ingest a drug does not mean that suddenly reality ceases to be real, and you go off into an Alice-in-Wonderland type of experience where what you see and hear has nothing to do with the outside world at all. In fact the philosophy of modern science would even argue against this for the simple idea that everything
has a rational explanation, especially in a fairly well-known science such as human biology/biochemistry/toxicology.
Serotonin, melatonin, other neurotransmitters -- these are in fact drugs in the technical sense (which is the only
sense that is not based on subjective politicized reasoning), especially when you put something like melatonin in a drink and then market it to help people relax and fall asleep more easily. The only reason you perceive reality in the way that you do while sober is because of the interaction of natural neurotransmitters.
It is not an inherently "real" state of consciousness. The only reason we get used to our sober state of consciousness and assume that it must be what it's like for every other person and every other living being to be conscious, is because it's literally all most of us know. If even the relative balance of our natural neurotransmitters is changed, without adding any other drugs/chemicals, we can be sent on very crazy trips.
DMT is the psychedelic ingredient in ayahuasca, often claimed to be the most potent psychedelic drug known to man, and guess what? It's naturally-produced by your body, especially in children
, which has led some to theorize that this is why children are more imaginative than adults: DMT release is curtailed or stopped after puberty, with remaining DMT being secreted during death. If simply the amount of DMT acting as a neurotransmitter was changed, you would be sent on the trip of your life. At what amount of DMT does reality cease to be real? It's like trying to find the starting point on the perimeter of a circle, there is no one correct answer. It's always present in the body, it's considered an extremely potent psychedelic, and yet we must have some standard for what is sober, so a small amount of DMT is actually assumed in that.
The sensations various drugs produce are all based on biological phenomena, meaning that they in fact have a basis in physical reality and are completely "real." Of course when someone ingests sugar, caffeine, nicotine or aspirin no one is going to say that reality is no longer being experienced. When it comes to how an individual's consciousness chooses to describe or portray the sensations caused by drugs, that
is the trick. But it really is very tricky, because two people don't have to be on drugs for their levels of consciousness to be different, or to experience the world in fundamentally different ways. If you take a man from the paleolithic era, a man from era of the Old Kingdom in Egypt, a citizen of the Roman Republic, a modern westerner and a life-long Chinese Zen monk, these are all likely to experience reality in fundamentally different ways, to the extent that a modern westerner would probably think that the paleolithic man or Chinese Zen monk are naturally "tripping." Native tribes living in rainforest jungles who are brought out to civilization for the first time reportedly can't even comprehend seeing things at a great distance, as an indication of how differently their awareness has developed in isolation in a dense environment.
So you have to distinguish two things here: the biological (very real) effects of drugs, and the very subjective nature of consciousness itself. People can argue over where or not dreams are "real." It's a philosophical question, that has more to do with the nature of consciousness itself. The biological action of drugs that lead to altered states of consciousness are very much rooted in physical reality.