The Natural Mind Essay, Research Paper
The Natural Mind, by Andrew Weil, is a book about humans and their interaction with an altered state of consciousness. To find a way to help the drug problem, the problem with humans and psychoactive drugs, Weil explores the positive aspects of drugs. His stand is not that drugs are good but that when a person alters their consciousness it is not all bad. Three of his concepts in this book really stuck to me. In The Natural Mind he displays that man has a natural drive to reach an altered state of consciousness, also that drug use and drug abuse are two totally different things and should not be mistaken. Another concept that Weil makes clear, clear in this book, is that in order to get control of the drug problem we need to start a new belief system about drugs and find a new program to teach people about mind altering drugs.
First of all, one of Weil s concepts in the book is mans natural drive to reach an altered state of consciousness. At early age s children play silly games in an attempt to alter their conscious state. Children spin around as fast as they can, as I remember doing as a child does, so they can feel dizzy for a brief moment. When watching a child do this it is normal to see the children wobbling around as they try to walk. It is similar to seeing an ECU student walking out of a club downtown after having too much to drink. As children get older they advance to household and school supplies to alter their consciousness, and then they move to an underground drug circle. A student can swipe a bottle of rubber cement and bring it to the playground during recess. This student and the friends he chooses to be a part of this drug experiment will meet in the corner of the playground or under the jungle gym and sniff the glue until their heads are in the clouds, or also known as high. When I was eight years old I took part in an experiment like this. My friend Todd and I sniffed gasoline to get high. Todd inhaled too much and passed out, but was O.K. after a moment. When children finally reach adulthood most of them conform and use conscious altering drugs that are socially are accepted. It usually depends on the group that person hangs out with, but most adults drink alcohol. It is a legal mind altering drug so it is socially accepted. This is displayed by the champagne at dinner parties, the toast at wedding ceremonies, and the many parents that keep beer in the refrigerator not thinking ten year old Jason is curious about why daddy talks so much after a few beers.
Also, Weil explains in The Natural Mind that drug use and drug abuse are two different things and should not be mistaken. People have a misconception about substance addiction. Any person that smokes marijuana is termed a marijuana abuser. This is not true. Most people will not kill a person for a sack. In fact, I have never heard of a person doing this just to smoke pot. In the book there is an advertisement about a school that states that when a person is high on marijuana, if they eat a cheeseburger then it tastes better. The advertisement goes on to say that the marijuana messed up their immediate memory so they do not remember what the last cheeseburger they ate tasted like. This statement is false and gives a misconception of marijuana. Just because a person likes the taste of a cheeseburger more when he or she has smoked pot does not mean that they are a drug abuser. Marijuana gives people the munchies , it is a side effect due to the use of the drug. Plus, when the drugs are used in a social setting to add to the pleasure of that setting, this type of use is fine. The drug use is a part of the social atmosphere and only helps the people involved have a good time. It is when a person starts using drugs with expectations of relieving an undesirable feeling, like depression or boredom, the person starts gaining characteristics of an abuser. Drug use becomes drug abuse only when it poses a serious threat to health or to social or psychological functioning. If a college student can not make it to his or her classes every day because they wake up and take a bong toke and keep taking bong tokes until they are unable to light the child proof lighter, this student is abusing marijuana. Drug use and drug abuse are two totally different things.
Finally, by reading the book it seems to me that Weil has a good way to get a handle on the drug problem. In order to do this we need to seek a new belief system about drugs and find a new program to teach people about drug use. People that have the notion everyone is suddenly doing drugs must not see alcohol for what it is, the most harmful psychoactive drug. It is far to hypocritical for some one to say, while drinking a Long Island Iced Tea or a Miller Genuine Draft, that something needs to be done about cocaine and heroin use, it is killing people, then light up a cigarette. Alcohol and nicotine are killing hundreds of thousands more people that heroin and cocaine combined. It is the belief system that must be changed. Weil talks about a move toward the Indian Model of socially beneficial drug use without abuse. 1) Use natural drugs in natural ways. This would mean not using chemically made drugs and administering them orally or smoked, not injecting them into a vein. 2) Use drugs ritually. Set rules for yourself, like not drinking alone or before dark. 3) Get drug advice from an experienced person. It would be a bad idea to eat mushrooms and not know what to expect. 4) To end, use drugs for positive reasons. Take drugs in celebration and not to escape depression. Another thing we need to do is end the scary story program. Trying to horrify kids into thinking drugs are bad is not the right route to take. I remember in elementary school watching a video, in which, a man is driving and smoking a joint. The man started acting strange and drove off a cliff. Now having smoked marijuana I know this is false. Smart decision programs would be a much better bet. Teaching children to make the right choices in life, and choose the right drugs. Before the drug problem can get any better we need to change our belief system about drugs and start a new program that will help people learn about drugs.
Drugs are a part of every culture and it doesn t seem as if they will be leaving. Reading Weil s book has helped me realize that there are many reasons why good people use illegal drugs. Man has a natural drive to reach an altered state of consciousness, when a person is using drugs it does not mean they are a drug abuser. But, rather a normal human being.
1. Anderson, Gary. When Chemicals come to School. Wisconsin: Milwalkee,
2. Hyde, Margaret. Alcohol Uses and Abuses. New Jersey: Hillside, 1988.
3. McFarland, Rhoda. Coping With Substance Abuse. New York: New York,
4. Weil, Andrew. The Natural Mind. New York: NewYork, 1972.