Robert Svoboda – Living with Reality – Ep. 34 – The Value of Intoxicants

This time on Living with Reality, Dr. Robert Svoboda lectures on the value of intoxicants and the natural urge to seek altered states.

Intoxication and the Animal World

Dr. Robert Svoboda breaks down the Hindi word for intoxication. The roots of the word relate not only to that act of being intoxicated but also to desire, the rising of milk in a pan, and rut (mating season).

“The implication is that there is a strong upward movement that causes an alteration of awareness.” – Robert Svoboda

Dr. Svoboda goes on to explain that in the animal world, many beings seek intoxication. Elephants, for example, sometimes wait until fruit begins to rot and become alcoholic. Deer have been known to eat amanita mushrooms. So, why does conscious life so often seek altered states?

Other Avenues to Altered States (7:35)

Human beings, just like animals, have a natural urge to seek altered states. What we often forget is that intoxicants are not only found in substances. Poetry, art, music, nature, etc. are all intoxicants as well. They have the power to alter our state and help us boil down who we are and how we connect to God. Dr. Svoboda says that it is very easy to become addicted to altered states whether it is from wine, poetry, or religious exhilaration. However, we can not live within these altered states forever. The value of intoxicants is to help us see the goals we should orient ourselves towards. Then, we can remember these virtues in our normal states.

For another perspective on varying altered states tune into Ep. 10 of Set and Setting: Music, Laughter, and Altered States w/ Laraaji
Nourishment of Intoxicants (15:40)

In the shamanic traditions, it is said that psychedelics become food when we have control over them. In that sense, we are nourished by our experience and can transform what we have learned into energy. Dr. Svoboda describes witnessing a man consume tobacco without getting ill and his guru calling it an alchemical transformation. If we can not maintain control over intoxicants, it becomes poison instead of food. It will relentlessly cause us to become weaker, fixed in our ways, and less able to be balanced. There is a spectrum from recreational to evolutional when we look at intoxicants.

“In the middle is medicine, where you can take it and it will provide you with something that you have been missing and if it is used in the right way it can have a very beneficial therapeutic effect.” – Robert Svoboda

Dealing with Reality (20:01)

We can not repress our miseries inside intoxication. The more we bury our problems, the more present they are. Dr. Svoboda says that it is important to realize when we are abusing intoxicants in this way. Is the wine drinking you, or are you drinking the wine? We can not always feel exhilarated and positive, we have to face the truth of life which is that good times come and go. Any activity or substance can become an intoxicant and we have to be okay when not doing or using it.

“If you are trying to simply always feel like you’re in a good mood and you’re always using some substance to feel like you’re in a good mood, you’re not dealing with reality. Because sometimes in reality things are going to be great and sometimes they’re going to be terrible and you have to be in a position to deal with both of those states of being and not be disturbed, not be distracted from your purpose in life.” – Robert Svoboda

For more on facing reality tune into Ep. 239 of Mindrolling: Reality and Karma with Robert Thurman
Photo via Marek Rybar