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Philip H. Farber

on Magick and Entheogens

Interview by Miss Pixel


Philip H. Farber recently released the first in a new DVD series on Magick and Entheogens.


Miss Pixel: How did you first get interested in entheogens?

Philip H. Farber: I've described in other places how I had bicycle accident when I was 15 years old, an incident that literally pitched me headlong into the deeper aspects of mysticism - but I was already exploring hypnosis and meditation for a few years, by that age. And I had also smoked pot a few times. Anything that altered consciousness was of interest. This was in the 1970s when many high schools were really ongoing pot parties. If you've ever seen the movie "Dazed and Confused," my high school years were very much like that.

Anyway, I soon began reading everything I could on the subject of consciousness alteration, starting with Aldous Huxley and on from there.

MP: Did it become an entheogenic, or actually religious practice for you?

PHF: Even from my first flirtation with psychedelics, I was always very interested in those transcendent moments that sometimes happen when you are high. The experiences of oneness, of novel insight, of understanding, and so forth. I would get high again, specifically to recapture those moments. Although I wouldn't have phrased it that way at the time, I think that was more of a spiritual urge than an urge to party.

I agree with Ron Seigel, who proposed the idea that intoxication is a fundamental drive in humans and many animals. I think it's a little more than that, though. I think the urge to intoxication is an expression of our fundamental drive toward transcendence. We dimly suspect that there is something more to this reality we participate in - and do what we can to get a glimpse of that "more." William James noted that the urge to drink alcohol was akin to a mystical urge, and I think we can extend that to include many kinds of intoxication.

MP: Crowley seemed to have difficulty separating his drug use from his magical practice. Are drugs necessary for successful magick?

PHF: No. In actuality, NOTHING is necessary except consciousness itself. But we tend to use what we have at hand and it is okay to use whatever tools make it happen for us. Good flavor isn't necessary for good nutrition - but a delicious meal tends to motivate us more and keep us coming back to the table at regular intervals. Likewise, novel experiences, powerful altered states, ecstatic states, and bliss can motivate us to keep returning to a magical practice.

Those novel experiences and altered states can be induced in a variety of ways, some of which might include psychoactive substances, some of which might not. At the Starwood Festival one year, I demonstrated a hypnotic method for re-accessing drug states without the presence of the drugs. The next morning at breakfast, someone who had attended the workshop sat down next to me and asked me why I felt it necessary to actually drink coffee. It's not necessary, I said, but it sure is good.

MP: Can you really get as high without drugs?

PHF: Sure. There are all kinds of naturally occuring states of consciousness that are as intense as anything a human can experience, including trauma-induced shock, orgasm, and states resulting from deliberate meditation and hypnosis. I would say that it's a fair bet that most psychoactive substances work because there are endogenous analogs, naturally occuring substances in the body that do similar things at the same receptor sites. Our minds and bodies are much more responsive to suggestion than most of us realize - and it is very possible to induce our bodies to release our endogenous chemicals in appropriate ways. That is to say, yes, if you have ever gotten high in a particular way, that experience can be re-induced via hypnosis or similar techniques.

I do this stuff with groups all the time, and there's a taste of it on the new Magick and Entheogens DVD.

MP: Do you think it is safe to advocate the use of cannabis in our society?

PHF: I don't necessarily advocate the use of cannabis. What I do advocate is the use of entheogens with intent. That is, if you are going to use a psychoactive substance, have some concept of how your own intent manifests results when interacting with these substances. The prevailing opinion in our culture is that illegal drugs are only used recreationally - and that recreational use is abuse. But there are many other paradigms for approaching cannabis use. The medical paradigm is becoming more widespread, with many people acknowledging that they use it to control pain or deal with any number of illnesses. And, less publicized, there's a spiritual paradigm.

And it is okay to decide to have fun, too. Let's lose the puritanical concept that doing something purely for fun is somehow wrong. Go out and experience as much fun as you can.

Is it safe to talk about cannabis? I'm not sure that safety is the paramount issue. Speaking honestly about such things, even if it's not popular to do so, eventually may help to turn the tide. Let's spread the word that it's not just about WHAT you do, it's also about HOW you do it.

MP: How does the Great God Pan figure into this?

PHF: Heh. Pan is "All," the demiurge, the driving intelligence behind reality - and he is the representation of what the city folk fear when they walk in the woods at night. If you've lost touch with your connection to All, it is easy for the world to become mysterious and full of fear. So in my work Pan is the spokesman for a no-bullshit approach to existence. He knows that it's better to get high and get your rocks off than to worry about your culturally conditioned preconceptions. Pan is the guy to party with.

Pan may make some cameo appearances in the rest of the Magick and Entheogens series, but it's unlikely he'll be featured as he is in the Cannabis video.

MP: What plans do you have for the Magick and Entheogens series?

PHF: Each DVD will address a different entheogen or set of entheogens. These will include Salvia divinorum, phenethylamines, tryptamines, and dissociatives. The approach and specific exercises will vary widely on each, but the emphasis on creating ritual and working with intent will be constant. There will also be a few more related side projects, like the music CD we released with the Cannabis DVD.

MP: What do you hope that viewers will get from these DVDs?

PHF: First off, I hope they will actually practice the exercises that we describe on the videos. That's the audience we hope for with all of our products - people who have the motivation to get off their butts and test out the methods for themselves. With any books or videos on magick, meditation, or even how to do carpentry, most of the people who buy them never actually practice. We get all sorts of comments from people who have obviously never done the drills. It becomes very apparent from what they say. However, there are a few in every crowd who are really, truly motivated to experiment and test things out for themselves. Those people will learn the value of these methods…. That's all I can hope for.

Magick and Entheogens, Vol. 1: Cannabis DVD

© copyright 2004 Philip H. Farber