6 Questions for ERIK DAVIS
Erik Davis is a co-founder of Psychedelic Sangha and organizer of the San Francisco Sangha. He is an author, podcaster and award-winning journalist. He is also a popular speaker based in San Francisco and the organizer of the Psychedelic Sangha chapter there. His latest book is High Weirdness: Drugs, Visions, and Esoterica in the Seventies.
When did you first “turn on” with psychedelics?
I dropped some blotter on Halloween, 1980, in North County, Southern California. I was 13 (don’t try this at home kids). It was a pretty Fast Times at Ridgemont High scene. I fell in love with Pink Floyd that night.
When, where, and how did Buddhism enter your life?
When I was a teenager I read and loved my beat-up paperback copy of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, and read a lot of other hippie seeker books. Castaneda was Buddhist in a way. When I was in my early 20s, I met an American geshe and he turned me onto Madhyamika and I got into the philosophy. I didn’t like the formality of Tibetan lam-rim meditations though, so I switched to Zen. But even there I am pretty much a ronin.
Are psychedelic experience and Buddhist practice complementary for you? If so, what do they have in common?
Mind training, wrestling with illusions that you nonetheless have to deal with, moments of calm amidst fun and frightening turbulence, an in-your-face sense of the multiplicity of reality, shot through with clear compassionate awareness.
What does the 5th Precept mean to you?
A stumbling block.
Besides psychedelics and Buddhism, what other practices and traditions, if any, do you incorporate into your spiritual life?
Study and reading, for sure, that is a spiritual practice for me. Yoga. Sensory awareness. Marriage. Aesthetic appreciation. Neo-animism.
Please recommend three cultural works that have been meaningful to you—whether a film, television series, video game, fiction or nonfiction book, philosophical treatise, religious scripture, an album or a single song, etc.
Torch of the Mystics, the Sun City Girls
The Palm at the End of the Mind, by Wallace Stevens