Intoxication & Sacred Purpose

Intoxication once had a purpose. It was a way to reset, to scramble, to introduce random-ish variables into how we responded to our weorld.

Intoxication has long been reduced to a reaction, to frustration at the fact that we are stuck. Have no way out.

As with so much else – everything? – that once was part of life, a way to re-invigorate life, intoxication has been reduced to a toxic simulacra. A placeholder. Worse than that, an erode-er of vitality. What was once a re-invigorating way back into life is now a hell to be stuck in. Where it once provided a way back into life it is now a prison, holding its victims un-dead.

Sacred purpose. Considering intoxication brings to mind the question of purpose. Intoxication is but an extreme example of the distinction between action with purpose and rootless activity. Intoxication once held a place in life ensured by the assurance that it was an act of purpose. That it had a sacred purpose. Today it is a senseless pursuit of escape.

Intoxication’s role; its purpose and meaning, in particular and the entire concept of sacred purpose; suffers from the same erosion and displacement of purpose and meaning that has alienated us from life to the point where we pursue death, mega-death, and mass-extinction. Bouncing off a realization that hierarchy has failed us, lacking the ready-made beliefs in narrow definitions of meaning and purpose, we have reacted by taking the immature stance that if no one can tell us what it means or what it’s good for then it doesn’t mean anything and we might as well…. Get drunk?

This is another way that our binds police us, herding those who do not willingly stay in the fold to take themselves out into this other holding pen, a fruitless intoxication without meaning or purpose other than to escape.

To be clear, intoxication is not just a fancy term for drinking alcohol. There are many, many other ways to disrupt our everyday, to be intoxicated. Many involve the ingestion of something; but not all. Looking at intoxication’s place, especially from within the extreme impoverishment of imagination we have fallen into, it is important to keep a broad sense of what it means. This broader view is one part of what it will take to break out of this trap.

In-toxic-ation: to introduce what is toxic, the act of doing so; but not with the intention to poison. Along the pattern of healing that seeks health by introducing small quantities of what is bad for us in the hopes that this will strengthen us, intoxication is intended as a form of healing. We’ve lost that subtlety in our Wars on Everything!™.



…what Weller (Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow) calls “a state of derangement.” This is not a state of psychosis or emotional breakdown, but rather “…a state that is beyond our normal way of perceiving and experiencing ourselves and the world.” This requires a letting go, and “Derangement is necessary because our current emotional ‘arrangement’ is not working…This carefully ‘arranged’ relationship with life denies us the freedom to receive the support we require from our community in a time of loss.” (86)

Carolyn Baker, The Wild Edge of Sorrow

This seems related to the question of intoxication. Brings in the hard, dark edge – not the creepy, sordid edge of intoxication as toxic simulacra, the sorrow compounding misery of our current relationship with intoxication and derangement of any sort.

We fear derangement as we chase after its shadow.

This fear is specific. We fear our own grief. Fear that once unstoppered it will be endless, consume us. Chasing this shadow we ensure this is what we get.

How can we break this bind? It holds intoxication, derangement of any kind, and the underlying Debt of Grief that they revolve around. It keeps us from feeling….

From feeling.





Published by Antonio Dias

My work is centered on attending to the intersection of perception and creativity. Complexity cannot be reduced to any given certainty. Learning is Central: Sharing our gifts, Working together, Teaching and learning in reciprocity. Entering into shared Inquiry, Maintaining these practices as a way of life. Let’s work together to build practices, strengthen dialogue, and discover and develop community. Let me know how we might work together.

3 thoughts on “Intoxication & Sacred Purpose

  1. It’s strangely difficult to say something like “these are my own considerations lately!” without diminishing what you say or falsely raising my own on the pedestal of your own thinking. Again, I’ll resort to the metaphor of ringing a tuning fork. It reverberates a sympathetic consideration here.

    Then I have to leap seemingly willy-nilly to the somewhat cryptic observation that the urge to control everything is getting stronger seemingly in direct proportion to the nearness of a new vitality. I don’t want to talk in terms of a supposedly vital “me” confronting an undead “society.” But whatever possesses this body (be it memes, habits, assumptions, or flashes of vitality) tends now to recoil from remembered (and brief) contact with what is vital. It’s as if this imagined vitality becomes a threat in retrospect (after we return to the solid shore, gazing at images again), because we know plunging into vitality will overturn so many structures of belief, will ruin us in a sense, at least this image of us. It will bring in a wave of needed destruction. And without getting too close to old enthusiasms for apocalypse, it would be nice to say, the time is nearing when we either plunge into vitality without hesitation or dick around for another 5000 years on the bank like Narcissus. Jesus, this is cryptic.

    But the war against drugs is nothing different than the controlling church’s war against alchemy. What devolved to latter-day alchemy or witchery under that pressure had been a structure more open to vital currents than most, more willing to shift from old habits. Certain drugs were part of it. So I guess it’s not surprising that the war on drugs can be seen as an extension of the controlling impulse warring against less structural (more vital) approaches to the “spirit.” Now the practice of using drugs is as degraded as latter-day witchery or alchemy.

    Control is getting fiercer and fiercer as it comes closer to its own limits. If we hit that limit open-eyed then we may not have to drown like Narcissus. We may find a new capacity to swim in a swift and formless actuality, like waking from a dream. We get hints of this, but our imagination tends to run ahead of itself, which only settles us more firmly on the shore, lost in dreams of not dreaming. It’s always hard to take that plunge into cold water. This was a really weird comment.


    1. Reverberation is understandable. There is a mountain-climber’s rope tying a few of us together….

      Very evocative and insightful comment! Not weird at all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: