Essay date: September 9, 2022

Listening to Laughing Gas

In response to "The Metaphysics of Laughing Gas: William James, Nitrous Oxide and Fatalism by Jonathan Bricklin" published September 7, 2022 on the IAI website"

Like almost every other scientist and philosopher today, Jonathan reckons without the Drug War. He discusses the effects of laughing gas but fails to even note by way of disclaimer that modern science is actually forbidden from investigating the potential insights that William James experienced under the influence of that gas. Sure, we can speculate on them at will from our "drug-free" universities, but even to repeat his modest experiment would risk bringing law enforcement down on our heads. As for undertaking his experiments using alternative mind enhancers, like psilocybin or MDMA, the DEA will put every roadblock that they can find in the way as they struggle to maintain their pernicious relevance in 21st-century America.

For the fact is that we live in a world in which scientists are censored every bit as much as Galileo when it comes to what lines of research they can follow, and authors should be pointing that out via disclaimer in every single paper that they write about a subject dealing with expanded or improved consciousness and the use of psychoactive substances. After all, the anti-scientific Drug War will never end if we never admit that it actually exists, that science today is not being performed from a natural baseline but that we are forbidden from even accessing substances whose use might cause us to challenge the assumptions upon which reductive materialism is based.

Of course, as a lifelong depressive, I applaud Jonathan for concluding that "we need not rush to criminalize" laughing gas, but for all intents and purposes, laughing gas is already criminalized, at least here in the States. I cannot legally obtain laughing gas to help with my depression and the only places it is available therapeutically are in very expensive clinics wherein the N20 sessions take place in a room filled with chart-holding clinical assistants. That emotionally sterile environment would be so off-putting to folks like myself that it would surely negate any benefit that the drug might supply.

Meanwhile, materialist doctors are still trying to wrap their heads around the once obvious fact that laughing can help the depressed. Take it from me, it would have to help, and not just the laughing itself but the mere looking forward to that laughter. It's called the power of anticipation, and it is (or at least it used to be) psychological common sense. And yet the eminent Dr. Robert Glatter asks (apparently with a straight face) in the June 9, 2021 edition of Forbes magazine: Can Laughing Gas Help People with Treatment-resistant Depression?

Are you kidding me? Of course it would help, by definition. Reader's Digest has known this for decades, hence their time-honored motto: "Laughter is the best medicine."

But Glatter is a materialist. He doesn't care how much I laugh when using laughing gas, he wants to know if it "REALLY" works: i.e., does it work in a reductive way that may be demonstrated quantitatively? This reminds one of Descartes, who wasn't convinced that animals felt pain, no matter how much they cried when they were being tortured. Descartes wanted to know if they "REALLY" experienced pain: i.e., do they experience it in a reductive way that may be demonstrated quantitatively? (His answer, alas, was no.)

It's ironic to think that it is materialists like Glatter, with their glacially proceeding search for "REAL" cures, who are keeping me from accessing substances whose use might help illuminate a non-materialist way of seeing the world. That sounds like ontological self-dealing to me.

But this illustrates a so-far unrecognized fact that materialism is a major beneficiary of the Drug War, because Drug Warriors demonize precisely those substances whose use might conduce to a non-materialistic way of seeing the world.

I'll close with just one example to demonstrate this point

About five years ago, I visited Arizona to take peyote legally (at least as far as that state's laws were concerned). Instead of gaining the sweeping ontological insights that William James reported with laughing gas, the drug experience provided me with a sharply focused neon-green slide show of what appeared to be pre-Columbian imagery of the type that may be seen today at the Mayan city of Yaxchilan or the Quetzacoatl of the Aztecs. This result raised fascinating philosophical questions for me, for pre-Columbian imagery was not in my mind when I traveled to Arizona, nor had I even consciously considered the subject since I took some related college courses a decade earlier.

It seemed to me like the peyote cactus was telling me something about how the world worked, that it was not a chaos of separate atoms but an integrally connected "web of being," so to speak, and that the whole was far greater than the sum of the parts. To put it poetically, I had what Wordsworth called "a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused."

And yet the Drug War prevents me from following up these hints about the true nature of reality by outlawing precisely those substances that provide such clues..

Surely this is the worst form of censorship imaginable, the kind that makes it illegal for us to pursue the Platonic goal of knowing ourselves and the world around us.

This is why I believe every author who writes on these subjects must remind their reader that we live in an age of a Drug War, for it is Drug War prohibition which tilts the philosophical playing field in favor of reductive materialism by outlawing mere research into other ways of "being in the world."

Related tweet: January 13, 2023

The use of laughing gas changed William James' ideas about the very nature of reality. To outlaw such substances is to outlaw human advancement.

Next essay: The Runner: Racist Drug War Agitprop
Previous essay: Hurray for Self-Medicating

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old time radio playing Drug War comedy sketches

You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at Brian is the founder of The Drug War Gift Shop, where artists can feature and sell their protest artwork online. He has also written for Sociodelic and is the author of The Drug War Comic Book, which contains 150 political cartoons illustrating some of the seemingly endless problems with the war on drugs -- many of which only Brian seems to have noticed, by the way, judging by the recycled pieties that pass for analysis these days when it comes to "drugs." That's not surprising, considering the fact that the category of "drugs" is a political category, not a medical or scientific one.

A "drug," as the world defines the term today, is "a substance that has no good uses for anyone, ever, at any time, under any circumstances" -- and, of course, there are no substances of that kind: even cyanide and the deadly botox toxin have positive uses: a war on drugs is therefore unscientific at heart, to the point that it truly qualifies as a superstition, one in which we turn inanimate substances into boogie-men and scapegoats for all our social problems.

The Drug War is, in fact, the philosophical problem par excellence of our time, premised as it is on a raft of faulty assumptions (notwithstanding the fact that most philosophers today pretend as if the drug war does not exist). It is a war against the poor, against minorities, against religion, against science, against the elderly, against the depressed, against those in pain, against children in hospice care, and against philosophy itself. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.

It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, meanwhile violating the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America. (Surely, Jefferson was rolling over in his grave when Ronald Reagan's DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated the founding father's poppy plants.)

If you believe in freedom and democracy, in America and around the world, please stay tuned for more philosophically oriented broadsides against the outrageous war on godsend medicines, AKA the war on drugs.

Brian Quass
The Drug War Philosopher

PS The drug war has not failed: to the contrary, it has succeeded, insofar as its ultimate goal was to militarize police forces around the world and help authorities to ruthlessly eliminate those who stand in the way of global capitalism. For more, see Drug War Capitalism by Dawn Paley.

Rather than apologetically decriminalizing selected plants, we should be demanding the immediate restoration of Natural Law, according to which "The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being." (John Locke)

Selected Bibliography

  • Bandow, Doug "From Fighting The Drug War To Protecting The Right To Use Drugs"2018
  • Barrett, Damon "Children of the Drug War: Perspectives on the Impact of Drug Polices on Young People"2011 IDEBATE Press
  • Bilton, Anton "DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule"2021 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Boullosa , Carmen "A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the 'Mexican Drug War'"2016 OR Books
  • Brereton, William "The Truth about Opium / Being a Refutation of the Fallacies of the Anti-Opium Society and a Defence of the Indo-China Opium Trade"2017 Anna Ruggieri
  • Burns, Eric "1920: The year that made the decade roar"2015 Pegasus Books
  • Carpenter, Ted Galen "The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America"2012 Cato Institute
  • Chesterton, GK "Saint Thomas Acquinas"2014 BookBaby
  • Filan, Kenaz "The Power of the Poppy: Harnessing Nature's Most Dangerous Plant Ally"2011 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Irwin-Rogers, Keir "Illicit Drug Markets, Consumer Capitalism and the Rise of Social Media: A Toxic Trap for Young People"2019
  • James, William "The Varieties of Religious Experience"1902 Philosophical Library
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • Rudgley, Richard "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances"2014 Macmillan Publishers
  • Shulgin, Alexander "PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story"1991 Transform Press
  • Shulgin, Alexander "The Nature of Drugs Vol. 1: History, Pharmacology, and Social Impact"2021 Transform Press
  • Smith, Wolfgang "Cosmos and Transcendence: Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Belief"0
  • Smith, Wolfgang "Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology"2022
  • St John, Graham "Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT"2021
  • Szasz, Thomas "Interview With Thomas Szasz: by Randall C. Wyatt"0
  • Wedel, Janine "Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom and Politics and Created an Outsider Class"2014 Pegasus Books
  • Weil, Andrew "From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs"2004 Open Road Integrated Media
  • Site and its contents copyright 2023, by Brian B. Quass, the drug war philosopher at For more information, contact Brian at