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Listening to Laughing Gas

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

September 9, 2022

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.

Nitrous Oxide: Possession of laughing gas to be criminal offence"

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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

Drug warriors have harnessed the perfect storm. Prohibition caters to the interests of law enforcement, psychotherapy, Big Pharma, demagogues, puritans, and materialist scientists, who believe that consciousness is no big "whoop" and that spiritual states are just flukes.
This, by the way, is why we can't just "follow the science." The "acceptable risk" for psychoactive drugs can only be decided by the user, based on what they prioritize in life. Science just assumes that all users should want to live forever, self-fulfilled or not.
If there is an epidemic of "self-harm," prohibitionists never think of outlawing razor blades. They ask: "Why the self-harm?" But if there is an epidemic of drug use which they CLAIM is self-harm, they never ask "Why the self-harm?" They say: "Let's prohibit and punish!"
"Judging" psychoactive drugs is hard. Dosage counts. Expectations count. Setting counts. In Harvey Rosenfeld's book about the Spanish-American War, a volunteer wrote of his visit to an "opium den": "I took about four puffs and that was enough. All of us were sick for a week."
Someday, the First Lady or Man will tell kids to "just say no to prohibition." Kids who refuse will be required to watch hours' worth of films depicting gun violence, banned religions, civil wars, and adults committing suicide for want of medicine that grows at their very feet.
The drug war tells us that certain drugs have no potential uses and then turns that into a self-fulfilling prophecy by outlawing these drugs. This is insanely anti-scientific and anti-progress. We should never give up on looking for positive uses for ANY substance.
That's the problem with prohibition. It is not ultimately a health question but a question about priorities and sensibilities -- and those topics are open to lively debate and should not be the province of science, especially when natural law itself says mother nature is ours.
The drug war is a way for conservatives to keep America's eyes OFF the prize. The right-wing motto is, "Billions for law enforcement, but not one cent for social programs."
In "Four Good Days" the pompous white-coated doctor ignores the entire formulary of mother nature and instead throws the young heroin user on a cot for 3 days of cold turkey and a shot of Naltrexone: price tag $3,000.
William James knew that there were substances that could elate. However, it never occurred to him that we should use such substances to prevent suicide. It seems James was blinded to this possibility by his puritanical assumptions.
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Forbes Magazine's Laughable Article about Nitrous Oxide
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William James rolls over in his grave as England bans Laughing Gas
The Criminalization of Nitrous Oxide is No Laughing Matter
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Why the FDA should not schedule Laughing Gas
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essays about

Drug War Agitprop
How AI turned William James into a Drug Warrior
William James rolls over in his grave as England bans Laughing Gas
Why the FDA should not schedule Laughing Gas
How the Drug War is Threatening Intellectual Freedom in England
The Criminalization of Nitrous Oxide is No Laughing Matter
Keep Laughing Gas Legal

front cover of Drug War Comic Book

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You have been reading an article entitled, Listening to Laughing Gas published on September 9, 2022 on For more information about America's disgraceful drug war, which is anti-patient, anti-minority, anti-scientific, anti-mother nature, imperialistic, the establishment of the Christian Science religion, a violation of the natural law upon which America was founded, and a childish and counterproductive way of looking at the world, one which causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, visit the drug war philosopher, at (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)