Can Psychedelics Induce Real Spirituality? Posted on December 15th, 2013 by Gad Asas in Psychedelics, Spirituality with [fetching…]
Psychedelics roots – Scholars of the origins of religion have speculated that hunters-gatherers searching for roots and berries would surely have consumed psychedelic plants and shortly thereafter experienced what may have been our first intimations of spiritual consciousness. There is no proof of that, but it is a fascinating theory.
Psychedelics are more a window than a door; they provide the opportunity to experience the profound beauty and wholeness reported by the mystic, but only for a brief period of chemically provoked vision. On psychedelics we may see heaven, but we may not take up residence there.
As an analogy, consider being on a path up a mountain. We are high up and the clouds are so thick that we can’t really see more than a yard or two in front of us. We can continue on our path, but we certainly cannot see the peak of the mountain, which is always obscured by clouds. After a while, we begin to question whether the goal is really there at all and whether it is still worth going forward. Psychedelics, under the right conditions, can offer a temporary parting of the clouds, the ability to see the peak with great clarity for a brief period of time. After the experience is gone and the clouds come back, we can’t see that peak anymore, but we still vividly remember that it does in fact exist. That part of experience is lasting.
Although sustainability of the visionary state is a limiting problem, there is no method as predictable in producing a spiritual experience, or as potent in impact, as psychedelic chemicals. Of all other methods mentioned – fasting, flagellation, meditation, and the rest – none are as effective and reliable as psychedelics in producing a visionary state.
That is why they’ve been used for that purpose by every civilization known to have had access to them. In practical terms, psychedelics are and always have been ubiquitous – they become a problem when people trip repeatedly to try to sustain that mystical experience, because it doesn’t last. A drug-induced religious experience is not the same thing as making the effort, over time, to develop a spiritual life.
A psychedelic trip, especially when one has had a dissociative, ego-death experience, is one of life’s most extreme states of mind, but so is a high fever or a near-death experience in an automobile accident, when people may see their life flash before their eyes.
Today, many question whether the mystical experience achieved while on a psychedelic is real religious experience. There has been much debate on that issue. People who have experienced psychedelics are more likely to be among the camp who claims that it is a real spiritual experience, and those who claim it is not a real experience tend to be those who have not experienced psychedelics personally.
How do we separate mystical experience from the underlying neurochemical substrate? All our bodily and psychological phenomenology is mediated by what happens in the brain. In reality, we don’t experience the outside world: rather, our experience is of internal neurochemicals released by the brain in response to electrical signals triggered by incoming stimuli from the outside world.
Is what is going on in my brain right now my will, or is it my chemistry? Not just psychedelics, but fasting, breathing exercises, prolonged wakefulness, isolation, self-flagellation, martial arts, prayer, and meditation – all these things can bring about a profound mystical experience. Many of these techniques were used by the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures – were they “real” religious experiences, if they were purposely, triggered or provoked?
What’s going on in your brain right now is it will or chemistry? There has been much debate on that issue and I believe that those simply two perspectives of the same thing.
For all coin there are two sides, spiritual methods induce neurochemical changes while psychedelics induce spirituality.
“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.“