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Psychedelics and religious experience

#1zyzzvya01Posted 12/5/2012 2:49:39 PM
I'm of the belief that the psychedelic experience, and the late Alan Watts will agree with me on this one, is, or closely mirrors the state of consciousness experienced in a "peak" state, or religious experience. This raises the question of the primacy of religious experience. If one can directly experience God, self, the Logos, the other, whichever moniker you choose to wrap around it, simply by taking some dimethyltryptamine or ayahuasca, what need is there for church in its current, Western form?

Why listen to an old man recount someone else's secondary or tertiary experience of God from an old book, when you can go and experience divinity yourself?

So I'd like to ask those of you who have used these substances in the past to weigh in on this and give me some feedback, particularly if you are religious and have had a strong religious experience. To those who haven't had the experience, please use www.erowid.org to research the substances before you comment, however your take on the issue is welcome also.
#2ThuggernautzPosted 12/5/2012 3:56:37 PM
I have experienced most powerful hallucinogens, including DMT, mushrooms, Salvia and LSD. I also come from a neuroscience background, and am not religious. In terms of experiences, I have had sober moments of clarity and extreme contentedness; feelings of euphoria, elation and enlightenment brought on by nothing in particular. However, when people talk of religious experience, they often speak of the feeling of this 'glorious presence', and of universal connectedness; phenomenon which I definitely experienced whilst using DMT and once with psilocybin. There are studies which link similar brain activity through neural imaging between powerful religious experiences, certain psychedelics and TLE (Temporal Lobe Epilepsy).

Ramachandran, V. and Blakeslee (1998). Phantoms in the Brain.

Griffiths, Rr; Richards, Wa; Johnson, Mw; McCann, Ud; Jesse, R (2008). "Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later.". Journal of psychopharmacology 22 (6): 62132.

Neural correlates of a mystical experience in Carmelite nuns. Neuroscience Letters. 26 June 2006.

Now, I am not saying that religious or spiritual experiences are simply an imbalance in brain chemistry or an over-active temporal lobe, or that the experiences are identical. However, when reading a written testimony of a powerful spiritual or religious experience, it reads almost like an excerpt from erowid, and there seems to be a strong correlation between brain activity in certain regions of the brain during these two different experiences. I also know how easy it is to influence the mind very strongly through simple visual phenomena, suggestion or through chemicals. Our thoughts are not impervious to environmental manipulation.

So, whilst I only fulfil one of the criteria in your OP, I want to say that evidence points quite strongly to religious/spiritual experiences having a basis in neurophysiology. I too would like to hear experiences from someone who has had both a powerful religious, and a powerful DMT experience.
#3zyzzvya01(Topic Creator)Posted 12/5/2012 4:06:05 PM
I've often wondered how much a persons environment and culture influence the quality of their religious/psychedelic experience. Quite often you'll hear accounts of persons of a particular faith having a mystical experience with their specific God or Gods, and rarely do you hear examples of interfaith experiences.

I think it's also worth noting that schizophrenia parallels the peak experience in a number of ways, and that the quality of the hallucinations and delusions of psychotic individuals seems to closely parallel their cultural background. For example, during the 1950s, many schizophrenic people were reporting fears of Communist plots against them, or UFO abductions. Now, the story is often that their own government is spying on them in some fashion. In less technologically developed areas it is often the case that "demons" are "possessing" these people.

How related are the three experiences, the religious, the entheogenic, and the psychotic? What can we learn from them about ourselves and our reality?
#4hunter_gohanPosted 12/5/2012 4:39:49 PM
Many of the early religions incorporated psychedelic use right into their religious rituals. Some still do to this day(I.E peyote with Native American religions).

In fact, it is possible that manna was just what the Hebrews called Psilocybe mushrooms:

http://deoxy.org/manna.htm

I just thought of this, if we go into the Bible we can find these:

Mark 10:15 "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Matthew 18:4 "Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

My friend once remarked to me that tripping people are like little kids. Fascinated by shiny things and colors, can entertain themselves with the stupidest things etc.

That seems very true. The fact that when a bunch of us went to Universal Studio's while tripping once and where the only people besides parents taking their little kids going on Doctor Seuss rides in Doctor Seuss land seems to back that up(frelling awesome btw, save that one train that kinda just drove you over people eating).
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Fundamentalism in a nut shell: Raphael: It's God's will. Castiel: How can you say that?! Raphael: Because it's what I want!
#5SirThinkALotPosted 12/5/2012 4:46:18 PM
zyzzvya01 posted...
I've often wondered how much a persons environment and culture influence the quality of their religious/psychedelic experience. Quite often you'll hear accounts of persons of a particular faith having a mystical experience with their specific God or Gods, and rarely do you hear examples of interfaith experiences.


Most descriptions of religious experiences I'v heard are about 'feeling something' or some particularly emotional movement, rather than anything concrete that would point towards any particular conception of god(s).

I know the use of 'magical' plants for spiritual or religious purposes goes back to antiquity. If their effects mirrored that of religious experiences(I wouldn't know, I'v never done either). It might explain why this was so commonplace. *shrugs*
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#6zyzzvya01(Topic Creator)Posted 12/5/2012 4:47:37 PM
When I talk of religious experience I'm referring to peak/mystical states of consciousness. Your everyday "Oh I had a fuzzy feeling" is easily explained by the placebo effect.
#7SirThinkALotPosted 12/5/2012 4:54:22 PM
hunter_gohan posted...
Many of the early religions incorporated psychedelic use right into their religious rituals. Some still do to this day(I.E peyote with Native American religions).

In fact, it is possible that manna was just what the Hebrews called Psilocybe mushrooms:

http://deoxy.org/manna.htm


Christian and Jews have always been against the use of 'magical' plants in religious settings. In fact some commentaries I'v looked at suggest that was what the Hebrew word translated 'witchcraft' meant.

I'm not if this was commanded in order to differentiate Israel from other nations in the area(like so many of the laws were about), of if it was because they were supposed to have the 'real deal' instead of the cheap imitation, or if there was some other reason, but regardless the religious use of drugs was a big 'no-no' for early Jews and Christians.

And the Hebrews lived for 40 years on nothing but mushrooms(and psychedelic mushrooms at that)? Yea if that was true, it really would have been a miracle they survived....
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#8SirThinkALotPosted 12/5/2012 4:59:55 PM
zyzzvya01 posted...
When I talk of religious experience I'm referring to peak/mystical states of consciousness. Your everyday "Oh I had a fuzzy feeling" is easily explained by the placebo effect.


So was I. Most still dont offer anything that would point towards particular conceptions of god(s). More often it seems people have the experiences then retroactively interpret it as coming from a particular conception of god(s).

Actual visions(including audibly hearing the 'voice of God') seem to be fairly uncommon from what I'v read.
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#9zyzzvya01(Topic Creator)Posted 12/5/2012 5:14:38 PM
I'm not arguing that point man, I agree with what you've said.
#10hunter_gohanPosted 12/5/2012 5:26:44 PM(edited)
SirThinkALot posted...
Christian and Jews have always been against the use of 'magical' plants in religious settings. In fact some commentaries I'v looked at suggest that was what the Hebrew word translated 'witchcraft' meant.

I'm not if this was commanded in order to differentiate Israel from other nations in the area(like so many of the laws were about), of if it was because they were supposed to have the 'real deal' instead of the cheap imitation, or if there was some other reason, but regardless the religious use of drugs was a big 'no-no' for early Jews and Christians.


*shrugs* maybe they didn't consider their manna to be drugs? Do you know how many times someone has told me alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine aren't drugs?

The fact is, the description of manna lines up pretty damn closely to Psilocybe mushrooms and it explains perfectly well various visions people in the bible had. Like the burning bush that would not be consumed. Mushrooms wreak havoc with your sense of time. I once left my hostel room, went and ate dinner and stopped off at a coffeshop before going back. I got back 10 minutes before I left. Not sure how(misread the time at first? had the wrong time zone on it? stepped through a rip in the space/time continuum?), but I do know I was on shrooms at the time though. :p

And the Hebrews lived for 40 years on nothing but mushrooms(and psychedelic mushrooms at that)? Yea if that was true, it really would have been a miracle they survived....


Well that's easy, the exodus was made up, it never happened. All the evidence we have points to the Hebrew people being native Canaanites. They were never taken from their home by the Egyptians in the first place to even need to have an exodus.
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Fundamentalism in a nut shell: Raphael: It's God's will. Castiel: How can you say that?! Raphael: Because it's what I want!