Have you ever encountered the divine while on a psychedelic journey? Substances like psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca and others are often referred to as entheogens because they allow people a transcendent glimpse of the essence of the universe.
Now, a team led by Dr. Roland Griffiths at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is conducting research to characterize the entheogenic experiences that people have had while using psychedelics. Griffiths is a psychedelic veteran, having previously directed extensive research on the effects of psilocybin, which is the main active ingredient in magic mushrooms.
His team is currently soliciting people who have experience with psychedelics to complete a survey and describe any encounters they have had with God, a higher power, ultimate reality or an emissary of God — note that “God” in this context refers to whatever understanding of God is held by the individual taking the survey, not confined to or excluding any particular religion, spiritual belief or means of worship.
The survey is designed to collect scientifically interesting information, but the research team also hopes it can be personally meaningful to the participants. “You may find this survey interesting and an uplifting opportunity to revisit and contemplate a precious experience,” the introduction states. “You may also find it meaningful to further explore some of your philosophical and theological beliefs. However, you may find it to be uncomfortable because it will prompt you to explain some of these deeply held beliefs. There is also a chance that you will be bored.”
During the survey, participants are asked about any religions or spiritual practices they currently follow or participate in, and then to fill in details about what type of psychedelic they used and how much. The survey also questions whether participants went into the experience expecting a glimpse of a higher reality, and if they have ever had a similar encounter before. Subjects then describe other facets of their journey, including how they interacted with the higher power and who initiated the encounter. At the end of the questionnaire is an open ended section for people to fill in any other information they wish to include.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information collected — since psychedelics are strictly prohibited by the U.S. federal government and still suffer from widespread stigma in mainstream culture — participation is completely confidential and the survey will not collect or disseminate any identifying information from the people who fill it out.
The results of the survey should help build on our growing understanding of how psychedelics help people get in touch with the divine. Griffiths was also the lead researcher for a groundbreaking 2006 Hopkins study that documented the mystical experiences and spiritual journeys that people described while taking psilocybin in a controlled environment.
“Under those conditions, a high percentage of people end up reporting a constellation of experiences,” he said of the work, “the most interesting piece of which is that it really falls into a category of something that psychology of religion people talk about as a primary mystical experience.”
The survey, open to any fluent English speakers who are at least 18 years old and have had an encounter with a higher power while using psychedelics, takes about 30 minutes and can be found here: http://www.psychedelicencounteringthedivine.org. For more information, contact EncounteringTheDivine@jhu.edu.