Psychedelics are unsurpassed in their ability to deliver a kind of “God encounter.” In a matter of seconds, a compound such as 5-MeO-DMT can bring the reunion with Source that many yogis, meditators, and other spiritual seekers spend decades chasing. But what other advances can psychedelics make into the spiritual realm?
Words like spirit and God are easily misunderstood. The latter word can be especially problematic; for many, it conjures images of an almighty cloud king who looks something like a cross between Zeus, Santa Claus, Gandalf, and David Crosby. Discussing the existence of God with someone who holds this as a reference point can be like straight-facedly telling someone you think Popeye is real.
There are, however, millions of people in this world who have arrived at a new understanding of God and spirit through direct experience. By having the layers of individuated self temporarily stripped away, one comes to a remembrance of her or his true nature as pure energy, light, and love.
To those who haven’t had that experience, this kind of talk can sound like the cow spoor from whence mushrooms spring, but to those who have seen it for themselves, it is indisputable fact. Indeed, from a certain perspective, it is the only thing that is real.
The ability of psychoactive substances to occasion mystical experiences is not a new discovery. Among other places, clear references to this can be found in the ancient Hindu text known as the Rig Veda (compiled between roughly 1700 and 1100 B.C. from oral tradition that existed long earlier) and in written accounts of the Ancient Greek Eleusinian Mysteries, which took place from approximately 1450 B.C. to 392 A.D. Even in a relatively young country like America, the recognition of this phenomenon can be found in the word entheogen (“generating the divine within”).
As the Psychedelic Renaissance gathers steam and science verifies the spiritual value of these compounds, we shouldn’t be too surprised if we start seeing yoga and meditation centers inviting spiritual aspirants to combine these practices with psychedelics.
Who knows—psychoactive compounds may even find their way into organized religion.
The High Church
Any church that uses a Schedule I substance in religious practice is at serious risk of being shut down by the government. One of the defining characteristics of this Schedule I classification is that the substance in question has no medicinal value.
As overwhelming evidence of psychedelics’ healing nature keeps rolling in, it will eventually be impossible for the DEA to keep these compounds under the Schedule I category. Along with making it easier for existing psychedelic churches like The Peyote Way Church of God and the Church of the Eagle and the Condor to operate without fear of legal entanglements, the reclassification of entheogens could give rise to a fresh crop of entheogenic churches.
Imagine, for example, a Christian branch whose Eucharist involves the consumption of an entheogen instead of a wafer and wine, or temples in which worshippers take MDMA as a sacrament and honor their fundamental unity through ritual, spoken prayer, dance, and ecstatic togetherness.
Whatever your feelings about churches might be, there is at least one entirely practical reason for psychedelic people to belong to them: As big pharma gets its hands on psychedelic medicine, these sacraments may become unaffordable.
For psychedelically inclined adherents of faiths like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, religious exemption may end up being a valid way to avoid this, as outlined in a recent article from Rolling Stone.
A New Hope?
A newly formed church called The Divine Assembly may offer a glimpse of the future of psychedelic religion. The list of tenets on this church’s website is refreshingly short:
We believe each individual can directly commune with the Divine through the psilocybin sacrament. We enjoy the sacrament sincerely and safely.
That’s it. Since you can commune directly, you don’t need anyone else to tell you how to live. No one else has the manual for your life.
The founder of The Divine Assembly is Steve Urquhart, an ex-member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (formerly known as the Mormon Church). “I would think and hope, rather than pulling in what I learned from Mormonism, I hope that I am addressing the things that stunted my spiritual development,” he told Double Blind magazine.
”It’s top-down hierarchical dogma. Other humans telling a worshipper what to think and imposing all sorts of ridiculous requirements. I just have to believe that the amazing-infinite-wonderful-whatever-it-is-that-puts-the-universe-in-motion, which I call the Divine, just doesn’t give any shits about any of that stuff.”
Perhaps through the direct gnosis of the Divine, greater numbers of people will, like Urquhart, come to realize how unnecessary and destructive the dogmas and strictures of formal religion can be, and that true spirituality need not involve elaborate belief systems or rigorous practices.
Practice for what? The very word implies preparation for some future event. Spirit is right here, right now. We are it. Waking up to this ever-present reality can be as simple as inhaling the air and feeling the mind-blowing miracle of life-giving breath, of having consciousness, and of being alive on Planet Earth.
You don’t necessarily need to ingest a psychedelic/ entheogen in a peaceful setting to feel this ever-present current of Spirit… but it helps.
Damon Orion is a writer, journalist, musician, artist and teacher living in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California. More of his work can be found at DamonOrion.com