A couple of psychedelic substances early on in life introduced me to the fact that they have the power to teach us something.  This was well before I had been introduced to the idea accepted in certain circles of them being therapeutic tools. In my adolescence I remember commenting while deep into one of my first LSD experiences that ‘this is what adults forget that has made the world so messed up’ and years later, after my first time experiencing an intense five minutes out of salvia divinorum I felt and commented that ‘she’s a teacher, she’ll give you lessons if you want them.’

While propaganda with the War on Drugs campaign has jaded a lot of people towards even considering the potential benefits of psychedelic medicines, the fact remains that even demonized LSD was used in therapeutic settings with remarkable results before it was outlawed, ironically, as a substance with no accepted medical use. Researchers in places like Saskatoon, Saskatchewan ran excellent studies on the use of LSD to generate psychosis in themselves so that they could better understand the ‘skit of a schizophrenic’, plus they used LSD to treat alcoholics and had a remarkable success rate of over 50%.  Their theory with alcoholics was that you’d give them LSD, they’d have a horrible time, and then they’d want to quit.  That wasn’t the case however as it seemed more like the LSD put them in a reflective state about what they’d been doing to their kin and this helped cause a shift which brought about healing.

One of the greatest potentials for psychedelics however seems to be in the field of personal and spiritual development. The medicines can be leveraged by people to speed up their personal evolution by giving them access to realms of consciousness that had previously been veiled. It is not uncommon for people to have radical spiritual awakenings through the use of these psychotropic substances.  One classic example is the Good Friday Experiment which happened in the basement of Marsh Chapel at Boston University on Good Friday, 1962.

The Harvard Psilocybin Project invited divinity student volunteers to participate in an experiment whose purpose was to see if psilocybin would act as a catalyst for experiencing God in subjects who were already religiously predisposed. Half of the group was given psilocybin, the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’, and the other was given niacin, an ‘active-placebo’, which means it still produces some physical effects like flushed skin and feeling itchy.

One group felt the effects of the placebo quickly, but the feeling soon waned, while the psilocybin groups effects took longer to kick in but were considerably more profound. Huston Smith, who would later write textbooks on comparative religion, was in the drug group and later called it “the most powerful cosmic homecoming I have ever experienced.” The author of the study concluded that “the persons who received psilocybin experienced to a greater extent than did the controls the phenomena described by our typology of mysticism.” And Walter Houston, winner of an American Psychological Association award for contributions to the psychology of religion, writes, “There are no experiments known to me in the history of the scientific study of religion better designed or clearer in their conclusion than this one.”

In a world that is practically devoid of any meaningful spiritual framework, there may be tremendous value in facilitating cosmic homecomings, opening up gateways to inner levels where one might find that most sought after of secrets – the Meaning of Life.

Comparative Religion