Talking Spirituality: DRUGS

by Natalie Grigson on July 15, 2013

I thought that might get your attention.

Now I know that in most of my columns, I tell you a little bit about a recent experience that I’ve had—anything from doling out free hugs to chatting with psychics. So I just want to preface today’s post by officially stating, that in this case, this wasn’t the situation. I repeat: I did not recently try any of the following practices in order to write about them today.

Photo Courtesy of: ZeusandHera

After all, I have a friend in town this weekend and I simply didn’t have the time!
So how does today’s ever-so-subtly-titled subject relate to spirituality? Let me count the ways…

1) Hallucinogens in ceremonies. Hallucinogens have been used for hundreds of years for various religious, spiritual, divinatory, or healing purposes.

Some examples include the kykeon of Eleusis, the soma of the Rigveda, peyote in the Native American church, the teonanactl of the Aztecs, and ayahuasca of the Santo Daime and Uniao do Vegetal.

DMT, or dimethyltryptamine, is found naturally in certain plants and when it is boiled down and combined with another MAOI-containing plant, you get the apparently quite disgusting tea, ayahuasca. Even though DMT is classified as a Schedule I drug in the U.S.—where it is perfectly legal to buy cancer-causing cigarettes, drink yourself into a stupor every night, and shovel over-the-counter pills into your mouth for breakfast, mind—even here, the government recognizes the spiritual significance of DMT. In the case of Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Federal Government should allow the Uniao do Vegetal to import and consume ayahuasca for religious ceremonies, under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Another entheogen, psilocybin, has been found to influence the same brain receptors that respond to serotonin in your brain. Mushrooms containing psilocybin—like the teonanactl mentioned above—have been used for centuries in other cultures for spiritual reasons—and recently, science has even caught on.

2) It’s science. Here’s the gist of it: In a recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, researchers doled out some mushrooms to a 36, well-educated, healthy volunteers. (Hooray science!) 60 percent of the group reported the experience as “one of the most spiritually significant events in in their lives,” and regarded it as having increased their sense of well-being and life satisfaction.

Researchers were thrilled. They even went so far as to hypothesize that these psychedelic shrooms could be helpful in treating patients with cancer-related anxiety or depression, and could even serve as a treatment for drug dependence. Why?

3) Psychedelics aren’t drug drugs. Okay, I know that psychedelics are drugs in that they are substances that alter your physiology or psychology, and yes they are quite illegal (here)—but I’ve recently come to an important, personal distinction. There are certain drugs that bring you below consciousness—they numb you; they anesthetize you from Truth. I’m talking about things like alcohol, cocaine, opiates, many prescription drugs like anti-depressants, even pain meds, and sorry, San Francisco, marijuana. In my book, these drugs are a filler—they’re a “cure.” For what? Mostly boredom. Feeling alive. Feeling connected.

But then there is another group of drugs—those that can help to bring about consciousness. They open you up. You feel connected. You feel God. (Or so I’ve heard.)
I’m talking psychedelics, or entheogens—LSD, mushrooms, peyote, mescaline, Ayahuasca, etc. In fact, calling these substances “psychedelics” is to limit and trivialize their use.

Entheogen is a more appropriate term, one that has been used for centuries. In Greek the word “entheos” means “god (theos) within,” and was used to describe the condition that follows when someone is inspired or possessed by the god—often in “psychedelic”-related ceremonies.

4) If Deepak says it’s a go…
If you’ve been reading my column with any regularity, you know that Deepak Chopra and I are pretty tight. He just doesn’t know it. So when Deepak recently opened up about his experience with LSD and discussed the use of certain drugs for spiritual purposes; well, that’s when I decided to sell all my stuff, move to Peru, and move in with a Shaman. No, I’m just kidding. But I do think he has a great point.

For Deepak’s Interview, click here.

Also, for a wonderful Ted Talk with more information on ayahuasca and spirituality, click here.

And for a delightful piece by NPR about the “God Chemical” in the brain, click here.

I’d love to hear about your thoughts on drugs and spirituality. “Send Us Feedback” below! (Don’t worry, you can remain anonymous.)

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