What Happens When Spiritual Leaders Take Psychedelic Drugs?

First Posted: Feb 09, 2017 04:24 AM EST

In 1962, Harvard psychiatrist Walter Pahnke administered a dose of psychedelic mushrooms to a group of theology students and professors while waiting for the Good Friday services at Boston University's Marsh Chapel. As most subjects, including historian Huston Smith, believed to have experienced a powerful spiritual encounter while they were on psychedelics, a new study replicates the experiment among spiritual leaders -- this time from various major world religions.

"The experience was powerful for me, and it left a permanent mark on my experienced worldview," recalled the late historian Smith who wrote about "God-revealing chemicals" in his book Cleansing the Doors of Perception. "I had believed in God... but until the Good Friday experiment, I had no personal encounter with God of the sort that bhakti yogis, Pentecostals and born-again Christians describe."

The Huffington Post reported that psychologists at Johns Hopkins and New York University studied the effects of psilocybin, the active component in magic mushrooms, to a Zen Buddhist roshi, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, as well as members of the Presbyterian, Episcopal and Eastern Orthodox clergies in an experiment titled NYU Psilocybin Religious Leaders Project. According to project director Dr. Anthony Bossis, this array of subjects will help them map out the immediate "mystical experience" induced by chemicals that would often take years of prayer and meditation for some people as per previous studies.

"One of things I was struck by, doing this research, was the experience of love that they spoke of," Bossis told The Huffington Post. "It's quite striking to witness... people speak about this overwhelming experience of love - loving-kindness to self, love towards others, and what the Greeks called agape, this kind of universal, cosmic love that they say permeates everything, and which recalibrates how they live."

Bossis added that they are still looking for Muslim imams along with Catholic and Hindu priests to participate in this psychedelic study.

On the other hand, the Greeks' word for "the use of drugs" is "pharmakeia," which means magic, sorcery or enchantment. According to the Bible, God has prohibited such practice among His people in books Galatians and Deuteronomy.

Having a "mystical experience" may be a powerful moment but it comes through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit when people pray, worship and meditate, not in a form of "God-revealing chemicals" that an individual could genuinely encounter God.

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