Just using the word “drugs” seems to be something of a trigger these days. Drugs and spirituality become a distant possibility. But the fact is that nearly every culture in the world has some history of using drugs for spiritual purposes.
Drugs such as mescaline and psilocybin appear in religious and spiritual rituals for centuries. Psilocybin occurs in some species of mushrooms. It was so sacred to some of the native people Mexico that it was referred to as “God’s Flesh.”
Recent studies have shown that many of these drugs offer therapeutic possibilities even beyond the spiritual components. In addition to the spiritual benefits, some of these drugs enhance self-knowledge and coping.
There are numerous naturally occurring chemicals which produce visionary and spiritual experiences. Beyond the naturally occurring drugs, scientists have also produced synthetic chemicals which have spiritual mind-expanding properties. Albert Hoffmann was the first to isolate psilocybin in a laboratory. He is also the scientist who first synthesized LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide.
An exploration of some of these chemicals can shed light on the ways these drugs have historically been used. We can also gain insight into the ways people employ drugs for spiritual experiences today.
Peyote is a small cactus native to the southwestern parts of the Untied States and Northern Mexico. The top portion of the cactus contains a chemical called mescaline which has medicinal properties. Therefore its uses are as an analgesic to treat burns, wounds, and aching muscles, peyote has been a staple of Native American medicine for centuries.
In addition to its healing properties, peyote induces hallucinogenic experiences. Native peoples employ Peyote as part of their religious rituals. Because peyote contains mescaline, it is a Class I controlled substance. However Native Americans are partially exempt from this law on religious grounds.
The spiritual effects of taking peyote include the experience of powerful visions even with eyes closed. For example a heightened perception of color and sound, dream-like experiences, and increased physical sensation all lead to a mind-expanding experience.
These experience and sensations can alter our perceptions of reality. As a result Peyote creates an expansion of consciousness which cannot be produced with other practices. For this reason, Native Religious practices revere peyote as a sacred feature of spiritual life.
Mushrooms and Psilocybin
Psilocybin is a psychedelic compound occurring in over 180 species of mushrooms. Use of these mushrooms has been central to many native American practices for centuries. Archaeological evidence has shown that use of mushrooms in spiritual practices dates back over 7000 years.
The experiences brought on by psilocybin have become part of psychedelic drug culture since the 1960s. However, the hallucinogenic properties of psilocybin are known to entail far more than a simple “trip.”
In other words Psilocybin tends to dissolve the boundaries between the individual ego and a greater sense of connection. These types of experiences reveal the divisions between the induvial ego and others as illusory and contrived boundaries. Often users of psilocybin describe a profound sense of interconnectedness with other people and with all of life.
Some explorations with psilocybin have revealed potential connections between our narrow plane of experience and with the multiverse. So as cultural and social boundaries are removed, psilocybin reveals connections well beyond the world of immediate experience.
Ayahuasca is a comparatively recent development for those seeking mind-expanding experiences. Yet its use for ceremonial and spiritual purposes in South America for over 2500 years is clear.
The drug comes from a brew of the vine consumed as a traditional spiritual medicine by the indigenous people of the Amazon basin.
Those who have used ayahuasca claim that the experiences are transformative—creating a sense of healing in every aspect of your being. Therefore the effects report to impact emotional, physical, and spiritual health in profoundly beneficial ways.
The active chemical ingredient in ayahuasca is DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine). This chemical is a powerful hallucinogen which can induce feelings of euphoria, auditory hallucinations, and spiritual experiences.
But users of ayahuasca claim that one can have ten completely different experiences in taking the drug ten times. It is inherently unpredictable which leads some to believe the spiritual experiences are highly dependent upon one’s personal psychological disposition.
There is scientific evidence that ayahuasca is medically beneficial. Researchers are exploring its potential uses for treating drug addiction, for example.
Almost immediately Albert Hoffmann realized that there were profound benefits to LSD. Like peyote, LSD tends to break down barriers which unnaturally impede interconnectedness.
Subsequently LSD has shown promise for treating addiction, alcoholism, and personality disorders. Yet the mind-expanding experiences of LSD lead many people to use the drug for spiritual reasons. The hallucinations are often revealing about our psychological state. However this leads to new ways of viewing our relationship to the world around us.
We are not advocating for drug use in attaining spiritual awareness. Having said that, however we do recognize that each of us is on our own path. And that path may have many twists and turns. So discovering your spiritual path may use one of many tools available to you.
Therefore, this is just a survey some of the more prominent drugs some use for spiritual explorations. We should bear in mind that some more common plants are also used for ceremonial and spiritual purposes. Even tobacco is
part of the Native American culture’s spiritual traditions.
All of these substances are either listed as controlled or are outright illegal. LSD, for instance is listed as a Class I controlled substance. Therefore, use of these substances carries dangers not only to your physical body but also with the law.
Still, the latest science has demonstrated that these types of drugs do elevate consciousness. The mind expands in ways which produce experiences which can only be defined as spiritual. And these experiences in short have been proven to have measurable psychological and emotional benefits.
If drugs have become more than a way to expand your consciousness, contact National Drug Helpline