Psychedelics and Spirituality

brainBarbara Bradley Hagerty, religion reporter for NPR, is going a 5 part series on the “science of spirituality“. There have been accusations that Hagerty’s reporting is far from unbiased, having a heavy conservative Christian stance. We’ll see how she does with this series. It seems to me that any study that is showing pharmaceuticals as being as effective as prayer in achieving a “spiritual” experience kind of debunks religion by it’s very nature. It is, after all, a chemical and not a connection with any sort of god causing the reaction. It is, however, a much more predictable and dependable method of acheiving the desired outcome. Personally, I believe that all “spiritual experiences” are physical and nothing more. People of all religions, including non-believers, can have them. That fact alone points to no particular religion being correct, and leans toward all of them being wrong.

The first major rigorous study of psychedelics and spirituality occurred on Good Friday in 1962. In the basement of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, researchers from Harvard gave 10 divinity students LSD to see if the sacred setting, combined with drugs, would spark a mystical experience. It did. Soon afterward, researchers at other prominent universities began administering psychedelic drugs to volunteers in controlled settings.

By the end of the 1960s, the U.S. government had had enough of Timothy Leary’s call to “turn on, tune in, drop out” and were concerned that a generation was conducting its own uncontrolled experiments with drugs and spirituality. In the early ’70s, the experiments ended.

Until now.

The current study on drugs and spiritual experiences is going on at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. They expect that the serotonin system has a great deal to do with it.Many psychedelics look, chemically, very much like serotonin, so it would not be a surprise if they activate it.

They are currently seeking voluteers with a cancer diagnosis to participate in the study.

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