In counseling with clients who have used drugs about their journeys into the “un-real”, paranoid, even full-blown psychotic realm and in my own peak spiritual experiences (without the inducing influence of drugs), as described by Maslow, James, etal. of a “mystical” kind, I have come to believe that the opportunity to experience a meaningful “mystical” experience lies not in artificially loosening one’s inhibitions and abandoning one’s cognitive and affective capacities to some great “Cloud of Unknowing” or pharmacological high, but rather it is in loving and desiring to be present with God, exercising a conscious choice to yield oneself to the authority of God’s Word, meditating upon it, and inviting the Lord to take one deeper into knowing God as God is. I have experienced such “mystical moments” in prayer (alone or in intercession with another), in quiet reflective moments of contemplation of the Word or some aspect of God’s glory revealed in creation, or in relaxing in the joy of unabashed praise and thanksgiving (most often in solitude). In those moments when God speaks into my heart and mind, it is humbling to reaiize that God is drawing so near that there is no awareness of separation between us, taking me into his confidence, trusting me with Truths far larger than I have discovered through study. It often is accompanied by a sensory experience (a sweet fragrance, a feeling of melting into or being drawn into a larger Presence, hearing that arises from deep within and not through the mechanical structures of my ears, a gentle brush of breath or breeze against my skin that raises a tactile response, a heightened sharpness of vision that may include enhanced perception of colors or the presence of an alluring glow that rests upon some one or some thing. It may arise as consciousness dawns upon awaking out of a dream that is very clear and brings with it immediate interpretation of the dream’s elements. It may arise in the midst of feeling the reverberations of a powerful music presentation in a holy setting. However, one thing of which I am sure…such experiences do not come at my bidding, but only as God chooses and as I yield and make myself available. I am not impressed by this report of attempts to “manufacture” mystical experiences. There are plenty of counterfeit experiences. But a true encounter with Almighty God is a gift, not the outcome of a scientific experiment, especially one facilitated by a psychotropic chemical.
This article was in the Duke Divinity School Leadership newsletter today.
Scientific pursuit of such “God experiences” using chemicals will simply be used in an attempt to demonstrate that “religion” or “spirituality” is simply a chemical reaction in the brain and as further evidence that God is “all in one’s mind.” One’s mind (as well as all of one’s physical self) is God’s creation, sort of hardware of our spirit and soul and is a means by which God can be present with us by his Spirit in communion with our spirit. God is the one who programmed us and the one who can access whatever aspect of us is desired by God. To think we can command it and manipulate it is just offensive to me. Sure, one can engage in exploiting God’s creation with counterfeit maneuvers, but I know full well who is behind that and I would have nothing to do with it.
The Bible commands us to avoid such use of “pharmeutical”….does that mean one shouldn’t use appropriate medication for specific symptoms? No. It means using it it to access the spirit realm is dangerous and prohibited. Just like those builders who sought to erect a structure to reach God in Babel, God will not allow it. He will thwart such efforts. Is God capable of speaking to us even through medications are required for those with mental or medical conditions? Absolutely. They cannot be used to manipulate God. They cannot be used to deny him access to his creation, either.
This administration of psilocybin in a “clinical setting” by otherwise reputable medical institutions in an attempt to induce mystical spiritual experiences is nothing more than a modern incarnational twist on the old cult of the Roman god of healing and medicine, Aesculapius (with his staff entwined by a snake), that was around at the time of Christ. Cult priests would drug people who paid with sacrifices and money for time in the “sanatoria”, inducing a hallucinatory trance as they lay in quiet rooms. If the snake god came to them in their hallucination they would be declared healed and their names would be written on write stones. “Priests” of Aesculapius would determine who could undergo treatment and who couldn’t. More like witchcraft than holy encounters with God.