Tripping to Enlightenment? Consciousness, Religion, Mental Health & Psychedelics [ONLINE]
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The Mystery Religions of the ancient world frequently, if not always, employed the use of psychoactive drugs or entheogens to induce altered states of consciousness. Such experiences were indispensable to the initiation of members, their rituals relating to spiritual development, and ultimately the attainment of the “peak” experience(s) that represented the apotheosis and fulfillment of their theological and spiritual initiations.
All religions have been either directly or indirectly interested in human consciousness. Most religions expect that an awareness of the transcendent will cause a change of consciousness in the devotee. A mere sense that, ‘we are not alone’ or perhaps, ‘the context of our vast universe prevents any particular individual from believing they are the centre, around which all else moves’.
Sacred places, sacred rites and indeed all sacraments, exist to bring about a change of consciousness in the religious person. Baptism, marriage, ordination, last rites all seek to reorient a person to a change of circumstance, to bring a change of consciousness that will better equip a person for the change of circumstance.
In various religious traditions, communities have met mostly on a weekly basis to participate in rituals, that aim to be “food for the journey”. For example, the rite of communion is ingestion of wine and bread that becomes by virtue of the rite, an ingestion of grace, the very essence of the person of Jesus.
As the Western world become less religious, it’s hardly surprising that some of the ancient wisdom should be found in a more medical framework. Under the proper conditions and used intentionally, psychedelics are able to produce mystical, religious, or otherwise deeply meaningful experiences which can be employed for therapeutic purposes. These medicines help people to heal, process trauma, commune with others, or divine something about themselves and the universe. Psychedelics lend themselves to the concept of spiritual enlightenment at the most intimate personal levels. They also reveal collective truths, as well as scientific ones, to ‘change our minds’, our communities and our world.
Why shouldn’t a qualified therapist with medical training use certain medicines to bring about a change of consciousness in order to bring a change in circumstance and improve wellbeing? Neither religious practitioner or medical practitioner need to adopt the language of the other but each can concede a place for the other in the interest of bringing people to improved health and better circumstance.
Imagine if we could repair society by helping human beings feel connected to each other and to the universe!