Christians understand that divine grace can be experienced through ingesting a sacred substance. Jesus instituted the eating of sacraments in the Lord’s Supper, a central ritual in Christian gatherings around the world. Psychedelics are an official sacrament in multiple Christian denominations and are used by Christians for spiritual transformation and psychological healing. They are validated by scientific studies and mental health experts for their near-miraculous therapeutic potential. And they have been used for centuries in congregational settings by indigenous peoples for spiritual transformation. Unfortunately, many uninformed Christian leaders stigmatize psychedelics as demonic or evil. There are no biblical texts to support this misguided claim. According to the Bible, Christians should view psychedelic plants, fungi, and animals as part of God’s good creation–divine gifts from the Creator.
The consistent report of psychedelic users, including Christians, is that psychedelics lead to life-changing visionary experiences of divine union, like the visions of God recounted by the biblical mystics Ezekiel, Isaiah, and John the Seer. Psychedelics are an amazing tool to help Christians actually experience what they read about in Scripture. They are known by those who use them for spiritual growth as entheogens. The word entheogen is a combination of the Greek words used in the New Testament ἔνθεος and γενέσθαι, translated “to become God within.” In Christian theology, this references the doctrine of theosis or divinization–a central biblical teaching that the goal of spiritual life is union with God. The word entheogen, therefore, is a way of speaking of psychedelics as sacraments that lead to divine union.
According to Christianity, a sacrament is a conduit of divine grace. Although it is not typically psychedelic, the sacrament of Holy Communion (The Eucharist, Lord’s Supper) is understood by Christians as entheogenic in that the ingestion of substances in ritual leads to becoming more godly. The sacrament of Communion entails a mystical identification with fellow Christians and God through remembrance of Jesus’ death in ceremony (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Matthew 26:26-28). (For psychedelic explorers this can be seen as an analogy for the well-known mystical experience of ego death.) Holy Communion also involves a looking forward to the resurrection of Jesus, and the believer along with him, as liberated beings who receive the New Covenant gift of Holy Spirit. The New Covenant is a new pact replacing bondage to The Law, which represents the old paradigm agreement people unconsciously believe, “I have to work to be loved.” The New Covenant is the agreement of grace, “I deserve all the love in the universe because I know my nature is divine through union with Spirit.” It is a way of living in harmony and a state of flow with oneself, nature, and divinity.
Ingestion through eating and drinking is a powerful symbol of transformation. The practitioner actively participates in the process of grace through surrendering to the substance as it does its work digestively. She receives its transformation of healing and growth of new life in the human organism through metabolic processes of bodily alchemy that transform the elements into substance and action. We experience this metaphor of grace every time we eat. It is pronounced with entheogens (psychedelics) because these compounds open our channels of innate spiritual connection, allowing us to take in spiritual revelation and hear the voice of God directly, effortlessly, and consistently.
Psychedelics Are God-Given Gifts of Nature
Naturalists have often remarked on the marvelous fact that psychedelic compounds growing in nature are seemingly custom-designed to activate neural networks in the human brain and aspects of the psyche that lead to a sense of harmony with nature and ecstatic union with the divine. The organisms that produce psychedelic compounds have coevolved with us, or were created with us, for our mutual benefit (or both, depending on your beliefs). Psychedelic plants, fungi, and animals occur in every portion of the globe and have been recognized throughout recorded human history as spiritual supplements, administered in sacred settings. (We need not limit ourselves to nature-based compounds. Synthetic and semi-synthetic psychedelics can be viewed as human medicines co-created with the divine.) We must ask ourselves, how could plants that result in healing and spirituality be of the devil instead of God? Why are many Christian leaders the last to recognize that psychedelics are healing gifts of nature and God, lagging behind both secular science and other spiritual traditions?
Christians would do well to apply the metaphor Jesus uses in his parable about good and bad fruit to psychedelics: “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers” (Luke 6:43-44, NIV). On the natural level, Jesus highlights that we recognize plants as beneficial or harmful based on the effects of the fruit they produce. Since psychedelics, taken with proper precautions in a good setting, lead to increased health in the overwhelming majority of cases, we should recognize them as good plants with good fruits. As the prophet Isaiah warns us, misdiagnosing good as evil is destructive: “Woe to those who call good evil” (Isaiah 5:20, NIV).
Should Christians Take “Illegal Drugs?”
Christians should not condemn psychedelics on the grounds that they are currently illegal in many settings because psychedelic usage is a matter of religious freedom. We have an innate human right to utilize medicines and sacraments that promote our wellbeing and spiritual growth. This should be understood by Christians perhaps more than any other group because Christians historically know what it is to be persecuted for their religious freedom. In its earliest years, Christianity was made illegal by the Roman Empire. Christians were hunted down and killed for their rituals and beliefs. They were portrayed as psychotic, evil cannibals because they ate the body and drank the blood of Jesus in their ceremonies. Christians have been persecuted and killed for their illegal religion in many societies; this is one of the chief reasons religious freedom was instituted by the First Amendment in the United States Constitution. While it is understandable and biblical to want to obey governing authorities (Romans 13), Christians have a moral obligation to protest and thrust aside unjust laws that violate divine will (Revelation).
Moreover, psychedelics are rapidly becoming legal in a variety of contexts through a modern psychedelic renaissance of research, advocacy, and religious liberty. The United States Government (along with other nations) has already sanctioned several religious organizations to legally administer psychedelics as sacraments in recognition of religious freedom. Christian-identifying denominations like the Santo Daime Church and União do Vegetal officially recognize the psychedelic ayahuasca as a central sacrament and administer it legally in their church services in the US, Brazil, and other countries. Native American congregations legally administer peyote and San Pedro cacti as sacraments in the US. Movements like Decriminalize Nature have already decriminalized psychedelics in Denver and Oakland, and similar efforts are underway throughout the United States. Magic mushrooms and MDMA are undergoing Stage III clinical trials for approval by the FDA to be reclassified as legal for administration alongside psychotherapy.
The criminalization of psychedelics is a historical blip on the screen. It is abnormal and unprecedented; most cultures in human history have revered psychedelics as sacraments. Criminalization was a reactionary backlash to the environmentalist, social justice, antiwar, and convention-questioning movements of the 1960s that psychedelics inspired in massive numbers of people who took them. It was the result of the media sensationalization of a few incidents of people taking psychedelics in an unsafe manner, resulting in the shutdown of a multitude of scientific studies that saw remarkable advances in the treatment of mental illness and drug addiction. And it was a deliberate racist political strategy to use criminalization of substances as a means to incarcerate and oppress millions of black and brown Americans through the nefarious Controlled Substances Act. Psychedelic criminalization has been a colossal assault on our collective sanity. As ambassadors of righteousness, it behooves Christians to examine the history of psychedelic legislation more closely and participate actively in social justice movements that aim to make these God-given gifts more accessible to the people who need them.
The Religious Risks of Taking Psychedelics
There are risks, however, that religious people ought to be aware of when considering psychedelics. Psychedelics are known to increase openness and cause people to change their ingrained ways of viewing themselves and the world. A recent John Hopkins study, for example, administered a single dose of psilocybin to 51 religious and spiritual participants. Fourteen months after the session, the study found that participants experienced enduring positive personality changes; particularly the trait of openness.1 (A study on Effects of Psilocybin-Facilitated Experience on the Psychology and Effectiveness of Professional Leaders in Religion is currently enrolling religious leaders as participants.)
Some people choose to change their religion as a result of their psychedelic experiences. This is not inevitable, however. Many choose to remain within their religious traditions and approach their beliefs in new and exciting ways. The Good Friday Experiment is a prototypical example. This experiment was a double-blind study conducted on 20 graduate degree divinity student volunteers in 1962 as part of the Harvard Psilocybin Project. Nearly all the volunteers who received psilocybin (the psychedelic compound active in magic mushrooms) reported profound religious experiences they still considered one of the high points of their spiritual life twenty-five years later in a follow-up study.2 Many went on to become Christian leaders and remained religious, such as the famous scholar of religions Huston Smith.
However, there is some rationale behind the condemnation of psychedelics by some Christian leaders. Psychedelic users often recount encounters with beings that appear as angels, animals, spirits, deities of other religions, or even extraterrestrials. These encounters are usually perceived as healing and beneficial. Some interpret them as purely psychological and others view them as actual spirits or a combination of both. Christian leaders have been hasty to conclude that these encounters must be demonic and therefore psychedelics are of the devil. Or they contend that using psychedelics is like playing with fire and opening oneself up to the potential of being deceived by demons appearing as light. These Christians cite Bible verses out of context that make no mention of psychedelics, such as “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). They warn their congregants that anything unknown or contrary to their interpretation of the Bible is a message from false prophets and demons that could lead the openminded Christian to lose her salvation on a slippery slope straight into hell.
The sweeping dismissal of all accounts of psychedelic communion with the divine seems validated to these leaders by the fact that most who take psychedelics broaden their perspective. They sometimes change their religion or church denomination, or expand their worldview to integrate wisdom and practices from other religions. How dare they presume that God might even be at work outside of the four walls of the Church, or that Christians might not know everything there is to know about spirituality! Because of this, I recommend that Christians who consider themselves fundamentalists, authoritarian, theologically rigid, or who view any changes to their beliefs as threatening avoid psychedelics. Psychedelics are a genuine threat to Christian doctrines that promote fear and oppression, which people often break out of after having experiences of God. For many Christians, losing the fear of hell is as terrifying as going to hell. And those who take psychedelics usually heal from their religious trauma and learn to resist the manipulative control tactics commonly employed by many churches and ministers. However, for those Christians who value the humility of wisdom and genuine experience of God over someone else’s lifeless theological certainty, psychedelics are a great fit.
Yet psychedelics are not for everyone, and they should not be pushed on anyone. Christians who do not wish to utilize psychedelics should not judge other Christians who do. The Apostle Paul’s discussion about differing degrees of confidence among Christians about eating or not eating Kosher food can be applied to psychedelics: “The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge…?… Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil.” (Romans 14:3-4; 16, NIV). Paul says that each of us should trust our own conscience and not judge each other for our individual choices to ingest or abstain.
Erasing Psychedelic Stigma: Treatment of Drug Addiction and Mental Health Issues
Many Christians dismiss psychedelics not for theological reasons, but because they associate them with addictive drugs. Contrary to this stigma, psychedelics are one of the most promising treatments for addiction, often curing addiction entirely or resulting in long windows of sobriety for opiate, alcohol, and cigarette addiction. Medical treatment centers administer the psychoactive plant iboga to treat or cure addictive drugs including heroin, crystal meth, opioids, cigarettes, and other substances in countries like Canada and Mexico.
Psychedelics are also a breakthrough treatment for a host of mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. In Phase II FDA clinical trials for psychotherapy-assisted MDMA treatment, 68% of patients no longer qualified for a diagnosis of chronic treatment-resistant PTSD after a 12-month follow-up.3 Psychedelics also treat anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental health conditions. Currently, the psychedelic ketamine is legally administered by physicians to treat depression in the United States. Christians should be aware of these miraculous healing benefits of psychedelics and spread this good news to their suffering family members and friends.
Precautions, Negative Experiences with Psychedelics, and “Spiritual Warfare”
Not all experiences on psychedelics are pleasant or beneficial. All who consider psychedelics should do their research about potential risks and preparation and find experienced facilitators who can answer their questions. Some psychedelics are gentler than others: I recommend the San Pedro cactus (named after Saint Peter’s “keys to the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 16:19) as a gentle and blissful introduction for first-timers, or a light dose of mushrooms. Psychedelics are contraindicated for people with certain medical conditions, a family history of psychosis, or while taking certain medications. Psychedelic journeys can bring up deep traumas; thus, those who take them should be prepared to face and work through their problems or else abstain. But for the vast majority of people, psychedelics are not harmful. They are non-addictive and non-toxic (more accurately, anti-addictive and healing). Difficulties arise primarily when people take psychedelics in a poor setting, with an unprepared mindset, or without a support system to integrate the healing.
However, psychedelics can still result in unpleasant experiences. Most users report that even (or especially) their “bad trips” were lifechanging. The majority of these experiences can be averted or shifted by working with a guide or taking psychedelics in a setting where the user has support. Occasionally people on psychedelics have experiences that feel dark or threatening, sometimes appearing as entities. These are usually manifestations of negative emotions and tendencies in the psyche that need to be worked through. Many learn to view their unpleasant emotions and thoughts, inside and outside of psychedelic journeys, not as enemies but as teachers and parts of themselves offering insight on how to release unhelpful patterns.
This is a critical lesson for Christians who believe in literal demons. Most Christians who believe in dark spiritual forces try to fight them through combative commands or “taking authority in the name of Jesus.” This is fighting fire with fire. If you feed the energies of fear and violence with more fear and violence, they will only increase. Real spiritual warfare is learning how to see your enemies as friends in disguise. If one takes Christian teachings about spirits literally, spirits with negative energies are actually light beings who have fallen out of alignment with truth. They only appear to us as enemies if we are accustomed to viewing the unpleasant things in life as evil. The best way to work with such energies is to approach them with curiosity, detachment, and nonjudgment, asking, “Is there something I can learn from you?” If not, wish them well, send them towards the light, and intend for them to return to their original purpose. Whether these encounters are viewed as real, hallucinations, or parts of our own psyche (my main view), this new way of relating to challenging emotions and experiences is highly beneficial for facing the many challenges of everyday life.
The Christian Church can no longer afford to demonize the God-given gifts of psychedelic sacraments in a time of unprecedented human suffering and spiritual decline. Christians have a wealth of biblical reasons to take or advocate for psychedelics and oppose harmful stigmas propagated by uninformed Christians. For those interested in further study, there are libraries of books, podcasts, and scholarly literature available for free on the internet. I recommend Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence and James Fadiman’s The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys for a basic introduction.
1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Single Dose of Hallucinogen May Create Lasting Personality Change.” https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/single_dose_of_hallucinogen_may_create_lasting_personality_change (Release Date: September 29, 2011).
2. Doblin, Richard. “Pahnke’s Good Friday Experiment: A Long-Term Follow-Up and Methodological Critique.” Journal of Transpersonal Psychology23 (1): 1-25. http://www.atpweb.org/jtparchive/trps-23-91-01-001.pdf
3. “A Phase 3 Program of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Severe Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” https://maps.org/research/mdma/ptsd/phase3
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Keep up the good work Brother. So desperately needed. Bob.
I was a lifelong atheist before I had a profound psychedelic experience with a high dose of mushrooms. Psilocybin opened my mind to greater possibilities and let me see that there is a larger picture when it comes to life than what we currently know. Although I don’t see any of the world’s religions as having the right view of it, my experience led me to believe that these entheogenic plant medicines or possibly some people whose brain chemistry allows them to have the same type of experiences without them are what the foundations of those religions are built on. Mankind’s misguided attempt to explain the ineffable within a rigid structure that they can then adopt as a doctrine is still a disappointment to me. The truth about the knowledge these substances bring is so much better than the limiting and egocentric base associated with the prevalent religions that still persist in modern times. More people should experience these substances as the people many of them that they worship most likely did, so they can see for themselves how truly divine experience can teach you what the nature of the universe really is.
There are several religions that hold entheogens to be sacraments that are Christian, including the Native American Church, and also Santo Daime and other ayahuasca churches. Maria Sabina chanted to Christian saints and to Jesus Christ. I heard Walter Houston Clark speak several times about how psychedelics would revive Christianity. He was a professor at Andover Newton theological Seminary in the 1970s. Ken Kesey said he was an “acid head Christian” and encouraged me to reclaim my Christian heritage, which I did, and psychedelics have been of paramount influence in my spiritual life for over forty years.
This is a lovely article and profoundly put–thank you! It makes me wish my (limited) experiences with psychedelics were more positive. I am a very rigid and judgmental person by my nature, despite wishing to be more open-minded. Above all I fear death for the apparent non-existence it brings. Sure I’d like to believe in a Heaven, but like any human I have my doubts. My first and so far only time ingesting psilocybin, I believe I was on the verge of experiencing ego death, and I resisted it heavily. The result was the worst anxiety attack of my life, unbelievably raw emotions and fear tempered only by the fact that my wife was with me, trying to calm me. I tried so hard to tell myself it was a “challenging trip,” not a “bad trip,” but my mind couldn’t stop going to dark places … war, famine, death, I pondered all of it, and as I lost grip of time and reality I felt like existence itself was evil. As I peaked, I was trapped in a personal Hell of my mind’s own making for an hour or two. Four hours into the trip I vomited, and it was as if one foot became planted in reality–the rest of my body slowly followed, as if I were desperately clawing my way out of the void. It’s a shame I had such an awful experience, because I absolutely believe psychedelics can open the mind to ponder existence in a whole new light–sensations of oneness, of ego death, of realizing one’s miniscule place in this massive universe of God’s creation. Despite all of these positive beliefs, the feeling of powerlessness that overtook my psyche was horrifying to experience. Even in spite of my belief that psychedelics are a way to commune with God or to connect spiritually, I could not surrender to the sensations. I admit I feel disappointed in myself. I hope some day I can open myself up to a drug-induced ego death, but in the meantime I will chip away at my ego, quite sober, and enjoy the wonder of life God has gifted me with.
Thanks for your article.
I agree with what you are saying: it’s time the church woke up and smelled the ayahuasca, but given too many Christians reluctance to look at any source that is not the Bible…! I am surrounded by MD’s Ph.D’s, M.Divs and so on, and try enlightening them to things going on in the world : groups or individuals that have already come to terms with, sometimes by centuries, but so far without to much luck. Heck, even Michelangelo when he painted the Sistine Chapel, (The Creation of Man,) was aware of the connection, given that the image behind God’s head is actually identical to the shape of the human brain. There ARE some MD, such as Gabor Mate in Vancouver who have used it but rarely are there any in the church.
I meant to say, “groups or individuals that have already come to terms with, sometimes by centuries, issues that the “CHURCH” still has not found an answer to.
Sorry if I was not clear in that!
My experience has been once you understand all there is to understand, the voices I hear or speak with under hallucinogens ask me what else I expect to learn.
They reiterate all roads lead to Love and that if I need them they are there but otherwise get back to living for now.
And this I abide.
I’ve solved for the problems of Evil (PoE) mathematically and walk with Love and God everyday.
My point is hallucinogens only take you so far and then become recreational or overindulgence. Hence opposite of what they’re created for.
Good point there.
However, it depends upon your style and amount of use.
Psychedelics don’t even actually ”take you there”.
Most people I know tend to sit back and expect a mere chemical to do it all for them, so to speak (i think you’ve seen through that aspect really well. but it isn’t a be all and end all).
The psychedelic taken, simple open a door. But we have to walk through. And once through? Well, I fill it with little creative activities of artisticness, music making, scuplting, writing, ANYTHING which produces something by the end of it, rather than merely sitting back being ”drugged”. This is harmful. How much time has just been wasted using it merely like a drug? You get me?
Write, draw, paint, scuplt, make sounds, talk and record it, go through a therapy, and so on.
I rarely take any any more. But I am not against any future experiences. In fact every two to three years, I have a moderate to reasonably strong experience, and find it great in assisting seeing through my own ASD/ADHD thought processes. So is hiughly invaluable
I would very much like to hear of any genuinely biblically Christ lead bodies or organisations, preferably in Europe or better still UK that i can in some way fellowship with.
Am tired of feeling out-of-time and estranged from talking earnestly and honestly about the realities i live through and how NOT of ”this world” our everyday interface is. And how our everyday political reality is exactly what we need to be repented of. And how the powers that be seem to INSIST that we are held captive, to ransom, and made afriad to step oputside of what they have and are creating for us. And make us afraid to live and depend upon the actual real planet we were given to steward and care for including each other.
Us & them we have been divorced into.
I don’t want to hear from folk who just pick and mix what they want from the bible, and splatter it with the usual cosmic rich kid hippie stuff. But pure Christi-anarchy, and not churchianity. (idea lifted from Dave Andrews book ”Christianarchy)- well worth checking out, and his work in Australia and India.
These days as i find out about morphic resonance, info in Social Dilema, the book ”The case against Reality”, the short movie https://hyper-reality.co the more i understand what Revelation was about, and the ‘program’ God has been instigating since Genesis, through Moses, Abraham, and on through till Christ, and for when He returns as Messaih of all and last for the main body of Jewish people.
Are there any psychedelic Christ centred bodies/organisations? And if so, are they relevant to everyday people like myself for every day life?
If not, then shall we at least try?
I disagree : 2 years of depression after falling in this trap of ‘false light’ and ‘false lightbeings’. Trust only the real light of the Creator (the one and only), which is ‘inside’ of (each) us (and not to be found with an external ‘remedy’).
I psychedelics are ”denrgerous’ for Christians it is because Churchly dogmatic tradition has MADE it that way! Much like Americanized ‘drug’ enforcement deliberately made it that way (mainly to crminialize Latins, blacks and poor whites, then as a tool for the likes of Phyllis Schlafly’s American Eagle loonies who are the type that infewr anyone trying to mae a real difference is ”loonie left”).
The only thing, generally speaking, which make psychedelics ‘dangerous’ is getting the set (mindset of those around you and yyourself) and setting (environment chosen to experience it). But then the right-wingers create a fear and pressure by saying ”Are you condoning drugs?” (NO I am not, I am just keeping people from needless dangers that people like that created for us)
Some church folk now ”get” it, but cannot speak out.
They cannot speak out for obvious reasons which are not obvious till you see it (paradoxically).
This scenario should illustrate:
Imagine a TV talk show like Jermey Kyle, for instance.
Let’s say on that show they dicuss, marijuana. And you propse it should be legal. The right wing dupes will say ”if we legalize DRUGS, things will be chaos” for e.g.
herfew, straight away they have thrown a ”strawman” arguement at you. DON’T BITE.
They have tricked you into a different arguement and wasted valuable time as that was NOT the debate. The debate was ”legalize cannabis”. This is an old lawyers trick: ‘Strawman’.
Further, if we had members of the public asked about their opinion? well, it is TV< their bosses and law enforcement may be watching. So the ONLY people who can talk, are the ex heavy-drug addicts who've been in recovery. They are allowed by invisible rules to talk.
Whereas as over half the audience will have tried cannabis, but feel the cannot talk up, for fear of legal and employment retribution. It is a loaded dice.
This may illustrate the dynamics of what we are up against in church as many folk in position in many churches are there because they play THAT game to stay in their positions.
Much like (though may on the surface not seem connected. But I assure you it is another dynamic at play here) when my ex wife once said, being a social worker, that one 1 in 10 social workers and teachers are the real deal. THIS is what that person SHOULD be doing. The other 9 out of 10? MERELY QUALIFIED. And those are the ones you always need to watch your back with. This is truer in church too. And why one of the names of the Satan is ''Great Imposter''.. One who imposes themself.
So, short of ridiculous chronic or inappropriate use, the main danger of psychedelics are the dynamics above: Social pressures related to nasty devious manipulative politricks (politics) and social manouvering.
As an ADHD/ASD person, I find moderate occasional (every few years or so?) psychedelic use INVALUABLE to seeing through my own bull, and condition and thought processes. Which also makes it fascinating of course.
Just be safe, be wise, and don't simply use them as ''getting out of it'' party drugs as with psychedelics, generally speaking, this is abuse of them. (True, some parties are properly designed and planned for them and this works well!)
I am half Jewish, and I find outwith the conservative hardcore, psychedelics are more easier to discuss with them. Christianityy now seems to be a pickled mid-20th century American right wing fossil tool. (as I see it we have Church-ianity, and Christi-anarchy. One is fake and controlling, even if benificent, and the other is sponateously free-flowing Spirit.(If He sets you free? Then Free you shall be.. But Churchianity ALWAYS puts caviatts upon this. Christ didn't.