I remember when I first started studying and writing about psychedelic science back in early 2020. From the time I read the first modern study regarding the effects of psilocybin, I was hooked. So much of what was being said in these scientific papers mirrored my own experiences working intentionally with the Sacred Mushrooms. However, the one thing that has always stuck out for me is the fact that scientists and medical professionals studying psychedelics were forced to admit that clinical trial participants were, at a high rate, having primary religious/mystical experiences while under the influence of psilocybin, and further, that the nature and quality of these experiences seem to have a huge influence on positive clinical outcomes for participants.
Why was this so material for me? It best described, and to a large degree mirrored, my experiences working with our Sacred Mushroom allies. From having past life experiences to communicating with inter-dimensional entities, the only way I could fairly characterize my experiences was primarily religious/mystical in nature. And guess what? These types of experiences were catalysts for some of the most profound life changes I’ve ever made. From my career choice and living in accord with my higher purpose, to how I choose to expend my precious life force energy, sacred entheogens have imparted a level of knowledge and wisdom I had never been able to acquire elsewhere. As such, I want to take a second to honor these true “wisdom keepers.”
Through one of my deep Sacred Mushroom-induced religious/mystical experiences, I was telepathically guided to publish my first book regarding the mental health research having been conducted using psilocybin to date (at the time through February 2020). When it came to writing the last chapter of my first book, I will never forget that I channeled my last paragraph (i.e. it came to me seemingly from nowhere) which now looking back, was extremely prophetic in nature. My last paragraph in that book states that psychedelics are where “science meets the divine.” At the time I had a sense that the further down the rabbit hole these researchers go, the deeper the mystery would get.
Admittedly, because I quickly shifted my focus after my first book to focusing solely on the spiritual/religious use of entheogens and the laws pertaining thereto, I failed to keep up with the rapidly progressing scientific research regarding psilocybin. I would occasionally read an article here or there simply summarizing research results, such as COMPASS Pathway’s trials. However, in early January 2023, through a series of synchronicities, the article entitled, “Psychedelic Science of Spirituality and Religion: An Attachment-Informed Agenda Proposal” landed on my desk. Naturally, due to the title, I was immediately intrigued and decided to dig further. What I found, and what I’ll discuss in this article, is that my former prophecy was seemingly coming true; scientists and psychedelic researchers have continued to dig deeper into the primary religious/mystical experience, its nature and qualities, and what exactly it is about these experiences that drives positive mental health outcomes. In this article, I will discuss how far the researchers have come down this road, and where they are now in their continued study of these experiences.
Before I dig into the article and what it means for our entheogen-based spiritual/religious practitioners and psychedelic researchers today, let me make some connections. As stated in our doctrine, our Church supports the holy reunion of science/medicine with nature/spirit/religion. Moreover, it has been previously stated that psychedelics/entheogens seem to be a major area of confluence in this direction. Ultimately, I am very pleased with where the researchers are at in their search for meaning and attempts to derive a scientific explanation concerning the nature and quality of the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience and its effects on positive mental health outcomes post-experience.
Our Church is dedicated to assisting the scientific/medical community in studying these experiences and their incidental effects on mental and physical health outcomes. It has been previously stated our belief that, because Spirit permeates all planes of existence, that states of physical and mental health are ultimately indicative of where a human is spiritually. Let this article serve as an open invitation for appropriate researchers to contact us and see how we can collaborate and further each other’s mission of assisting the world in better mental, physical, and spiritual health.
The article “Psychedelic Science of Spirituality and Religion: An Attachment-Informed Agenda Proposal” is authored by a host of researchers from very prestigious universities in the realm of psychedelic research from around the world. One of which, Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London has always been one of my favorite psychedelic researchers because he seems to be the most open and fair minded as it relates to the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience and how harnessing knowledge of them can help boost positive mental health outcomes in psychedelic therapy.
Before I jump into the specifics of the article and the parts I believe are material for our purposes, let me first give a general overview. In this article, the researchers acknowledge the frequency at which people are having entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experiences (70%-80%), the fact that over time they have seen an increasing correlation between the nature, not intensity, of these experiences and positive mental health outcomes, and that psychology does not currently have a solid “materialistic” paradigm to explain why these experiences so consistently mediate positive mental health outcomes. As such, the researchers propose the “attachment theory” be explored as a possible quasi or full explanation of this phenomena.
Because I am not a mental health professional and not fully aware of what exactly the attachment theory entails, I will spare my readers those details in this article. However, what we will explore are the research observations made over time regarding the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience, the reasons it is important to proceed with further research regarding the nature of these experiences, as well as how and why certain camps or schools of thought can benefit from the research of entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experiences. Finally, I will discuss what this research means for current entheogen-based spiritual/religious practitioners.
In the beginning of the article, the researchers make some general observations relevant for our purposes here. First, they note that, “Classical psychedelics, such as psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ayahuasca/N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and mescaline, have long been used in religious and healing rituals (Bruhn et al., 2002), and there is a growing interest in their therapeutic potential for treating mental problems (e.g., Johnson et al., 2019).” As such, they note that, “Research has provided supportive evidence for the positive clinical outcomes of psychedelic-intake during therapy and emphasized the therapeutic benefits of the transformative (spiritual or mystical) experiences often engendered by psychedelic trips (e.g., Griffiths et al., 2006).” These observations, as previously stated in this article, really set the stage as to why the researchers are calling for a closer look into the mechanics behind the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience and how that can be explained in psychological/materialistic terms.
Next, the researchers highlight the fact that the nature or subjective experience of those undergoing psychedelic-assisted therapy, both during and after ingestion (i.e. integration) are implicated in determining mental health outcomes post-therapy. In fact, they observe that:
“The experience is often imbued with feelings of intense love and connectedness – directed at close others, humanity, and the world at large (Carhart-Harris et al., 2018; Watts et al., 2017) – and a greater ability to engage with an expanded repertoire of emotions, including previously repressed distressing emotions, such as grief (Belser et al., 2017). People also report gaining new perspectives and deeper insight (e.g., into their habitual thoughts and coping methods), experience emotional breakthroughs (Roseman et al., 2019), or other sudden gains in clinically relevant phenomena (e.g., a shift in self-perception that reduces self- criticism and increases self-compassion, Lafrance et al., 2017; see Breeksema et al., 2020, for a review).”
Here, the researchers give a breakdown of the general and subjective qualities of the entheogen-induced experience which lead to positive mental health outcomes. However, they focus more specifically on the subjective qualities of entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience and its effects on positive mental health outcomes. To this end, they state that:
“Religious, spiritual, or mystical experiences (RSMEs) are also often experienced during the intake of psychedelics, even in controlled clinical trials (Griffiths et al., 2018). For example, the average percentage of mystical experiences across studies from the Johns Hopkins laboratory is 70–80% (Johnson et al., 2019). These experiences include a sense of transcendence, contact with the sacred, ultimacy, ego dissolution (loss of self-world boundaries), and unity with an order that is far larger than oneself (e.g., God, higher power, the universe, ultimate reality; Yaden et al., 2017). RSMEs also tend to evoke positive feelings, such as love, safety, and security (Hood et al., 2018). RSMEs, including those induced by psychedelics, may reflect universalistic “core” spiritual experiences (cf. perennialism) or more particularistic experiences, co-constructed via culturally accessible (e.g., religious) interpretations (Brouwer & Carhart-Harris, 2021). The way people process and integrate their psychedelic experiences depends on the interpretive lens provided by their preexisting metaphysical or religious beliefs (Granqvist, 2020), though this processing may also be affected by psychedelics (e.g., moving people from materialist to non-materialist beliefs; Timmermann et al., 2021). Whether or not interpreted religiously, RSMEs, especially those Stace (1960) called extrovertive states, are associated with relational themes associated with attachment, such as a sense of connection and unity (Granqvist, 2020; Griffiths et al., 2018; Watts et al., 2017; Yaden et al., 2017).
Studies have linked RSMEs and associated feelings (e.g., connectedness) to favorable clinical outcomes in psychedelic-assisted therapy (Andersen et al., 2021; Forstmann et al., 2020; Nayak & Johnson, 2021). Moreover, the degree of RSMEs, not the general intensity of the drug response, has shown to be one of the strongest predictors of positive changes in attitudes, emotions, and social behavior (see e.g., Griffiths et al., 2018). Importantly, RSMEs also outperform other subjective experiences, such as visual or auditory alterations, as a predictor of clinical outcomes (e.g., depressive symptoms; Roseman et al., 2018).”
While the above quotation is fairly self-explanatory, I feel called to highlight the last part regarding the observation that, “…the degree of RSMEs, not the general intensity of the drug response, has shown to be one of the strongest predictors of positive changes in attitudes, emotions, and social behavior.” For our purposes, I feel it is important to highlight that the research shows the degree of the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience, and not the intensity are the strongest predictors of positive clinical outcomes. As such, I encourage all entheogen-based spiritual/religious practitioners to consider this when deciding what dose of entheogens to administer to themselves and/or other co-religionists. I take this observation to mean that more emphasis should be placed upon creating a safe and sacred/ritualistic container, prayer, and intention setting, than focusing on increasing dosages in order to effectuate more meaningful experiences in ourselves and others who we commune with.
I also find it very interesting and compelling that the researchers found that entheogen-induced primary religious/spiritual experiences outperform other aspects of psychedelic/entheogenic journeys such as visual or auditory alterations in perception. Again, for me, this means that more focus should be placed on directing entheogen-induced experiences towards being spiritual/religious (via creating a safe and sacred/ritualistic container, prayer, and intention setting), as opposed to titrating up dosages to elucidate more intense preceptory alterations. Psilomethoxin, in fact, is the perfect sacrament in these regards, as it minimizes the preceptory effects, while maximizing the internal spiritual/religious nature of the experience. As such, the subjective effects of our holy Sacrament, Psilomethoxin, are in accord with what the researchers believe will drive more positive clinical outcomes via the primary religious/mystical experience.
Regarding the overall effects, clinically speaking, of entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experiences, the researchers go on to observe that:
“Psychedelic-induced RSMEs appear to affect changes in clinical symptoms via therapeutic gains in psychological traits that are otherwise relatively stable. For instance, RSMEs are linked to adaptive changes in the five-factor-model traits, such as post-therapy increases in openness to experience, agreeableness, and extraversion, and decreases in neuroticism (MacLean et al., 2011; Weiss et al., 2021). RSMEs also potentiate deeper insight and emotional breakthroughs, which seem to underlie positive outcomes of psychedelic-assisted therapy (Noorani et al., 2018).”
Next, the researchers address the argument of other researchers that the nature of the entheogen-induced experience has nothing to do with positive outcomes. According to these other researchers, positive clinical outcomes in psychedelic therapy are mediated simply through physical changes in the brain. In disagreeing with this position, and stating that the phenomenological nature of the experience is relevant in determining clinical outcomes, these researchers state the following:
“Yet, some scholars argue that psychedelic-induced RSMEs are epiphenomenal byproducts of the neurobiological mechanisms that may explain psychedelics’ therapeutic effects (Olson, 2021). They note that other compounds acting on the serotonin 2A system, such as 3,4-methylenedioxymetham-phetamine (MDMA; albeit indirectly), show therapeutic potential without producing RSMEs (Mitchell et al., 2021). Similarily, ketamine yields positive effects also when given to unconscious patients (Kudoh et al., 2002). While other processes are also relevant, and phenomenological states clearly are associated with brain processes (Carhart-Harris et al., in press), we tentatively follow the mounting evidence for a phenomenological position; RSMEs appear to facilitate the clinical utility of psychedelic-assisted therapy (Yaden & Griffiths, 2021).”
We at the Church subscribe to the idea that the phenomenological effects of the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience are the main driver of positive clinical outcomes post entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience. In addition to the evidence already presented in support of this notion, I would like to also note that entheogenic sacraments have been used religiously for thousands of years (perhaps much longer) for the purpose of healing and divination.
In addition to the set and setting, the researchers here also explore the possibility that, “The effect of psychedelic-induced RSMEs may depend on the influence of individuals’ preexisting religious/spiritual beliefs and practices.” By way of example, the researchers state that, “…especially in monotheistic faiths, which emphasize a personal relationship with a benevolent deity, feelings of transcendence and unity may be interpreted as (or attributed to) direct experiences of encountering God. In other settings, the same underlying (neural) state could be attributed to unity with nature (cf. “nature mysticism”), and in yet others to “going insane,” “losing one’s mind,” or “becoming delusional.” However, we are not aware of any research systematically addressing whether such different worldview-informed interpretations are differentially linked to the subjective effects of or clinical outcomes from psychedelic use.”
As highlighted above, the researchers here propose that pre-existing religious beliefs and practices may influence the effects of an entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience. As such, what is common in the entheogen-based religious/spiritual community is the facilitators or churches do not force any certain set of spiritual/religious beliefs onto the participants or members, especially newcomers If it is true that pre-existing beliefs and practices could have an impact on the nature and quality of a person’s entheogen-induced primary/religious mystical experience, then it seems that, at least initially, members or participants should be allowed to go through their own process, save and except being exposed to certain practices (i.e. the sacred ceremony/ritual), and facilitators and churches should allow the member/participants’ pre-existing beliefs guide them through their journey.
This is why the Church of Psilomethoxin is non-dogmatic. We believe that people are best left to explore their religion/spirituality on their own terms, with the Church’s role to be simply providing a loving container and structured community model to help facilitate this process. Moreover, as many are aware, the nature of the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience often leads practitioners to the same or substantially similar answers to some of life’s most ultimate questions. Therefore, naturally through these experiences, and over time, entheogen-based religious/spiritual practitioners ultimately end up with many of the same or substantially similar spiritual/religious beliefs.
However, to the extent some individuals do not arrive at a set of beliefs in accord with others in the community, their journey and their beliefs should be respected, and space should be held for them to further their spiritual/religious beliefs in any way they are guided. Ultimately, the Church believes that it is the spiritual/religious seeking, and not necessarily the destination, which is most important in helping humans evolve along spiritual/religious lines.
Outside of the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience, the researchers here also take note of the positive impacts that religion has on mental health outcomes generally. To this end, they observe the following:“The religion-mental health link is relevant to RSMEs and their continued impact. Research consistently highlights that religion is associated with better mental health presentations, albeit in complex ways and depending on context. Attachment security to God, a perceived personal bond with God, and a sense of unity with God have been highlighted as pivotal mediators of this association (Koenig et al., 2012), and the community component of religious practice may also play an important role (Hayward & Krause, 2014). Since religions address areas of ultimate concern, religiosity can be intertwined with symptoms, coping resources, and life events, and a majority of psychotherapy clients want to raise religious issues in therapy (Koenig, 2018). On this basis, several evidence-based spiritually integrated treatment models have been developed (Rosmarin, 2018). Unfortunately, there is little material available on spirituality-guided integration of psychedelic-induced RSMEs (cf. Badiner & Grey, 2015).”
Here, for our purposes, it is important to note that religion, generally, has been consistently associated with better mental health presentations. Many people go out of their way to dog the word religion and anything to do with it, but in reality, per the research, those who are religious have better mental health presentation than those are not. In fact, the researchers highlight that one’s relationship to “God,” whatever that may mean to any individual being seemingly irrelevant, has been highlighted as a pivotal mediator in the association with better mental health presentations. Add to this, the postulation that religious communities also potentially play an important role in mediating positive mental health outcomes. It is also key to note that, religion’s role in helping answer ultimate questions can be an anchor for people to engage in healthy and positive discourse with their therapist, which in turn, results in healthier mental health presentations. Lastly, the researchers mention that, on this basis, several “spiritually integrated treatment models have been developed.”
The last line of the above quote indicates that little research has been done, and consequently material available, regarding the spiritually-guided integration of psychedelic induced primary religious/mystical experience. However, there is copious amounts of this type of integration occurring daily across the United States and around the world. We invite all interested researchers to reach out to the Church of Psilomethoxin, or to me personally, as I have plenty of connections outside of our Church, to spiritually-inclined integration providers, who could help facilitate research in this direction. There are plenty of opportunities in this regard that are “ripe for the picking” but a reach across the illusory aisle will need to occur for such an engagement to commence. Many integration specialists in this space would gladly welcome and appreciate the invitation to participate in research.
Next, the researchers discuss the potential direction for future research regarding the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience. To this end, they remark the following:
“A potential focus for research is spiritual struggles – tensions, strains, and conflicts concerning what people hold sacred (Exline, 2013). Whereas these struggles are associated with emotional distress, exploring and processing them seems to contribute to heightened well-being (Pargament & Exline, 2022). Therefore, an arousal of spiritual struggles during psychedelic-induced RSMEs can be explicitly explored and elaborated during the integration phase, and this deep processing may produce impactful positive transformations.”
There are many competent integration specialists around the world that are extremely knowledge regarding the facilitation and integration of entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experiences. The Church prays that a research-oriented relationship between these types of providers and this, and other psychedelic researchers, manifest in the future. We believe this type of research would uncover information beneficial to both the scientific/medical and spiritual/religious communities, and ultimately benefit humanity.
Finally, in the conclusion of their article, the researchers discuss potential directions for psychedelic research moving forward, considering they have, “…outlined how attachment theory and research can serve as an integrating heuristic framework for a psychedelic science of spirituality and religion.” From the “cross-fertilization” of psychedelic science and religious/spiritual studies they postulate that psychedelic science can greatly benefit. On the other end of the equation, they also propose that the psychology of religion and spirituality could greatly benefit from this research in that psychedelic research may present a new avenue of research on religious and spiritual change.
Some key take aways in my research for this article, and from the Church’s perspective:
The nature and not the intensity of the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experiences is a significant indicator of positive clinical outcomes post psychedelic therapy;
Researchers recognize that entheogens have long been used religiously in religious and spiritual rituals;
Entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experiences are effectuated between 70%-80% of the time, in clinical, not specifically spiritual or religious settings;
Researchers very much desire to understand more about the phenomenological aspects of the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience and as such, propose the attachment theory could help provide some assistance for psychologists to better understand these experiences;
Those who are religious generally have better mental health presentations than those who do not identify as such;
There is currently a lack of research relating to the spiritually-oriented integration of entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experiences; and,
The researchers propose that both psychological, scientific, and religious/spiritual studies can be furthered and improved through researching the process-level mechanisms of the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience.
In closing, I would like to again say that the Church of Psilomethoxin desires a sacred reunion of the studies of science/medicine and those of nature/spirit/religion. The article discussed herein, we believe, presents evidence that there exists a great opportunity for these two seemingly opposite camps to come together for the benefit of humanity. While many, in both camps, vehemently avoid mentioning the other, (i.e. scientists avoid treading too far into the “mystical” waters and entheogen-based religious spiritual/religious practitioners avoid mentioning anything mental health or science related) this article proves that where psychedelic science ends and entheogen-based spirituality begins, or vice versa, if far from clear. As such, and as proposed here, a coalescing of these two camps would greatly increase both of their understanding of the nature of the entheogen-induced primary religious/mystical experience. Ultimately, this is a call to come together and serve humanity and not our seemingly opposed and dualistic schools of thought. As Albert Einstein stated, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
Greg Lake, Esq.
Co-founder and Lead Oracle
The Church of Psilomethoxin
1 Aaron D. Cherniak, Joel Gruneau Brulin, Mario Mikulincer, Sebastian Östlind, Robin Carhart-Harris & Pehr Granqvist (2022): Psychedelic Science of Spirituality and Religion: An Attachment-Informed Agenda Proposal, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, DOI: 10.1080/10508619.2022.2148061.