Psychedelic drugs can deepen religious experiences
Johns Hopkins Medical School’s Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit is recruiting clergy as research volunteers in a study of “entheogens,” which are chemicals, usually derived from plants, that are ingested to produce an altered state of consciousness for religious or spiritual purposes.
They have attracted serious scholarly attention. William Richards, who holds several graduate degrees in religion, leads legal psychedelic therapy sessions and is helping to monitor volunteers in the Johns Hopkins study, has written Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences. J.H. Ellens’ two-volume anthology, Seeking the Sacred with Psychoactive Substances: Chemical Paths to Spirituality and to God, is the most thorough recent study. These scholars’ research refutes the claim that entheogenists are merely leftover hippies from the 1960s. But religious persecution has made it difficult to collect accurate data on entheogen use. Federal drug policy requires severe penalties for traffickers of even one low dose of LSD: “not less than 5 years, and not more than 40 years” for a first offense and “not less than 20 years, and not more than life” for a second offense. In entheogenic churches, clergy would be the likely “traffickers.” Will a country that prides itself in religious liberty stop persecuting entheogenists?