Spirituality

Researchers are feeding priests psychedelic drugs in the interest of science

Researchers at Johns Hopkins and New York Universities are giving psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, to ordained ministers in the hopes that they can help provide some answers. So far, they have enrolled thirteen religious leaders including an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, a Zen Buddhist roshi, an Episcopalian, a Greek Orthodox priest, and a Reform Christian for their FDA-approved clinical trial. (They’re also seeking Catholic priests, Imams, and Hindu priests to join the study).”

Anthony Bossis, the investigator leading the religious leaders trial at the NYU site, said it’s no coincidence that this sense of unity can also be found in the teachings of the world’s six principal religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Daoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism). Bossis says the religious leaders in the trial are extraordinarily giving people, but that like most professionals in mental health or health care, they become emotionally taxed and experience what’s called “clergy burnout.” The researchers hypothesized that if the ministers reconnected to whatever god, or mystical experience, initially inspired them to embark on their life’s work, they would have a renewed energy to support their congregants. And thus far, their hypothesis seems correct. “They have increased passion for the scripture, for giving sermons, for helping people,” says Bossis. “If that’s sustained it will be remarkable.” According to cognitive scientist and religion scholar Justin Lane, the relationship between religiosity and well-being has been “well-established.” A 2016 study from the Pew Research Center found 40% of highly religious Americans described themselves as “very happy,” relative to 29% of people who are less religious. Additionally, 65% of highly religious people had donated money, time, or goods to help the poor in the past week, relative to 41% who are less religious. Lane pointed out that it’s unclear whether these effects are inspired by mystical experiences or an external factor such as being a part of a religious community that promotes charity. But, he said, spiritual practices that are done in solitude seem to have positive outcomes, which suggests that the mystical state, not just the culture surrounding religious institutions, promotes selflessness and happiness. (There have been hundreds of studies, albeit many poorly designed, that have found connections between long-term meditation and beneficial structural changes in the brain, too.)

Original Article (Quartz):
Researchers are feeding priests psychedelic drugs in the interest of science
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