Finally, a controlled scientific experiment about the psychological and spiritual effects of psilocybin. The interaction between the spiritual and psychological remains a mystery, of course – but mushrooms certainly seem to point people in a more spiritual direction:
Psilocybin’s effects lasted for up to six hours, Griffiths said. Twenty-two of the 36 volunteers reported having a "complete" mystical experience, compared to four of those getting methylphenidate.
That experience included such things as a sense of pure awareness and a merging with ultimate reality, a transcendence of time and space, a feeling of sacredness or awe, and deeply felt positive mood like joy, peace and love. People say "they can’t possibly put it into words," Griffiths said.
Two months later, 24 of the participants filled out a questionnaire. Two-thirds called their reaction to psilocybin one of the five top most meaningful experiences of their lives. On another measure, one-third called it the most spiritually significant experience of their lives, with another 40% ranking it in the top five.
Can we please have more research? If mankind’s technological potential for destruction is now threatening to upend civilization, surely some research into the pharmacology behind love, peace and joy is worth some federal dollars. On this, at least, I agree with Juan Cole:
The human mind has the capacity to feel the oneness of things, to put aside selfish ego and the violence, psychic and physical, that it promotes. The drug just demonstrates that the capacity is there. This was known. The question is, what one does with it. A peak experience can just be an experience. Or it can be the beginning of a more fulfilled, kind and giving life. The drug by itself is no more important than a parlor trick. As with anything in life, it matters what is done with it. And, the true mystic does not need mushrooms to have peak experiences.
See the mountain-top, and the valley of despond is not so grim.
(Photo of Pyramid Lake from a reader.)