New Book Explores Religious Interest in Psychedelics

The psychedelic renaissance is here, with numerous studies showing that psychedelics, including LSD, psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine. may be useful in the treatment of mental health conditions, such as addiction, depression, anxiety and psychological distress.

Veteran religion journalist Don Lattin recently wrote a book describing how these drugs may prompt a spiritual awakening. In his latest book, “God on Psychedelics,” Lattin looks into how various religious groups are encouraging experiences of human unity and interconnectedness through the substances.

He starts by discussing entheogens, which refer to psychoactive drugs that are consumed for spiritual or religious purposes. Lattin talks about priests, rabbis and other clergy who view using entheogens as a way to renew their faith, noting that there are also individuals who don’t subscribe to a particular faith but also use the drugs consciously as a spiritual practice. He gives the example of the Sacred Garden Church, which uses different psychedelics to divinely commune.

Lattin also covers how psychedelics may not always induce positive feelings such as compassion, unity and awe, talking about how some individuals who use these substances may experience bad trips. He explains that during bad trips, individuals may experience paranoia and existential dread among other negative feelings; he also highlights the importance of having someone help you through feelings that come up in an environment which feels safe.

Despite these bad trips, Lattin reaffirms that these substances open one up to greater psychological insight and spiritual awareness.

Lattin also talks about how the upcoming psychedelic churches retain some Christian elements, giving an example of Santo Daime. Santo Daime, as profiled in his book, is a mixture of spiritualism, folk Catholicism, Indigenous and African religion. He notes that while most individuals in the church may not consider themselves Christian, they believe that they’re connected to Christ’s consciousness.

Interestingly, he adds, a good number of individuals involved in these groups in the United States were raised Jewish. Lattin also discusses the legal psychedelic landscape, highlighting how states such as Colorado and Oregon have legalized the use of psilocybin mushrooms and are regulating supervised psychedelic therapy. He expects that the legal situation will continue to change rapidly, as more cities pass laws restricting arrest of individuals who use certain plant medicines and drugs.

In addition to this, Lattin describes the meditation group he belongs to, which applies Buddhist meditation and contemplative prayer practices, noting that it has nothing to do with psychedelics.

With psychedelic use for religious purposes dating back hundreds of years, it is little wonder that start-ups such as atai Life Sciences N.V. (NASDAQ: ATAI) are confident that the formulations they are developing will find a receptive market once they are approved by regulators like the U.S. FDA.

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