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Should non-religious people take drugs to have transcendent experiences?

October 3, 2011
Magic Mushrooms

If they work for Mario, why not for me?

One criticism I’ve often heard from non-religious folks and atheists regarding spiritual experiences is that they can often be induced through specific means. For example, drugs like mushrooms. This, however, doesn’t seem to be a great criticism of the experience itself…rather, it’s just a criticism of what the claimed mechanism by which the experience occur. Nevertheless, there was something that really caught my eye:

Although it might seem hard to believe, given the vagaries of spiritual experience, psychologists have a relatively well-defined and established definition for a “complete mystical experience:” one in which a person experiences a sense of unity with the world and other people; feelings of blessedness and sacredness; a sense of inner presence or divine force; and the feeling that what is perceived is “more real” than ordinary reality, among other qualities. Results by the lead author of this study, Johns Hopkins University researcher Roland Griffiths, have shown this can come about by taking psilocybin. But similar (or indistinguishable) experiences can occur through non-drug means, such as through prayer, fasting, sex, sensory-deprivation, etc.

That bolded line has been one thing in particular that John G-W has commented about frequently.

Anyway, it seems that regardless of the source or the cause, it shouldn’t be too controversial for either religious or non-religious people to seek after experiences that will improve us.

Think of the 13th Article of Faith:

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

It seems that if one views transcendent kinds of experiences as praiseworthy (and if they would from prayer, fasting, etc., then why not from other means?), then there would be a good argument for having people responsibly take certain drugs in order to understand what the heck people are talking about when they refer to those experiences.

On the other hand, for the more scientifically-inclined, if there is something that can reliably and repeatably induce a similar experience (that seems to have some commonality with what some religious people describe their spiritual experiences as), then wouldn’t it be appropriate to continue research on it?

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30 Comments
  1. “…if one views transcendent kinds of experiences as praiseworthy … then there would be a good argument for having people responsibly take certain drugs in order to understand what the heck people are talking about when they refer to those experiences.”

    The thing about drug-induced visionary experiences is that they belong to the person alone, and often transcend things such as dogma and language. Organized religion, on the other hand, wants visionary experiences to fit within their dogma. Thus, I can see why organized religious would want to have a monopoly on such experiences (induced through approved means) and would discourage drug use.

    Have you looked at any research on religious experiences and DMT?

  2. Ahab,

    good counterpoint. Although, then I had the funniest thought. Someone from church saying, “Hey, next time you do (insert thing here), read the Book of Mormon while you’re at it.”

    I haven’t yet looked at research with DMT and religious experiences…if you have any links to anything good, please send on.

  3. Perhaps the mechanism for achieving transcendence doesn’t matter. Let’s — for the sake of argument — grant that magic mushrooms are just as efficacious as prayer.

    But anyone who has had a genuine religious experience will tell you that it is not the mechanism of transcendence that is consequential, but the the “whom” or the “what” if transcendence.

    When you pray, you are aiming your prayer at someone. If I get high just for the sake of having a “transcendent” experience, what’s to guarantee that the being I experience transcendence with isn’t Mr. Howdy?

  4. John,

    If the experience promotes lasting positive improvements to personality, etc., then does it matter? Already, the variety of religions that can achieve similar experiences suggests that the *whom* doesn’t have as crucial significance… Or, if it does, it’s in a different way.

  5. Actually, that’s not true…

    William James documented religious experiences with evil spirits, etc. that were not uplifting. It does matter that you are seeking to achieve transcendence with the divine source of all life, as opposed to some demiurge…

    Of course, I’m not talking about the fact that different cultures name divinity differently… I’m not talking about the fact that some of us pray to Allah, others to Jahweh, others to Heavenly Father, others to a 12-steps “higher power”… I’m simply pointing out that when we pray, it does matter that we are seeking to reach someone who has the power to uplift us…

    Also, the nature of many transcendent experiences was to convince people who previously had no concept of transcendence that there is a being greater than us who loves us and seeks to direct our lives toward some greater good…

    Maybe the atheist version of this is the alien races of Contact?

  6. John,

    I assume, however, that if you were engaging in communication with evil spirits, then it wouldn’t lead to the personality improvements, and thus, you could note the difference. Is this incorrect? Seeing as the goal of the research is to seek transcendence and transcendence has been defined as above, if someone gets different results, then we know they got something different.

  7. sloanie permalink

    Is it fair to suggest that the idea / context or at least the subconscious of the person experiencing said transcendence will have an impact on a) the overall nature of the experience and b) whether the net effect of the experience is that the person strives to improve?

    Or are you suggesting that somehow the experience itself changes / improves the individual’s personality?

  8. sloanie,

    I certainly think it is possible that context impact the nature and net effect of the experience…however, it seems like we can use a variety of contexts, and have similar results as to the nature/net effect.

    So, for example, I’m completely willing to work with John’s idea that whom one addresses matters. But the data hasn’t yet gotten that. More research is needed for sure, but regardless of the additional/differing effect that the context has, the experience itself seems to change/improve personality.

  9. Sure, it’s a fair experiment. But didn’t Timothy Leary try something like this, with not so good results…? I kind of doubt that just getting high is going to do much for anybody, any more than just getting high has ever done anything for anybody.

    I mean… Here’s my working hypothesis. You’re going to take some magic mushrooms in order to get in touch with God. But if you don’t believe in God, all the mushrooms are going to do for you is make you high. They might expand your consciousness, or give you some psychedelic dreams, but without a willingness on your part to connect with God or a belief on your part that there is a God to connect with, or at the very least a hope or an openness, you’ll just be getting high in your own head.

    Your faith only needs to be as a mustard seed. Your first prayer can be as simple as “God, are you there?” But if you’re willing to reach out to God in faith in this way, you don’t need magic mushrooms to connect with God. Just kneel down.

    I’ve gotten high… But without religious/transcendent results. The last time I experienced this (a number of years ago) I tried a brownie laced with marijuana. It was a bad, bad trip. I had hallucinations and went into this paranoid fantasy that my best friends were trying to kill me, and Göran was conspiring with them, etc. After that, I swore I was never going to take any sort of controlled substance again, and I’ve kept that promise…

    No experience with drugs or alcohol that I have ever had even compare to the transcendent experiences I’ve had in response to simple prayer and sacrament meeting attendance. Even the most intense highs that I’ve ever had were dream-like, definitely had a feel of unreality in comparison to day-to-day experience. Nothing like the transcendent experience I’ve described elsewhere with Christ where I definitely felt drawn into a super-reality.

  10. John,

    And certainly the research I linked to has some flaws, but it seems that it would be a topic to research further. In other words, the study I linked noted that some people did NOT report having a transcending experience… So maybe, further research might explore whether there are certain characteristics that make correlate more highly with this. And if as, are these the same traits correlated with religiosity in the first place. Because if these groups are related or identical, then it probably wouldn’t have an impact for nonreligious or atheists to try.

    It’s also, of course, probable that different drugs have different results in the first place. So in the same way we recognize intuitively that alcohol doesn’t produce the same effects as caffeine (and in fact, you probably shouldn’t mix the two) maybe only particular drugs will promote transcendent experiences.

    I’m interested in what you think of the link I posted within the post…

  11. Well, in the article a couple of things are worthy of note:

    Those who didn’t have a complete mystical experience did not score significantly higher on these same measures.

    And:

    There was no control group in this study (one that didn’t take psilocybin).

    An interesting control group would have been those who have had a “complete mystical experience” without taking the drug. Because if that is the case, then arguably it is the “complete mystical experience” to which the benefit of openness can be attributed, and not the ingestion of magic mushrooms.

  12. Sorry, last sentence was garbled. I meant to say, if individuals who have a “complete mystical experience” without the drug also get the benefit of “openness” that was received by those who had a “complete mystical experience” with the drug, then arguably it is the “complete mystical experience” to which the benefit of openness can be attributed, and not the ingestion of magic mushrooms.

  13. John,

    I thought it was completely clear that it’s the mystical experience that is the decisive factor. The question is how one can promote such experiences, preferably at a better track record than religions. If there is a neurological or chemical basis for the experiences it seems we should explore how we can trigger them.

    That’s where this study ccomes in. There are certainly flaws, But that seems to me to be a call for more research with a better methodology, rather than throwing the results completely or dismissing them.

  14. Or, to put it in a different way:

    Your faith only needs to be as a mustard seed. Your first prayer can be as simple as “God, are you there?” But if you’re willing to reach out to God in faith in this way, you don’t need magic mushrooms to connect with God. Just kneel down.

    This advice is sincere, but naive. It just doesn’t work for everyone. So, supposing that you don’t need magic mushrooms to connect with God (conceded), but magic mushrooms can give you a greater chance to know what people who connect with God feel (the mystical experience), then I don’t see why we would oppose that.

  15. I’m not opposing anything… Let them do their research.

    What research they’ve done confirms that “religious” experience does have measurable results in the real world. Mystical experiences do change behavior, and apparently for the better… It’s not just fluff and hokum and mumbo jumbo. These results are really interesting from a purely religious standpoint.

    I’m just curious though… What if further study showed that the decisive factor dividing those who experienced results from those who didn’t is simply faith?

    I actually don’t think I’m being naive here. I think I’m being a cold realist when I say I don’t think there’s any magic religion pill people can take. There’s no tower we can build to Heaven.

    In the absence of mystical experience, I think the only real choice is patience and openness.

  16. I’m just curious though… What if further study showed that the decisive factor dividing those who experienced results from those who didn’t is simply faith?

    Well, in the first place, it would mean that the question I ask in the topic can be answered with “no.” Because it wouldn’t have any effect.

    But in the second place, it would take us back to the research question that seems a lot more difficult to address…namely, why do some people have faith and some people not?

    I actually don’t think I’m being naive here. I think I’m being a cold realist when I say I don’t think there’s any magic religion pill people can take. There’s no tower we can build to Heaven.

    I think I’m being more realist to say that religion just isn’t for some. To tell them they just need to kneel down is shortsighted. (That’s why it would be really interesting to see if the same people for whom they don’t have a mystic experience via shrooms are ones who are nonreligious…because that would suggest there’s a further neurological capability that’s present in some but not others, and you’re not just going to be able to kneel down and pray it out.)

    (ACTUALLY, that leads me to another possibility, which isn’t to insane. That being that it’s not your choice, but if there is a source to those mystic experiences, then whatever that source is will decide who gets those experiences or not.)

    In the absence of mystical experience, I think the only real choice is patience and openness.

    Which shouldn’t be confused with holding one’s breath, or having expectations.

  17. I hope you don’t think I was advising you to just “go through the motions.” I actually agree with you that this is generally not profitable.

    What I was trying to say is that all we need is the smallest particle of faith to begin. But the particle, minuscule thought it may be, is still a prerequisite. I’m not trying to taunt or belittle or blame those who don’t have the prerequisite yet… If anything, I share your frustration. I wish more than anything else that you could experience what I experience.

    ACTUALLY, that leads me to another possibility, which isn’t too insane. That being that it’s not your choice, but if there is a source to those mystic experiences, then whatever that source is will decide who gets those experiences or not.

    Andrew, that isn’t insane at all. That’s precisely my understanding. That’s what I was driving at in our earlier discussion when I said that faith is a divine gift. There are two parts of the equation, two parts of the conversation that have to happen. And for what it’s worth, I believe that if God chooses to keep silence on his end — for whatever reasons (and I believe they are wise reasons, with our ultimate happiness the central part of the calculation) — he won’t hold us accountable for the kinds of things we are held accountable for when he does speak to us.

    The first mystical experience I had in August 2005 which led me into my present path was not one that I sought, not one that I prayed for or even wanted. When I had it, I was angry and afraid. I wept both tears of joy and anger, if that is possible… I was pissed off at God. In essence, my first response was, “NOW?!? you want to talk to me? After so much frickin’ water is under the bridge? How do I even START now?” But in my case he definitely started the conversation. At that time I was completely convinced that man was more or less “alone” in the cosmic, theological sense. I just took it for granted I was on my own to figure life out and make meaning of it. Prayer would have been an absolute impossibility for me at that point.

    Absent his voice, we have no choice but to do the very best we can by our own best lights. In other words, by reason and conscience (in a spirit of patience and openness!). And yes, there’s a difference between that and “holding one’s breath.” And I do honestly believe there is a value in that striving alone. It’s why God lets so many of us do it — sometimes perhaps for our whole lives.

  18. I think there is a strong similarity between religious mystical experience and drugs. Both involve similar brain mechanisms, and both are great at shaking people out of a rut and forcing a new perspective. However, the goal of religion is not mystical experience, and mystical experience is not typically advisable as a means of attaining religious maturity. So attempting to produce a “mystical experience” through meditation, prayer, fasting, or whatever is probably no more advisable as a means of spiritual maturity than Peyote, DMT, Weed, Gasscid (LSD+NO) or injecting Ketamine. Used very sparingly, these things might accelerate some level of understanding, but as Ahab pointed out, the insights can become very private to the individual and increasingly unrecoverable without going back into the altered state — chronic use can lead to some really warped misconceptions that take years to unwind. And drugs like cocaine and meth can cause pretty serious spiritual damage as your brain twists reality around to rationalize getting more drugs (although, kicking a habit can be spiritually maturing — I’m convinced that Haggadah is also a story about addiction recovery). And of course, all of these things can lead to problems in people who are too young or mentally fragile.

    So I would postulate a different theory. I believe that spiritual formation needs to be done sober (with some fasting and meditation permissible). Then, only when you are expert at sustaining a very centered and mature spiritual state at all times, should you even consider experimenting with drugs or mystical experiences. The people who get burned by these altered states are generally people who had screwed up mental states before experimenting with alteration.

  19. JSA,

    Several good points: first, that the goal of religion isn’t necessarily mystical experience. That the insights can be private, etc., And that of course, there’s a fine line between improvement and chaos.

    However, it appears to me that many people who have mystical experiences (caused through drugs or not) don’t get them at their most spiritual mature…and in fact, they often don’t even have a way to know how to seek spiritual maturity *until* they have had their experience.

  20. My experience with medicinal marijuana gave me clearer insight on a lot of things in life but I would not necessarily consider them spiritual in the same way as my experiences in the LDS church. I have had similar moments of clarity when very intoxicated.

    I don’t think these sorts of experiences are too private, only not talked about very much because of stigma. I find it as easy to reflect on the insights I found while under the influence as it is to reflect on past spiritual experiences. But I recognize that they are quite different. However, I think if more religious people used marijuana they would find it very helpful. Seeing the world in a different way is critical to understanding things outside of normal senses.

  21. Andrew and JSA — I’m not sure I agree that the goal of religion is not mystical experience.

    The ultimate goal of religion as I understand it is to enter into perfect communion with God. I’m not entirely comfortable with the term “mystical experience” because it carries a lot of cultural baggage and some connotations that I don’t think apply to the experience of communion with God. However, the idea of communion with the Spirit or with Christ (which folks in our culture often use the term “mystical experience” to describe) IS something the believe should strive for. I could start quoting scriptures here if you want, though I think you get my point without that… One example should suffice: In LDS sacrament meeting, every Sunday we covenant to obey Christ’s commandments so that we may “have his Spirit to be with us.” So in a very real sense, the fabric of the believer’s life should involve a kind of constant communion with God.

    Without “mystical experience,” there is no religion. No “First Vision” in the Sacred Grove, no Angel Moroni (and no Book of Mormon), no Doctrine & Covenants, no Kirtland Temple… No witnesses of the resurrection, no Mount of Transfiguration, no Sinai… And so on, ad infinitum. So “mystical experience” is both the beginning and the end of religion.

    HOWEVER — I agree that there’s a danger in seeking “mystical experiences” in a certain way, or with inappropriate motivations. Any path of mystical union/communion needs to be built on the foundation of faith and repentance… It needs to include a sincere desire and concrete efforts to harmonize our lives with God. Otherwise, I think we’re on a dangerous path…

    That’s why I’m skeptical of the idea of using drugs as some kind of golden road to communion with God… I think the “high” and the altered states of perception that drugs create can easily become a counterfeit of genuine mystical experience. I don’t deny that mystical experience can sometimes be facilitated by mind-altering substances (like alcohol, for instance). But usually, when such “sacramental” substances are used, they are used by religious specialists, in conjunction with symbolism and ritual that is intended to guide the user into a deeper understanding of God and of our relationship with him… I’m not sure those substances in themselves will facilitate anything but addiction if used improperly…

  22. I’m very interested now to hear JSA’s response…

    but, here’s how I would respond:

    My issue is that I think that organized religions and churches — especially as they become more established — tend to discount and defer the greatest spiritual experiences. You simply don’t hear the same things from people today that you heard from the early Latter-day Saints’ testimonies. So, we covenant every Sunday to obey Christ’s commandments so we may “have his Spirit to be with us,” but what does that mean? For MOST people, it probably means that you have the “still small voice” or some ambiguous sort of sense of spiritual experience.

    It does not mean having an experiences that reinforces God as being “more real than the mundane.”

    Notice how all of your examples of mystical experiences (with respect to the church) are stuff that happened a long time ago. Today, as a religion, there would be no first vision. There would be no Angel Moroni. No one operating in the framework of the church would bring forth the Book of Mormon. No Doctrine and Covenants (or even additions to the one we have). Revelations for new temples are a routinized thing. And so on, ad infinitum.

    So, either the LDS church is not a religion, or religion does not require spiritual experiences.

    Consider yourself: even though you continually state that your experiences testify of the truth of the LDS church, where are you? Your experiences are outside of the church, and you are not welcome in full communion with the church because of your relationship. You may be reaching and seeking full communion with God, but that’s very different than the religion.

    In this sense, spirituality is personal. Radically personal. Religion is communal. Institutional and communal. The former does not necessarily fit within the latter, and sometimes it is anathema to the latter.

    In this way, there are in fact a lot of similarities between any experiences achieved through (personal) usage of mind-altering substances and the relatively sober (and sobering) nature of religion.

  23. I’m also interested to hear what JSA has to say.

    I’ve had very powerful spiritual experiences; but I feel the Spirit often. And one thing I’d say is that experiences of communion with God — whether it be the more frequent kind of “feeling the Spirit” or the more dramatic kind of having a vision or some other dramatic manifestation — exist on a continuum with each other. I’ve definitely experienced that heightened sense of super-reality in Sacrament meeting, just feeling the Spirit present; and it’s every bit as powerful as when I see divine light or have had visions. That’s why, when general authorities occasionally comment that there’s no surer witness than the Holy Spirit, I find myself nodding in agreement. I wouldn’t have had to have visions to know the things I know; and when I have had visions, it has been the presence and invisible manifestation of the Spirit that has persuaded me of the validity of the visions.

    Yes, religion does get routinized… Yes, we human beings have the capability of taking something that ought to rock our socks off, and taming it into something we can safely snooze through. Routinization is just one of many forms of human resistance to the divine. It’s our way of ignoring the full impact of what God is trying to break through to us.

    There’s always a tension in religion between the desire to tame and routinize (and ignore) the voice of God, and the prophetic pressure of the Holy Spirit.

    However, everything we need in order to commune fully and completely with God is embedded in the teachings and ordinances of the Church — if the members are willing to engage and fully avail themselves of them. The Spirit has driven me to the Church, and its within the setting of the Church that I’ve had some of my most powerful spiritual experiences. My spiritual experiences give me a deepened understanding of the scriptures and the ordinances and the doctrines of the Church — they help me understand those things in new ways and apply them to my life. And, conversely, the scriptures, ordinances and doctrines of the Church help me understand my spiritual experiences, and provide support for me living my life in a way that allows me to enter into an ever deeper communion with God… So the two things are not separate at all.

    If the membership of the Church is becoming less spiritual, it’s just a failure to live the gospel fully… And that’s only the members’ loss, I guess. Because it’s that deepening communion with God (that the Church facilitates for me!) that is the truest, deepest source of joy in my life.

  24. I’m just saying that the “Spirit” that most people feel is probably something entirely different, as can be evidenced by the fact that so many people can wave it away. It’s not something “super-real,” but something easily rationalized or doubted. I think the issue is people are using similar language to refer to very different experiences. Of which one continuum of experiences may be the “real deal,” but for people who haven’t experienced the real deal, they cannot even understand that they have only experienced counterfeits (and are satisfied with counterfeits).

    You say that the Spirit has driven you to the Church, but nevertheless, the Church will not have you. You are understanding principles *in spite of* the church as it currently is, not because of it.

  25. However, it appears to me that many people who have mystical experiences (caused through drugs or not) don’t get them at their most spiritual mature…and in fact, they often don’t even have a way to know how to seek spiritual maturity *until* they have had their experience.

    Right, and it stands to reason that most people’s first mystical experiences will be via drugs, since people usually start drugs early in life, when they haven’t built up the spiritual discipline to be able to attain the experiences any other way. I’m just saying that this is a suboptimal path. I think it’s much better when the person has a stock of life experiences and wisdom *apart* from drugs, and compares drug experiences to a previous treasure-trove of life, rather than vice-versa. I think 15 is too young to do drugs without serious developmental impact, 18-21 is just about right, and as you get older, it gets harder on your body. This means that kids ought to be working very hard on spiritual maturity leading up to age 20.

    My experience with medicinal marijuana gave me clearer insight on a lot of things in life but I would not necessarily consider them spiritual in the same way as my experiences in the LDS church. I have had similar moments of clarity when very intoxicated.

    Yes, I would put weed at the very weak end of the spectrum. The insights aren’t that great, and it makes you senselessly happy but forgetful, and if you have some spiritual problem you’ve been chewing on, you’re more likely to just forget the issue rather than derive insights into it. Ketamine, LSD, DMT are all much stronger. Salvia is perfectly legal, and when mixed with weed will blow your mind.

    Andrew and JSA — I’m not sure I agree that the goal of religion is not mystical experience.

    The goal of Christian religion is union with Christ, but that union is typically expressed in communion with other believers, feeding the poor, healing the sick, etc. Unity of the body of Christ mirrors our union with Christ after death. The early Christians felt that the essence of this union was “Caritas”, or love — and by “love” they didn’t mean orgies.

    So I think it’s pretty simple. The Bible tells us that we’ll know the spirit by its fruits. The fruits of the spirit are clearly enumerated, so we can look at the “fruits” of drug experiences. Some people will produce good fruits, no doubt. But if you’re the guy who ends up thinking constantly about where to get the next fix, or how he can get his girlfriend to do things high that she would never do sober, or promoting drug use to younger kids just so that he can “normalize” his habit and make himself feel less guilty about dissipating his life, or the guy who lurches toward schizophrenia in an attempt to document his insights into the nature of space-time … you’re probably not feeling the spirit.

    I’m just saying that the “Spirit” that most people feel is probably something entirely different, as can be evidenced by the fact that so many people can wave it away.

    Well, not many people can wave away heroin addiction, but that doesn’t prove it’s spirit-filled. But I get your point. IMO, it depends on the type of person. Some people are just better at feeling than others. Some people can’t even understand poetry, let alone be moved to tears by it. Those tend to be the same people who don’t have religious mystical experiences and don’t get much more than a bad addiction out of drugs.

  26. I’m just saying that the “Spirit” that most people feel is probably something entirely different, as can be evidenced by the fact that so many people can wave it away.

    Well, not many people can wave away heroin addiction, but that doesn’t prove it’s spirit-filled. But I get your point. IMO, it depends on the type of person. Some people are just better at feeling than others. Some people can’t even understand poetry, let alone be moved to tears by it. Those tend to be the same people who don’t have religious mystical experiences and don’t get much more than a bad addiction out of drugs.

    Actually, I was trying to say something different. What I was saying is that there probably is a different than an ordinary “feeling” and a spiritual experience. But if you don’t have a spiritual experience, how are you to tell the difference between the former and the latter? You could be experiencing the former, but not realize that it is nothing like the latter.

    …unless you think all feelings are spiritual experiences (e.g., being “moved to tears” by poetry -> spiritual experience.)

    • Oh, yeah, that’s a great point. The Bible often compares spirit indwelling to being intoxicated on new wine, and the apostles at the Pentecost were assumed by many to be drunk. So how do we decide which is which?

      I suppose that LDS believe that there is a “burning in the bosom” that confirms the veracity of a religious experience. I’m not an expert on LDS, but it seems that this technique of discernment could be problematic, since schizophrenic or psychotic people could convince themselves that they have a true “burning in the bosom”. And I presume that LDS’ prohibitionist stance would disqualify any spiritual insights arrived at when intoxicated on alcohol, even if the drunk swears on his life that he had a “burning in the bosom” (or am I wrong about this?).

      AFAIK, the non-LDS technique of discernment is a bit more restrictive. If the supposed religious experience conflicts with the scriptures or Church dogma, it’s not of the spirit. If it reinforces scripture and Church dogma, it is of the spirit. There are some obvious drawbacks to this stance, as well.

      • JSA,

        I think the bigger issue is more that you can get a “burning in the bosom” from any cause, whatsoever. After all, feeling warmth in your chest region is not exactly a rare phenomenon for human beings.

        So, who is to say that it’s just warm fuzzies or if it’s really the confirmation of a religious (or other) experience?

        This isn’t a problem for schizophrenic or psychotic people alone. It’s not a problem for drunk people. It’s a problem for anyone, because there is no defined difference between a common feeling and a spiritual experience.

  27. Yes, I agree with you. Basing veracity on some internal experience is quite problematic. Matt at Soulsprawl recently addressed this issue with regards to Plantinga’s “properly basic belief”, and people have criticized William Lane Craig for proposing a similar belief (while insisting that his concept is different from “burning in the bosom”). However, I wanted to be charitable, since my negative perception of “burning in the bosom” could purely be based on my own ignorance.

  28. JSA,

    What a good link… But now I’ll have to spend time reading through it and all the links within it…

    In any case, I guess I can’t be the one to defend burning in the bosom.

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