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