Psychedelics, or Better Living Thru Brain Chemistry

A reader asks my opinion of the following claims:

  • Psychedelic substances can have a profoundly positive effect on a persons life
  • Psychedelic substances can provide a shortcut to mystical and religious experience, and can even enhance a Christian’s spiritual life

He hastens to add that these are not his opinions, but that he was curious as to my reply.

My thoughts are these:

I regard the claims as dubious in the extreme, as I lived through the periods when experimentation with psychedelics was a mainstay of the youth movement. See Timothy Leary and others.

As it turns out, such behaviors were encouraged and even funded by Soviet agents, in an effort to hasten the Western slide into decadence. Moreover, the CIA dosed unsuspecting American citizens with such drugs, without their consent, as part of research into brainwashing techniques.

So both the Soviets and the CIA regard these psychedelics not as augmenting mental nor artistic ability, nor bringing about serenity or self-awareness, but on the contrary, as a vice deleterious to the integrity of society, or as mind-control technique meant to break the will.

The use of psychedelic drugs by shaman, tribal cults, and ghastly human-sacrifice cults throughout history and prehistory was always with a witchcrafty or idolatrous purpose in mind, not as a type of self-help, artistic aid, recreation, or otherwise.

I read a lecture once about the prehistoric cities whose ruins were found in the jungles of Peru, of a civilization that archeologists think was many centuries before the rise of the Toltec, Maya, Incas, and so on, and with whom they shared no link. They left no writings behind, nor hieroglyphs, so no word of theirs survives.

They had no enemy cities, no other civilizations anywhere on the continent, to threaten them. They were the first civilization in the hemisphere. The lack of any palaces or mansions incline scholars to speculate that their was no kingship, no warrior-aristocrats, but rather that the civilization was run by the shaman class.

For there was a massive temple midmost the capital city, adorned with images of men transforming into jaguars, which may be a representation of a shamanistic practice of drug-induced hallucinatory lycanthropy.

The farmlands surrounding apparently grew a hallucinatory herb sacred to the shaman-kings. Designs on the walls showed images of shaman with mucus running from their noses, which happens to be a side effect of this particular herb when ingested. The altars showed evidence of recurring human sacrifice, including the sacrifice of children.

Archeological evidence suggests that they collapsed, their population fell, they fled their cities. Time blotted out this civilization.

As best I understood the description, the entire civilization was devoted to a cult of drug-maddened lycanthropic cannibal child-murderers, and served the dark gods they saw in their pharmaceutical-induced fever-dreams.

No scholar knows what wiped them out.

There are other examples: the hashish from which the first assassin cult takes its name, granted by a mysterious figure known only as the Old Man of the Mountain in the Middle East claimed the ecstasy of the drug was a foretaste of pleasures of paradise awaiting the faithful. The assassins committed murders by ambush while delirious with the drug.

I have heard that the berserkers of the Norse, who donned bearskin shirts from which they take their name, used grog or beer to similar effect, also attempting to transform, if only mentally, into man-slaying beasts, insensate of wounds or pain.

There is, however, no example I can bring to mind of drugs being used by Buddhists to enhance meditation, nor Taoists to achieve mystic insight, nor again any drug or chemical recommended by Confucius to make a gentleman properly respectful of civic harmony and hierarchy.

In other words, the claim of a positive effect has the entire unified body of all history, from prehistoric shamans to modern psychiatry, speaking in one voice against the claim. This means the claim has a very high burden of proof to overcome: it is in a fringe-science level of an extraordinary claim, like the theory of Phlogiston.

History gives the whole matter of psychedelic drugs as sinister an aspect as any other magic potion, artificial contraception, or other unnatural manipulation of the human person. A Christian should avoid such things at all costs.