Psychedelics and Mystical Experience
Psychedelics (from the Greek psyche: mind, delos: make visible, reveal) are substances that induce an altered state of consciousness sometimes compared to a 'waking dream'. The best known psychedelics are psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms), DMT (found in ayahuasca), mescaline (found in peyote and San Pedro cacti) and LSD.
The concept of the 'mystical/spiritual-type experience' first originated in the field of psychology of religion. It has six aspects:
- Unity and interconnectedness
- Sacredness and awe
- A sense of having uncovered some deeper truth about reality
- Feelings of peace and joy
- Transcendence of time and space
- Ineffability and paradoxicality i.e. the inability to adequately describe the experience in words
When someone describes having strongly felt all of the above emotions during an experience, researchers say they've had a 'mystical/spiritual-type experience'. People that have such experiences often describe them as among the most profound experiences of their lives, comparing them for instance to the death of a loved one or the birth of a child.
It seems there are a number of practises that can help people to have mystical/spiritual-type experiences, including dance, meditation, breathwork, sex and time spent in the wild.
One more more practise that can help bring about mystical/spiritual-type experiences is the careful use of psychedelic substances. Indeed, in one study, up to 80% of those who received a psychedelic substance said the experiment was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives.
Join a discussion on psychedelics, mystical experiences and how they can inspire us to live lives of greater love, compassion and joy.
Stephen Reid is the founder and director of the Psychedelic Society, which was the first national-level Psychedelic Society worldwide, and the press officer for the Breaking Convention Conference on Psychedelic Consciousness. Stephen facilitates the Psychedelic Society's Psychedelic Experience Weekends and Psychedelic Rhythms dance sessions, and is a camp lead for La Botica Exótica, a camp at Nowhere and The Borderland. He has written for the Guardian, the Independent and the Huffington Post.
Previously, he served on the board of Greenpeace UK, and co-founded the New Economics Foundation's New Economy Organisers Network and direct action movements UK Uncut and The Intruders. Stephen has Masters degrees in Physics from the University of Oxford (MPhys, First Class — dissertation) and Complexity Sciences (MRes, Distinction) from the University of Bristol.