Here’s something you don’t read every day, from Word on Fire:
As a recently ordained priest serving in the Great Northwest, I have found that one thing for which seminary did not prepare me was the cultural fallout from the legalization of marijuana. The growing phenomenon has made its way into parochial schools, youth groups, and even parish staff. When I recently set Google Maps to drive to St. Paul’s Cathedral in downtown Yakima, where I was to teach a class on Christian spirituality, the app routed me to “Sweet Cannabis Relief Supplies” as the location most similar to my search preference. The irony of the situation—seeking one form of fulfillment and being misdirected to another—brought to mind wider conversations in neuroscience and psychology today about the relationship between psychoactive drugs and religious experience.
In a recent essay adapted from Michael Pollan’s new book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence, the Wall Street Journal reported on the use of LSD and psilocybin to treat depression, anxiety, and even alcohol addictions. Researchers at New York University, Johns Hopkins, UCLA and the Imperial College in London reported that after undergoing psychedelic treatment, patients have emerged from a “trip” with a rehabilitated belief in the goodness of being and the value of life. Worth noting, too, is the interest on social media in Dr. Michael Persinger’s God Helmet, a device that produces “mystical” experiences by electronic stimulation of the brain. Persinger reports that his subjects have experienced a wide range of spiritual phenomena, including out-of-body experiences and even visions of God. The God Helmet is being sold online for $659.00 (+ shipping) in one knockoff form or another, and others are looking to use the helmet to enhance video gaming experience. Some thinkers believe this device will revolutionize society’s traditional understanding of religion; now one can encounter “god” or transcendence by simply putting on a helmet.
As a Catholic priest, I cannot help but wonder about the implications of artificially induced cognitive states with respect to the authenticity of Christian spirituality.
There’s much more. Read it all.