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Psychedelics and Spirituality in Non-Religious Contexts

At the heart of the psychedelic experience lies an ineffable, transpersonal quality not at all unlike mystical or spiritual experiences recorded since the beginning of human history.

It is likely that psychedelic plant medicines not only played a pivotal role in our overarching social development as a species, but also informed and contributed to our world’s diverse religious and spiritual traditions.

And while western culture magnetizes to the scientific, therapeutic lens when it comes to these substances, we are beckoned to not forget that the power of psychedelics lies in their ability to drop us into realms beyond the mundane. 

Are the therapeutic benefits merely a byproduct of their ability to aid in the generation of mystical experiences, or are mystical experiences a product of some physiological process taking place in our physical brain?

The answer to this question would likely settle many philosophical debates, but we can’t really blame modern society for being attracted to their efficacy in treating mental and physical health conditions like anxiety or chronic pain

Let us address the convergence of spirituality and psychedelics, shedding light on how these experiences are embedded into the psychedelic state and how they supersede religious or personal ideologies.

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Transcending with Psychedelics: The Brain on Nature

One of the most frequently reported experiences during psychedelic trips are spiritual epiphanies that transcend the boundaries of ordinary consciousness, leading to deep insights, self-awareness, and personal growth.

From synchronicities to divine insights to embodied feelings of oneness, substances like magic mushrooms and ayahuasca have proven to interact with our own brain’s processes. 

While psychedelics in the brain are a broader topic, one important thing to note here is that these substances mimic our own endogenous neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. 

This means that the psychological states triggered by psychedelic substances can be reached through other means and are simply targeting processes that are innately wired into our physiology

Activities like breathwork, fasting, meditation, or dancing—for instance—can increase the likelihood of entering altered states of consciousness, and it may even be helpful to understand why psychedelics produce mystical experiences.

The point is, everything that arises during a psychedelic experience is actually within you all the time—and is, in fact, you. 

It isn’t hard to see then how this truth would suggest that fear of psychedelics and their outcomes is really just fear of the self. 

To go more deeply into this issue, we have to acknowledge that whether or not mystical experiences and certain attributes of consciousness can be reduced to neural processes is “an open question.”

“There are psychological abilities and processes, such as perception and cognition, that are amenable to neuroscientific investigation, and that could be considered the contents of consciousness. 

Some theorists have argued that …the nature of experience itself is nonreducible and should be taken as a fundamental property of consciousness. However, this position is not universally accepted. 

Both of these positions acknowledge that the nature of experience itself is difficult to approach from a reductive perspective, and the nature of mystical experience is no different” (Barrett and Griffiths, 2018).

Regardless of this, the findings in their analysis “highlighted an intriguing overlap in neural findings on classic hallucinogens and neural findings on meditative practices that may occasion mystical experiences. 

More specifically, changes in activity, connectivity, and neural oscillatory processes in regions of the default mode network may underlie dimensions of mystical experience, especially decreased self-referential processing and altered sense of time and space that accompany introvertive mystical experiences.”

Needless to say, if the similarities between genuine mystical experiences and psychedelic experiences were a Venn diagram, it would nearly be a circle.

Lastly, this suggests that psychedelics are tools that help generate genuine spiritual incidences. 

The Importance of Neutrality: Highlighting Cultural Traditions

Now that we have covered a piece of how psychedelic medicine works to invoke genuine spiritual experiences, it may be helpful to see how other cultures use these plant medicines. 

Throughout human history, the use of psychedelics has been deeply intertwined with spirituality and sacred practices, and these cultures were aware of the synonymous nature of “spirit” and “self.”

Indigenous cultures around the world, from the Amazonian tribes to the peoples of Mesoamerica, have integrated these substances into their rituals, forging a profound connection between nature, spirit, and human consciousness.

For these ancient societies, entheogens like psilocybin-containing mushrooms, peyote, and ayahuasca were not seen as mere intoxicants, but as gateways to the divine and were treated with the utmost respect. 

The altered states of consciousness induced by these substances were believed to facilitate direct access to wisdom, insights, and healing, both for the individual and the community.

As contemporary research on psychedelics continues to gain momentum, the historical perspectives of indigenous psychedelic use offer keen insights as they are the most experienced journeyers.

But given the diverse culture we live in today, a ritualistic approach to these substances is no longer a requirement. 

Just like true mystical experiences, psychedelics supersede any one tradition, approach, or lens, which means that no one is required to experience psychedelics in a religious or ritualistic context. 

Furthermore, psychedelics themselves have no preferences or requirements regarding your personal beliefs when it comes time to partake in the medicine. 

While modern therapies should draw inspiration from the reverence and spiritual significance of indigenous psychedelic practices, we aim to create a safe and supportive environment for any individual seeking to have a psychedelic experience.

A Non-Religious Angle: Embracing Spirituality Doesn’t Mean You’ll Lose Your Religion 

In the realm of psychedelic experiences, embracing spirituality without religious ties entails breaking free from rigid dogmas and embracing a more open and inclusive understanding of spirituality.

This does not mean that you will lose your faith or be dissuaded from continuing your own religious practices after engaging with mind-altering substances. 

Psychedelics do, however, possess the remarkable capacity to dissolve preconceived notions, allowing the mind to explore a broader and more diverse spectrum of spiritual expressions.

It is always beneficial to set intentions and check your expectations going into a psychedelic trip, because if you desire to rigidly hold on to…well…anything at all, you may find yourself fighting the medicine—which is a recipe for a bad trip.

Participants often come to realize that spirituality is not confined to any single belief system but can encompass a myriad of interpretations and personal experiences while still leaving room—and maybe even deepening their respect—for their previous set of beliefs.

Psychedelics are catalysts, not imposers, providing participants with opportunities for self-reflection, personal growth, and confrontation of truth.

One way of viewing it is that psychedelics tend to magnify whatever mental state is already present. If you are experiencing fear, resistance, paranoia, or doubt, those emotions may be placed at the forefront of the trip. 

Conversely, if you are ready to surrender and let go, ready to trust yourself and have faith in the universe, and are comfortable and content with whatever is revealed, that sets you up for a beautiful and transformative journey. 

Therapeutic Benefits of Psychedelic Therapy: A Scientific Approach

In this last section, we wanted to address this conversation about whether or not a psychedelic experience can be clinical and therapeutic without spiritual or ritualistic undertones. 

Here at Psychedelic Passage, we aim to provide facilitators and resources which help you set the desired tone for your journey. 

No matter if you prefer a ceremonial feel or desire a neutral experience, each guide will help you clarify what setting feels the most conducive to your healing, and guide you in how to prepare for the journey

While we want to disclaim that psychedelics often invoke spiritual states, a ceremonial setting is not necessary to be able to reap the benefits of psychedelics, and we are certainly dedicated to helping you have the best trip for you.

Through a scientific approach, these substances can be used in psychedelic-assisted therapy and professionally facilitated sessions to address mental health challenges and facilitate healing.

These therapies have shown lasting improvements in mental health, emotional regulation, and quality of life. When administered responsibly, they exhibit a favorable safety profile as well.

Beyond addressing mental health challenges, psychedelic therapy nurtures resilience and emotional well-being. Participants often experience a profound sense of interconnectedness with the world, fostering a deeper understanding of their place in it. 

Journeyers can then encounter profound states of unity and interconnectedness, embracing a non-dogmatic “spirituality” that respects diverse interpretations and experiences.

Enhance Your Psychedelic Journey with Personalized Guidance 

If you are ready to be supported along your psychedelic process, book a consultation with us today and our concierges can connect you with our network of pre-vetted psychedelic guides located all over the country. 

Our diverse network ensures that you will find the best match that can provide tailored support from beginning to end, while preparing for the trip to the in-person support during journey itself to integration services. 

It is our goal to provide harm-reduction and information to psychedelic seekers so that each journeyer can have a safe and positive trip. We also encourage you to check out our resources page for more articles and insights.

Looking for a professionally supported in-person psychedelic experience?

Take the first step and book a consultation call with us today. We'll walk you through every step of the process after getting to know you and your unique situation.

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At Psychedelic Passage, we offer professional 1-on-1 guidance and companionship on your journey of healing. We simply can't sit back and let Americans continue to sit in silent suffering trying to battle mental health issues within a broken health care system, all while knowing that effective alternatives exist. We stand for the sacred, at-home, ceremonial use of psychedelics for consciousness exploration, which we believe to be a fundamental human right.

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