Thematic Track: Mystical Spirituality as a Link between World Religions
Born-again psychedelic mysticism: taking the best of both worlds
During religious and spiritual practices, unusual states of consciousness are often deliberately induced by physiological or pharmacological means. Participants see such experiences as ways to visit supernatural realms and communicate with divine beings, as well as ways to improve their health and quality of life.
In clinical psychology states of unusual perception and sense of self are medicalized - reduced to concepts of “disorders of perception” and “dissociative disorders”. In psychological research, psychometric questionnaires with factors like “oceanic boundlessness” or “sacredness” offer a less biased framework to describe unusual states of consciousness. While concepts like “mystical” and “spirituality” are often imprecisely defined, a “complete mystical experience” has been quantitatively defined, measured and even experimentally induced in context of psychedelic research.
Entheogens like ayahuasca and psilocybin are increasingly used in neoshamanic ceremonies and scientific laboratories. New practices and communities are being born in “psychedelic renaissance” and this process includes both bliss and pain. "Newborn" mystics often feel that their substance-induced experiences have been emotionally and spiritually significant and they report substantial improvements of their quality of life. However, powerful psychedelics, especially if illegal, are sometimes used by incompetent and/or greedy mediators to abuse and exploit spiritual seekers.
The idea of psychedelic mysticism - use of natural substances to contact the supernatural - is still meeting strong opposition – “this cannot be real!” - both from materialist scientists for whom there is no supernatural and spiritual leaders who believe that the supernatural cannot be contacted by natural means. Instead of reactive alienation from both “mainstream” science and “mainstream” spirituality, born-again psychedelic mystics are encouraged to take the best from both great traditions, of science and of spirituality.
Helle Kaasik has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and a M.A. in psychology from University of Tartu, Estonia. Her main areas of interest in psychedelic science are psychology and spirituality of ayahuasca users. She is working as a researcher in Institute of Physics of University of Tartu while also studying psychology and spirituality of ayahuasca users for her doctoral thesis in theology. She is also a member of Santo Daime church in Céu dos Ventos, Hague, Netherlands.