Neuroscientist, Andrew Newberg recently compared brain scans of psychedelic drug users to those of nuns who practiced something called “centering prayer” which is meant to aim at union with the divine.
The notion that drugs may play a role in spiritual endeavors is not farfetched. For centuries, tribal indigenous peoples have used what we would call drugs as vehicles to commune with their deities.
With both prayer and psychoactive drugs, the scans of the brain indicate that the experience “tend[s] to result in very permanent changes in the way in which the brain works.”
While many would say that using a drug to be closer to God is artificial and demeans the “true” spirituality gained through mindful, dedicated prayer, I don’t think it’s that black and white. What if using a drug can act as a time-condenser, a temporal wormhole through which you can shorten your journey to some form of enlightenment?
Dr. Newberg doesn’t shut the door on genuine experience sprouting with the aid of psychedelics, “I always use the analogy about me wearing glasses: When I wake up in the morning, it’s a very fuzzy world. I put my glasses on and I see the world clearly,” said the doctor. “It’s possible these kind of [drug-assisted] experiences are not artificial or false, but really enable a person and a person’s brain to experience the world in a much more fundamental way.”
Using a drug shouldn’t be a cheat to get to the end of “the work” required for enlightenment, indeed, that is a journey that has no end. But, at least with cannabis, I know it has deepened my own spiritualism, it has not been a shortcut to get out of the hard work of meditation and introspection. The goal is to dive into the depths of your own soul, your own contemporary understanding of the world and your place within it. It is a ceaseless thrum of footfalls, a pool with no bottom. If imbibing or inhaling a substance helps you sink deeper into an ocean with no floor, then what shortcut has really been taken?