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  • The Magic [Mushroom] Kingdom:  Psychedelics’ Pagan Ethos & Eschatology 
  • The Magic [Mushroom] Kingdom:  Psychedelics’ Pagan Ethos & Eschatology 

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    May 20, 2024

    “Antidotes to Idolatry” – Part 5

    By Dr. Jeffery J. Ventrella

    “Psychedelics are the next yoga.”[1]

    “All this tripping [is] overseen by shamans and sitters.”[2]

    “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.”[3]

    Utopia, The Perennial Heresy[4]

    Fungi fun!!  Tripping for self-development!!  Why not?  It’s organic, all natural, and a projected $11.0B global industry by 2027![5]  This promises to be a real health – and wealth – game-changer, 

    “a win-win all round,” [Wilson] adds. “We’re making [psychedelic] products that are going to help people: That’s pretty rad.”[6]

    This is the effusive pitch of JJ Wilson, eldest son of LuluLemon billionaire, Chip Wilson. JJ explains that his own microdosing experiences with psychedelics “have created openings for me to ‘get out of my own way.’[7]  

    Wilson has capitalized and is seeking to capitalize on the growing – and soon to be legal – commercialization of psychedelics:  psilocybin (mushrooms[8]), MDMA (“ecstasy”), and ketamine.  Promises abound, predicting relief for PTSD, trauma, and depression – bringing a problem free heaven to earth – without God.  Is this a budding medical miracle for some, the gateway to a better society for everyone, or simply veneer for a new generation of trust-baby neo-hippies to trip?  

    In reality, this trend comprises the latest Gnostic and pagan spiritual effort seeking to erect utopia here and now:  a new earth without God.  It’s really not new, but today it’s monetized, saddled with promises, and trendy.  Let’s get to the gist.

    Psychedelic Detour:  The Trip Changes from Controlling Communism to Cosmic Communion

    Using the creation and its fruits to alter consciousness is nothing new.[9]  And, many “native” religions today – as they did in the New Testament era – include the ritualistic spiritual use of hallucinogens:  Peyote[10] and cannabis,[11] for instance.  What if, however a person’s altered state could be designed and controlled – by others?[12]  What if using hallucinogens provided the pathway to mind control?  Enter the Central Intelligence Agency.

    During the Cold War (1953-1973), the CIA conducted experiments that explored mind control – using powerful hallucinogens. Forget “getting closer to God;” this was all about gaining an advantage over global Communism.  The CIA did this via a program called MK-Ultra.  As part of this program the CIA procured all known quantities of a new synthetic hallucinogen known as LSD – and administered it unbeknownst to various study subjects, using grants to many “research” universities in addition to military venues for purposes of conducting these secretive experiments.[13]  Once these experimental drugs “escaped” college labs and the aims of the “military industrial complex,”[14] they merged with the turbulent 1960’s. LSD became democratized and began to be seen as a pathway, not to control others per se, but to liberate the self, unshackling the user from society and its conventions. “Dropping acid” fit hand in glove with the spirit of anti-authority rebellion that brewed in the 1960’s.  Some of the psychedelic cheerleaders turned out to be well-educated academics and elites like author Ken Kesey[15] and Harvard psychologists Richard Albert and Timothy Leary.  They understood the spiritual aim of psychedelics and worked to deploy them accordingly.

    Psychedelics and Spirituality

    From the outset, though many users simply got stoned, the rationale for exploring psychedelics always assumed a transcendent spiritual profile.  Richard Albert, a Harvard psychology professor, for example, famously conducted the “Good Friday Experiment”[16] at Boston’s Marsh Chapel.  There, Harvard Divinity students unknowingly participated in a double-blind test in which they were administered psychoactive drugs (psilocybin – “magic mushrooms”) exploring the connection between drugs and mystical religious experiences.  The idea centered on having human guinea pigs meet “god” via psychedelics.  Note the experiment’s assumption:  Linkage exists between altered consciousness and spirituality.  The Transcendent was not to be rationally known, but rather encountered via an altered-state experience.  Getting “high” included a necessary spiritual component.  This connection emanates from deep pagan taproots, including “going within” and fixating on feelings.[17]  Psychedelics simply enhanced and expedited this process.

    Over time, Alpert’s spiritual focus became explicit:  he embraced Hindu mysticism, changing his name to Ram Dass and becoming a guru of sorts – and as last week’s Dicta noted, changing one’s theology (or “spirituality”) correlates to one’s sexual practices.[18]  Unsurprisingly, Alpert/Dass “became” bisexual as his “enlightenment” continued.[19]  His mystical enlightenment expanded the menu for satisfying his sexual appetite.  

    We become like what we worship[20] – becoming “one with oneself” spiritually denies the spiritual binary between God and Man.  Denying this latter binary leads to denying the ethical heterosexual binary between male and female and hence, bisexuality – androgyny actually – constitutes pagan spiritual enlightenment.[21]  Psychedelics accelerate this process evidently.

    Leary, also a Harvard psychology professor, took a similar trajectory, though he kept his given name.  He nevertheless explicitly connected psychedelics with spirituality, and particularly Gnostic – going within – spirituality:

    [F]ind the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present—turn on, tune in, drop out.[22]

    Explaining this further in his 1983 autobiography, Leary elaborated on the spiritual purposes of using psychedelics:

    “Turn on” meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers engaging them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. “Tune in” meant interact harmoniously with the world around you—externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. “Drop out” suggested an active, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. “Drop Out” meant self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change.[23]

    Today, we see Wilson chirping the same message: feting mushrooms as the “next yoga.”[24]  Wait.  How is yoga tied to psychedelics and spirituality?  Isn’t yoga simply just about stretching and balancing?  Actually, yoga – when practiced as part of an integrated system – stems from Vedic practices of Hinduism – Yoga is a method or tool designed to eliminate distinctions, including the Creator/Creature binary and instead “yoke” the practitioner into “the One,” that is, the non-dual Reality/Consciousness through postures, breathing, and meditation.[25]  In fact, some streams of Vedic practice explicitly acknowledge the pursuit of “non-secondness” aka non-duality, or in Dr. Jones’ shorthand, Oneism.[26]  The formal term is “Advaita:”

    The term Advaita (literally “non-secondness”, but usually rendered as “nondualism“,[3][4] and often equated with monism[note 4]) refers to vivartavada, the idea that “the world is merely an unreal manifestation (vivarta) of Brahman,”[5] as proposed by the 13th century scholar Prakasatman.[6] [27]

    Wilson postulates, by linking psychedelics to yoga, that altering our consciousness via psychedelics advances the same spiritual goals as yoga:  a mystical union with Universal or Cosmic Consciousness, that is, reveling in a pagan mystic experience.   To him – and this is consistent with pagan mystical practices – the experience and supposed benefit of yoga and psychedelics are one and the same:  spirituality.  This explains why pagan holy men, not medical professionals, guard-railed Wilson’s own psychedelic trips:  

    All this tripping, overseen by shamans and sitters,[28] “has allowed me to unlock something in the blockage center of my brain,” he says. “The experiences have created openings for me to ‘get out of my own way.’[29]

    Query: “get out of my own way” to what end?  What is the goal or aim?  Ah, a better tomorrow, or at least a hallucinated one.

    Psychedelics and Eschatology

    Wilson engages in “pagan-speak” here.  His company, Optimi articulates its purpose beyond producing profits via mushrooms and ecstasy.  The company is:

    Built with the purpose of producing scalable psychedelic formulations for transformational human experiences[30]

    This is the promise of a new humanity – transformed by experience.  The mechanism or means is a drug-induced mystical/spiritual experience.  This is an eschatological claim. Instead of a New Heaven and New Earth inaugurated by God,[31] Man inaugurates his own transformation driven by drug-induced mystical experiences.  And, make no mistake:  this is a spiritual transformation, preferably adorned with high-end LuluLemon yoga wear, I suppose.

    And because these practices ultimately stem from the truth being exchanged for the lie[32] – they will culturally press for “approval.”[33]  This explains the political push for legalizing these mind-altering chemicals.  In fact, it’s already occurring:

    The U.S. could approve MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD in a matter of months, Australia has already greenlighted “ecstasy” and psilocybin for PTSD and depression under narrow conditions, and the number of clinical trials underway is at record levels. Already, Optimi is providing MDMA and psilocybin for Canada’s limited access program, supplying Israel with MDMA for an addiction study, and shipping psilocybin to a research institute in New Zealand.[34]

    If only these powerful hallucinogens could be fully legalized, utopia would come – so they claim!

    The Christian Alternative:  New Spirit, New Mind, New Creation, New Eschaton

    The Christian Faith, unlike its pagan rivals, actually delivers on the promise of a new humanity.  Actual transformation exists and it’s spiritual – being born from above[35] by God’s potent Spirit whose power resurrected Jesus[36].  

    We don’t go within, but we are changed and sustained from within by another, a loving caring Creator God.[37]  And, we don’t need to obscure our perception, but rather we begin to see clearly in God’s light.[38]  We don’t merge with and blend into Cosmic Consciousness, but rather we are joined in union with Christ[39] who at the Consummation affirms our individuality so intimately that He personally wipes away our tears.[40]  

    We don’t subvert our minds and rational faculties, but rather they are the means by grace of being transformed.[41]  Pagans, in contrast, walk in the “futility of their minds,”[42] whereas for Christians, our minds are renewed.[43]  In fact, our minds are to be fruitful – not bypassed, ignored, or subverted.[44]

    And, make no mistake, heaven DOES come to earth in a glorious Consummation:

    Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

    And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”[45]

    Now, that’s a trip worth taking!


    [1] JJ Wilson, co-founder, Optimi Health, https://www.thedailybeast.com/lululemon-scion-jj-wilson-plots-to-make-psychedelic-drugs-the-new-yoga

    [2] Id.

    [3] Timothy Leary, Turn on Tune in Drop Out (1966)

    [4] Thomas Molnar, Utopia, The Perennial Heresy (1967)

    [5] https://www.databridgemarketresearch.com/reports/global-psychedelic-drugs-market

    [6] Id., note 1

    [7] Id., note 1

    [8] No term in the English Bible is translated as “mushroom.”

    [9] See e.g., Genesis 9:21 which records how Noah drank wine to the point of becoming drunk.  Moreover, Scripture invokes “pharmakeia” to denote spiritual or pagan uses of drugs/potions or conscious-altering experiences:  Gal. 5:20 (“sorcery” linked to sexual deviance and idolatry), Rev. 18:23 (“deception” associated with pagan worship) – all these reflect a ritualistic use of altered consciousness for advancing pagan spirituality, often utilizing drugs or potions.

    [10] Certain native American traditions do so; SeeEmployment Division v. Smith 494.U.S. 872 (1990) for a constitutional analysis of this under the First Amendment.

    [11] The Rastafarian religion utilizes cannabis in this way.  SeeWhy Rastafari Smoke Marijuana for Sacramental Reasons and the Faith’s Other Beliefs, snews.com/news/world/articles/2023-06-02/why-rastafari-smoke-marijuana-for-sacramental-reasons-and-the-faiths-other-beliefs#:~:text=A%20Rastafari’s%20personal%20relationship%20with,considered%20central%20to%20the%20faith.&text=Rastafari%20followers%20believe%20the%20use,them%20closer%20to%20the%20divine.

    [12] This is not to suggest that cults and other pagan sects fail to understand that followers who “get high” can be manipulated and controlled in the name of “enlightenment.”

    [13] Dozens of books chronicle these mostly illegal experiments which surfaced under the auspices of the [Sen. Frank] Church Senate Commission in the early 1970’s.

    [14] This phrase came into vogue after President Eisenhower’s’ Farewell Address utilized it, January 17, 1961.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg-jvHynP9Y

    [15] Kessy is the author of the best-selling One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962); Tom Wolfe documented Kesey’s then legal psychedelic cross-country escapades in The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test (1968). 

    [16] https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-3-642-27771-9_200209-1

    [17] See Dicta May 1, 2024.

    [18] This is Paul’s explication of what occurs when the truth is exchanged for the lie – theology and ethics correlate:  Romans 1:18-32.  And, as noted above, in Scripture linkage exists between sexuality, idolatry, and pharmakeia.  See note 9 supra.

    [19]  Davidson, Alan (April 2001). “Holy Man Sighted at Gay Porn House: Ram Dass talks about his life as the leading teacher of Eastern thought in America … who nobody knew was gay”. OutSmart.

    [20] G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship:  A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (2008)

    [21] Peter Jones, Androgyny:  The Pagan Sexual Ideal, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43/3 September 2000, https://etsjets.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/files_JETS-PDFs_43_43-3_43-3-pp443-469_JETS.pdf

    [22] Transcript”American Experience documentary on the Summer of LovePBS and WGBH. 2007-03-14. Archived from the original on 2017-01-28.

    [23]  Leary, TimothyFlashbacks: A Personal and Cultural History of an Era (1983)253

    [24] JJ Wilson, co-founder, Optimi Health, https://www.thedailybeast.com/lululemon-scion-jj-wilson-plots-to-make-psychedelic-drugs-the-new-yoga

    [25] “Yoga” derives from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning “to join,” “to yoke” or “to unite.” Unite what?  Individual consciousness with the Universal or Cosmic Consciousness – a push to obliterate the Binary, including the fundamental distinction between Creator and Creation.  Now, this does not mean that caring for our God-given bodies by exercising and stretching axiomatically engages in pagan practices.  Remember that food sacrificed to idols is nothing, yet we are cautioned to avoid engagement with ungodly powers and influences:  

    “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.” 1 Cor. 10:19-20

    [26] Peter Jones, One or Two:  Seeing a World of Difference (2010)

    [27] Wikipedia – Advaita Vedanta – follow the embedded links to primary sources.  See also, Phillip Goldberg, American Veda:  From Emerson and Beatles to Yoga and Meditation – How Indian Spirituality Changed the West (2013)

    [28] Concerning “trip sitters” see this “guide” produced (as a public service?) by the University of North Carolina, https://mediahub.unc.edu/trip-sitting-an-underground-industry-responds-to-psychedelic-boom/ describing  sitters and explicitly linking what they do with pagan spiritual practices and rituals:  “Many of the sitters trained by trip sitting businesses have previous experience in facilitating altered states of consciousness ranging from independent trip sitting in close-knit underground communities to spiritual guides, or shamans, that have led hundreds of people in ayahuasca ceremonies during multi-day retreats.”

    [29] Id. note 1 

    [30] https://www.optimihealth.ca/optimi-health-welcomes-dr-preston-a-chase-as-new-chief-science-officer/

    [31] Rev. 21 and 22 inaugurated by the bodily resurrection of Christ and progressively continued via the regeneration by the Spirit of individuals (2 Cor 5:17).

    [32] Romans 1:25

    [33] Romans 1:32

    [34] Id., note 1 supra

    [35] John 3:3

    [36] 1 Peter 1:3 (He “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”)

    [37] 2 Cor. 4:16 (“[O]ur inner self is being renewed day by day”) and Eph. 3:16 (we are “strengthened with power through his Spirit in [our] inner being.”

    [38] Ps 36:9b (“[I]n your light do we see light”)

    [39] The New Testament uses the shorthand “in Christ” for expressing this reality repeatedly.

    [40] Rev. 21:4

    [41] Romans 12:2

    [42] Eph. 4:17

    [43] Eph. 4:23 (“[B]e renewed in the spirit of your minds.”)

    [44] 1 Cor. 14:14, 15

    [45] Rev. 21:1-5