By Sam S.B. Shonkoff
If there is one thing that the critical study of religion unveils, it is that every enchanting and revelatory movement in human history — without exception, no matter how luminous the auras — is nonetheless human.
Psychedelics are no exception.
These substances are making a lot of brain scientists and policymakers talk about mysticism. And how could they not? A rapidly expanding body of data confirms that historically sacramental elements can induce altered states of consciousness with significant healing powers.
In contrast to today’s more conventional psychopharmacological techniques, which require regular doses to maintain chemical changes in the body, it appears that psychedelic medicines operate precisely by means of transformative experiences, the effects of which can last for months, if not years. Scholars and psychonauts alike can hardly account for these phenomena without recourse to the lexicon of religious studies.
And yet, strangely, scholars of religion have been largely absent from this discourse.