Hi Paul. I did a talk with you back in October (I think) and spoke a bit about my experiences with psychedelics. I am still conflicted on what to make of those experiences, because in one regard they were incredibly positive, uplifting and inspiring. As someone else in this comment section said, they were largely responsible for bringing me to God and encouraging me to seek the truth. They clarified my (at the time) nascent interest in philosophy which ultimately led me to Christianity and then to the Orthodox Church. They did this by expanding my view of reality beyond the static material world and reigniting that sort of raw “awe” I felt towards experience when I was a child. Thank God for that.
On the other hand, as I have reflected on how psychedelics warped my perception of myself and others, as well as how I have seen psychedelics warp other people’s perceptions and personalities, it is clear that one of their most common side effects is what the Orthodox call “prelest,” a false/misleading spiritual experience that puffs up the ego of the person having it and leads them down a dark path. I experienced this first-hand; it is only relatively recently that I can acknowledge how much of an egomaniac I became during the period of time when I was using these things heavily. I actually thought that I had received special knowledge that held the key to bringing about the utopia, and that the way to spread this knowledge was to start a new religion. I fancied myself as some kind of future cult leader.
Now, this is funny looking back, but it’s also a bit scary how self-important these things can make one feel. A psychedelic researcher I spoke to said he thinks this tendency to elicit narcissism is going to be the reason why psychedelic research fails to gain momentum again; the researchers themselves are already showing signs of having a messianic complex. For example, researchers studying the potential for psilocybin to elicit mystical experiences at Johns Hopkins have been imparting a sort of syncretistic religion onto their subjects as part of the study.
As I sit here and type this, I don’t know what to make of my experiences. On one hand, they were invaluable in breaking me out of the conditioning which told me to accept a life of mindless entertainment in the form of internet, video games, TV and drug consumption. If I was already thinking outside of the box, they pushed me out even further, and as I said earlier in this comment, thank God for that. But on the other hand, psychedelics threw me a little too far down the philosophical rabbit hole at an age where that was really hard to deal with. I think I would have been much better off if I had experimented with them with some kind of relative/close friend (older than me) who could function as a mentor and keep my more megalomanical ideas in check.
They are incredibly powerful things, and like anything with a lot of power, they can cause great harm if misused. They open you up to the spirit realm and, for most of the “spiritual but not religious” people who use them, that means that they can easily invite demons inside them while thinking that they are benevolent spirits. Then the demons convince you that you are God, and it’s a slippery slope from there.
At this point I would only confidently recommend these substances to someone with a solid prayer life and faith who could bring that foundation into a mind-expanding experience. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of whatever spirits you encounter.