I’m always on the looking out for the non-conventional, so I was pleased to come across the work of Roland Griffiths. He is one of the world’s leading psychopharmacologists and works at Johns Hopkins hospital in the US. He’s done extensive work on mind-altering chemicals, notably psilocybin which is found in “magic mushrooms”.
Through giving varying dosages of this to subjects, he found that they developed more positive attitudes towards themselves and others. Intriguingly, the majority experienced a “complete” mystical experience . Psychology of religion experts have defined such experiences by trawling through the texts and sayings of various traditions. They have found that mystical experiences consist of:
- Internal unity (pure awareness; a merging with ultimate reality);
- External unity (unity of all things; all things are alive; all is one);
- Sense of sacredness (reverence; sacred);
- Noetic quality (claim of an encounter with ultimate reality; more real than everyday reality);
- Transcendence of time and space,
- Deeply-felt positive mood (joy, peace, love);
- Paradoxicality and ineffability (claim of difficulty in describing the experience in words).
Usually, it takes fasting, meditation and intense prayer to induce such states . Even then, the probability of it happening is low. But taking psilocybin makes the probability very high and it has lasting effects beyond a year. Most the subjects described the sessions as the most meaningful events of their lives. Professor Griffiths believes we’re just scratching the surface of what this could mean for our lives. Watch this space.
 Griffiths et al, Dec 2011, “Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences: Immediate and persisting dose-related effects”, Psychopharmacology (Berl).
 “An Interview with Roland Griffiths, Ph.D.”, Sep 2009, maps bulletin • volume xx number 1