Psychedelics and Spirituality

It would come as no surprise to a shaman, but for some people who experiment with powerful drugs like DMT or ayahuasca, the experience can feel profoundly spiritual.

For some people, an experience with certain drugs can be deeply spiritual.

Listen to the full episode52:35

It would come as no surprise to a Cofan shaman in Ecuador, but for some people who experiment with powerful drugs like DMT or ayahuasca, the experience can be feel profoundly spiritual. 

Anthropologist Wade Davis notes there's been speculation that mind altering drug experiences might represent the very origin of religion.

"The desire to invoke some technique of ecstasy, to alter ordinary consciousness and transcend it, is so ubiquitous that it has to be seen as part of the basic human appetite," says Davis.

And yet the experience can be spiritually wrenching, according to science writer John Horgan. He says that some of his early experiences with psychedelics forced him into a profound personal reckoning. He warns that experimentation is not for the faint of heart.

"I took Ayahuasca on a cliff overlooking the Pacific ... I felt that I was in the presence of a mischievous and even vaguely malevolent force." 

In this episode of On Drugs, we explore the connection between psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin and the transcendent feelings and perceptions that users report.

  • Wade Davis shares his insight into the seeming ubiquity of psychedelics in mystical experience in the Americas.
  • Dr. Rick Strassman describes what happened when he went in search of the spirit molecule.
  • Tanya Kammonen explains how ayahuasca prepared her scientific mind for religious experience.

With help from researchers and seekers, host Geoff Turner dives into the strange intersection of psychedelics and spirituality.