Culture, Mishegas

Surprise, surprise: Taking Mushrooms Causes Mystical Experiences

So today the AP reported (as well as the Washington Post) on a study published Monday in the journal Psychopharmacology. Dr. Roland Griffiths of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine led a study into the effects of psilocybin — the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms — completing the first controlled study on the use of hallucinogens in almost 40 years. The researchers suggest the drug someday may help drug addicts kick their habit or aid terminally ill patients struggling with anxiety and depression.
The study found:

Of the 36 people, 22 had a “complete” mystical experience as judged by several question-based scales used for rating such experiences. Many reported feelings of joy and peace, and a sense of transcending time and space. Two-thirds judged it to be among their top-five life experiences, equal to the birth of a first child or death of a parent.
Two months after a session, the people who had taken psilocybin reported small but significant positive changes in behavior and attitudes compared to those who had taken Ritalin. Many participants said it had left them feeling kinder and happier than before — persistent changes that scientists corroborated through interviews with families, friends and co-workers.
One-third of the subjects, however, said they experienced “strong or extreme” fear at some point in the hours after they took the hallucinogen.
Four people said the entire session was dominated by anxiety or psychological struggle.

The average age of the test subjects was 46, with none of the subjects having taken hallucinogens recreationally before.
Like the Seattle Times said, this study comes after about 1000 years of use. While I can not deny the benefit of psychiatric research, and I am all for increasing the quality of life for terminally ill people, I can’t help but ask the question:
How much money (NIH or otherwise) went into this?

13 thoughts on “Surprise, surprise: Taking Mushrooms Causes Mystical Experiences

  1. I think it’s fine to partake of these mushrooms if they really help people to be more mentally “healthy”. If phychedelic mushrooms help people feel kinder and happier I’m for it as long as there are no dangerous side affects that may show up later. I beleive though, that there is no lasting joy without knowing Yahweh.

  2. Y-Love,
    Interesting story too bad I never popped the mystical fruit. Personally I think Mushrooms that you are supposed to eat taste like shit and to imagine having to scarf down an 8th of psychadelic shrooms to get high would be ridiculous in my case, I would probably puke before I ever got them down. Now, if they are handing out the pill form of the intoxicant hey its now a medicine maybe I would try it. Anyway not likely to ever happen for me.
    Take care man
    Oh and Ahron it was (weed) that cures boring shabbat pot lucks on the Upper West Side.

  3. i agree, a waste of money to discover something quite well known.
    i know a guy whose mushroom trip made him take his Torah study more seriously.
    Yitzchak, what’s the halachic status on shrooms? I mean assuming they were not against the law of the state.
    Would it be assur to do them?

  4. I gained a deeper understanding of kabbala through ‘shrooms. I saw the sfirot. And no, I’m not joking. I’m an ex-yeshiva chick who did some shrooming out in the desert… and yes, I said t’filat haderech first.
    You can mock it, but you weren’t there, were you?

  5. I worry about any commentary that make drug use appear reasonable, respectable or cool. This isn’t a challenge to the fact that shrooms can have positive effects; it’s a response to the fact that people (more young than not) get addicted to drugs all the time and it leads to harmful impacts in thier lives.
    I would recommend that people who use drugs or approve of limited use for others would take into account the risk that some people who try pot will use much more than is wise, and that social acceptence is a factor.
    Prohibition may be a stupid counter productive strategy for harm reduction; but fostering the false image of drugs (including pot) as hip and cool is not a good strategy for improving jewish practice, community spirit, or enlightenment.
    Even if only one out of twenty people exposed to drugs ends up harming themselves in some way, it would still be wrong to promote them as worthy of usage. I’d expect this reasoning to connect to halachic notions on some level.
    Food for thought. heh.

  6. charles, while i agree, on the one hand, that drugs can be extraordinarily problematic when miscontextualized and ‘commodified’ as a fashion accessory, and while i also have reservations about their potential for abuse, i think it’s important that people be made aware of the fact that psychedelics have incredibly valuable properties which, when used wisely and in moderation, can have extraordinary benefits for one spiritually and creatively. such drugs get a bum rap they don’t often deserve and, and i think that anti-drug rhetoric, no matter how well intentioned, strengthens the taboo around psychedelics, which only further perpetuates ignorance and increases the potential for harm.

  7. We omce had a big argument at our shul about whether we should only serve grape juice at kiddush. Someone dug up a Rashi in which the master said that wine is preferred precisely becuase of the effect of the alcohol — thus default kiddush should be wine unless a person knows they have a health problem using it.

  8. yeah, the thing about mushrooms in particular, is that, apparently, they were a big part of our communal human lives for a long time, before. Not like some new addictive little opiate, theatening our culture, they reperesent something bigger, older, and more universal in the human experience.
    the question can become, does deep spirituality exist without psychedelics? or just a hollow effort at using meditative or devotonal practice to remember what once was so clear.
    Because the drugs don’t work on their own, without righteous context, and a spiritual and/or cosmological language helps so much to make the experience focused, coherent, and meaniningful.
    But it’s a big threat/impact, the return of these living drugs into our collective and personal experience, and all the defensiveness around traditional spiritual options makes so much sense— the things that build slower last longer, and the things that happen instantly with a single bite, a single kiss may need constant re-fueling, something scary to those afraid of needing anything more than once.

  9. There are many refferences that suggest that Moses’ manna were indeed mushrooms which, “fell from the sky after heavy dew or rain” Check out or google…manna mushroom water into wine.

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