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Greg P

The Legalization of Marijuana-- The Christian Perspective

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Branching off from the marijuana discussion, I wanted to share this Michael Pollan article on the use of psychedelics. I'm pretty much a hardliner when it comes to drug use, but within the bounds suggested by the research -- mainly for cancer patients -- I find the potential use of the drugs very intriguing. I don't know it's great for people's souls, but if it relieves them of worry and fear, I like to think that's a good thing (even though worry and fear can be a driver toward facing one's mortality and confronting what might await beyond death).

 

There's a lot to the article; it's long. I like that it addresses the potential for such drug use to expand well beyond cancer patients, and what the consequences of that might be. But the main focus in the piece is on cancer patients, and there's something reassuring about the article. YMMV.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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 I find the potential use of the drugs very intriguing. I don't know it's great for people's souls, but if it relieves them of worry and fear, I like to think that's a good thing (even though worry and fear can be a driver toward facing one's mortality and confronting what might await beyond death).

 

 

 

Fascinating article, Christian. Psilocybin holds tremendous promise in end-of-life care, mitigating anxiety, depression and fear for months or longer, with a single dose (as the article details with Mr. Mettes). But there are also ongoing studies about its treatment in helping PTSD, substance addictions and other disorders. MDMA-- a slightly more problematic chemical-- is also being used in clinical settings, with tremendous results.

 

So long as these psychedelics are dispensed in controlled, clinical settings, I'm all in favor. But I guess within Christian circles, there is still a general concern that anything that causes an "altered/enhanced" state of consciousness is a potential spiritual danger. (I remember one well known Evangelical speaking, years ago, about the spiritual risks of being "put under" for surgery, and why such events needed to be approached with great caution and covered in prayer etc ) I think many are worried that surrendering ones mind to such practices opens a door to the demonic world.

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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On 2/10/2015 at 9:31 AM, Greg P said:

 

Fascinating article, Christian. Psilocybin holds tremendous promise in end-of-life care, mitigating anxiety, depression and fear for months or longer, with a single dose (as the article details with Mr. Mettes). But there are also ongoing studies about its treatment in helping PTSD, substance addictions and other disorders. MDMA-- a slightly more problematic chemical-- is also being used in clinical settings, with tremendous results.

 

So long as these psychedelics are dispensed in controlled, clinical settings, I'm all in favor. But I guess within Christian circles, there is still a general concern that anything that causes an "altered/enhanced" state of consciousness is a potential spiritual danger. (I remember one well known Evangelical speaking, years ago, about the spiritual risks of being "put under" for surgery, and why such events needed to be approached with great caution and covered in prayer etc ) I think many are worried that surrendering ones mind to such practices opens a door to the demonic world.

I'm now listening to the audiobook of Pollan's How to Change Your Mind, and while I'm only on disc 3 (of 14), I'm calling it: This is the book of the year (or last year, as it were). Unless the book becomes dreary or takes a turn, I don't see how it's not a paradigm-shifting work for a lot of folks. 

I'm enjoying the mind-blowing descriptions of people's trips (they're very funny, although they're not intended to be; they just are what they are, and people recount them matter-of-factly, in ways that made me giggle, even though I probably wasn't supposed to and even though I know there's no denying, and certainly should be no mocking, of the individuals' experiences).

But the biggest surprise so far? It's not the description of the trips so much as it is the admission of those who come from a more secular humanist / materialist perspective of how the use of psychedelics convinced them of the divine. (Pollan has alluded in the book to his own journey along the same trajectory, although he hasn't yet gone into detail about his own experiences.) Are these recollections orthodox? Of course not. But as one who approached this book wary that it might enjoy needling those of us who subscribe to more traditional religious notions, I've found it fascinating to hear of the way it's challenged people on the other end of the belief/unbelief spectrum to rethink their own views of nature and spirituality.

Again, I'm relatively early in the book, and maybe I'll regret gushing about what I've read so far. But I'm excited enough about it that I wanted to come in and post here. 

Has anyone else read Pollan's book? If so, does my experience reading it match your own? 

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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19 hours ago, Christian said:

But the biggest surprise so far? It's not the description of the trips so much as it is the admission of those who come from a more secular humanist / materialist perspective of how the use of psychedelics convinced them of the divine. (Pollan has alluded in the book to his own journey along the same trajectory, although he hasn't yet gone into detail about his own experiences.) Are these recollections orthodox? Of course not.

1

FWIW (and, no, I haven't read the book), the practice of intentionally using psychedelics or hallucinogenics to "unlock" the mind is hardly new. Granted, I'm thinking more along the lines of a 19th-Century embrace of the imagination, but I think it not surprising that this movement developed in response to Enlightenment rationalism and the tendency to see the world always and only in materialist terms. 

There is much to praise in rationalism. But my studies of literature, particularly in the 19th and 20th century, suggest to me that when belief in any sort of transcendent reality is denied, it's absence leaves a vacuum that cannot be filled by hedonism, however pleasurable, or philosophy, however humanistic.  Of course, that observation is as old as Ecclesiastes (at least), but I do think such vacuums are particularly suffocating in the airtight materialism of Enlightenment materialism and its descendants.  Heck, even the madness of some postmodernism is just an extreme form of hyper-rationalism not being able to live with itself...in my opinion. 

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On 3/2/2019 at 11:12 PM, Christian said:

But the biggest surprise so far? It's not the description of the trips so much as it is the admission of those who come from a more secular humanist / materialist perspective of how the use of psychedelics convinced them of the divine. 

Christian, I'm going to have to check out this book!  Despite the fact that I've never taken psychedelics, and am not particularly excited about the prospect of trying, I have been intrigued by the potential therapeutic utility of these substances (Coincidentally, just this week the FDA approved the nasal spray variant of the street drug Ketamine, for use in combating severe depression.)

You are right-- an awful lot of people seem to walk away from clinical psychedelic trips, firmly convinced of a benevolent other in the universe and of a very real realm beyond the physical.  The 2016 John Hopkins study, on the use psilocyben with terminal cancer patients, revealed the same kind of phenomena. Large numbers of participants, who were previously very anxious about end of life, walked away from the study peaceful and clear-eyed about their futures. What is most remarkable is that these post-trip perspectives appear to NOT be transient. 

It'll be interesting to see how the Christian community approaches this issue of drug-induced spiritual experiences-- particularly as these things become not only legal, but commonplace. There's even a growing movement of people micro-dosing (ingesting smaller, sub-psychedelic doses of LSD or psilosybin to increase productivity and/or feelings of well-being).

As someone who tends to partake of cannabis on a weekly basis, I can attest to its efficacy in diminishing normal anxiety/stress and of opening up a unique kind of portal into contemplative thought. Psychedelics are for big boys, and I admit to being chicken.   

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I haven't read Pollan's book, but I've enjoyed listening to him discuss it in several interviews. I'll be curious to hear if the rest of the book lives up to your early excitement, Christian.

It does feel like we're living through a paradigm shift -- not just about the legalization and medical benefits of marijuana and psychedelics, but about the connections between mystical experiences, brain science, and spiritual development. I've been reading, listening, and thinking about it quite a bit lately.

For what it's worth, I really enjoyed my experiences with psychedelics when I was younger. In fact, I swore them off in part because I enjoyed them so much (and also because I fell in love with Joanna, whose family was destroyed by addiction). I don't smoke pot now but only because weed isn't legal in Tennessee. I want to be completely honest with my kids -- and a good model -- when they're old enough to talk about this stuff.

Edited by Darren H

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I thought I had posted here after finishing the Pollan audiobook; yes, I enjoyed it all the way through and felt like I'd learned a lot by the end of it.

I dug up this thread today to say that the ebook of How to Change Your Mind is $1.99 for Kindle and Nook. I'm not sure how long that price will last. I bought a copy.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I'll add to the huzzahs for Pollan's book (loved his Omnivore's Dilemma, too, but that's on a vastly different subject).  I think he's quite sound on the current state of research, and he's wonderful about bringing in personal experience.

My own thinking on the drugs discussed here has changed considerably over the past year, catalyzed in part by Pollan's book.  It started, though, with last year's Massachusetts General Hospital Psychopharmacology update.  I've been attending it every 2-3 years since the early 2000s, because I've found nothing that comes close to it, for comprehensiveness and up-to-datedness, from clinicians who lead in research and running specialty treatment programs.  For the first time ever, in 2019, they included a lecture on psychedelics, focusing primarily on the promising studies on psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression and MDMA for PTSD.  But, as Pollan's book nicely chronicles, these substances are also being studied for tobacco cessation, opiate and alcohol addiction, and end-of-life anxiety for terminal cancer patients.  Structure and setting are key, as endless anecdotes about bad trips will attest.  But using these substances in a time-limited, psychotherapeutic setting is showing immense promise.  With the mounting anecdotes-approaching-substantive-clinical-data on the anxiety-reducing, worldview-expanding benefits of psilocybin, frankly I look forward to the day when they're legalized, and I can give them a whirl, since I don't have any of the exclusionary criteria (e.g. first-degree relatives with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) for their use.

I'm still very mixed on cannibis.  On the one hand, we know that for vulnerable individuals, it can hasten the onset of schizophrenia or trigger relapses of psychotic symptoms.  It can also be a gateway drug to the major drugs of abuse and dependence.  And for folks under 25, it can adversely affect ongoing brain maturation.  But I've heard enough anecdotes over 26 years of clinical practice to believe in its anxiety-reducing properties for some.  (CBD oil, on the other hand, in study after study has shown to be no more useful than placebo for anxiety or depression.)  I do long for a day when all drugs will be legalized in our country, so the multiplicity of toxic effects of criminalization are no longer an issue, and we can "simply deal" with both the therapeutic benefits of some drugs and the clinical detriment of addiction.

 


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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