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Spiritual but not Religious?

By Carl S ~
Those who, in polls, describe themselves as not belonging to any religion are called “nones.” You'll hear, “I'm not religious, but spiritual.” Historically, it's generally been assumed you can't have one without the other. Do they truly believe one can be spiritual without dogmas or belief systems? Have they thought about what they're saying? Are they actually referring to a sense of awe about nature?

When a volcano first erupted or an earthquake devastated, that must have overawed all the senses and been awesome! Then, as one explanation, to conclude super-natural forces caused them made sense. Also, consider the powerful awe resulting from observing Nature unfolding in wondrous ways. Some organisms were found whose powers brought ”assuring answers” to the mysteries of the world, via their effects on the brain. Eating them made humans like unto gods knowing good and evil. In those times b.c. (before chemistry), primitives interpreted brain fuck-ups as gifts from gods. Like little children, they found these gifts beyond explanation, able to make the actual world even more awe-inspiring.

Contrast this to reality: centuries later, Darwin and others like him found awe in Evolution. When scientific methods began to replace theologies, they brought continuing discoveries, none of them attributed to spirits. Many must have left the discoverers awe-struck. After many experiments and frustrations, there would have been “aha!” results, where the solution is so obvious one wonders why one never saw it to begin with. So now we have awe without the spiritual, awe as a natural reaction.

Speaking of experiments: are there any which can explain how awe came to be spiritual? Sure. In fact, they may explain the origins of all religions: experiments with psychedelic plants, repeating ancient rituals and their effect on the mind-body connection. Magic mushrooms, ergot (from which LSD is derived), alcohol, and other potent substances, have been around since before humans. Their effects are described as “mind-altering, consciousness-raising, portals to the divine, sacramental, doors of perception to understanding The Oneness of All in the Universe.” They are also poisonous.

Walter Pahnke, a minister and physician, laid out a nine-category list of universal mystical experiences, based on his studies. If you're familiar with scriptural/ Buddhist traditions, you'll recognize he is also describing ritualized experiences caused by psychedelic, psychotropic plants. When acolytes personally subjected themselves to the effects, they became convinced they had found that “spiritual” they'd always heard about. To this very day, there are shamans/holy healers/enlighteners, carrying on this tradition. This psychedelic “spiritual” is being experienced by writers, intellectuals, etc. in the West! One only needs to be willing to make oneself vulnerable to hyper-suggestibility and the shamans desires to qualify! And, depending on the state of mind of each individual, the experiences will be religious, or not. The outcomes depend on one's expectations in certain settings, whether they will be heavenly or hellish. Sounds just like the religions we know.

How and why did the effects of psychedelic substances lead to religions, yet are now banned by those religions. Well, using these plants in rituals meant only the shamans had power over minds, to interpret the “understanding and revelations.” This was o.k. for the tribes, villagers, small cults, and hunters and gatherers. But you can't have everybody tripping out in advanced civilizations! What became of those “spiritual” happenings?

If those who want power over civilizations want to succeed, they can use the beliefs supporting the spiritual guides and healers. But before that, they have to drive those originators underground. So they took the “revelations” already in place, and claimed they came from their god. The feelings of awe are now connected with this god; the mystical/spiritual la-la's are now placed under the control of a god's agents. They only needed to adapt psychedelic-enhanced rituals and teachings to their own ends, substituting new rituals in imitation of the old, using powerful psychological settings and mood enhancement in place of psychedelic drugs. In other words, they created a new dependency: Their constant repetitions, chants, and rituals have become drugs, with drug-like convictions, and belonging to the “spiritual” realm.

You can understand why religions forbid using these drugs, and make them illegal, and why they are still being used. The conflict continues. And it isn't only religions that imitate their effects on the brain: Aren't live performances by rock musicians imitating those ancient rituals of psychedelic agents, by overwhelming the mind and senses with intense lights, extreme distortions of figures and backgrounds, and the mind-numbing volume of sound? Welcome to reviving ancient spiritual/mystical mind manipulation for the “spiritual, not religious” generation.

The danger with psychotropics: the fungi are deceivers, because they screw around with the brain's chemistry. Magic mushrooms, LSD, et al, will bring the convincing feelings of intense tranquility and solace along with a promise of personal immortality. The real world is not like that. The world contains examples for awe, but also for fear. It won't conform to psychedelic induced fungi-fuzzy desires and feelings of serene security. Nature doesn't care about them. Every animal, including us, has to learn how to survive, to be alert to danger, and one way this is done is in not being too trusting about one's feelings, or in others, and one's environments in nature.

Now, religious believers may think I'm crazy in making psychedelic fungus connections to their faiths. I've read many testimonies from those who've experienced these effects, and they are not crazy. What they relate lead us to one conclusion: “The Book of Revelations” was written by a person or persons unknown under the powerful effects of these substances. You want to talk about crazy? Here we are in the 21st century, where “sacred writings” of gullible ancient druggies are taken seriously by even more gullible people, who, as a result of them, are willing and anxiously waiting to see the world destroyed in order to make those “revelations” come true! Now THAT'S insane.

For me, reality is enough. Reality reminds me not to think about these things while driving at 50 mph. We should all mistrust consciousness-raising drugs and all religions, and for the same reasons. They all mess with brain cells. I'm glad I'm not a “spiritual” person. I've seen too many people hung up and fucked up over “spiritual.”