"God in a pill?"

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By K. Jentoft
 
 
There was a recent study conducted by researchers at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Johns Hopkins University studying the effect of hallucinogenic mushrooms the mystical experiences they induced - http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/Press_releases/2006/07_11_06.html .  The study was reminiscent of the LSD tests conducted by Timothy Leary in the 60s.  Some of the comments made concerning this study include:
Hallucinogen in Mushrooms Creates Universal "Mystical" Experience
the active agent in "sacred mushrooms" can induce mystical/spiritual experiences descriptively identical to spontaneous ones people have reported for centuries
Is this God in a pill? Does it render God or "revelation" irrelevant?
What is demonstrated by this experiment is that the mystical spiritual experience that many people and religions are seeking through "spiritual exercises" such as yoga, meditation, or "contemplative prayer" can be achieved through a simple pill without the training and time demanded by such disciplines or practices.  The study used "religious volunteers" because, as the researchers stated, "We felt that volunteers who had some engagement with prayer, meditation, churchgoing, or similar activities would be better equipped to understand and consolidate any mystical-type experiences they might have in the study."  The study documents the effects of psilocybin as beneficial and providing "benefits" that survived the study period itself. 
 
"In the study, more than 60 percent of subjects described the effects of psilocybin in ways that met criteria for a "full mystical experience" as measured by established psychological scales. One third said the experience was the single most spiritually significant of their lifetimes; and more than two-thirds rated it among their five most meaningful and spiritually significant. Griffiths says subjects liken it to the importance of the birth of their first child or the death of a parent.
Two months later, 79 percent of subjects reported moderately or greatly increased well-being or life satisfaction compared with those given a placebo at the same test session. A majority said their mood, attitudes and behaviors had changed for the better. Structured interviews with family members, friends and co-workers generally confirmed the subjects' remarks. Results of a year-long followup are being readied for publication." http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/521710/?sc=dwhn
Huston Smith, an authority on comparative religions said of the study:
"Mystical experience seems to be as old as humankind, forming the core of many if not all of the great religious traditions. Some ancient cultures, such as classical Greece, and some contemporary small-scale cultures, have made use of psychoactive plants and chemicals to occasion such experiences. But this is the first scientific demonstration in 40 years, and the most rigorous ever, that profound mystical states can be produced safely in the laboratory. The potential is great."
This study brings the distinction between mysticism and Christianity into clear focus.  Many in Christian circles are advocating mystical practices as an avenue for sanctification, spiritual growth, and experiencing God.  There have been many who have already rightly claimed that the spiritual practices promoted by these mystics are identical to the practices used by the pagans and eastern religion in their pursuit of God and eternity.  This study goes further by isolating the experience itself from the practices and achieving spiritual experiences through swallowing a pill.  The experience is obviously not Christian anymore than the experiences achieved through "spiritual practices" are Christian.  Nothing about either mysticism through practices or mysticism through a pill is Christian – it is only an experience that some claim is God.
True Christianity is based not upon mystical experiences but upon cold sober history.  God became man and communicated with real vocal cords the ultimate revelation of God the Spirit in words that we could understand.  The revelation was objective and heard by normal men with real ears.  John claimed this regarding the man Jesus, "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life- and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us."  Jesus promised eternal life and reconciliation with God through His physical blood that He would shed on our behalf.  Our real problem, the wrath of God for our sins, was dealt with through the death of this man on our behalf.  To prove that His promise was true and His objective revelation of God the Spirit was absolutely accurate, Jesus was raised bodily from the dead and then touched and seen by real men.  Because of these events that occurred in history were documented for us by credible witnesses, we Christians can believe it and be truly reconciled to God and have the Spirit of God indwelling us.  While we know the reality of the spiritual world, we do not seek God or truth through mystical experiences but through the revelation that God has given in objective propositional truth recorded by men in scripture.
The contrast between "God in a pill" vs. "God became man in cold sober history" could not be greater.  For the one, eternity is pursued through mystical experience found in a pill or practices.  For the latter, it is found in believing the words of a Man claiming to be God Himself.  I choose the second.
 
 

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