One of the most controversial issues in theological debates is the widespread and growing use of psychedelic substances to encourage religious experience. Undeniably, psychedelic substances like magic mushrooms, LSD, MDMA, and ayahuasca activate the very same areas of the human brain as traditional religious experience and have been widely used in various religions for thousands of years. So why the current controversy, and is there a Syntheist take on the growing use of psychedelic substances for religious purposes?
Some Syntheists prefer the exclusive use of techniques such as mediatation and contemplation to achieve their religious experiences. Others welcome the occasional additional usage of psychedelic substances. Since the former is widely accepted in contemporary society while the latter remains highly controversial, the important thing is not to succumb to a temporary contemporary morality – many things we now take for granted as part of our human freedoms have been banned in the past for the most ridiculous and prejudiced reasons, the bias against psychedelics may very well be one such area of prejudiced moralism today – but to leave the decision on whether to use psychedelic substances for religious purposes to each individual practitioner and to increase scientific reasearch on the long-term effects of psychedelic substaces rather than succumb to moralistic prejudice.
Syntheism therefore takes the stand that we respect the choice of religious practice each grown-up responsible individual Syntheist makes, leaving our religion in the making open to sound and creative experimentaton, and that laws and regulations in society should be adjusted to scientific knowledge and not to biased prejudice. Denying people the right to a proper religious experience on the grounds that the practices are morally upsetting to other people – whom it does not really concern – is unacceptable and could rather be viewed as a modern form of religious persecution.
So while neither encouraging nor discouraging the use of psychedelic substances for religious experience, Syntheists are asked to act responsibly and with respect to scientific knowledge (please remember science is sacred to Syntheists) while not succumbing to the moralistic prejudices prevalent in contemporary laws and regulations. After all, we worship Syntheos and not the Logos of any government when such a Logos contradicts our firm beliefs in human and religious freedom.
To be a Syntheist is to be open, creative, on the move, especially in relation to the wrongs and injustices of the times we live in. To be a Syntheist is also to act firmly against any form of drug abuse, since abuse is opposed to the freedom and enlightenment we support and encourage for all human beings. But non-abusive and enlightening drug use can and should not be categorized as abusive, on scientific and ethical grounds.
Syntheism is after all the utopian religion par excellence. We do not believe God created us, we believe we are capable of creating God. And for some well educated and responsible people, this ambition may include the occasional use of psychedelic substances. Live and let live!