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Sacred Fungi: A Brief Overview of Psychedelics in the Christian Church

CC Background
Table of Contents
God, Man, And Drugs
Sacred Fungus
And Suddenly, There Were None
Where This Leaves The Church
Where This Leaves You

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Chemical Collective or any associated parties.

God, Man, And Drugs

Genesis 9:3 –  “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I have given everything to you, as I gave the green plant.” [1]

I’ve been in the church my whole life. I’ve heard it all. “God hates Marijuana! God hates when people use it! Demons will enter your life because of mushrooms! They’re unnatural and will melt your brain! Drugs are from Satan!”

The capacity for the church to ignore its own teaching at times is absolutely astounding to me- and I should know. I’ve served in the church since I was a child and am the Worship Music Pastor for my own congregation. 

First of all – according to the Bible, God gifts mankind with the ability to use the earth; to have dominion over it. We are given permission and stewardship specifically over all plants and animals. Sonoran Desert Toads, Marijuana, Psilocybin Fungus, Peyote… all fall under the authority given to men by the Bible. 

God also declares the whole earth to be GOOD as soon as he is finished making it. Churches pretending that certain plants and animals do not fall under this universal declaration runs contrary to the Word of God itself… assuming you believe in that sort of thing in the first place. I do. 

If God gave man permission and stewardship over all plants and animals, why does the modern Christian Church condemn the structured, responsible use of psilocybin and others?

Like anything else, the moral value of substances lies exclusively in the intent and practice of the user. Psychedelics are no different. 

The second thing the church overlooks is that Psychedelics – fungus in particular – have been widely used in their own ritual, sacral practice for literally hundreds of years. They’re overlooking their own history, they’re overlooking the Word of God, and they are closing their congregations off to the spiritual and emotional healing that proper use of Psychedelic Substances can offer. 

In my opinion, this is a travesty, and should be changed. I’m not a huge proponent of the church following societal trends. The point of church, and faith in Jesus in general, is to create healing and love regardless of what culture at large is teaching. However, we are going through a Psychedelic Renaissance as a culture, and I personally believe the church should embrace the healing power of these substances fully, especially given that (according to their thinking) God made them himself. 

I’m going to give you an inside look into Church culture, how they reversed their historically accommodating stance on mind-altering fungus, and how the early church often consumed these substances to enhance their spiritual connectivity to the divine. 

Sacred Fungus

Christianity is not the first spiritual school of thought to experiment with psychedelic substances. The Aztecs, the Native Americans, thousands of cultures have tapped into the powerful spiritual experiences that Mushrooms create. Some even believe that human consciousness descends from Psilocybin. 

Many of you are probably familiar with “Stoned Ape” Theory. “In essence, the hypothesis suggests we owe the emergence of language and self-reflection to ancient, sustained consumption of psilocybin mushrooms. The exact timeline for the emergence of consciousness varies, but Dennis [McKenna] believes the process may have begun as far back as 2 million years ago. “We know the brain tripled in size about 2 million years ago, and probably the ecosystems which put hominids, cattle, and mushrooms together were around that old,” Dennis says, referring to the dung from which psilocybin mushrooms emerge.” [2]

The Stoned Ape Hypothesis proposes that psychedelic mushrooms were the catalyst in the evolutionary emergence of the frontal lobe and subsequent self-awareness of our early human ancestors.

While I personally do not fully agree with this theory, there is a lot of speculation that human religion and spirituality descended from the Mushroom Trip – and in certain cases, I suspect this could be the truth. Entities, secret knowledge, and powerful emotional experiences go hand in hand with both Spirituality and the Psychedelic. 

The Christian Church breaks into the Psychedelic scene in the early 1200’s. Many, many Cathedrals have stained glass imagery depicting the use of Amanita Muscaria, an extremely powerful (and dangerous) ethnogenic mushroom. Improper processing and dosage can kill you, and it is nothing like the Psilocybin Experience. 

An image from St. Martin – Chartres Cathedral Depicting Jesus Christ next to a Mushroom.

There is a litany of evidence indicating that the mushroom was often used as Holy Communion – a sacrament done in remembrance of the life of Jesus Christ. Amanita sacrament use in the Order of Melchizedek (a mystic, monastic order) is revealed by murals in various Catholic churches. [4] Atheistic and Secular researchers draw the conclusion that Christianity was invented by people using these mushrooms, based on the prevalence of their depiction in their iconography and cathedral imagery. However, it is my opinion, as a follower of Jesus Himself, that God made this fungus to show Himself to us in deep and paradigm-defining ways – at least, that has been my experience. If the faith of these early monastic mystics was genuine, I’d posit that was their experience as well. Sort of a Chicken vs. Egg discussion – but under the assumption that God made the mushroom, it follows that He made it for us to get to know Him.

And Suddenly, There Were None

Church corruption is no secret. As a member of church leadership, I regularly have to navigate complex, ego-driven political landscapes within our staff hierarchy. Thankfully, I have the immense blessing of belonging to a church that genuinely cares about its congregation, and aside from a few disagreements that I have with how we use our money, there is little, if no, corruption within our pastoral team. 

This was not the case in the early European Church. Paying to have sins forgiven, paying to get into heaven, deliberately hiding the word of God from common people, centralization of power, murdering people accused of witchcraft, sex trade… the historic church was up to its eyeballs in evil and corrupt behavior. 

This corrupt and evil behavior is the primary reason mushrooms ceased to become part of the worship experience. 

This would explain why the Holy Inquisition was initiated, as the Church was encountering more and more numerous reports of pagan people utilizing entheogens.  Hence began the trials of “witches” and “heretics,” given that pagans were not typically literate and therefore not considered capable of being as Holy as Church officials – a reality that likely gave Church officials the sense that pagans were profaning their Holy Sacrament and therefore also the true spiritual pathway to God itself. [5]

The inquisition was a descent into a brutal collective psychosis, born of the religious corruption of the period, and was one of the darkest periods in European history.

Arrogance – and a belief that others were somehow “less than” and unable to handle the truth brought by the Mushroom Experience was what motivated this. This led the clergy to purge mushrooms from their liturgy (ritual worship) and prosecute commoners who were using them to have mystical experiences. 

It’s important for me to add here that, as a Believer in Jesus Christ, I am absolutely saddened and disheartened by the damage this era of the church did to the world. Jesus would not have wanted it, and again, knowing that God made the mushroom, would likely have endorsed its careful, planned, and worshipful use within the church. 

However, man deviated from the love and worship of God and instead chose to worship power and control, robbing the world of this great gift. 

Where This Leaves The Church

Growing up in church, anti-drug rhetoric was extremely common. Not hard to understand given the political hold the church has over the American population. To their credit – the community I lived in was being ravaged (and still is) by an Opioid Abuse Epidemic. But because of poor education, our church leadership failed to understand the profound differences between heroin, weed, mushrooms, or LSD, etc. 

The church takes the stance that “anything which alters your mental state beyond baseline sobriety” is sinful to consume… and they’ll preach that position from a pulpit where a Bible shares space with a Quadruple Espresso Starbucks Latte. Jesus fasted from food for forty days straight in the desert. How sober do you think He was after that? Satan approached Him in a waking vision to tempt Him during that time. Does that sound like something that happens when you’re sober? 

Furthermore – they will fully endorse the use of dangerous and addictive medication as long as a doctor prescribes it. I had reconstructive surgery when I was 15 and I took Oxycontin and Valium together for over 2 months. Not a word of objection was raised by my Youth Pastor – but discuss the mental and spiritual benefits of Psilocybin (which is safe, non-addictive, and has zero side effects)  and you’re ostracized. I’d get fired from my church if they found out that I write here, or that I trip on a semi-regular basis.

When we take a broader look at habitual patterns of behavior, we can see that almost any activity can be addictive.

Our aversion to these substances lies in American anti-drug culture from the Nixon era, mixed with a fear of the unknown. Psychedelics can be abused, but so can social media, video games, food, sporting events, money… the list goes on. The potential for abuse does not negate the value of a substance, and it never will. 

It is the responsibility of wise leadership to treat these substances with the consideration and nuance they deserve. In this, they have failed.

Where This Leaves You

If you’re not a Christian, or you have zero interest in Christianity, this probably changes nothing for you. This article is a passing curiosity. Oh boy, a Christian who does DRUGS, how interesting, not so Holy NOW, eh? 

That’s perfectly fine. I’m not here to preach.

If you do have an interest in the life of Jesus, or have felt ostracized by the Church for your use of these safe and beneficial substances, then I’ve got some news for you. 

As long as you’re using these substances to create goodness, love, and healing in your life and spirit, you’re not doing something that deserves condemnation. On behalf of the church, I’d like to apologize to you for any pain they’ve caused you, or any hatred they’ve levied against you. Ultimately the church should be a place of healing, love, justice, and goodness – all things responsible use of psychedelics promotes. 

The line between good and evil runs through every human heart – it is how we choose to relate to the psychedelic experience that makes it good or bad.

Like anything else, a dependence, or abusive approach, is going to net you negative life results, and I encourage you to seek true healing instead of trying to drown your sorrows in fractals and hallucinations. There is love and truth crying out to meet you. Soak it in, while tripping, if necessary. This is what I do. 

Be blessed in your pursuit of truth, knowledge, and healing, and go forth knowing that you are not condemned for it.

James Faraday | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective

James is one of our community bloggers here at Chemical Collective. If you’re interested in joining our blogging team and getting paid to write about subjects you’re passionate about, please reach out to Matt via email at matt@chemical-collective.com

3 Comments

  1. Good read! I would like to express my appreciation to the author for sharing his thoughts regarding the subject. Even though I wouldn’t consider myself as a follower of the Lords word, I have been born in a predominantly Christian country and have experienced the same narrative from the Church. I have come to an understanding that the only “against” argument that I agree with is the one that wants to help people not to get addicted to a certain habit. Thing is, doing anything too much is bad, and if this narrative continues many people that are following their spiritual path, let’s say, professionally (like the author) are being blocked from a profound experience they can get from a psychedelic trip. This is quite sad as many of us have had this experience even without an actual intent or a spiritual preparation beforehand. I am really eager to read about experiences aforementioned people had. Does anybody have any reads they can point me towards? I remember reading an article from The Guardian some time before: “https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jul/08/religious-leaders-get-high-on-magic-mushrooms-ingredient-for-science”, but I was unable to find the follow up study.

    Anyway, cheers for the article and I am looking forward to reading more from you.
    (Sorry for my English as I am not a native speaker)

    1. I agree, a very interesting read indeed, and not a subject you hear talked about very often. You might want to look into the book “The Immortality Key; Psychedelics and the Ancient Age”, which explores the forgotten history of psychedelics in the development of Western Civilization, connecting the psychedelic sacrament of Ancient Greek religion to the emergence of Christianity. Jordan Peterson recently hosted a conversation with the authors – well worth checking out.

      Thanks very much to the Author of this piece, I enjoyed it very much.

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