In essence, Griffiths and his team had simply restaged one of the most famous psychedelic studies of the 1960s: the Good Friday (or Marsh Chapel) experiment. Led by a Harvard graduate student of theology named Walter Pahnke, with support from Timothy Leary, the Good Friday experiment showed that, over and against a placebo, psilocybin gave the bulk of divinity postgraduates something like a powerful religious opening. But how far does this ‘something like’ get us? Although the follow-ups that Griffiths performed seemed to support the spiritually efficacious power of psychedelics over time, does his study really tell us anything about the sacred? After all, while his volunteers were unfamiliar with tripping, all of them already possessed a religious or spiritual world-view. It was Leary’s old message of set and setting: drugs might simply reflect and amplify beliefs and patterns of meaning already woven into the user’s intentional ‘set’ and environmental ‘setting’. The drug itself, in such a view, has no privileged access to sacred reality. Rather, like a feedback loop, it merely catalyses stories and perceptions already ‘programmed’ in the human mind or its surrounding cultural environment.

« The good friday (or marsh chapel) experiment »

A quote saved on Nov. 5, 2015.


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