Sam Ripples
by on July 3, 2019

I recall, back when I first began watching documentaries, watching a riveting film called Jesus Camp. The movie followed a church camp for kids that went to extremes during their worship. The aspect that stuck out to me as the most strange were the scene that showed the children writhing on the floor, nonsense babbling from their mouths. It weirded me out a bit, watching worship that fervent in those so young.


It wasn’t until I was twenty one that I had my own intense experience. It put the movie into perspective.

Speaking in tongues, or its Greek name, glossolalia, is by no means a new phenomenon. Its existence has been discussed for millennia, way back to the times of Ancient Greece. It is usually associated with drug use--the Oracle of Delphi, for instance, was said to inhale hallucinogenic vapors and fall into a trance of glossolalia, wholly enraptured by this divine language, and use the wisdom she gained to make her future predictions.

My own experience was somewhere in between Jesus Camp and the Oracle of Delphi. I spoke about it in one of my previous posts, The Lasting Mental Benefits of Spiritual Experiences, but I’d taken a combination of MDMA and mushrooms--a hefty dose of both, and it was my first time ever combining substances like that. 

The night ended with me writhing on the floor, just like the Jesus Camp kids, nonsense that had the strange lilt of language to it flowing from my mouth. Before I became completely lost inside of the visual hallucinations, I was aware of my reality. I was trying to speak, to communicate the immensity inside of me, and it came out as glossolalia.

Words have always been my life; I began writing the moment I learned to hold a pen and I’ve never stopped. It was always my view that if I stretched language enough, I could communicate any idea, no matter how immense. 

But that night showed me just how wrong I was. There were some experiences that could not be written down so easily, could not be expressed except by what would be viewed by others as nonsense.

The most amazing part about glossolalia was not how uncontrollable or strange the experience was; no, it was how beautiful it felt. Speaking in tongues felt like giving voice to pure honey-gold light channelled straight from my soul. Like the tip of my tongue was a flame and every movement cast disturbance in the shadows.

My friends gathered in a loose circle around me, captivated and a little weirded out by my intense psychedelic expression. I could feel the echoes of my voice vibrating, twisting the energy in the room with that divine speech.

None of it made sense. But god was it beautiful.

To this day, I don’t know what to make of the whole thing. Seven years ago, the heavens grabbed me by the tongue and took hold of my voice, leaving me reeling in shock and awe.

It shook the very core of my solid, nonspiritual foundations and changed the course of my life forever. I tried for months to write poetry, novels, and essays about my experience, hoping to capture it, but it cannot be expressed in mere words.

The universe does not have any strict standards of purpose or meaning. But it has a chaotic order all it own, one that we will never be able to neatly box. Glossolalia is just another one of those mysteries, so deep and strange we’ll never fully parse it out. 

I don’t think I’ll ever know the meaning or the purpose behind speaking in tongues. But I do know it impacted me in an intense and unfathomable way.

That’s the power of psychedelics: they allow you to go to such deep places and you may not ever understand why.

But I think, in the end, that’s also the beauty in them too.