Sam Ripples
by on June 24, 2019

The first time my mind was opened to the possibilities of the spiritual world, I was twenty years old.


It was in what I dub my own personal “Summer of Love”--the first time I tried all of the substances that would continue to fascinate and intrigue me for years to come, leading me down the path of psychedelic writer and advocate. It was a very free and joyous time in my life, where I learned many of the things that I carry with me to this day.


My friends and I put on an affair we dubbed a “Mad Tea Party”, where we all drank mushroom tea in silly Alice in Wonderland outfits. One of my friends dressed as the Mad Hatter, top hat and all. The plan was to hang out at our friend’s house, which was covered in intriguing bric-a-brac and musical instruments, and just hang out while we tripped.


I apparently had other plans, however: after finishing my tea, I scraped all of the mushrooms out of the bottom of my friend’s cups and swallowed them down. A friend also brought MDMA and I took a very small amount of that as well. I had no idea what I was in for; if I had been, I don’t think I would’ve have been cavalier about ingesting so many mind-altering substances at once.


That night changed my entire mind for the better, in any case.


After plugging my very favorite Grateful Dead song into my ears, I fell into a trance where the world was slowly blotted out, replaced by a lens of bright, color-shifting visuals. I lay on the floor, speaking in tongues or something close to it, and slowly the visuals shifted to show scenes from my life.


All of the strange, silly, awkward, beautiful, hilarious, terrible things about me began to display themselves in these scenes--every single stupidly amazing thing about me grew brighter and brighter behind my eyes, taking on a profound sheen that they had never before glowed with.


As they went on, the scenes began to go faster and faster. They eventually reached an intense crescendo that ended in a vision: a glowing, pulsating hot-pink heart made of crystalline stone, beating along vibrantly within me. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life--like glimpsing a symbolic representation of my own being.


I’m not alone in this experience. A recent study performed by Johns Hopkins University put out a self-reported questionnaire, asking about drug-related and non-drug-related spiritual experiences, and the results were astounding.


Researchers found “that more than two-thirds of self-identified atheists shed that label after their encounter, regardless of whether it was spontaneous or while taking a psychedelic.”


What’s so incredible to me personally is that this study shows that a personal phenomenon, such as a psychedelically-induced religious experience, can radically change people’s mindsets. I was an atheist before I was introduced to these healing substances and this study demonstrates that I’m not alone in reshifting my perspective after a paradigm-shattering psychedelic experience.


When I was a kid, I felt like people knew something I didn’t when they talked about “God”. But that night, lying on the floor, my mind split open by the effects of psilocybin, I knew.

God wasn’t a person, sitting up in the sky, watching over us. God was a force. The life-force of the universe that inhabits us all. Afterwards, I dubbed it the “All”, because that’s the word that echoed through my mind that night. It’s the only thing that captured the feeling properly--of being surrounded by and a part of a larger universe, not separate from it in any way.


Never in my life had I known what it felt like to be comforted by a larger life-force. I hadn’t experienced anything so vast. Further, I had always underrated the value of being awakened in such a way; it felt like a myth, something that priests experienced after days of praying. But it lead to real personal benefits for me in the end.


Those who participated in the study also reported benefits from their experiences: “About 75 percent of respondents in both the non-drug and psychedelics groups rated their "God encounter" experience as among the most meaningful and spiritually significant in their lifetime, and both groups attributed to it positive changes in life satisfaction, purpose and meaning.”


The first few times I did psychedelics, I was just trying to gain a foothold in the world of the “All”. I didn’t realize at the time that these experiences were changing me in a fundamental way because it felt so organic--as though I was a leaf on a tree, growing and thriving with the spiritual explosion of spring. But now, years later, I feel the reverberations of those experiences.


I have gained a much better understanding of my own mind and my personal struggle with mental illness and I know that all of that work is due to those beautiful, amazing things I saw in the span of a few months. After years of spiritual life being a shallow and idiotic thing to me, my own soul gray from years of wear and hatred, I was finally able to wake up to the vibrancy and color of my true being. And it seems I’m not alone.


The idea that spiritual experiences can radically alter your mind is not a new one, which is perhaps why the researchers elected to delve deeper into it. Joseph Campbell, a professor of literature and prominent “spiritual” scholar, studied what he termed “the hero’s journey”, which is the plot of every single story that’s ever been told throughout history. In this story, the hero is awakened by an experience and comes back a changed person from it. Whether this plays out in conquering a dragon or awakening to your true nature, the idea is the same.


If you’ve been paying attention, this should sound familiar: it’s the same journey we go on when we take psychedelics. These incredible, life-changing ideas that we are faced with while undergoing these encounters can help us understand the world in new ways.


This is the reason why the participants of the study no longer identified as atheists regardless of whether they took drugs to achieve this experience or not--being faced with “ultimate reality” or God is not an event you can come back unchanged from, willingly or not.  


For me personally, I’m so grateful to have had these spiritual encounters. I have been better able to manage my anxiety and PTSD due to the understanding I have gained from them, but even more than that I have been able to stare myself in the soul and gain a true knowledge of my inner self.


Psychedelic healing is not for everyone--some minds are not able to gaze upon the “ultimate reality” and come back in a better place. But for those of us that experience the myriad of spiritual and mental health benefits, the future of psychedelic research is a very exciting place.


Although this study I quoted was a self-reported questionnaire, the possibility of “spiritual” science becoming a more widely-studied phenomenon is very exciting and opens up real possibilities for these amazing drugs to become tools in our arsenal of understanding and knowledge.


I’ll leave you with some advice from an early spiritual pioneer to help you on your own journey towards awakening: “Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.” -- Walt Whitman