The Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, is consumed as part of the Catholic Mass. Matzo, the unleavened bread is eaten during Passover in the Jewish faith. Psilocybin, a hallucinogen, is being tested by a chaplain to assist with “spiritual trauma”. One of these things is not like the others: One of these things just doesn’t belong.
In a recent article by Kathryn Post of Religion News Service, the “possible benefits” are discussed of so-called “psychedelic chaplaincy”. A chaplain, instead of offering the full scope of their support to one’s spiritual recovery, instead offers mind-altering drugs which are known to be dangerous, not to mention illegal. In the middle of an opiate epidemic, it reads like a bad joke. Have they forgotten what happened to artists who looked to drugs as a release from their pains? What about Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Nick Drake, Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Belushi, Gilder Radner, Prince, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston? The charade of psychedelic chaplaincy must relegate these names to being “data points”.
Historical examples of “religious” psychedelic efforts include the Manson Family, who in the 1960s and 70s considered themselves to be a “spiritual group” with members frequently taking Benzedrine, an amphetamine, and hallucinogens like LSD, eventually leading to a string of murders.
The purpose of the chaplain should not be forgotten. As described by the University of Maryland Medical Center: “Chaplains offer spiritual care in the clinical setting. ‘Spiritual care’ has to do with issues of meaning, hope, and transcendence that are often more pronounced during illness, injury, birth and death.”