Datura is a plant whose seeds have been used in religious rituals since prehistory. Ingesting Datura seeds will induce a hallucinogenic experience characterized by "anticholinergic delirium", a temporary inability to distinguish reality from imagination caused by a blocked neurotransmitter. When most of the well-studied plants used in religious rituals cause hallucinations, the participants are able to discern whether a vision is hallucinatory or genuine, but consumption of Datura in particular seems to reliably inhibit this ability.

Tangent to this question about hallucinations and spiritual experiences, where the (currently top) answer explains that a "true spiritual experience will be attended with an assurance of the reality from God himself, leading to a high degree of confidence without self-doubt," do Christians distinguish between hallucinogens based on whether they are known to make delusions seem real?

I don't know the tags well yet, so please add missing tags. Thanks!

Edit: Some Christians consume hallucinogens as part of their religious practice. The Church of the Holy Light of the Queen uses ayahuasca in their rituals; they do not have a website, but a 2009 newspaper article discusses the legal struggle related to their practices. Quoting from that article:

According to the church's lawsuit, the tea is the central ritual and sacrament of the religion where members believe "only by taking the tea can a church member have direct experience with Jesus Christ."

I will not accept answers which include the premise that Christians categorically do not use hallucinogens.

  • I would hope it's obvious, but I cannot recommend enough that you do not ingest Datura unless it is part of your particular religious practice.
    – Corbin
    Sep 20 '21 at 17:36
  • 3
    I’m voting to close this question because the site is about Christianity and faith not about induced experience through ingestion of substances.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 20 '21 at 17:57
  • In some parts of Europe and India, Datura has been a popular poison for suicide and murder Wikipedia - Datura.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 20 '21 at 18:00
  • 1
    @Corbin - you should probably cite that article in your question. Sep 21 '21 at 16:01
  • 1
    I have edited the post. Please note that I am now not going to accept answers which assume that Christians just don't take hallucinogens, as there is clear evidence otherwise. I had wanted answers from a wide range of experiences, but I'm afraid I can't accept answers which contradict reality.
    – Corbin
    Sep 21 '21 at 16:17

In Proverbs, a King gives advice he got from his mother to his son:

4 It is not for kings, Lemuel—
    it is not for kings to drink wine,
    not for rulers to crave beer,
5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
    and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
6 Let beer be for those who are perishing,
    wine for those who are in anguish!
7 Let them drink and forget their poverty
    and remember their misery no more.

8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:4-9)

This is one Biblical data point on the place of intoxicants in life. On the one hand, they can help ease the misery of the poor and enable them to live another day. On the other, they deprive leaders of reason and lead them to neglect their responsibilities, leading to oppression.

Another data point is the story of Noah. He got drunk and one of his sons found him naked and made fun of him. This led to a curse and the Bible's first mention of slavery.

A third, back in Proverbs is:

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1)

So intoxicants can lead to quarrels and violence.

The New Testament does not lighten up on the subject:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters ... nor the greedy nor drunkards ... will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

Another verse is Ephesians 5:18.

That leaves us with the question of whether to apply Biblical cautions about getting inebriated by alcohol to all hallucinogens and mind-altering substances or to treat them as a separate category.

This passage in Galatians is instructive:

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

The word translated witchcraft is pharmakeia, from which we get words like pharmacy and pharmaceutical. It is lumping the use of certain drugs into the same category as drunkenness.

Now that is a negative view of drug use: rules saying what not to do in order to live a righteous life and communiocate with God.

For a positive list of the approved ways to communicate with God, there are many places in scripture. One place I like to go because it has examples of all the approved ways that I know, is Job. In Job are found examples of (or references to):

  • Observing God in nature
  • Listening to Wise elders
  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Meditating on God's Word
  • Listening to God's living Prophets
  • Suffering
  • Sacrifice
  • Dreams
  • Visions
  • Miracles
  • Angelic mediation
  • Theophany

Two Christian additions to this list are baptism and receiving communion. The latter is related to those Jewish sacrifices where the person offering was permitted to partake (like the fellowship offering).

The two that intersect in Pagan religion with drug use are dreams and visions.

One Christian principle about communication with God is that you don't force it. Magic and pagan practices are about actions that we can do to manipulate spirits to speak to us. With God, you ask, and you wait. If God answers, good. If not, you are patient. You are invited to continue asking, but God is free and cannot be compelled. The story of King Saul consulting a medium so that he could speak with Samuel the prophet, who was dead, is instructive. He was employing forbidden means of communicating with God and was punished for it.

So back to mind-altering drugs. Some of them are used to treat people for schizophrenia (such as THC), psychosis, and other mental problems. In such instances, those drugs - which do alter brain chemistry - are used to restore sanity, sobriety, and rationality.

So my answer to you is that if mind-altering drugs are used to promote sobriety and rationality and a clearer perception of reality, they may be used by Christians profitably. If they are used to distort reality and confuse our ability to discern reality from unreality, they are to be avoided.

Of all the authorized religious practices, holy communion and fasting are the most instructive. The first is related to something we take into our body - bread and wine - while the second is about withholding all physical nourishment from entering our body. These are the two major Christian practices related to material (or its absence). (Certain vows - like silence, poverty, lenten abstinence - are less common but are related.)

The simplicity and sanity of these commonplace practices is a hallmark of Christianity, which eschews secret rituals and occult practices. It is about making a spiritual connection, which is why material means are downplayed.

Response to Comment:

I would like to see examples of hallucinogens which fall into each category.

The medical dictum is that "the poison is in the dose". I knew a man in college who tried LSD and it had NO effect on him. On the other hand, I once took a common cold remedy and it left me high as a kite, with subjective feelings indistinguishable from legitimate experiences of the joy of the Holy Spirit that I had on other occasions. I never took that medicine again. Thus the Bible's emphasis on sobriety and preserving sound judgment as opposed to itemizing chemicals and putting them in categories seems wise.

11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 5:11)

Jesus would seem to be allowing people to ingest all things, except that some substances (in doses and effects that vary by person) inevitably reduce inhibitions or distort perception such that the person who eats or drinks them inevitably speaks (and act outs) defiling things.

  • We should be cautious to assume that alcohol is hallucinogenic. Alcohol-related hallucinations usually only occur as withdrawal symptoms of acute drinking; the typical drunkard is not hallucinating.
    – Corbin
    Sep 22 '21 at 15:10
  • While I appreciate the overall principle in the third-to-last paragraph, I would like to see examples of hallucinogens which fall into each category. I might guess that Datura is to be avoided, but are there specific hallucinogens which promote a clearer perception of reality? MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD have all been used in clinical trials to treat a variety of mental disorders ranging from PTSD to chronic depression (see WP on psychedelic therapy for more), but I don't want to assume your beliefs.
    – Corbin
    Sep 22 '21 at 15:19

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