Why the need to enhance the mystical experience that psychedelics create

Music, meditation, and nature-based settings enhance the mind-altering experience with hallucinogens.

A study notes that psychedelics “reliably” induce often life-changing experiences. Sequential5/Getty Images

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Psychedelic trips can be rewarding.

As many attest, they’ve come to see God.

These mind-blowing events may simply be referred to as a mystical experience, wherein one becomes part of the universe.

Typically, the mind-altering occurrence leads to positive life changes in a person.

Why?

It’s likely because an individual has perceived a reality bigger than the self.

Broadly speaking, this explains the strong allure of psychedelics in clinical and therapeutic settings.

Hence, a new study suggests that there is merit in looking at ways to enhance the mystical experience associated with psychoactive substances.

“Maximising the potential for the occurrence of mystical experiences is an important aspect of the beneficial application of psychedelics,” states the abstract of the paper.

The work is titled “Predictors and potentiators of psychedelic-occasioned mystical experiences”.

The paper was authored by Sam Gandy of the Synthesis Institute in The Netherlands.

The Journal of Psychedelic Studies published the piece online on March 22, 2022.

“Mystical experiences encompass experiential facets of unity, oneness and interconnectedness, transcendence of time and space, deeply felt positive mood (joy, peace and love), a sense of sacredness, reverence or awe, ineffability and a noetic quality – an intuitive belief that what is being revealed has authenticity and validity,” Gandy wrote.

Moving on, Gandy identified a number of “predictors” behind psychedelic mystical experiences.

As the researcher noted, “It can be considered that ingestion of a psychedelic substance is not the cause of the mystical experience but rather a catalyst that occasions it…”

In detail, setting is important, which refers to the psychological and environmental contexts when a psychedelic matter is administered.

Drug dosage is likewise a factor, “with ascending dosage more commonly associated with their occurrence”.

A third is “absorption”, which Gandy explained as the “propensity to become fully immersed or engaged in sensory and imaginative experiences”.

Fourth is the type of drug used.

Noting as an example, Gandy cited one study that reported “complete” mystical experiences in 30 percent of cases involving mescaline. Rates vary depending on the substance.

Then there are “possible potentiators” or enhancers of mystical experiences.

One is music.

“In a psychedelic psychotherapy context, music has been referred to as the ‘hidden therapist’ given the central role it plays in psychedelic sessions, and it has been associated with the occurrence of mystical experiences,” Gandy noted.

The researcher noted that “until very recently, psychedelic playlists have been dominated by Western classical compositions”.

And so, there is a need to investigate “other forms of music in greater depth, to assess how they might influence the occurrence of mystical experiences”.

Another enhancer is medidation.

“Disciplined contemplative practices such as meditation have been associated with the occurrence of mystical experiences on occasion…, although such experiences are more likely to occur following intensive or sustained long-term practice,” Gandy noted.

Meditation, yoga, and prayer are forms “associated with the occurrence of mystical experiences”.

Overall, there is a “positive synergy between meditative practice and psychedelic usage, with such practice likely to contribute to the occurrence and intensity of mystical experiences, in addition to enhancing the long-term psychological benefits associated with them”.

Nature-based settings also enhance the mystical experience.

“Using psychedelics with the intent to connect with nature has been associated with greater likelihood of mystical experiences and greater well-being scores in comparison to a number of other motivations behind usage,” Gandy wrote.

Moreover, such experiences in “nature-based rather than human-built settings appear more likely to elicit increases in pro-environmental behaviour…, the latter being associated with psychological well-being…, while also sharing a mutually enhancing interrelationship with prosocial behaviour”.

In wrapping up his paper, the author noted that knowledge about mystical experiences that are “reliably” induced by psychedelics is “still in its infancy”.

As Gandy noted, “much work remains to be done to examine how to maximise their occurrence and beneficial integration”.

“Such work is warranted, as denying the relevance and importance of these phenomena will limit scientific progress and could have a detrimental impact on the therapeutic application of psychedelics,” Gandy wrote.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo

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