Are psychedelics undergoing a spiritual and therapeutic awakening?

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A photo of a blue colored, brain scan. Photo by Shutterstock.

The psychedelic revolution continues. This week, new research from the UK shed light on the effectiveness of psychedelic therapy on depression. There, neuroscientists using brain imagery showed clear changes in brain activity from patients treated with psilocybin.   

In the US, there’s some fascinating research happening at Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, where scientists are exploring how altered states of consciousness and having a spiritual or mystical experience can impact our mental well being. Researcher and author David Yaden writes about this in his book “Rituals and Practices in World Religions: Cross-Cultural Scholarship to Inform Research and Clinical Contexts.”

Yaden talks about the 19th century American philosopher William James, who studied the same question and wrote the influential book “The Varieties of Religious Experience,”  which still serves as the academic foundation for the study of religious and mystical experiences. Yaden explains that James’ book greatly influenced his forthcoming book, “The Varieties of Spiritual Experiences.” 

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Jonathan Bastian speaks to Professor David Yaden about the history and culture of spiritual, religious, and mystical experiences, and why he feels that studying these profound experiences is so important. Yaden explains what we know about our ability to have such experiences — are they common, what triggers these experiences, and can a psychedelically induced “trip” induce a spiritual or religious awakening? And why do, in his words, “deep feelings of unity or oneness with all things, appear to be associated with long term health benefits?” 

Book Cover “The Varieties of Spiritual Experience: 21st Century Research and Perspectives” Author and researcher David Yaden discusses the positive mental health impacts from psychedelic-induced altered states of consciousness. Photo by Dr. Mary “Bit” Yaden. 



  • David Yaden - Author; Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences - @existwell


Andrea Brody