4 Resources to Enhance Your Learning Experience with Psychedelics and Religion Part 1

Our latest GTUx Original Psychedelics and Religion with Dr. Sam Shonkoff is now available. To deepen your learning experience, we’re offering four additional resources from videos, podcasts, articles, and questions for discussion. These resources offer a wide range of learning experiences to allow you to explore the content presented in our GTUx Original.


  1. In Dr. Shonkoff’s article “What the Study of Religion Can Teach Us About Psychedelics” he writes, “we must ask, for example, what it means for non-indigenous scientists to characterize the mystical effects of psilocybin in ways that differ fundamentally from the accounts of Mazatec curanderos, whose sacramental traditions have been so pillaged? If, say, academic communities emphasize unitive experiences and ego-dissolution where indigenous communities highlight ancestral encounters and spiritual visitations, might the latter discourse be cast as crude or confused in some sense?”
    • Question for discussion: In the context of this article, how do you see examples of this mischaracterization of these experiences without consideration for indigenous and cultural experiences shape our understanding of these practices?


  1. In Dr. Sam Shonkoff’s podcast interview with Sherry Walling on Mindcure, “Psychedelic Trips and Spiritual Tradition: Redefining Healing with Transformative Experiences” he sates: “Different people are going to need to make sense of these [psychedelic] experiences and make meaning out of these experiences in different language and different cultural matrices that are in relation to the rest of their lives. We need lay communities who are exploring different techniques of doing that. And I’ll also just add this because I’m personally passionate about this, we also need to be doing that in ways that are both experimental and also attuned to issues of appropriation in ways that there is like a deep violent history of colonialism and exploitation that has just done heartbreaking damage to communities in recent centuries who have practiced with these substances and to merely sort of absorbed them into nonindigenous communities without some kind of conversation about that, some kind of humility around those considerations, I think, is really doing a disservice obviously to the communities who have been working with these substances for many, many generations but also to these contemporary nonindigenous communities themselves. I think this is a real opportunity to potentially heal some of the traumas and the deep violence that we’ve seen in the age of colonialism.”
    • Question for discussion: How can these practices implement restorative justice in the context of these psychedelic practices? Are there any examples you have seen that have done positive work in this field?


  1. A guest lecturer on Sam Shonkoff’s upcoming GTUx Original Psychedelics and Religion, Michael Pollan is a renowned author and scholar on the intersection of humans and the natural world–psychedelics included. To offer food for thought, we’re sharing his opinion piece from The New York Times, “How Should We Do Drugs Now?” In the opinion piece, Pollan writes: “There are numerous examples of Indigenous peoples that have successfully incorporated psychedelic compounds into their cultures as a sacrament, medicine or medium of communication.”
    • Question for discussion: In thinking about the meeting place of religion and psychedelics, how can the act of sacrament be placed in context with other religious rituals and practices? How does the sacrament of psychedelics transform the mundane into something sacred?


  1. In Dr. Sam Shonkoff’s lecture, “Spirituality X Psychedelics” he discusses how both the practices of psychedelics and spirituality have a way of elevating the mundane into an experience of surprise and delight. In the integration of these practices he states: “What we see is…these substances work differently with different people with different communities based on their own cultural religious orientations and backgrounds.”
    • Question for discussion: How does this confirm or contradict what you may have thought about the intersection of these two ideas? What kinds of examples have you seen where these studies are validated?