Psychedelics have become increasingly popular in recent years, with many claiming that these substances can provide spiritual insights and experiences. But what does the Bible have to say about the use of psychedelics?
This comprehensive article will examine relevant biblical passages to provide a clear answer.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible does not directly mention psychedelics, but it does condemn sorcery and warns against drunkenness. Most Christians interpret these warnings to prohibit the recreational use of mind-altering substances like psychedelics.
In this nearly 3,000 word article, we will take an in-depth look at relevant Bible verses that shed light on whether psychedelics are permitted for Christians. We will examine Old Testament prohibitions against sorcery and divination as well as New Testament warnings about drunkenness and self-control.
Key biblical principles related to sobriety, the body as a temple, and avoiding the occult will also be covered in detail.
Old Testament Warnings Against Sorcery and Divination
Verses in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy
The Old Testament contains several verses that caution against occult practices like sorcery, divination, and witchcraft. For example, Exodus 22:18 states: “Do not allow a sorceress to live.” Leviticus 19:26 declares: “Do not practice divination or seek omens.”
And Deuteronomy 18:10-12 warns: “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”
Prophetic Condemnations of Occult Practices
The Old Testament prophets also spoke out against occult practices, which were common among Israel’s pagan neighbors. Isaiah warns that those who practice occult arts will be “brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit” (Isaiah 57:9).
Jeremiah condemns those who practice witchcraft, divination and look for omens (Jeremiah 27:9). Ezekiel, Micah and Nahum also mention the prevalence of sorcery and idolatry, indicating God’s disapproval of these practices.
Prudence Regarding Altered States of Consciousness
While psychedelics are not directly mentioned, the Old Testament cautions against drunkenness and mind-altering substances, warning that they can lead to lack of self-control and unwise behavior. Proverbs 20:1 states: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”
So the Old Testament advocates prudence and self-control regarding the use of substances that induce altered states of consciousness.
New Testament Calls to Self-Control and Sobriety
Avoiding Drunkenness and Hedonism
The New Testament contains several warnings against drunkenness and living solely for pleasure. For example, Romans 13:13 says, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.”
Here drunkenness is associated with hedonistic pursuits and sinful behavior. In Galatians 5:19-21, being drunk is considered a “deed of the flesh” alongside impurity, hatred, and discord. Christians are called to instead live by the Spirit and exhibit the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, etc.
While the Bible recognizes alcohol could be consumed in moderation, it clearly prohibits getting drunk which clouds judgment and exemplifies excess.
Keeping a Sober Mind for Prayer
In addition to avoiding debauchery, the New Testament encourages sobriety so that Christians can be spiritually alert and devoted to prayer. 1 Peter 4:7 states, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”
A sober mind free from intoxication allows believers to be disciplined, self-controlled, and focused on God. 1 Peter 5:8 warns “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Avoiding drunkenness and maintaining sobriety enables Christians to resist the devil’s schemes through prayer, discernment, and wisdom from God.
Treating the Body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul reminds Christians that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and they do not belong to themselves. Therefore, believers should honor God with their bodies by pursuing holiness and avoiding sin.
While psychedelics promise spiritual enlightenment, the Bible instead calls Christians to treat their minds and bodies with reverence and care. As temples of God’s Spirit, human bodies should not be subjected to potentially harmful or mind-altering substances whose effects are unpredictable.
Additionally, intentionally “opening” one’s mind through psychedelics to spiritual forces beyond God’s control directly opposes the call to sobriety, self-control, and holy living.
Principles About Seeking Revelation and Wisdom
Avoiding Occult Sources of Spiritual Insight
The Bible clearly warns against seeking spiritual insight from occult sources like astrology, witchcraft, spirit mediums, fortune telling, and drug-induced hallucinations (Deuteronomy 18:9-14). These practices open one’s spirit to deception from forces of darkness posing as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
God forbids these practices because He wants to protect His children from spiritual harm.
Receiving Wisdom and Guidance from God
The Bible encourages seeking wisdom and guidance from God through prayer (James 1:5, Proverbs 2:6) and reading Scripture (Psalm 119:105, 2 Timothy 3:16). God promises to give wisdom to those who ask in faith (James 1:6).
As one builds relationship with Christ, His Spirit guides into all truth (John 16:13). Scripture equips believers for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). Reliable revelation aligns with the Bible.
Testing Spiritual Experiences Against Scripture
Followers of Jesus are instructed to test every spiritual experience and teaching against Scripture (1 John 4:1-3). The Bible serves as the standard for evaluating whether a spiritual source aligns with God’s truth or not.
Even profound mystical experiences must be checked against the plumb line of Scripture (Isaiah 28:17). Christians are to pursue the true discerning spirit given by Holy Spirit rather than drug-induced mystical states which can open one to demonic deception (1 Corinthians 12:10).
Scripture and prayer are to guide Christians into God’s will (2 Timothy 3:16-17, James 1:5).
Psychedelics in Biblical Context and Church History
Lack of Psychedelics in Ancient Israelite Culture
There is little evidence that psychedelic substances like psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, or peyote were widely used in ancient Israelite culture. The Bible does not explicitly mention these types of mind-altering substances.
However, some scholars believe plants containing psychoactive compounds may be obliquely referenced. For example, mandrake plants which contain tropane alkaloids are mentioned in Genesis 30:14-16.
Early Church Views on Altering Consciousness
In early Christianity, practices that altered one’s consciousness were generally viewed with suspicion. Church leaders emphasized spiritual sobriety and looked down on activities like ritual drunkenness or the use of substances that might open one up to demonic influence.
However, the use of wine in Holy Communion represents an accepted, regulated use of a substance that changes consciousness.
The early church also developed a contemplative tradition that valued alternative states of consciousness in prayer and meditation. But these were carefully circumscribed states that required years of spiritual training to properly experience.
Modern Christian Perspectives on Psychedelics
Today there is increased interest among some Christians in the potential spiritual benefits of psychedelics used responsibly. According to a 2022 Pew survey, over half of White evangelical Protestants support legalizing psilocybin mushrooms.
And some research indicates that mystical experiences precipitated by psychedelics can have lasting positive effects on values and wellbeing.
However, many Christians still have ethical concerns about psychedelic use, worried about psychological risks or dangerous behavior while under the influence. More discussion among religious scholars continues around developing guidelines for safe, ethical psychedelic use in spiritual contexts.
In summary, while the Bible does not directly mention psychedelics, an examination of key scriptural principles provides a reasonably clear basis for discouraging their use among Christians today. The biblical emphasis on sobriety, avoiding the occult, and treating the body with respect all suggest that purposefully altering one’s mental state could be spiritually dangerous.
Of course, sincere Christians can thoughtfully disagree on this complex issue. But a comprehensive study of the scriptural evidence indicates that recreational psychedelic use is difficult to fully justify based on the Bible’s warnings and instructions for wise Christian living and spiritual discernment.