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Religious Groups Fighting to Legalize Psychedelics

HOST INTRO: There’s a new effort to legalize psychedelics in New York State. Two bills have been proposed. They’re intended to allow the use of psychedelics in therapy or for limited personal use. And support is coming from a corner that may seem unusual: religious organizations. But as Uptown Radio’s Cristina Macaya reports there’s a long history of religious groups incorporating psychedelics into their practices and it’s having a revival. 


Walking by the Alden building on Central Park West it looks just like any other luxury property on the Upper West Side… But it’s also listed as the address for The Temple of the True Inner Light. The temple, which also refers to itself as a church, practices a revisionist Christianity and uses psychedelics such as DMT, cannabis and mushrooms as a sacrament. If you google them, you won’t find more than a brief Wiki page so I stopped by the building to try to learn more.



No luck. But, what I did discover on an online forum called “” is that the Temple of the True Inner Light is sometimes referred to as a “cult.” Mike Marinacci is the author of “Psychedelic Cults and Outlaw Churches.” He wrote a chapter on the Temple of the True Inner Light in his book.


They’re kind of like very radical hippies. 


But Marinacci says, the Temple isn’t a cult and it’s one of a growing number of nontraditional religious groups built around the use of psychedelics. 


Their sacrament was DPT, which is a relative of DMT, which is very illegal. And usual procedure there was you would go to the church and have a short interview and if they thought you were cool, they would give you a dos e of the DPT smoked in a pipe with raspberry leaves, listen to a bible reading, and just kind of have this very fast, but very intense psychedelic experience. 


Marinacci says there’s a long history of psychedelics used in religion. Like groups native to both north and south america (ck appropriate phrasing) who use peyote, a cactus with psychedelic properties.


It’s something that you see all over the world. I once heard that the only people on Earth who do not use any kind of intoxicant, traditionally, are in the North Pole, everybody else has something and a lot of the times these substances were associated with religion and magic and shamanism and really radically changing one's consciousness so as to bring the divine into daily life. 


Marinacci says he finds it funny that the use of psychedelics is having a religious Renaissance. And it does seem to be growing in popularity. All I had to do was search Instagram. I found the Hummingbird Church. It calls itself a multi-faith organization and offers retreats in Utah, California, Missouri and Oregon where participants use Ayahuasca, a type of psychedelic. 



Ayahausca has its own religious history and has its own legal battles. Then, there are newer substances. Zachary Stamp served in the Marines in Afghanistan. He suffered from PTSD and found his way to Buddhism after being offered LSD at a party. 



I'd heard of it before. So I was like, okay, I'll take it. And I ended up having an incredibly profound experience where I was able to  see my life in a non judgmental way. I mean, anybody that's had a psychedelic experience will talk about a point where they feel like they're one with everything, where they see how they're connected with each other and with the universe. So after that experience, that's when I began to really seek help. I got into recovery and I started meditating and that led me to Buddhism.


Stamp says he supports the legalization of psilocybin. But, like many traditional religions, he says the use of psychedelics is also stigmatized in Buddhism. He supports the two new bills that have been proposed to legalize psychedelics in New York. And says legalizing it could help cut down on stigma.


It's a hot button issue in Buddhism because some view it as not cheating, but skipping very important steps to get to altered states of consciousness. Whereas other people, we can view it as, the way I do, is it's a catalyst into seeking deep spirituality and into these disciplines. Because, how do you know what you don't know?  How can I really feel the concept of, you know, that we're all connected until I'm put in a position where I'm literally feeling it. 


There can also be stigma around psychedelics in other traditional religions such as Orthodox Judaism. Aaron Genuth is an Orthodox Jew who practices with LSD. 


The spread has been pretty remarkable but I wouldn't say that it's become part of mainstream traditional Jewish practice. One of the benefits in the orthodox world is there's, somewhat less, stigmatization. Having profound mind blowing experiences on psilocybin and LSD in particular.


And Genuth says that’s what some Orthodox Jews are doing. Integrating new ways to practice old traditions. 

GENUTH 2 There are some people that prefer to take psychedelics before Shabbat. So they're really connecting to the spiritual roots of it and the internal and external spiritual connective points. And many people who specifically don't, who will use it in a more ceremonial setting, I'm more of an active proponent of bringing psychedelics, whether it's the active use of them, like using psychedelics during, let's say, a Passover Seder. Or, another, Shabbat, using them in the prayers and just the intentionality of it. 


Aaron Genuth is at a retreat upstate right now. He’s still observing Passover. As for the two bills which would legalize psychedelics their next step is to pass through the state assembly.

Cristina Macaya  Columbia Radio News.


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