Video: Psychedelic Drugs and Prayer Have Similar Effects on Your Brain

By May Wilkerson 06/02/15

Could the power of prayer and tripping on LSD be the same thing?

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Your brain could get the same jolt from praying to God as it does when you trip on acid, according to neuroscientist Andrew Newberg. In this video for HuffPo Live, he offers scientific backing to the idea that tripping on hallucinogenic drugs, like magic mushrooms or LSD, provides a “spiritual” experience.

In the video, Newberg, the director of research at Philadelphia's Jefferson Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, discusses a study that examined the brains of nuns engaged in “centering prayer,” a powerful prayer practice meant to help them achieve “oneness with God.” He uses slides to show similarities between their brain activity and the brain activity of people using psychedelic drugs, like mushrooms.

Both experiences, says Newberg, "tend to result in very permanent changes in the way in which the brain works.” This can result in people changing “their entire way of life,” including jobs and relationships, as a result of these experiences.

Some might argue that, compared to prayer or religious practice, taking drugs is a more “artificial” way to achieve a spiritual experience. But Newberg says psychedelic drugs can be just as valuable a tool.

"I always use the analogy about me wearing glasses,” he explains. “When I wake up in the morning, it's a very fuzzy world. I put my glasses on and I see the world clearly. It's possible these kind of experiences [with drugs] are not artificial or false, but really enable a person and a person's brain to experience the world in a much more fundamental way."

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.