I have been doing a lot more research on Entheogenic Mormonism. For those who are unaware, entheogens are substances, usually plants or their extracts, that you ingest to help induce a spiritual experience. I have been reading many first hand accounts of the experiences of early Mormons leading up to the Kirtland temple dedication. Many had life-changing spiritual experiences. These are experiences that have echoed throughout the generations, even if the echos have become distorted or muffled. Reading these accounts after studying the Smith-Entheogen theory put forward by /u/NakedMormonism here, here, another paper here, and
a yet to be released paper here, I am convinced that there was an entheogenic aspect in early Mormonism.
I myself have experimented with several entheogens. Several months ago I decided to try salvia for the first time. It was an experience I wasn’t quite prepared for. What I learned the most about it is that it is something that really requires your mind to be prepared for, like in a ritual. The ritual aspect helps put your mindset in the right place to have a positive experience that isn’t overwhelming.
I have been on a quest to reclaim and reinvent my Mormon spirituality, and decided to retrofit the basic outline of the Kirtland endowment ceremonies into an shamanistic, entheogenic experience. As I was reading these first hand accounts, I found that the ceremonies performed on 01/21/1836 and the ceremonies leading right up to the temple dedication could be combined into a nice ritual. See page 78 for VERY brief overview of these ceremonies, but I highly recommend reading The Kirtland era chapter of “The Mysteries of Godliness” by David J. Buerger for a more thorough examination of anecdotes regarding these ceremonies. The outline I created for myself is as follows:
- Perfuming the body (namely with alcohol)
- Consecrating the oil (if it hadn’t been already)
- Blessing with the oil on heads
- Having dissociative visions, speaking in tongues, and hearing angels
- Taking the next day to contemplate the experiences, and then discuss them.
In preparation for this ritual I did several things. I was performing the ritual in my bedroom, and cleaned it up as best I could. I laid my clothes, lotion (perfume), oil, lighter, and pipe filled with salvia on my bed, like this.
Before I washed (showered) I trimmed my beard and shaved my neck to look and feel nice. Feeling good about your appearance always helps put your mind at ease. While I was in the shower I listened to some meditative music, namely Porangui. I could feel my mind preparing for an entheogenic experience. It was an odd mix of nervousness, serenity, and excitement.
Once I got out of the shower I went to my bedroom and put my clothes on. I wanted a couple of minutes to myself to meditate before my girlfriend came in to help me with the ritual. After a couple minutes I called her in and I sat on the bed. A couple weeks prior I had asked her if she would be willing to give me a blessing. Under this context, this blessing would just be words of comfort. She was happy to help me with my spiritual ritual. When she came into the room I told her the specifics of traditional Mormon blessings like how to use the oil and to address me by my full name. I also told her that after the blessing I’d like to lay on her chest as I smoked the salvia so I would feel safe.
I decided to do the perfuming next. In the Kirtland era this was done by washing your body with hard liquor (what else did you think D&C 89:7 was for??). For my ritual I decided to opt for something more practical and used a nag champa body lotion. I love the smell of nag champa, and knew that if I were wearing and smelling it that it would continue to help put my mind at ease.A couple of months ago I decided to buy my first oil vial since leaving the LDS church. I filled it with a sandalwood essential oil (just because I like the smell), and consecrated it. Under this context, the consecration was me telling myself that the oil was just a ritualistic tool or something to stimulate a placebo. I keep my little blue vial on my keys. When it was time for the blessing, I handed my keys to my girlfriend. This simple act gave me a great moment of pause. The word “keys” is synonymous with “power” and “authority” in the Mormon tradition. When I physically gave my girlfriend keys to give me a blessing, it was a powerful symbolic gesture. I didn’t need some bureaucratic system to tell me who can and can’t help me with my spiritual fulfillment, it was my choice, and my choice alone. It was me that was saying that I trusted her enough to look to her with a sense of authority. It was a very cool experience that I was able to share with her. She put the oil on her hands and laid her hands on my head. She addressed me by my full name and said that I would be safe and would have the experience that I was looking for. I thanked her and she moved behind me so I could lay on her chest.
I took the first puff of salvia and didn’t feel anything. I took a second puff and it took a couple of seconds to click in. It is such an odd realization when this particular entheogen begins. It feels as though you are getting ready to go skydiving. You just finished getting your jumpsuit and parachute on, and then you realize that you’re already skydiving. For me at first, it felt as though everything beyond the bed looked normal, but everything on the bed looked a bit off. Everything looked almost as if it were a toy or I was living in a tilt-shifted world. The most elaborate of this was when I looked at my hands. They looked as though they were supposed to be someone else’s hands. Their size and shape didn’t seem as if they were my own. A couple of minutes later, everything felt novel, and I have a very distinct memory of howso. I went to Disneyland earlier this year and there are many shops that have a very 1800’s-type feel. Lots of brown wood and brass. It felt like stepping back in time. I felt out of place with my 2019 tourist clothing. However, no one cared. It was all fine. It was such a novel feeling. That was how I felt simply laying in my bed after taking my entheogen.
Smoking salvia means your salvia experience is very short – just a matter of minutes. After my salvia had more-or-less worn off I did what I had never done before: I packed a 2nd bowl of salvia. I felt at peace, and wanted to experience more.
Instead of facing the foot of my bed, this time I faced the head of my bed. I have 3 small and very intricately colorful tapestries for the headboard of my bed. I decided that I wanted to look at them as I took my salvia. I stared at one of them and could see patterns emerge that I had never noticed before. They had always been there, but I had never noticed or appreciated them before. It was beautiful and I will never look at this tapestry the same way again.I then noticed on this tapestry that there was a fractal. I sat in stared at this fractal in awe. I thought about how amazing the concept of a fractal is. For a moment, this particular fractal looked like the veins in lungs. This triggered a profound series of thoughts.The cardio-vascular system is essentially just fractals. I have fractals inside of me. That fact alone was fascinating to not only think about, but to feel. To ponder this truth so deeply isn’t something that is normally possible. I thought about what else could be fractals without even realizing it. It took a moment, but I realized I am only a small part of a fractal that we call society. I felt that all societies are fractals that make up humanity. I wondered if humanity itself was a small part of a bigger fractal. This thought brought to mind the Hindu concept of Brahman in a way that I had never considered before. I felt Brahman for a moment. After this, I wondered. If we are part of a fractal, which we could call Brahman, what should this mean for an everyday life? Does it even have any implications?
After this I chatted with my girlfriend and I went about the rest of my night. In total, this took more-or-less an hour. Honestly, the longest part of the whole thing was the shower.
What I learned from this experience is something that is rather profound to me: entheogens can work in a safe way when used correctly. That being said, if this is something that you would want to experience for yourself, you should have someone who experienced with these sorts of things. That is one of the biggest reasons why I had my girlfriend there with me. These tools can be very, very intimidating to someone who doesn’t know how to use them. I am a skilled with entheogens and prepared my mindset, setting, and dosage to produce a meaningful spiritual experience and still had someone there if things went wrong. It was liberating to retrofit my Mormon spirituality to help guide me through what was before a rather intimidating experience, and rather easily at that. I am excited at the prospect of getting to a point where I can explore this entheogen without the aid of someone there with me.
My spiritual experiences with entheogens have lead me to make a seemingly minor, but to me, a major change. I am changing my flair from “Mormon Buddhist” to “Entheogenic Mormon”. Buddhism has given me many insights and a good framework for a healthy spirituality. However, I would like to fill this framework with entheogenic Mormonism.
Keep on Mormoning 🙂
EDIT 07/21/20: I added the link to the now released paper
EDIT 07/28/20: For some reason the added link was broken. Fixed with correct link.