Psilocybin & Mystical Experience: A Research Study at John Hopkins University

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About Researcher Roland Griffiths

Roland Griffiths has been a Pharmacology researcher at John Hopkins University for 35 years. As a dedicated scientist and researcher, he grew in an environment of rigorous academic scrutiny which has clearly defined borders between scientific research and spiritual systems of belief. But when he decided to take meditation practice something got him asking the deeper questions about spirituality and mystical experiences and how they can change people’s life. Soon he was to embark on a mission that would reveal much about mystical and spiritual experiences using scientific methodology.

He essentially got intrigued and curious about Hallucinogens – particularly Psilocybin. Research about these psychoactive substances was closed for 30 years and there was an emotional charge around them. So he started his own research at the John Hopkins together with FDA (Food & Drug Administration).

About the Research Study

For the study, 36 people were recruited locally and none of them had previous experience with Psilocybin or other psychoactive substances for the matter. The participants were 46 years old on average and highly educated – from physicians, psychologists, nurses and business people. Each volunteered 2-3 sessions for 8 hours. They were only told that one of the sessions would have high dose Psilocybin. (methylphenidate or Ritalin were used as control).

Structured questionnaires were used after the session. Psilocybin was shown to result in typical effects with psychedelics. The most important finding was produced large increases in self-rated questionnaires that were specifically designed to measure mystical experiences.

Psilocybin looks identical to naturally occurring mystical experiences which are:Unity: Strong sense of interconnectedness of all people and things. A sense of sacred.

  • What is experienced is more real
  • Transcendence of time and space
  • Increased mood – sense of joy, bliss
  • Sense of what is being experienced cannot be adequately described in words.

Editor's Note

Griffith’s research continues not only to shed light on the immense potential of entheogenic substances such as Psilocybin  amongst  academics and beyond but it also opens up a new space for exploration and points of discussion.

For example, one question that comes out from such research and remains important in these discussions is “How does something found in nature enable us to have a deep mystical & transpersonal experience in which we connect to higher levels of consciousness, archetypal information and tap into universal fields of knowledge that are way beyond one individual lifetime?”

Why can they heal us so deeply and so effectively that no other synthetic drug can? How can they cure deep anxiety, depression and ‘reprogram’ unproductive or self-destructive patterns of behaviour?

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