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ninja_man's avatar

Why is my spiritual experience enhanced by inebriation?

Asked by ninja_man (1133 points ) September 11th, 2012

I am agnostic with theist leanings. Why is it that I feel my spiritual experience is enhanced when under the influence? Does this speak to the nature of spirituality, and if so, how?

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17 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Inebriation affects the “wow” factor of almost anything you do. Go to church lit up sometime and tell me how that felt.

Alcohol releases endorphins in the brain which is a powerful chemical that triggers a high. So add in an activity and you quickly associate a “high” with that activity. Huge reason why people drink in situations that might otherwise make them uncomfortable.

rojo's avatar

Spirituality and religion (or belief in a god) are two different things entirely. That being said, I will say that I have never felt closer to a supreme being that when I was stoned.

But…............ I have never been so pissed off at Jesus for coming over without calling as I was after huffing glue when I was 16. Forty year later and I still hold a grudge.

Coloma's avatar

Anything that helps still thought can enhance a spiritual experience. It is not the substance, it is the quieting of mind that allows something deeper to come through. My most profound spiritual experiences have never come from being high on anything, although I have experimented plenty in my day.
They have come when I have completely surrendered my will and my thoughts and just basked in my beingness.

ragingloli's avatar

Sure. Brains are always affected by all sorts of drugs, both external and internal.
Does not make the experience anything more than a brain failure.

zenvelo's avatar

There is a reason that alcoholic liquors are called “spirits”. There is even an opinion amongst recovering alcoholics that one of the reasons AA works as it does is because of the involvement of a Higher Power. Some people in recovery opine that a factor in alcoholism is a craving for a spiritual connection.

You’ve found a connection that Man has been using to connect with a spiritual essence for centuries.

digitalimpression's avatar

It definitely does not speak to the nature of spirituality. But one thing I’ve noticed is that (for almost everyone I’ve ever met) people are 100% honest with themselves and others when in this altered state. Take from that what you will.

For some people alcohol triggers their inner anger.. for some their inner “chill-ness”.. Either way, my old fashioned self will more readily call someone a friend if I’ve had a drink with them. Seeing the 100% honest side helps me gauge what type of person they truly are.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Alcohol, helping people see god, batman and pink elephants for over 3000 years.

thorninmud's avatar

I think it does speak to the nature of spirituality. “Spirituality” is how we talk about the experience of connectedness. It’s an intuition of union and wholeness (as opposed to isolation, incompleteness, separation).

Feelings of separation, and all that separation entails (fear, hatred, greed, jealousy, etc) are an activity of the brain. Suppress that activity and the feelings of separation diminish; the “spiritual” feeling of union is what’s left when the brain stops imposing its perspective of separation.

Some chemical substances target the brain functions involved in creating the perspective of separation, slowing or even shutting them down. The founder of AA, Bill Wilson, talked about the way alcohol dims the illusion of “otherness” and makes social interaction more effortless. Unfortunately, it has plenty of other less positive effects as well, as do most chemical paths to spiritual feelings.

Bill1939's avatar

I suspect that one reason people seek intoxication is that unconsciously they wish to diminish the intellectual/rational dominance of their experience. Freed from cognition programmed by their society and its culture, novel associations of notions and experiences are possible.

mazingerz88's avatar

Hic. Ahhhmeen brother! Hic*

deni's avatar

@zenvelo Don’t most AA groups preach about Jesus as well? Could that not be why the two are so often related?

My spiritual experience is generally not enhanced when I’m drunk. Weed, not so much either, maybe a little bit. But give me some mushrooms, and I’m crying over the moon, weeping at the thought of the cosmos (not that I don’t do that sober, but it is definitely enhanced to a seriously mindblowing degree).....I think more people should eat mushrooms, it opens up your mind. I don’t know about acid or any other drugs, I have never tried them. But I know my experience on mushrooms is similar to many peoples, and I think it’s a good thing. It is crazy to experience yourself in a different way than you ever have before.

wundayatta's avatar

I think a lot of people believe that the use of psychadelics and other mood changing drugs helps them access spiritual experiences. Since no one can be in anyone else’s head, there is little we can say about this. People experience what they experience. Can you generalize from your own experience? Can you generalize based on what other people say about their experiences?

I’d rather not. It is one thing to experience something. In is quite another to try to describe that experience. I have found that most people don’t even bother to try to describe spiritual experiences. They leap immediately to a synthetic level. “I felt God, man! It was awesome!”

That doesn’t help. God is an interpretive term. It is not a description of experience. And part of the problem with most spiritual experiences is that most people don’t have a clue how to describe them. Indeed, I don’t believe they are aware enough to remember what happened in any concrete way. So all they are left with in the end is an impression of awesomeness, and what better word for awesomeness is there than God?

I prefer my spiritual experiences without alcohol or shrooms or dope. For one thing, all those things require a long recovery time for me. I mean, it takes a day or two for me to get over all of them. My stomach hurts. My head feels woozy. My brain doesn’t think clearly. I just want to sleep. It’s just not worth it. In fact, in the last month or so, I realized I really don’t ever want to drink again. It tears up my stomach. Even one glass of wine creates big problems.

And pot, these days, makes me sleepy and unable to concentrate on anything. This is not helpful for me in attaining a spiritual experience. On the other hand, it does make me horny, which is spiritual.

I haven’t done shrooms in over 30 years. I remember standing on the room of a four story walk-up on the Upper West Side looking at all the beautiful lights of the city, and feeling it was so incredible and beautiful. I felt so open and connected. Of course, I also felt open and connected to Alyssa, but the only problem was she was not open and connected to me, so while I was totally in love with her, she wanted nothing to do with me. Not so spiritual, that.

I experience spirituality through dance and music, mostly. The purpose of the dance is to alter our state of consciousness in such a way that we open ourselves up to that sense of connectedness. It is my belief that dance was the original way to connect, before substances were found that could make us feel in a similar way.

I like the idea of working for that high. I like that it has no recovery period, at least mentally speaking. Sometimes you can hurt yourself physically. It just feels cleaner and there is none of that mental fuzziness. I feel all there when I get high like that, and I can choose to think however I want, which is something I can’t do under the influence of mind altering substances.

When I’m high on alcohol or drugs, I’m going along for the ride. There’s no stopping it. I can’t get off. It lasts as long as it lasts and if it goes bad, I’m screwed. But when I get high through dance or music, I can stop when I want, and it’s over. I can also start right back up again, if I want. I have options I don’t have while on drugs.

Drugs like alcohol help you along. You don’t have to engage in a practice. You can jump into the spiritual thing right away. No training. No practice. Boom. There you are. It makes it easy to get there.

But alcohol gives you know preparation and no practice for dealing with what you find. It throws you in the pool and you sink or swim, with very little control over what is going on. Indeed, if you misjudge it, you may find yourself without any control at all. Completely blacked out. No memory of what you did. Some people even seem to decide this is the goal of drinking. They skip the spiritual side entirely. It seems to be of no value.

But these are things you can train people to do. You can train people to manage alcohol. You can train them to identify the spiritual feelings and to work on enhancing them. It’s just easier to do that if they are not inebriated.

I think you find your experience is enhanced because that’s what alcohol does and you don’t really know any better. It’s like a grand adventure for you. It’s full of wonder (in the feelings you feel) but probably not a lot of context and therefore not a lot of meaning. This is not about spirituality so much as it is about your own relationship to yourself and your sense of and understanding of openness to things outside of you, and understanding that they are not really separate. Alcohol breaks down the barriers between you and outside of you, and you can intuitively feel that sense of connection, but whether you know its significance is another matter.

lloydbird's avatar

@ninja_man Have you been drinking spirits?

digitalimpression's avatar

I think it’s funny how people think alcohol removes cognitive ability but many swear that pot will compliment and even boost cognitive ability. I’m starting to think everyone is high.

Bill1939's avatar

I wasn’t aware that anyone other than potheads believed alcohol removed cognitive ability, given the long history of literary notables who heavily and frequently imbibed.

zenvelo's avatar

@deni AA groups do NOT preach anything about Jesus, anyone who mentions Jesus at an AA meeting are speaking only for themselves. AA refers to a Higher Power. AA is not aligned with any sect, denomination, politics or organization.

AA has nothing to do with Christianity.

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