It was the 1960s and change was in the air. Timothy Leary, a Harvard psychologist, suddenly called an entire generation to “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” What did this mean and why was it happening? What was all the fuss about? Why this sudden call for radical change? Hunter S. Thompson described the 1960s in this way, “There was madness in any direction, at any hour. . . . you could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . . And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.” There was such rapid change in such a short period of time; both in culture and in politics. Anyone who knows the history is bound to ask, “what caused this madness?”
The main catalyst was a strong hallucinogenic drug called LSD; the drug that defined a generation. This drug changed the way people viewed culture, gender, politics, war, religion, oneself, and God. Many claimed it expanded the mind. An entire generation bought into the notion that this drug was the gateway into a new way of life, to a new self and a new world.
But what became of that generation? What happened to the movement that a drug helped create? What happened to the promised new world?
Thompson provides an eye-opening answer, when he said, “So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” He goes on to explain how this great idealism destroyed a generation. “We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled that 60’s. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling ‘consciousness expansion’ without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously… All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy peace and understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure was ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create… a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody… or at least some force – is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.” Here Thompson recaptures the death of an ideology. Less than 5 years later, this monumental movement died like so many before it. It is now given over to the sands of time and locked away in a grade school history book. Consciousness expansion, peace and love took its last breath at the feet of nihilism. It is as if he said, “The LSD movement is dead and you have killed it.” All that was left in its wake was failed gurus and seekers who couldn’t handle the pressure of the real world. The god at the end of the tunnel never picked up the phone. A false leader promoting an unattainable ideal with a powerfully distorting substance, drew in, blew up and throw out an entire generation, leaving them with no way to cope with the bleak realities of a normal life. Survival is all that remained.
Even after the 1960s wave, there were still others who ran decades after to catch these moving waters in the hope of experiencing the once ‘great’ wave. It seems that for every generation of psychedelic, Neo-hippies there is a guru who is willing to propagate these drugs to a sub-culture who have already bought in. These gurus pump out the same New Age, Neo-Shaman, mysticism as their forefathers did, with rhetoric and pseudoscience included. They promise enlightenment. They claim hallucinogenic drugs are the catalyst to economic creativity and provide metaphysical insights. Got emotional problems such as depression, or alcoholism? Then look no further than to what the snake oil salesman tells you. “This is the wonder drug and cure-all. The one stop shop for all you have ever wanted or needed. It carries with it the power to create dreams and destroy your psychological nightmares. Come step right up and turn on, drink in and be blown out of this universal to another dimension where you will meet aliens that will tell you secret knowledge hidden long ago, and it is available for you now for only $10 a hit.”
What does the Christian worldview have to say concerning this kind of drug use and the ideology that comes with it? It claims the same thing that one of its own gurus professed, “They are all wired into a survival trip now… [leaving in it’s wake] a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers” and a failed promise that through this drug one could expand ones mind and come to a knowledge of god. This is a failed ideology that is subjecting one’s mind to an unquestioning faith, it is crippling the user’s will by not preparing them for the hardships of life in the real world and it is robbing them of any hope in anything. It offers only a temporary door of escape that never solves the need to escape. After all is said and done, the trip is over and the seeker is in a worse condition than before. All he has is a bunch of distorted memories of things that never really happened. The ideology is like the drug, they both deceive.
Does the Bible have a word in season for all of those who survived the 60s? What about a word for the new generation that is looking into psychedelics? Yes in many ways.
The word the Bible uses in this context is Pharmakeia meaning: 1. Magic arts, witchcraft. 2. The use or the ministering of drugs. A Sorcerer is one who mixes up drug-based incantations. This has a ‘drugging’ effect on the religious devotee, inducing them to think they have been enlightened or have obtained special god-like abilities.
Paul states in Gal. 5:19-21, that sorcery is a work of the flesh and reminds the Galatians the fate of those who practice such things when he says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The book of Revelation says that those who practice sorcery have “their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Rev. 21:8).”
Another way the Bible gives light to the issue of using psychedelic drugs is when it talks about “drunkenness”. Drunkenness is referring to intoxication. To intoxicate means, “to excite or stupefied by alcohol or a drug especially to the point where physical and mental control is markedly diminished.” Though it is referring to alcohol first and foremost, it applies theologically to any substance that produces intoxication. Paul in the same passage in Galatians condemns drunkenness too and warns them that they will not inherit the kingdom of God either. Paul also says, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor. 6:9-10).”
Another reason that goes hand in hand with this topic is the command throughout the Bible to be sober minded. The call to sobriety is a call to be self-controlled both in mind and body. Paul says it this way, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation 1 Thess. 5:8).” Instead of running off to follow a guru who offers a revelation in a drug, Christians are called to prepare their minds for action, to be sober-minded, and to set their hope fully on the grace that will be brought to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13). Christians are also called to be sober-minded and watchful for good reason because the Christian’s adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter.5:8).
Thirdly, one of the plainest arguments against any Christian partaking of hallucinogenic drugs is that they are illegal to consume. Usually these drugs carry with them an ideology that is against authorities. The Christian on the other hand is called to submit to governing authority because God has placed them over him for his protection (Romans 131-5; 1 Peter 2:13-16; Titus 3:1-2).
The final reason Christians are called to abstain from these drugs and those like is because of the nature of the Christian’s calling as a Christian. The Christian is not his own, but has been bought with a price. Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).” The Christian lives to glorify God and enjoy him. The Christian also is to have nothing to do with pagan practices. Paul says, “What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you (2 Corinthians. 6:15-17).”
For the Christian there is no high wave that breaks and rolls back. There is only the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day (Proverbs 4.18). There is no survival trip of permanent cripples, but the Spirit of the Lord and his freedom (1 Corinthians. 3:17-18). There are no failed seekers, but for those who knock the door will be open. The light promised at the end of the tunnel doesn’t fade, but now the Christian sees “in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).” For those who want to know themselves, they must know God, and to know God they must know Christ. Let the Christian not make idols out of the created world but let them follow Christ, the only one who keeps every promise he makes.