Ernie Rea and his guests discuss the nature of mystical experiences. Do they always entail altered states of consciousness?
Shamanic cultures have been using substances for thousands of years to induce altered states of consciousness. X ray vision is said to be a key feature of the shamanic experience. This has been observed in Aboriginal rock art where the skeletons of animals are depicted. Cannabis is sacred to the Hindu God Shiva and even ancient Buddhists were known to use drugs. In India there was a substance called Soma, which is mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, which probably used hallucinogenic mushrooms.
There's now a strong working hypothesis amongst academics that traditional religious practices such as meditation can activate chemicals in the brain which produce the same effects as LSD. But Robert Zaehner, an early 20th century British academic argued that only theistic mysticism was sacred and that all other mystical states were profane or immoral.
Joining Ernie Rea to discuss mystical experiences are Dr David Luke, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich and President of the Parapsychological Association, Shamanic Practitioner, Dr Zoe Bran and Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.