Whether Drug-Fuelled Or Sober, 'God Encounters' Make Us Happier

A new study has found that mystical "God encounter experiences" can make people happier -- regardless of whether they are drug-induced or not.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US have found personal encounters with God or a higher being are equally as 'genuine' regardless of whether the person has taken psychedelic drugs or not.

They surveyed over 4,200 people who had reportedly had a mystical God encounter, 800 of whom while sober and 3,500 while on drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms (psilocybin).

The participants were asked to recount their single most memorable experience with the "God of their understanding," how they felt about it and whether it changed their lives.

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The results, published in a paper titled 'Survey of subjective "God encounter experiences"' in the PLOS One journal, revealed little difference between the intensity, meaningfulness and lasting effects of the Non-Drug and Psychedelic Group's experiences.

Both groups reported having an experience that involved sight, touch and sound as well as something 'extrasensory.' They also claimed to have communicated with the entity and received some sort of "message, mission, or insight" or even predictions of the future.

One point of difference between the groups was their definition of the entity. The Non-Drug Group was more likely to refer to it as "God" while the Psychedelic Group called it "Ultimate Reality."

Regardless, both groups said they experienced an "emotional response" during the encounter and had very vivid memories of the entire episode.

All participants agreed that these experiences "rated as among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant" in their lives.

The findings shed new light on the age-old debate among religious scholars about whether mystical experiences induced by psychedelic drugs can be considered genuine as opposed to manufactured.

Drug-fuelled or not, God encounters make people happy

Not only were there "striking similarities" between the participant's experiences but also the after-effects with both groups reporting "moderate to strong persisting positive changes in life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning."

In other words, they were happier, more fulfilled and had a more positive outlook on life after encountering God.

It appears to have intensified their spirituality -- regardless of how religious they were before the experience. In fact, two-thirds of people across both groups who previously considered themselves atheist admitted they dramatically adjusted their beliefs afterwards.

The majority of both groups also said they were less afraid of death and dying however this was more prevalent in the Psychedelic Group compared with the Non-Drug Group -- 70 percent versus 57 percent respectively.

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According to lead researcher Roland Griffiths, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the findings suggest a link between God encounters, spiritual devotion and improved mental health.

"Although modern Western medicine doesn't typically consider 'spiritual' or 'religious' experiences as one of the tools in the arsenal against sickness, our findings suggest that these encounters often lead to improvements in mental health," he said.

Prof Griffiths and his team made it clear that they don't advocate people use psychedelic substances in order to encounter God and that the study makes no claim about the existence or nonexistence of God.

"We doubt that any science can definitively settle this point either way," he said.

Feature image: Columbia Pictures.