Was I bathed in white sound or swimming in loud light? With a crystal bowl vibrating all my cells, I couldn’t tell the difference. And why were the words “child of God” in my head vibrating even louder?
I was sitting cross-legged in peacock yoga pants in a tent with a dozen spiritual seekers. This was my 30th experience with ayahuasca, a plant-based psychedelic. Eight years prior I had left Christianity, convinced it was forever. But ayahuasca had already helped heal my relationship with my parents – including my pastor father – so perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that it also brought me back to God.
Over the years, this same ayahuasca community allowed me to play hymns from my upbringing during ceremonies, which rekindled the embers of my faith. My path back to Christianity was not a dogmatic or conventional walk, but one in which I discovered more deeply Christianity’s essential nature as a vehicle of love.
And now, emerging from chaos into the loud light, that old phrase, “child of God” was frustratingly beautiful. I knew it was the only way to describe my relationship to ‘the All’, so I surrendered. I uttered an expletive, followed by: “I’m a Christian again.”
But in my life outside of ayahuasca ceremonies, I had to reckon with the fact that peace didn’t find me easily. While I could come to those waves of pure calm while on ayahuasca, the long-term effects on my personality and mental health seemed anything but. And though I now called myself a Christian, why was everything in my life still directed towards psychedelics? With everything I read in scripture and from Christian mystics telling me that you can’t make God come to you on your own terms, why did I think I could, through these experiences?
Two years later, I read all four Gospels in preparation for another ayahuasca retreat. A couple of hours into the experience I was deep in the dark of ayahuasca’s indescribable chaos once again.
This would be the last time I drank ayahuasca and the only time I ever saw Jesus on it. He was simply silent in the boat in the storm. Not the storm from that famous Rembrandt painting, but in my storm with me. He did not fight the chaos by adding more chaos, which had been my preferred hapless tactic throughout my life.
He was there to absorb all the deafening chaos and purify it into something else – the light which no darkness could overcome. Peace.
Ayahuasca undoubtedly played a role in my rediscovery of Christ. I have since written extensively about darkness in the psychedelic world, but my path prevents me from disavowing it altogether. I don’t go to ceremonies any more; I pray with a dozen church ladies over Zoom instead. The peacock pants are now deep in storage, but I still love my ayahuasca-inspired tattoos: badgers, mandalas and yes, a cross.
I know too many people who have experienced healing from these experiences to say there is no use for them in treating traumas and addictions. They are a lifeline for many.
But when they become the entire aim of our spirituality, we create an idol of experiences, like Peter wanting to build tents on the mountaintop after Christ’s transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13). Yet God is greater than our experiences, and down the mountain we must go.
Today, I choose to sacrifice these psychedelic experiences to walk my journey with Christ. I believe it is in sacrificing them that their transformational potential in my life becomes fulfilled. I can’t bring my own peace, and neither can ayahuasca. But I can trust Christ is always here even when I don’t see him, silently absorbing the chaos.