ASK FATHER: My friend took LSD, experienced “God, Heaven, the Garden of Eden, Life, and Death all at once”

From a reader…


I just spoke with a friend of mine who recently took a mind-altering substance (he said it was an extremely potent form of LSD) and that the hallucinations lasted for approximately a period of 12 hours. He states that he experienced God, Heaven, the Garden of Eden, Life, and Death all at once.

I told him I could not sympathize, and that the Catholic Religion forbids the use of mind-altering substances, particularly in a spiritual manner.

My question is this: what should I tell my friend (or others for that matter) who have done this? These experiences sound so powerful that he cannot be convinced otherwise; he seems to truly believe in what he says happened.


You are correct that the use of mind-altering substances, such as LSD, PCP, or the NCR (aka Fishwrap) is a grave moral evil.

God gave us the wonderful gift of consciousness and free will, and to surrender these gifts for a feeling of euphoria is an insult to the Lord who created us. The ingestion of mild intoxicants or mood altering substances like alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, the History Channel is permissible, as long as one is cautious and moderate.

How to convince those who have used mind-altering substances and have “experienced” something they deem to be transcendent?

Relentless ridicule is probably the best way. Serious argumentation is doubtfully going to do much good. Referring to them as “space cadets” or “druggies” or “Maximum Beans” will likely anger them to the point of complete distraction.

Will this convince them that they are wrong? Probably not. Will this cause them to dismiss you as a friend? A fair chance of that happening.

Tragically, once someone goes down that road and begins finding value and transcendence in the paltry experience of drug use or NCR readership, there is little outside of prayer and the direct action of the Holy Spirit that can bring them back to reality.

Fortunately, we do have a God who is willing to hear our prayers and sometimes effects a miraculous conversion. These things are best left in his hands, however.

Fr. Z adds:

In view of the creation of the US Space Force, I disavow any disparaging use of “space cadet”.

Please stick to the far crazier and much more degrading “Maximum Beans”.  If that doesn’t get through to what’s left of shame and common sense in their addled brains, nothing will.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Lighter fare and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. So let’s see if I’ve got this right. The pink elephants you see with LSD are transcendent, but the same pink elephants you see when you were drunk on cheap booze is just delirium ?


  2. mysticalrose says:

    Some druggy friends profess to be open to anything, in which case you could probably give them a green scapular or place one among his things without debate. Worth a try.

  3. surritter says:

    I think the best tactic would be to firmly remind them the those experiences were not real, but only chemical fabrications acting upon their body, without any external interaction.

    The true heaven will be a real experience. So we should not suppress our consciousness and free will, especially for something that is not real.

  4. TonyO says:

    Not that argument is likely to actually work, but:

    On what basis is he sure that what he experienced was God, Heaven, and the Garden of Eden? What rational foundation grants him reasonable assurance that with the drug altering his brain, his experiences were reliable. Did he equally just “intuit” that they were God, Heaven, and the Garden of Eden? Without proof? Or did someone TELL him that’s what they were? What constituted them reliable sources of information?

    Many people along the road toward saintliness experience various internal things that seem to be of God or Heaven, or are purported to be of God or Heaven, which they later come to realize were not that. Their evidence shows that one cannot necessarily TRUST appearances in such experiences. (Indeed, some of these experiences are actually caused by demons conterfeiting other experiences. Which makes me wonder whether there is good reason to think that many or even most such drug-induced experiences of “God” are actually induced by demons? And if so, is there a place for exorcism on a drug-user who claims these?)

  5. Antonin says:

    Mystical experiences are rare in the spiritual life and the mystics have all cautioned against relying on them since it is more likely than not that these experiences are simply phantasms created by his own mind and nit a supernatural grace.

    Psychosis actually creates the same phenomenon as that your friend is experiencing is simply a drug induced psychosis – not a religious experience.

    A religious experience can, in some instances, involve these but it is idolatry to chase after them. Furthermore a mystical experience should lead one to a deeper meaning in life, greater integration, and a renewed sense of working to build a more just world.

  6. donato2 says:

    Drugs are evil. Most people argue about drug use in terms of physical and mental health. This misses the main issue. Drugs are damaging to physical and mental health but the worst effect that they have is spiritual. They are a means of rejecting the real world, the world that God made. I recall reading that in the medieval period marijuana was available but not widely used. I believe that the reason for this is that in the medieval period people had God. People who have God don’t want or need drugs.

  7. tho says:

    I don’t take lightly people who hallucinate, that is why I have always voted the Republican ticket.

  8. The Cobbler says:

    It’s possible your friend is still under the influence, in a sense.

    I’ve read a couple firsthand accounts of doing drugs. One took a tranquilizer; he claimed to have seen every atom in the universe and gone through his entire life’s history and forgiven everyone for everything; his writing focused on half-formed thoughts about the universe and consciousness that he seemed to think was deeply philosophical but actually was largely void of intellectual content or actual understanding of anything, and was sweeping, grandiose, largely pointless, unrealistic, and apparently far more interesting to him than to me (I like long, rambling paragraphs, but these ones rambled on about nothing pretending it was a very big something). Another took something she said was like ayacusa without the tendency towards nausea; she claims she went to Hell, her friend sitting next to her turned into the devil, and his head came off and rolled around on the floor while they talked; her writing was disjointed, all of it unpredictably out of order in time without any narrative purpose to the chronological mixups and bouncing between multiple trains of thought none of which went anywhere, while the paragraphs themselves were fragmented.

    I don’t know if it’s permanent; but I was quite struck by the resemblance of their thought patterns, after their trips were supposed to be over, to their drug-addled experiences.

  9. The Cobbler says:

    On a lighter note, the best mood-altering substance was left off the list: tea!

    It is relaxing without the mental impairments or loss of inhibitions induced by alcohol. It has caffeine for energy, but doesn’t make one jittery like coffee. It isn’t bitter like the one or caustic like the other either.

    The only problem is it’s extremely mild to begin with; I’m trying to find or create some sort of distilled, concentrated dosage – the tea equivalent of espresso, if you will.

  10. BCinAZ says:

    Can we, of all political stripes, agree that the Space Force logo is an unashamed Star Trek rip off?

  11. iamlucky13 says:

    Please direct more questions to Fr. Ferguson on Fridays!

    This is a little off the wall, but I suspect if this person were to describe what experiencing god was like, my response would be, “what does god want with a starship?”

    Responding to The Cobbler:
    “his writing focused on half-formed thoughts about the universe and consciousness that he seemed to think was deeply philosophical but actually was largely void of intellectual content or actual understanding of anything, and was sweeping, grandiose, largely pointless, unrealistic, and apparently far more interesting to him than to me “

    Have you ever read a feminist study’s academic paper? You’re describing exactly my view of those, and I suspect the root cause is typically the same.

  12. GregB says:

    I’ve heard that drug lords are into the demonic as a way of seeking protection, and that they place curses on the drugs that they sell before they ship them. One reason why we Catholics bless things like food, and houses, etc. is to break any curses that they might have been given.

  13. GHP says:


    I love your graphic. I think you might have been influenced by the 1960s psychedelic concert posters from the Fillmore, etc.

    Far out, man.

  14. Les Buissonets says:

    I’m reminded of the famous experience of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr, who recounted his experience in an 1870 lecture at Harvard:

    ‘I once inhaled a pretty full dose of ether, with the determination to put on record, at the earliest moment of regaining consciousness, the thought I should find uppermost in my mind. The mighty music of the triumphal march into nothingness reverberated through my brain, and filled me with a sense of infinite possibilities, which made me an archangel for the moment. The veil of eternity was lifted. The one great truth which underlies all human experience, and is the key to all the mysteries that philosophy has sought in vain to solve, flashed upon me in a sudden revelation. Henceforth all was clear: a few words had lifted my intelligence to the level of the knowledge of the cherubim. As my natural condition returned, I remembered my resolution; and, staggering to my desk, I wrote, in ill-shaped, straggling characters, the all-embracing truth still glimmering in my consciousness. The words were these (children may smile; the wise will ponder): “A strong smell of turpentine prevails throughout.”’

  15. robtbrown says:

    The best way to ensure never having a religious experience is to seek one.

  16. Sportsfan says:

    My college roommate often experimented with different drugs. I played on a sports team and would come back after a full day of school a several hour trip crammed on a short bus, play a game, several hours back , trying to get some homework done, through the mountains to get in very late to find my roommate with several other people, in our room, intoxicated to some degree.

    One night they had obviously found some LSD. No music, no TV, just sitting there staring at stuff.
    I decided to try an experiment. I knew a guy down the hall of the dorm had a shirt that had a print that looked like it had tarantulas crawling all over it. (They were “a thing” in the 80s)
    BAD idea.
    I have never seen people act that terrified in my life. If you have ever scared someone so bad that you felt bad about it after, multiply that by ten.
    I was baptized a few years later and am very glad I will not have to pay for that one in purgatory.
    A different roommate the next year described an effect of LSD as “making an imprint on one’s brain.” Similar to the way one can remember traumatic experiences very vividly, LSD can make one remember ordinary occurrences vividly. This is where the “flashbacks” come from.
    LSD can make some people focus. Doc Ellis threw a no-hitter will on LSD.

  17. Semper Gumby says:

    BCinAZ: Nope, it’s the other way around. See the seal of the Space Force’s predecessor, the Air Force Space Command. Gene Roddenberry was an Air Force vet. Cheers.

  18. AutoLos says:

    A close friend of mine was once high on marijuana (long before I knew him) and had a sober friend give him a ride. He claims he had a vision during that car ride of himself in Hell and the hand of God attempting to reach toward Him. My friend, in turn, was attempting to reach out to God but of course couldn’t bridge the gap. Then he heard God’s voice say “you have fallen short of My glory”. Afterward he “woke up” horrified. This was one of the major stepping stones on his path to conversion (no pun intended).
    He’s a religious brother now. I’m sure he wouldn’t say the marijuana CAUSED the alleged vision, but now he half-jokingly says “if you’re ever with someone who’s high, just start talking to them about Hell, you could really be helping them out”.

  19. robtbrown says:

    The above is 1962 cadet chapel (Protestant) at the USAFA. Easy to see that the delta wing shape existed before the Star Trek logo

  20. TRW says:

    I believe that the southern rock band , Black Oak Arkansas, has documented for posterity the most succinct description of a drug-induced religious experience. The theology is very suspect, to say the least. However, I believe it just might save many of us from risking the perils of having to partake of any psychonautical adventures ourselves.

  21. Semper Gumby says:

    robtbrown: Good catch.

    A few more. The astronaut pin:

    The shield of the modern 72nd Air Base Wing which was founded as the WW II 72nd Reconnaissance Group, which became the Cold War 72nd Bombardment Group.

    One more. The shield of the WW II Army Air Force “Army Airways Communications System”:

  22. seeker says:

    More of Fr.Ferguson, please, he is very entertaining.

Comments are closed.