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Inspiration Report

Faith-God-reachingPeople who claim they’ve seen God may not be crazy at all, and actually are better off mentally, a new study finds.

The study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in conjunction UC San Diego and the Council on Spiritual Practices, found that those who have had divine encounter experiences reap lasting mental health benefits. Divine encounter experiences can be defined as the sensation of seeing a God-like figure or a profound, enhanced reality or truth.

Furthermore, the study found that it did not matter if the experiences were due to being under the power of psychedelic drugs or not.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from 4,285 participants who’d had either naturally occurring or drug-induced spiritual experiences. In recruiting participants, the researchers defined these experiences as encounters with “God (e.g., the God of your understanding), Higher Power, Ultimate Reality, or an Aspect or Emissary of God (e.g., an angel).”

The experiences people went through typically involved speaking with the higher power, having an intense emotional reaction, and receiving advice about their own lives. For some, they also received predictions of the future. For those that had these experiences under the influence of drugs, such as LSD, DMT or psilocybin, they tended to have more “mystical” experiences, with 64 percent of the drug group but only 43 percent of the non-drug group meeting the criteria for what the researchers called a “complete mystical experience.”

Among them, 75% of people who had an encounter say it was among the most “meaningful and spiritually significant” moments in their lives — so much so that it brought about permanent positive changes in their life satisfaction, purpose and meaning. Most people rated their encounters as the top five most important in their lives in terms of personal meaning, spiritual significance, and psychological insight. In fact, the experience was so powerful that about two-thirds of self-identified atheists shed that label after their encounter.

All that said, the authors emphasize they do not suggest people turn to psychedelic drug use in an attempt to have a divine experience. They also note their study is also not intended to answer the question of whether there is, in fact, a God.

“We want to be clear that our study looks at personal experiences and says nothing about the existence, or nonexistence of God,” says Griffiths. “We doubt that any science can definitively settle this point either way.”

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