Psychedelics and Spirituality – Dr Andy Letcher

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Tuesday 19th March
18.00-20.00 in Grimond lecture theatre 2
University of Kent Canterbury

What is the relationship between psychedelics and religious or mystical experience? What can a Religious Studies approach bring to the subject? In this lecture I want to argue that the predominant way in which Western intellectuals have talked about psychedelics is to ask whether or not they occasion mystical experiences. I will present a brief historical overview before suggesting that this ‘entheogenic’ discourse falls out of Judaeo-Christian thinking. It has the unfortunate effect of silencing indigenous voices and worldviews, in which ‘mystical experience’ (as it has been classically formulated in the West) is of little importance. I will argue that it is only by listening to the plurality of ways in which psychedelic experiences are interpreted that we can get closer to an understanding of what, if anything, the psychedelic experience means.

Andy Letcher teaches in the Study of Religions at Oxford Brookes University and is a freelance writer and folk musician. He is the author of ‘Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom’ and has published a range of articles and academic papers on subjects as diverse as psychedelics, paganism, bardism, environmental protest, fairies, shamanism and evolution, including the paper ‘Mad Thoughts on Mushrooms: Discourse and Power in the Study of Psychedelic Consciousness’ published in the journal, Anthropology of Consciousness. A modern day troubadour, he plays mandolin, writes songs, and fronts darkly crafted folk band, Telling the Bees. A leading exponent of the English Bagpipes, he plays for brythonic dancing in a trio called Wod.

Andy is a veteran lecturer and has given presentations on a number of topics internationally.

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