Lost Saints: Desacralisation, Spiritual Abuse, and Magic Mushrooms

Psilocybin containing mushrooms have been used in indigenous healing ceremonies in Mesoamerica since at least the sixteenth century. However, the sacramental use of mushrooms was only discovered by Westerners in the early to mid-twentieth century. Most notably, the meeting between amateur mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson and Mazatec curandera María Sabina in 1955 resulted in the widespread popularisation of ingesting ‘magic mushrooms’ in the West. To Sabina and the Mazatec people, psilocybin mushrooms were sacred and only to be used for healing. However, Western ‘hippies’ viewed mushrooms as psychedelic drugs which they consumed with little regard for cultural sensitivities, rendering the … Read more

Delineating the ‘Dark Night’ in Buddhist Postmodernism

In contemporary Western meditation-based convert Buddhist lineages,[2] the term ‘dark night’ has been adopted in order to describe a variety of meditation-related difficulties. While the term dark night is not a Buddhist term – rather it is an abbreviated form of the expression ‘dark night of the soul’ and derives from Christian mysticism – it has recently been appropriated in postmodern Buddhist discourses. The Buddhist dark night is referred to in a range of media, including popular news articles, discussion forums, blogs, podcasts, and texts and meditation manuals written by well-known contemporary meditation teachers. Despite the proliferation of the … Read more

“The Answer to All Your Problems?” The Overly Positive Presentation of Meditation in the Media

The current popularity of ‘secular’ meditation has been due in large part to its promotion in the mainstream Western media. In 1975 TIME magazine ran a cover featuring an image of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM) along with the headline: “Meditation: The Answer to All Your Problems?” Ever since, stories about meditation have captured the attention of a Western audience receptive to narratives around spirituality, healing, self-help and wellness. The view of meditation that is portrayed by the Western media is, however, radically simplified and incomplete. Specifically, it is an overwhelmingly positive view, which at its … Read more

The Dark Side of Dharma: Why Have Adverse Effects of Meditation Been Ignored in Contemporary Western Secular Contexts?

In contemporary Western society, meditation techniques that were previously taught within the context of Eastern religious traditions are now increasingly being practiced in secular settings. While the boundary between the secular and the religious is blurred, popular meditation techniques such as Transcendental Meditation, Vipassana and mindfulness are generally promoted as being derived from Eastern religions, but inherently non-religious, aligned with Western psychology, and suitable for a general audience.  Over approximately forty years, thousands of research studies suggest that there are many psychological and physiological benefits associated with these forms of meditation; however, a small but growing literature indicates there could … Read more