Integration Providers are Analagous to Pastoral Care
By. Dr. Chuck Crisco
Is there a difference between Christian pastoral care and entheogenic integration specialist’s service? Of course, there are similarities and differences. Explore some of those with me.
From elementary to middle school, I attended a private Christian school. I then received a B.S. in Bible, a Master’s of Divinity degree and a Doctorate in Practical Ministry. I pastored four churches, planted churches and did missions work in India over the span of 25 years.
During that time, one of the most rewarding periods was when we created something called Simple Church. In addition to our non-denominational Christian services held every Sunday in a large facility, we offered a bi-weekly “house church” setting for people who wanted to go deeper into their faith. A typical Friday night meeting consisted of food brought by the attendees, live music, spontaneous times of personal ministry with each other using our spiritual gifts and guidance regarding spirituality, spiritual experiences and life issues. It was not unusual for us to discuss or experience physical healings through prayer, or visions and dreams being interpreted, prophetic utterances that were spoken and evaluated, and psychic type insights the Bible calls “words of knowledge”. It was the quintessential discipleship setting where we practiced our Christianity with a goal toward personal growth.
In addition, I regularly provided counseling for marriages, personal problems and spiritual growth using the Bible to help individuals to navigate their spiritual lives. I also designed and taught discipleship programs. The word “disciple” is an English translation of the Greek word “mathetes,” which means “learner” or “pupil.” The roots of discipleship are found in Judaism in the first century when teachers of the Law of Moses frequently had learner-followers just as pastors and Christian teachers do today.
I say all this to establish my credentials that I am very familiar with the foundational principles of Christian discipleship and pastoral care. As such, this article is to demonstrate the analogous relationship between the entheogenic integration provider and the Christian pastor/priest or teacher using both comparisons and contrasts. We discover that though there are differences of context, the basic foundational principles are the same.
What is Pastoral Care?
Part of the pastoral care model involves using the Bible through loving relationships called discipleship to help followers of Jesus experience the “Christ within,” interpret their spiritual experiences if they arise, and integrate biblical commands into their lives so they can become like Jesus, their model. The sacrament is variously interpreted in this context, but it is essentially intended for those who partake to experience union with Christ.
What is an Entheogenic Integration Provider?
Entheogen simply means “the divine within” and they are substances traditionally used in spiritual or religious contexts to induce expanded states of consciousness. Entheogens include ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, LSD or our sacrament Psilomethoxin. An entheogenic integration specialist is a type of coach or mentor or pastor who helps individuals integrate their mystical experiences with entheogens so that they can be their authentic unburdened selves.
Similarities Between Entheogenic Integration Providers and Christian Pastors/Priests/Teachers.
Both are there to provide comfort and aid to those who have had profound or painful experiences. Both may offer guidance and support to individuals who are seeking spiritual growth and development (Tupper, 2014; Hook & Cohen, 2019).
Both provide spiritual direction and counseling and seek to create an environment of love and kindness which makes it easier for participants to work through difficult feelings and new insights.
Both entheogenic integration specialists and Christian pastors may be involved in the process of helping individuals make sense of their mystical experiences and finding meaning and purpose in life (Pahnke & Richards, 2016).
Both may help individuals develop a stronger sense of connection and community (Newberg et al., 2018; Loizaga-Velder & Verres, 2014).
Both use sacraments as a part of their connection to divinity.
Both practitioners of entheogenic integration and Christianity may draw from various therapeutic and spiritual modalities at their disposal while working with individuals. Integrating mystical experiences in a healthy and productive way can be aided by meditation, mindfulness (“practicing the presence of God”), counseling, and other related practices.
Differences Between Entheogenic Integration Providers and Christians Pastors/Priests/Teachers
Christian pastors work within the context of their religious tradition. Entheogenic integration specialists work primarily with individuals who have had experiences with entheogens or psychedelics (Loizaga-Velder & Verres, 2014).
Entheogenic integration specialists may view entheogenic substances as tools for spiritual growth and healing, while Christian pastors may have reservations about their use (Winkelman, 2017; Hook & Cohen, 2019).
Entheogenic integration specialists may draw from a wide range of spiritual and psychological traditions to help individuals integrate their experiences, while Christian pastors typically draw from Christian scriptures and teachings alone (Tupper, 2014; Loizaga-Velder & Verres, 2014).
Entheogenic integration specialists may work with a diverse range of individuals from different cultural and religious backgrounds, while Christian pastors typically work with those who identify as Christians or are interested in Christianity (Winkelman, 2017; Hook & Cohen, 2019).
Entheogenic integration specialists work less with people about faith because they work more with primary religious experiences instead of secondary ones.
Christianity, depending on the particular denomination, primarily works with the Bible as a Holy text and uses interpretation methods called hermeneutics to explain the mystical experiences of those characters in the texts. In these secondary experiences, i.e. reading about someone else’s experience, a high value is placed on trusting the veracity of another person’s story written thousands of years prior. In a sense, then, the Bible is the past interpretation of mystical experiences rather than the primary experience itself.
The Catholic Eucharist is believed to be the literal blood and physical body of Jesus Christ after the priest blesses it. Its purpose is to provide a mystical experience wherein the one who partakes realizes their union with Christ. The actual experience of that union is something that must be accepted by faith. Occasionally it is reported by the Church that evident spiritual experiences have occurred as a result but this is not the norm. Other, more experiential groups like the Pentecostals or Charismatics, report more primary experiences.
Entheogenic leaders use various plant medicines, such as Psilomethoxin, as a sacrament. The purpose of the sacrament is the realization of one’s union with all things as well as healing self-discovery.
The entheogenic sacrament nearly always initiates a mystical experience of some kind which means there is a proliferation of primary religious experiences instead of secondary ones. In this context, even more so than in Christianity, integration specialists are needed to help people interpret their experiences and integrate those truths into their lives to create more balance, harmony and peace.
Entheogenic experience trumps the need for faith here. The “text” that the Church of Psilomethoxin (aka, The Church of Sacred Synthesis) and others work with is the experience itself. These providers work with primary spiritual experiences just as those who wrote the texts of the Bible worked with primary experiences.
Interestingly enough, probably none of the characters in the Christian Bible entered into a mystical experience by the means of reading a holy text. They are recorded as having primary experiences such as entheogenic churches provide.
So while there are differences between typical religious pastoral/discipleship care and entheogenic integration within the contexts and frequency of experiences, there are many important similarities as well and therefore they are analogous to each other at the level of religious practice.
Hook, J. N., & Cohen, A. M. (2019). The intersection of psychedelic medicine and Christian theology: Exploring similarities, differences, and potential points of integration. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 51(1), 26-48.
Loizaga-Velder, A., & Verres, R. (2014). Therapeutic effects of ritual ayahuasca use in the treatment of substance dependence: Qualitative results. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 63-72.
Newberg, A. B., Waldman, M. R., Wintering, N., Amen, D., Khalsa, D. S., & Renshaw, P. (2018). Value of life: An exploratory neuroimaging study of the effects of the entheogen ayahuasca. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 384.
Pahnke, W. N., & Richards, W. A. (2016). Implications of LSD and experimental mysticism. Journal of Religion and Health, 55(4), 1214-1224.
Tupper, K. W. (2014). Entheogens and existential intelligence: The use of plant teachers as cognitive tools. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 46(1), 20-33.
Winkelman, M. (2017). Psychedelics as medicines for substance abuse rehabilitation:
Evaluating treatments with LSD, Peyote, Ibogaine and Ayahuasca. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 10(1), 48-57.