The Book of Revelation is a standout amongst the least comprehended parts of the entire Bible. (Pictured above is Amanita muscaria.)
It’s always interesting to encounter alternative narratives from insiders within an organization. I recently had the pleasure of meeting a very peculiar individual. He is a church pastor who wishes to remain anonymous, so we will call him Pastor Shawn.
I met Pastor Shawn by sheer coincidence when his phone began to ring as he stood in line behind me at a local convenience store. To the delight of my own musically-fanatical self, his ringtone sang the notes of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca,” one of my personal favorite Dizzy songs. Naturally, I felt compelled to stir up a small conversation.
Our conversation led us outside the convenient store, where we stood for about a half hour engaged in a discussion about music, his work as a pastor, corruption in the church, and─astonishingly─psychedelic drugs.
Pastor Shawn shared with me a well-kept secret of his: he is a regular user of psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and applies the conscious and spiritual lessons he gains from his experiences to the teachings he shares with his church. I was so intrigued by some of the information he was willing to share that I felt compelled to interview him further. After an hour-long conversation in an online chat, I was not disappointed.
*Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity. The text of this interview has been (very) lightly edited for grammar.
JM: To be honest, I’m not really sure where to begin with a story like yours. I guess we’ll start at the beginning. Where are you from?
PS: Well, I was born in Arlington, TX, in 1972. My mother had died when I was quite young. My father was a Christian pastor himself all his life until he died in 1990 from heart failure. Didn’t have any brothers or sisters.
JM: When did you decide to become a pastor?
PS: I was raised as a Christian from the day I was born, and I always looked up to what my father did for the people of his church. So after my dad died in 1990, I decided to pursue a master’s in theology and got ordained some years later. To make a long story short, a community outreach program I was collaborating with at the time decided to make plans for building a church in Dallas.
JM: I believe you mentioned this when you and I initially spoke.
PS: I sure did. But for the sake of the interview, I’ll explain again. What I quickly came to discover about these “charitable people” was that they were quite the opposite. Within two years, we had organized something like a dozen fundraisers from which the proceeds were meant to go toward strengthening and rebuilding poorer communities and [we] had begun to establish a new church. We had raised over $60,000. My job in this group was simple: help organize minor details prior to our charity events, like where to set tables and booths and show up on time to give a sermon. The handling and distribution of the proceeds were left to the group’s two leaders. But after two years, I found out none of those proceeds were going to the community. They were going right into the pockets of these two men and the people they had to pay off for participating in their events.
JM: So these guys were pocketing charity money?
PS: Yep. I never paid attention enough to know, let alone care. But it started to become obvious that they were getting extra cash from somewhere when they were arriving at local BBQs and charity events dressed in $8,000 suits while the people we promised to help were still waiting for our assistance.
JM: How did you respond to that?
PS: Simple. I left the group and relocated to Livermore, CA, where I had family. Cousins, aunts, and an uncle.
JM: Let’s talk about how you encountered psychedelic substances.
PS: Sure. This is actually quite the amusing story, but I’ll try to make it short. My aunt was hosting Thanksgiving at her house in 2004. A much younger cousin of mine (age 19 at the time) was notorious in our family for being very patronizing and militant with his atheism, making me his worst enemy in his eyes. I’ll call him “Ben.” Later into the evening, I started feeling… odd. Like my skin was made of electricity. My stomach felt heavy and the carpet and walls began to slowly shift in a liquid-like fashion. With everyone asleep, I began to panic. That’s when Ben walks out of his room and up to me and says: “Having fun?” I couldn’t respond, as I was frozen in fear after realizing what was happening. For over a year, Ben had joked about “dosing the Pastor” with LSD, and it didn’t take long to put the pieces together. That little punk spiked my wine with LSD!
JM: So your first psychedelic experience was forced on you?
PS: Yes, it was. That’s partially why after that night, I refuse to take LSD. But the experience itself left me so intrigued, and for lack of a better word, “happy.” I had to find out more about it.
JM: What is the other reason you refuse to ingest LSD?
PS: I’m a church pastor. I can’t do business with drug dealers and maintain a clean conscience. Plus, I’m not the biggest fan of the fact that it’s synthetic. Psilocybin, on the other hand, is not only natural, but I can cultivate it in my storage closet with complete privacy.
JM: So what was the result of your psychedelic trip(s)?
PS: Where to start? First of all, I came to terms with the fact that there is a lot more that I do not understand in this world than I ever imagined. I learned that a lot of what I had been taught religiously throughout my life was a lie. There’s isn’t some fiery pit that awaits all those who defy the word of God. God isn’t some egomaniacal figure in the sky that created life for the sake of being worshiped. And religion should not be used as a boundary for one’s life, but instead, as an influence on positive choices… Guidance rather than rules… Lights along a path rather than a gate.
JM: What has changed about the way you operate your current church?
PS: I apply the principles mentioned before. I chose to give my church building to another group and began holding services in my own home. The only thing I ask of my goers is that they arrive at my services with open arms and ready to accept love into their hearts.
JM: Do any of your followers know of your psilocybin use? And how often do you ingest it?
PS: There are only a select few people in my church who know of my interest in psilocybin. The majority of people are not aware of it. While I do preach against the war on drugs and encourage people to send love to those who use drugs, I don’t think that many of them would understand. As loving and accepting as my goers are, it doesn’t change one very painful fact: a noticeable majority of the Christian population has the tendency to be very narrow-minded when it comes to things like this. Not only could it tarnish my reputation with the public, but it could also sever the last few connections I have left in the church community. As for how often I eat them, I wouldn’t say more often than monthly.
JM: You mentioned that you only have a few connections left in the church community. Why is that?
PS: To put it simply, I found out over the years that the scammers from the charity group in Dallas are not one-of-a-kind. They are everywhere. Rich pastors with sick and poor followers. These men get up in the morning, leave their $2 million houses, put on $10,000 suits, get into their $100,000 cars, drive to massive $10 million buildings, and stand in front of thousands of people to preach about the evils of greed and gluttony and the value of giving. My willingness to speak out to these pastors and call them on their hypocrisy has gotten me blacklisted from many Christian organizations. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but not only do I refuse donations from my goers and hold services in my house, I am also willing to give back as much as I can. I’m currently close to $50k in debt after paying out of pocket for a back surgery for one of my goers. How many of those megachurch types of pastors are willing to even see you after a sermon unless you’re bearing money or cocaine?
JM: Do you feel psilocybin has been crucial to shaping your current perspective on your job as a pastor and your responsibility as a person?
JM: Do you feel a sense of dishonesty when keeping something like that from your followers?
PS: At times, yes, I do. I would love to be able to come out and just tell them that their pastor eats magic mushrooms every month. If anything, just for the amusement of seeing the flabbergasted looks on their faces. But it is what it is. I can’t share this information publicly without fear of massive backlash. Especially in today’s world. But as I said, there are a few who know, and I have shared details and stories from my own experiences with them.
JM: Have you encouraged those few to venture down a similar path?
PS: I’ve encouraged them to follow their intuitive sense, and if they decide to, to take precaution and not mistreat the substance. Just like you and I discussed [when we met], people need to have respect for these things even if they are just chemicals. One person who tried psilocybin in my church was extremely suicidal when she first started attending our services. She now is a regular speaker during services and is involved in public outreach for suicide prevention.
JM: Thank you so much for your time [Pastor Shawn]. Is there anything you’d like to close our interview with?
PS: Christians: please stop rejecting science. Preachers: please stop stealing from your goers. Non-Christians: please keep in mind that the stereotypical, homophobic, xenophobic, and intolerant image often drawn by the bigger mouths in our religion are not representative of us all. Muslims: real Christians love you. And to everyone else, god bless.