Thanks for the questions @gnosisman, I’ll do my best to answer them.
In his, “Awakening from the Meaning Crisis,” lecture series, the cognitive scientist John Vervaeke talks in-depth about the mystical experiences that psychedelics and meditation can occasion.
In brief, he talks about the 9 Dot Problem. You have 9 dots on a piece of paper and the objective is to put a line through each dot with only 4 total lines and without lifting your pen once you’ve started. Most people have difficultly solving it because they erroneously assume that they must stay within the confines of the “box” that doesn’t actually exist. As the video shows, the solution requires one to “think outside the box.”
What this example is trying to illustrate is that our minds have been structured in such a way that we get stuck in ruts of thought and perception that we aren’t even aware of. What mystical experiences do is allow us to escape the confines of our own boxed in ego so that we can think outside the box. Vervaeke goes into depth about how this ability developed as an adaptive advantage in Shamans of ancient tribes, many of whom used psychedelic plants.
I know of two people who claim that psychedelics have helped them in the path of enlightenment. Leo Gura and Martin Ball. The former conducted an interview of the latter about this very topic. Although from what I’ve heard about Martin Ball, he may be a cautionary tale more than anything else.
My own views on the matter are that what psychedelics do at the very least is give us a glimpse into what we mean by “oneness” with the Universe. Whether this is “true” enlightenment or not, I really don’t know because I have not experienced anything outside this single experience. What it did do for me, as I said, was show me the power that these experiences might have. Since then I’ve been far more serious about my spiritual practice than I have ever been in my entire life. So, if nothing else, they spark the desire to pursue enlightenment by more traditional means.
Illegality and obfuscation. Here is an excellent book on the history of psychedelics and their legality. We conducted an interview with the author about how psychedelics have shaped their Christianity into an “etheogenic spirituality.”
I’m certainly not advocating forgoing the years of work in the name of doing a bunch of psychedelics. In the psychedelic community there is the idea of integration. This is essentially the years of rigorous work that follow a psychedelic experience. You can’t simply do a psychedelic and expect everything to be all sunshine and rainbows. You have to do a lot of journalling beforehand to set an intention, do your best to take notes during, a lot of journalling afterward, and then put into action what the psychedelic helped you realize.
As to what exactly psychedelics help you realize, we already alluded to that with our discussion of Vervaeke. It is essentially like taking a fish out of the waters they don’t even realize they’ve been swimming in and showing them that, yes, these are the disgustingly filthy waters you’ve been swimming in. From that point the fish can choose to clean things up or to hop on over to the cleaner pond just next door.
Again, this is far easier said than done. Psychedelics are not a shortcut or a magic pill and they shouldn’t be viewed as such. They are a facilitator of the work we all must spend our lives doing if we want to achieve the highest states of consciousness we can. If you don’t want to use them then that’s totally your own choice, but based on the research I’ve done and the experiences I’ve had they’re an incredibly potent tool. If you have an incredibly potent tool, why not use it?
If you’d like to learn more about this from an Integral perspective I highly recommend the Integral Stage’s Integral Entheogen series (the same series I posted above in “my own views”).
Another good resource is this review on psilocybin and mindfulness talking about how they may have a synergistic effect in the treatment of depression. Although just a review it does paint a quite lovely picture and come up with many interesting paths for future research. There is an increasingly enormous mountain of evidence for the positive uses of psychedelics. We are in what has been called a Psychedelic Renaissance.
I think that’s more than enough for now, but let me know if you have more questions.