Psychedelic Churches and New Age Temples
The entheogenic experience (taking a psychoactive substance in order to induce a spiritual awakening) dates back to the beginning of time, and there are many theories about how big of a role they played (See my first article for a very brief history). But there is also a spiritual reawakening that has been happening since the Golden Age of psychedelia in the 60’s that have led to many cults and New Age religions. While psychedelic art is pretty well known, the spiritual environments that came out that movement are vibrant and architecturally inspiring. Here are a few of my favorites:
One of the most famous and prolific psychedelic artists, Alex and his wife Allyson have turned their home in upstate New York into a center for psychedelic spirituality. That property is currently the home of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors: Part museum of Grey’s work, part bed-and-breakfast, and part retreat center, the Grey’s have created a spiritual community centered around psychedelic art and New Age philosophy.
30 miles outside of Turin, a massive underground cult complex exists that was unknown to outsiders for most of its existence. The Temple of Damenhur was started in 1978 and wasn’t made public until the Italian authorities demanded to see it in 1992. Apparently they left with tears in their eyes. The cult of Damenhur live and work in and around the complex, and while they shun non-prescribed drug use, the influence of psychedelic art is undeniable.
Since this is an ICRAVE blog, we can’t possibly speak about psychedelic spirituality without mentioning Burning Man. Every year, a massive sacred pavilion gets constructed in the middle of the desert and at the end of the festival it is burned to the ground and this year was no different. Many people (including ICRAVErs) have described it as a spiritual experience, and the amount of time and care put into it make it that much more powerful when it is destroyed.
International Church of Cannabis
In Denver, there is a church devoted to a more humble (and legal) substance. The members the religious nonprofit, Elevation Ministries, recently bought a former Lutheran church and converted it into a cathedral to cannabis. From the outside, the church looks fairly typical, but the interior was transformed by artist Kenny Scharf into a transcendent landscape filled with vivid colors and characters.
High up on a plateau above La Paz, a peculiar new form of vernacular architecture is being constructed. El Alto, the world’s highest city, is mostly populated by indigenous Bolivians, Aymara, and as the city’s economy flourishes, a demand for flamboyant homes and banquet halls has emerged. Freddy Mamani Silvestre, a civic engineer who is also Aymara, is happy to deliver and draws his influences from both traditional Bolivian weaving, ceramics, and dress as well as from science fiction. While not specifically tied to psychotropics, though the Aymara do have a tradition of ayahuasca practice, the result of Mamani’s work is bold, unique, and a complete rebuke of the regional colonial styles.