Make a list of nineteen people you know. If none of them are hallucinating right now, then it’s you. That’s the conclusion of research by the World Health Organization which found that 1 in 20 people have hallucinated in their lifetime without the benefit of drugs or schizophrenia. If you’re a nun, another researcher says your praying brain looks exactly like that of a psychedelics user.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, asked over 31,000 people in 18 countries who did not have psychotic disorders if they had ever heard voices or seen things that didn’t exist or if they had experienced a delusion. Six percent said yes to having at least one non-drug hallucination in their lifetime, with women having more than men, unemployed more than employed and unmarried more than married.
Study co-author Dr. John McGrath from the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia was surprised at the results.
We used to think that only people with psychosis heard voices or had delusions, but now we know that otherwise healthy, high-functioning people also report these experiences.
Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, has this advice for people having hallucinations:
What you want is to speak with someone who’s knowledgeable about it to make sure that this temporary loss of contact with reality is brief, and not due to other causes.
Other causes … like being a nun? Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg has used brain imaging to study the brains of nuns in prayer and found that the images of brain activities, especially blood flow to certain areas, were very similar to those in psychedelic drug users. He also found that the changes in the brain caused by both prayers and psychedelics were permanent.
So, it’s normal to hallucinate and praying like a nun can give you a psychedelic experience. If Pope Francis spins this the right way, the convents will soon be filled with nuns singing “Lucy in the Sky With Amens.”