Mind Body Health & Politics
Mind Body Health & Politics
Everything is as it should be.

Everything is as it should be.

Hunt Priest's Journey to Founding Ligare and the Role of Psychedelics in Religion

As a clinical psychologist for over 50 years, I’ve heard and witnessed many stories of transformation. Few are as remarkable as that of Hunt Priest, an Episcopal priest I interviewed for my series on psychedelic-assisted therapy for end of life distress.

“My mother’s maiden name was Bishop,” Priest told me with a wry smile.

Between that and his last name, it seems God may have been trying to tell him something about his vocation.

However, Priest found his priestly calling relatively late, entering seminary in his late 30s. It was not until his 50s that he experienced a radical transformation of mind, body, and spirit through psychedelics.

In 2016, at age 52, Priest volunteered for a Johns Hopkins study exploring the effects of psilocybin on religious professionals.

“I was psychedelically naive,” he admitted, noting that he had been scared of LSD as a youth. “The 60s passed me by.”

Lying on a couch, staring at an egg-shell colored ceiling, Priest felt first discomfort, then a familiar “electrical current” in his thigh—recalling a feeling he had experienced during an intense, 5-day meditation retreat the year before. His guides in the study had laid hands on him, invoking a flood of electricity that seared through his body.

“There was a blockage, a backlog of stuck energy in my throat, like a bottleneck in the system,” he said.

The electrification intensified when they put their hands on his head and feet. Then the current broke through a blockage in his throat.

“When it broke open, I started speaking in tongues. The sounds just poured out of me.”

Speaking in tongues, Priest notes, is “A very Christian, Pentecostal experience,” but unusual in his own Episcopal Church.

He felt bathed in love and connection. In that liminal space, Priest glimpsed the nature of healing and energy transference activated in the ritual of prayer.

“So much of what I’d learned in seminary and talked about as a priest, I knew was real,” he said. “What happens when we pray with people and lay hands on them - that transfer of energy - it’s real.”

For Priest, the experience affirmed his faith in the endless mystery of the divine. At the same time, it shattered previous notions about who God is.

He emerged with eyes opened to the greater cosmos within - and all around us - murmuring the one truth his heart had always known: “Everything is okay. Everything is as it should be.”

I was struck by how this unassuming priest found solace in the spaces between church doctrine and radical openness that many never dare explore. His story highlights our shared longing for transcendence and healing in a crisis of modern spirituality.

More than that, it highlights our human need for guides on the path—someone walking ahead, lighting the way through darkness. For Hunt Priest, that light led to places far beyond what he ever imagined.

Read on our listen to hear the full story.

Golden light,

Dr. Richard L. Miller

Show notes:

  • How Hunt came to discover psychedelics. 9:59

    • Hunt participated in a research project with religious professionals, and was required to be "psychedelically naive".

    • He received a capsule of psilocybin as part of the study and had a religious experience.

  • The power of psychedelics. 11:53

    • Hunt describes his experience as "very religious" and "very embodied".

    • He had an experience of electrical current in his left thigh during a meditation retreat that was connected to his psilocybin experience.

  • The importance of good healthy religion. 15:23

    • Hunt believes that good healthy religion is about "story, myth, ritual, community".

    • He emphasizes the importance of spiritual exploration.

  • The importance of inclusion and cooperation among religions. 26:35

    • Hunt believes that the church can be a resource for people.

    • He emphasizes the importance of inclusion and cooperation among different world religions.

  • The role of psychedelics in end-of-life care. 45:21

    • Hunt discusses his vision for the use of psilocybin in end-of-life care.

    • He believes that hospice is not a peaceful, holy death.

  • Questioning pre-modern understanding of the cosmos. 38:50

    • Hunt questions pre-modern understanding of the cosmos.

    • He believes that the fear of dying is foundational and that the church is to be blamed for it.

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The Radical Calling of Hunt Priest

Hunt Priest never imagined that he would embark on a radical new calling in his mid-50s.

"I would never have thought I'd be doing what I'm doing right now, even 10 years ago," he said.

Quitting a stable job as rector of a parish church, he founded Ligare, a Christian psychedelic society, to share the lessons of his own transformation.

"That's a privileged place to be, to be able to quit one career and start another," Priest acknowledged, citing the Franciscan Friar, Fr. Richard Rohr as part of his inspiration for taking up a new career in life’s “second act.”

Priest’s journey highlights our human capacity for change. Through psychedelics, Priest discovered that we can awaken to new realities about ourselves and our world at any point. His mission is helping others do the same.

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Ligare aims to educate Christians and the public about the potential of psychedelics for healing and spiritual growth, fighting for their safe and legal use "for anyone who needs it."

Of relevance to my work, Priest sees psychedelics as a means for Christians to overcome their fear of death and embrace the "peaceful, holy death" promised by faith.

"The church is about healing - if not, we should shut our doors," Priest said.

Yet for centuries, the church has often failed to help followers die without fear – even instilling it them through an unbiblical view of Hell as eternal conscious torment.

“Why would God create something that God then submits to eternal torture? Why would you follow a God who is going to cast most of you into the fiery pit? It makes no sense.”

– Hunt Priest

According to Priest, psychedelic experiences allow a glimpse into realms beyond the physical, affirming the Christian idea that death has no dominion. He hopes to guide others to radical acceptance and release fear's grip. For Christians wary of psychedelics, Ligare provides a familiar framework and language for encounters with the numinous.

Priest stands by the traditions and teachings of the Episcopal Church – a branch of the Church of England, which founded in protest to the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church. While religious institutions of all stripes continue to be plagued by scandal and corruption, Priest is not ready to throw in the towel when it comes to religion.

"Not religious is not an option," Priest said. "Good, healthy religion is story, myth, ritual, community."

By rooting psychedelic practice in Christian tradition, Ligare allows the faithful to explore the furthest reaches of human consciousness without leaving their faith behind.

The word “Ligare” is latin for “to connect”, and makes up the second half of the word “religion.” Priest believes the crisis of modern spirit calls for reconnecting with the sacred in new ways. Yet change often comes from within, through guides who walk ahead while lighting the path. For Christians, Priest aims to be one of those guides - translating between doctrine and the radical openness psychedelics revealed to him. His calling is helping others behold the greater cosmos in which we live and move and have our being.

Psychedelic Revelation of Spiritual Truths

For Priest, psychedelics revealed spiritual truths already familiar to him as a priest, though never grasped so viscerally. Among them were the centrality of forgiveness, gratitude and community.

Forgiveness, taught Priest, is Christianity's moral bedrock. He pointed to Jesus on the cross, forgiving those who condemned him to a brutal death.

"That's our goal - to be people who, when terrible things happen, can forgive," he said.

Forgiveness of self proves equally elusive and imperative. Through psychedelics, Priest found grace to release regret and self-judgment accumulated over years.

Gratitude emerged for Priest as a spiritual discipline with power to transform our view of the world.

A practice of greeting each day with thanks, despite its sorrows, opens our eyes to the wonder of existence as a gift. For Christians, gratitude expresses faith in new life even in the face of death.

“Gratitude means waking up every morning and feeling thankful for being alive. If we could all do this, it would change how we see each other and ourselves in the world,” he observed.


Community, Priest said, makes experiences of God and growth possible by providing a "container" for transformation. Psychedelics foster connection and empathy, dissolving divisions. For Christians, shared ritual and story shape a sense of the sacred. Ligare aims to build community as an "access point" for psychedelic practice grounded in faith.

Priest's mission is sharing a vision of healing and wholeness through radical openness to God's presence - one that conquers even humanity's oldest fear. The story of Christ's passion, death and resurrection highlights psychedelic themes of surrender, loss of ego and rebirth into new life.

"The church has done a lot of good and a lot of terrible things," Priest admitted.

Yet at their heart, Christianity and psychedelic practice converge on a truth that "everything's okay, everything's as it should be." Forgiveness, gratitude and community unite to make real the promise of resurrection, leaving fear behind in the empty tomb.

Through psychedelics, Priest rediscovered the faith he already knew. His calling is helping others do the same, that they might behold at last what he has seen - and be not afraid.

A New Model for Transformation

Priest's calling is extraordinary, yet his mission is simple: sharing the hope of healing and spiritual renewal through radical openness to God. While psychedelics catalyzed Priest's vision, it is one he believes should resonate even with Christians wary of "drugs."

Priest doesn't envision psychedelics as a Sunday morning sacrament. Instead, he looks to retreats where Christians can encounter the divine, then integrate lessons into daily life.

"Education is our primary mission," Priest said, "providing resources for clergy, chaplains, spiritual directors and the public to participate legally and safely."

Through five-day retreats incorporating Bible study, prayer, meditation and Eucharist, Priest envisions a new model for transformation.

"Education is our primary mission," Priest said, "providing resources for clergy, chaplains, spiritual directors and the public to participate legally and safely."

"On day three, there might be a facilitated psilocybin experience," he said. "Psilocybin is not as controversial and only lasts six hours, so it doesn't take up the whole day [unlike LSD]."

The final days would be for reflecting on insights gained about oneself, God and others - and discerning how to live shaped by that vision.

"After any big mountaintop experience, you try to figure out how to live your life knowing what you've experienced," Priest said.

The Old Testament depicts revelatory encounters with God on mountain summits, followed by a return to daily life. So participants in Priest's retreats come down from psilocybin's heights and back to the world, equipped with lessons for the journey.

Priest aspires to offer psychedelic communion for any who seek it.

"This is not about profit, ownership or control," he said. "It's about bringing healing to anyone who wants it."

Through education and leading by example, Priest hopes to inspire more Christians to walk this path of risk and revelation.

In the end, Priest's life highlights the shared human longing for meaning, healing and transcendence of fear - and our ability to find solace, if we only they have eyes to see.

Mind Body Health & Politics
Mind Body Health & Politics
Dr. Richard Louis Miller is an American Clinical Psychologist, Founder of Wilbur Hot Springs Health Sanctuary, and broadcaster who hosts the Mind Body Health & Politics talk radio program from Mendocino County, California. Dr. Miller was also Founder and chief clinician of the nationally acclaimed, pioneering, Cokenders Alcohol and Drug Program. Dr. Miller’s new book, Psychedelic Medicine, is based on his interviews with the most acclaimed experts on the topic. Mind Body Health & Politics radio broadcast is known for its wide ranging discussions on political issues and health. The program’s format includes guest interviews with prominent national authorities, scientists, best-selling authors, and listener call-ins. The programs offer a forum and soundboard for listeners to interact with the show and its guests. We invite you to listen to the latest broadcasts below or visit our many archived programs. We’d love to hear from you on political and health issues!