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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.


When I started this annotated bibliography of books, dissertations, and topical issues of journals about religion and psychoactive sacraments, including books on related topics which had something significant to say about entheogens, I expected to find several dozen, not many more. Soon I was hoping to reach 100 citations. This edition contains over 500 references, and additional books wait to be explored.

I also expected that after the first few positions about entheogens were stated, any additional books would merely rephrase the earlier ideas. Wrong again! To me the most fascinating discovery is the diverse variety of comments, perspectives, topics, insights, and arguments that entheogenology, if one can call it that, engenders in clergy, theologians, philosophers, and scholars in many fields. Once again, I had struck a richer vein than I had anticipated.

Unlike most research databases which store empirical observations (usually as numbers and statistics), Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments is a reservoir of ideas--a concept base. By collecting samples of entheogenology under one roof, I hope this chrestomathy will vitalize additional study that may someday grow into new scholarly and scientific specialties.

Additionally, I hope this collection will be useful to:

  • students of religious studies — theologians, philosophers and historians of religion, clergy, seminarians, pastoral counselors, and laity;
  • social scientists — especially psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists;
  • policy specialists — legislators and legislative policy analysts, public policy and political experts, legal analysts;
  • health professionals — physicians and nurses, pharmacists, mental health professionals, hospice caregivers;
  • the general public — news media and people whose spiritual development is an important direction in their lives.
As a whole, what can one say about religion and psychoactive sacraments?

In my view, this guide firmly establishes that:

  • theologians, clergy, scholars, and laypersons see the topic of psychoactive sacraments as important and worthy of discussion;
  • disagreement, discussion, and debate exists over the questions:
    Is there legitimate religious use for psychoactive sacraments, and if so, what is appropriate?;
  • the partisans' arguments are theological, religious, and ecclesiastical in nature, i.e., they cite religious doctrine and holy books, and they refer to historic and contemporary religious organizations and practices;
  • therefore, this is a partisan religious issue.

Should governments take an official position in a partisan religious debate?

Although the current drug laws were not created with the intention of interfering with religion, as those laws apply to entheogens, they tread on the freedom of conscience of some people and substantially burden the free exercise of religion. This traps governments at all levels in the precarious position of taking sides in a religious debate.

Thomas B. Roberts
DeKalb, Illinois
Faculty Home Page
June, 1997

INTRODUCTION—Hruby It seems that the West has been slowly reawakening to the presence of the spiritual aspect of life. These transpersonal growth pains commonly seem to focus on spiritual manifestations that are external rather than internal, for example, the recent fascination with angels and miracles. Instead of concentrating on the possibilities of the spiritual outside of ourselves the entries in this Guide stress the relationship with the spiritual that is developed from within.

This inner relationship has been cultivated by many shamanic and spiritual/religious traditions over millennia using a great variety of methods. One of these includes the use of psychoactive plants which are often treated as sacred sacraments. These substances, when used properly, can engender mystical/spiritual experiences that are life changing. From the testimony present in many of the books in this Guide, the illegal status of such substances seems detrimental to the continuation of this spiritual reawakening of Western peoples of the Earth.

This Guide illustrates that what is outside is also within. The two, although they may seem separate, are part and parcel of the same Oneness. A wise teacher, Betty Bosdell, once counseled me that there are no secrets in life; everything which is in the other is also in me and all that is within me is also in the other. Once one realizes this basic truth, fear loses its grip. And I ask you, if hate is based on fear, What would this world be like without fear?

Let each of us look to awaken the Spirit within; let each be free to choose her own method or methods for that awakening, be it meditation, contemplative prayer, yoga, dancing, chanting, fasting, or psychoactive sacraments; and let no government hamper the evolution of the Spirit in humanity.

Paula Jo Hruby
Chicago Heights, Illinois
August, 1995

Title Terminology chres·tom·a·thy (kres tom´ uh thee), n., pl. -thies.
a collection of selected literary passages, often by one author and esp. from a foreign language.

From H.L. Mencken. A Mencken Chrestomathy (New York: Alfred Knopf, Inc., 1949):

In my title I revive the word chrestomathy in its true sense of "a collection of choice passages from an author or authors," and ignore the late addition of "especially one compiled to assist in the acquirement of a language." In the latter significance the term is often used by linguists, and some of the chrestomathies issued by them in recent years -- for example, Dr. Edgar H. Sturtevant's "Hittite Chrestomathy" of 1935 -- are works of capital importance. But I see no reason why they should have a monopoly on what is not, after all, their invention. Nor do I see why I should be deterred by the fact that, when this book was announced, a few newspaper smarties protested that the word would be unfamiliar to many readers, as it was to them. Thousands of excellent nouns, verbs and adjectives that have stood in every decent dictionary for years are still unfamiliar to such ignoramuses, and I do not solicit their patronage. Let them continue to recreate themselves with whodunits, and leave my vocabulary and me to my own customers, who have all been to school. Chrestomathy is actually more than a century old in English, which makes it quite as ancient as scientist, which was invented by William Whewell in 1840, or anesthetic, which was proposed by Oliver Wendell Holmes I in 1846. In Greek, where it was contrived by joining chrestos, meaning useful, and mathein, meaning to learn, it goes back to Proclus Disdochos, who used it in Athens in the year 450.

Editorial Conventions This chrestomathy lists and describes books (not articles or other media) which address the topic of entheogens, psychoactive plants and chemicals used within a religious context. That context may be either intentional or accidental.

The books are almost exclusively in the English language and the emphasis is on North America. Thus peyote is covered, but the vast research in world-wide anthropology is under-represented and deserves a guide of its own. A separate guide to the legal issues and cases is also needed. In future editions we would like to list similar bibliographies in foreign languages.

When we started, we intended to keep each entry to one page in length, but some books and dissertations are so interesting and relevant to this guide's topic that their entries are 2 or 3 pages long. Because they have more than one author, anthologies are especially likely to extend beyond the 1-page standard.

In most cases we have kept the authors' and publishers' punctuation, style, and spelling. Because of this, some words are spelled two ways: marijuana/marihuana, mescalin/mescaline, and peyote/peyotl are examples. We have corrected obvious spelling errors. Occasionally, you will taste a British flavour.

Notation for footnotes, superscript, and in-line citations e.g. (Huxley, 1954) are omitted unless an author's name is required for textual flow.

The quotation immediately following Excerpt(s) may be the first word of a paragraph or may come from within it. Ellipsis points (...) indicate omitted text. Usually, this is text we have omitted, but occasionally the ellipsis appears in the original text. When an author's line of reasoning extends over several pages, we have strung together excerpts as one extended quotation by using ellipses, and the page parenthesis following the quotation may cover several pages.

The date of a book is taken from the actual book we used, so it might not be the first date of publication. Likewise, the description portrays the book we consulted, which may vary in other editions and states.

We hope to expand this guide in future editions, so if you know of a book which you'd like us to include, please leave a note.

EPILOGUE After reading the preceding entries,
any sensible person would have to agree:
the topics discussed here deserve
careful and thorough investigation.

Compilation copyright © 1995 – 2001 CSP