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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

The Adventure of Self-Discovery: Dimensions of Consciousness and New Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Inner Exploration.

Grof, Stanislav. (1988).
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

ISBN:0-88706-541-4 paperback
0-88706-540-6 hardcover

Description: Paperback, xviii + 321.

Contents: Introduction, 2 parts divided in numerous sections, 1. Dimensions of Consciousness: New Cartography of the Human Psyche, 2. New Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Inner Exploration, Appendix: Psychedelics in Self-Exploration and psychotherapy, Appendix b: Table of Basic Perinatal Matrices, bibliography, index.

Excerpt(s): Several profound personal experiences with psychedelic substances and clinical observations of their effects in psychiatric patients attracted my attention early in my professional career to the remarkable healing and transformative potential of nonordinary states of consciousness. Systematic exploration of the theoretical significance and practical value of these states has been the central focus on my research for over three decades.

During the first twenty years, this work focused almost exclusively on various psychedelic substances; it was carried out initially in several research facilities in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and later in The Maryland Psychiatric Research Center in Baltimore, Maryland. This work convinced me that Psychedelics-if used properly and judiciously under expert guidance--represent extraordinary tools for psychiatry and psychology. Instead of inducing drug-specific states like other pharmaca, they function more like unspecific catalysts or amplifiers of the unconscious processes. By increasing the energetic niveau of the human psyche, they reveal its deep contents and intrinsic dynamics.

Clinical work with LSD and other psychedelics thus is not the study of a powerful and exotic psychoactive substance or a group of compounds, but probably the most promising avenue of research of the human psyche and nature. (pages xi-xii)

Among the most interesting archetypal experiences are found insights into their esoteric meaning. Experiences of this kind support the understanding of symbols suggested by Carl Gustav Jung. In contrast to Sigmund Freud's interpretation of symbols as representing something already known but objectionable, Jung saw symbols as the best possible representations of something that belongs to a higher level of consciousness and cannot be in principle expressed in any other way. Far form being cryptic statements about simple biological functions, universal symbols refer to complex transcendental realities. What Freud described as symbols--cryptic allusions to elements on the same level of consciousness--can best be referred to as signs.

In nonordinary states of consciousness, visions of various universal symbols can play a significant role even I experiences of individuals who previously had no interest in mysticism or were strongly opposed to anything esoteric. These visions tend to convey instant intuitive understanding of the various levels of meaning of these symbols and generate a deep interest in the spiritual path. The most frequent of these symbols that I have observed in my research were the cross, the quadrated circle, the Indo-Iranian swastika in both its ominous and peace-bestowing from, the ancient Egyptian ankh (Nile cross or crux ansata), the lotus blossom, the Taoist yin-yang, the Hindu sacred phallus (Shiva lingam) and vulva (yoni), the diamond and other precious stones, the Buddhist wheel, and the six-pointed star, both in its Hebrew form of the Star of David and its Tantric form as the symbol of the union of the male and female energy.

As a result of experiences of this kind, subjects can develop accurate understanding of various complex esoteric teachings. In some instances, persons unfamiliar with the Kabbalah had experiences described in the Zohar and Sepher Yetzirah and obtained surprising insights into Kabbalistic symbols. Others were able to describe the meaning and function of intricate mandalas used in the Tibetan Vajrayana and other Tantric systems. Subjects who had previously ridiculed astrology, alchemy, and the ancient forms of divination, such as the I Ching and Tarot, suddenly discovered their deeper meaning and found genuine appreciation of their metaphysical relevance. Similarly, such illuminating insights can suddenly open skeptical individuals to Gnostic teachings or the Pythagorean theories of geometrical solids and of the numerical order in the universe. (pages 138-139)

Modern consciousness research and experiential psychotherapy have thrown entirely new light on the problem of spirituality and religion and have returned to the human psyche its cosmic status. In full agreement with the Jungian perspective, spirituality or numinosity appears to be an intrinsic property of the deeper dynamics of the psyche. Whenever the process of experiential self-exploration reaches the perinatal and the transpersonal levels, it leads to spiritual awakening, and the individual becomes interested in the mystical quest. I have seen many highly educated persons undergo this process in our psychedelic training program and in holotropic workshops, and have yet to see a single individual, including atheist, Marxists, and positivistic scientists, whose scepticism and cynicism about spirituality would survive such an experience.

The form of spirituality I am referring to is fully compatible with any level of intelligence, education, and specific knowledge of the information amassed by such disciplines as physics, biology, medicine, and psychology. None of the sophisticated subjects I have worked with found any conflicts between their spiritual experiences and the information they had about the physical world. However, they often had to give up certain undefendable generalizations and unfounded metaphysical assumptions that had been part of their academic education. There exists these days extensive literature suggesting that many revolutionary advances in modern science points to a radically new worldview. Although we are still far from a comprehensive synthesis, significant elements of this emerging paradigm show far-reaching convergence with the worldview of the great mystical traditions.

However, it is important to emphasize that this does not necessarily mean convergence of science and religion. The spirituality that emerges spontaneously at a certain stage of experiential self-exploration should not be confused with the mainstream religions and their beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, and rituals. Many of them lost entirely the connection with their original source, which is a direct visionary experience of transpersonal realities. They are mainly concerned with such issues as power, money, hierarchies, and ethical, political, and social control. It is possible to have a religion with very little spirituality, complete absence thereof, or even one that interferes with genuine spiritual quest. (pages 268-269)

This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby

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Inside Entheogen Chrestomathy Section
Chrestomathy Index
Title Index
Author Index

About CSP
Purpose and Results

Religious Leaders
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The Mystical Core
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