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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


Altered States of Consciousness: A Philosophical Analysis

of Their Psychological, Ontological, and Religious Significance

Kerns, Thomas A. (1973).
Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University.






ISBN: None



Description: Unpublished doctoral dissertation, v + 301 pages.


Contents: Preface, introduction, 4 chapters, conclusion, 2 appendices: A. General Characteristics of Normal Consciousness and of Altered States of Consciousness, B. The Problem of Taxonomy of Conscious States, bibliography.


Excerpt(s): The position taken in this chapter will be that, while it may be true that certain types of ASC experience have psychological significance, that does not preclude the possibility that they also have authentic religious significance. A given ASC experience may be psychologically meaningful and at the same [time] meaningful in a religious context. (page 228)


... Some hold that psychedelics could never cause authentic religious experience because such truly religious experience "comes only from God, and not from pills." This position must be taken seriously, and it is for that reason researchers no longer say that psychedelics can cause religious experience; they say instead that psychedelics can occasion religious experience. This phrasing has the force of somehow leaving the matter in the hands of God, yet leaving human beings free to still seek out means of making themselves available for religious experience. The psychedelics may, in the end, perform just that function, viz., to make one temporarily more available for authentic religious experience. (pages 237-238)


In addition, Stace suggests what he terms "The principle of causal indifference." ...

The principle of causal indifference is this: If X has an alleged mystical experience P1 and Y has an alleged mystical experience P2, and if the phenomenological characteristics of P1 entirely resemble the phenomenological characteristics of P2 so far as can be ascertained from the descriptions given by X and Y, then the two experiences cannot be regarded as being two different kinds - for example, it cannot be said that one is a "genuine" mystical experience while the other is not - merely because they arise from dissimilar causal conditions.

The possibility of authentic or genuine religious experience arising out of psychedelic experience seems repugnant to some people, only because of an a priori prejudice against chemical agents. Other people may have an a priori prejudice against ascetic practices, or against praying in church, and might thus assert that any experience which arose out of ascetic practices or out of prolonged praying in a church could not be an authentic religious experience. (pages 238-239)


One may also, of course, look at the matter from the viewpoint of Teilhard de Chardin (and also R. M. Bucke). According to this viewpoint, the history of the evolution of organic matter is the history of the growth of consciousness. ... And yet there is no reason to think that noogenesis, the development of consciousness, has reached its conclusion and will develop no more. On the contrary. There is every indication, according to Teilhard, that consciousness is becoming increasingly more complex and increasingly more developed, heralding forms of consciousness yet undreamed of.

Furthermore, this noogenic evolutionary process is no longer only "accidental" but now (since the birth of self-consciousness) can become a self directed process. ...

The exploration of altered conscious states would seem to be a step in this direction, since it involves learning to employ a greater expanse of one's spectrum of consciousness, learning to tap other resources of consciousness that normally lie dormant. (pages 246-247)



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