Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science.
Grof, Stanislav, with Marjorie Livingston Valier. (Editor). (1984).
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Description: Hardcover, xii + 285 pages.
Contents: Preface, 22 chapters divided into 3 parts: 1. Introduction, 2.
Ancient Spiritual Traditions, 3. New Paradigms in Western Science,
Contributors: Cecil E. Burney, Fritjof Capra, Alyce M. Green, Elmer E.
Green, Bede Griffiths, Stanislav Grof, Dastoor Minocher Homji, Yashpal
Jain, Jack Kornfield, Swami Kripananda, Ajit Mookerjee, Swami
Muktananda, Claudio Naranjo, Joseph Chilton Pearce, Swami
Prajnananda, Karl Pribram, Rupert Sheldrake, June Singer, Karan Singh,
Swami Sivananda Radha, Mother Teresa, Frances Vaughan
Note: Papers presented at a conference held in Bombay, India, February
1982, which was organized by the International Transpersonal
Excerpt(s): Several decades of psychedelic research have also
generated data of critical importance for the new paradigm. Various
cultural groups throughout the world have long used plants with
powerful psychedelic properties for ritual and healing purposes. The
legendary plant and potion soma played a critical role in the development
of Vedic religion and philosophy. Pre-Columbian Central American
cultures used a broad spectrum of psychedelic plants; the best known
of these are the Mexican cactus peyote, the sacred mushrooms
teonanacatl, and the morning glory seeds, or ololiuqui. South American
Indians of the Amazon have used for centuries decoctions from the
jungle liana yage or ayahuasca. In Africa, many tribes know the secret of
the psychedelic plant eboga and ingest it in smaller doses as a stimulant,
and in larger amounts as a sacrament in their rituals. The tomb of a
shaman found during the excavations of The New Stone Age settlement
from the sixth millennium B.C. in Catal Huyuk in Turkey contained plants
that according to pollen analysis were specimens with psychedelic
properties. Preparations from several varieties of hemp have been
smoked and ingested under various names (hashish, charas, bhang,
hanja, kif, marijuana) in the Oriental countries, in Africa, and in the
Caribbean area for recreation, pleasure, healing, and ritual purposes.
They have been important sacraments for such diverse groups as the
Indian Brahmans, several orders of the sufis, African natives, ancient
Skythians, and the Jamaican Rastafarians. According to recent
research, ergot alkaloids similar to LSD were used in the famous
Eleusinian mysteries in ancient Greece. Both Plato and Aristotle were
initiates of these mysteries and their systems of thought were deeply
influenced by their experiences in them. Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann's
sensational discovery of the semi-synthetic psychedelic LSD inspired a
wave of interest in psychopharmacology. The alkaloids responsible for
the effects of most of the above sacred plants have now been isolated
in pure form as mescaline, psilocybin, psilocin, lysergamid, bufotenin,
dimethyltryptamine, tetrahydrocannabinol, harmin, and ibogain.
It has become evident that the Western model of psyche, with its
narrow biographical orientation, is inadequate to account for a wide
spectrum of phenomena occurring in psychedelic states. Under the
catalyzing influence of these remarkable psychoactive drugs,
experimental subjects have experienced not only autobiographical
sequences, but also powerful confrontations with birth and death, and
an entire gamut of phenomena that have been named transpersonal.
The rediscovery of these experiences and the recognition of their
heuristic relevance has been one of the major incentives for the
development of a new movement in psychology -- the transpersonal
orientation. (pages 17-18)
It is even more remarkable that experiences accurately portraying
various aspects of the phenomenal world can alternate in unusual states
of consciousness with experiences that have no basis in what is called
in the West objective reality such as archetypal visions of deities or
demons and mythological sequences from different cultures. Even these
experiences can impart entirely new information; they reflect accurately,
and frequently in great detail, the mythologies of the cultures involved.
The nature and quality of this information is typically far beyond the
educational level or even intellectual capacity of the individual involved.
Some of the most encompassing transpersonal experiences are of a
cosmic and transcendental nature; here belongs identification with the
Universal Mind or Cosmic Consciousness (Sacchidananda) or the
experience of the Supracosmic and Metacosmic Void (Sunyata). (page
The most exciting aspect of all the above revolutionary
developments in modern Western science -- astronomy, physics,
biology, medicine, information and systems theory, depth psychology,
parapsychology and consciousness research -- is the fact that the new
image of the universe and of human nature increasingly resembles that
of the ancient and Eastern spiritual philosophies--the different systems
of yoga, the Tibetan Vajrayana, Kashmir Shaivism, Zen Buddhism,
Taoism, Kabbalah, Christian mysticism, or gnosticism. It seems that we
are approaching a phenomenal synthesis of the ancient and the modern
and a far-reaching integration of the great achievements of the East and
the West that might have profound consequences for the life on this
planet. (page 21)
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