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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

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science.

Grof, Stanislav, with Marjorie Livingston Valier. (Editor). (1984).
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

ISBN:0-87395-848-9 hardcover
0-87395-849-7 paperback
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, biographical notes.

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 Association.

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 19)

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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