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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

Changing Human Behavior: Current Therapies and Future Directions

McCabe, O. Lee. (1977)
Grune & Stratton: New York.

ISBN: 0-8089-1015-9

Description: Hardcover, xviii + 270 pages.

Contents: Preface, contributors, 14 chapters in 4 parts, each with a prologue: 1. The Human Relationship, 2. Behavior Analysis and Biofeedback, 3. Neurosurgical and Pharmacological Intervention, 4. Consciousness, Self-Awareness, and Human Potentials, author index, subject index.

Contributors: Perry Black, Joseph V. Brady, Eugene B. Brody, Joel Elkes, Charles B. Ferster, Roland Fischer, Cyril M. Franks, Eugene T. Gendlin, Alyce M. Green, Elmer E. Green, Thomas E. Hanlon, Gerald G. Jampolsky, Nathan S. Kline, O. Lee McCabe, John C. Rhead, Charles Savage, William H. Sweet, Charles T. Tart, Elliot S. Valenstein, Otto Allen Will, Irvin D. Yalom.

Excerpt(s): Drugs have played an important role in man's experience for thousands of years, first in relation to religious and ritualistic functions, later for a variety of secular reasons as well. Social, psychological, and technological factors set the stage for today's drug problem. It is becoming increasingly clear that the problem is not drugs, but the manner and purpose of their use. Life styles can be altered by drugs, positively as well as negatively. Pharmacological treatment can provide relief for abnormal psychological states and correct potential pathology. New knowledge is also opening vistas for enlarging man's creative and productive capacities. Man himself remains the key determinant.

From times immemorial man has been plunged in a pharmacological environment and even today all but the most primitive tribes make quite extensive use of drugs. The growing concern about such drug use is usually misplaced onto the drugs themselves, whereas it is clear that the problem is the manner and purpose of their use. Drugs, like art, music, and dance, originally served primarily religious and ritual functions. Among the surviving peyote cults of Mexico and the Ayuasqua users of Northern Peru, in the back country of Nepal, as well as in numerous other places, it is the spirit of the plant or of some deity summoned through the drug taking which is the purpose of its use. The circumstances are almost always ceremonial and the expectations of response quite explicit. As traditions deteriorate (as when a tribe dweller migrates to a cosmopolitan city or a foreign worker violates, and encourages others to violate, 'outworn restrictions) the drugs are utilized for other purposes. In fact, some of the drugs never make the transition because of violent and disagreeable side effects that are accepted within the ritual context but not otherwise. (page 152)

Induction of Transcendental States The recorded use of drugs in conjunction with religious or mystical ecstasy dates back at least as far as the Eleusinian mysteries and probably even earlier, to the time of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom. The actual beginnings are lost in protohistory. From hashish use by the hashashin (assassins) under Hasan Sabah, to the hallucinogenic candles burned at the witches' Sabbaths, to current use of LSD to induce psychedelic states, there has always been a great value placed on the use of drugs to effect major conversions of life patterns. Drugs may produce dissociation and perceptual pathology (including hallucinations), but obviously a great deal more is involved in determining the result. (page 157)

Provide Safe Short-Acting Intoxicants
At least under the present rituals and routines in which we live, it seems almost essential that periods of relief be provided. Safe, rapidly acting intoxicants that produce satisfactory dissociation and euphoria would be most valuable. The appeals of alcohol, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, etc., are at least in part that they do possess some degree of such activity. However, none of them serves the purpose ideally. It is quite likely that if acknowledgment were given of the desirability of such a pharmaceutical, it could be produced within a matter of a few years at most. (page 161)

Deepen Our Awareness of Beauty and Our Sense of Awe
By deepening our appreciation of the beauty which surrounds us and allowing us to experience afresh the awe of human existence, we can perhaps better discover-both emotionally and intellectually-the nature of the human venture. It is this type of appeal that has made drugs so familiar an adjunct to religious ecstasies. This usage should be developed with enough improvement in the drugs themselves to insure that the experiences be expansions of reality rather than deceptions into para-universes. ( Nathan S. Kline, Pharmacotherapy, page 165)

We submit that this technological, scientific, rational belief system has resulted in an overemphasis on the logical-analytical cognitive mode of the left hemisphere, which in turn has resulted in a rebound effect, characterized by a dramatic overcompensatory swing toward the cognitive mode of the right hemisphere. The symptoms of this rebound include a declining interest and participation in organized, prestructured science and religion and a corresponding upsurge in experiential religious pursuits such as those offered by Eastern meditation, hallucinogenic drug use, and revivalistic, emotional-ecstatic, participatory rites (e.g., Sufi dancing). This change reflects the view that God never died; He has been alive and well in the right hemisphere all the time. Other symptoms include increasing interest and involvement in the "esoteric sciences" and, more generally, all things magic and miraculous, such as astrology, numerology, palmistry, parapsychology, Tarot card and I-Ching readings, witchcraft, alchemy, and astral projection "out of the body."

This rebound effect may be interpreted as a response to a long history of right hemispheric deprivation. It is as if the person were aware of his deprivation-induced uneasiness but unaware of its precise source. He correctly diagnoses right hemispheric deprivation as part of the problem but simultaneously comes to the incorrect conclusion that all left hemispheric cognition is harmful. The conspicuous denial of all left hemispheric values may be an overcompensation resulting from such faulty reasoning.

It has been suggested that mankind tends to cluster according to preferred cognitive mode into two separate types of people. The scientific-technological-industrial revolution fostered the Aristotelian type with a functionally overdeveloped left hemisphere and a correspondingly atrophied right-while the cognitive backlash of this progression has created the Platonic hippie type of the counter culture with a functionally overdeveloped right hemisphere and an atrophied left. (John C. Rhead and Roland Fischer, Man's Two Cerebral Hemispheres and Their Implictions for Psychotherapy, page 189)

Psychedelic Psychotherapy: LSD-Type Drugs and the "Peak" Experience
Theory development within the psychedelic model has been sketchy. Basically, it is an empirically derived approach anchored in the assumption that LSD-type drugs, administered in a specific context and in sufficiently high dosages, can produce a profound, emotional, ego-transcendent, and presumably "corrective" experience in an individual properly prepared for the drug reaction. Psychedelic theory does not eschew the therapeutic relevance of the varied psychodynamic material which is the predominant focus of psycholytic drug sessions. However, the psychedelic model considers the transcendental experience to be the major fulcrum for permanent behavioral redirection. In nondrug contexts, this phenomenon has been referred to as a "peak," "immediate," "kairos "cosmic," or "conversion" experience. Frequently, the experience has been couched in religious terms (cf. "unio mystico," "samadhi," "moksha"), due largely to the fact that the insights derived therefrom often are perceived as noetic and ultimate, as answers to the fundamental questions of life with which the religions of the world have dealt. With the attainment of this state, the ego (the "I" or "me" who observes and experientially participates in the world of conventional reality) ceases to exist in its ordinary condition of separateness and selfhood. Instead, there is an experience of undifferentiated participation in a unified field which is perceived as the very ground of one's being and universe, beyond finite and temporal reality. The experience transcends the personal and mundane, thereby effecting a different perspective on old perceptions, attitudes, difficulties, etc. Human problems subsequently seem of low priority, or as totally illusory. The coping behaviors and reverberating emotions that were generated and maintained in the service of resolving personal difficulties are viewed as superfluous and are thereby rendered inoperative. The universe is viewed as if through a new medium. One becomes more aware of his relationship to the family of man, and all life forms are looked upon as participants in a collective journey of unfathomable but immense importance. Apparently, as a result of the unitive experience, even inanimate objects in the environment are regarded with a new affinity, for the individual may feel he has "participated with" these objects at a molecular, atomic, or otherwise common denominative level.

The question of the ultimate validity of such perceptions is best left to philosophers. The fact remains that for thousands of years, people have reported similar experiences-induced spontaneously or with various agents and maneuvers, e.g., plants, chemicals, fasting, breath control, meditation, prayer, etc.-and that in the wake of such experiences, dramatic changes in behavior have been observed to occur. In attempts to maximize the probability of positive changes resulting from the altered states of consciousness produced by LSD-type drugs, the psychedelic model of treatment evolved. Rather than being solely a function of drug effects, this model of treatment considers therapeutic behavioral change to be the reliable consequence of a spectrum of extra-drug variables, including the personalities of the patient and the therapist, the quality of preparation, and the emotional and physical atmosphere and surroundins -- generalIy termed "set and setting." The concept of "set and setting," particularly as it engenders in the patient a sense of trust in his therapist and in the procedure, is viewed as the most crucial ingredient of successful therapeutic outcome.

In the more generally accepted paradigm, a phase of conventional psychotherapy precedes the drug session that is expressly focused on the patient's strengths and resources as well as on his conflicts, defenses, and dynamics. The preparatory sessions are aimed at creating a confident receptivity to the impending drug experience. Given a positive working relationship between therapist and patient, the drug-induced peak experience hopefully consolidates whatever therapeutic gains have been achieved and provides the foundation for altered perceptions of self and others.

Extensive, systematic investigation at Spring Grove Hospital and the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center of the potential utility of psychedelic drugs in psychotherapy has demonstrated that these compounds have decided usefulness in expediting, facilitating, and enriching the process of psychotherapy in individuals with serious life adjustment problems. The limitations of the high-dose approach to psychedelic psychotherapy that relies on the reintegration powers of a single peak experience have become increasingly apparent. Findings to date indicate that such an experience, albeit conversion-like on occasion, is not the sine qua non of personality reintegration, nor does it ensure freedom from symptoms or permanence of behavioral change. Accordingly, the direction in which locally conceived psychedelic drug-assisted psychotherapy is moving is toward an integration of the psycholytic and psychedelic approaches, more recently termed, "extended psychedelic therapy." Positive drug experiences, which usually are undervalued in psycholysis (and psychoanalysis), are being elicited in this new approach with multiple high-dose (and, at times, low-dose) drug sessions, encompassing areas of traditional psychodynamics as well as perinatal and peak experiences and substantially contributing to the unfolding of meaningful phenomena in the therapeutic process. The controversial assumption of the psychedelic paradigm that enduring personality change can occur despite the bypassing of significant psychodynamic conflict becomes a moot point with this approach. Recognizing the therapeutic potential of the peak experience (while at the same time relinquishing the near magical goal of the one-session model), this new therapeutic hybrid at once incorporates the strengths and eliminates the weaknesses of its respective components. (McCabe, Lee O. and Thomas E. Hanlon, The Use of LSD-Type Drugs in Psychotherapy: Progress and Promise)

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