Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Changing My Mind, Among Others.
Leary, Timothy. (1982).
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall.
Description: First edition,
xiv + 274 pages.
- ISBN: 0-13-127811-8 hardcover
- 0-13-127829-0 paperback
An Experiment in Intellectual
Archeology, 30 chapters divided into 5 parts: 1. Essays
in Nuclear Psychology (Human movements and collisions in spacetime),
2. How to Change Your Brain, 3.
Interpretations of the Religious Experience (Your Brain is God),
4. The Politics
of Humanism (The successful scientist always upsets the hive),
5. The Future of Scientific
Excerpt(s): Now, in Changing
My Mind, Among Others Dr. Leary has selected excerpts from
his own lifetime writings, putting each one in its reallife
context. ... Leary offers 25 years' worth of essays, chapters,
and transcripts reflecting his eclectic views on the nature of
In 1966, the HarvardMillbrook
psychedelic researchers decided to exploit the religious metaphor
in order to encourage people to take charge of their own brain
functions. Our own commitments and rolemodels were always
But wisely or foolishly, we got scared off this
scientific approach. After being expelled from Harvard, Mexico,
Antigua, and Dominica in four months (MayAugust 1963), we
cravenly decided that the authorities were not ready for the 21stcentury
concept: Every Citizen a Scientist. So we fell back to the familiar
historical turf upon which most earlier freedom movements had
fought the battle-religion.
Though it might be against the law for
responsible American citizens to use psychoactive plants and drugs
to change their brains, surely 400 years of Western
civilization must support the right of Americans to worship the
divinity within, using sacraments that worked for them. We studied
the meaning of the word sacrament, usually defined as something
that relates one to the divinity. One of the most offensive, flaky
characteristics of the 1960's acidusers was their compulsion
to babble about new visions of God, new answers to the Ultimate
Secret of the Universe. For thousands of years individuals whose
brains were activated had chattered about "ultimate secrets"
in the context of mysticalpersonal religious revelation.
We were forced to recall that for most of human history, science
and philosophy were the province of religion. And most significantly,
all references to what we would now call the psychoneurological
were described in religious terms.
Our political experiences at Harvard also pushed
us in the direction of the religious metaphor. When it became
known on campus that a group of psychologists was producing revelatory
brainchange, we expected that astronomers and biologists
would come flocking around to learn how to use this new tool for
expanding awareness. But the scientists, committed to external
manipulations, were uninterested. Instead we were flooded by inquiries
from the Divinity School!
I must confess that I was uneasy about falling back
on the religious paradigm. For 40 years I had been conditioned
to respond negatively to the word "God." Any time someone
started shouting about God, I automatically expected to be conned
or threatened by some semiliterate hypocrite. We tried to avoid
this insidious buzzword. God knows, at one point we talked about
LSD as a "brain vitamin" or dietary supplement-but this
more accurate label sounded dodgy. Selfcontrol of one's
diet was not to become respectable until the holistic medicine
of the 1970's. ... The only way in which consciousnesschange
experiences could even be discussed was in terms of philosophicreligious.
Even Buddhism, an atheist method of psychological selfcontrol,
allowed itself to be classified as a religion.
So religion it was. I recall the moment of decision:
During a wild, allnight LSD session in our
mansion in the Alpert
came up to me, eyes popping, and announced, "The East! We
must go back to the wisdom of the East!" Go back?
The lawyers agreed. There is apparently
nothing in the Bill of Rights to protect scientific freedom. The
Constitution was written in a horseandbuggy pretechnological
era. But there was the First Amendment protection of Freedom of
Religion. After all, Catholic priests were allowed
Communion during Prohibition. So I agreed to the religious posture
on the conditions that there was to be no kneeling down, no dogmas,
no holy men, no followers, no churches, no public
worship, no financial offerings ... (pages 85 86)
This chapter [The Eight
Crafts of God: Towards an Experiential Science of Religion] began
as an invited address delivered at the 1963 meetings of the American
Psychological Association. The inviting group was the Association
of Lutheran Psychologists, who had taken a night off from the
more secular events of the convention to listen to some comments
about "The Religious Experience: Its Production and Interpretation."
I have been working on this essay for the last 18
years, refining and updating. It is my summa theologica in that
it attempts to translate classic issues of theology into the language
of modern science. It may be the first comprehensive philosophy
to deal with evolution, both species and individual, both past
and future. (page 87)
Well, whenever you hear anyone sounding off on internal
freedom and consciousnessexpanding foods and drugs-whether
pro or con-check out these questions:
1. Is your expert talking from direct experience,
or simply repeating cliches? Theologians and intellectuals
often deprecate "experience" in favor of "moral
imperative." Most often this classic debate becomes a case
of "experience" versus "inexperience."
2. Do his words spring from a philosophicscientific
view? Is he motivated by basic questions, or is he protecting
his own socialpsychology investment? Is he riskily struggling
toward allout sainthood, or maintaining hive conformity?
3. How would his argument sound if heard in an African
jungle hut, a ghat on the Ganges, in Periclean Athens, in a Tibetan
monastery, or in a bull session led by any one of the great religious
4. How would the debate sound if you had a week
to live, and were less committed to mundane issues? Our research
group receives many requests for consciousnessexpanding
experiences from terminal patients.
5. Does the point of view open up, or close down?
Are you being urged to explore, experience, join a collaborative
voyage of discovery? Or are you being pressured to close off,
protect your gains, play it safe, accept the authority of someone
who knows best?
6. Does your psychedelic expert use terms that are
positive, prolife, inspiring, based on faith in your potential?
Or does he betray a mind obsessed by danger, material concern,
terrors, administrative caution, or essential distrust in your
potential? There is nothing in life to fear, no philosophic game
can be lost.
7. If he is against what he calls "artificial
methods of illumination," ask him what constitutes the natural.
Words? Rituals ? Tribal customs? Primetime TV?
8. If he is against biochemical assistance, where
does he draw the line? Does he use nicotine? Alcohol? Penicillin?
Vitamins? Conventional sacramental substances?
9. If you advisor is against the neurotechnology
of drugs, what is he for? If he forbids you the psychedelic key
to revelation, what does he offer instead? (pages 109110)
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