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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 My Mind, Among Others.

Leary, Timothy. (1982).
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice­Hall.

ISBN: 0-13-127811-8 hardcover
0-13-127829-0 paperback
Description: First edition, xiv + 274 pages.

Contents: Introduction: 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. Humanistic 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 Humanism, index.

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 man. (jacket)

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 scientific. ...

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 leaders? ...

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)

Compilation copyright © 1995 – 2001 CSP

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