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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

Christian Mysticism: The Future of a Tradition.

Egan, Harvey D. (1984).
New York: Pueblo Publishing Co.

ISBN: 0-916134-63-6

Description: Paperback, xviii + 438 pages.

Contents: Foreword by William Johnston, preface, 9 chapters, chapter notes, index.

Excerpt(s): In the Latin Church, however, the word "mysticism" was infrequently used until the late Middle Ages. Broadly speaking, earlier Church Fathers-Augustine, Bernard, for example-used the word "contemplation" for what we call "mysticism." Still, in the Christian mystical tradition "mystical theology" gradually came to mean the knowledge of God attained by direct, immediate, and ineffable contemplation. It was distinguished from both "natural theology" (knowledge of God obtained from creatures) and "dogmatic theology" (knowledge of God received from revelation). It must be emphasized, however, that the best of Christian tradition never reduced mysticism to the psychological level nor dissociated it from its biblical, liturgical, and sacramental basis. (page 3)

... When the lives of Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, and those recorded by drug researchers are compared to the lives of the great Christian mystics, it is even more striking how paltry psychedelic transformation is when compared to Christian mystical transformation. (page 345)

To summarize, this author contends that most of the claims made for the mystical effects of psychedelic drugs are bogus. Most psychedelic experiences are nothing more than low-grade, destructive alternations of consciousness that diminish consciousness, integrity, and personality. They should be called what they are: regressive, and often pernicious, pseudo-mystical experiences. (page 345)

Some psychedelic experiences undoubtedly have religious implications, however, and might be the catalyst for authentic religious conversion. If well-timed beatings or even being struck by a cannon ball (as in the case of St. Ignatius) can be the occasion for Zen enlightenment and Christian conversion, perhaps drugs can be the same "trigger." They may function in the same way that alcohol can cause a person to sink into such misery that he is forced to rethink and do something about his life.

Some psychedelic experiences resemble genuine Christian mystical experiences in the same way that self-induced and demonically induced experiences likewise resemble them. Infused contemplation, the devil, the pathological self, and psychedelic drugs all have the ability to awaken deep levels of the psyche and to bring about secondary or charismatic mystical phenomena. But the same discernment that genuine Christian mystics have always used to differentiate God-induced phenomena from phenomena induced by other factors must be applied to psychedelic drug experiences. (page 346)

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