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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

Cognitive Models and Spiritual Maps: Interdisciplinary Explorations of Religions Experience

Andresen, Jensine, and Forman, Robert K. C. (editors) (2000)
Thorverton, UK. and Bowling Green, OH: Imprint Academic.

ISBN: 0907845-13-4 paperback

Description: Paperback, 287 pages.

Contents: About authors, Editorial Introduction, 10 chapters/articles in 2 unnumbered parts: 1. Experiential and Experimental Studies, Part 2. Maps and Analyses.

Contributors: Jensine Andresen, James Austin, Eugene D'Aquili, Christian de Quincey, Arthur Deikman, Robert Forman, Stanley Krippner, Brian Lancaster, Andrew Newberg, Robert Sharf, Phillip Wiebe, Ken Wilber.

Note: Special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies: Controversies in Science & The Humanities. Vol. 7, No. 11-12. November/December 2000.

Editorial Introduction: Methodological Pluralism in the Study of Religion
by Jensine Andresen and Robert K. C. Forman

This special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies throws down a methodological challenge to the field of Religious Studies. ... we challenge this prevailing approach by presenting readers with articles analysing religion, spiritual experience, not solely as cultural phenomena, but as phenomena that can be related to human physiology, and a kind of pan-human technology of human spiritual development.

This issue offers new and exciting approaches whereby our understanding of religion and religious experiences may be enhanced by reference to methods stemming from cognitive science, neuropsychology, developmental psychology, philosophy of mind, anthropology, and the myriad other fields that have joined together to investigate the phenomena of consciousness. (page 7)

Also constructively, this volume attempts to forge a truce in the twenty-years' methodological war that has been waging between constructivists and perennialists in the study of religion. To summarize each side's historical position briefly, constructivists (i.e., Katz, Proudfoot) presented religious experience as wholly constructed from the fabric of pre-existing materials. Perennial psychologists (i.e., Forman, Barnard, Rothberg, etc.) claimed that mystical experiences, regardless of the tradition involved, share certain common underlying experiences, notably the so-called Pure Consciousness Event and several more advanced mystical states. (page 8)

Four Aspects of the Study of Religion

How might we typologize the different elements of a more complete study of religion? We suggest that there are four discrete but interrelated aspects to a thoroughgoing methodology for religion. Let's look at each one of them in turn.

A. Doctrinal Analysis - Understanding God's message as revealed through human language and concepts. ...

B. Social Expression - Understanding society's interpersonal, cultural and religious interactions. ...

C. Subjective Experience - A study of the felt characteristics or peculiarities of religious experiences. ...

Although some experiences, notably the non-dualistic and 'pure consciousness' varieties, seem largely, or perhaps even entirely, unconstructed by cultural language and background, other experiences see more shaped by the background. What, then, is the relationship between formed and unformed experiences? ...

D. Scientific (Objective) Research - A variety of objective studies performed on religious adepts and believers. (pages 10 - 13)

Meditation Meets Behavioural Medicine: The Story of Experimental Research on Meditation
by Jensine Andresen

This paper juxtaposes Asian spiritual narratives on meditation alongside medical and scientific narratives that emphasize meditation's efficacy in mitigating distress and increasing well-being. (page 17)

A Functional Approach to Mysticism
by Arthur J. Deikman

Because mysticism is associated with religion it has long been regarded as inimical to science, an enemy of the search for objective truth, not to be credited as a discipline through which knowledge of reality can be gained. At least, that seems to be the official attitude that pervades scientific publications and scientific meetings, even at the present time when quantum theory has made consciousness a legitimate subject for research.

In point of fact, informal inquiry reveals that many scientists have had experiences they would describe as transcendent, as going beyond familiar sensory dimensions and providing a taste of the unified reality of which mystics speak. They don't talk about it in public but will do so in private. (page 75)

The Epistomology and Technologies of Shamanic States of Consciousness
by Stanley Krippner

Shamanism can be described as a group of techniques by which its practitioners enter the 'spirit world', purportedly obtaining information that is used to help and to heal members of their social group. The shamans' epistemology, or ways of knowing, depended on deliberately altering their conscious state and/or heightening their perception to contact spiritual entities in 'upper worlds', 'lower worlds' and 'middle earth' (i.e., ordinary reality). (page 93)

Shamanic eclecticism and syncretization was apparent in my interviews with Maria Sabina, who put her epistemology into concrete terms. At the time of our interviews, dona Maria had retired from active shamanizing, but she told me, 'When someone came to me for help, we would eat the mushrooms together. Jesus Christ is in the mushrooms and he revealed to us the solution to the problem.' Wasson observed that the mythical origin of dona Maria's veladas dates back to the time when Piltzintecuhtli, the 'Nobel Infant', received the sacred plants as a gift from Quetzalcoatl. Dona Maria's references to Jesus represent a synthesis of the Christian and pre-Christian religions. (page 99)

Those shamans who enter altered states employ various technologies. These include ingesting mind-altering plants (e.g., Maria Sabina), chanting (again, dona Maria), concentrating, dancing, drumming, jumping, fasting, running, visualizing, participating in sexual activity, refraining from sexual activity, engaging in lucid dreaming, and going without sleep. Rarely is one procedure used in isolation. For example, mind-altering plants are often ingested in the evening; sleep deprivation, restricted night-time vision, and accompanying music often enhance the experience's profundity. Song and dance were important elements in ritual, and probably preceded it. Naturally occurring altered states, such as dreaming and daydreaming, may also be utilized. Whitley suggests that one of the functions of rock and cave image-making may have been to record the images elicited in shamanic states of consciousness. (page 102)

Critical Reflections on Christic Visions
by Phillip H. Wiebe

This paper discusses Christic visions as a significant kind of religious experience requiring explanation. (page 117)

Waves, Streams, States and Self: Further Considerations for an Integral Theory of Consciousness
by Ken Wilber

What types of higher states are there? Considerable cross-cultural comparisons, taken as a whole, suggest that there are at least four higher or transpersonal states of consciousness, which might be called psychic, subtle, causal and nondual. (As we will see in a moment, when these temporary states become permanent traits, these transitory states are converted into permanent structures of consciousness, and I will call those permanent structures, levels, or waves by the same four names.)

Briefly, it appears that the psychic state is a type of nature mysticism (where individuals report an phenomenological experience of being one with the entire natural-sensory world; e.g., Thoreau, Whitman. It is called 'psychic', not because paranormal events occur - although evidence suggests that they sometimes do - but because it seems to be increasingly understood that what appeared to be a merely physical world is actually a psychophysical world, with conscious, psychic, or noetic capacities being an intrinsic part of the universe, and this seems to result in a phenomenological experience of oneness with the natural world. The subtle state is a type of deity mysticism (where individuals report an experience of being one with the source or ground of the sensory-natural world; e.g., St. Teresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen). The causal state is a type of formless mysticism (where individuals experience cessation, or immersion in unmanifest, formless consciousness; e.g., pseudo-Dionysus, The Cloud of Unknowing, Patanjali). And the nondual is a type of integral mysticism (which is experienced as the union of the manifest and the unmanifest, of the union of Form and Emptiness; e.g., lady Tsogyal, Sri Ramana Mararshi, Hui Neng.)

As suggested elsewhere, these apparently are all variations on the natural states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep - which seems why a person at virtually any stage of development can experience any of these nonordinary states (because everybody, even an infant, wakes, dreams, and sleeps). However, in order for these temporary states to become permanent traits or structures, they must enter the stream of development. Of course, for most people, the dream and deep sleep states are experienced as being less real than the waking state; but with prolonged meditative practice, it is said that these states can be entered with full awareness and an expansion of consciousness, whereupon they yield their higher secrets. (pages 149 - 150)

The general inadequacy of phenomenology for spotting intersubjective structure-stages seems to be the major reason that the world's contemplative literature is virtually silent on these important intersubjective aspects of consciousness. This also appears to be why research into nonordinary states of consciousness, such as Grof's holotropic model of the mind, produces incomplete cartographies (both psychedelic research and holotropic breathwork are very good for spotting experiential, phenomenological first-person states, but fare less well in spotting intersubjective and interobjective patterns; hence the lopsidedness of such catographies and their inadequacy in dealing with many important aspects of consciousness in the world). (page 153)

The Promise of Integralism: A Cricical Appreciation of Ken Wilber's Integral Psychology
by Christian de Quincey

Why do so many people think Ken Wilber is one of the most important thinkers of our time? Why are so many disturbed by what he writes? In this review of his work, I hope to throw some light on both questions. (page 177)

Consciousness Evolves When the Self Dissolves
by James H. Austin

We need to clarify at least four aspects of selfhood if we are to reach a better understanding of consciousness in general, and of its alternate states.

First, how did we develop our self-centered psychophysiology? Second, can the four familiar lobes of the brain alone serve, if only as preliminary landmarks of convenience, to help understand the functions of our many self-referent networks? Third, what could cause one's former sense of self to vanish from the mental field during an extraordinary state of consciousness? Fourth, when a person's physical and psychic self do drop off briefly, how has conscious experience then been transformed? In particular, what happens to that subject's personal sense of time? (page 209)

On the Relationship Between Cognitive Models and Spiritual Maps: Evidence from Hebrew Language Mysticism
by Brian L. Lancaster

It is suggested that the impetus to generate models is probably the most fundamental point of connection between mysticism and psychology. In their concern with the relation between 'unseen' realms and the 'seen', mystical maps parallel cognitive models of the relation between 'unconscious' and 'conscious' processes. (page 231)

The Neuropsychology of Religious and Spiritual Experience
by Andrew B. Newberg and Eugene G. d'Aquili

This paper considers the neruopsychology of religious and spiritual experiences. This requires a review of our current understanding of brain function as well as an integrated synthesis to derive a neuropsychological model of spiritual experiences. Religious and spiritual experiences are highly complex states that likely involve many brain structures including those involved in higher order processing of sensory and cognitive input as well as those involved in the elaboration of emotions and autonomic responses. Such an analysis can help elucidate the biological correlates of these experiences and provide new information regarding the function of the human brain. (page 251)

The Rhetoric of Experience and the Study of Religion
by Robert H. Sharf

One might expect an essay on the term 'experience' to begin with a definition, but immediately we confront a problem. To define something entails situating it in the public sphere, assuming an objective or third-person perspective vis-a-vis the term or concept at issue. The problem with the term 'experience', particularly with respect to its use in the study of religion, is that it resists definition by design; as we will see, the term is often used rhetorically to thwart the authority of the 'objective' or the 'empirical,' and to valorize instead the subjective, the personal, the private. This is in part why the meaning of the term may appear to be self-evident at first, yet becomes increasingly elusive as one tries to get a fix on it. (Gadamer places experience 'among the least clarified concepts which we now have'). (page 267)

Compilation copyright © 1995 – 2001 CSP

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