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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

Current Perspectives in the Psychology of Religion.

Malony, H. Newton. (Editor) (1977).
Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

ISBN: 0-8028-1660-6

Description: Paperback, 454 pages.

Contributors: Gordon W. Allport, Paul F. Barkman, Glen D. Baskett, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Peter L. Benson, David C. Bock, Donn Byrne, Donald E. Capps, Walter Houston Clark, John A. Clippinger, James E. Dittes, William G. T. Douglas, David Elkind, Craig W. Ellison, Robert A. Embree, Kenneth A. Feldman, David A. Flakoll, Richard L. Gorsuch, Joseph Havens, Ralph A. Hood, Jr., Richard A. Hunt, John P. Kildahl, Morton B. King, H. Newton Malony, Sam G. McFarland, Robert L. Pavelsky, Paul W. Pruyser, J. Michael Ross, Victor D. Sanua, James R. Scroggs, Charles M. Spellman, Bernard P. Spilka, John A. Stoudenmire, Orlo Strunk, Jr., and Neil C. Warren.

Excerpt(s): A few years ago an inconspicuous member of one of my classes sought me out. The mother of a family, she told me about a religious experience of a mystical nature, a story she had confided to no other living person. Not understanding it, except in its general nature, I listened sympathetically but gave no advice. But the incident seemed to set in motion a psychological and religious process of surprising proportions. Shortly afterward she became active in her church. Now others seek her out to take leadership in discussion groups, and, to her embarrassment, church members refer problems to her that, more appropriately, should go to the pastor. Besides being much more forceful, she is more attractive, and she herself is amazed to find that she is becoming a positive force for good in the community and in her family instead of just another aging housewife.

This is an illustration in a commonplace, contemporary person of the influence that religion may have in the transformation of personality. I have seen and studied such phenomena in ordinary men and women, and in many persons undergoing a religious experience under psychedelic drugs. The psychological study of religion is as fascinating as man himself, and as compelling as his fascination with God. (page 227)

What further supports many psychedelic experiences as being religious is that, when the subject reports a religious experience, therapeutic results are often more marked. This was the case with pioneer experiments in which massive doses of LSD were given to hopeless alcoholics in Saskatchewan by Humphrey Osmond and Abram Hoffer. After five years, half of the sample of 60 cases were still found to be nonalcoholic. "As a general rule," Hoffer reported, "those who have not had the transcendental experience are not changed; they continue to drink. However, the large-proportion of those who have had it are changed."

There also has been experimentation with criminals in Europe and the United States. In order to find out for myself what the results had been, I studied several convicts to whom Dr. Timothy Leary had given psilocybin and who, according to his report, had encountered religious experiences of a life-changing nature. Some of these convicts definitely had fallen by the wayside through lack of follow-up after the controversial Leary project collapsed.

But I discovered a rather remarkable phenomenon. Those who had remained in jail had started what they called the "Self-Development Group," a very successful AA type of self-rehabilitation that continued on a nondrug basis. One middle-aged armed robber, serving a twenty-year term, in a drug session had seen a vision of Christ. Shortly afterward, he said, "All my life came before my eyes, and I said, 'What a waste!'" Now, five years later, this man, a group leader, is considered by the authorities to be completely rehabilitated.

The point of these experiments is that not only do subjects, after psychedelic therapy, talk like religious people but religion for them has had the effect of radically changing their values and attitudes. The drugs seem to do what the churches frequently only say they do in their talk of salvation, redemption, and rebirth. All this is not to minimize the real dangers and problems of the drugs, but to call attention to certain facts that have not appeared often in the news media and to point out the connection of the drugs with religion. (The Psychology of Religious Experience, Walter Houston Clark, page 230)

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