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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

The Drug Experience:

First-person Accounts of addicts, writers, scientists and others

Ebin, David. (Editor) (1961).
New York: The Orion Press.

ISBN: none

Description: Hardcover, xii + 385 pages.

Contents: see below

Contributors: see below

Excerpt(s): CONTENTS

THEOPHILE GAUTIER. "'This will be deducted from your share in Paradise,' he said, as he handed me my portion."

CHARLES BAUDELAIRE. ". . . A final, supreme thought bursts forth from the dreamer's brain: 'I have become God!'"

BAYARD TAYLOR. "I suddenly found myself at the foot of the great pyramid . . . and saw that it was built, not of limestone, but of huge square plugs of Cavendish tobacco."

ANONYMOUS. "I raised the little girl's hand to my lips and kissed it; and since then I have taken no other hasheesh than such as that."

FITZHUGH LUDLOW. "The moment that I closed my eyes a vision of celestial glory burst upon me."

FITZHUGH LUDLOW. "Thus the hasheesh-eater knows what it is to be burned by salt fire, to smell colors, to see sounds, and, much more frequently, to see feelings."

MEZZ MEZZROW. "All the notes came easing out of my horn like they'd already been made up, greased and stuffed into the bell . . ."

MEZZ MEZZROW. "On The Corner I was to become known as the Reefer King, the Link between the Races, the Philosopher, the Mezz, Poppa Mezz, Mother Mezz, Pop's Boy, the White Mayor of Harlem . . ."

COLIN TURNBULL. "While I was always conscious that my body was within sight of these familiar surroundings, something else, some other part of my consciousness, wafted itself away to the Himalaya."

THOMAS DE QUINCEY. "The Malay has been a fearful enemy for months. I have been every night, through his means, transported into Asiatic scenes."

WILLIAM BLAIR. "What was I now to do? I was unfit for any business both by habit, inclination, and constitution."

JEAN COCTEAU. "I am describing a cure: a wound in slow motion."

LEROY STREET. "'Go ahead, it'll pep you up,' John urged. 'Give him some of your joy powder, Monk.'"

WILLIAM LEE. "I went into pushing with Bill Gains who handed the uptown business."

BARNEY ROSS. "I saw mountains caving in and I saw rivers washing over big cities and drowning them."

ALEXANDER KING. "I'm a volunteer, I said apologetically."

ALEISTER CROWLEY. "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole law."

WILLIAM BURROUGHS. "I saw the apomorphine treatment really work."

BILLIE HOLIDAY. ". . . If you've beat the habit again and kicked TV, no jail on earth can worry you too much."

HAVELOCK ELLIS. "I would see thick, glorious fields of jewels, solitary or clustered . ."

J. S. SLOTKIN. "I have never been in any white man's house of worship where there is either as much religious feeling or decorum."

ALDOUS HUXLEY. "We walked out into the street. A large pale blue automobile was standing at the kerb. At the sight of it, I was suddenly overcome by enormous merriment . . Man had created the thing in his own image . . ."

R. C. ZAEHNER. "At my own request I was the subject of an experiment with mescaline on 3 December 1955."

CHRISTOPHER MAYHEW. ". . . All the events in my drawing room between one-thirty and four existed together at the same time . . ."

ALLEN GINSBERG. "I have to find, among other things, a new word for the universe, I'm tired of the old one . . ."

GORDON WASSON. "May not the sacred mushroom, or some other natural Hallucinogen, have been the original element in all the Holy Suppers of the world?"

DANIEL BRESLAW. "A smudge on a wall is an object of limitless fascination, multiplying in size, complexity, color."

PAUL MOSHER. "And then I glanced at the clock again. This time it read 12:28, which led me to exclaim, 'My God, so much has happened in the last three minutes.'"

A SYMPOSIUM. "I had been using LSD therapy in private practice after some experimenting about four years ago . . ." (pages v-vii)

The power absorbed from Peyote has spiritual effects. The traditional Indian practice of many tribes was to go off in isolation and fast until a vision—a supernatural revelation—was obtained. In Peyotism this is replaced by a collective all-night vigil in which, through prayer, contemplation, and eating Peyote, the Peyotist receives a revelation from the Great Spirit or one of his spirit representatives. For the Peyotist, this occurs because he has put himself in a receptive spiritual mood and has absorbed enough of the Great Spirit's power in Peyote to make him able to reach that Spirit. This revelation often takes the form of a mystical rapture, the unification of all one's immediate experience with the Great Spirit himself. At other times the Great Spirit or one of his spirit representatives reveals some religious or ethical dogma to the Peyotist; it "teaches" him "how to live right." (J. S. Slotkin, An Interpretation of Peyotism, page 242)

The variety of these reactions suggests that the effects of the drug may be purely subjective, produced subconsciously by the person himself. This theory is strengthened in my case by the fact that I had recently been studying religious experience, and had even hinted in a recent book that some such experiences as I have been describing would be theoretically possible. So it can be argued that mescalin merely enabled me to experience what I was predisposed to experience.

However, though people's reactions to the drug vary, there seems to be a general tendency to have experiences of the strange mystical type that I have been describing. Certain North American Indians actually take a form of the drug, which comes from the cactus, as part of their traditional religious ceremony.

Arguments like these can go on endlessly, and no proof seems possible either way at present. But will not even the most sceptical agree that there is a strong case for doing more research with these drugs? ...

Many people are shocked by the idea that experiences resembling religious experiences can be produced by drugs. But this fact has been well established for many years. It seems as though the same detachment from the pull of our senses which characterises religious experience can be achieved in entirely irreligious ways—through mescalin, alcohol, epilepsy and hypnosis as well as by yoga, fasting, meditation and prayer.

Does this cheapen religion and invalidate the claims of the great mystics? Surely not. The view from the top is not the true purpose of mountaineering, as every true climber knows. Nor is the view any less real and wonderful because a few people have reached the top by mountain railway instead of toiling up in the proper manner.

There is a story—I think it is Buddhist in origin—about a schoolboy who wrestled day after day with his sums without getting the answers out. After a time, he began to doubt whether the sums had answers to them at all; and finally, in despair, he consulted a "crib." Encouraged to find that there were answers, he went back to his work with redoubled vigour. This schoolboy's short cut, says the Buddhist, was justified: but education consists in working out sums, not in copying out answers. (Christopher Mayhew, An Excursion Out of Time, pages 299-300)

We are dealing here with an authentic form of the religion of primitive men. Let me repeat what I said before: that it would be an error to bracket the hallucinogenic mushrooms with alcohol, as just another drug that serves as an escape for man. . . .

There must have come a time when man, emerging from his bestial past, first grasped these possibilities, vaguely, hesitantly; when he first knew the awe that goes with the idea of God. Perhaps these ideas came to him unaided, by the light of his dawning intelligence. I suggest to you that, as our most primitive ancestors foraged for their food, they must have come upon our psychotropic mushrooms, or perhaps other plants possessing the same property, and eaten them, and known the miracle of awe in the presence of God. This discovery must have been made on many occasions, far apart in time and space. It must have been a mighty springboard for primitive man's imagination. (page 320)

The ceremony we attended in southern Mexico was a true agape, a love-feast, a Holy Supper, in which we all felt the presence of God, in which the Element carried its own conviction in the miracles it performed within us. The faithful were not obliged to accept the dogma of Transubstantiation in order to know that they had partaken of the body of Christ. (How startling it is that the ancient Aztecs called this Element by the same name that we use for the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist—God's Flesh!) May not the sacred mushroom, or some other natural hallucinogen have been the original element in all the Holy Suppers of the world, being gradually replaced by harmless Elements in a watering down of the original fearful sacrament? May this not be the explanation of the Archetypes, the Ideas, of Plato? The ancient Greeks never revealed the secret of the Eleusinian mysteries, yet many must have known it and whispered to each other about it. We know only that the initiates drank a potion and later in the night knew a great vision. The Greeks, who were the fathers of pure reason, reserved a portion of their minds for the mystical element, the mysteries of Eleusis, the oracle at Delphi, the daemon of Socrates. No one knows for sure what beverage the ancient Hindus meant by the Soma, nor what was the origin of the ling chih of the Chinese, the divine mushroom of immortality. Here is a missing element in our knowledge of these cultures, one that possibly can now be identified by the methods that we have used in our quest of the sacred mushroom. (Gordon Wasson, The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico: An Adventure in Ethnomycological Exploration, page 321)

Compilation copyright © 1995 – 2001 CSP

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