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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


Drugs, Rituals, and Altered States of Consciousness.

du Toit, Brian M. (Editor). (1977).
Rotterdam: A. A. Balkema.


ISBN: 90-6191-014-5

Description: Hardcover, x + 272 pages.

Contents: Preface, 15 chapters divided into 6 unnumbered parts: 1. The Subject and the Field, 2. Drug Use and Cultural Patterning, 3. Modern Urban America, 4. Friend or Stranger, 5. Hallucinogens and Sensory Stimulation, 6. Future Research, biographical notes on the contributors.

Contributors: Michael Agar, Erika Bourguignon, Katherine A. Carlson, William E. Carter, Patricia J. Cleckner, Marlene Dobkin de Rios, Brian M. du Toit, Wayne M. Harding, Thomas F. Johnson, John Bryan Page, William L. Partridge, Mercedes S. Sandoval, Richard Evans Schultes, Richard Sorenson, and Norman Earl Zinberg.

Note: When searching for this book in a catalog, library, or online source, it is helpful to remember that the author's name is spelled with a small "d," with a space between "du" and "Toit," and is usually listed under the letter "d," not "t." Beware: catloging conventions vary.

Excerpt(s): This volume is an outgrowth of a symposium held during the 1975 annual meetings of the Society for Applied Anthropology in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. ... These original papers have been expanded and a number of additional invited papers added. (page ix)

But it has really been within the last decade that many social scientists have forsaken the traditional ethnological field and turned increasingly to focus on drug use and drug abuse. This interest in part flows from the need to understand the use of mind and mood altering substances in the community setting, to view them as a part of community life, and to fathom the importance of these various substances in ritual, social, and interpersonal contexts. But we should never loose sight of the important fact, as Sorenson in this volume points out, that the concept 'mind altering' is in part culturally defined. What is more, it may also be situationally defined. A matter which is very closely related to this definition is that of social acceptability and cultural patterning. It is well known that cannabis use is accepted much more readily in East Indian and African communities than in Euro-American communities. In addition to being acceptable there are long standing patterns of use which show up in studies of first drug use and justifications for use. Harding and Zinberg, in this volume contrast the misuse of alcohol by American Indians while they have used jimson weed and peyote in controlled forms. Also in this volume du Toit shows how in the multi-ethnic South African situation the African and Indian ethnic groups have a clear historical pattern of cannabis as the most important substance used. But the research reports presented here do not only show the traditional emphasis.

Along with the broadening of focus on the part of research workers has also come a shift away from necessarily studying other societies and an increasing concentration on their own modern urban society. ...

Along with actual field studies of mind altering substances, has come a growing attempt at understanding exactly what is involved in this process. What meaning does it have, and to what extent are we dealing with new forms of cultural patterning, new regularities, new rituals. But we are frequently reminded that altered states of consciousness need not be drug induced, that hallucinations are extremely common both in normal dreaming and thinking , as well as in religious fervor, even though religious ecstasy may be drug induced.

It was a combination of these various interests which lead to the compilation of this volume. We hope it raises as many questions as it answers and that international scholarly communication will flow from its publication. (Brian M. du Toit, Introduction, pages 2-4)

Some plants more dramatically affect human neurophysiological response. Variously called psychedelic, psychopharmacological, psychotomimetic, hallucinogenic, etc., they are often considered 'mind altering' by Western observers. However, it is important to recognize that the concept, mind altering is, at least in part, culturally defined. For example nonwestern peoples who use plants considered to be mind altering by Westerners may not necessarily think of them as such any more than we Westerners usually think of coffee or cigarettes as mind altering (or, for that matter, a church service or a violent TV program), although upon reflection, the effect of these upon mood and thought is obvious. (page 254)

Initial observations indicate that Huichol children are rather casually introduced to sub-hallucinatory doses of peyote at an early age, both in ceremonial settings and occasionally during daily life around the house where it may be ground into the tortilla batter. Hallucinatory doses, sometimes very large ones, are more typically provided in deeply religious or initiation ceremonies. Its ceremonial use, particularly its religious use, may also act somewhat to curtail birthrate. (E. Richard Sorenson, Phenomonological Inquiry in Ethnobotanical Studies, page 257)



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