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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


Ecstasy and the Dance Culture.

Saunders, Nicholas. (1995).
London: the author.


ISBN: 0-9501628-9-2

Description: Paperback original, 320 pages.

Contents: Foreword, 23 chapters (including chapters on information, references, and bibliography) index.

Contributors: Mary Anna Wright the dance sections, bibliography by Alexander Shulgin.

Note: This book is based on the author's earlier book E for Ecstasy.

Excerpt(s): Own survey results

To stimulate others to carry out research, I carried out a small survey to determine changes in attitudes resulting from Ecstasy use. During the winter of 1994 I included survey forms in the last 1,000 copies of E for Ecstasy, the results may be specific to my readers and not to all Ecstasy users. ... All questions related to effects as noticed in normal life, not while under the influence. In order, significant effects of Ecstasy use reported were:

  1. Increased enjoyment of dancing
  2. Improved quality of life
  3. Greater ease of self-expression
  4. More caring for other people
  5. Increased spiritual awareness
  6. Greater happiness
  7. Increased closeness with lover (page 51)
Use in religion

Most spiritual teachers are strongly against the use of any drug. ... However, there are a number of teachers who do believe in the value of MDMA both for their own personal enlightenment and for teaching others. I interviewed four: ...

The Soto Zen monk agrees that "Drugs do not go with meditation", but adds "Meditation goes wonderfully with drugs". There is no contradiction: although drugs like MDMA may disturb acquired patterns of meditation, it is easy to meditate while under their influence. ...

He told me that his school of Zen was the only one that acknowledged the value of drugs; his master had used LSD and MDMA. "Ecstasy is a wonderful tool for teaching. For example, I had a very keen student who never succeeded in meditation until Ecstasy removed the block caused by his effort when trying to meditate. That one experience helped him to make fast progress, and he has since been ordained a monk."

The Benedictine monk explained that the object of prayer is communication with God, but this is seldom achieved due to obstacles in the way: the internal dialogue, distractions and losing faith in oneself. Although he only takes Ecstasy two or three times a year, the experience makes prayer easier at other times. It has helped restore his faith, and has also provided him with valuable insights, such as a very deep comprehension of divine passion. This insight remains as a reservoir that he recalls at times when prayer is difficult.

He describes the effect of Ecstasy as opening a direct link to God. ...

The rabbi had more positive views about youth drug use. "Traditional religions have lost the ability to provide followers with mystical experiences. Instead, young people are far more likely to have such experiences while on LSD and Ecstasy." Most religious leaders, he said, were against the use of drugs because of their own ignorance. "If priests really want to understand young people they should take drugs themselves. Then they would learn that certain drugs can produce the same quality and potential value as other mystical experiences." But is taking a drug really as effective as years of devotion? "It can be seen as cheating, but it gets you to the same place."

The Rinzai Zen monk felt that Ecstasy had genuinely helped him on his rise to becoming an abbot, but admitted he once misused the drug. He was teaching a large group of students, neatly bowed before him in their black robes, while under the influence. "I feel no energy from you", he scolded, "You are like rows of corpses" an honest comment, but one that did not help the students, rather it made them feel put down. ...

All of them believe that they have benefited from the use of Ecstasy, that it can help produce a valid mystical experience, that it does no harm to the psyche and is a useful tool in teaching students. The reasons they do not promote its use is because they have to follow the policies of their religious orders, and these naturally uphold the law. (pages 121-123)

Heroin addict

A 49-year-old heroin user, who has kept his addiction under sufficient control to lead a normal life, found Ecstasy had a profound effect on him. I have been an intermittent opiate abuser for nearly thirty years; for most of that time I have regarded the cyclical descent into narcosis as the bane of my life. Until recently my single most seminal drug experience has been my initial LSD trip in Katmandu in 1965. . . . .

As it happened, my first experience of Ecstasy was not at a rave, but in a London house with only four persons present. The setting was a studio with skylights over which the full moon crossed; books and paintings lined the walls and we sat or lay on comfortable rugs and cushions; the E was known to be pure MDMA and the only drink was several bottles of mineral water. The persons present were my daughter, her stepfather and his lady, all known to me for at least fifteen years. It was a most reassuring setting. . . . .

Since so much of the experience was nonverbal, it is hard to describe. There were long periods of silence, a very warm and loving silence; the essential kindliness and beauty of my companions shone brightly in the darkened room. When conversation occurred, it was very much to the point. Since it was my initial experience and I had taken a very large dose, I spent most of the time feeling and watching and listening, although I was perfectly able to communicate verbally when it seemed necessary.

Several outstanding emotional issues, feelings of guilt or suspicion, were resolved with verbal economy and emotional purity. It seemed impossible and unnecessary to lie or dissemble. ...

It has now been six weeks since the initial experience; my desire to consume opiates, though not entirely absent, has definitely reduced. In fact, both my drug and alcohol use have declined substantially. . . . .

My conclusion at the time, which I see no reason to modify - is that the planned, controlled, therapeutic use of MDMA can be of very great value in this individualistic and emotionless world humanity has created. I also have the greatest respect, almost fear, for the power of, the exhaustion of continuous love, it is not something to be trifled with or to be done more than necessary. So - there it is. My first new psychoactive discovery in twenty five years of use and abuse; since my initial Owsley acid in Katmandu in 1965. And it has also made me re-evaluate doing drugs, acid can be valuable but lacks the emotional content of Ecstasy; cocaine has definitely shifted to the back seat. Curiously enough Ecstasy has also made me want to spend more time absolutely straight, without even cannabis or alcohol. A whole new perspective on validities and priorities. (pages 221-223)

Harvard agape

A Harvard Divinity School graduating senior led a parting ritual using Ecstasy in January 1995 . . . .

Soon after the opening of the ceremony (after the Agape Hymn) Golden Voice offered us a most wonderful gift: she sang "Amazing Grace" for us. A grace indeed felt! The spirit was coming down, resting upon my shoulder as her words filled the room and our hearts. Indeed it was an amazing grace, that grace that passes all understanding. I was moved; I was in communion with everyone else in the room. It was as if, at that moment, all barriers had come down, all suffering had ended, all pain had been relieved, all joys had been known. I forgave the offenses I had suffered and was forgiven for my sins. I thought of that woman and that child that I had hurt. I felt delivered from the agony of guilt. I thought of that man that I would never be able to see. I felt free. I thought of that man that was still grieving, still silently bleeding. I inwardly dared asking for pardon. I thought of the man I was with, of the pain I had suffered. I was healed. I was strengthened. I was redeemed. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! It must have been 50 minutes since the ingestion. Wow, Golden Voice s tune was lifting me away into a supernatural dimension and the sacrament was simultaneously making its healing presence known.

The song over, we all looked at each other and smiled. We were all "there." Zapapaias sang one of his sacred songs (something from Crowley for which he wrote a tune). At some point I sang one of my favourite hymns called "For the fruit of all creation." The music reminds me of a past time which I think I once knew, once lived in. Later Healer showed us some of her work not by reading, not by singing, but the work of her hands, beadwork. Beautiful work requiring a lot of patience. I knew Rosebearer was proud of her work. She also told us how once she was about to commit suicide and that MDMA saved her life, gave her hope in herself and in the future. She then passed around a beautiful Native American peace pipe, filled with sweet and light tobacco. We all smoked from it in peace and with many thanks. . . . .

How do I feel as the liturgist? Certain elements have to be met in order to have a liturgy, a cultus. I think they were met that night. Underhill cites 4 necessary elements of cultus: 1) ritual or liturgical pattern, 2) symbol or significant sacrament, 3) sacrament (not as mere signifier but as a conveyor of invisible realities), and 4) sacrifice or voluntary offering. Our agape was unusual, unique, out of the ordinary. But the structure was present. The bell was rung to delimit the sacred time. The symbol was the communion/dedication. The outward and visible form of the sacrament was MDMA; the inward and spiritual grace imparted was manyfold, from healing to the building of community to personal growth. The sacrifice was evident from the gifts offered up on the altar. We shared in the sacrament for and with our brothers and sisters, our parents, our loved ones, our friends, not only the people present but those absent. We offered ourselves up for and to them, as channels of grace, as bearers of gifts later to be shared. . . . .

I also met another side of the divine. There was no great revelation of God that night, no road to Damascus episode. But there was a peace, a certain sense of comfort, of spiritual truth. Of all the people there, I think I am the most concerned with organized religion. I am an Episcopalian and most of my knowledge and experience of God has been acquired through the Church. A rare thing, I know. But that night I met another aspect of God, the God that dwells in each and everyone of us, in our souls, in our hears, in our minds. It was a God I had always believed in but never met. In a sense, I regained a bit of lost faith. (pages 228 - 232)



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