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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: A Way of Knowing.

Greeley, Andrew M. (1974).
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

ISBN: 0-13-234948-5 hardcover
0-13-234930-2 paperback

Contents: Eleven chapters, Appendix A: Varieties and Descriptions of Religious Experiences, Appendix B: Varieties of Altered States of Consciousness.

Description: A Spectrum Book, x + 150 pages.

Excerpt(s): On the other hand, in this book drug-induced ecstasy is not excluded from consideration. I am profoundly suspicious of such experiences, and while I am not sure that R. C. [ Zaehner] is correct when he argues that drug-induced ecstasy is completely different from religious ecstasy, I am still ill at ease when someone suggests to me that John of the Cross's ascent of Mt. Carmel is really the same thing as the experience of an acid-head hippi e in an attic in Berkeley. However, I see no reason to deny that drugs can trigger the operation of a person's capacities for the ecstatic. (page 13)

Minimally, one can say that ecstasy-producing drugs are the functional equivalents of the natural triggers or the ascetical practices which predispose a person toward an ecstatic interlude. The drugs either clear away the distractions of ordinary life by helping or forcing us to "tune out," or they reveal to us of the universe to which we had only dimly paid attention before. The drugs may or may not produce ecstasy; they certainly produce heightened consciousness, and that in its turn may or may not lead to ecstatic rapture. If one reads what those who have experimented with drug-induced ecstasy write, it seems reasonably clear that "turning off" or, to use the phrase current among young people, "getting stoned," is by no means an automatic guarantee of rapture.

Must more be said? Is there a possibility that certain kinds of chemicals produce certain biological actions and reactions which not only predispose one toward ecstasy but actually activate those mysterious capabilities of our personality that become operative in ecstatic knowledge? Do the drugs induce the ecstatic insight itself? I do not think we know enough to answer this question, but I think we know enough to be skeptical of drug-induced ecstasy. It is unlikely that young people can be dissuaded from experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs even by research evidence that such drugs are physically and psychologically dangerous. It may well be possible that the human race is capable of developing a chemical agent that is harmless and will guarantee either the predisposition toward ecstasy or the experience itself. I think we will have to know a lot more about the ecstatic process itself to feel secure with drug-induced ecstasy. At the present time, in my judgment, it should be reserved for serious scholarly experimentation. (pages 70-71)

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