Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
The Encyclopedia of Religion.
Eliade, Mircea. (Editor). (1987).
New York: Collier Macmillan.
ISBN: 0-02-909480-1 (set)
3000 entries in 15 volumes, plus an index in Volume 16.
Note: Topics of interest
to readers of this guide which appear in the Index-Volume
16 are: Amazonian Cultures, Ayahuasca, Consciousness (states of),
Ecstasy, Enlightenment, Ganja, Hemp Drugs, Huichol Religion, Indians
of the Plains, Indians of California and the Intermountain Region,
Kava, Weston La Barre, League for Spiritual
Discovery, Timothy Leary, Marijuana, Mescaline,
North American Indians, Mushrooms, Mystery Religions, Mystic Union,
Mysticism, Peyote, Psychedelic Drugs, Quechua Religions, Rastafarian
Movement, Shamanism, Soma, South American Shamanism, Trance, Transcendence
and Immanence, Visions, R. Gordon Wasson,
STATES OF. Each of the major religions and philosophies
of the world speaks, often in symbolic terms, about states of
consciousness other than those of our ordinary experience. According
to these teachings, we have the potential to experience qualitatively
different levels of perception, awareness, and orientation toward
ourselves, others, and the universe. The first two of these distinct
realms of existence-ordinary sleep and ordinary waking consciousness-constitute
the "normal" human condition, our customary experience.
"Higher" states of being correlate with finer, more
subtle levels of reality.
Transformation to higher states of consciousness
may result from adherence to the ideas, methods, and prescribed
meditations of an authentic religious discipline, whereby consciousness
is refined, converted, and realigned from "the coarse to
the fine." The higher, or superior, states are characterized
by enhanced faculties of attention, thought, feeling, and sensation.
A new type of seeing becomes prominent, and perception, awareness,
and experience conform more adequately and fully to the various
levels of reality and truth in the universe.
In this view, higher states of consciousness are
not the same as mood changes or any other phenomena-no matter
how unusual or exciting-evoked through normal thought and feeling.
According to the great traditions of mysticism and esoteric religions,
the honing of rational thought and intense emotions can never,
by itself, produce a superior consciousness. These faculties are
inherently limited, and without spiritual development they serve
only the egoistic aspect of human nature. (Vol. 4, page 52)
Transpersonal Psychologies. In the 1960s, transpersonal
psychology emerged as a movement devoted in part to the study
of alternative states of consciousness. Though by no means representative
of the mainstream of psychological research in the West, transpersonal
psychologists are intrigued by the possibility that human beings
possess transcendent powers of consciousness. Some speculate about
the mind's untapped potentials for awareness and
hold a view of the universe as conscious and purposive. They are
convinced that we can be motivated by broader and less selfish
impulses than physiological needs and egoistic emotions. For these
psychologists, our most important motivations
spring from a selflessness that revolves around the pondering
of ultimate questions-questions about the meaning, purpose, and
value of human life. Often influenced by the recent influx of
Eastern psychologies and philosophies into the West, transpersonal
psychology seeks to reverse what it considers the disproportionate
attention given to man's psychological afflictions at the expense
of his great potentialities. This movement may be understood as
an attempt to reconnect the science of psychology with the perennial
metaphysical teachings of the spiritual traditions. (Vol. 4, page
Conclusion. The modern era has witnessed the virtual
disappearance of metaphysical ideas about the nature of man and
the universe as religious claims to understand the human mind
have been eclipsed by the influence of modern psychology. This
phenomenon is apparent when one examines the topic "states
of consciousness" and sees how unfamiliar and even alien
the issues connected to it can appear. Much of the power and allure
of modern psychology, and perhaps some of its current fragmentation,
is rooted in its encounter with various aspects of the human mind
that it has only recently discovered but that have been the focus
of many ancient teachings.
Virtually unheard two decades ago, the expression
"states of consciousness" has by now entered the vocabulary
of many men and women. How this idea will present itself in the
years to come; how a subject so intimately wedded to metaphysical
and religious concerns will fare in modern culture; and how religion,
philosophy, and psychology may meet in their concern over this
subject may prove decisively important to all who seek answers
to the perennial questions of human life. ( Jacob
Needleman and Regina Eisenberg, Consciousness,
States of, Vol. 4, page 58)
PSYCHEDELIC DRUGS. A great
variety of substances affect the workings of the mind, and the
effects they produce are often described as religious experiences.
... These substances range from very simple molecules, such as
nitrous oxide, ether, and ether alcohol, to quite complex ones,
such as lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. The plants that contain
psychedelic substances belong to widely separated botanical groups.
All we can do is describe their effects and ask whether these
effects can be regarded as genuine religious experiences. (Vol.
12, page 46)
[Editor's note: de Ropp
seems to confuse "psychedelic" with "psychoactive."
The body of this article features the following topics: Legacy
of the Aldous
Huxley and Mescaline, Sacred Mushrooms, Sacred Plants of the Amazon
Region, The Kava Ceremony, Hemp Drugs, The Psychedelic Cult of
the 1960s, Psychedelics and Religious Experience, How the Psychedelics
Work; Legal, Social and Spiritual Questions.]
Prohibition, however, has not prevented the use
of psychedelics any more than it prevented the use of alcohol.
The results of prohibitory legislation have been to ensure that
those who do obtain these drugs pay outrageous prices, are often
sold adulterated materials, and, because of lack of guidance and
prevailing paranoia, often have bad trips. As long
as alcohol and tobacco can be obtained legally, laws prohibiting
the possession of substances such as marijuana and peyote will
The question that both legal and social prohibitions
fail to confront is why some people want to use, or feel they
need to use, psychedelic substances. To ask this question is to
be open to the understanding that the problems lie not with drugs
but with people. These problems are the result of a growing sense
of futility that has afflicted our society. ... To escape from
that experience, they may stupefy themselves with alcohol, blunt
their sensibilities with barbiturates or heroin, or attempt to
get high with the aid of psychedelics.
Those who have experimented with psychedelic drugs
and had what they consider to be authentic,
religious experiences are likely to fall into two groups. In the
first are people who understand that the drugs act by using up
certain vital energies of the body and that those
energies must be replaced. For this reason, they will use drugs
rarely and only under special conditions. They will also seek
other, less destructive, ways of getting the same results, such
as meditation or yoga postures. Sooner or later members of this
group will probably abandon the psychedelics altogether.
In the second group are those who make the drug
experience the center of their spiritual lives, failing to realize
that using the drug is robbing them of strength and damaging their
health. People in this group inevitably find themselves in trouble
not because they have broken man-made laws but because they have
broken the laws governing their own spiritual development. Inevitably,
the psychedelic used becomes less and less effective and larger
doses must be taken. Finally, the drug ceases to have any effect.
But the drug user's reliance on his drug may have so weakened
his will by that time that serious spiritual efforts become virtually
impossible. ( Robert S. de Ropp, Psychedelic
Drugs, pages 56-57)
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