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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

Essential Substances in Society: A Cultural History of Intoxicants in Society.

Rudgley, Richard. (1993).
New York: Kodansha International.

ISBN: 1-56836-016-9

Description: Hardcover, xxii + 195 pages.

Contents: Foreword, acknowledgements, introduction, 7 chapters, conclusion, notes, bibliography, illustration acknowledgement, index.

Excerpt(s): There are clear parallels in the use of opium and hemp in prehistoric times. Both grew as weeds near human habitations and are known to have been domesticated in the Neolithic as multi-purpose plants. In both cases distinctive ceramic braziers were probably used for the inhalation of the smoke of the respective substances. Although it is only after the Neolithic period (when the archeological record becomes sufficiently detailed) that we have direct and irrefutable proof that these plants were used as intoxicants, the circumstantial evidence for their use as such in the Neolithic is highly persuasive. (page 31)

Great ingenuity and craftsmanship have been invested in creating the distinctive equipment that often accompanies the consumption of intoxicants. In traditional societies such artifacts reveal both the social status of the user and, in many cases, the sacred and symbolic importance of the altered state of consciousness with which they are associated. Items from our own culture such as cut-glass decanters, gold cigarette cases and porcelain tea sets reveal the economic standing of their owners and, at best, indicate good taste and aesthetic appreciation, but lack any spiritual value. Such embodiments of secularism, when introduced into traditional societies by way of trade, tend to erode the local ceremonial value of the intoxicants with which they are connected. (pages 172-173)

In recent years the West has begun to appreciate the fact that tribal societies can teach us much about the natural world from which we are so often alienated. It seems we may also have much to learn about the supernatural world, from which we are likewise alienated. Bearing in mind that humans have an innate need to experience altered states of consciousness, to ignore or repress our own natures in this way is to neglect our own capacities. What anthropology can do, by describing other cultures in which scientific and poetic approaches to truth are part of a holistic vision, is to remind us of the lack of harmony in the elements of our own second nature. It can indicate ways in which we may reach a better understanding of the importance of altered states of consciousness in both our collective and our personal lives. (page 175)

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