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.
xxii + 195 pages.
Contents: Foreword, acknowledgements,
introduction, 7 chapters, conclusion, notes, bibliography, illustration
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.
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Compilation copyright © 1995 2001 CSP