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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

The Ethics of Caring: Honoring the Web of Life in our Professional Healing Relationships

Taylor, Kylea. (1995)
Santa Cruz, CA: Hanford Mead.

ISBN: 0-9643158-5


Description: Paperback, xxii + 261 pages.

Contents: Acknowledgments, foreword by Jack Kornfield, preface, 15 chapters, glossary, end notes, bibliography, index.

Note: Good theoretical background and practical advice for entheogen guides.

Excerpt(s): His [Schweitzer's] reverence for life contains the implicit acknowledgment of relationship which he verbalized as he accepted the Nobel Price for Peace in 1952: "You do not live in a world all alone. Your brothers are here too."

The Buddhist concept of right relationship is akin to Jesus' injunction, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It implies that we see the bigger picture of how our intention and actions in relationship affect the other, and how that in turn affects still others in a rippling outward motion. It implies that we see also the effects on ourselves when we take certain actions toward others. In this definition the concept of others applies to persons and animals, but also to plants, ecosystems, planets, and numinous archetypes.

Here then is my definition for ethical behavior which underlies what I have written in this book: Ethical behavior is reverence for life demonstrated by right relationship to another. (pages 9-10)

Over and over again, those individuals who are changing and developing realize they have contained themselves in too small a cognitive or emotional box. Each time they realize they are in a box fashioned of their beliefs and fears, they struggle to find greater freedom. In the moment of breaking out of the smaller box, they enter a nonordinary state which is often a moment of profound experience in therapy. This moment is accompanied by a rush of emotion and greater vulnerability. It is a time of disorientation when they find themselves outside their familiar, small reference points and in an unknown larger framework.

I am writing primarily about intense, prolonged, spontaneous or intentionally induced nonordinary states of consciousness. However, many of the concepts in this book apply also to these therapeutic moments of profound change in ordinary therapy, even though these moments are not identified commonly as nonordinary states. (page 15)

The nonordinary state allows our higher Self's awareness to penetrate and permeate the trance sleep of our symptoms and behavior patterns. When we are "awake" in this way we are usually in a nonordinary state. Conversely, when we induce a nonordinary state, we often find ourselves more open and welcoming to such awareness.

Deep Nonordinary State of Consciousness

  • Has difficulty in functioning in an ordinary way.
  • Has less access to reference points in ordinary reality.
  • Has less ability to express the experience in words.
  • Experiences time distortion.
  • Has access to deeper levels of healing.
  • Has access to mystical states.
  • Expresses self more spontaneously through movement and sound.

Ordinary and nonordinary states exist on a continuum. As a client makes the transition from ordinary reality to nonordinary reality in mid-continuum, he focuses on his inner reality but has easy access to ordinary reality at the same time. ...

Simultaneously, the person may gain more access to deeper levels for healing. She may reconnect to parts of her own experience from which she had become disconnected. She may more easily feel her association to universal experience-to other people, to animals and plants, to Earth, and to God as she understands God. Ancient peoples have long known the value of these deep states for physical and emotional healing, establishing inner and outer harmony with oneself and one's relations, and finding one's sense of life's purpose.

For the purposes of this book, I will use the term nonordinary state of consciousness to describe the deeper nonordinary experience that occurs in various kinds of therapeutic or caregiving situations. In therapy, people move into nonordinary states in two ways-spontaneously or by therapeutic induction. (pages 17-18)

Contact with archetypal realms can occur during many of these other experiences. The person communicates with or experiences actually becoming an archetypal figure such as a power animal, a god or goddess, or an element such as wind, water, or fire. These are often peak experiences, described in the mystical literature of all religions. A person may contact archetypal realms or have mystical, peak experiences and thereby find personal answers to existential questions and a depth of personal meaning not possible to achieve in an ordinary state of consciousness. Unitive experiences are those in which the person feels a sense of merging with everything or identifying with a cosmic consciousness. (page 23)

Shamanism uses time-tested techniques by which ancient peoples entered nonordinary states individually and as communities. Drumming regulates the pulses of the body and, like the sonic driving of biofeedback machines, induces the brainwave frequencies of alpha, theta, and delta states. Drumming attunes the participants in soul retrieval, shamanic drum journeying, and other group ritual. Chanting to the drumbeat regulates the breath which helps produce a nonordinary state. ...

The people of many ancient cultures ritually ingested particular plants which they considered sacred. These sacred substances have the ability to induce powerful nonordinary states. Some tribal societies carry on these traditions every day. Much research in the 1950s and 1960s strongly pointed to the considerable healing potential of these substances. They were found valuable for the treatment of addiction, for fear and pain in terminal cancer patients, and for mental illness. Despite such promising early work, there was a political moratorium in the United States on further research with these substances. It was not until 1990 that research began again in the United States. (pages 31-32)

... Fortunately for those of us who follow the early explorers, some of the previously uncharted territory of consciousness has been mapped and named by Western scientists Jung, Grof, Eliade, and others. We now have an expanded paradigm including not only biographical experiences, but also perinatal and transpersonal experiences. Such a model is large enough to encompass the experiences that are emerging in our clients' spontaneous and induced nonordinary states.

Using the expanded paradigm in the context of religion

The need for an expanded paradigm in which to hold spontaneous, nonordinary states pertains to religion as well as psychology. People who report spontaneous nonordinary states often describe them as spiritual experiences. Spiritual experiences may be direct demonstrations of Spirit and may elucidate tenets of religious scripture.

Most writers of scripture and founders of religions based their writings on personal spiritual experience. When a client has a personal experience which feels spiritually significant to her, this may enrich her understanding of her own religion. Many in modern times report experiences which in traditional times were called mystical and seemed to happen only to a chosen few (at least in the history of today's great religions.) These personal spiritual experiences can expand a client's spiritual awareness beyond mere cognitive understanding of her religion.

Religious ceremony or spiritual retreats can trigger any of these experiences. Members and leaders of traditional Western religions may have to minister to parishioners or retreatants who move spontaneously into ecstatic states, feel powerful body energies, or experience psychic or emotional flooding.

There is precedent for such nonordinary states in the documented experiences of Jewish and Muslim prophets, Christian saints, and the mystics of Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions. However, we do not expect these experiences to occur to ordinary people in most of today's temples and churches. Persons whose spontaneous ecstasy unfolds in the middle of most modern day church services might find themselves transported to a mental health crisis unit, rather than gently supported to feel fully and honor their direct spiritual connection. Religious officials and elders do not, for the most part, have the conceptual model or the training to help someone integrate this kind of important spiritual experience.

Some of the charismatic Christian churches and some Eastern religions take these experiences in stride. These religious cultures have an expanded paradigm which views direct spiritual experience in nonordinary states as normal and desirable. Their interpretation of scriptures includes, and even expects, these phenomena in the course of devotional, spiritual practice. Many of the phenomena listed above were first named and described in ancient Hindu, Taoist, and Buddhist texts. Even further back in time, ancient peoples, who did not even have a written language, have been well acquainted with the spiritual phenomena of nonordinary states. (pages 47-48)

Societies that regularly use nonordinary states of consciousness as an integral part of their religious and healing rituals surround the nonordinary states of consciousness with special ceremony and symbol. The set is already deeply inculcated in the society's members by their mythical and spiritual tradition. The setting (e.g., special songs, dances, costumes, quests, fasts, physical locations) for these states is quite different from that of the daily life of the people. Their cultural context leaves little room for confusion between the two realities. (pages 51-52)

Oneness-The seventh center The deepest longings we have are to wake up to our identity with something bigger than ourselves. Many people call that something God. Even if we are not religious, something in us longs to feel that we are eternal. We long to feel connected to spirit, however we understand that term. We long to feel the liberation of our material selves merged with spirit, our mortal selves connected to the immortal. Our yearnings that were awakened as the longing for the unchangeable in the first center have their fulfillment in seventh center experiences. I have titled the seventh center oneness, but it could also be called unity consciousness.

Countertransference-Spiritual longings and fears related to oneness

A client who experiences the energy of this center is often either:

  1. A long-time spiritual practitioner;
  2. In the midst of a spontaneous, powerful spiritual emergence or spiritual emergency;
  3. Using a consciousness-expanding substance or other catalyst to do vision-questing; or
  4. Dying.

Ministers and hospice workers encounter these experiences when their parishioners or patients are in the final stages of the death process. Meditation teachers may encounter them in students during a retreat. Jack Kornfield reminds us in his book, A Path With Heart, "Awakening is not far away; it is nearer than near."

Such experiences have occurred for people on vision quests, in churches, in psychedelic sessions, during childbirth, during sex, and in hospitals. (pages 145-146)

If the client has a seventh center experience while in the presence of the caregiver, the caregiver can provide the same quality of welcoming reception to the client as to a newborn at a conscious birthing. Silence is usually an important part of honoring the experience while it happens.

Self-reflection on oneness

  • Did I listen to the story of my client's oneness experience with empathy and encouragement?
  • Did the client feel that her experience was honored and held sacred by me?
  • Do I feel comfortable being with a client who is currently having an experience of oneness? If not, why? What might I be resisting?
  • What issues of which centers were active for me as I heard my client's story?
  • Do I have a belief system that can include experiences of cosmic unity or oneness with God?
  • In my own meditation or religious practice, am I attached to worshipping God as an other?
  • Do I have a tendency to confuse the sacred marriage of internal union with the union of external relationship?
  • Does my client see me, to any degree, as the Divine Lover?
  • Do I feel comfortable moving back and forth between nonordinary and ordinary reality? If so, which is more difficult to leave?
  • Am I attracted or repelled by merging experiences and the dissolution of boundaries between people?

Cross-referencing oneness with issues in the other centers

Oneness or cosmic consciousness is the supreme nonordinary state of consciousness. ... The client who experiences oneness may have a particular need for help in making the transition back to ordinary consciousness. (pages 153-154)

Compilation copyright © 1995 – 2001 CSP

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