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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

Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs.

Efron, Daniel H; Holmstedt, Bo; and Kline, Nathan S. (Editors). (1967)
Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office.

ISBN: none

Description: Hardcover, first edition, xxii + 468 pages.

Contents: Organizing Committee, Conference Committee, List of invited participants, preface by Daniel H. Efron, greetings by Willard C. Fleming, introduction by Nathan S. Kline, letter of introduction by Albert A. Hofmann, papers are divided into 7 sessions: 1. An Overview of Ethnopharmacology, 2. Piper Methysticum (Kava), 3. Myristica Fragrans (Nutmeg), 4. South American snuffs, 5. Ayahuasca, Caapi, Yage, 6. Amanita Muscaria (Fly Agaric) [Most sessions start with a chairman's comments and end with a general discussion], index.

Note: Proceedings of a Symposium held in San Francisco, California, January 28-30, 1967, sponsored by the Pharamacology Section, Psychopharmacology Research Branch, National Institute of Mental Health Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. National Clearinghouse for Mental Health Information, Public Health Service Publication 1645.

Contributors: I. I. Brekhman, Joseph P. Buckley, Georg E. Cronheim, John W. Daly, Venancio Deulofeu, Daniel H. Efron, Conrad H. Eugster, Clellan S. Ford, Daniel X. Freedman, Carleton Gajdusek, Lowell D. Holmes, Bo Holmstedt, Evan C. Horning, Harris Isbell, Nathan S. Kline, Murle W. Klohs, Hans J. Meyer, Claudio Naranjo, Carl C. Pfeiffer, Efren Carlos Del Pozo, Thornton Sargent, Georg J. Seitz, Richard E. Schultes, Alexander T. Shulgin, Stephen I. Szara, Dermot Taylor, Edward B. Truitt, Peter G. Waser, S. Henry Wassen, R. Gordon Wasson, and Andrew T. Weil.

Excerpt(s): In the search for new values to give rise to a new narrative the towering, probing mystics of the past have sought to recapture the UR-experience upon which every Establishment originally drew strength until it became formalized. This invariably demanded the shattering of the idols or the escape from the Concept. Visions, iconoclasm, transcendence took place as the inevitable realization of a whole life's agon. Smashing a few clay figures or experiencing visual hallucinations does not produce an Abraham or a St. Theresa. Every great mystic has had experiences dissociated from the time and culture in which he lived but the dissociation arose out of inner necessity. Conversion in turn is facilitated by the ecstasy of dance, ritual death, drugs. Dissociation per se has no value and can become meaningful only as it is integrated into a conceptual framework.

This incorporation can be strongly directed from outside. ...

The dissociation can also produce panic if the attempt is made to retain dissolving ego controls. Once these are surrendered a para-infantile acceptance of the universe is experienced in which there are no clear ego boundaries so that the One-ness with the All comes about. Whether this feeling (or any other) has important value depends entirely on how it alters the organization and action of the organism. ...

In addition to moralizing, proselytizing, speculating; new legislation has and will continue to emerge in an attempt to influence the natural history of this uniquely human venture in which man deliberately alters his experiences of the world. As to how effective or desirable such legislation has been or will be, I can best end with a comment of Ambrose Bierce about Satan:

Satan made himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from Heaven. Half way in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a moment and at last went back.
"There is one favor that I should like to ask," he said.
"Name it."
"Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws."
"What, wretch! You his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn of eternity with hatred of his soul you ask the right to make his laws?"
"Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them himself." ("Preface," Nathan S. Kline, page xix)
3.From a epistemological point of view we must face the consequences resulting from the fact that it is possible, with the aid of mere traces of a compound, to radically affect the psychic processes and mental functions. This finding may throw new light on the age-old problem of the relationship and interrelationship of body and soul, or more generally, of mind and matter.

To a large extent the non-medical, partially legitimate, partially illegitimate, interest in and use of hallucinogenics or psychedelics is as a result of the possibilities mentioned under 3 above, namely of attaining a profound transformation of the conscious with the aid of these drugs.

It is in fact this very general interest in psychedelics, which has unfortunately, in some cases, led to dangerous misuse, that behooves scientists to continue research in the field of psychoactive compounds in all directions as quickly as possible, so as to elucidate the possibilities of these potent drugs in order that they may be used for the benefit of mankind. ("Letter," Albert Hofmann, page xxii)

An important feature of the state is an enhanced dependence upon the environment for structure and support as well as enhanced vulnerability to the surrounding milieu. With the loss of boundaries, persons or a group are used for such elemental functions of control for helping one to know what is inside and what is outside, for comfort and for binding and balancing the fragmenting world. When one is absorbed either in monitoring the novelty of experience or in maintaining self integrity the major changes in the external world will be overlooked or slight changes will assume a critical role. Persons or objects in the environment have positive or negative value in terms of quite elemental functions: e.g., as threats or as anchors in maintaining control (quite as in the so-called psychotic transference). ...

Thus with the dissolving boundaries of self and outside, with the fusion of self and surroundings some of the strain between harsh authority and personal strivings can for the moment be transcended or dissolved. At the same time there is a leaning on others for structure and control and hence, when the drugs are taken in a group setting, the breach with reality represented by the drugs can be filled by the directive mystique and support of the group. This is, in part, why I have termed these drugs "cultogenic." (pages 88-89)

Group sanctioning of the drug state can diminish the intensity and isolation; the group mystique tends to give integration through a credible rendition, if not sanction to events which by their very nature cannot easily be translated into public language. The mystique may not be more descriptive of the drug state but simply apparently precise and sufficiently allusive to serve as a representation of and compensation for the breach with reality.

Mystical or religious representations also are remarkably apt for synthesizing the experience. Religion relates man to his limits while taking account of his boundlessness which occurs in all aspects of this realm of the mind. It may be that religious symbolism aptly represents the transformations characteristic of this latent part of the mind. Against fragmentation and directionlessness something coherent lends continuity to experience. Against dread, transcendent love can prevail; loving like redness can apparently be enhanced and is remembered. The "lovingness" and "strongness" of a parent can be parted from the particular persons and transcendentally represented in various forms of power ascribed to deities. (pages 93-94)

There are, then a number of features of this multipotential state related to its intensity, its novelty, its boundlessness which account for some of the expectable occurrences within it and some of the expectable and observed dangers and outcomes. There are observations about the uses and abuses of religious conversion which are not dissimilar from what we can describe in the current drug scene.

In Clark's topology, the outcomes can be: a sudden change of role he calls this abrupt conversion. Another outcome entails an allegiance to values rather than a behavior change; e.g., adolescents who are converted to their parents' religion. Similarly there are student LSD users who talk like psychedelicists but continue to be headed for a career of suburbia and the office. Gradual conversion entails what Clark calls role assimilation (and this is reminiscent of the more protracted therapies). There are clearly various levels of personality which can be involved either in the drug experience or in conversion experience. Classifications of pathological outcomes of conversion (including irresponsibility and omniscience) startlingly resemble patterns we see with LSD.

Even the conversion experience, if we follow Christiansen's description, is not dissimilar from that described by therapists who have worked with LSD. He notes a pre-conversion conflict which reaches a peak, a moment of "giving up" (an intention to cease the struggle) which can be followed by an opportunity to come up with a new solution. The conflict must become sufficiently accessible to that part of the mind which can organize and synthesize it in religious terms. ("Perspectives on the Use and Abuse of Psychedelic Drugs," Daniel X. Freedman, pages 93-94)

Many of the differences between harmaline and mescaline may be related to the facts that the effect of the former on the emotions is much less than that of mescaline, and thinking is affected only in subtle ways, if at all. Concern with religious or philosophical problems is frequent, but there is not the aesthetic or emphathetic quality of the mescaline experience. Thus, the typical reaction to harmaline is a closed-eye contemplation of vivid imagery without much further effect than wonder and interest in its significance, which is in contrast to the ecstatic heavens or dreadful hells of other hallucinogens. Despite this lesser effect of harmaline on the intensity of feelings, qualitative changes do occur in the emotions which may account for the pronounced amelioration of neurotic symptoms evidenced by 8 of our 30 subjects, as detailed in a separate report. ("Psychotropic Properties of the Harmala Alkaloids," Claudio Naranjo, page 390)

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