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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 Forbidden Game: A Social History of Drugs.

Inglis, Brian. (1975).
London: Hodder and Stoughton.


ISBN: none

Description: Hardcover, 256 pages.

Contents: Introduction, 14 chapters, postscript, acknowledgements, sources, bibliography, index.

Excerpt(s): Early on, the psychedelic movement split into two main groupings, though they were never clearly differentiated. Both derived from the views of Humphrey Osmond who had introduced Huxley to mescaline: that these drugs 'provide a chance, perhaps only a slender one, for homo faber, the cunning, ruthless, foolhardy pleasure-greedy toolmaker, to merge into that other creature whose presence we have so rashly presumed, homo sapiens the wise, the understanding, the compassionate'. By some of Osmond's followers, this was taken to mean that the function of the drugs was simply to reveal, to anybody who took them, the limitations he had been imposing on himself; so that he would seek ways, not necessarily through drugs, to explore the potential within himself which he had not known existed. But there were others who, like Dr. Timothy Leary, tended to invest the drugs themselves with almost magical powers, and to propagandise for them on a national --- and eventually international --- scale. ...

What can be told is the parallel story of how differently peyotl was handled in the Indian reservations; and how different the results. (pages 205-206)

The difficulty ordinarily was that peyotism was a religion, and that it had wrapped itself up in enough Christian doctrine to be able to liken peyotl to communion wine. How far this was originally deliberate policy is hard to tell; but it became so with the foundation of the Native American Church, whose expressed aims were to foster and promote religious beliefs in Almighty God and the customs of the several tribes of Indians throughout the United States in the worship of a heavenly Father, and to cultivate a spirit of self-respect, brotherly love and union among the members of the several tribes of Indians throughout the United States and through the sacramental use of peyotl. [citation not given] But to many Christians, the use of peyotl was not so much sacramental as sacrilegious; and to many respectable citizens, it was scandalous that the American Indians should be permitted to enjoy a notorious drug. A campaign after the Second World War to have it banned was only warded off with difficulty, largely through the efforts of two anthropologists who had studied the subject, Weston La Barre and J. S. Slotkin. It was amazing, Slotkin observed, to find that the expert evidence on which the campaigners relied --- was derived from white and Catholic officials in the reservations; 'none of them have had the slightest first-hand experience with the plant or with the religion, yet some fancy themselves to be authorities and write official reports on the subject.' From his own extensive experience, members of the cult were both more industrious and more temperate in their drinking habits than other Indians in the reservation.

With the renewal of interest in vision-inducing drugs in the 1950s, the campaign against peyotl started up again, this time for fear of what it might do to the white youth of America. In 1964 a California court ruled that it was a sufficient public danger to justify a ban on it, in violation of religious freedom, because it was gaining adherents among hippies; and the rumour circulated that it was frequently the cause of insanity. (pages 207-208)

The success of the cult, admittedly, does not prove that it would have been possible to establish anything similar among the white population of American, or of other Western countries. Nor would the obvious alternative --- making LSD a prescription drug, to be dealt with by doctors --- have worked; few doctors have the required interest or understanding. What the peyotl experience does suggest is that alternatives would have been found to the drug policies of Western governments, had there been a better appreciation of what was involved. (page 208)



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