Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
The Frontiers of Being
Blewett, Duncan B. (1969).
New York: Award Books
Description: Paperback, 288 pages.
Contents: 11 chapters, reference bibliography, index.
Chapter III The Psychedelic Experience
6) In the sixth type of reaction the experience is accepted as offering a new and richer interpretation of all aspects of reality. The person feels strongly that there is a unifying principle underlying all things, an essence with which he feels in complete accord. He may feel that he is a part of all things and all things are a part of him. His self-concept is in no way limited by the usual restraints of body image. These feelings or beliefs are accompanied by feelings so intense that conviction in inevitable. William James in writing of such intense feelings of reality states, "They are as convincing to those who have them as any direct sensible experience can be and they are, as a rule, much more convincing than results established by mere logic ever are." (page 72)
Experience with the psychedelic drugs underlines the fact that there is no difference between the process that we call depersonalization and that which we refer to as self-transcendence, except in the interpretation put upon it by the individual who is having the experience. If he likes it and accepts it as a valid or real experience, it is self-transcendence; if he dislikes and fears it and attempts to escape it, it is depersonalization and the consequences are psychologically painful. Which interpretation the individual puts upon the experience depends upon his psychological set at the time the experience occurs. While circumstances such as the setting in which the session is conducted and the attitudes and behavior of others present can and do have a profound effect upon the subject, the most important variable would seem to be the individual's level of self-acceptance. (pages 73-74)
Chapter IV The Psychodynamics of Psychedelic Response
In the psychedelic experience the process of depersonalization causes the breakdown of these defensive mechanisms.
This is the crux of the therapeutic process. The subject who reaches this point must either struggle to maintain his shattered defenses (a painful process which leads to extreme anxiety and confusion) or he must surrender them to a new self-concept. It is at this point at which he must "let go." In Alcoholics Anonymous parlance, he has "hit the bottom." Psychologically it is a symbolic death in the form of self-surrender. It is a desperately difficult step to take and is brought about only because the attempt to "hold on" becomes intolerable or impossible. As Bill W. expressed it:
"My friend Edwin came to the hospital, bringing me a copy of William James' Varieties of Religious Experience. This book gave me the realization that most conversion experiences, whatever their variety, do have a common denominator of ego collapse at depth. The individual faces an impossible dilemma."
As it is in religious experience, so it is in the psychedelic experience, for indeed in many instances the two are indistinguishable. In the LSD experience the vast extension of subjective time telescopes objective time so that all the emotional possibilities that would ordinarily be played out over years of the individual's life are crowded into brief hours. The intensity of emotion is magnified as it is concentrated in time. The individual finds himself in a dilemma that has been described as comparable to finding oneself in complete darkness, clinging to a vine over what appears to be a terrible chasm. Every manouver fails to find any support until, at last, one is forced by fatigue to "let go." When one does let go, it is to find that one has been suspended only a foot off the ground in the sunlight and wearing a blindfold. Yet the act of "letting go," at the time it occurred, was equated with the abandonment of the self to annihilation.
Many subjects, having undergone a psychomimetic experience, report that they would like to take the drug again as they could not "let go." Very few of us can ever surrender willingly, and we have a fear of the unknown. (pages 89-90)
The critical importance of the acceptance of the self in the therapeutic process strongly suggests that a single element underlies all forms of mental disorder. In essence there is but one mental disorder although it may show itself in addiction, psychopathy, psychosis, neurosis or any other psychological disorder. Self-unacceptability is the root of all functional psychopathology; and if self-acceptance can be achieved through the self-understanding provided by the psychedelics, the greatest of strides toward recovery will have been achieved.
In summary, then, what is the value of LSD in the treatment process? It induces a state of non-psychotic depersonalization that is essentially equivalent to self-transcendence. The effect places the individual outside his defensive structure and makes the nature of that structure apparent indeed transparent to him. An examination of the emotionally naked self leads to self-understanding an understanding that can be gained only by going outside of the customary and habitual patterns of perceiving the self. In anthropological terms, self-understanding seems invariably to lead to self-acceptance once outside the cultural envelope. Self-acceptance is a necessary basis for the acceptance of one's neighbor, for can I understand or love another if I cannot understand of love myself? (pages 90-91)
Chapter X Transcendence: Self-Actualization
... The features of the state of transcendence are those of the most advanced state of which man is capable and are simultaneously those of the most profound spiritual state that man can presently hope to attain. The psychological goals and the religious or spiritual goals of mankind are identical. The state in which they are achieved is one and the same transcendence.
The state has many names. Among those bestowed upon it by psychologists are peak experience, self-actualization, self-realization, the transcendental state, self-transcendence, floodlight vision, conversion, saintliness, the state of being, inspired regression to the oceanic state, the state of undefended man, self-acceptance and self-understanding. In religion, while there has been some overlap in nomenclature with psychology, other names such as beatitude, spiritual marriage, self-surrender, spiritual rebirth, at-one-ment, submission, satori, mystic unity, I-naughting, enlightenment and nirvana have been common. Also, this experience is variously said to be a state of unitive knowledge of essence, great time, the Ground of Being, the Divine Ground, the Universal Ground, the Immortal Self, the Great Tao or the Atman.
This multiplicity of names indicates the keen interest that men have had in this state. Psychologists and theologians have added to the number freely and independently, since they observed the state from different perspectives and through different filters. Psychologists have generally tended to regard the area of transcendence with suspicion a commendable exercise of scientific skepticism. However, it has been a skepticism that has had the effect of preventing them from attempting to meet the requirements for self-exploration in this area becoming pure in heart and deed, loving without question and giving up the individual will. In other words, they have not been able to experiment in this area because they have not met the conditions under which the phenomenon manifests itself. ...
The psychological principles that they [poets and metaphysicians] put forward as the facts of their experience may be questioned by psychologists but until very recently they have represented the only source of data, and the scientists who makes statements about the nature of transcendental experience without having undergone it could well recall Osmond's words on this point: " A eunuch could write an authoritative book on sexual behaviour, but a book on sexual experience by the same author would inspire less confidence." (pages 236 - 237)
Chapter XI The Frontiers of Being
In psychology it means that a way has been opened through which we can directly explore the unconscious. It means that psychologists can move with assurance and speed along the path pioneered by Maslow in his investigations of the positive, normal and creative aspects of personality, for in the psychedelic experience we perceive normal man enlarged and enhanced in nearly all of his functions and capacities.
In theology this opening of the mind will change the basis of religious life from belief and form to direct, profound spiritual experience. The peyote religion, for example, has already found the enrichment of this approach. A few may regret the fact that transcendence, until now the touchstone of spiritual attainment, will thus become so commonplace as to form part of the experience of the majority, if not of all, people. (page 255)
Thus the evidence of the psychedelic model seems unmistakably clear. We are in the early stages of the development of transcendental man. The process is moving with great rapidity as it must do if the species is to survive. It is discernible in the changes that are presently occurring and that will accelerate exponentially.
As the individual becomes more loving and, therefore, more joyful and happy through the expectation of pleasure, he represents the development of a new form of faith. Without fear of pain there can be no concepts of Hell. Heaven, as Blake points out, becomes here and now. Where there is no fear, there is unitive faith that expresses itself in love.
Until now love, perforce, has come before faith, but in the men who are now being born, faith will lead love and direct its expression. To these men, faith is. No longer will it be sought after for it will be immanent, forming the very ground upon which thought appears. As Bucke put it: "The evidence of immortality will live in every heart as sight in every eye. The evidence of each will be the same."
To our gaze this will appear to be an anarchy of angels, but to the new-born it will be simply a base camp on the pathway up the mountain to greater levels of attainment than we can yet imagine. Man as a creature with four-dimensional awareness will have arrived and will begin to develop along the dimensions of being to higher and higher levels of realization. There will be much to do, for the stars are yet far off and love is still weeping in pain in many parts of our earth. But the new-born will confront these problems with joy, and lacking fear of being themselves, they will neither need nor acquire psychological defenses.
This is the state of being that will be the base camp from which man will soon venture forth, for we are even now embarked upon a voyage of love and exploration and high adventure by reason of joy in the quest armed with the faith that assures love. (pages 272 - 273)
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This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby