Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Hallucinogenic Plants of North America
Ott, Jonathan (1976)
Berkeley, CA: Wingbow Press.
Description: Psycho-Mycological Studies Number One, first edition, xx +162 pages.
Contents: Introduction by Richard Evans Schultes, preface, foreword, 3 parts, I.
Hallucinogenic Plants of North America, II. The Etiology of Religion: A History of
Hallucinogen Use, 3, The Biochemistry of Emotions, 3 appendices: A. Chemistry of
Hallucinogens and Neurotransmitter, B. Words, C. Field and Extraction Techniques for the
Amateur, afterword, acknowledgments, suggested reading, bibliography, index.
Thus the shaman, who once specialized in altered states of consciousness, evolved into a priest, who preached a doctrine derived from these altered states, but who did not use the plants, who did not, in fact, have direct experience of the "otherworld." The populace, therefore, was expected to accept the priest's doctrines without proof-the beginning of "faith." In other words, upon visiting a shaman, a man could have had direct experience of altered states of consciousness, of the "otherworld," either by watching the shaman, under the influence of hallucinogenic plants, journey to the "otherworld" and return with information from the "spirits," or by himself partaking of the shaman's "medicine," his hallucinogenic plants, and accompanying the shaman to the "otherworld." When the shaman came to be replaced by a priest, however, the subject was expected to have faith, to be a "true believer," and to accept the priest's symbolic intercession with the "gods" on faith, without proof. Of course, some people were more skeptical than others - those who would not accept this "second-hand" religion were cast out and persecuted, and the idea of "heresy" was born. At this point, religion as a human institution began to have difficulties. (page 86)
Curiously, we have come full circle. Although the great Western religions had effectively eliminated the use of hallucinogenic drugs, by making these drugs "tabu" and persecuting users, and although this prohibition of these substances has been enforced for centuries, the advent of the modern chemical age has radically changed this situation. Drugs and drug use have seemingly become the dominant "religion," and the modern preoccupation with pharmacological agents has led to a resurgence in interest of old "tabu" substances. Accordingly, these substances have been singled out by modern "priests," identified as harmful, and users of these substances have been attacked as viciously and relentlessly as were the European "witches".
Today, then, in place of religious dogma and ritual, we have "current medical opinion" and "therapy." In the place of "witches" and "heretics," we have "addicts," "pushers," and "drug abusers." The modern religion is one of health, and its sacraments are "therapeutic agents." The drugs which are not accepted by medical "priests" are identified as "dangerous," "addicting," and "toxic." (page 99)
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