Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
High Culture: Marijuana in the Lives of Americans.
Novak, William. (1980).
New York: Knopf.
ISBN: 0-394-50395-3 hardcover
Description: First edition,
xxvi + 289 pages.
introduction, 14 chapters, Appendix I: Letters
from Smokers (and Nonsmokers), Appendix II: Studies
on the Effects of Marijuana in Users, chapter notes, annotated
bibliography, selected bibliography.
Excerpt(s): The Soul
\ Does Marijuana affect the values of the people who smoke it?
For some users, at least, the answer is yes, although this group
appears to be in the minority. It appears that these changed values
go in two different directions, forming an interesting contradiction.
On the one hand, many smokers have found marijuana the perfect
companion to a greater pursuit of pleasure, sensuality, and physical
comfort. At the same time, an equally large group, which includes
some people from the first group, sees marijuana as the appropriate
vehicle for an exploration of spirituality. (page 150)
At the other end of the spectrum is a religious
mystic, a teacher of theology whose religious growth and awareness
have come from traditional teaching, texts, and institutions.
He has found marijuana and LSD to be enormously useful in leading
him to deeper religious experience, and he takes strong issue
with the automatic skepticism on the part of institutional religion
toward drug-inspired religious awakening:
From the modern mystic's point of view, the most
problematic of all are the words associated with religion. "God,"
"Holy," "Love" -and all the rest. The words
have become prisoners of synagogues synagogue
and churches where their overpowering reality
is unknown. So long have they been read responsively that they
evoke no response. Even the more sophisticated words now used
in their stead suffer from guilt by association; "Numinous"
and "Sacred" are too respectable-they turn no one on.
When coming to speak of the deeply religious
quality of the experience many of us have had through the use
of psychedelic drugs, I balk before the conventional religious
language. Members of the religious establishment have been too
quick to say that any experience brought on by a drug is necessarily
cheap. I rather tend to fear the opposite: to speak of psychedelic/mystical
experience in terms familiar to religion might indeed cheapen
that experience. (pages 152-153)
A graduate student at a Christian
seminary describes the marijuana high as similar to his notion
of grace. "Marijuana can provide a coloring," he explains,
"illuminating and separating out the specialness of ordinary
experience, making visible some of the things we normally take
for granted." Some fundamentalist Christians who use marijuana
wrote to say that its use is sanctioned by various Biblical verses
in Genesis and elsewhere, which describe how God "Brought
forth grass and herb yielding seed after its kind." (page
A member of a Jewish religious community finds a
correlation between religious observance and marijuana:
It's difficult to talk about marijuana and religion
because I have a hard time separating them out. Authentic religion,
when you sweep away all the extraneous stuff of politics and institutions,
is about transcendence, heightened awareness, ecstasy, and goodness.
Religion and marijuana both involve going beyond the rational,
material, and normative concerns of existence. Religion is the
original altered state of consciousness.
In the community I belong to, we celebrate Shabbat,
the Jewish sabbath, in a fairly traditional way. ...
When I started smoking marijuana, it all felt
somehow familiar, and I soon realized that the discipline of Shabbat
was a good preparation for learning to use marijuana. I was able
to learn from one altered states of consciousnessstate
of consciousness how to appreciate another one, which turned out
to be strikingly similar.
A man who calls himself a "new age therapist"
made a similar connection, but in reverse. After smoking marijuana
for about a year, he went to a synagogue service for the first
time in twenty years:
In was Yom Kippur. I'm sitting there, watching
all these people in prayer, and I begin to notice, for the first
time in my life, Hey, they're getting high. That's what
this is all about; you get high! It never occurred
to me before that religion might have anything to do with getting
high. As soon as I began to think about this, I was amazed. At
sundown, when the service finally ended, I saw the rabbi; he was
standing there, and his face was shining. Energy was pouring down
from his face, and I looked at him and started crying. I hadn't
been open to that kind of thing before.
Ott, Jonathan. (1976).
Plants of North America. Berkeley, CA: Wingbow Press.
ISBN: 0-914728-16-4 hardcover
Studies Number One, first edition, xx +162 pages.
by Richard Evans Schultes, preface,
foreword, 3 parts, I. Hallucinogenic Plants of North America,
II. The History
of Hallucinogen Use, 3, The Biochemistry
of Emotions, 3 appendices: A. Chemistry
of Hallucinogens and Neurotransmitters, B. Words, C. Field
and Extraction Techniques for the Amateur, afterword, acknowledgments,
suggested reading, bibliography, index.
Excerpt(s): 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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