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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

High Priest.

Leary, Timothy. (1968).
New York: World Publishing Co.

ISBN: None

Description: Hardcover, xvi + 353 pages.

Contents: Acknowledgements, note on The League for Spiritual Discovery, 16 chapters (called "trips"), appendix.

Excerpt(s): At the time I ate the sacred mushrooms of Mexico I called myself as follows: An atheist, a rationalist, skeptical of any sort of authority, ritual, tradition, faith, or magic, an empiricist-intolerant of scholastic speculation and Talmudic juggling. An arrogant disdainer of fear-directed bourgeois conformity. I was convinced that the choice was to be independent-effective-right or obedient-routine-good, but not both. (page 282)

At the time I ate the sacred mushrooms in Mexico I was a rationalist humanist. Supremely confident but empty because, although I could predict and master the game, I had lost the thread of mystery.

I had run through and beyond the middle-class professional game board. There were no surprise moves left. I had died even to the lure of ambition, power, sex. It was all a Monopoly game-easy to win at but meaningless. I had just been promised tenure at Harvard.

Five hours after eating the mushrooms it was all changed. The revelation had come. The veil had been pulled back. The classic vision. The fullblown conversion experience. The prophetic call. The works, God had spoken. (page 183)

It was for me the authentic Mohammed, Shankara, St. John of the Cross trip. Now, mind you, I'm not comparing myself to these great eloquent, effective, popular newscasters from the central broadcasting station. Millions of unknown, incoherent, ineffective persons have stumbled on the billion-year-old ticker tape and got the message and have been unable to tune back to society. But believe this-the message is the same, in spite of the transmitter, and I got the message by a swimming pool in Cuernavaca in August 1960. (page 284)

Aldous Huxley sat with us in our early planning sessions and turned-on with us but remained convinced that religion was the inevitable institutional channel for the psychedelics. He called LSD a gratuitous grace. At his suggestion I initiated discussions with some Unitarian ministers. They were, as always, cultured, tolerant, open-minded, but hopelessly intellectual.

One day in December 1960 I received a note from a Professor Huston Smith, philosopher at M.I.T. We lunched at the Faculty Club. It seemed that during a seminar on religious experience at M.I.T., Professor Smith had suggested that Westerners could never hope to attain to the mystic experience. Aldous had passed over a note to Huston Smith with my telephone number.

Professor Smith had an ideal background for a psychedelic trip. His parents were missionaries and he spent seventeen years in China. His professional game was comparative religion. He had sought the visionary experience in monasteries in Burma and Japan.

He had been waiting and working for a long time for the direct confrontation.

And so it was arranged that on New Year's Day 1961, Huston and his good wife Eleanor would come to my house to turn-on.

They arrived late. And Huston was nervous.

There was no ritual because I was too inexperienced to understand the importance of ritual and too ignorant to suggest that Huston and Eleanor provide their own and too aware of the trap of the mind to impose my structure on the experience.

After taking the sacrament Huston lay for six hours in a comatose terror. Then lay for four hours in silent and dazed contemplation. I had been busy during the day offering irrelevant aid, tea (not drunk), fruit (not eaten), supportive remarks (unanswered).

As I drove them home in heavy silence I felt the session was a failure-half blaming my inexperience, half blaming the subjects for being unprepared.

The next day Huston phoned with the most enthusiastic, ecstatic, grateful cordiality. The session was more than he expected. The sacrament had unlocked the door.

In the subsequent months Huston ran psilocybin sessions for undergraduate and graduate students at M.I.T. Laboratory exercises for his lectures on the mystic experience. Those were the casual days before politicians and the dark priesthood of psychiatry had made a scandal out of LSD. (pages 289-290)

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