Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Leary, Timothy. (1968).
New York: World Publishing Co.
xvi + 353 pages.
note on The League for Spiritual Discovery, 16 chapters (called
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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