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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

How the Millennium Comes Violently:
From Jonestown to Heaven's Gate

Wessinger, Catherine (2000)
New York and London: Seven Bridges Press.

ISBN: 1-889119-24-5

Description: Paperback, xiv + 305 pages

Contents: Acknowledgments, Foreword by Jayne Seminare Docherty, 9 chapters, bibliography, index.

Note: This book provides an instance of how entheogens can be abused in an authoritarian religious organization and by misattributing their effects to a leader.

Chapter 1: Introduction

It is my hope that his book will be helpful to potential converts and members of NRMs [New Religious Movements], concerned relatives of members, the neighbors of unconventional religious communities, law enforcement agents, news reporters, and scholars by illuminating the characteristics and dynamics that can contribute to the volatility of religious groups. The manner in which outsiders interact with a millennial group is an important factor in stimulating volatility. Still, scholars should refrain from predicting violence in some groups or giving a "clean bill of health" to other religious groups. There is always the factor of human free will that makes it impossible to predict such things reliably. We can never know in advance what actions individuals will choose, and there will always be new contributing factors to be identified in future studies. (page 3)

A religion is a comprehensive worldview that makes sense of the universe and of human existence. Religion explains where we came from and where we are going. Religion teaches what is right and wrong. Religion is an expression of an ultimate concern, which is the most important thing in the world for an individual or group. The ultimate concern is the religious goal people want to achieve, and this goal is about achieving a condition of permanent well-being (salvation). The ultimate concern may be heaven, the Kingdom of God on earth, escape from the cycle of rebirth (as in Hinduism and Buddhism), or perfect happiness in everyday life. The ultimate concern is determined by the religion's cosmology and understanding of human nature. A cosmology is a view of the universe and its sources (for instance, God, multiple gods, extraterrestrials). The cosmology also pinpoints the source of evil (for example, Satan, demons, space aliens). A religion's view of human nature may involve beliefs about life after death and about how humans were created. The view of human nature will state whether humans are capable of achieving the ultimate goal through self-effort, or whether they must rely on divine assistance. The cosmology and understanding of human nature will determine the methods used to obtain the ultimate goal. These methods may consist of prayer, faith and worship, meditation, yogic disciplines, God's grace, the guru's grace, asceticism, community-building, or social reform. (page 5)

Chapter 5: 1995 - Aum Shinriko

In his book, Initiation (1987), Asahara claimed that shaktipat given by himself to the devotee was necessary to awaken the kundalini. In 1994, Aum scientists began producing drugs, LSD, sodium thiopental, mescaline, methamphetamine, and PCP, for use in religions initiations. Even those chemically-induced mystical experiences were attributed by Aum believers to the shakti (spiritual power, energy) of the guru. (page 128)

Aum Shinrikyo was attractive to educated, urban young people dissatisfied with being cogs in the Japanese economic system and interested in cultivating mystical experiences. Aum offered an alternative to lifetime employment in unfulfilling work for modest wages. In the 1990s, many young adults lived with their parents because of the slowing Japanese economy, low starting salaries, and the high cost of living. Aum Shinrikyo offered an alternative of communal living in an exotic environment. Aum devotees were given Indian names. They built up the organization's assets with their free labor. In Aum, young people could pursue mystical experiences by meditating, practicing yoga, and also by listening to music, dancing, and by taking drugs such as LSD. It was believed that by these methods and the grace of the guru, it was possible to become a superhuman (shinkajin). (page 131)

The practice of extreme asceticism to obtain salvation was considered so important that people were forced to undergo it. Some of the severe ascetic practices included fasting or living on a meager diet, being lowered into scalding or near-freezing water, and being hung upside down. Drugs such as LSD were used to stimulate altered consciousness. (page 134)

This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby, © 1995-2002 CSP

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