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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

The Human Encounter With Death.

Grof, Stanislav, and Halifax, Joan.(1977).
New York: E. P. Dutton.

ISBN: 0-525-12975-8

Description: First edition, xvi + 240 pages.

Contents: Foreword by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, acknowledgments, 10 chapters, bibliography, index.

Excerpt(s): The changes that occur in cancer patients following psychedelic therapy are extremely varied, complex, and multidimensional. Some of them are of a familiar nature, such as alleviation of depression, tension, anxiety, sleep distrubance, and psychological withdrawal. Others involve phenomena that are quite new in Western psychiatry and psychology; especially specific changes in basic life philosophy, spiritual orientation, and the hierarchy of values. (page 36)

Many observations from LSD sessions seem to indicate that various physically painful experiences in the life history of an individual are recorded in the memory banks in close association with each other. The resulting memory constellations are then functionally linked with the experiences on the perinatal level. Thus, episodes of pain and physical suffering from the individual's life related to operations, injuries, diseases, and physical abuse are typically relived in LSD sessions in the context of birth experiences. (page 120)

The totality of the pain experience seems thus to involve not only the direct neurophysiological response to tissue damage but also the past programming of the individual regarding painful events and anticipation of suffering in the future. (page 121)

Procedures that make it possible to experience profound sequences of psychological death and rebirth and various transpersonal phenomena might be more than training and preparation for dying and death. There are indications that these episodes of unusual states of consciousness in effect modify the way in which an individual will experience his or her biological death. We believe the struggle and agony that are associated with dying in some persons are due to the fact that the physiological and biochemical changes in the organism activate painful unconscious material from the individual's history that has not been worked through and consciously integrated. (page 187)

Unlike the transformations of the experience of pain that can occur after any type of LSD experience, changes in feelings about dying and death seem to be associated with the specific content of the session. In our experience dramatic changes in the concept of death and attitudes toward it only took place following LSD sessions that had perinatal and transpersonal elements. Those individuals who experienced the phenomenon of ego death followed by the experience of rebirth and cosmic unity seemed to show radical and lasting changes in their fundamental understanding of human nature and its relation to the universe. Death, instead of being the ultimate end of everything, suddenly appeared as a transition into a different type of existence; the idea of the possible continuity of consciousness beyond physical death seemed to be much more plausible than the opposite. Dying persons who had transcendental experiences developed a deep belief in the ultimate unity of all creation; they often experienced themselves as integral parts of it, including their disease and the often painful situations they were facing. (pages 126-127).

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