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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

Human Survival and Consciousness Evolution.

Grof, Stanislav, with Valier, Marjorie Livingston. (Editors). (1988).
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

ISBN:0-88706-527-9 hardcover
0-88706-528-7 paperback
Description: Hardcover, xiv + 308 pages.

Contents: Introduction, 18 chapters, contributors, index.

Contributors: Alise Agar, Marie-Louise von Franz, James Garrison, Stanislav Grof, Jack Kornfield, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Ralph Metzner, John Weir Perry, Kenneth Ring, Russell L. Schewickart, Karan Singh, Br. David Steindl-Rast, William Irwin Thompson, Francisco J. Varela, Frances Vaughan, Roger Walsh, John White, Michael E. Zimmerman.

Excerpt(s): Modern consciousness research and transpersonal psychology brought a fresh and optimistic perspective into this problem area. According to this view, the factors in human nature that have created the crisis in the world are not fatally connected with the instinctual nature of human beings and with the hardware of the human brain. Human beings are in a difficult and crucial stage of consciousness evolution and have the potential to reach eventually undreamt of levels of emotional, intellectual, and ethical development. In ancient times, this was dramatically expressed by the Neoplatonist Plotinus, who described mankind as poised midway between the gods and the beasts. Modern versions of the same idea can be found in the writings of Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin, Gopi Krishna, and Ken Wilber.

Transpersonal psychology does more that just throw new light on the problem of the world crisis. It also describes a wide spectrum of techniques by which we can accelerate consciousness evolution in ourselves and others. These range from ancient spiritual practices of the Oriental and Western mystical traditions to Jungian psychology, and clinical or laboratory methods of experimental psychiatry. They make it possible to confront and integrate the shadow aspects of one's personality, to transcend the identification with the body and the ego, and to connect with the transpersonal domains of one's psyche -- the Self and the collective unconscious. The experiences of oneness with other people, nature, and the universe then lead to increased tolerance, capacity to love, development to deep ecological concerns, and a tendency to seek one's well-being in harmony with that of others. (page x)

Since this research involved a powerful mind-altering drug, it is quite natural to question to what extent it is legitimate to use it as a source of data for a psychological theory. There has been a tendency among professionals to see the LSD state as a toxic psychosis and the experiences induced by the drug as a chemical fantasmagoria that has very little to do with how the mind functions under more ordinary circumstances. However, systematic clinical research with LSD and related psychedelics has shown that these drugs can best be understood as unspecific amplifiers of mental processes. They do not create the experiences they induce, but activate the deep unconscious and make its contents available for conscious processing. The observations from psychedelic sessions have, therefore, general validity for the understanding of the human psyche. (page 59)

Transpersonal experiences have a very special position in the cartography of the human psyche. The recollective analytical level and the individual unconscious are clearly biographical in nature. The perinatal dynamic seems to represent an intersection or frontier between the personal and transpersonal. This is reflected in its deep association with births and death -- the beginning and end of individual human existence. Transpersonal phenomena reveal connections between the individual and the cosmos that are at present beyond comprehension. All we can say is that somewhere in the process of confrontation with the perinatal level of the psyche, a strange qualitative Moebius-like shift seems to occur in which deep self-exploration of the individual unconscious turns into a process of experiential adventures in the universe-at-large, which involves what can best be described as cosmic consciousness or the superconscious mind. (page 72)

However, the observations from modern consciousness research offer more than just fascinating new insights into human problems and a diagnostic contribution to the understanding of the global crisis. They also suggest new possibilities of approaching the dangerous situation in the world in a way that could influence its psychological roots. The clues here come from the study of the changes that occur in those individuals who have successfully confronted and neutralized the perinatal forces and connected experientially with the transpersonal level of the psyche.

Examples can be found in the deep experiential work using psychedelics or techniques developed by humanistic and transpersonal psychology, and by the great spiritual traditions of the world. Identical changes have also been described by Abraham Maslow in this study of individuals who had spontaneous mystical experiences (or peak experiences ) and as a result moved in the direction of what he call self-actualization or self-realization. (page 75)

It becomes obvious that the universe is a unified web, f which we all are meaningful parts. It is, in principle, impossible to do anything to other people, to other nations, or to nature, without simultaneously doing it to ourselves. Thinking in terms of all of humanity, all of life, and the entire planet clearly has to take priority over interests of individuals, families, religious and social groups, political parties, nations, and races should life on this planet survive. The hopeless us and them attitude has to be replaced by a clear realization that we are facing a problem of a collective nature that only a determined cooperative effort can solve.

It seems clear that if large numbers of people in different countries of the world felt, thought, and acted along these lines, our chances of survival would increase. To achieve this, we must complement our efforts in the world of technology that has given us instruments of awesome power by placing an equal strong emphasis on the technology of human transformation. The resulting changes in human consciousness would make it possible for us to use the fruits of modern science constructively and with wisdom.

The broad spectrum of techniques that can increase self-understanding and facilitate consciousness evolution includes a variety of ancient spiritual practices, as well as modern approaches developed by humanistic and transpersonal psychology. Some of them could be integrated into education, others could find their way into mass media, or be communicated in various art forms. However, the ultimate success or failure of this approach will depend on the determined and focused effort of each of us and the willingness to add to our external activities in the world a systematic effort at self-exploration and inner transformation. (page 77)

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