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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

Life After Life.

Moody, Raymond A. (1976).
New York: Bantam.

ISBN: 0-553-10080-7

Description: Paperback, xii + 187 pages.

Contents: Foreword by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, introduction, 6 chapters.

Excerpt(s): Some suggest that near-death experiences are caused by the therapeutic drugs administered to the person at the time of his crisis. The surface plausibility of this view derives from several facts. For example, it is generally agreed by most medical scientists and laymen that certain drugs cause delusional and hallucinatory mental states and experiences. Furthermore, we are now passing through an era in which there is intense interest in the problem of drug abuse, and much public attention has focused on the illicit use of drugs such as LSD, marijuana, and so forth, which do appear to cause such hallucinatory episodes. Finally, there is the fact that even many medically-accepted drugs are associated with various effects on the mind which may resemble the events of the experience of dying. For example, the drug ketamine (or cyclohexanone) is an intravenously injected anesthetic with side effects which are similar in some repspects to out-of-body experiences. It is classified as a "dissociative" anesthetic because during induction the patient may become unresponsive not only to pain but also to the environment as a whole. (pages 156-157)

In comparing reports in which the experience is plainly attributed to a drug with near-death experiences which are reported as real, several points need to be mentioned. first of all, the few people who have described such "drug" experiences to me are no more and no less romantic, imaginative, intelligent, or stable than are the persons reporting "real" near-death experiences. Secondly, these drug-induced experiences are extremely vague. thirdly, the stories vary among themselves, and also markedly from the "real" near-death visions. ... So, I would suggest that there are, in general, very great differences between these two types of experiences. (page 160)

One of the assumptions of modern medical pharmacology is the notion, which also seems to have gained acceptance among the great mass of laymen in our society, that psychoactive drugs cause the psychic episodes with which their use if associated. These psychic events are therefore considered to be "unreal," "hallucinatory," "delusional," or "only in the mind." One must remember, however, that this view is by no means universally accepted; there is another view of the relationahip between drugs and experiences attending their use. I refer to the initiatory and exploratory use of what we call "hallucinogenic" drugs. Through the ages men have turned to such psychoactive compounds in their quest to achieve other states of consciousness and to reach other planes of reality. ... Thus, drug use has historically been associated, not only with medicine and the treatment of disease, but also with religion and the attainment of enlightenment. For example, in the well-publicized rituals of the peyote cult found among American Indians in the western United States, the peyote cactus plant (which contains the substance mescaline) is ingested in order to attain religious visions and enlightenment. There are similar cults all over the world, and their members share the belief that the drug they employ provides a means of passage into other dimensions of reality. Assuming this viewpoint to be valid, it could be hypothesized that drug use would be only one pathway among many leading to the achievement of enlightenment and to the discovery of other realms of existence. The experience of dying could, then, be another such pathway, and all this would help to account for the resemblence of drug-induced experiences like the one above to near-death experiences. (pages 161-162)

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