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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


Living With Drugs.

Gossop, Michael. (1996).
London: Arena/Ashgate,
Brookfield, VT: Ashgate.


ISBN: 1-85742-216-3 paperback
1-85742-350-X hardcover
Description: paperback, fourth edition, xiv + 225 pages.

Contents: preface to the fourth edition, author's apologia, acknowledgements, 12 chapters, selected bibliography, index.

Excerpt(s): This tendency to resist using drugs other than alcohol may have owed much to the dominant cultural influence of the Christian Church. Despite a distinctly secular attitude towards certain pleasures of the flesh, the use of drugs (other than alcohol) to modify states of consciousness has been consistently reviled by the Church. This may have been because of their links with other, more 'primitive', religions. Alternately, it may have been because dramatically altered states of consciousness were thought of in terms of possession usually possession by devils. Consequently, knowledge about the uses of drugs remained in the hands of various closed groups apothecaries, alchemists, physicians and a few individuals who involved themselves with such esoteric practices as witchcraft. (page 6)

It is currently fashionable to sneer at the hippies. Yet the hippie subculture was a most interesting development. In some respects it was a spontaneous religious (some would prefer to call it quasi-religious) movement with LSD as its sacrament. Of course the hippies were not a unified group. They included among their numbers drug addicts, the emotionally disturbed, social misfits, hangers- on and others who were interested mainly in the extravagant clothes and music of the movement. But beneath the surface carnival, there was still a core of hippies by whom LSD was used to pursue a new set of religious, spiritual and intellectual values. Their deliberate rejection of the spiritual and religious vacuum of what they contemptuously called *the plastic society' is summed up in their creed *Turn on, tune in, drop out.' (page 41)

The hippies were not continuously preoccupied with the transcendental state, but the LSD experience was always there to redirect their attention back to it. The psychedelic experience is often spoken of as if it were a casual diversion. This is misleading, perhaps dangerously so; such drugs are not to be used casually. (page 42)

At the heart of many psychedelic experiences was a fundamental sense of the oneness of things, a belief that all contradictions were resolved, all opposites joined. In this, the LSD experience resembles the mystical experience, which is usually defined by its ineffability (it cannot be described or expressed), its noetic quality (to those who experience it, it is a state of knowledge), and its transiency (mystical states cannot usually be sustained for long; (page 42)

It would be a remarkable irony if an ordinary person could, merely by swallowing a pill, attain those exalted states of consciousness which often elude the most committed seekers of mystical enlightenment after a lifetime's spiritual exercises. Not surprisingly, the suggestion has evoked angry dismissals in many quarters. Whatever the true validity of the LSD experience, the hippies shared an immense knowingness, a conviction of their own superiority. Even if they could not reach the profound truth beneath the surface of things, they felt they had at least travelled beyond the meager frontiers of normal, rational consciousness. (page 42)



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