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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

Modern Mystics and Sages.

Bancroft, Anne. (1978).
London: Granada Publishing.

ISBN: 0-586-08256-5

Description: Paperback, xvi + 256 pages.

Contents: Preface, acknowledgments, 11 chapters, index.

Note: First published by William Heinemann Ltd. in 1976 under the title Twentieth Century Mystics and Sages.

Excerpt(s): "Whoever knows that he knows must be amazed," says Alan Watts. And it is just this sense of existential wonder that forms the background to this book. "Who am I?" and "What is this world that I am in?" are the questions that arise from the awareness that I am. To find the answers, people feel a need to go beyond words and to experience the truth about themselves. It is this longing for real meaning that has led many to look for guidance from the mystics and sages who, consequently, have leaped into prominence.

It is the purpose of this book to present a number of such modern spiritual leaders from all religions and from none-representatives of new paths to religious truth. (page vii)

Three criteria have governed the choice of subjects for this book. One criterion has been integrity of approach; another has been the international reputation of the sage; the third has been the originality of his teaching. (pages vii-viii)

A mystic seeks direct experience of, and communion with, the divine; his whole life centres around this purpose. He tends to be solitary and to communicate his understanding through books. A sage, on the other hand, is a wise man who is perceptive, discerning, and thoughtful about life in general. He, too, pivots himself on the wish to experience the truth of existence and he, too, may write a lot of books. But he tends to be more outward-turned than the mystic and more taken up with teaching and advising; he originates methods and attracts disciples. (page viii)

Mescaline gave [ Aldous Huxley] the actual experience of a condition in which duality was transce nded ("no subject, no object", he kept repeating happily), for which he had been searching so long. Religions had helped him to approach this state intellectually but had never taken him there, and, in fact, during the early part of his life, he had discarded dogmatic religion altogether and had developed a cynical agnosticism, especially when he visited India in 1925: "One is all for religion," he wrote, "until one visits a really religious country. Then, one is all for drains, machinery and the minimum wage." (page 6)

Because both mescaline and lysergic acid (LSD) had played such a remarkable part in Huxley's "enlightenment", he regarded them as entirely beneficial, a means of saving the human race. He argued that because most believers regard God as entirely spirit, only to be approached by spiritual means, they would not believe that a divine experience could be brought about by chemical conditioning. But, he said, "In one way or another, all our experiences are chemically conditioned, and if we imagine that some of them are purely `spiritual', purely `intellectual', purely `aesthetic', it is merely because we have never troubled to investigate the internal chemical environment at the moment of their occurrence."

He emphasized that the methods used by all religions, from yogic breathing to hymn singing, are really devised to create a chemical change in the body-extra carbon dioxide in the blood stream. (page 9)

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