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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 New Religions.

Needleman, Jacob. (1970).
Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co.


ISBN: none

Description: Hardcover, xiv + 245 pages.

Contents: Preface, 10 chapters, references, index.

Excerpt(s): In a word, something makes us unable to have the experiences we seek, because something makes us unable to have experience itself. We are always seeking, expecting.

This is the basis of what appears to be the anti-religious nature of much of Zen writing. If religion strengthens, instead of dissolves, the mental habit of expecting, it ceases to operate as a means of realization of salvation.

When such ideas first appeared in contemporary America, many people especially the young took them as sanctioning a sort of libertinism. But they obviously provide no such sanction, since libertinism under any name is equally the seeking for certain kinds of experience.

DRUGS AND EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCE

This misconception naturally brings up the question of drugs and the drug experience. Regarded in this way, it is already clear why the taking of drugs forms no part of the practice at Zen Center. To take drugs is to crave a certain experience. And to crave a certain experience is to deny, now and here, the Buddha nature of oneself; it is to believe that, now and here, one is incomplete. In this belief, one denies the present possibility of experiencing oneself, and one lives in and for the future no less than someone craving a life beyond the grave. In Zen this is called deluded thinking.

Nonetheless, almost all of the American students I interviewed spoke with respect of drugs such as LSD. Some said that without the drug experience they would never have been opened up to the possibilities in themselves which are being realized in their Zen practice. Drugs gave them, so to say, a taste or glimpse of enlightenment. yet those who continue to take drugs almost never persist beyond the beginning stages of practice at the Zen Center. Conversely, those who persist gradually reduce and, eventually, stop the use of drugs. (pages 43-44)

Indirectly, and over a long period of time, the desire itself for the drug experience comes to be experienced. As the desire is experienced, it is placed not in so many words, perhaps as merely one among all the other desires and aspects of the personality. (page 45)

The problem of drugs and its relationship to work comes, then, to this: where shall we find an approach to man and to ourselves which is wide enough to include all parts of ourselves? Since the one thing which the drug experience does not provide is a taste of discipline, one cannot really say that it provides an advance view of spiritual work, which is the continual effort to live in the present. At the same time, in our society the demands of everyday, ordinary work engage such a small part of ourselves that by and large the rest of us languishes and is forgotten. Perhaps the search for an inner life, whether with drugs or without them, is totally misguided without the simultaneous search for a more complete outer life. (page 218)



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