Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
One Foot in the Future: A Woman's Spiritual Journey.
Graboi, Nina. (1991)
Santa Cruz, CA: Aerial Press.
Description: Paperback, vi + 360 pages.
Contents: Prologue, epilogue, 56 chapters readings.
Excerpt(s): Inevitably, this [Pahnke's] study evoked my interest. Once more I saw to what extent my mind would go to block me from looking at what was unfamiliar. I realized that there was more to these drugs than the sensation-thirsty media let us know. It was the first time that I heard of an experiment with exceptional states of consciousness. My studies of extra-sensory perception and Eastern philosophies plus my own meager experiences during meditation had convinced me that these states exist. But I had always believed that only rare individuals such as saints, prophets and geniuses are granted mystical visions. Still, there was Bucke's theory that cosmic consciousness is on the increase, and the theories of Teilhard de Chardin who claimed, based on his research in paleontology, that humanity is evolving towards the OMEGA POINT, a point where a quantum transformation will take place in human consciousness and we will emerge as a new breed.
We are growing, becoming more spiritual, these men said. Could the drugs help us, who are now located between the animals and the angels, to one day leave our larval state and become butterflies? With all my heart I wanted to believe in our potential to evolve, to emerge from our brutish past.
And with all my being, I longed to experience what the divinity students had experienced. (page 130)
My own desire to experience these states kept growing, and I toyed with the idea of one day taking LSD under the supervision of a competent psychologist. But I was not yet ready for it. There was still more onion to peel. I was determined to approach LSD as a key to the Divine; bringing any personal baggage to it seemed sacrilegious. I would wait until my slate was clean, or at least cleaner. The mystical experience was not a band-aid for my unfulfilled dreams. What I longed to catch a glimpse of was a dimension that includes, yet far exceeds, the human world. I hungered for the experience of the more without which life, to me, was not worth living. I believed the words of mystics and poets, but I wanted to experience them myself. The intellect can be the best man at the wedding, but he cannot consummate the marriage, I told myself. However, while still in the process of preparing for the experience, I was anxious to read and listen to the voices that spoke of Eastern philosophies and of breakthroughs in various disciplines. What they said brought science and mysticism closely together and gave me ever deeper insights into my all-absorbing interest. (page 139)
Nathan drew an eyedropper from a small vial. He put three drops of a colorless liquid in one glass and one drop in the other. He handed me the first goblet. "I gave you 150 mm. I'm taking 50. It will help me to stay in rapport with you." He poured water into the two glasses and lifted his to me. "May the spirit protect you and guide you," he said.
And we drank.
What follows is the account of the trip, written a week later:
The setting for my session was the Meditation House. I sat cross-legged before the altar with Nathan, my guide, and we meditated in silence while we waited for the chemical to take effect. Thirty minutes or so later things began to happen. I lay down. "Will you take care of my body if I leave it?" I asked Nathan.
"Have faith," he answered.
I was looking up at the wooden ceiling and noted for the first time the intricate carvings that cover it. "Christ died in this room" I heard myself say.
"And He was also resurrected here," came Nathan's calm voice. My death, and my resurrection, I thought. After that, I lost consciousness, or the place where my consciousness went became inaccessible to what I normally call my consciousness. I was bombarded with images, concepts, information and illumination to a degree that far exceeded my capacity to deal with.
It felt as if my face were changing, as if it were being poured into a new mold, and there were colors, and sounds, and the light! And gradually, a new self-awareness dawned. Not of my ordinary self as Nina Graboi nee Gusti Schreyer, but of the over-soul, the eternal Self of which the Nina-person is but a glimpse, a fleeting moment in the eternity of Being. ...
[Tenzing says,] "Tell me, what did you learn, Nina?"
I think about this for a while. "I learned that I'm more-so much more than this body that walks the earth. I learned that I'm still me, even without a name, a family, an identity, or a body. I almost think that the body is a prison that holds my consciousness inside narrow limits, to make it possible to function on the earth. Once I was out of it, the limitless was my home..." I'm surprised by what I'm saying, and by what that implies. "Does that mean there is no death, Tenzing?"
"You died last night, but you're still here. You can draw whatever conclusions you want from that. To the Buddhist, the aim of the game is to get off the wheel of birth and rebirth. You had a small taste of that last night."
"Yes, but I was very frightened when I couldn't get back in my body. I didn't like that part of the trip!"
"That's because you're not finished with your rounds on the earth. You still have much to learn here, so don't worry-you'll always find yourself back in your body, even if you wish to stay free." (pages 192-196)
Leary's appeal against the Laredo bust sentence centered on the issue of religious freedom. He argued that as LSD and marijuana are used as sacraments by him and the rest of the Millbrook community, they should be legally obtainable, in the same way as the peyote which is used by the Native American Church. When he announced that the Millbrook community had incorporated as a religious group named The League of Spiritual Discovery, an avalanche of mail and phone calls poured into the mansion. Everybody wanted to join the new religion. We were stunned by the sheer volume of requests. The LSD revolution had spread beyond the colleges and seemed on its way to becoming a vast grass-roots movement. Timothy Leary, as leader of the new religion, could have become one of the most powerful men on earth. But to the surprise of all who believed him to be power-hungry and self-serving, he wanted no part of it. "Found your own religion," he wrote in a pamphlet that gave guidelines on how to do it. The League of Spiritual Discovery had only two commandments: Thou shalt not alter the consciousness of thy fellow man, and Thou shalt not prevent thy fellow man from altering his own consciousness. "Expanded consciousness is the Fifth Freedom," Timothy Leary proclaimed. Along with his famous slogan, "Turn on, tune in, drop out," these words had a powerful hold on the young.
But while the psychedelics were viewed as a primary key to the mystical experience by the Millbrook group, they continued to search for non-drug ways to reach it. For this purpose they decided to stage a series of performances called Psychedelic Religious Celebrations. These would attempt to recreate the psychedelic experience for the spectators. The first of them was based on the novel Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. (pages 202-203)
"It looks good, Nina," Timothy conceded. "It's a good setting for the work we can do to educate people about the constructive use of LSD." His faith in the power of the psychedelics to take us a step further on the evolutionary ladder is unshaken. The psychedelics undeniably play a large role in the emerging New Age consciousness. I strongly believe in the need to educate and prepare those who are ready to take LSD, and I hope that people will learn to treat the psychedelics with the reverence, the respect, and the caution they deserve. They can take us to heaven, or they can take us to hell. They can illuminate us, or they can drive us mad.
I'm pleased that Timothy likes the Center. I deserve to bask in the glory of a job well done. But there is still much to do. For one thing, I want the symbols of all religions in the shrine. Religious wars still rage in different corners of the earth. We must learn to treasure the unity in our diversity, or we are lost. But it's best to start with Buddhism-the only religion that never caused blood to be shed. Ultimately, I hope, all religious dogma will be replaced by direct, personal experience. (pages 223-224)
"The main benefit I derived from the psychedelics is that they taught me that "I" am not my body but an evolving consciousness, clothed temporarily in a body. I died after my third toke on my first joint of grass, and when I came back, I was not I any more but a consciousness that encompassed a vastly broader spectrum than I ever dreamed of. It doesn't last, but once you have known it, you can never forget that it exists. When the experience becomes integrated into your life, the fear of death disappears-and we can only truly begin to live when we no longer fear death." (page 240)
Only history will show if Leary was right or wrong to popularize LSD. The fact is that today, thanks to him, more people than ever before have entered states of awareness that were formerly reserved to mystics, saints, and the rare inspired artist. The mental horizon of western culture has been stretched to include supersensory and transcendent realities; a bridge to the divine has been built. That there are casualties cannot be denied. I am deeply distressed whenever I encounter evidence of the destructive or confusing power of the psychedelics. But since 1967 an ever-growing number of people have awakened to the reality of the spirit, whether through the use of the psychedelics, or through the non-psychedelic methods brought to the West by the psychedelic movement. (page 248)
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