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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 One Quest.

Naranjo, Claudio. (1972).
New York: Viking Press.


ISBN: (SBN) 670-52639-9

Description: Hardcover, x + 244 pages, an Esalen Book.

Contents: 4 chapters, reference notes, index.

Excerpt(s): Three institutions are overtly concerned with eliciting change or facilitating a change process in the minds and behavior of human beings: education, medicine, and religion. The nature of the change process that is the focus of each may at first glance seem quite specific to the institution: development being the province of education, healing that of medicine, and salvation, liberation, or enlightenment that of religion. Yet, the three were one in the past-when the shaman or primitive mystic was a medicine man, a wise man, a counselor, an initiator, and an artist. Today we seem to be rediscovering the unity of `ultimate concern" beyond the temporal purposes and the irrelevant concerns of education, psychiatry, and religion. Indeed, if we examine closely the nature of the separate quests for growth, sanity, and enlightenment, we may discover enough of a meeting ground among them to warrant the ambition of a unified science and art of human change. (page 30)

As in psychiatry and in education, we find here [religion] many "schools " which differ from one another not so much in their essential goal, but their symbolic and conceptual language; in the admixture of elements, other than the concern for whatever man's ultimate concern may be, into the complex phenomenon we call religion. Even more than in the domains of education and psychotherapy, perhaps, the invisible power of socialization has seized religion, using it for its own end of molding people into conformity. It is because of the local ethical and dogmatic difference in religion that some prefer to speak of mysticism when referring to the common core of religious experience out of which the different religions have sprung. Other speak of mysticism in connection with a particular modality of religious experience and development and use the word esoteric in reference to "the transcendent unity of religions." Furthermore, within some religions such as Taoism or Buddhism an esoteric or inner circle is found where the essence or religion and man are the issue, and there are other esoteric groups) of varying authoritativeness and quality) that are not bound to any single "religion." (pages 45-46)

Drugs represent still another means of chemical influence upon psychological processes [in addition to various forms of asceticism and physical disciplines including posture]. Primitive cultures in general are very aware of their natural floral pharmacopoeia, and many of the drugs in our pharmacies are either extracts, synthetic analogues, or derivatives of such age-old remedies. Among such drugs in use by Indians of many localities, we are here interested in particular in the group which, like fasting and austerities, tend to produce altered states of consciousness. The common quality of such drugs is best conveyed by the term psychedelic proposed by Dr. Humphry Osmond, meaning mind-manifesting. Such a quality brings into the focus of awareness aspects of the inner or outer reality that are not normally conscious-a shift in perception that may be experienced as either ecstatic or terrifying according to the context of the situation and the person's psychological condition. (page 113-114)

Abraham Maslow's investigations of peak-experiences, for instance, indicate that psychologically healthy persons are more prone to report such experiences (formulated or not in religious terms) either because they are more ready to accept them or to become aware of them. We may rephrase this statement by saying that healthy persons are ready to experience states which go beyond our current concept of health as a mere well-functioning system. A characteristic of peak-experiences that is relevant to our discussion here, is the dissolution of boundaries between subject and object, self and not self. (page 141)

The use of psychedelic substances provides another way of affecting one's experience of the self. Early in the experimentation with these substances, the users described the occurrence of death-rebirth experiences resembling those in mystic literature, and the term egoless has become standard in the description of reactions to LSD. It would seem that different drugs may temporarily suppress one or more aspects of the controlling and censoring mechanisms to which our ordinary sense of identity is linked, so that the person may experience his reality beyond the ordinary self-concept. Interestingly, the resulting experience of the self "when the doors of perception are cleansed" easily leads to the experience of oneness with other beings or forms of life, and this in turn to the mystical realm. (pages 149-150)



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