Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Peyote: The Divine Cactus.
Anderson, Edward F. (1996).
Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Description: paperback, second edition, xviii + 273 pages.
- ISBN: 0-8165-1654-5 paperback
- 0-8165-1653-7 hardcover
Contents: list of illustrations, A Word from the Author,
introduction, 9 chapters, epilogue, Appendix A: Peyote
Systematics, Appendix B: Peyote Alkaloids, Appendix C: Excerpts
of Current Federal Laws and Regulations Pertaining to Peyote.
Note: This integrated and interdisciplinary review includes
information on the history, anthropology, psychology, medicine,
pharmacology, chemistry, botany, and legal aspects of peyote.
Excerpt(s): The most effective actions were achieved by the
passage of state laws prohibiting peyote, often involving
widespread but often untrue newspaper publicity and other
misinformation. In 1917, for example, a strong campaign was
mounted against peyote in Colorado in order to obtain the
necessary prohibitive legislation. The Denver Post of 12 January
1917 reported that the "societies which have interested
themselves in the welfare of the Indians have discovered that
peyote is killing dozens of them yearly. The 'peyote' eater has
dreams and visions as pleasing as those of a 'hophead.' To get a
better hold on their victims, the peyote peddlers have lent a
religious tone to the ceremony of eating the drug, so that peyote
is worshiped in a semi-barbaric festival before the orgy is
held." Denver organizations that supported a prohibitive measure
against peyote included the Ministerial Alliance of Denver, the
Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the Parent-Teacher
Association, the Women's Club, and the Association of Collegiate
Such a response of well-meaning members of Anglo society is
not surprising, because the peyote religion as reported to them
seemed to be in direct opposition to established Christian mores.
Further complicating the issue was the fact that the U.S. form of
the peyote religion ... had taken on many Christian concepts and
called itself the "Native American Church, thus creating a
serious moral and legal dilemma: Should a "Christian church" that
used "drugs" be permitted to function in our society? The First
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise
of religion, but interpreting and applying this guarantee has
long been a difficult legal problem. What precisely can be
considered a "religion" has been continually open to question.
Thus a serious legal issue was specifically raised with
regard to the religious use of peyote: Are the effects of this
plant harmful enough to deny a group of people their right of
religious freedom? Opinions have been expressed on this question
for nearly a century by anti-peyotists, who have been largely
missionaries and other church workers with Native Americans.
Missionaries have felt that peyote was more than just a problem
involving the use of drugs with the related physiological and
social ramifications. The use of peyote was religious, and worse
yet, a revival of old traditional Native American customs and
beliefs; it was a form of pagan worship that was very attractive
to Native Americans for historical reasons and was highly
competitive with Christianity. Newberne, an outspoken opponent of
peyote early in this century, stated emphatically that "to the
missionary the use of peyote is paganism arrayed against
Christianity -- the power of a drug against the elevating
influence of the cross." Of course, he assumed that Christianity
should be the religion of all people because of its superiority
over any form of pagan religion, and that any Native American
activity which ran against Christianity should be prohibited. He
contended that peyotism, in mixing certain pagan beliefs with
selected Christian elements, was an "absurd cult incompatible
with Christianity" and opposed to the work of missionaries among
the Native Americans. Missionaries were also concerned that
peyotism involved a "vicious drug habit," an aspect that made it
even more dangerous. (page 191)
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