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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

Psychedelic Anthropology: In Search of Self

White, Geraldine P. (1971).
Fullerton, CA: California State University at Fullerton

ISBN: none

Description: Unpublished doctoral dissertation, xi + 121 pages.

Contents: Abstract, preface, 13 chapters, bibliography.

Excerpt(s): Through an analysis and interpretation of various mythological and symbolic systems, Allan Coult, in his textbook Psychedelic Anthropology, has defined a universal mechanism for the experience of various levels of consciousness. He has systematically categorized these mental and physiological states and proposes that the experience of them gives rise to specific symbolism and symbolic systems. In other words, these symbols can be correlated with and are a direct result and manifestation of the experience of these given states of consciousness. (page 1)

The direct correlation between physiological states and mental levels of consciousness as united by this fundamental mechanism, produced a very drastic and seemingly profane (at least to the Western mind) conclusion: these different mental states can be induced physically as well as mentally. Therefore, Coult maintains that the psychedelic experience (physically induced) and the so-called transcendental (mystic) experience are the same (or are at least dependent on and the result of the same process). His basic symbolic system is representative of this fundamental process and is therefore believed to be the root of all religions and mythologies. (page 2)

...The purpose of this paper is to set forth, as clearly and as succinctly as possible, the basic premises of Psychedelic Anthropology. Because the theory is considered to be so radical, I have extensively quoted the reference material as utilized by the author through which he arrived at his basic premises, as well as the ethnographic sources he uses to substantiate them. Additional utilization of ethnographic references which are abundantly available, would, I feel, be an unnecessary duplication of the original research. (pages 4-5)

... Psychedelic Anthropology, along with its predecessor, the Blavatsky School of Theosophy, holds that "Man is the microcosm to the Macrocosm." That is, man is created according to the same principles as the universe. The creation of the cosmos is the creation of man. As Blavatsky says, "As the solid earth began by being a ball of liquid fire, of fiery dust and its protoplasmic phantom, so did man." Moreover, this very "process" of creation itself is reproduced in the experience of man, and gives rise to his essential nature.

In the human experience, this process is physiologically experienced and symbolically expressed. (page 14)

According to the premises of Psychedelic Anthropology, the mythological allegory of the creation, fall and redemption of man has its physiological correspondent, which governs various levels of physical and symbolic experience, within the human body. It is a physiological process which operates according to the same principles as those previously described. This process is dependent on a psycho-physical structure within the body and an internal energy principle (referred to in the Hindu tradition of Kundalini) which activates it. ... In brief, it consists primarily of three main psychic nerves which extend, parallel to each other, from the base of the spine to the top of the head. The (central) median nerve runs up the spinal column, while the left and right psychic nerves terminate in the left and right nasal apertures respectively. Along these nerves are various main energy centers called chakras (seven in number), which correspond to a hierarchy of "levels of consciousness." In the ordinary human experience, these centers are dormant. (pages 21-22)

In the usual human (bodily) condition, the energy, Kundalini, lies dormant at the base of the spine. When this energy is made to rise along the median nerve up the spinal column, it produces an accompanying experience of non-dual or unitary existence in the human organism; and man is in his primary "perfected" or natural state, (UNITY). When Kundalini falls to the base of the spinal column, however, the internal energy of the organism is distributed between the left and right psychic nerve, producing a state of dualistic consciousness, or the knowledge of good and evil. The knowledge of good and evil, then is the knowledge, or experience of DUALITY. The result of this process is death-or the separation from the total, unitary life-process.

The experience of redemption or enlightenment is logically simply that of the reversal of the process of the fall. Through various techniques, and mental and physical manipulations-some of which proposed by this system are Reichian psychotherapy, Yoga and the use of psychedelics, - the Kundalini force again rises, reversing the process of "the Fall," and reuniting the consciousness of man into a unitary experience. Through this process, man then achieves redemption and is returned to his original state of existence, (UNITY).

The basic premise upon which this interpretation hinges is that the symbolic experience is determined by a physiological process, and that the resulting symbolism will be patterned according to that process. The theory presupposes the unity of psychic (mental) and physiological states, a presupposition that has received some intriguing substantiation from the theories of modern psychology. (pages 23-24)

Contrary to commonly held Western religious opinion, the original sin was not one of disobedience. It is the sin of separation from the total experience of our own human bodies, from the experience of the totality of our own human nature. The struggle for reunification of this experience is the story of mankind. It did not happen centuries ago to two mythological characters called Adam and Eve. It's happening now, to you. (pages 59-60)

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