Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Grinspoon, Lester, and Bakalar, James. B. (Editors). (1983).
New York: Human Sciences Press.
Description: First edition,
contributors, introduction, 19 chapters divided into 4 parts:
and Patterns of Psychedelic Drug Use; II. Social
and Personal Uses of Psychedelic Drugs, A Note on Adverse Effects;
III. Psychedelic Drugs in
Psychiatry; IV. Psychedelic
Drugs and the Study of the Mind; afterword, index.
Houston Clark, Esh,
Stanislav Grof, Timothy
B. Roberts, Alexander
T. Tart, Frances E. Vaughan, Andrew
T. Weil, Norman Zinberg.
Excerpt(s): A most striking
feature of my psychedelic experience was the noetic quality of
consciousness as it expanded from its usual perceptual range to
a vast contextual awareness that recognized the relativity of
all perception in space/time. I find the term re-cognize
particularly appropriate, since the knowledge that was suddenly
revealed to me under LSD seemed to be remembered rather than learned.
During the experience, I felt I understood what
mystics throughout the ages have claimed to be the universal truth
of existence. ... The perennial philosophy and the esoteric teachings
of all time suddenly made sense ... My understanding of mystical
teaching both Eastern and Western, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian,
and Sufi alike, took a quantum leap. I became aware of the transcendental
unity at the core of all the great religions, and understood for
the first time the meaning of ecstatic states.
I now felt I had had some direct experience of the
ineffable realms of union with God, and I discovered that my dissatisfaction
with conventual religion was not due to the death of God, as some
theologians proclaimed, but rather to the impoverished concepts
of God currently in vogue. Whether one spoke of God, the Void,
or the Self, Being, Bliss, or Consciousness, did not matter, for
the words were so far removed from the experience that they were
only fingers pointing to the moon ...
I felt that I had now experienced the grace of God.
... I could understand why human beings throughout history have
relentlessly pursued truth and sought enlightenment. I knew now
why some felt impelled to sit in caves for years trying to become
enlightened, why some were willing to die for ideals, and why
suffering was endured. If asceticism were perceived as a means
of attaining this state of oneness, I could understand why a person
might choose it. I understood that the essence of my being was
identical with the timeless essence of every living thing, that
formlessness was the essence of form, that the whole universe
was reflected in every psyche, and that my separateness was only
an illusion, a dream from which I had, in this moment, fully awakened.
(Frances Vaughan, Perception and Knowledge: Reflections on Psychological and Spiritual Learning
in the Psychedelic Experience, pages 109-110)
How, then, can we get a picture of the effects of
psychedelics when they are used for personal exploration and psychological
growth? One approach suggested by Abraham
Maslow, but as yet apparently untried in the area of psychedelics,
is to ask people who are exceptionally healthy and use them as
bioassayers. Maslow's technique was to identify those individuals
who seemed to be most fully actualizing their potentials ,
he called them self-actualizers ... I was able to interview in
depth five of the very healthiest Westerners who fit Maslow's
criteria and are also successful and eminent in their disciplines.
These four men and one woman ... all have university
degrees; three are psychologists, and the other two are sophisticated
psychologically. Four are teachers, either of psychology or of
one of the consciousness disciplines such as meditation of Buddhism.
All have strong national reputations, and most have international
reputations; all have published at least one book. I included
the criterion of professional eminence in order to insure that
the people were competent and would not be dismissed as irresponsible
or as dropouts of any sort.
Each of these five people has had multiple psychedelic experiences.
For three of them the psychedelic experience was crucial in arousing
their interest in the consciousness disciplines and directing
their professional careers. A fourth received LSD for the first
time as part of a legitimate research experiment during the sixties,
had a deep religious experience which affirmed and deepened previously
dormant interests and values. All five report that the psychedelics
have been important in their growth, and that they continue to
find them useful in the context of their own discipline. On the
average, they continue to use them two or three times per year,
but all have gone for extended periods without use.
All agreed that they are very powerful tools and
that the effects depend very much on the person who uses them
and the skill with which they are used. They took it as self-evident
that there are many people who should not take psychedelics, especially
anyone with significant psychological disturbances ...
The first benefit was the simple recognition that there are realms
of experience, modes of self, and states of consciousness far
beyond the ken of our day-to-day experience or our traditional
cultural and psychological models ...
For all five of the subjects mentioned here, and
many of their students, psychedelic experience produced a new
interest in depth psychology, religion, spirituality, and consciousness,
as well as related disciplines and practices such as meditation
... In particular, the esoteric core of the great religions and
spiritual traditions could be seen as roadmaps to higher states
of consciousness, and some of the most profound material in these
traditions became especially clear and meaningful during psychedelic
sessions. Several of the subjects reported that they often put
time aside during psychedelic sessions to listen to tapes or readings
from these traditions; they found these experiences particularly
important. This is compatible with the Eastern claim that "Religion
is learning in which a basic requirement is `First change your
consciousness.'" ( Psychedelics
and Self-Actualization, pages 116-117)
Traps and Complications
... Not one of the five subjects saw the psychedelics as constituting
in and of themselves a path which could lead to deep levels of
psychological-spiritual growth of true enlightenment. ... Interestingly,
the subjects did not see acute painful reactions, such as anxiety
attacks or fear of losing control, as necessarily adverse. ...
Hedonism was mentioned as one of the traps ...
there is some danger of not recognizing a fantasy for what it
is ... the tendency to overestimate the profundity and long-term
impact of insights which may be mistaken for profound awakenings.
... An inadequate cognitive framework or context was also mentioned
as a limiting factor. ... One subject thought the main disadvantage
of psychedelics is the tendency to underestimate one's own role
in creating the resultant experiences. ... One trap for people
with limited experience, the subjects said, is a failure to appreciate
the enormous range of potential experiences and the tendency to
assume that all sessions will be like the first. (Roger Walsh,
Chapter 10, Psychedelics and Self-Actualization, pages 118)
One of the people we asked to write for this book
replied that after long thought he had to decline, because he
feared the effect on his ability to support himself and his family
if he said what he really thought about psychedelic drugs. This
may be an unusually strong expression of a feeling that is more
common in milder forms. Anyone, whatever his views on the drugs
themselves, ought to recognize that it is an unhealthy situation
in a free society. Even if this kind of fear is not common-even
if it is not justified-the fact that it exists at all suggests
something seriously wrong in our social response to psychedelic
drugs. They were once regarded by some as the great liberating
force of our time, the destined sacrament of the Aquarian Age,
and by others as a threat to sanity and civilized society. In
the last 10 years, since the end of the psychedelic craze, they
have been neglected almost entirely. All these attitudes, as the
essays in this anthology suggest, are wrong, but apparently they
can still affect people's actions to the point of self-censorship.
(Afterword, page 253)
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