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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

Religion and the Individual: a Social-Psychological Perspective.

Batson, C. Daniel; Schoenrade, Patricia; and Ventis, W. Larry. (1993).
New York: Oxford University Press.

ISBN: 0-19-586208-6 hardcover
0-19-506209-4 paperback
Description: hardcover, x + 427 pages

Contents: preface, 11 chapters divided into 4 parts: Part 1. Sources of the Individual's Religion, Part 2. Nature of Individual Religion, Part 3. Consequences of Individual Religion, Part 4. Implications, Appendix: The Scientific Method and Social Psychology of Religion, indexed references, subject index.

Excerpt(s): To understand dramatic, life-changing religious experiences, we made use of psychological analyses of another type of reality-transforming experiences, creativity. It was suggested that in creativity the cognitive structures that the individual uses to think about the world are changed. This cognitive restructuring leads to the creation of a new reality for the individual. Typically, this process of reality transformation involves four stages: preparation -- unsuccessful attempts to solve the problem by using the old cognitive structures; incubation -- giving up the attempt to solve the problem: illumination -- emergence of a new cognitive organization that enables the individual suddenly to see the components of the problem in a new way, permitting solution; and verification -- testing the functional value of the new solution.

Generalizing from this understanding, we suggested that a similar sequence occurs in many religious experiences, although the problems addressed are not intellectual but personally significant existential questions. The religious experience state sequence includes existential crisis, self-surrender, new vision, and new life. Moreover, just as it is possible to identify more or less creative changes in the cognitive structures in response to intellectual problems, it seems possible to identify more or less creative changes in the cognitive structures in response to religious problems. Relatively uncreative religious experiences involve rigid adherence to a specific solution that emphasizes only one aspect of the problem while ignoring others (e.g., solving the problem of death by believing that one is going to live forever because one has mouthed certain phrases); in contrast, relatively creative experiences involve a higher-level integration that takes account of various aspects of the problem and resists simplified, absolutistic solutions. (pages 114- 115)

We have considered four possible facilitators of religious experience psychedelic drugs, meditation, religious language, and music. We suggested that although none has the power to produce religious experience, each has the power to facilitate it. Moreover, we suggested that each works in its own unique way: Drugs affect both the self-surrender and new vision stages; meditation only the self- surrender state; religious language the existential crisis, new vision, and new life stages; and various forms of music affect all four stages. Note that if these suggestions are correct, then to facilitate all four stages using drugs, meditation, and religious language, two or more techniques must be combined. To combine drugs with meditation would be largely redundant, and it would still leave two stages uncovered. So we would not expect such a combination to occur. But to combine either drugs or meditation with religious language would cover all four stages. Therefore, we would expect such combinations to occur and to prove effective. We would expect various forms of music, which affect emotional rather than cognitive processes, to be combined with any and all of the other facilitators.

There is some observational evidence that these expectations are justified. Drugs were effectively combined with religious language and music in Pahnke's Miracle at Marsh Chapel experiment and with language in Carlos Castaneda's spiritual pilgrimage under the tutelage of don Juan. A drug-language-music combination exists in the native American church, where peyote is used in conjunction with Christian teachings and rhythmic music, and among the Rastafarians of Jamaica. As we have already noted, meditation with or without accompanying music is combined with religious language in a number of traditions. (page 151) (The authors do not recognize that ego dissolution, a common effect of psychedelic drugs, causes an existential crisis. TR)

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