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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 Ponders Science.

Booth, Edwin P. (Editor). (1964).
New York: Appleton-Century.

ISBN: None

Description: Hardcover, xii + 302 pages.

Contents: Introduction, 17 chapters.

Note: Only Chapter 1 " Religion and the Consciousness-Expanding Substances" by Walter Houston Clark is about entheogens.

Excerpt(s): The question to which I intend to address myself in this paper is whether an artificial substance, discovered and produced in a laboratory, can mediate a religious experience. We are used to organ music, preaching, stained-glass windows, hymn singing, fasting, solitude, and other such artificial stimuli performing this function. But can science produce it, much as it produces, let us say, an atomic bomb or a simulated lightening bolt? I think I can best discuss this subject by giving first of all a kind of personal testimonial, or in other words by describing experiments on myself with these new substances. (page 4)

... The amazing part of these visions was that they had meaning, in some indescribable way, more precise and clear than any meaning I had ever in my life experienced. For the most part they concerned myself, my attitudes and conduct, with an almost terrifying objectivity. It was not that I had not lived a reasonably respectable life. But the visions seemed to search out and spotlight chinks in my moral armor and faults in my attitudes of which my dull inward eyes had been at best only dimly aware. So cogent and clear were these awarenesses that they carried far beyond the session to effect such changes in my attitudes and behavior as to constitute what I felt as a kind of moral bath.

Not having been a conspicuous sinner before, I doubt that casual acquaintances noticed any change in me. But members of my family can testify to my words, while, from the perspective of some eight months, I can look back on what seems to me to have been a notable strengthening and integrating influence on my personality and character comparable to what many would call a conversion experience. It is amazing to me that while I could have written the day before a very clear account of my moral and ethical values, the latter could never have affected my moral and ethical life with the precision, keenness, and cogency as did my visions. (pages 5-6)

But perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the session came not that afternoon but afterward. This was the enrichment of my understanding of Biblical language, religious symbolism, and theological formulations. It immensely fertilized insights into my field of the psychology of religion together with the stimulations of many hypotheses the testing of which would require several lifetimes. In this sense it enlivened my intellectual life.

Among the Biblical passages illuminated by the experience might be mentioned "eye hath not seen nor ear heard ... the things which God hath prepared," "ye must be born again," and "the Kingdom of God is within you," as well as events such as the account of the visions of Ezekiel, Moses taking off his shoes before the burning bush, the conversion of St. Paul, and the punishment of Job. Also the creedal reference to descent into hell is clearer inasmuch as the session seemed in some respects similar to such a descent. Certainly I encountered the hell of self-judgment at the same time that in a certain sense there was a rebirth and resurrection too, as the result of this judgment. (page 8)

... But the session seems to have introduced me to a new dimension of life. It is not as if I learned anything new that I had not known before. But as I read back over some of my writing done previous to the session, I possess a new standard of judgment. I am amazed at how authentic some of it seems to be in light of what I have learned. On the other hand, there are indeed passages that I would change or delete, for I now seem to have dispelled the ignorance in which they were conceived. But the chief difference between before and after is that before, my knowledge seems to have been largely rational, logical, and intellectual, while now the freshness of illumination seems to have dispelled at least some part of the mists before my eyes. It seems to have been a gift that has been given.

Not everyone who takes the drug calls the result a religious experience. How then did mine seem so? Though it contained nothing specifically theological, nor did I feel that I had encountered God, yet the whole impressed itself on me as profoundly religious for these reasons: (1) I felt I had come in contact with another, unearthly realm that pointed to Eternity and Beyond. (2) I had undergone a conversion experience that to some degree seemed to integrate and change me. (3) I had had the beginning of an experience of fellowship that greatly surpassed in depth what is usually called fellowship among the churches. (4) Finally my sensitivities were greatly expanded in capacity to comprehend and understand religious language and the religious mind. (pages 9-10)

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