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.
xii + 302 pages.
Note: Only Chapter 1
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
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
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
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