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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


The Religions of the Oppressed.

Lanternari, Vittorio. (1963).
New York: Alfred A. Knopf.


ISBN: none

Description: Hardcover, xx + 343 + xiii pages.

Contents: Preface, foreword to the English-language edition, 8 chapters, bibliography, index.

Note: Originally published as Movimenti religiosi di liberta e di salvezza dei popoli oppressi by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, translated by Lisa Sergio.

Excerpt(s): The modern religious movements that are occurring in the civilized world of East and West have been excluded, as have been the great prophetic movements of ancient times. Such major religious phenomena as Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, and Christianity, or Islam appear in this book only where they relate directly to the movements of liberation. Indeed, it is important to remember that each of these great religions began as a prophetic movement of renewal stimulated by certain given cultural and social conditions in a time of crisis. By comparing these great religious movements with those which now prevail among the so-called primitive peoples, one discovers certain key situations which are common to all of them, including the fact that the striving for religious renewal and liberation arises from the rebellion of the masses against the existing official cults imposed by a ruling caste. (page viii)

In the struggle of the American Indians against the white invaders, religion played a far more significant role than is commonly believed. In fact, to cite one authority in this field, religion became, for the Indians, a bulwark against the demoralizing effects of the European impact on their society. Frequently it was a religious drive which inspired and sustained their desperate efforts to rise up against the foreigners who had taken their land. One of their most eminent chiefs, Sitting Bull, acquired fame and authority among his own people less as a military and political leader than as the apostle and prophet of the Ghost Dance, and irredentist religious movement which gave the Indians the courage and strength to carry on the struggle for independence. (page 63)

Many Indians who call themselves Christian look upon the Peyote cult as a form of Christianity. The prophet Hensley said the following in establishing a link between Jesus and Peyote: We read in the Bible that Christ spoke of a Comforter who was to come (John 14:16,26). Long ago this Comforter came to the white man, but it never came to the Indians, until it was sent by God in the form of this holy medicine......it was given exclusively to the Indians and God never intended that whit men should understand it. (pages 87-88)

Peyotists believe that God has lodged a part of the Holy Spirit in the peyote, granting its use only to Indians; that by partaking sacramentally of the button the Indians are partaking of the Holy Spirit, in the same manner in which the white man partakes of the spirit of Christ through the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist; that the peyote, having both spiritual and medicinal powers, is a panacea for all ills; and that its therapeutic efficacy is derived from purification of the spirit, which makes possible the visions that bring man closer to God. (pages 88-89)

Another significant example of the fusion of Christian ideas with Peyotism is the way native prophets use the Bible to promote their cults. Any Biblical mention of an herb is interpreted to mean peyote, as in regard to the following passage from Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Romans 14:1-3): Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things; another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth; for God hath received him. These words are explained by the Peyote prophet to mean that the white man is The one who believeth that he may eat all things ; the one who is weak is the Indian and the herbs are the peyote buttons. This particular passage is constantly cited by Peyote leaders in defending their cult against the white man's efforts to destroy it. (page 92)



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