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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

Religious Belief and Philosophical Thought: Readings in the Philosophy of Religion.

Alston, William P. (Editor) (1963).
New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.

ISBN: none

Description: Hardcover, xiv + 626 pages.

Contents: Preface, 40 unnumbered chapters divided into 8 parts: 1. Arguments for the Existence of God, 2. Religious Experience, 3. Criticisms of Theism, 4. Immortality, 5. Revelation, 6. Faith, 7. Religion and Science, 8. Religious Alterntives to Theism, index.

Excerpt(s): If, one winter morning, I discover some footprints in the snow leading up to my kitchen window, I can, by reasoning from effect to cause, come to realize that during the night someone came and peered into the house. But if during the night I had happened to look out my bedroom window at the time the intruder was approaching, I could have discovered his presence in a direct fashion, without the necessity of such inferences. The various arguments for the existence of God which were presented in the previous section purported to reveal God to us in the former, indirect sort of way. But there have been many religious men who have believed that they were able to discover that God exists in a more direct fashion, by experiencing His presence in as direct a way as that in which one experiences the presence of trees, buildings, and other human beings. (page 117).

Our central question is: Are experiences of this sort, always or sometimes, really direct apprehensions of an objectively existing personal deity, or are they purely subjective states of feeling which have no reference to anything beyond the subject? It is clear that if I have directly experienced a personal deity (as opposed to merely having supposed that I have done so) then I have the strongest possible basis for believing that such a being exists; just as I have the strongest possible basis for believing that yaks exist if I really have seen one. (page 118)

Theorists have taken principles which have been more or less established in other contexts and have tried to apply them to mystical experience. Eventually these applications will have to receive a more direct test. Of course, it is difficult to lure mystics into the psychological laboratory, or even to get comprehensive case histories of nonpsychic individuals who have mystical experiences. But in any event a discussion of the adequacy of such explanations, as psychological explanations, lies outside the purview of this volume. The crucial philosophical question is: If some such explanations are adequate, what bearing does that have on the status of the mystic's claim to have directly experienced God?

James's discussion is relevant at this point. It is noteworthy that although James suggests, and it is only a suggestion without any attempt to work out details, that mystical experiences can be explained as "invasions from the subconscious region," he does not take this as ruling out the possibility that through his unconscious mind the individual is in contact with some supernatural reality. . . . The mystic might argue that attempts to explain the occurrence of mystical experience are quite irrelevant to the validity of his claim to have directly experienced God, on the grounds that his claim was not that one would have to postulate a supernatural personal being in order to explain his experience. On the contrary, he is not interested in explanation at all, and the fact that he has been directly aware of God obviates any need to bring God in as a term in an explanation. Clearly he has a point. When I claim to see a maple tree just outside my window, I am certainly not saying that I believe that a maple tree will have to be postulated or hypothesized in order to explain the fact that I am now having the visual experience I am having. (pages 120-121)

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