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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 Religious Experience of Mankind.

Smart, Ninian. (1984).
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

ISBN: 0-684-18077-4 hardcover

0-684-18078-2 paperback

Description: Hardcover, third edition, xxii + 634 pages.

Contents: Preface to the third edition, preface to the second edition, preface to the first edition, list of illustrations and maps, 13 chapters, transliteration of oriental words, chapter bibliographies, index.

Excerpt(s): Soma But the astonishment of the onlooker, present at a sacrifice, was not solely due to the intrinsic wonder of the objects of the ritual; it was also due to the power of soma. From the soma plant a juice was prepared that was used both as libation to the god and as a beverage for the worshipper. Soma juice may or may not have been intoxicating: the scholarly probabilities incline against such a view. But it produced profound effects on its consumers: hallucinations and a sense of glory followed its consumption. Since soma was taken in the context of ritual, it is no surprise that the god Soma was deemed a powerful divinity. The soma experience was regarded not just as a natural phenomenon, but as the occasion of sacred significance and holy dynamism. (page 84)

The use of soma (which is the Iranian haoma) is one among the many examples of the religious use of drugs and intoxicants which have strange psychological effects. In our own day, Aldous Huxley has advocated the use of mescaline. The weird and glorifying properties of such plants and concoctions have given man a heightened religious experience, a window, as it were, on a world that is normally beyond the range of humdrum senses. Not only this, but in Vedic religion soma was thought to be more than a sacred stimulus to vision. It was the secret of heaven, the ambrosia which confers a form of immortality, the food of the gods. Thus it figured centrally both in the cult of the deities, and in thoughts about further existence. (page 85)

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