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
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,
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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