Council on Spiritual Practices About CSP | Site Map | ©
Search CSP:   

Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Religious Systems and Psychotherapy.

Cox, Richard H. (Editor). (1973).
Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

ISBN: 0-398-02753-6

Description: Hardcover, xiv + 519 pages.

Contents: Foreword by E. Mansell Pattison, preface, 33 chapters divided into 3 parts: 1. Major Religious Systems, 2. Indigenous and Emergent Religious Systems, 3. Pluralism: Multiple Systems, index.

Contributors: Agehananda Bharati, Ch'u Chai, Winberg Chai, Paul W. Clement, Charles A. Curran, Bingham Dai, Edgar Draper, Sylvanus M. Duvall, Truman, G. Esau, Harrison, S. Evans, Joan Halifax, John A. Hammes, Joseph Havens, Emanuel M. Honig, Paul E. Johnson, Sidney M. Jourard, Issa J. Khalil, Ari Kiev, Roger M. Laurer, Wolfgang Lederer, C. Marshall Lowe, O. Hobart Mowrer, E. Mansell Pattison, Raymond Pringe, John Ragy, William R. Rogers, Vin Rosenthal, Delwin Byron Schneider, Irma Lee Shepherd, C. Jay Skidmore, Harry C. Stamey, E. Mark Stern, John M. Vayhinger, Walter I. Wardwell, Neil Clark Warren, and Hazel H. Weidman

Excerpt(s): The paradigm, in all yogic traditions, is control — in order to escape from the travail of rebirth, the aspirant has to control his mind and his body. Let me stress that mind and body are not by any means as highly polarized in the Indian tradition as they are in the Mediterranean belief systems. The Sanskrit terms which can be translated as mind are distinct categories to the Indian thinker; and the terms referring to the somatic organization overlap with some of the semantic mind categories. In the higher reaches of meditational achievement, the distinction between "body" and "mind" becomes trivial or irrelevant, since the successful contemplative, the consummate yogi transcends both the mind and the body system, reaching identity with the Absolute, the brahman, the theologically postulated base of all that exists.

Perhaps the best analogy would be found in some of the more insightful reports on LSD-25 experiences of thinking people rather than by the run-of-the-mill groovers of the Western counter-culture. Here, too, the distinction between body and mind disappears progressively — no doubt a frightening experience ("a bad trip") for those not briefed in the theologies of numerical oneness of the individual and the divine. Here, too, some sort of transcending entity is sensed, which is neither physical nor mental, or which is both at the same time. (Hinduism, Psychotherapy, and the Human Predicament Bharati Agehananda. page 175 )

In extrovertive experiences the individual feels himself to have become part of surrounding nature and, in addition to the general mystical characteristics noted above, there is usually a heightened intensity of visual or auditory perception, and a quality that suggests the use of the word "religious". . . . Introvertive experiences are more intense and for the most part occur to those who have adopted an ascetic way of life and have practiced meditation or other techniques in order to achieve them. The environment is lost and there remains in consciousness only the sense of one all pervading aspect; or in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, the sense of two things, the self and God. . . . Some authors assert that these various kinds of mystical experience, including both the introvertive and extrovertive, are part of a single continuum of increasing intensity, with aesthetic experiences and adamic states at one end and the high-powered introvertive experiences at the other. But others like Zaehner see a profound difference between the adamic and monistic experiences on the one hand and the dualistic self-in-the-presence-of God experiences on the other: according to him, only the latter are of supernatural origin.

Quite apart from their alleged supernatural implications, there has been increasing interest in the potential psychotherapeutic value of mystical experiences. Savage and his associates have used mystical experiences induced by a single large dose of LSD in the treatment of alcoholics and drug addicts; Pahnke used a similar technique in preparing terminal cancer patients for death.

Asrani has emphasized that there has always been an awareness of the important mental health implication of mystical experience in Hinduism. As a result of his personal experience he concluded that

. . . mystical experience not only concentrates and balances the mind; it also frees the self from psychological states such as superiority and inferiority, insecurity and fear, doubt and opinion, and egotism. It seems to be a state of perfect mental health, for the mind and its workings become so smooth and unperturbed that the very existence of the mind is not felt at all. . . . Kapleau provides a number of interesting case histories of improved mental health following enlightenment associated with Zen meditation. In this paper I would like to explore these psychotherapeutic effects further, finding a reply to the question: Why should mystical states have this beneficent result? (pages 308-309)

I believe it will be clear that in at least some cases, the psychotherapeutic effects of mystical states can be adequately accounted for within the framework of more primitive modes of psychotherapy— the integration of the individual into a supportive religio-social network with periodically reinforced convictions and significant sacrifices balanced by significant benefits. The chief difference between the primitive modes and the more advanced is the difference in the methods of generating conviction: in the former, visible magical proofs are common, or possession states furnish proof; in the latter, conviction is engendered by the noetic quality of the subjective experience. Thus far then no new therapeutic principles need be formulated.

Let us now turn to the question of insight. Can the psychotherapeutic effects of mystical experiences be attributed to insight using that word as the psychoanalysts do and as I have defined it earlier? I maintain that they cannot. Mystical states do not furnish this kind of insight. I do not know of any instance of a mystical state resulting in, for example, the recognition of an oedipal situation! Some states, particularly as experienced by women, are expressed in frankly sexual imagery. (pages 314-315)

In examining these experiences of Bucke and others (particularly in Western cultures) one is impressed by reports of first hand experience of cosmic beneficence. There is the assurance that at the heart of things there is something that is good. This is not a knowledge arrived at by logic, but first hand experiential knowledge which I think can be quite well explained as a regression to early pleasurable oral experience. That early experience was of course before the creation of the world, as it were, in the primal chaos long before there was self and other and before space or time and before there were objects. It is conceivable that this first hand regressive experience of goodness could have a psychotherapeutic effect. I know of no similar kind of effect in other psychotherapies and therefore would consider that it is a distinct psychotherapeutic principle, quite distinct from insight and authority and dependence.

Another closely related element which appears strongly in these texts is the assurance that man is not alone and separate but is linked in some very intimate way with the rest of the universe — inanimate nature, the animal world, other men — All. Of course, this is an idea that can be arrived at rationally. But arrived at by logical argument the concept seems to have little meaning. It is cold comfort to know that the supernovae, the trees and I are all made of the same stuff! But with the regression to a primordial ego structure with more fluid boundaries so that one can actually experience unity with nature, the idea takes on much more reality and significance. One really knows that one is part of the All because one was there.

It should also be noted that the assurance of being one with the All, in addition to nullifying the sense of alienation that reputedly afflicts modern man, may lead to other psychological changes. . . .

It is no doubt a combination of these factors that provides the therapeutic effect of mystical experiences: the knowledge that the self is part of the All and therefore is in some sense immortal; that the fundamental nature of the All is beneficent; and most important, that these believes are indubitable because they derive from immediate experience. (Mystical Experience and the Certainty of Belonging, Raymond Pringe, pages 316-317)

Compilation copyright © 1995 – 2001 CSP

[Error Creating Counter File -- Click for more info]