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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

Rolling Thunder.

Boyd, Doug. (1974).
New York: Dell.

ISBN: None

Description: Delta paperback, x + 273 pages.

Contents: Introduction by Dee Brown, author's note, 25 chapters, epilogue by Elmer E. and Alyce M. Green.

Excerpt(s): Rolling Thunder, the subject of this book, is a keeper of tribal secrets-a modern medicine man. After witnessing one of Rolling Thunder's healing rituals at a conference sponsored by the research department of the Menninger Foundation, Doug Boyd decided to open his mind fully to the mysteries of such secret healing powers as might be revealed to him. Boyd's book is an account by a contemporary white man of the inner experience of American Indians, an exploration into what some accept as the "real" world. To the believer or to the skeptic, Boyd's experiences form a penetrating and challenging story of a world that is little known to most Americans. (Dee Brown, Introduction, page vi)

When evening came, Spotted Fawn began to steep the peyote buttons in the large enamel pot. To Rolling Thunder peyote was not a drug but a sacred agent, and in our ritual it was a sort of healing agent. People were instructed to put a finger in the cup and rub the mildly bitter liquid on any troubled area of the body.

As I watched Spotted Fawn, I thought about the Potawatomi and other tribes that regularly perform peyote rites in which they eat a number of bitter peyote buttons in elaborate all-night rituals. Rolling Thunder had told us at Council Grove that he was a member of the peyote religion, and since then I had learned from him some appreciation of the rituals. He considered these affairs "serious business." "It's a purification ceremony," he had said, "like most of our ceremonies. It's not used to get high or for foolishness. It's used in a way that we want to cleanse our systems and our minds, so we can put ourselves on a higher plane of life."

Rolling Thunder, like the Potawatomi and perhaps all traditional Indians, considered the use of peyote for "spacing out" or "getting stoned" a gross misuse of the agent and a misuse of the mind. Both agent and the mind are sacred. In Rolling Thunder's view, the meaningful use of drugs requires a state of mind that can be acquired only through practice and purification, and a great deal of careful preparation. The rituals are conducted by a chief "who directs the meeting in certain ways." Rolling Thunder said he knew that there were a couple of groups of white people now who are using peyote right, "but the great majority of them aren't using it right at all, and they might be punished for it. I've seen some of the results of punishment," he continued. "It's terrible when it kicks back on you. But peyote is good. I've seen it used for many good purposes, when it is used right."

... Rolling Thunder, like Swami Rama and perhaps all "medicine people," gives priority to the capacity to control the attention, to maintain "one-pointedness of mind." There can be no healing, no meditation, no meaningful spiritual experience without that highest of disciplines-particularly if drugs are to be used and not dangerously distracting or defeating. (pages 247-248)

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