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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


Scandal: Essays in Islamic Heresy.

Wilson, Peter Lamborn. (1988).
Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia.


ISBN: 0-936756-13-6 hardcover
0-936756-12-2 paperback
Description: Hardcover, 224 pages.


Contents: 7 chapters, descriptive bibliography.


Note: Eleven pages of illustrative plates follow page 151. Readers of this guide will find Chapter 7 "A Note on the Use of Wine, Hemp & Opium" most interesting.


Excerpt(s): The Shariah forbids all intoxicants. A Moslem who drinks wine or uses hashish acts against the Shariah, but someone who uses an intoxicant for spiritual purposes can rightly be called not just a sinner but a heretic.

Nevertheless a great many people in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and elsewhere use preparations of cannabis for various spiritual reasons. Very little has been published on this subject, and of that little almost nothing of value. Between 1968 and 1978 I had occasion to observe and participate in such hemp use, and I consider my own observations of some small value. (page 195)


... In Benares, bhang is sold on the streets in the form of delicious ice-cream (bhang kulfi melai) as well as in sherbets and pastilles. Shaivite saddhus smoke cannabis as well, often in the form of ganja mixed with tobacco and consumed in chilams-although they smoke charas when they can get it.

Ganja is the flowering bud of the female plant.

Bhang is the palmate leaf of "shade-leaf" in modern American slang.

Hashish (Arabic for "grass") or charas is a preparation of pollen and resinous dust, ideally transformed into cakes by heat and manipulation ... (page 196)


Perhaps the most impressive spiritual use of bhang I witnessed was at an `urs or Death-Anniversary celebration at the sufi shrine of Madho Lal Husayn, outside the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore in 1973. (page 199)


A small but impressive minority of the Qalandars are-by any fair standards-genuine mystics. For this assertion I have only my own opinion and no proof. However, over the years I travelled in the East I met many thousands of gurus, mursheds, fakirs and full-time dervishes. Among the most impressive were several devoted cannabis users. I know that very few orthodox sufis

will accept my assertion, since by orthodox definition a drug-user cannot be a true mystic. (pages 202-203)


One of Iran's leading turbanned theologians, an expert in mystical Shiite philosophy, a man so respected that neither the Shah nor Khomeini has dared order him silent (he averages there or four books a year), is a well-known opium addict. So are a great many sufis , especially in Kerman province, but also in every province and city of Iran. So are many artists, musicians, writers and aristocrats as well as peasants and laborers. Opium smoking is "socialized" in traditional Iran to a much greater degree than any other place I know.

I have heard some sufis claim spiritual benefits from opium, usually on the grounds that by releasing them from tension and sadness it allows them to concentrate on spiritual matters. One can detect a whiff of opium in much Persian art, a kind of drifting toward sleep. This opiated flavor in Iranian culture certainly fails to represent the Persian genius at its most vivid and acute. Nevertheless it would be churlish to deny all spiritual value to such a decorative quietism, or to the drug which sometimes inspires it. Addiction is viewed as a crime in our society, and it may be difficult for us to associate opium and mysticism. Other societies have different preconceptions, and we need not share them in order to understand them. (page 210)


Finally the only true apologia must be made on the basis of self-knowledge. Anything-even including religion-can act as a poison against perception, or as a support for contemplation of the Real. As the Koran itself says, "Which of your Lord's bounties would you deny?" (page 213)



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