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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 Sixties Spiritual Awakening: American Religion Moving from Modern to Postmodern.

Ellwood, Robert S. (1994).
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

ISBN: 0-8135-2093-2

Description: First edition, xii + 369 + i pages.

Contents: Preface, list of abbreviations for organizations, 6 chapters plus unnumbered "Judaism in the Later Sixties," chapter notes, bibliography, index, about the author.

Excerpt(s): To those on-the-scene writers and prophets, the crucial current event was not the campus conflicts or the Pentagon sieges-though they might be symptoms of real revolution-but the emergence of a wholly new culture, based on a new spirituality. ... Despite all appearances, the great event was the coming of the Love Generation, the Aquarian Age, or secular Christianity, and in the last analysis that eschatological event would be wrought not by street revolutionaries but by those who dropped out and turned on. (pages 7-8)

My contention is that the religious and political sides of the Sixties should not be set against each other so much as seen as bands in a single spectrum. Both are spiritual in that they touch on values of ultimate significance. What they have in common is much more important than what sets them apart. They can both be understood through categories from out of the phenomenology of religion-mythology, apocalyptic, transcendental symbols of community, and the like. We will be especially thinking of religious features that mark times of profound social transition, for it is precisely then that the nonreligious perspectives-now undergoing overhaul-are superseded by those pointing toward timeless ultimates, or so it seems to many in that day. (pages 9-10)

In any case, the historian of Sixties religion can in no wise leave Leary and psychedelia on the sidelines. Though Castilia was hardly a church or monastery, it was a spiritual collegium by intention, and its experiments were odysseys into unknown, God- and Circe-infested waters. Psychedelia generally was rebellion and adventure on no small scale, and it took the combined powers of the church, state, media, and scientific establishments to quash it.

Whatever wisdom chemical trips may hold was wisdom for which those power worlds were not ready in the 1960s and are not yet ready. In the end, that particular kind of laboratory-generated wisdom or folly was more feared even than civil rights, the antiwar movement, or the servant church and was more firmly exorcised by all the reigning priesthoods. Though many were called, the kairos was not right, and argonauts of consciousness like Leary became not a new priesthood but the designated devils of an era.

The antidrug reaction is all too understandable given the doleful scenes of exploitation, crime, and disease widespread drug use brought to city streets and counterculture communes. But abuse by overeager teenagers hardly proves the visions of the best psychedelic mystics to have no spiritual or cognitive worth. Yet any kind of research using psychedelics became politically impossible to undertake or fund, even privately. Data from Watts and Huxley and the Psychedelic Review, or gathered from Castilia or the Good Friday Experiment in those few years between 1954 (the year of Huxley's Doors of Perception) and delegalization in 1966, remain fascinating but confusing. What researchers could accumulate and analyze in that brief span is insufficient to permit final conclusions about the geography, meaning, or worth of psychedelia's inner worlds. Instead, ontological exploration met a police barricade before it could much more than leave base camp. Until it can set out again, one range of the potentially knowable remains forbidden knowledge. (page 153)

This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby, © 1995-2003 CSP

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