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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 Spiritual Nature of Man: A Study of Contemporary Religious Experience.

Hardy, Alister. (1979).
Oxford: Clarendon Press.

ISBN: 0-19-824618-8

Description: Hardcover, x + 162 pages.

Contents: Preface, 9 chapters, Appendix I: Tables Related to chapter 2, Appendix II: Extracts from reports of experience taken from a pilot survey by D. Hay discussed in chapter 8, bibliography, index.

Excerpt(s): Over the years my colleagues and I have collected together over four thousand first-hand accounts, such as the ones above, which show that a large number of people even today possess a deep awareness of a benevolent non-physical power. Which appears to be partly or wholly beyond, and far greater than, the individual self. (page 1)

Apart from the work of James and Starbuck, to whom I shall come in a moment, there has been little organized knowledge of this phenomenon. Because of its importance I set up a research unit to find out more about it, and I have endeavored in this book to explore the spiritual nature of man as systematically and objectively as possible. First, we have tried to build up a body of knowledge of actual experiences by collecting thousands of individual first-hand accounts which we have then collated under classifactory labels. Secondly, we have examined these examples in depth, looking at their development, their dynamic patterns, antecedents, and consequences. Thirdly, we have begun quantitative studies. Finally, I have tried to draw certain tentative conclusions. For only when we have collected, collated, examined, and counted a great many first-hand accounts can we hope to learn more about the essential part that man's spirituality plays in his make-up. (page 2)

This indeed was the view expressed some years earlier by that brilliant experimentalist the late Dr. Walter N. Pahnke. Pahnke was not trying, as some people would seem quite erroneously to have imagined, to debunk the religious side of mysticism by showing that almost exactly the same effects could be produced by drugs; on the contrary, he was a theological graduate of the Harvard Divinity School who then took a medical degree and specialized in psychiatry with the express purpose of investigating the physiological conditions which facilitated the occurrence of mystical states. Pahnke was a profoundly religious man, as I soon discovered when I spent a day with him at his laboratory at Baltimore in the autumn of 1968. It should not worry us if it is shown that altered states of consciousness may be produced by chemical means; the chemicals themselves do not produce the divine ecstasy, but affect the brain in such a way that a rarely accessible region of the sub-conscious mind becomes available to those who already have, perhaps unknown to them, a mystical streak within them. They discover new depths within themselves. ...

Pahnke may have been over-optimistic in his ideas of what such research may do, but there can be little doubt that the altered states of consciousness induced by the taking of drugs does indeed facilitate an experience that could not otherwise be achieved under normal conditions. At least they should make us hesitate before dismissing all such phenomena as of no spiritual value; clearly there is a new field of research opening up and it would be a mistake to prejudge the issues that are likely to follow from it. (page 97)

Here are two examples form our collection: one from a boy of 16 and the other from an adult about to be ordained:

I have smoked cannabis fairly regularly, for with it I suddenly found a beautiful world, and have witnessed many instances whose splendor could only be attributed to a supreme power. The only time I have used any other drug was when I brought some Morning Glory seeds... I swallowed and digested 100 of them, over a period of time. I decided to write down the effects as they occurred; the report however did not turn out as expected. My mind, I believe, was taken over by a spiritual force. I cannot stress enough that I firmly believe this to have been a spiritual experience, for its force on my mind, and since that time, was so tremendous as to be indescribable. It is now two months since I had the experience, yet its impression has not diminished: I now know that a supreme Force or God does exist. (2313, M, 16)

Age 29--Although not yet ordained, that year I worked as a junior with an ecumenical ministry. One of the activities I was involved in was a 'Spiritual Discovery Group' that numbered clergy of several denominations as well as two psychologist, professors, etc. At one point we experimented with L.S.D. It would take a volume to detail the full spiritual experiences and insights, but I shall outline a few:

During my first experience I suddenly became aware of the oneness of all that was. That God is a very present force that flows through everything in existence. I had discovered this before, but now it had become more than a belief--I was suddenly aware of it as much as I could ever be aware of anything.

The second experience gave me such an overwhelming re-occurrence of the first that it is absolutely impossible to put into words that reality of God which I was suddenly AWARE. But it was as if I had suddenly opened my awareness to the AWARENESS. All the pieces of my theological knowledge fell into place creating an intricate pattern of the whole. I lost much that I had learned as isolated detail and in its place I evolved into what I can only term as 'Conceptual knowledge of God's wonder', which, if it is meaningless to the reader, I am sorry, but words are impossible. Many of the aspects of this 'Conceptual knowledge' were unfamiliar to me, but have since shown up in the writings of others. (2005, M, Age?) (page 98)

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

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