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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


TIHKAL: The Continuation

Shulgin, Alexander, and Shulgin, Ann (1997).
Berkeley, CA: Transform Press


ISBN: 0-9630096-9-9

Description: Paperback, xxxviii + 804 pages.

Contents: Foreword by Daniel M. Perrine, note to the reader, comments on the title, preface by Nicholas Saunders, introduction, Book 1, 25 chapters in 5 parts: 1. Adventures and Misadventures, 2. Psychedelics and Personal Transformation, 3. Tryptamina Botanica, 4. Time and Transformation, 5. Drugs and Politics, Epilogue; Book 2: The Chemistry Continues, index, tryptamines, Appendix A: Bill of Rights, Appendix B: Current Drug Law, Appendix C: Glossary, Appendix D: Acknowledgements, Appendix E: Cactus Alkaloids, Appendix F: Carbolines, Appendix G: Histamines, Appendix H: Known Tryptamines, Appendix I: Long Index to Book II.

Excerpt(s): First let me say that from my 18th year to my 50th, some four years ago, I was a member of the Jesuits, a Roman Catholic religious order of brothers and priests (I was ordained in 1974). I led a fairly sheltered life during the revolutionary days of the 60's and 70's, and knew nothing about psychedelic drugs except what the media told me: that they induced a bizarre state of mind much like madness, with lurid hallucinations; that people foolish enough to toy with these drugs would find themselves tormented by unpredictable and incapacitating episodes of recurrent flashbacks for the rest of their lives.

A decade ago, I earned my doctorate in synthetic organic chemistry from the University of Illinois in Chicago, and came to Loyola College in Maryland. After a few years there, I thought I would try to work up some more interesting topics for the "baby chem" course our non-science majors are required to take at Loyola College. "Drugs and Drug Dependency" seemed a course title sexy enough to keep them awake for a few hours a week. Soon I had some rough class notes, and before long I had a contract from the American Chemical Society to write a book stressing the history and human context of these fascinating chemicals. The book appeared in 1996 under the title The Chemistry of Mind-Altering Drugs: History, Pharmacology, and Cultural Context. But the process of seriously researching the actual scientific and literary record of these substances had greatly changed my opinions about many things. For example, as with many of those who have studied drug policy, I became convinced that the War on Drugs was at best as counterproductive as Prohibition had been, and at worst it was the first step on the path towards a police state.

But it was in the area of the psychedelics where my existing opinions were most challenged. I think that I can justly say that I have a fairly deep acquaintance with the Western tradition in meditation and mysticism, not only as a subject of academic inquiry but in particular as a lifetime practice: Jesuits in my generation were required to spend an hour daily in meditation which was expected to lead, in souls suitably disposed, to such higher states as the "prayer of silence." We made two or more 30-day retreats during the course of our formation, and yearly 8-day retreats; and we were expected to discuss our developing prayer life regularly with a "spiritual father." We also had a reasonably extensive training in pastoral counseling and psychotherapy.

And thus it was that when I read the accounts of the psychedelic experiences of Aldous Huxley, Bill Wilson, Alan Watts, Henry Osmond, Gordon Wasson, Walter Houston Clark, Huston Smith C (the list seemed endless) C the tales were all quite familiar. Skeptics might doubt the validity or significance of religious experience in general, but no one could doubt that these people were encountering the classic phenomenon itself C powerfully catalyzed, to my astonishment, by ingestion of mescaline, psilocybin, or LSD. (Daniel M. Perrine, Foreword, pages x-xi)

The knowledge of nuclear fission and fusion took on a death-loving aspect in the minds of the public, with country after country joining the fraternity of those skilled in the capacity for eradicating the human species. But, as I said earlier, when an imbalance develops, there seems to spring forth a compensatory counterpart. In this case, the counterpart evolved on many fronts, in many forms, but its general character can be summarized as an increase of interest in the spiritual aspect of man and a desire for greater understanding of the human psyche. What had been seen as tools for the study of psychosis (at best) or escapist self-gratification (at worst) C the psychedelic drugs C were increasingly viewed, by large numbers of young adults in the western world, as tools of enlightenment and spiritual transformation.

We need a way to communicate experiences of the deeper parts of ourselves, a way to share knowledge which has traditionally been called "occult" or "hidden." Until our time, this level of knowledge was considered the private preserve of those shamans, teachers or spiritual guides who had earned their way to it. In their hands was the responsibility of choosing the gifted, intuitive people who would become students or disciples. Those special individuals were taken into temples of learning, into the pyramids, the secret lodges, the monasteries or sacred kivas, to be gradually led into explorations of the spiritual world and an increased understanding of their own unconscious landscapes. This kind of learning was expected, in time, to produce healers and community leaders of uncommon wisdom. (pages xiv-xv)

I turned on the television, but couldn't concentrate on anything, even CNN. All I got out of watching the news was a nasty reminder of an old realization that the world outside, for the most part anyway, hadn't the slightest understanding of what Shura and I did, what we believed in or what we were willing to fight for. And if they did know, they would be shocked and outraged. Psychedelic drugs as research tools to understand the human mind, the human unconscious? Psychedelic drugs as tools of spiritual searching? Psychedelic drugs as ways of touching the spiritual dimension, and whatever it is we tentatively call God, the Great Spirit, the Ground of Being, and a thousand other names? Never heard of such rubbish, most of them would say. (page 25)

What we strive for, whether through the use of consciousness-altering drugs and plants or meditation and spiritual training, is to reach C however momentarily C that place inside us where there is true comprehension of the great dualities, and with it, a state of immense energy, acceptance and bliss. The Indian word for this place is "Samadhi." and a single experience of it will give life-long strength to your soul and spirit.

We, after all, along with all other life forms, are pieces of the Source, expressions of the Source, so everything we do and feel is done and felt by the Source.

EUPHORIA

The first thing that can be said about this experience is: it's good and nourishing, food for our souls. Euphoria belongs in all our lives, as often as possible, because it feeds us with energy and hope .

I wonder if we are, as a society, becoming so used to being in a state of mild depression most of the time, that feeling well, happy and full of energy engenders, in some people, a certain amount of suspicion and even disapproval. Perhaps some of this comes from the early Puritan and present Fundamentalist Christian teachings that Man is a sinner and true happiness and bliss can be expected only in heaven, if you've earned your place there by living a life full of self-sacrifice and a lot of suffering.

I have experienced euphoria and its higher spiritual form, bliss, as an upwelling of thanksgiving to the Source, by whatever name it is called. The feeling I have when giving whole-hearted Thank You to the universe is identical to that felt in a state of euphoria. Some evangelical Christians in their worship services seem to experience the two states as one. Perhaps they are. .

The only negative I can think of in regard to euphoria is that certain people may try to find a way of making it a permanent state of being. With or without drugs, it cannot be maintained constantly by most of us, any more than orgasm can be. There are stories C legends C of people who have slipped into a bliss state and remained there for the rest of their lives; Saint Theresa of Avila, for instance. However, if you want to remain in the world of human beings, to live a human life, to change, learn and transform, euphoria must be looked upon as a temporary gift and a reminder of your innate capacity for exquisite pleasure.

Psychedelic drugs can help open a person to an experience of euphoria, just as they can open him to deep sorrow, empathy and humor, cosmic meaningfulness and total confusion. Again, it isn't the drug that creates the experience; it's the drug that opens doors to what is already resident inside the person. (pages 189-191)

Twice, the session was not with 2C-B, but mescaline, which was illegal. Both Audrey and I considered this to be one of the most honored and respected Great Ones among visionary drugs. We used it with two people, both of whom had achieved deep, life-changing transformations after many months of intense and difficult work. The difference between 2C-B and mescaline, we felt, was a subtle but important one. While 2C-B unlocked doors to the archetypal images and the intense emotions that accompanied them, mescaline was even more of a spiritual opener and could introduce the patient to a landscape where light infused everything C people, plants and animals C and there was direct connection with what is called the "numinous." (page 242)

An extraordinary relationship developed between Audrey and me as we sat on opposite ends of the therapist's couch; sometimes one of us would fall silent, momentarily at a loss for an appropriate response to something said by the patient; invariably, the other would find the answer rising instantly in mind, emerging in exactly the right words. There were times when we seemed almost telepathic; we shared moments of knowing that we were, separately and together, a conduit, a means by which something Other, immensely loving and healing, was making itself felt and heard. When C now and then C it spoke through us, we could feel it happening. Then there would be a stillness, a sense of time having stopped, a peacefulness permeating the room.

I thought of it as an experience of the sacred, a gift of Grace. After such a moment out of time, the patient would usually sigh deeply, Audrey and I would nod to each other, and the work would continue.

It is in connection with this ability to affirm and care about her client that the therapist's own past training with MDMA and psychedelic drugs becomes important. If she has sufficient experience of her own with these tools, she will have C she should have C taken certain spiritual steps which will have brought her to specific places within herself. One of these interior places or states is the often-referred-to "participation mystique." and this frequently happens in the first MDMA or psychedelic experience, if the session is conducted (as it should be) in quiet natural surroundings. I have described this state in the earlier chapter, "Places in the Mind."

She will have felt the sense of kinship with every living thing, and she will have known C this is deep core knowing, not intellectual knowing C that every animal, plant and human being is related to her. She will have seen and felt that everything alive carries within it the God-essence, a spark of the Great Spirit, and that indeed we are all highly individual parts of one living, conscious Being. What may have appealed to her before as nothing more than a beautiful, poetic concept, will suddenly have taken the form of reality, and the profound impact of this realization will have become part of her for the rest of her life. (pages 243-245)



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

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