Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Turning East: The Promise and Peril of the New Orientalism.
Cox, Harvey. (1977).
New York: Simon and Schuster.
Description: 192 pages
Contents: 11 chapters,
Excerpt(s): The chemically
active ingredient in peyote is mescaline, which is structurally
related to psilocybin and LSD. Although some people call these
substances "hallucinogens" (capable of triggering hallucinations)
or even "psychotomimetics" (creating states of mind
that seem psychotic), Roquet refuses to use this terminology,
since few people really hallucinate when under the influence of
these substances. They see and hear and feel what is actually
there, only much more intensely. Roquet
believes that the term most psychologists prefer, "psychedelic"
has become relatively useless because of its sensational attachment
to vivid poster art and fortissimo guitar music. In my experience,
these substances suspend temporarily the feeling-inhibiting and
perception-censoring mechanisms that operate in us during our
"normal" hours. They do not add anything of their own.
They are "tools" in the best sense of the word. They
enable us to feel with full pungency the most buried joys and
fears our memories hold. They help us see the starkness and complexity
of what is around us, devoid of the gauze with which our manipulative
minds usually cover them. They help us remember past happiness
grown dim with time, present loves, bygone pains of separation
and abandonment. But these substances are terribly potent. They
are the psychological equivalent of nuclear power, capable of
doing enormous good and creating awesome destruction. No wonder
the Huichols wanted to be purified before they let
us touch peyote. (pages 44-45)
Strong feelings often center on one concrete object.
That is what makes a symbol a symbol. It becomes
the receptacle or conduit for something far more than itself.
That night the morning star became for me the sign of a universe
that throbbed with love-not just general beneficence, but personally
focused love, pouring through real people. Watching the morning
star I felt more intensely than I ever had before what I have
nearly always believed, and had sensed on some previous occasions:
that "God is love" is not just a pious hope but a factual
statement about the character of the universe. The morning star
and the song about it fused. The song was the star and the star
was the song. ...
The vision was not "pantheistic." The
morning star was not the object of my veneration. It was,
to use very traditional language, "an outward and visible
sign of an inward and invisible grace," the standard definition
of a sacrament. Was it a "mystical experience"? I don't
think so. I did not lose myself or merge with the star. I did
not return as a drop of water to the great ocean or soar out of
my body. I knew where I was and who I was at all times. What I
felt was an Other moving toward me with a power of affirmation
beyond anything I had ever imagined could exist. I was glad and
grateful. No theory that what happened to me was "artificially
induced" or psychotic or hallucinatory can erase its mark.
"The bright morning stars are rising," as the old hymn
puts it, "in my soul." (pages 47-48)
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