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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

Turning East: The Promise and Peril of the New Orientalism.

Cox, Harvey. (1977).
New York: Simon and Schuster.

ISBN: 0-671-22851-X

Description: 192 pages

Contents: 11 chapters, bibliography, index.

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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