At the present time, nearly all the entheogens are listed in the
Controlled Substance Act of the United States as having "no
medical use and high potential for abuse," and are therefore
subject to the most stringent controls. Criminal penalties punish
unsanctioned use — and virtually no use is sanctioned. ... In a
survey of former psychedelic researchers, the late Walter Houston
Clark, Professor Emeritus of the Psychology of Religion at Andover
Newton Theological Seminary, found that governmental red tape was
the primary reason why they have stopped working in this field.
"It would seem that something is wrong if qualified
investigators find it so difficult to obtain permission to work in
an area that most feel will open important doors to the future of
humanity." (page 2)
However, the sudden impact of entheogens upon a predominantly
secular and materialistic society left no time for the appropriate
educational, religious, or medical agencies to understand their
effects. Laws designed to protect citizens were counterproductive.
They effectively curtailed professional research while having the
opposite effect on an underground society. The result is that many
otherwise law-abiding citizens continue to use these substances in
secret for fear of prosecution. The dangers of the entheogens are
exaggerated by ignorance, and their potential virtues remain hidden.
(page 3) These writings aim to direct attention to the distinctly
sacred nature of these substances with the hope that religious
minded investigators, policy architects, and the concerned public
will take note. It is our hope that this book will contribute to an
honest reappraisal of the historic and modern significance of
entheogens so that they may be used accordingly in today's world by
those seeking to cultivare their spiritual awareness. (Introduction,
Forte, page 4)
Collectively, these essays constitute the best single inquiry
into the religious significance of chemically occasioned mystical
experiences that has yet appeared. - Huston Smith, author of
The World's Religions
The sensible use of entheogens is one of the most promising paths to
deep spiritual insight for many people, and this book shows how that
could be done. - Charles Tart, Scholar of States of
This book of essays plows new ground in the relationship between
entheogens and religion. It is well worth reading. - Kenneth B.
Smith, President of Chicago Theological Seminary
As long as ritual springs from a genuine awareness of belonging
and cultivates that awareness by celebrating it, all is well. But
when only hollow forms remain and the experience is gone, or when
the forms even block the experience, then we have no longer ritual,
but ritualism, an irreligious phenomenon. It is our
responsibility to fill the rituals we have inherited with new life,
or else to allow the wellspring of life that created the old forms
to bring forth new ones.
-- Brother David Steindl-Rast, Ph.D., O.S.B.,
"Explorations into God"
The requisite transformations in the direction of an
all-encompassing consciousness, as a precondition for overcoming
materialism and for a renewed relationship with Nature ... must and
can only take place in each individual person.
Only a few blessed people spontaneously attain the mystical vision
which can effect this transformation. As a result, mankind has
repeatedly sought paths and evolved methods to evoke deeper
perception and experience.... An especially important aid in the
induction of mystical-ecstatic states of consciousness, discovered
in the earliest times, is decidedly the use of certain plant drugs.
In the preceding discussion, I have made it quite clear that their
use must proceed within the scope of religious ceremony.
-- Albert Hofmann, Ph.D., Dr.Sc.Nat.H.C., "The Message
of the Eleusinian Mysteries"
I would not be surprised if at some point there comes to be a useful
marriage between some of these drugs and a systematic training or
practice that I have described. That marriage will have to be based
on an understanding of the ancient teachings, the laws of karma,
responsibility, action, virtue, training the heart and the mind, and
the laws of liberation.
-- Jack Kornfield, "Psychedelic Experience and Spiritual
Practice: A Buddhist Perspective"
[Sacred mushrooms] stimulate a mystical experience which cannot be
reduced to words or concepts, much in contrast to most Christian
worship based on "learned" theological systems. In that
sense the Christian religion of the Mazatec mushroom eaters is
defined, like Pentecostalism, not by doctrine or by dogma but
phenomenologically. Both religions are examples of the primal
spirituality which [Harvey] Cox describes as "reaching beyond
the levels of creed and ceremony into the core of human
religiousness, into ... that largely unprocessed nucleus of the
psyche in which the unending struggle for a sense of purpose and
significance goes on."
-- Thomas J. Riedlinger, M.T.S., F.L.S., "Sacred
Subtle adverse effects ... of the non-medical use of psychedelics
... include a feeling of superiority in those who have taken a
psychedelic, to those who have not. Rather than increasing tolerance
for differences and compassion for those who may (or may not) be
less spiritually or personally developed than oneself, this seems a
move backwards, by increasing judgmentalism and divisiveness.
Another rarely discussed adverse effect of non-medical psychedelic
use is the belief that coming to a particular understanding or
resolution of a personal problem on a psychedelic trip is the same
as living the understanding or resolution in daily life....
In terms of combining religious practice and psychedelic drugs in a
fruitful way one simple model comes to mind. This is one in which a
religious aspirant, with strong moral and intellectual understanding
of religious doctrine, practice, and community, lacks a deep
experiential realization of the bases of these doctrines and
practices. The view provided by a properly prepared, supervised, and
followed-up high dose psychedelic experience may provide the
validation of the teachings necessary for inspiration to continue
the work at hand.
-- Rick J. Strassman, M.D., "Biochemical Research with
These writings aim to direct attention to the distinctly sacred
nature of [the entheogens] with the hope that religious minded
investigators, policy architects, and the concerned public will take
note. It is our hope that this book will contribute to an honest
reappraisal of the historic and modern significance of entheogens,
so that they may be used accordingly in today's world by those
seeking to cultivate their spiritual awareness.
-- Robert Forte, A.M.R.S., from the Introduction
This is a work of responsible advocacy. Forte and his dozen
principal contributors seek the wide acceptance, including
legalization and mature practice, of "entheogens" --
"god spawning" psychoactive substances (LSD, mescalin
[sic], etc.) that are deemed especially suited for use on designated
or readily identifiable sacramental occasions. Though there is
inevitably some unevenness, the collection as a whole is very good
-- i.e., instructive and clearly presented. At its best, it is
excellent (see, e.g., Forte's conversations with R.G. Wasson and
Jack Kornfield). Ample lists of references accompany most of the
individual chapters. The book should prove to be a welcome
complement to other serious studies in mysticism (including those
that take a fundamentally different tack). -- C. MacCormick,
emeritus, Wells College
Entheogen Chrestomathy entry for
Entheogens and the Future of Religion
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