Statement of Purpose
The Council on Spiritual Practices is a collaboration
among spiritual guides, experts in the behavioral and
biomedical sciences, and scholars of religion, dedicated
to making direct experience of the sacred more
available to more people. There is evidence that such
encounters can have profound benefits for those who
experience them, for their neighbors, and for the world.
CSP has a twofold mission: to identify and develop
approaches to primary religious experience that can be
used safely and effectively, and to help individuals and
spiritual communities bring the insights, grace, and joy
that arise from direct perception of the divine into their
The Council on Spiritual Practices has no doctrine or
liturgy of its own.
CSP - Results to date
CSP's efforts and those of Prof. Roland Griffiths at
the Johns Hopkins Medical School
lead to the formation of a controlled study,
conducted by Hopkins and CSP staff,
of the psychological and spiritual effects of psilocybin
in healthy volunteers.
The findings from that research,
published in 2006 and in 2008,
received media coverage
around the world.
Further research published in 2011 confirmed the earlier findings
and presented new data on the relationship between the amount of psilocybin used and its effects.
This expands the emphasis in hallucinogen research beyond the medical treatment of ill people to include the betterment of well people,
contributing to a science of pro-social development.
A spiritual practices study,
started in 2009, is exploring the effects of psilocybin,
mystical-type experience, and spiritual practices such as mediatation
in persons committed to spiritual development.
CSP developed and published in 1995 a
Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides.
As of 2011, google reports more than 3,000 references to it,
including translations and derivative works.
Entheogen Project Series includes several books
and the Entheogen Chrestomathy.
As part of the series, Huston Smith gathered
his essays on the enthogens into a single volume,
Cleansing the Doors of Perception,
which CSP published in a special edition
mirroring Gordon Wasson's landmark works.
Occasionally, CSP has been asked
to enter its network's expertise into civic matters.
This has included an
amicus brief (2005) for the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Court's unanimous (8-0) decision in that case affirmed a position
CSP presented a decade earlier in invited
before the New York City Bar Association.
CSP has granted 14 CSP
William James Awards to support graduate students conducting
master's- and doctoral-level research into primary religious experience at universities across the U.S. and abroad.
In 2004, CSP and the UCLA Working Group on Awe-Inspiring Experiences
produced a public conference and a concurrent research retreat titled
Awe to Action,
with support from the Metanexus Institute and the Templeton Foundation.
At the research retreat, scientists from several universities
met to develop new empirical research into
primary religious experience (awe), spiritual transformation,
and the development of prosocial values and behaviors,
such as forgiveness, generosity, and altruism.
For notable reflections on CSP's work, see
Contributions are needed and appreciated.
Please make checks payable to:
San Francisco Foundation, CSP Fund #4745
and send to:
San Francisco Foundation, CSP Fund
Thank you for your support.
Your gifts to the CSP Fund are fully tax-deductible.
For gifts of stock,
One Embarcadero Center, Suite 1400
San Francisco, CA 94111
CSP was covened in 1993 and organized in 1994 by Bob Jesse.
Its directors and advisors have included
Ken Barnes, M.Div, Brad Bunnin, J.D., M.Div., Craig Comstock, Willis Harman, Ph.D., Robert Jesse, Chris-Ellyn Johanson, Ph.D., Robert King, M.Div, Ph.D., Victoria MacDonald, M.Div, Thomas Roberts, Ph.D., Charles Schuster, Ph.D., Huston Smith, Ph.D., Kenneth Smith, M.Div, D.D., David Steindl-Rast, Ph.D., O.S.B., Charles Tart, Ph.D., and David Wilson, J.D., M.D.
CSP's Williams James Awards Committee, chaired by Ralph W. Hood, Jr., Ph.D. (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga),
has also included
William A. Richards, Ph.D. (Council on Spiritual Practices), Michael Winkelman, Ph.D. (Arizona State University), and David M. Wulff, Ph.D. (Wheaton College).
CSP has organized several conferences and working meetings with
scholars and researchers from the Johns Hopkins University, the University
of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Los
Angeles, the University of California San Francisco,
the University of Chicago,
the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Toronto,
the University of Tennessee, Wayne State University,
and the Chicago Theological Seminary.
1. Profound experiences of unity with the cosmos called, variously,
non-dual consciousness, mystical experiences, unitive experiences, awe-inspiring experiences, or
primary religious experiences
sometimes lead to lasting, and lastingly beneficial, changes in values and behavior. Some of them (Moses at the Burning Bush, the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, Bill Wilson in Towns Hospital) are not only life-changing but world-changing.
2. Not much is known about how frequent such experiences are, what triggers them, what sorts of people are most likely to experience them, and what conditions increase the probability that altered states will lead to beneficially altered traits.
3. Many different activities prayer, meditation, chanting, fasting, and dancing among them have been used with the intention of preparing for such experiences or for occasioning them. Among such activities, the use of certain plants and chemicals is one of the least demanding in terms of time and among the most likely to bring about a strong experience on any given occasion.
4. There is some evidence that the nature of the subjective mystical experience is largely independent of the occasioning mechanism.
5. There is traditional wisdom and logic (but nothing like adequate empirical evidence) behind the notion that the existence of a social "vessel" to contain the experience a group of people with some shared understanding of what the experience means and what is to be done with it increases the chances that a given experience will lead to lasting benefit.
Likewise for engagement in suitable ongoing spiritual practices, such as meditation.
These observations lead us to believe that increasing the number of people who undergo mystical-type experiences under suitable conditions would tend to increase the amount of prosocial behavior in the world. CSP pursues this goal by catalyzing research to develop a better scientific knowledge of the phenomena and their consequences, by working to create social understandings that would make seeking out primary experiences seem less unusual than it now does to most westerners, and by trying to imagine, and encouraging others to imagine, social contexts that would serve as appropriate vessels.