Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
An Appraisal of the Hallucinogenic Drugs
From the Standpoint of a Christian Person-Agapeic Ethic
Provonsha, Jack Wendell. (1967)
Claremont, CA: Claremont Graduate School
Description: Unpublished doctoral dissertation, 361 pages.
Note: Available from UMI, Ann Arbor, MI, in large and small formats,
hardcopy or paperback.
Excerpt(s): An adequate ethic must possess two elements, (1) a norm or
highest value giving continuity and meaning to ethical terms like right and
wrong, and (2) a method for applying this norm to a situation of
discontinuity and change. The term " person-agapeic" is proposed as
characterizing such an ethic.
The issues raised by the various uses of the hallucinogenic drugs,
LSD being the best known, provide a case-illustration of this ethic. These
issues are drawn from the now-extensive literature covering past and
recent uses of hallucinogens, the theories of their mechanism of action,
their physiological and psychological effects, and their short and long-
range supposed benefits and dangers.
Basic conflicts of world-view and life-style underlie the attitudes
of value and disvalue these substances elicit, but in spite of the
subjective bias expressed in the terms used to interpret them, a common
thread runs throughout descriptions of the experience. This is the
increased vulnerability these drugs produce to both "set" (personality
and expectation predisposition) and "setting" (the environmental context
including the persons in it). These drugs join a number of other
modalities such as hypnosis, sleep and sensory deprivation, religious
ecstasy and "brainwashing," in producing a state of heightened
suggestibility. The ethical question the drugs thus raise concerns the
induction of a state in which the individual is potentially
The norm of the person-agapeic ethic is love (agape) described by
Nygren and others as unmotivated, spontaneous, nonsentimental,
rational, benevolent, deep-level volitional concern and commitment. Love
so characterized has as its precondition the self-determinate person,
and ethical action has primarily to do with producing and preserving this
precondition--hence the term "person-agapeic" (agapeic in the sense of
"tending toward"). The practical categorical imperative of this ethic is,
"so act as to enhance personhood for the sake of agape." Since the
highest level of personhood possesses the greatest agapeic value, a
relative scale of personal value is possible, ranging upward from thing to
high-level person, as the means of resolving conflicting interpersonal
claims. A similar scale may also be drawn for social institutions relative
to their impact on truly creative personality.
As the uses of the hallucinogens are explored, it is apparent that
they potentially threaten self-determination and thus the precondition of
agape. Their supposed benefits are most often achieved at the expense
of the agapeic person even while creating illusions of openness and
greater freedom. This is true both of their "psychedelic" and "therapeutic"
use. Psychedelists, for example, tend to become detached from and
uninvolved in the responsible concerns that are characteristic of agape.
There is a possibility that these changes are organic and irreversible in
A therapeutic method which bypasses and undermines the ego is not
compatible with the person-agapeic conception of man. Lifton's
distinction between education and brainwashing affords a good contrast
between a therapeutic method which is sensitive to personal value and
one that is not.
Further investigation into the subtle and long-range effects of
these drugs is indicated but present evidence places their casual use
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Compilation copyright © 1995 2001 CSP