Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Come Blow Your Mind With Me.
Greeley, Andrew M. (1971).
Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co.
13 chapters in 2 parts: 1. Religion in America, 2. American Catholicism,
Excerpt(s): So, psychedelia
takes man away from the ordinary into the really Real,
as any reader of Mircea Eliade knows, is
precisely what religions have always attempted to do-to transcend
the finite, ordinary, and confused of their everyday existence
and bring man in touch with the basic realities of the universe.
Whatever else it may be, psychedelia is a religious movement.
I am not, mind you, saying that it is merely a religious
movement-it is certainly influenced by the "camp" of
homosexuals, by many self-conscious and explicit psychoanalytic
concepts, by a certain amount of psychopathology, and also (like
everything else in the United States, it is to be feared) by pure
economic greed. But after the layers of greed, madness, psychoanalysis,
and homosexuality are peeled away, there still is in psychedelia
something profoundly religious, and it is, in its own way, a judgment
on the failures of the Christian religions of Western society.
Having relied initially on the authority of other
observers, let me turn to my own analysis and specify precisely
what characteristics of psychedelia are also, in my judgment as
a sociologist, characteristics of religious behavior.
First of all, psychedelia is explicitly and consciously
an attempt at the ecstatic, whether it be through drugs or music
or a combination of the two. ...
The acid head or rock devotee wishes to escape,
tune out, to leave behind the prosaic, dull, "uptight"
world of bourgeois society and to achieve union with higher forces
as represented by the throbbing rock beat with a marvelous clarity
of insight furnished by an acid trip. Psychedelia enables rational
industrial man and his children to pull out of themselves, to
back from and over against ordinary experience and judge it in
the quality of new insight or from the perspective of new unity.
Such have been the goals of ecstatic and mystics down through
the ages, though they have sought their ecstasy much less consciously
and in most cases much less artificially than does the psychedelic
Psychedelia is primordial, that is to say,
prerational when not explicitly anti-rational. It seeks to put
aside the hang-ups of organized society and its conventions in
order that it might get in touch with the profound underlying
natural forces in which we are all immersed, even though the conventions
of society cause us to forget this immersion. ...
Psychedelia is, or at least attempts to be, contemplative.
By this I do not mean that it is quiet, for generally it is not,
but I do mean that it tries to break through appearances and see
truth "like it is." ...
Psychedelia is also ceremonial. By this I
mean in the present context that it is given to the use of exotic
and esoteric symbols-such exoteric and esoteric things, that is,
as beads and flowers, fancy garments, neck jewelry for men, turtle-necked
shirts, Nehru coats, and other such costumes, uniforms, baubles,
and trinkets. The Beatles in their nineteenth-century musical-comedy
clothes, the Merry Pranksters in their American flag suits, the
flower people with their neck amulets, and even the Hell's Angels
in their black leather jackets are, in fact, wearing vestments.
Psychedelia is ritualistic. By this I mean
not that it has an elaborate system of rubrics that specify in
great detail the protocol of behavior, but rather that it achieves
its effects through the stylized repetition of sound and action
that simultaneously releases the individual from old unions and
immerses him in new unities. The whirling of the dervishes, the
twisting of the Holy Rollers, the measured cadence of the Gregorian
chant, the repetitive dances of black Africans and
American Indians, are all ritualistic. But the ritual was not
ritual for its own sake, as it used to be in the rubricized Roman
liturgy, but rather ritual for the sake of producing
psychological states in which the religious initiate was able
to free himself from the controls and rigidities of ordinary life
and "break through" (as The Doors put it) "to the
other side." ...
The psychedelic is communitarian-that is
to say, it attempts to create the relationships of everyday living
to some kind of concrete and practical application of the insights
of mystic union that it has perceived during its shamanistic experiences.
Heavy emphasis is placed on being "natural," "outfront,"
"authentic," and "spontaneous" in ones's human
relationships; but such honesty, authenticity, spontaneity, and
frankness are often mere self-defeating pretexts for aggression
and exploitation, and it's rather beside the point. Psychedelia
is repulsed about artificiality, the phoniness, and dishonesty
of the stylized relationships of bourgeois, industrial, secular
society, and tries to create communities of its own motivated
by common faith and common love, in which true believers may relate
to one another as authentic human beings. Hardly any small religious
community in human history has failed to make the same claim.
Finally, I am sure it will come as no surprise to
anyone, psychedelia is profoundly sexual, as are most religious
phenomena. Sex and religion are the two most powerful non-rational
forces of the human personality. That they should be linked, and
even allied in their battle to overthrow the tyranny of reason,
is surprising only to the highly Jansenized Christian who has
lost sight of the sexual imagery in his own faith-the intercourse
symbol of the candle and the water of Holy Saturday,
for example, or the pervasive comparison of the Church to marriage
in both the Old and New Testament. ...
I should like to point out that the ecstatic, primordial,
contemplative, ceremonial, ritualistic, communitarian, and sexual
are words that can be predicative of almost any religious liturgy
that the human race has observed. I am therefore contending not
merely that psychedelia is religious, but that it is liturgical,
and indeed, a judgment upon us for our own past liturgical failures.
In summary, then, psychedelia is a revolt against
the superego and against everything in the bourgeois industrial
culture of the Western world that smacks of the superego. The
reality principle in man has, in liberal industrial society, allied
itself almost entirely with the superego. ... (pages 70-77)
Ken Kesey was right. We must go
beyond acid, and I suspect that Christianity has an answer, and
the name of that answer is joy-joy based on faith and anticipating
resurrection. Ladies and gentleman, I would submit to you that
as one looks at American Catholicism today, one sees precious
little joy, not much more faith, and little awareness of the coming
resurrection. One even suspects that large numbers of our personnel
would not be turned on by an LSD trip-not even by a hundred LSD
trips-but one would like to think that they could be turned on
by the good news of Jesus of Nazareth. Clearly,
that hasn't got through to them either. (pages 81-82)
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