Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research.
Grof, Stanislav (1993).
London: Souvenir Press (Educational and Academic).
ISBN: 0-285-64882-9 paperback
Description: Paperback, xxvi + 257 pages.
Contents: Preface, acknowledgments, 6 chapters, epilogue, bibliography, index.
Note: This is a reprint of the 1975 edition. Huzzah! to Souvenir Press for reprinting this book. When the list of the Great Books is updated, I nominate Realms for introducing the LSD method of exploring the human mind and for the resulting map.
Excerpt(s): This volume is the first of a series of books in which I plan to summarize and condense in a systematic and comprehensive way my observations and experiences during seventeen years of research with LSD and other psychedelic drugs. Exploration of the potential of these substances for the study of schizophrenia, for didactic purposes, for a deeper understanding of art and religion, for personality diagnosis and the therapy of emotional disorders, and for altering the experience of dying has been my major professional interest throughout these years and has consumed most of the time I have spent in psychiatric research. (page vii)
My final reason for writing this series of books is based on the conviction that the material from serial LSD sessions even in its present form is of crucial theoretical significance and represents a serious challenge to the existing concepts of contemporary science. I feel that these data should be made
available for consideration and evaluation to researchers from various scientific disciplines. For this purpose, I have tried to present the material with much emphasis on actual clinical observations and on illustrative case histories. In this form, it can, I hope, provide an incentive and basis for speculation even for those readers who will not accept the theoretical framework I have suggested for the conceptualization of the observed phenomena. (pages xii-xiii)
Another area in which the use of LSD appeared to be rather revolutionary was the psychology of religion. It had been observed that some LSD sessions had the form of profound religious and mystical experiences quite similar to those described in the holy scriptures of the great religions of the world and reported by saints, prophets, and religious teachers of all ages. The possibility of triggering such experiences by means of a chemical instigated an interesting and highly controversial discussion around the use of "chemical" of "instant mysticism" and the validity and spiritual genuineness of these phenomena. The debates carried on by behavioral scientists, philosophers, and theologians oscillated among three extreme points of view. Many experimenters felt that the observations from psychedelic sessions made it possible to take religious phenomena from the realm of the sacred, produce them at will in the laboratory, study them, and eventually explain them in scientific terms. Ultimately, there would be nothing mysterious and holy about religion, and it would be explained in terms of brain physiology and biochemistry. Some theologians tended to view LSD and other psychedelic substances as sacred and the sessions as sacraments, because they could bring the individual in touch with transcendental realities. The opposite trend was to deny that the LSD experiences were genuine religious comparable to those that come as "God's grace" or are the result of discipline, abnegation, devotion, or austere practices; in this framework, the apparent easiness with which these experiences could be triggered by c chemical entirely disqualified their spiritual value. (pages 3-4)
Religious and mystical experiences represent the most interesting and challenging category of LSD phenomena. Their incidence seems to be directly related to the dosage and number of previous sessions of the subject. They can also be facilitated by the special preparation, set, and setting of the psychedelic treatment technique. The experience of death and rebirth, union with the universe or God, encounters with demonic appearances, or the reliving of "past incarnations" observed in LSD sessions appear to be phenomenologically indistinguishable from similar descriptions in the sacred scriptures of the great religions of the world and secret mystical texts of ancient civilizations. (pages 13-14)
By in large, I have not been able to discover during the analyses of my data any distinct pharmacological effects of LSD in humans that would be constant and invariant and could therefore be considered drug specific. At the present time I consider LSD to be a powerful unspecific amplifier of catalyst of
biochemical and physiological processes in the brain. it seems to create a situation of undifferentiated activation that facilitates the emergence of unconscious material from different levels of the personality. The richness as well as the unusual inter- and intraindividual variability of the LSD experience can thus be explained by the decisive participation of extrapharmacological factors, such as the personality of the subject and the structure of his unconscious, the personality of the therapist or sitter, and the set and setting in all their complexity. The capacity of LSD and some other psychedelic drugs to exteriorize otherwise invisible phenomena and processes and make them subject of scientific investigation gives these substances a unique potential as diagnostic instruments and as research tools for the exploration of the human mind. it does not seem inappropriate and exaggerated to compare their potential significance for psychiatry and psychology to that of the microscope for medicine or the telescope for astronomy.
In the chapters that follow, I have attempted to outline the cartography of the human unconscious as it has been manifested in LSD sessions of my patients and subjects. I have been quite encouraged by the fact that in various areas of human culture there are numerous indications that the maps of
consciousness emerging from my LSD work are fully compatible and sometimes parallel with other existing systems. Examples of this can be found in C. G. Jung's analytical psychology, Roberto Assagioli's psychosynthesis, and Abraham Maslow's studies of peak experiences, as well as religious and mystical schools of various cultures and ages. Many of these frameworks are based not on the use of psychedelic drugs but on powerful nondrug techniques of
altering consciousness. This parallel between the LSD experiences and a variety of phenomena manifested without chemical facilitation provides additional supportive evidence for the unspecific and catalyzing effect of LSD. (pages 32-33)
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