Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
The Scientific Study of Religion.
Yinger, J. Milton. (1970).
New York: Macmillan.
x + 593 pages.
Contents: Preface, 22
chapters, bibliography, author index, subject index.
Excerpt(s): From the
perspective we have adopted, we must ask: What combination of
structural, cultural, and character sources supports the use of
drugs on religious activities? For a number of reasons, this is
a difficult question to answer. First, it is difficult to specify
with any confidence when drug use is in any sense a religious
act. (page 164)
A second problem springs from the extraordinary
difficulty in maintaining some objectivity in the study of drug
use. In those societies where it is illegal
and generally regarded as immoral, it is mainly persons with unusually
strong feelings of resentment against authority, or who have problems
of self-discovery, or feelings of anxiety who are motivated to
take the risks involved in using drugs. What appear to be the
consequences, therefore, are based on a highly selective sample,
a situation that compounds the problem of objectivity. (page 165)
Michael Novak speaks of the
"'pelagian' prejudice that spiritual achievement is proportionate
to personal effort. Those who share this prejudice cannot conceive
of the possibility that the Creator may have graced his creation
with drugs which, discovered in due time, might be instrumental
in preparing people to understand the gentleness, brotherhood,
and peace of the Gospels. Spiritual achievement is not won only
through will and effort; often it is grace." Those who approach
religion through mysticism are most likely to accept this point
Those close to an ascetic tradition, on the other
hand, suspect that those who see religious possibilities in drug
use are not so much emphasizing some message of gentleness found
in the gospels as expressing their extensive secular training
for "instant success." ... There's a religious genius-or
at least a religious experience-in each of us, waiting to get
out, if we can only learn how to pry off the lid. ...
These two interpretations are a modern form of the
ancient clash between ascetic and mystic. (pages 165-166)
A third difficulty faced by one seeking to discover
the structural, cultural, and character sources that support drug
use grows largely from the other two: there has been little empirical
study. Thus all we have to offer are highly tentative observations,
designed more to define the problem as a field of study than to
answer questions related to it. (page 166)
CONDITIONS SUPPORTING A DRUG CULT
I. Structural Conditions
A. General. The major social changes, tragedies,
and upheavals of our time. Relative failure of societies based
on faith in science and reason. ...
B. Specific. The relative availability of drugs
in some settings. The networks of communication indicating how
one obtains them and indicating group support in their use. Availability
of knowledge of Eastern religions ...
II. Cultural Conditions:
A. General. Norms that support a religious search.
Approval of mystical religious experience ... Normative support
for quick, "magical" solutions to problems, an extension
of the romantic tradition. ...
B. Specific. Subcultural norms alien to, in part
hostile to, general cultural supports are found in some groups.
Such groups may also draw selectively from the general
culture, being differentiated by emphasis as well as norms. ...
III. Characterological Conditions:
A. General. A fairly large number of persons in
Western societies have experienced the volatile mixture of affluence
and tragedy. Having experienced "success" or been reared
in families that experienced success, and found it wanting, they
no longer seek confident living; they seek self-discovery and
Many affluent and relatively permissive homes are
also of liberal persuasion. Children have been made aware of other
cultures, made sensitive to injustice, and informed about the
disparities around the world; thus they are peculiarly sensitive
to the value contradictions they see around them. ...
B. Specific. Some of those who have the tendencies
mentioned under general characterological influences, which can
lead to a wide variety of actions, have other tendencies that
encourage experimental religious behavior. Both adjectives
are essential qualifiers. ...
What we have sketched, then, is a series of six
clusters of conditions, all of which are essential to persons
trained in the West before participating in a religious cult that
involves the use of drugs can occur. (pages 166-168)
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Compilation copyright © 1995 2001 CSP