The Journal of
Cognitive Liberties

This article is from Vol. 2, Issue No. 3 pages 111-113
All rights reserved worldwide.  ISSN: 1527-3946





Psychoactive Sacramentals

Book Review

Adam Fish

Any literary collection that wishes to command the attention of serious scholars of the history of consciousness must be multidisciplinary. The rudimentary findings of the neurobiological sciences, the hereditary science of mind we call shamanism, cultural influences, and individual singularities must be successfully mediated. Psychoactive Sacramentals is a lucrative synthesis of divergent scholarship on psychedelic numinosity.

The chapters of the book complement each other in ways few edited collections do. Individual sections meld symmetrically, rendering the tome into a text with remarkable cohesion and equitable poise; a truly astounding feat considering the pluralism of the authors’ vocations, the blurring of genre, and the depth of each individual study.

The archetypically dotted landscapes and obfuscating dimensions, panoptic sculptures and lexicon crystals one encounters on entheogens present a hermeneutically vague experience. Spice this trip with tangy epiphanies, a quiver of insights, cellular transcendence, and an intimacy with cognoscape-maps becomes paramount.

Psychoactive Sacramentals is filled with wise words from reverends, chemists, lawyers, neuroscientists, psychologists, culturalists, religious scholars and idea-historians who, at a 1995 weeklong retreat at Vallom brosa, reconnoitered with the most puzzling Oracle facing modern humans: Entheogens and their Meaning.

Often using the divine light of Pahnke’s Good Friday findings as a staple ration, Psychoactive Sacramentals explores the fundamental question as expressed in the title of Huston Smith’s classic “Do Drugs have Religious Import?” At the heart of Psychoactive Sacramentals is a confirmation of Pahnke’s assumption: if you are a person inclined towards spirituality, then entheogens can deepen your experiential knowing of the root of Rapture. The authors activate and modernize Huston’s thesis that entheogens can be an adjunct to regular spiritual practice.

Psychoactive Sacramentals is a textbook in the emerging field that Rev. Aline M. Lucas dubbed “entheology.” For example, Albert Hofman suggests that LSD can be an adjunct to a spiritual way-of-life. Rick Doblin’s follow-up on the Good Friday experiment affirms that entheogens can induce long-term mystical convictions. Myron Stolaroff’s “Protocol for a Sacramental Service” offers a detailed course for conducting an entheogenic meditation in ways didactic tropes like the Psychedelic Experience failed. Rev. Karla Hansen believes that entheogens are a catalyst for a devout type of psychosomatic healing called “transcendental medicine.”

Drugs can serve as spiritual catalysts and they can also instigate activism. The spinal notion in Rev. George F. Cairns’ expose is “liberation theology.” Entheogens make evident in many people that an intermediary between god and Humanity, in the form of a mediating civic religion, is immaterial. This critical and dangerous knowledge is profoundly contradictory to the spectatorism vital to modern consumerism. Rev. Cairns believes that the “full-bodied work of liberation” can be indebted to alternative states of Mind.

None of the twenty-five authors in Psychoactive Sacramentals antidote the confusing complexity of entheology, mycotheology, or theobotany. On the contrary, Psychoactive Sacramentals asserts the validity, viability, and profundity of the idiosyncratic and atomically relative entheogenic experience. Each chapter, in it’s own revealingly humane way, encourages the reader to explore the complexity of Mindividuality, its rhyzomatic connections to the Mysteries, and the symbolic Web of Meaning in which it is suspended.

Esalen Institute, September 8, 2001


To order this book:

Psychoactive Sacramentals
Essays on Entheogens and Religion
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D., Editor
Council on Spiritual Practices, Publisher
ISBN: 1-889725-02-1; $16.95
Promind Books
321 S. Main Street PMB 543
Sebastopol CA 95472



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Adam Fish is the Summer Fellow at the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics.