Journal of Psychoactive Drugs


Haight Ashbury Publications

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Published by Haight Ashbury Publications




Speakers:  David E. Smith, M.D.; Reverend Robert Cromy; Dr. Jack Downing; Reverend Laird Sutton


Dr. Smith: Introduction

I want to welcome you to the Second Semi-Annual Conference sponsored by our Psychopharmacological Study Group. The topic for our conference today is "The Religious Significance of Psychedelic Drugs”.

The Psychopharmacology Study Group is an on-campus medical group whose purpose it is to compile and disseminate objective information in the field of psychopharmacology, particularly in the area of psychedelic drugs. This group formed because of the great concern on the part of its members regarding what was felt to be the presence and distribution of a tremendous amount of misinformation concerning psychedelic drugs. It is our hope that we can serve as a middle ground between the extreme polarities of opinion that seem to exist in this fascinating but highly controversial field.

I mentioned that this was the Second Semi-Annual Conference. Our first conference, the topic of which was "Psychedelic Drug s and the Law, " was held last January. The proceedings of that conference are now available in our journal entitled "The Journal of Psychedelic Drugs," which is on sale outside the conference room. In addition, the journal contains a historical review of LSD and a brief summary of the Haight- Ashbury Medical Clinic. This journal will be published semi-annually, and will contain a continuing progress report on the Haight-Ashbury Medical Clinic, the idea for which originated in our Psychopharmacology Study Group discussions relative to what we felt was the poor handling of drug use and abuse in the Haight-Ashbury district. Out of our attempt to develop a more rational procedure came the idea for a free general medical clinic, which is now serving the medical needs of the Haight-Ashbury. The clinic is supported by private donations and staffed by volunteer people. Mr. Robert Conrich, the administrator of the clinic, will be available to talk with any of you who are interested in the clinic in more detail. Also, we welcome any of you who might wish to help or volunteer services to the Haight-Ashbury Medical Clinic.

Mr. Charles Fisher, who is the student director of the Psychopharmacology Study Group, will also be available for any questions relative to our organization, and again, we welcome those of you who might wish to participate in the organization of future symposiums, as well as those who wish to make original contributions to our journal. I am the editor of the journal, and contributions may be submitted for consideration to me in care of the Department of Pharmacology.

The motivation for the development of the topic of our conference today, "The Religious Significance of Psychedelic Drugs, " came about primarily because of a prejudice which seems to prevail, particularly in the medical community: that people take drugs of the LSD type for kicks, for social status, and that use of the psychedelic type drugs is similar to use of alcohol or similar to narcotic drug use; that no deeper meaning exists, at least in its motivational aspects. However, to people working in the field, it seems to have become apparent that most of the motivation for the use of psychedelic drugs actually stems from an entirely different source.

Now, if one is going to truly understand drug use, the drug reaction, the context of the total phenomena, then one has to go into great detail as to why people are taking the drug. It does no good to try to discuss a particular drug response with an individual if you have no idea of why he is taking the drug. Our purpose today, therefore, is to go into detail concerning what is now considered to be an important and significant motivation behind a great deal of the psychedelic drug use, particularly in this geographical area.

I would like to further illustrate why I think this analysis is so important by giving you a psychopharmacological example. Psychopharmacology is the study of drugs which affect thought, mood, and perception, and the total context of the experience depends not only upon the drug itself but upon the set or motivation of the person taking the drug, and upon the setting in which he takes it. Both these factors contribute to the total drug experience, and the drug experience cannot be separated from the total context. For example, one individual may feel primarily anxiety. The first thing he wonders is why he is feeling this anxiety--what is the cause of the anxiety. Many times, however, the cause is so complex and so deep-rooted that the individual has great difficulty analyzing the reason he is feeling anxiety, and he then often turns to anti-anxiety drugs, which serve two purposes: first, the anti-anxiety drug relieves the symptom of anxiety, and secondly, by relieving the anxiety, the drug may help the individual discover what the cause of the anxiety was. Now, as a side-effect of using such anti-anxiety medication, he may, for example, develop vertigo. This has to be considered a side-effect of the drug. But if one were to focus primarily on just this side effect of the drug, and say to the individual "you have to stop taking the anti-anxiety drug because you are having dizziness, " it would be a futile approach, because the basic reason that the individual takes the drug, the anxiety and the cause of the anxiety, are not relieved by the mere elimination of the drug, and the consequent elimination of the side-effect.

This example has great importance to the psychedelic drug group of the LSD/marijuana type and we find we can still utilize this format and formula, despite the fact that the situation is much more complex than the one just described.

The psychedelic toxic psychosis or "bad trip" that is so often written about in the newspaper, the thing with which the "straight" community seems to be so enthralled, is actually a side-effect of the basic reason why an individual is taking the drug. I find so many experts in the field of psychedelic drugs going into great detail listing side-effects, proceeding on the assumption that if they can list more and more and more side-effects, it will somehow deter an individual from taking psychedelic drugs. I think that many of these experts completely ignore the basic cause, the basic symptom that the individual seems to be trying to relieve, and I think that this is why there are such communication gaps between the medical community, the legal community, and the actual drug-using population.

To be more specific, some of the motivations that have been expressed for psychedelic drug use are curiosity, escape, social status, and anxiety relief. On the more positive side, however, both an attempt at psycho-analysis and an attempt at the achievement of a religious experience have also been advanced as valid motivations. The latter reason is what we are going to focus on today.

If someone desires to achieve a religious experience, if this is the motivation for his drug use, then there must be an underlying reason for this desire. If an individual wants to achieve a religious experience, it is implied that, at least in many cases, there is a spiritual void in his life which has not been filled by other techniques more commonly offered by the society in which he lives. The individual who takes the psychedelic drug is, in effect, trying to find an alternative to what he apparently considers a negative or absent experience, in that society. We find that this is a very valid concern on the part of many of the young people now using psychedelic drugs, and they may be seen to be rebelling in the true Camus-like sense of the word. They are rebelling against a de-humanized society, a society whose members go through a ritual of religion on Sunday, yet whose behavior during the week has no relation to the ritual that they have undergone. One very important conclusion which may be drawn from this observation is that religious ritual does not imply religious experience. Religious experience must come first, and the behavioral change follows. An individual can go through a set of ritualistic behaviors and it need not have any effect upon his total social behavior.

In this context, then, it is implied that those individuals who take psychedelic drugs for religious purposes are individuals who, utilizing more common social approaches, have not found religious satisfaction, and because of the spiritual void in their life, are seeking new alternatives.

Individuals who violently protest this situation because of the incidence of adverse side-effects that may result from psychedelic drug use are perhaps best answered by Charles McCabe. In his column he discusses a professor who writes in reaction to an individual who had previously written to the effect that "how can anybody use LSD because of all the bad things that can happen." The professor's final statement has, I think, tremendous significance. In reference to the psychedelic movement, he said, "there will be casualties, but if the Great Society can assimilate a couple of million alcoholics, and as many lung cancer cases, then it should have little trouble taking care of the few people that become psychotic through ingesting LSD. "

To be more specific, there are many people who doubt the sincerity of those individuals who profess to take psychedelic drugs for religious purposes, and certainly I agree that there is a large fringe population which is utilizing other motives. But in working in the field it has become very obvious to me that many of the individuals involved in this new community are quite sincere in their motivations. I would like to read an article from the Haight-Ashbury Oracle, which is really a paraphrase of the Bible of the Hippy community. It begins by saying:
"Start your own religion. The purpose of life is religious discovery. The wise person devotes his life exclusively to the religious search, for herein is found the only ecstasy, the only meaning.
Anything else is a competitive quarrel. That intermediate manifestation of the divine process which we call the DNA code has spent the last few million years making this planet a Garden of Eden. An intricate web has been woven, a delicate fabric of chemical, electrical seeds, seed tissue, organism species, a dancing joyous harmony of energy transformation rooted into 12" of top soil which covers the rock metal fire core of the earth. In this Garden of Eden each human being is born perfect."

I found this particularly interesting in that it is quite in opposition to the prevailing Judea-Christian based religious ethic, that man is born evil. In contrast, the religious philosophy of the new community is that man is born intothe world perfect, and that he is conditioned and corrupted by de-humanizing influences which detract him from his basic conception.

To continue: "We were all born divine mutants to the DNA code's best answer to joyful survival on this planet, an exquisite package for adaptation based on two billion years of consumer research and product design. When the individual’s behavior and consciousness get hooked to a routine sequence of external actions, he is a dead robot and it is time for him to die and be reborn, time to drop out, turn on and tune-in."

The article continues, further describing the process of dropping out, turning on and tuning in. "To turn on means to find a sacrament which returns you to the temple of God, your own body, to go out of your mind. To tune in means to be reborn; to drop back in, to start a new sequence of behavior that reflects your vision; in other words, to manifest in a behavioral way the religious experience you have had."

In the discussion of how to turn on, the article states that "you must detach yourself from your rigid addictive focus and refocus on the natural energies within the body. You are a spiritual voyager furthering the most ancient noble quest of man. When you turn on you divert from the fake and join the holy dance of visionary. Never underestimate the sacred meaning of the turn-on. To turn on you need a sacrament. A sacrament is a visible external thing which turns the key to the inner door. A sacrament must bring about bodily changes. A sacrament flips you out of the studio game and harnesses you to the two-billion-year-old flow inside. A sacrament which works is dangerous to the ruling establishment and to that part of your mind which is hooked to the establishment game."

I think that this next is a very crucial part of the philosophy: "The body-changing sacrament which is needed is one that will flip out the mind of society. Today, the sacrament is LSD. However, sacraments wear out. They become part of the social game. Treasure LSD while it still works. In fifteen years it will be a tame, socialized routine."

So, I now turn the meeting over to the Reverend Robert Cromy.

Reverend Robert Cromy:

It seems to me that it is very important to what presently is going on in our culture that we see that drugs are not only being used as a sacrament, but are sacramental in very traditional terms, in terms of the Christian church, which is all I can really speak about, and only a small portion of it at that. The churches have a definition of sacrament wherein drugs fit, and fit in rather nicely. First of all, drugs are part of the creation of God. To use illogical language in this scientific arena, God created everything. He created all that is, and a human being's response to this creation should be use of the totality of this creation, responsibly, joyously, happily, fully. Participating in all of creation, however, includes participating in the existence of drugs. Now, this is socially permissible if you can define a direct healing relationship, such as, you have a headache, you take a drug, and you get over the headache for a little while. That kind of drug-taking is OK. Every time I lurch toward my toothpaste, which has marvelous names all over it, all of them presumably very scientific and full of drugs to take care of my mouth, I assume that I am taking some kind of a drug to take care of my --whatever the local oral problem happens to be--fuzz, or something. This is a drug taking scene. At least, to pedal the stuff, it is implied that such is the case.

Drugs are a gift of God. As such, they are part of the giveness of things, to be used responsibly and to be seen as a gift, as something given, as something that is there to be appreciated and taken up. Let me say, then, to deal briefly with what a sacrament is: we have talked about drugs as far as being part of creation. A sacrament, in religious terminology, is an outward, and visible form, or sign, of an inward and spiritual grace. Now, this betrays my bias toward the common prayer of the English language, and this is the definition of sacrament in our catechism--an outward, visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.

The clearest religious illustration of the sacraments for Anglicans and Protestants generally are those of Baptism and Holy Communion. These are the two great sacraments. Obviously, in Baptism, water is the outward, visible sign. It is the thing. It is the agent. It is the actual or the secular image which is used, and it is used in two ways. It carries a spiritual meaning, if you will, the spiritual meaning of life, like growth in a mother's body in a sac of water. Water is the giver of life. There is no life without water. Water is part of the essence of living. In that sense, water is a part of the meaning of the sacrament. Also, as one is Baptized, we say that one joins the life-giving community of Christians.

In a second dimension, water is that which cleanses. It seems to me that original sin does not have much to do with evil, but has a great deal to do with imperfection. This is the way the world is. The world is imperfect. It is not necessarily evil. And I don't think evil is what Genesis is talking about. But Genesis makes the very realistic observation that we live in an imperfect world, that there is an imperfection about life, and that we are not going to find absolute perfection. We are always going to fall short of the mark; we are always going to be living in an imperfect situation. In fact, I think that to seek perfection is the sign of a psychosis of some kind. But to live realistically is to be able to live with imperfection. I think that this is what the doctrine of original sin is really trying to say.

So when we talk of the water of Baptism, we assume that man is imperfect. Man commits sins, outrages, and somehow in Baptism, the water in Baptism symbolizes that man can be cleansed. He can be forgiven. He doesn't have to walk around with the burden of guilt. He can be forgiven for his enormous incredibilities. These are the kinds of meanings of the water in Baptism which are important. Water is the outward, visible sign, bearing these inner spiritual graces of forgiveness and new life.

In Holy Communion, the bread and the wind are the sacraments, the outward visible signs which carry inward and spiritual meaning. Bread and wine are profane. They are secular. They are seen. Bread and wind are not grown on trees, but are produced in bake shops and wineries. They are not natural products. They are the products of machinery and the work of men. They are thus profane, and of the world; they are secular. These outward, visible signs are food. That is easy to understand. Bread is the staff of life, it is the essence of life. And wine; we have all heard about wine. Wine is known as a life-giving thing. It does something to you, whether it depresses or uplifts, whatever it does, it change s your conscious state of mind. It changes the situation. It, again, is something which changes life. It gives a new dimension to living. We use the bread and the wine to symbolize the life of Christ, his body and his blood. In Christianity we have been able to obscure the issue somewhat with endless conversations about what really are body and blood, and bread and wine, and how is it all related; Christianity has fallen down and stood up all over this issue. But, in any case, bread and wine are now used to symbolize the life of Christ. Somehow, we Christians feel that we are involved in the life of Christ, and we proclaim this each week as we attend Eucharist and eat some bread and drink some wine. We thus proclaim our oneness with the life of Christ.

In the use of these profane things, like bread and wine, we, on the one hand, relate to God in Christ, and on the other hand, we eat with our brother. We, for a moment, eat from the same dish; we, for a moment, drink from the same cup, and are joined as one with our brother. This is the sacrament of the Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the drawing together of the community, the holy union of men and men, and men and God, symbolized in the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine - outward, profane, secular things used in the bringing about of spiritual inner meaning.

We can thus go down through the seven sacraments, the other five a bit more briefly, perhaps, because I know less about them. Oil has been used in Christianity, as it has been in many religions as an outward sign. Oil is a profane thing. It is also a product. Oil has always been a healing agent, but not because when you rub it into your skin it makes you feel good, and, in fact, has therapeutic effects, but because it is an outward sign of an inward grace. I remember Bishop Pike talking one time about using the recipe which is given in the Bible for oil for the confirmation of children and adults. He was saying that when he used to have large confirmation classes and he would use the substance which had been made in a drug store nearby Grace Cathedral, that in a hot church, with a lot of people around, a lot of perspiring children in front of him, the aroma and the fumes had a kind of effect on him. As the drug and psychedelic issue was coming alive for people, he said: "Good heavens, maybe there really is something to this, right there in the Bible. " That very recipe has a kind of enervating effect, and he began to think seriously about the relationship between drug use and the use of this sanctioned oil. Perhaps this oil carries with it the possibility of another dimension of spirituality, as well.

In confirmation, the laying-on of hands is an outward, visible sign. Community begins to occur in the laying-on of hands. As we touch, as we feel, people come together in a oneness. The mere laying-on of hands is a sign, carrying with it deep meaning, because when you touch somebody you are saying "I love you." This is what happens when you shake hands, when you give a kiss, or an embrace. Indeed, the laying-on of hands is a sacrament. The Bishop, when he receives new members into the church in confirmation, lays his hands upon them and says to them, "You are part of the loving community, and the community of the Beloved."

In Ordination the same thing occurs; a priest, or minister, is set aside by the laying-on of hands. He is given a special office in the Christian community by this action of the laying-on of hands. In Confession, when a penitent comes to a priest, that is an outward, visible sign. Words are said, and ideas are communicated about various problems or difficulties this person has, which are shared with you, a priest, as his brother, and in this sacrament of words the priest can, under most circumstances, pronounce absolution through the sacrament, the outward, visible sign of words.

In marriage, the outward, visible sign is the marriage ceremony. In the Anglican Church it is the giving of the ring and the joining of hands. These are the two meaningful actions, these are the two sacramental actions in the marriage ceremony that make marriage a sacrament.

Now, another way to say all this is to say that artificial, secular, profane things are used extensively in obtaining religious experience. In the Church, architecture is used. The great soaring points in a great cathedral are meant to uplift, to help one get out of one's self and into a new dimension, to help one reach beyond oneself. The very purpose of the structure of a good church is to move one up and out. One of the reasons that there are so many bad churches is that many of them don't succeed in doing this. The arches are so cluttered or ill-constructed that the overall effect does nothing except flatten you down. A good church is one which lifts and broadens. One's experience should be deepened just by walking into the building. Such is the value of architecture, an outward sign communicating an inward grace. The light coming through stained glass of magnificent color--all this adds to the experience. May I point out here that people who have had psychedelic experiences are enjoying more and more stained glass all the time. As you walk through the Haight-Ashbury you will see people painting their own stained glass on their windows.

Consider the vestments worn by priests. The choirs also wear vestments, varying in color and shape and cloth, all of which are to help evoke the religious experience. Incense is used, utilizing the sense of smell, and the way the smoke billows up in a beautiful cloud is a visual way of uplifting men toward a religious experience. The use of music is a most obvious kind of outward, visible sign communicating an inward and spiritual grace. In my opinion, most church music now is so terrible that it doesn't do much good. But the point is that it did help at one time. The great Gregorian music is certainly one of the finest examples of church music we know, and there are many other kinds as well. The kind of doggerel verse and un-hip tunes that are commonly sung in the hymnity of the church today seem poor substitutes for what music really can and should do. I would suggest to my congregation that they think of hymns as folk songs and simply enjoy the experience of singing, rather than get too involved in what the words mean, because the words tend to be just simple rationalities.

Paintings, statuary, processions, drama, words, color, silence-all of these are outward, visible signs which bear inward, spiritual meaning. Even the use of various postures, to kneel, for example, for prayer, to stand for praise, to sit to listen to the preaching,-these postures, what we do with our bodies, with our hands, are part of the religious experience.

I have explored these areas because I think it is very important that a sufficient foundation of understanding be laid of what the sacramental life of the Christian church and religion in general is all about. Use of flowers is still another example. We love flowers in a church, we spend a good deal on flowers, whether or not they are well used. I recently went to the wedding of a family of Spanish extraction, and I was delighted. A little child walked down after the bridal couple with flower petals. It was a nice, kind of festive thing.

Religion has always used secular, profane, worldly things as means and assistance to the religious experience. And the religious experience can be evoked by profane things, always has been, and probably always will be. Now, to speak about the void that Dr. Smith mentioned. One of the problems in religion today is the fact that these sacramentals have become so stylized, so sterile, rigid, and often boring, that they no longer serve to evoke the religious experience. It seems that for some individuals, the last place to seek a religious experience is in the liturgical life of most of our churches, because the very stuff with which we have to deal has become so set over time, so legalized, that it doesn't do what, in the beginning, it was meant to do. We seem to have taken these magnificent secular things, these sacramental things used in worship, and made them so rigid and tight that they no longer communicate anything about the good news. I was at a conference yesterday and the day before, and Bishop Myers, our new Episcopal Bishop, has set up a committee for restructure and renewal of our diocese. Aside from a few theologians and priests, he also insisted that ·there be some youth on this committee. Teenagers had to be in on this august commission, to sit with him and the other bishops, because he felt that unless he had the voice of the people under eighteen, he didn't have a true voice to guide the restructuring and renewing of the church. The chairman of the commission, Dr. Massy Shepherd, was telling us yesterday that one of these teenagers said, "you know, the reason I don't go to church anymore, or to meetings, is that I don't see anything of good news here. I see nothing of good news when I go to church. "

The whole essence of gospel is good news, and Dr. Shepherd said, "you know, we have been talking about this for weeks. There is nothing "good news" here. There is nothing joyous, nothing happy. It is all sterile and rigid and tight, unhappy and unpleasant, really." Supposedly, the purpose of a sacrament is to assist a person in achieving a religious experience. A sacrament is to help open people. A sacrament is to help people turn on to self, to God, and to community, to draw into a relationship with God, although theologically we always have to say that God uses the sacraments to relate to men.

We in the church always have to go back to the concept of the gift. We realize that what we have in the world is a gift, and that God uses sacraments to reveal Himself to us. Therefore, it is up to man to 'get with' the things of the world, because that is wherein God is revealed. That is the arena in which God manifests himself.

Let me spend a few minutes now on an attempt at a definition of a religious experience. I can really only list descriptive terms, and I am not sure I can be terribly rational about them. Perhaps one could say that a religious experience is the sense of oneness with God. A religious experience is a vision of God. A religious experience is also a sense of oneness with self, a sense of oneness with the world; it is a sense of peace and harmony and love, a sense of inward vision and understanding. It is a sense of the service of love, and of merging toward neighbor, a sense of the profundity of life, a sense of insight into self. Religious experience is a sense of creatureliness, the smallness of one's self in comparison with the immensity of the universe, in comparison with the immensity of God, and of the creation. Religious experience is a sense of loneliness, and the hope for community, and ecstasy, a shuddering kind of ecstasy. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists, talks about one day in a Bible study session wherein he spoke about his heart being warm; out of this warmth of heart developed an organization of 10 million Methodists in this country. Certainly the Baptist church, which evangelized the west in the days when things were really hard, was a tremendous missionary field coming out of this religious experience.

The writings of St. Theresa and of St. Francis talk about this kind of visior of God, the sense of oneness, the sense of uplift. Even Ralph Waldo Emerson talks about the oversoul and the glimpse into the transcendent, and the imminence of God in the world. These are quite traditional religious terms, describing what the religious experience is. We Christians say it is a gift from God, and He is the source of that experience. He alone is the author of the religious experience. But, even though we would say that God is the author of the experience, we Christians for years have gone around preparing for the experience. We have always talked about ways of preparing for the religious encounter, ways such as those of fasting, meditation, silence, prayer, the relaxing of one's body, waiting for God. Receiving the sacraments, and communion in particular, are ways in which we prepare ourselves. If this gift of the religious experience comes, we are delighted and happy; perhaps often, it may not come. But there is no question but that we prepare for the experience. We do specific things with the profanities and the secularities to prepare for the experience of an encounter with God.

It must be said, however, that the religious experience is terribly personal. I know of no objective standards to determine whether or not an individual has had a religious experience, an experience of God. If you are asked, 'have you seen the beatific vision, do you have faith', and if you answer 'yes', you have no proof. There are no objective standards, there are only personal ones. One can only be a personal witness to one's own religious experience. The fact is that no man, no Christian, no Jew, no Muslim, no Saint, no Pope, no Bishop nor priest, nor minister, nor rabbi, nor layman really knows if his religious experience is from God, or from gas on the stomach, not enough sleep, menopause, hardening of the arteries, or the first blush of youthful love. We cannot know. We have no objective standards for determining whether or not any religious experiences we have are truly of God.'

Can there be no test for religious experience? Can there be no way of knowing for sure that there is a valid religious experience? I think of perhaps two tests, and I can't say that they are objective, but they are personal observations. If a person says he has had a religious experience, I would like to know these two things about that person: first, has his experience made him more of a human being? Has it made him more sensitive to his own being, his own life, the dimension of himself as a person? And secondly, what has this individual done about becoming more sensitively human, in terms of loving and serving his neighbors?

I think these two criteria are possibly useful for determining whether or not a person has had a genuine religious experience or whether he has had a jag on. If one doesn't somehow come out of such an experience as more of a human being, as somehow more inclined to really serve his neighbor, then I, at least as a Christian, would have to question whether or not he had had an experience of any religious significance, or whether perhaps he had just had a nice experience.

With this kind of background, I think we can say that perhaps drugs have a place in the religious or sacramental life. First, as I stated earlier, drugs are a part of the creation; drugs, like sex, booze, money, power, food, can be put either to good or to bad use. They are part of the giveness of things, and they can be used just as we use the things I listed earlier, like bread, wine, water, oil, speech, the laying-on of hands, architecture, stained glass, vestments, and so on. All of these things can be put to good or bad use, can be used to enhance or to deflower the religious experience. All of these things are part of creation, as are drugs. The psychedelic drugs, marijuana, LSD, and others, may create the feeling of oneness, the feeling of uplift, the feeling of closeness, feelings certainly very akin to those mentioned previously. They can create feelings in a person which are very similar to the feelings traditionally accepted as belonging to a religious experience. LSD, particularly, seems to create the apocalyptic visions, almost like those of Ezekiel or the Book of Revelation in the Bible. LSD may also create a sense of peace and a sense of insight into the world and into one's self. It is interesting to note that the Essenes, the ancient community about which we are learning more and more from the recent discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, seem to have had at least one lunatic fringe who were mushroom gatherers. This has just been reported in a recent paper, and I was talking to Bishop Pike about it the other day. He said "yes, there were apparently three kinds of mushrooms which grew in Palestine; there was the kind from which you made soup, there was the kind that was poisonous, and there was the kind that was psychedelic."

The Essences, apparently, were experts in discovering which were which. And after sudden rains, when some of these mushrooms grew rather rapidly, especially the psychedelic ones, these people went racing out to find the right mushroom. Some of their literature is quite apocalyptic in nature, quite fanciful, quite visionary, full and expansive in the use of imagination. It may be that the Dead Sea Scrolls will be of assistance in determining at what level there was actual drug use in the regular context of Christian or Jewish-Christian worship in those very primitive and early days. There seems to be a good deal of evidence that there may well have been some kind of drug use in connection with the creation of apocalyptic literature, in particular. Some of you remember the stories of flying horses, and smoke, and incense and fire, and god-speaking flames and tongues. This kind of literature has always been thought to be sort of code literature, so that the Christians could talk to the world without the .Romans catching on to what they were talking about. But evidence seems to be emerging that these visions were the product of psychedelic experiences, and the ingestion of drugs.

Isn't relating the religious experience to the taking of drugs--isn't this really instant mysticism? Isn't drug use instant mysticism? Yes, it is. Drug use may short-cut the traditional religious preparation, and suddenly open a person to God's outreach. This is very definitely a possible positive use of psychedelic drugs. In that sense, it is instant mysticism; but on the other hand, I could also answer no, it is not instant mysticism, it is no more instant mysticism than is the use of the techniques used by the mystics who control their breathing, thereby cutting off oxygen to the brain and getting a hallucinogenic reaction. There is a good deal of evidence that this is part of what the breathing exercises in Yogi and other religious practices is all about.
The exercises cut off a certain amount of oxygen to the brain, and various kinds of mental images occur as a result. Now, is that instant mysticism, or is it mysticism induced chemically by the absence of oxygen! I would say it is the latter, and it may take five or six years to learn how to breathe that way, so don't rush out. My point is, can one say that the taking of drugs is any more instant mysticism because it chemically produces an effect than controlling one's breath over a long period of time which cuts off oxygen to the brain, producing visions of one kind or another? Which is which? Is one necessarily better than the other? Perhaps some of you think it is.

Let me say that I think that in a deep sense, smoking marijuana, or taking LSD, might be an important religious experience. It can be religious in the same sense that a meal between two people who love each other can be religious. A husband and wife taking time from a job and a busy family to have a drink together, or two people taking a walk together, can be religious. At these moments there is communication, perhaps on a non-verbal level, between human beings created by God. There is a closeness and a love expressed.
It is not entirely an accident that many Hippies both smoke pot and hate violence and war. Under the influence of the drug they have experienced a sense of peace and well-being, if only for a moment, and this makes them want to work, and work actively against war. Many Hippies are active in the civil rights movement. They have experienced, if only for a moment, a sense of deep personal brotherhood which they translate into action by seeking justice for all men. This is a religious activity of the most profound kind. If a drug-induced religious experience is valid, or, as one would say theologically, of God, then there w ill be a resultant push to serve the neighbor. I think this has to be emphasized as a kind of test as to whether or not an experience is validly religious.

Let me say finally, that I feel a person should be free to try these various kinds of drugs as possible means of access to a religious experience. This is a civil liberties problem. The churches of recent date have become concerned about civil liberties in connection with the Negro community, the homosexual community, concerns for all kinds of the poor, all kinds of people who have difficulties under the civil system.

The churches also ought to be involved in seeking justice, and seeking change in the rather absurd laws which presently restrict drug use.

The churches also should be much more involved in the study of religious experience. I know, for example, of no study group in any church like the Medical Center Psychopharmacology Study Group, which is trying to understand the relationship of drugs to religion, or, for that matter, the relationship of drugs to anything.

Let me conclude by repeating that it seems to me that drugs may be seen as bearers of religious experience just as are other profane or secular products. The tests to see if the experience is genuine or just a kick are whether the experience results in service to all men as neighbors and whether the experience has made that person more of a human being.

Dr. Jack Downing:

I will be talking to you today out of both my own psychedelic experiences and out of my endeavors to learn as much as possible from the experiences of others, both from the people I have treated with psychedelic drugs and from the reading I have done.

The closer I approach the psychedelic experience, the less certain I am as to its meaning and validity. My uncertainty is not based on skepticism regarding the profound insight generated by the psychedelic experience, but rather it is based on the problem that has just been discussed, that is, the problem of the social value of the psychedelic experience.

I see the religious dilemma as being well expressed by a button that I have seen at times in the Haight-Ashbury, which says simply Ecstasy Now. Up to this point, religion, for the great majority of humanity, has been a transmitted experience. In other words, someone tells me about an experience that someone else had, some time ago. Now, with the drugs, people are having experiences which I do not personally believe can be distinguished, or are distinguishable, from the religious experiences that many of the mystic saints, as well as ordinary people, have had.

I base this opinion primarily on the kind of discussion that William James gives in his book, Varieties of Religious Experience. He deals in passing with the drug-induced experiences, and with the fairly clear evidence that a number of the experiences which we have qualified in our religious works as being validly religious, have been drug-induced. The Bible contains descriptions of many of these. The one recipe has already been mentioned. The priests are instructed to put it on their garments, on the tabernacle, and on the hangings of the tent. I can guarantee you that if the priests did so, whoever went into that tent for longer than fifteen minutes was turned on, because the ingredients of that oil are a volatile spice, frankincense, and myrrh, the mixture of which will produce a turned-on experience.

I feel that I, as a professional psychiatrist, do not have much to contribute here, because my professional task is a social task, relating to behavior; I am supposed to judge and predict, and to intervene, if possible, on the behavior of individuals who have been brought to me, or who come of their own accord, for help with behavior problems that are disturbing to themselves or to others. As a psychiatrist, I have to judge the person, called a patient, by his verbal and non-verbal expressions and attitudes and values, and by reports on these same things from other people. From these observations, I have to attempt to predict the person's probable subsequent course of behavior.

Today, of course, the intermediate step of intervention and changing behavior has become a prominent portion of what the psychiatrist does, and we call this psychotherapy. However, in general, therapeutic intervention by psychiatrists has been for the purpose of insuring or regaining socially acceptable behavior, known in our professional jargon as "an adequate life adjustment." Now, definitions vary greatly as to what is 'an adequate life adjustment'. I recall that I very nearly got kicked out of my residency training in Topeka because of a man who had a rather unfortunate infection of the skull which did not particularly affect his brain but which had eaten away most of the cranium so that his brain was exposed. He was incarcerated on the plea of his wife, who had convinced the judge that the man was obviously mentally ill because he would leave home, which was over toward Kansas City, go to Kansas City, find a brothel, and comfort himself there to the entire satisfaction of the inmates therein, and then return home. His wife said that anybody who did this was crazy. My psychiatric report, on the other hand, held that this man showed adequate judgment, particularly in view of his wife, and that, moreover, he should be released. This suggestion met with some rejection.

We have similar things going on, I understand, in a nearby psychiatric treatment center into which the Hippies are being admitted. The doctor comes around and says "what's wrong, what's your symptom, what's your complaint," and the Hippie says "Nothing, man, you know, groovy, dig." The doctor says "but you are in the hospital. You must be sick." The Hippie says, "No, I'm happy, you know." And so they keep him awhile, two or three months, and they release him, and they say "What are you going to do?" The Hippie says "I'm going back to the Haight." Doctor: "Well, you know, that's social maladjustment." Hippie: "Yeah, man, it is, you know."

The only principal area of exception to this judgmental value that the psychiatrist exerts for society's sake, and this without any really good studies on how good our judgments are, I might add, is for those few individuals able to afford psychotherapy for that state of disphoria that is sometimes called Existential Anxiety. A briefer term, for those of you who are not students of Sartre, is "I'm hurting, man." However, if you go to a psychiatrist and he asks you "what is your complaint," and you say "I'm hurting, man," he probably will not undertake psychotherapy with you, saying that you are lower class, nonverbal and non-amenable to treatment.

Generally, we psychiatrists do not view ourselves as competent on matters spiritual, only on matters temporal. As spiritual matters relate to the intellectual and higher endowments of mind, as well as to the moral feelings and states of the soul, it appears that the larger areas of values in life, by far, are specifically exempted from our areas of psychiatric interest. Let me state more exactly that we psychiatrists are mostly interested in knowing the accepted values of our society in as wide a range as possible, and in applying those e values to the conduct of persons brought to, or voluntarily coming to us, for attention. In general, we are middle-class, compulsive, obsessive, over-educated, under-experienced individuals; thus, as professionals, we are not concerned with inner or spiritual values except insofar as they present social problems, and any time these come up, we immediately call on a minister. When I say "we", I am speaking generally, because there are certainly very notable exceptions to this, and there are individual psychiatrists who are greatly interested in values. However, these persons, these psychiatrists, are mostly interested in contemporary social values that affect the relationship of person to person, not the relationship of person to God.

This has been a long preamble intended both to wake you up and also to say that I am not now feeling that I can talk like a psychiatrist. I think that we are heavily concerned here with values. I would suggest to you that defining values is the primary function of religion. It doesn't matter that a businessman goes to church on Sunday and listens to a very good sermon on "It's better to give than to receive" (although I'll never forget the time that our minister got those words reversed; the whole congregation woke up) and then goes out and does his dead-level best to receive and not to give, because the values are still established, and it is around values that we organize not only our social structure but our very mind functions, the ways in which we perceive the world. The way in which we organize the world, the way in which we organize our thoughts and our immediate perceptions, which, after all, are the only means by which we know the world--these ways are centered around the values that we have received, those which are socially reaffirmed.

It is around this area that I would like to point out certain concomitants which seem to me very important to the topic under discussion, one of which has been amazing to those of us in the clinical services, and that is the tremendous amount of anxiety that is aroused in the middle-class parent whose offspring goes off on psychedelic drugs. I saw one young man yesterday, who is working his way through college, and making good grades. He is a nice fellow, he is well mannered--his hair is long, but he is clean, and he is living at home. I'd be proud to have him as a son, but he was referred to me by his father for examination for psychiatric treatment and possible commitment to a State hospital because he had been taking LSD. And why? I say to you I think it is because the psychedelic movement, psychedelic drug use, is a value-changing experience, and it is thus a very major threat to the existing values of religion.

I would like to look at one aspect of the psychedelic experience from two different viewpoints. What I am speaking about has often been called the oceanic experience. Let me read this because I think it is pertinent. It is from Civilization and It's Discontents, by Sigmund Freud. It was written in 1930. Freud is speaking about an acquaintance: "He said he was sorry I had not properly appreciated the ultimate source of religious sentiments. This consists in a particular feeling which never leaves him personally, which he finds shared by many others and which he may suppose millions more also experience. It is a feeling which he would like to call a sensation of eternity, a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded, something oceanic. It is, he says, a purely suggestive experience, not an article of belief. It implies no assurance of personal immortality, but it is a source of the religious spirit and is taken hold of by the various churches and religions and directed by them into definite channels."

Freud goes on to say that he himself has never had this feeling, but that he recognizes that he has confidence in his friend's judgment, he recognizes that this is a reality, and he continues to discuss this in psychoanalytic derivational terms as being a return to the undifferentiated state of the infant or very young child before he begins to split himself into Self and object. I assume that this is somewhat familiar to many of you from your readings. However, I would like to say that this is a very common experience, and perhaps can be lumped conveniently under the heading of the unity of all experience in many religions. It is spoken of by the Christian Mystics, as well as the Hindu Mystics. They all get this feeling, and apparently the little sixteen-year-old teenie-bopper that drops a capsule down in the Haight-Ashbury gets it as well.

One thing that has rather surprised me, and I have talked with quite a few people about their psychedelic experiences, is the apparent reluctance to talk about the religious aspect of the experience. As a matter of fact, I might say that people who take psychedelic drugs don't commonly talk very much about it. I am forced to conclude that either there is an amnesia for the experience, or that people, for some reason, are unable or unwilling, or feel that there is a certain sacredness about the experience, which cannot be discussed lightly or casually. I would like to suggest to you a hypothesis as to the nature of this oceanic experience, and I would also like to say something about this ocean.

As we grow from childhood into adulthood, we develop a number of coping mechanisms, of ways of dealing with the world. We get toilet training, then we learn to tie our shoes, and then we learn to say "yes, mommy," and then we learn to say "yes, teacher," and then we learn to blow our nose. From what I have seen of people who have taken drugs, these coping mechanisms, which come roughly under the headings of ego and super-ego in psychoanalysis, are identified as Self, as me. The me is felt to be this part which receives and controls, and the great source of anxiety and indeed, panic, in many psychedelic experiences, is the fact that psychedelic drugs seem to disrupt the ego. As far as I'm concerned, to call psychedelic drugs ego-expanding, or mind-expanding, is a misnomer, except insofar as they are integration-inhibiting so that things start letting go instead of being held together. But this action takes place because the controls, the integrated aspects of the person are released, and this, to my mind, is the source of anxiety about the psychedelic experience. This release is felt as a loss of Self. When there is a total letting-go, this can be felt as ego-death, or death of Self.

You will recall that unless a man dies to the world, he cannot be reborn. I think that is a slight misquotation, but the essential is there. Unless a person loses his individual ego, at least temporarily, he simply cannot merge with his total Self. Now, I am not even curious about theology. I have enough trouble trying to figure out psychiatric systems of thought. But my impression is that the concept of God within the self is accepted, at least in certain circles, and it would seem to me that it would be a hypothesis worth looking at, to say that what is happening is that at a certain point, mind can observe Self, or that the observing function is not lost along with this ego disruption. When I look outside here, I have in my perception depth, perspective, and differentiation. In other words, I structure the universe around me, and if I do a fairly decent job, I don't stumble when I go upstairs. If I'm stoned on acid or grass or alcohol or love, I may not perceive my universe correctly, and I may stumble. But my internal perception, or my mind function, doesn't have any of these spatial or temporal boundaries. Therefore, I naturally, internally, am in an oceanic state.

The nicest word you can call this state is a state of narcissism, and you might even want to go on and call it mental-onanism, I don't know. But it seems to me that we can advance the hypothesis that many types of mental phenomena, and religious phenomena, particularly mystic phenomena, can be understood in terms of awareness of the function of mind, of observing the total Self, which everyone agrees is an awful lot bigger than this narrow integrated aspect of controlling self.

In our culture, we are controlled; in fact we tend to be a paranoid control-mad culture. The effect on the individual of growing up with this type of control is to make much of myself inaccessible to me because I am taught to set up barriers, walls, fences against certain areas of function. For example, tenderness in men is very commonly fenced out of awareness. The expression of feeling by a man in an Anglo-Saxon culture is frowned upon. Men don't cry. This area is not accessible, and so on, and on, and on. This could be called a culture in which the model for the human being is the machine. We view ourselves as machines, and we view others as machines, and I suspect that generally, although I've only seen this manifested by a couple of people, we also view God as a machine. I won't continue too far in this direction, except to say that I have observed this attitude to be the source of a good bit of psychopathological difficulty in human beings today, and I feel that this attitude is one of the main things that the Hippies, the youth, are trying to escape from. This attitude is predominant in the middle-class housewife, the successful businessman, who are having strong feelings of self-inundation, much like their teen-age children.

I presented the hypothesis that much of the mystic experience could be the experience of the death of the controlling self, and the consequent awareness of the total Self; and that this experience, as Freud suggests, is the power from which the motivations toward religion come, and hence, values. It is the energy for the development of a value system which the church represents in our world today. To support this, I would simply point out to you that mystics are hard to live with, whether in the Haight-Ashbury, or in monasteries. All types of mystical experience are highly personal, and hence socially disruptive. I think we have to look at this in terms of the Haight-Ashbury, and the surrounding society attempting to find a way to integrate the Haight-Ashbury. And I must say that I am very ambivalent about this. I think I agree with Tim Leary, that society will have to integrate the psychedelic experience. We have already been given a possible model by one of the great writers of our time, Aldous Huxley. To any of you who are curious about this, I recommend that you read his essay-novel, Island. Island is not the great, happy turn-on that Brave New World is, but it depicts the legitimate, socially integrated, socially useful use of psychedelic materials within the context of the church.

I will add this, that it has been my personal belief all along in the six years I have been working with these materials, that probably the most satisfactory, all-around solution is for the psychedelic drug experience to be integrated into the established church structure. As long as it is outside the structure, it is going to be disruptive. I must also add, however, that the structure will have to change some, to accommodate it. And it won't hurt the structure.

One source of my uneasiness about this whole area is that I think that these drugs do lend themselves to power formation and manipulation. Fortunately, to this point no one has used them for these purposes. I may be wrong. It may be that this experience is so unique that it cannot be so misused. We did a survey of middle-class, over-30-years-of-age users, asking them whether they had had a religious experience. About 80% of them answered, yes, they did. How did this affect their attitude toward church-going and the dogma of their church? Well, church-going was a little bit better, not much. But the large majority of the total sample, about 60%, said that they were strengthened and affirmed in the belief of the church of which they were members. There was only one exception, and this seemed to be a sort of fluttery agnostic who flipped over and was completely out of it. In general, however, previously gained religious belief was strengthened.

Before I finish, I would like to speak a little about the oceanic experience, because this is a very watery term. Anyone who has had a psychedelic experience more than a few times, enough so that he has some ability to know where he is, will tell you that the mind is an ocean. The mind is an ocean, but it is just like that ocean out there, in that it has all sorts of features; It's got islands, and it's got depths, and it's got shallows, and there are some very queer fish running around in it To say that the experiencing of mind is simple an oceanic experience is similar to dismissing the Pacific Ocean as being simply a lot of water. There is a great deal to be learned about what goes on in those depths by psychological scuba-divers, because I believe that it can be charted. I must say that I don't know anyone who has really started charting it yet, but it can be charted. The adult individual who takes a psychedelic drug and returns to this total embracing state of infancy is still not an infant. He is an adult with adult equipment, with adult awareness, who is now going back and looking at something in a very different way than he looked at it when he was truly an infant. So to simply assume that taking drugs drives you out of your mind and back to infancy is just not so. We need psychological underwater explorers, or in-the-mind explorers. I personally believe that this is also married with the church, and has a great deal to offer, because anybody who has been there will tell you that there are some very, very frightening things to experience. Based upon the reality of dualistic thinking, the dualistic pattern of thought that seems to be inevitable to the functioning of the human mind, there is the reality of good and the reality of evil, and both are just there. There is no getting around the fact that there is God, and there is the Devil. Now, how does one interpret God, and how does one interpret the Devil? Demons exist in the mind, and an individual, to be able to meet those demons, must have both support and courage, and also some good demonology ahead of time, because those demons can get loose. I'm not saying that any of those demons with horns, hoofs, and a picturesque name is going to come walking down the steps, but in terms of what a person is, and I am still a psychic rationalist, I must say, these demons do exist in the world of human relationships as projections of our fears.

One of the places in which my observations simply do not agree with those of Freud, and I don't know why this is true, is this: You will recall that Freud states that there are both Eros, the constructive, loving aspect of life, and Thanatos, the destructive aspect. And he was very pessimistic about the basic purpose of civilization and culture, which he saw as being the control of aggression. There are other purposes, but this is the basic one. But oddly enough, in the close to 200 people that I have observed, or treated, who have had psychedelic materials, I have never once seen aggression, hostility, or destructiveness. I have seen people who got panicky and confused, and hurt themselves, but this was because of a misinterpretation of reality, and not because they were trying to commit suicide. I won't say that aggression does not appear. But I haven't seen it.

I have seen a lot of love, a lot of tenderness, a lot of grief, a lot of fear, but I have not seen the desire to destroy people. How this observation relates to the drug experience, I don't know, except that we do know, just by sheer observation, that there are two rather odd characteristics common to psychedelic drug users: one is that they are rather passive people, and the other is that they are uncommonly honest. They are so honest. Well, I can't help but wonder if perhaps, and this is just a perhaps, this kind of experience of being one with everything leads to a particular kind of identification with other people. I might say that Freud wouldn't agree with me on this point, if I am interpreting from his book correctly. But I wanted to mention this here, because I am so intrigued by the fact that one of the things that is happening in the psychedelic culture is the revival of the pre-Christian nature, or the so called Pagan cult. It's there. You just walk down Haight Street and go in and look. The astrology, atheism, fertility rites, all of these nature-based religion expressions are flowering. They are like those mushrooms in the Sinai Desert. They are just coming right up. I personally have been somewhat concerned about the revival of the Black Mass, which is also coming back, but I am sure that that will be all right too.

I would also say, to the representatives of the established church here, which in this country is the Christian Church, that one of the things that really strikes me is that the missionaries to the Hippies are not Christians, with very few exceptions. A missionary is a person who gets down there and lives with them, lives their life. The people who are doing this are the Buddhists. There are all kinds of Buddhist's running around now, as well as apostles of witchcraft, black magic, astrology, and other occult groups as well. I ask you, in terms of the social significance of the psychedelic movement -- when are there going to be missionaries to the Hippies ?

I would like to end with this remark, and this is a non-psychiatric, entirely personal criticism; I'd say that the chief characteristic of most protestant churches today is that they are no fun. I'll say this, echoing John Wesley, Why should the Devil have all the tunes? It seems to me that unless we return joy, "ecstasy now" to religion, (and this is a social, psychiatric remark for which I do take responsibility,) we are faced with either suppressing a movement that involves a very tangible faction of our young people, which would involve none other than a witch hunt, or recognizing the fact that this is a great religious revival akin to the great Protestant revival of the last century. I won't go so far as to say akin to the Reformation, but it has significance far beyond the relatively few young people that you see out here in the Haight-Ashbury.

Thank you.

Reverend Laird Sutton:

I want to say a few words about how I see cultural and religious factors and the current psychedelic movement. You will understand that what I say is only my vision. I want to describe some areas that I consider to be what I call cultural vacuums existing within our society, and I see the people involved in the psychedelic movement as moving into these areas; I also want to say something about the character of religious experience as I see it.

One of the factors contributing to a cultural vacuum in this society is an ethical problem. It seems that our society, based on the Judeo-Christian religious heritage, sees men's actions and reactions toward one another as actions evolving out of a sense of duty. This is not in keeping with the real heart of the Judeo-Christian heritage, but it is what man does today. We seem to react and do things in relationship to one another mainly because of duty, and this has been taught to us for a long time, in our schooling, by the church, by our parents.

But it appears to me that one of the things that is happening today is that some people are refusing to act and react to one another primarily out of a sense of duty. Rather, they are attempting the very difficult and sometimes dangerous, sometimes misunderstood action, of attempting to relate to one another out of a concept of love. To react to one another with an attitude of love is much different than to react to one another out of an attitude of duty. It is not always an easy thing to do, and it leaves a person open for what might be called situational ethics, rather than an ethic of duty. But relating from a sense of duty seems to create the vacuum I am trying to describe, and people are moving into this, attempting to replace it with some sort of semblance of unity, or meaning. We call this manifestation the love community, wherein people are attempting to relate to one another on the basis of love, to compensate for what seems to be a very decided lack of love-ethic within our society.

Many people apparently feel that they have not been able to relate in terms of love in their homes, their churches, or their communities, and they are now attempting to do this, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. But when they do succeed, it is a fantastic and beautiful thing.

There are other vacuums, and I want to go through them rather quickly, because of time. I think that within our society there is what might be called a spiritual vacuum. All these things tie in with one another. But the spiritual vacuum existing within our society has a number of different parts to it. One of the important parts is that there seem to be very few acceptable forms of worship today. By acceptable, I mean forms of worship that are relevant to man in terms of where he is and in terms of his relationship to the world, and his deity, and his understanding of himself. Forms of worship we have inherited from the past have their own validity, but today they may also be invalid and unacceptable for a number of reasons. They may be irrelevant in terms of language, irrelevant in terms of contemporary issues, and highly irrelevant because of the associations that accompany the forms themselves. These forms carry with them many hundreds of years of associations, during which time there have been occasions when the Christian church might be said to have defecated upon its own faith, in terms of the enormous gap between what it has preached and what it has done.

I believe that if you go to church and it doesn't turn you on, you shouldn't bother about going. Either you should find out why it doesn't turn you on, and then see that it does, or you should engage in another form of worship which does turn you on. Another important part of the spiritual vacuum that I see within contemporary Christianity is a pronounced distrust of mysticism and the inner life and spirituality of the individual. In many cases it appears to me that the Christian church no longer knows what it is attempting to do, in terms of helping people to come to an understanding of what it means to be involved in a spiritual movement or a spiritual exercise, or a spiritual endeavor. Often the Christian church today, out of a sense of guilt, perhaps, engages upon highly successful social action projects. But it seems to have become so involved in social action and the establishment, and political manipulative techniques, that it has more or less set aside the full aspect of mysticism and the validity that mysticism may have within contemporary life.

In terms of the Christian tradition, this is nothing new. The Christian church has always mistrusted the mystic throughout all of history. It usually learns to trust the mystic several hundred years after the mystic is dead. But this is part of the game that we have today, this distrust of mysticism, this emphasis upon social action, which is quite evident in terms of the Haight-Ashbury, even though the Haight-Ashbury is only one part of the entire psychedelic movement. The involvement of the Christian church in the Haight-Ashbury is more in terms of social action, in terms of doing good things for people, while the spiritual guidance of the Haight-Ashbury is left to other people. My only hope is that these other people will do an adequate job, because I don't know when the Christian Church will be able to engage in leading or helping people to understand what it is to be involved in the inner mind.

A third part of the spiritual vacuum of today is the lack of periods of intense, individual, religious development. Within many of the other societies of the world there is always built into a man's development or a man's life a period of intense religious instruction. There are initiation rites; the initiation rites that we have in the church today have been watered down to the point that they seem little more than a social happening. There is very little imparting of wisdom. There is very little imparting of mystery. There is very little imparting of this religious development which is so necessary to the total development of man. Of course, we have our Sunday school classes, and we have our catechism classes, but if you listen carefully to those who attend them, or if you have attended them yourselves, you realize what they really are.

Also contributing to this spiritual vacuum is the lack of an adequate body of religious literature dealing with either the psychedelic or the religious experience. There are many things being written today which ostensibly will deal with this, but most of the time it is dealt with in such a narrow-minded theological framework as to be almost totally irrelevant to the place that an individual is in. Every now and then, however, it is possible for someone within the psychedelic movement to get hold of some writings of the early Christian mystics and find out that these fellows really knew what they were talking about. Sometimes people begin to re-read the Bible with an acid eye, and it is a gas when you do it because it is quite a book. I think that of all the body of world literature, perhaps the New Testament is the only sacred literature that can adequately deal with the whole concept of love today, and when I speak about the New Testament I am speaking about the gospel, and about some of Paul's writings. People who validate with the New Testament what is going on today are making very severe, telling, and accurate judgments upon the church and what it has done to the faith.

Still another aspect of this vacuum is that there exist within our society few opportunities for a person to engage in a philosophical or religious search as to the meaning of man and his existence. Of course, we have education. We have high school, we have grade school, kindergarten, colleges, and graduate schools, but these present very few opportunities to really engage in either a philosophical or a religious search. Allowances for this to happen are simply not built into our culture. Perhaps part of this is because of the emphasis today upon the Protestant ethic of the value of work, and the measurement of the value of a man by how much money he can put in his pocket and how much time he spends in the office.

As people involved in the psychedelic movement move into this spiritual vacuum, attempting to fill a lack within our culture, a new culture, a subculture, is developing. And a new form of religious expression is developing along with it. One of the glorious things about man is that you can bottle him up for a while, but pretty soon man goes off the bottle, or off the top of his head, and he then moves out and does those things the opportunities for which do not exist within the culture. I feel that the psychedelic movement, when we look back upon it in twenty or fifty or a hundred years, will be recognized as one of the most profound and far-reaching movements that we have seen, certainly within this century, and perhaps we will compare it to the Reformation.

I think there are a number of changes in the character of religious expression which are developing today. They are not necessarily unique in terms of the religious development of man throughout history, but they are certainly worth looking at closely today. One of the things that is very prominent and extremely important is the re-emphasis upon the primary religious experience of the individual. Of all things that I find within the psychedelic movement in terms of religious expression, this is one of the most important. This may be called tripping, it may be called a number of different names, but the emphasis is upon the primary religious experience of the individual. Thus, the religious experience becomes not something that someone tells you about, but something that you experience for yourself. Those who know what they are about understand that the pill is not the experience, and they understand that God is not being 'manufactured' today, and they understand that this primary religious experience is the factor upon which they wish to base the rest of their lives. This factor, because of its importance, is also the factor around which many hang-ups and difficulties within the psychedelic movement, should they develop, will do so. This happens again and again, whenever a religious movement develops in history. A group of people forms, who have their primary religious experiences, and then gathering around this group of people are other people who may not necessarily have had this religious experience for themselves. And because they have not had this primary personal experience, they will not understand what is really happening. Those of you who live in the Haight-Ashbury, or who have been there recently, will understand what I am saying--that some of the difficulties and change of atmosphere in the Haight-Ashbury can be understood in terms of many individuals coming in and attempting to assume the trappings without undergoing the experience itself.

There is another very interesting thing which is beginning to happen, and to find expression in terms of character of religious expression, and that is the movement of significant meaning from sign to symbol, and one point past that, from symbol to actual experience. Let me explain what I mean by these words. A sign is a sign, and it points toward something but it does not participate in what it points to. A symbol not only points to something, but it also participates in what it points to. In terms of graphic illustration, in the Christian tradition the cross is both sign and symbol, in that it points both to and participates in what it points to.
For a great part of our life we live on a sign level of pointing to things, but not participating, but sometimes we move past this and begin to exist on a symbol level, a level of talking about something, perhaps, but also participating in it at the same time. My feeling is that the psychedelic movement has pushed sign and symbol one step farther, and I think that this third step is the most important. This is the step of experience itself.

I think that this is what McCluhan is attempting to say in all of his work-that we have moved from sign to symbol to experience, and total experience is now the important thing.

Let's think about this in terms of the church. Reverend Cromy talked about the symbols used in the church. It seems to me that the psychedelic movement tries to push the movement one more step, revealing that the preparation is itself the experience, as much as is that for which the preparation prepares. People today are beginning to understand this, as their life patterns begin to take on a total meaning of experience. People are finding that the religious experience is not necessarily something that is evoked. Men spend a lot of time trying to evoke the religious experience. But I think we are beginning to understand that the religious experience is not necessarily something to be evoked, that what men do is the religious experience itself. As we begin to understand this, it seems to me that a totally different view of life, and of man, and of his relationship to the ground on which he walks, and the deity within him and within which he is, becomes very important. Life begins to take on a total aspect, discarding the split aspect with which we normally live. I am very encouraged that we are moving from sign to symbol and finally to experience.

I think that another change in the character of religious expression today is a renewal of the whole concept of worship for individuals and groups, a concept wherein worship constitutes a total life experience. It is not shut off into something which is dull, or something which is gray, or something which is evoked only by a particular type of action. Those of the church who are worried about the psychedelic movement ought to stand up and applaud, because this is what they have been talking about for several thousand years, and it is now beginning to happen.

Another change appears in terms of models for life and models for expression. One thing that characterizes the contemporary psychedelic religion is its extreme syncretism. It is a syncretistic religious expression. It takes form from all the religions of the world, and does so in a very beautiful manner. When the psychedelic movement first began, in the early 1960's, there was heavy emphasis upon the religious expression of India, and of Japan, and we still find these expressions within the movement. Then things began to shift, and today it would appear that the religious expression of the American Indian is the most general model used. I have the feeling that the outcome is going to be a beautiful merging of East Indian, American Indian, and Judeo-Christian heritage. These things will meld together in a universally beautiful religious expression.

I frankly don't know what is going to happen to the psychedelic movement itself. I have a feeling that within a year or two, all that will be left will be a remnant. I have the feeling that a group of people are going to remain within the movement, and that when psychedelics move more and more into the commercial life of the United States, that their impact will be less and less. But I think that a group of people, perhaps scattered all over the world, will remain -- this seems to be something that occurs within any religious movement -- and I think that this remnant is going to continue to have a decided influence upon the society in which we live.





Vol. 1 (2)

Winter 1967-1968

Psychedelic Drugs and Religion



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