March 06, 2012
Last updated: February 06, 2013
#1 Reviewer - View all my reviews
In 1995 a week-long conference was held at Vallombrosa Center (CA) for an unlikely grouping of theologians, scientists, clergy, psychologists, and mental health professionals. The theme of the conference was “psychoactive sacramentals.” Generally one doesn’t find these words used in conjunction, but this dedicated group of participants was (and still is) passionate about the role of hallucinogenic drugs, specifically “enthoegens,” in enhancing psychological and spiritual well-being and maturity. The term entheogen means, “awakening the god within.” More specifically, most of the conference attendees had participated in some kind of experimental research with entheogens, either theoretical or experiential. Hence the conference also addressed the broader questions of what it means to be human, what it means to have a spiritual experience, how psychoactive drugs may facilitate medicinal treatments and psychological treatments, and whether the church or spiritual organizations can find a way to legitimately and responsibly assist their membership to employ psychoactives as sacramentals—as gateways to having a spiritual experience. And if not to have a spiritual experience, then “to seed a spiritual life” as Brother David Steindl-Rast says in the introduction. For as he explains, there is no guarantee of having a spiritual experience with the use of entheogens, and having a spiritual experience does not guarantee living a spiritual life.
This book is an updated collection of reflections and essays from the participants in that conference, many of whom are renowned and esteemed leaders in their field, such as Huston Smith, Stanislav Grof, Charles Tart, Frances Vaughan, and Roger Walsh. They offer a rich and broad mix of science, anecdotes, therapeutic indications, and spiritual philosophies for the lawful and sacred use of entheogens as tools for a new religious era that is based on spiritual experience.
As someone who previously had the predictable questions and objections to the use of psychoactive substances, based largely on my own misunderstandings and misperceptions, I can assure you that reading this book may stretch your conventional orders of perception, but the rewards of keeping an open mind will shift your perspective and give you a greater appreciation for the possibilities of the underlying intent—the dawning of a new era of spiritual intelligence.