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The Sad State of Entheogenic Repression

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  1. Heretic.Ape.
    I live in a country that hold as one of it's most fundemental tenants that all people shall be able to practice religion as they see fit, without fear of persecution. Yet in this country there is one religious tradition that has been considered wholly exempt from this protection. The followers of this religion are made criminals, facing prosecution, the seizure of their lands and property and their very liberty.
    These are followers of what is arguably the longest standing practice of spirituality; universal and ancient beyond estimate.
    The use of psychoactive substances to catalyze communion with the divine is the most widespread and time honored traditions, found in every land across every time.
    How can a country deem itself home to freedom of religion when each and every plant given to us by the earth is outlawed, it's adherants deemed outside the protection of their homeland, and open to religious persecution beyond any seen on this soil?
    The earth gives us her bounty everywhere that we may eat and gain direct gnosis.
    In the rainy lands she gave us mushrooms, growing in our own back yards--yet if we pluck her bounty we are criminals. In the harsh desert she gave us the cacti, demonized and allowed only a few based on ethnicity, which they fought for. South of us she gives the death vines and diviners sage. This last is our last remaining gift that has not been completely taken from us by the inquisition. But even now it is on it's way into the fires.
    We need a movement demanding our freedom to commune with the divine be given back to us. To end the hypocrisy that all forms of communing with the spirit are valid and equal EXCEPT THIS ONE.

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  1. Metomni
    Could not have said it better myself.
  2. nuffsaid420
    They seek to control the knowledge within nature and shut us off from our creator, preaching only those with divine powers have the right to communicate with the spirits.
  3. Expat98
    http://www.mcwilliams.com/books/books/aint/304.htm

    From Peter McWilliams's online book, Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do:

    LONG, LONG BEFORE the white man traveled on hempen sails to find religious freedom in a New World, the natives on a land now called North America used sacramental plants to commune with nature, the universal brotherhood, and the Great Spirit.

    The Incas chewed coca leaves, but only for spiritual purposes and only with the permission of their spiritual leader, the Inca. The conquistadors from Spain turned what was once a sacrament into a reward for work and, later, a stimulant for the energy to do more work. Changing the purpose and use of coca leaves was but one part of the European destruction of a great civilization.

    Indigenous tribes throughout North America ate the buds of the peyote cactus as an expression of thanksgiving, a request for guidance, or in support of a brother who wanted to give thanks or seek direction. Peyote was always used in a formal, ceremonial way, and "recreational" use was considered a sacrilege. It took the white man—who knew or cared so little about the Native American way—until 1899 to find out what was going on and, of course, make it illegal. Oklahoma passed a law against peyote in 1899; New Mexico outlawed it in 1929. Not until the 1960s, when a sufficient number of white people began seeking mystical experience, was peyote considered "a menace" that had to be controlled nationally.

    Humans have always sought ways to alter everyday consciousness. This is usually achieved either through changes in normal behavior, or by ingesting a consciousness-altering substance.

    We "civilized" types—descendants of the primitive Native Americans' conquerors—have a strong bias that religious experiences should be obtained through altered action rather than sacramental ingestion. Prayer, fasting, penance, and personal sacrifice are all acceptable forms of achieving greater connection with God and Spirit. Ingesting chemicals, sacramental plants, or other consciousness-altering substances is not.

    What we are aware of and that we are aware at all is due to a complex biochemical-electrical process in the human nervous system. A slight alteration creates a shift in consciousness. Any number of stimuli can trigger the chemical-electrical shift that leads to the change in consciousness.

    All the "acceptable" techniques for achieving religious experiences involve chemical change. Prayer is changing one's focus—altering what one is thinking. Fasting causes a significant biochemical change. Even the "born again" experience as practiced by many churches is based on psychological pressure ("You are a sinner and you will spend all eternity in hell") and release ("Accept Jesus and you will spend all eternity in paradise"), which produces profound biochemical change.

    When we have a shift in consciousness, our belief determines whether or not the shift is perceived as a religious experience. If we connect a certain positive feeling with God, each time we have that feeling we think of God. If we attach that same pleasant feeling to our spouse, each time we feel that feeling, we will think of our spouse. If we attach the same feeling to our favorite television program, each time we feel that feeling, we will think of our favorite television program, and so on.

    A change of consciousness is an experience. If we choose to give that experience religious meaning, it becomes a religious experience. If we choose to associate it with someone we are in love with, it becomes a romantic experience. If we choose to associate it with our favorite television show, it becomes a video experience. We could even choose to associate it with something wicked and evil ("This is the devil tempting me" or "I'm having a psychotic episode"), and the same experience becomes a negative one.

    It takes very little chemical change to bring about a profound shift in consciousness. LSD, for example, is not measured in milligrams, or thousandths of a gram, but in micrograms—millionths of a gram. As few as 25 micrograms—that is, twenty-five millionths of a gram—can bring about a profound change in consciousness that lasts many hours. After Dr. Albert Hofmann accidentally ingested LSD on April 16, 1943, he described his experiences :

    I was seized with a feeling of great restlessness and mild dizziness. At home, I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant delirium, which was characterized by extremely excited fantasies. In a semiconscious state, with my eyes closed (I felt the daylight to be unpleasantly dazzling), fantastic visions of extraordinary realness and with an intense kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition disappeared.

    Note that there's not much talk about God in there. In fact, at first psychiatrists thought the LSD experience closely resembled the delirium of extreme schizophrenia and explained, perhaps, the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. He was not interpreting those swirling sunflowers and "turbulent indigo" (Joni Mitchell's phrase) skies—he was painting what he saw. LSD, it was thought, should be taken by therapists to better understand the working of the schizophrenic mind, or by architects so that they might better design mental institutions to be healing and comforting places from an "insane" person's point of view.

    Others thought LSD would be useful in therapy because it produced such a pronounced shift from ordinary consciousness. If insane people could be sufficiently jarred from their insanity—even for a brief period of time—perhaps their reality could be restructured, through therapy, into a healthier pattern.

    Still others—such as author Aldous Huxley and Harvard professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert—thought that LSD opened the "doors of perception" (as Huxley called it) through which human consciousness could glimpse mystical visions. They maintain that LSD opened the consciousness through which all the great spiritual teachers—Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Krishna, Jesus, Mohammed, and others—had their insights and revelations.

    Some thought LSD produced psychoses; others thought it produced enlightenment. How people approached the experience significantly influenced the results of the experience.

    Those who took LSD thinking it was going to simulate schizophrenia left the LSD experience thinking, "Oh, that's what it's like to be crazy." Many who took LSD expecting mystical revelation got mystical revelation.

    In the 1960s and early 1970s, hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—accepted the Huxley-Leary-Alpert interpretation of LSD and, for the most part, had experiences they would describe as spiritual.

    The "set and setting" was vitally important. The set was the mind-set: One had to ask oneself, "Am I taking part in this experience for kicks or for illumination?" The latter was recommended. The setting was the environment in which you took LSD, whom you were taking it with, what physical activities were planned: music, silence, readings aloud from the New Testament or the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In properly planned sessions one had a guide who had had the experience before, to provide safety, support, and encouragement.

    Less than ten years later, by the mid-1970s, people were "dropping acid" on the way to the disco. "The Bee Gees! Jesus!" the psychedelic old-timers would lament. "What happened to the Beatles? And why are they going to a disco? If they want to go out, why don't they go to a real religious experience—like seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey in Cinerama?"

    Soon "acid" became synonymous with any orally ingested consciousness-altering substance: tranquilizers, strychnine, it didn't matter. People were looking for a "trip," not a journey; a "high," not a higher state of consciousness.

    Some of the original "mystical" LSD takers went on to explore God in more traditional ways: LSD was advertised as only one door to the house of perception; how you moved in was up to you. Richard Alpert took an ancient route, went to India, and became Ram Dass. Timothy Leary took the techno route and became fascinated with space travel, computers, and cyberspace. Whatever the outcome, LSD was a bright flash between the black and white '50s and the technicolor '70s. What people did with that flash was and is entirely up to them.
  4. Expat98
    Throughout history, humans have sought the tree of life. People have tried to "return to the garden" by ingesting substances from the plant, mineral, and animal kingdoms. Some worked; most didn't.

    Alas, in our country today sincere seekers cannot seek in this way. They are entitled to use the traditional methods as much as they please—but only those tried and accepted by "our Judeo-Christian forefathers." People can pray, fast, join a monastery or convent, become missionaries, and that's okay. Changing consciousness through external actions that produce internal chemical reactions is acceptable. Ingesting chemicals is not. If you do, you are not taking part in a sacrament, but committing a sacrilege. You will be punished for it not only in the hereafter, but here.

    We'll explore further the absurdity of jailing people for religious beliefs in the chapter, "Unconventional Religious Practices." The point of this chapter is: although ingesting chemicals may not be part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, it certainly has a long and dignified history in the human tradition. To deny Americans—native or immigrant—the right to explore chemical sacraments is not only an interference with our religious freedom, but yet another example of imposing Judeo-Christian religious beliefs on others by force of law.

    An understandably quiet movement of sincere, well-educated ("they have more degrees than a protractor," comments the Los Angeles Times) individuals is exploring anew the value of psychedelics. Today the "mind expanding" chemicals are often referred to as empathogens (empathy producing) or entheogens (become one with theos, God). And—shock and joy—the FDA is giving begrudging approval to limited research.

    "We're like early man who says fire is too dangerous," says Rick Doblin, Harvard-trained social scientist and spokesperson for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. "We're not even at the stage where we've figured out that fire can keep you warm in winter." MAPS is a nonprofit group that tracks the handful of approved psychedelic research projects throughout the United States.

    The preliminary research has been encouraging, especially when empathetic chemicals are used in conjunction with the therapeutic process. "Psychotherapy is enhanced by an altered-state experience," said Charles S. Grob, M.D., one of the lead researchers of MDMA ("ecstasy") use in therapy. In other studies, using chemicals such as MDMA, MDA, and LSD has resulted in significant progress treating recidivism, sexual dysfunction, depression, and addiction, among many others.

    Of course, even these token research programs are under fire and, by the time you read this, may have been halted altogether by ignorance and misplaced grief. One of the primary organizations challenging any research is Drug Watch International. This was formed by Dr. William Bennett (not the former Drug Czar turned bestselling pontiff on morality, but another one—how many can we take?) and his wife, Sandra, after "losing our son to cocaine in 1986."

    This sort of kill-the-messenger response was echoed by actor Carrol O'Connor, who, in his grief following the suicide of his son, blamed it all on his son's drug dealer, who was promptly arrested. The fact that O'Connor's son killed himself after being out of work for a year and after spending his third wedding anniversary alone was not mentioned. (The dealer was sentenced to a year in prison.)

    How does one explain to a parent grieving for a lost child that putting other parents' children in prison is not the solution? No one, apparently, has found the way to communicate this to the Bennetts. "Illicit drugs are illicit because they're harmful," they claim in circular, ignorance-perpetuating logic.

    In fact, research has shown drugs in general and psychedelics in particular to be far less harmful than formerly feared. In 1995, UCLA's Ronald K. Siegel, one of the few researchers permitted to perform scientific studies on LSD after the blanket governmental ban in 1970, reported: "Dangers [of psychedelics] are not as great as the public was led to believe in the '60's. Risks of brain damage and schizophrenia have been discounted. Most psychedelics are stimulants, and like any stimulant, they can be harmful to those with high blood pressure and heart conditions."

    Meanwhile, a much larger group of individualists—just as sincere but lacking governmental sanction—explore their psyches, their world, their loved ones, their lives, and their God with entheogens. For many, LSD, due to its sometimes tedious "electric" qualities, has been replaced with psilocybin ("mushrooms"), MDMA, and MDA.

    MDMA was first synthesized in 1912. In the early 1980s, it was rediscovered and named ecstasy. "I wanted to call it empathy," its rediscoverer said, "but I thought ecstasy would sell better." It did—perhaps too much better. It was banned in 1986, when after enthusiastic articles in (among other publications) The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Newsweek—a bureaucrat in Washington decided it should be banned.

    MDA, a naturally occurring chemical with empathetic effects similar to MDMA, is found in more than seventy plants as well the human brain. When the chemicals the body produces to suppress the effects of MDA are suppressed, small doses of MDA can produce powerful results. "The heart opens," one psychiatrist explained in nonpsychiatric terms.

    While MDMA is still illegal, the plants containing MDA are not. (Think they'll ever get around to banning nutmeg, green tea, or the kola nut?) These plants are sold by various companies working entirely within the law.

    For the most part, these enthogens are taken not as a high, but as a sacrament—a sacrament not to meant placate a vengeful God "out there," but to celebrate the essence of God within us all. From the standpoint of some Christians, who believe this life is to be suffered through and pleasure should only be found in paradise, it seems the pagans have returned again, their "Devil's Mass" in tow.

    For the Glory of God, they must be forbidden to practice such hedonistic sacrileges so. If they do, they must be punished. Severely. Here on earth. Now.
  5. Heretic.Ape.
    Thanks for posting that, great piece.
  6. dotcomboy
    This, unfortunately, is how the prison industrial complex is fed. Criminalize something that tons of people have been doing since before the dawn of civilization.

    _____________
    Rodney Lewis
    http://www.drugpolicyreformmovement.com
  7. savingJenniB
    Work within the system to change the system.
    Baby steps.
    Steadfast and persistence.

    Us is Them
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