Religion and drugs
Many religions have expressed positions on what is acceptable to consume as a means of intoxication for spiritual, pleasure, or medicinal purposes. Psychoactive substances may also play a significant part in the development of religion and religious views as well as in rituals.
- 1 Neolithic
- 2 Ancient Greece
- 3 Buddhism
- 4 Judaism
- 5 Christianity
- 6 Islam
- 7 Bahá'í Faith
- 8 Rastafari movement
- 9 Asatru
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
In the book Inside the Neolithic Mind, the authors, archaeologists David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce argue that hallucinogenic drugs formed the basis of neolithic religion and rock art. Similar practices and images are found in some contemporary "stone-age" Indigenous peoples in South America using yaje.
Some scholars have suggested that Ancient Greek mystery religions employed entheogen, such as the Kykeon central to the Eleusinian Mysteries, to induce a trance or dream state. Research conducted by John R. Hale, Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, Jeffrey P. Chanton and Henry A. Spiller suggests that the prophecies of the Delphic Oracle were uttered by Priestesses under the influence of gaseous vapors exuded from the ground. Their findings are published in Questioning the Delphic Oracle: Overview / An Intoxicating Tale.
In Buddhism the Right View (samyag-dṛṣṭi / sammā-diṭṭhi) can also be translated as "right perspective", "right outlook" or "right understanding", is the right way of looking at life, nature, and the world as they really are for us. It is to understand how our reality works. It acts as the reasoning with which someone starts practicing the path. It explains the reasons for our human existence, suffering, sickness, aging, death, the existence of greed, hatred, and delusion. Right view gives direction and efficacy to the other seven path factors. It begins with concepts and propositional knowledge, but through the practice of right concentration, it gradually becomes transmuted into wisdom, which can eradicate the fetters of the mind. An understanding of right view will inspire the person to lead a virtuous life in line with right view. In the Pāli and Chinese canons, it is explained thus:
Right livelihood (samyag-ājīva / sammā-ājīva). This means that practitioners ought not to engage in trades or occupations which, either directly or indirectly, result in harm for other living beings. In the Chinese and Pali Canon, it is explained thus:
And what is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This is called right livelihood.
More concretely today interpretations include "work and career need to be integrated into life as a Buddhist," it is also an ethical livelihood, "wealth obtained through rightful means" (Bhikku Basnagoda Rahula) – that means being honest and ethical in business dealings, not to cheat, lie or steal. As people are spending most of their time at work, it’s important to assess how our work affects our mind and heart. So important questions include "How can work become meaningful? How can it be a support, not a hindrance, to spiritual practice — a place to deepen our awareness and kindness?"
- Business in weapons: trading in all kinds of weapons and instruments for killing.
- Business in human beings: slave trading, prostitution, or the buying and selling of children or adults.
- Business in meat: "meat" refers to the bodies of beings after they are killed. This includes breeding animals for slaughter.
- Business in intoxicants: manufacturing or selling intoxicating drinks or addictive drugs.
- Business in poison: producing or trading in any kind of poison or a toxic product designed to kill.
The fifth precept
According to the fifth precept of the Pancasila, Buddhists are meant to refrain from any quantity of "fermented or distilled beverages" which would prevent mindfulness or cause heedlessness. In the Pali Tipitaka the precept is explicitly concerned with alcoholic beverages:
"I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness."
Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
Generally speaking, the vast majority of Buddhists and Buddhist sects denounce and have historically frowned upon the use of any intoxicants by an individual who has taken the five precepts. Most Buddhists view the use and abuse of intoxicants to be a hindrance in the development of an enlightened mind. However, there are a few historical and doctrinal exceptions.
Many modern Buddhist schools have strongly discouraged the use of psychoactive drugs of any kind; however, they may not be prohibited in all circumstances in all traditions. Some denominations of tantric or esoteric Buddhism especially exemplify the latter, often with the principle skillful means:
For example, as part of the ganachakra tsok ritual (as well as Homa, abhisheka and sometimes drubchen) some Tibetan Buddhists and Bönpos have been known to ingest small amounts of grain alcohol (called amrit or amrita) as an offering. If a member is an alcoholic, or for some other reason does not wish to partake in the drinking of the alcoholic offering, then he or she may dip a finger in the alcohol and then flick it three times as part of the ceremony.
Amrita is also possibly the same as, or at least in some sense a conceptual derivative of the ancient Hindu soma. (The latter which historians often equate with Amanita muscaria or other Amanita psychoactive fungi.) Crowley (1996) states:
"Undoubtedly, the striking parallels between "The legend about Chakdor" and the Hindu legend of the origin of soma show that the Buddhist amrita and the Hindu soma were at one time understood to be identical. Moreover, the principal property of amrita is, to this day, perceived by Buddhists as being a species of inebriation, however symbolically this inebriation may be interpreted. Why else would beer (Tibetan chhang, "barley beer") be used by yogins as a symbolic substitute for amrita [Ardussi]? Conversely, why else would the term bDud.rTsi be used as a poetic synonym for beer?
- a. kill her goat,
- b. sleep with her, or
- c. drink a mug of beer.
- d. All of the above.
The monk thought to himself, "well, surely if I kill the goat then I will be causing great suffering since a living being will die. If I sleep with the woman then I will have broken another great vow of a monk and will surely be lost to the ways of the world. Lastly, if I drink the beer then perhaps no great harm will come and I will only be intoxicated for a while, and most importantly I will only be hurting myself." (In the context of the story this instance is of particular importance to him because monks in the Mahayana and Vajrayana try to bring all sentient beings to enlightenment as part of their goal.)
So the monk drank the mug of beer and then he became very drunk. In his drunkenness he proceeded to kill the woman and sleep with the goat, breaking all three vows and, at least in his eyes, doing much harm in the world. The lesson of this story is meant to be that, at least according to the cultures from which it delineates, alcohol causes one to break all of one's vows, in a sense that one could say it is the cause of all other harmful deeds.
The Vajrayana teacher Drupon Thinley Ningpo Rinpoche has said that as part of the five precepts which a layperson takes upon taking refuge, that although they must refrain from taking intoxicants, they may drink enough so as they do not become drunk. Bhikkus and Bhikkunis (monks and nuns, respectively), on the other hand, who have taken the ten vows as part of taking refuge and becoming ordained, cannot imbibe any amount of alcohol or other drugs, other than pharmaceuticals taken as medicine.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, is known as teetotaler and non-smoker.
There is some evidence regarding the use of deliriant Datura seeds (known as candabija) in Dharmic rituals associated with many tantras – namely the Vajramahabhairava, Samputa, Mahakala, Guhyasamaja, Tara and Krsnayamari tantras – as well as cannabis and other entheogens in minority Vajrayana sanghas. Ronald M Davidson says that in Indian Vajrayana, Datura was:
“employed as a narcotic paste or as wood in a fire ceremony and could be easily absorbed through the skin or the lungs. The seeds of this powerful narcotic, termed "passion seeds" (candabija), are the strongest elements and contain the alkaloids hyoscine, hyoscyamine, and atropine in forms that survive burning or boiling. In even moderate doses, datura can render a person virtually immobile with severe belladonna-like hallucinations.”
In the Profound Summarizing Notes on the Path Presented as the Three Continua a Sakya Lamdre text, by Jamyang Khyentse Wangchuk (1524-1568), the use of Datura in combination with other substances, is prescribed as part of a meditation practice meant to establish that "All the phenomena included in apparent existence, samsara and nirvana, are not established outside of one's mind."
Ian Baker writes that Tibetan terma literature such as the Vima Nyingtik describes "various concoctions of mind altering substances, including datura and oleander, which can be formed into pills or placed directly in the eyes to induce visions and illuminate hidden contents of the psyche."
A book titled Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (2002), details the history of Buddhism and the use of psychedelic drugs, and includes essays by modern Buddhist teachers on the topic.
Zen Buddhism is known for stressing the precepts. In Japan, however, where Zen flourished historically, there are a number of examples of misconduct on the part of monks and laypeople alike. This often involved the use of alcohol, as sake drinking has and continues to be a well known aspect of Japanese culture.
The Japanese Zen monk and abbot, shakuhachi player and poet Ikkyu was known for his unconventional take on Zen Buddhism: His style of expressing dharma is sometimes deemed "Red Thread Zen" or "Crazy Cloud Zen" for its unorthodox characteristics. Ikkyu is considered both a heretic and saint in the Rinzai Zen tradition, and was known for his derogatory poetry, open alcoholism and for frequenting the services of prostitutes in brothels. He personally found no conflict between his lifestyle and Buddhism.
'Seizei said to Sozan, "Seizei is utterly destitute. Will you give him support?" Sozan called out: "Seizei!" Seizei responded, "Yes sir?!" Sozan said, "You have finished three cups of the finest wine in China, and still you say you have not yet moistened your lips!"'
Another monk, Gudo, is mentioned in a koan called Finding a Diamond on a Muddy Road buying a gallon of sake.
Judaism maintains that people do not own their bodies – they belong to God. As a result, Jews are not permitted to harm, mutilate, destroy or take risks with their bodies, life or health with activities such as taking life-threatening drugs. However, there is no general prohibition against drugs in Judaism, as long as they don't interfere with one's ritual duties and don't cause definite harm, though most Rabbis generally prohibit drugs, in order to avoid social, legal and medical problems in their community.
Spiritual use of various alcoholic beverages, sometimes in very large quantities, is common and well known. In some Jewish communities there is a tradition to get drunk on Purim until they forget the difference between the Hebrew phrases "Cursed is Haman" and "Blessed is Mordechai", which signified reaching the spiritual world Atzilut where all opposites unite. In many Jewish communities it is customary to drink on Simchat Torah as well. Drinking in small quantities as a mind-altering practice is commonly used during the Farbrengens of the Chabad Hasidim. A large body of Chabad literature refers to the spiritual dangers of drinking, but a few anecdotal references refer to the spirutal power of alcohol, when used for the sake of connecting to God and achieving brotherly love among fellows Jews. The Lubavitcher Rebbe forbade his Chassidim under the age of 40 to consume more than 4 small shots of hard liqueurs. Wine plays a prominent role in many Jewish rituals, most notably the kiddush. Hasidic Jews often engage in a free ceremony called "Tisch" in which drinks such as Vodka are drunk in a group. Drinking is accompanied by singing and the study of the Torah.
Some Hasidic Rabbis, e.g. the Ribnitzer Rebbe used to drink large amounts of Vodka on some special occasions, apparently as a powerful mind-altering method. The Ribnitzer Rebbe also practiced severe sleep deprivation, extremely long meditative prayers and a number of ascetic purification rituals. During his life in the USSR he used to immerse himself every day in ice water.
The spiritual use of caffeine and nicotine as stimulants is well known in the Hasidic communities. Many stories are told about miracles and spiritual journeys performed by the Baal Shem Tov and other famous Tzaddikim with the help of their smoking pipe. Some people suggest that, judging by the nature of these stories, the tobacco was sometimes mixed with strong mind-altering drugs.
A popular Hasidic saying relates coffee to the Psalmic verse "Hope in God". The Hebrew word for "hope" ("Kave") sounds identical to the Yiddish word for coffee. Coffee is believed to have power to awaken the soul to the worship of God.
Some Kabbalists, including Isaac of Acco and Abraham Abulafia, mention a method of "philosophical meditation", which involves drinking a cup of "strong wine of Avicenna", which would induce a trance and would help the adept to ponder over difficult philosophical questions. The exact recipe of this wine remains unknown; Avicenna refers in his works to the effects of opium and datura extracts.
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, a prominent researcher of Jewish meditations, suggested that some medieval Kabbalists may have used some psychedelic drugs Indeed, one can find in Kabbalistic medical manuals cryptic references to the hidden powers of mandrake, harmal and other psychoactive plants, though the exact usage of these powers is hard to decipher.
According to Aryeh Kaplan, cannabis was an ingredient in the Holy anointing oil mentioned in various sacred Hebrew texts. The herb of interest is most commonly known as kaneh-bosem (קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם) which is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as a bartering material, incense, and an ingredient in Holy anointing oil used by the high priest of the temple. Many Rastafarians, who use cannabis as a sacrament, identify as Jewish.
According to Josephus, the head-dress of the Jewish High Priests' was modeled upon the capsule of the Hyoscyamus flower, which he calls "Saccharus". This Greek word for sugar stems from the Hebrew root that means "intoxicating".
Benny Shanon, a psychology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, proposed that Moses may have been high on hallucinogenic mushrooms at the time he received the Ten Commandments.
Many Christian denominations disapprove of the use of most illicit drugs. Many denominations permit the moderate use of socially and legally acceptable drugs like alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. Some Christian denominations permit smoking tobacco, while others disapprove of it. Many denominations do not have any official stance on drug use, some more-recent Christian denominations (e.g. Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses) discourage or prohibit the use of any of these substances.
Because Jesus and many Biblical figures drank wine, most Christian denominations do not require teetotalism. In the Eucharist, wine represents (or among Christians who believe in some form of Real Presence, like the Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox churches, actually is) the blood of Christ. Lutherans believe in the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, that the body and blood of Christ are "truly and substantially present in, with and under the forms." of the consecrated bread and wine (the elements), so that communicants orally eat and drink the holy body and blood of Christ Himself as well as the bread and wine (cf. Augsburg Confession, Article 10) in this Sacrament. The Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence is more accurately and formally known as "the Sacramental Union." It has been inaccurately called "consubstantiation", a term which is specifically rejected by most Lutheran churches and theologians.
On the other hand, some Protestant Christian denominations, such as Baptists and Methodists associated with the temperance movement, encourage or require teetotalism. In some Protestant denomination, grape juice or non-alcoholic wine is used in place of wine to represent the blood of Christ.
The best known Western prohibition against alcohol happened in the United States in the 1920s, where concerned prohibitionists were worried about its dangerous side effects. However, the demand for alcohol remained and criminals stepped in and created the supply. The consequences of organized crime and the popular demand for alcohol, led to alcohol being legalized again.
- their intoxication effects
- their harm to the human body
Every intoxicant is like alcohol, and every (type of) alcohol is prohibited. (Muslim)
The second reason for banning drugs is that they are believed to have a harmful effect on the body. The Qur'an says,
"And make not your own hands contribute to your destruction." Surah, Al-Baqara, 2: 195
The Muslim nations of Turkey and Egypt were instrumental in banning opium, cocaine, and cannabis when the League of Nations committed to the 1925 International Convention relating to opium and other drugs (later the 1934 Dangerous Drugs Act). The primary goal was to ban opium and cocaine, but cannabis was added to the list, and it remained there largely unnoticed due to the much more heated debate over opium and coca. The 1925 Act has been the foundation upon which every subsequent policy in the United Nations has been founded. Cannabis use and abuse as an intoxicant was largely unknown in the West at that point, but Islamic leaders have been critical of it since the 13th century.
O You who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones and (divination by) arrows are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. Avoid (such abominations) that you may prosper. (5:90)
Satan’s plan is to sow hatred and enmity amongst you with intoxicants and gambling, and to hamper you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. Will you not give up? (5:91)
There are no prohibitions in Islam on alcohol for scientific, industrial or automotive use.
In spite of these restrictions on substance use, tobacco and caffeine are still widely used throughout many Muslim nations.
Bahá'ís are forbidden to drink alcohol or to take drugs, unless prescribed by doctors. Accordingly, the sale and trafficking of such substances is also forbidden. Smoking is discouraged but not prohibited.
Many Rastafari believe cannabis, which they call "ganja," "the herb," or "Kaya," is a sacred gift of Jah. It may be used for spiritual purposes to commune with God, but should not be used profanely. The use of other drugs, however, including alcohol, is frowned upon. Many believe that the wine Jesus/Iyesus drank was not an alcoholic beverage, but simply the juice of grapes or other fruits.
While some Rastafari suggest that the Bible may refer to marijuana, it is generally held by academics specializing in the archaeology and paleobotany of Ancient Israel, and those specializing in the lexicography of the Hebrew Bible, that cannabis is not documented or mentioned in early Judaism. Against this some popular writers have argued that there is evidence for religious use of cannabis in the Hebrew Bible, although this hypothesis and some of the specific case studies (e.g., John Allegro in relation to Qumran, 1970) have been "widely dismissed as erroneous" (Merlin, 2003). The primary advocate of a religious use of cannabis plant in early Judaism was Sula Benet (1967), who claimed that the plant kaneh bosm קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible, and used in the holy anointing oil of the Book of Exodus, was in fact cannabis, although lexicons of Hebrew and dictionaries of plants of the Bible such as by Michael Zohary (1985), Hans Arne Jensen (2004) and James A. Duke (2010) and others identify the plant in question as either Acorus calamus or Cymbopogon citratus.
A "reasoning" is a simple event where the Rastas gather, smoke cannabis ("ganja"), and discuss. The person honored by being allowed to light the herb says a short sentence beforehand. The ganja is passed in a clockwise fashion (passing 'pon the lef' han' side) except in times of war, when it is passed counterclockwise. It is used to reason with Jah.
A "groundation" (also spelled "grounation") or "binghi" is a holy day; the name "binghi" is derived from "Nyabinghi" (literally "Nya" meaning "black" and "Binghi" meaning "victory"). Binghis are marked by much dancing, singing, feasting, and the smoking of "ganja", and can last for several days.
Bible verses which Rastas believe justify cannabis use
...thou shalt eat the herb of the field.
...eat every herb of the land.
Better is a dinner of herb where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
Beliefs about other drugs
According to many Rastas, the illegality of cannabis in many nations is evidence of persecution of Rastafari. They are not surprised that it is illegal, viewing Cannabis as a powerful substance that opens people's minds to the truth – something the Babylon system, they reason, clearly does not want. Cannabis use is contrasted with the use of alcohol and other drugs, which they feel destroy the mind.
- Cannabis and religion
- Taboo food and drink
- Religion and alcohol
- Religious views on smoking
- Entheogenic drugs and the archaeological record
- Psychology of religion § Religion and drugs
- Carl A. P. Ruck § Entheogen theory
- Eleusinian Mysteries § Entheogenic theories
- Psychedelic therapy
- List of entheogens
- Santo Daime
- Native American Church
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- Coulter-Harris, Deborah M. Chasing Immortality in World Religions. McFarland. ISBN 9781476625249. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- Ph.D, Jerry B. Brown; M.A, Julie M. Brown. The Psychedelic Gospels: The Secret History of Hallucinogens in Christianity. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. ISBN 9781620555033. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
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- one place this story is referenced is in the more Western article 'Sherpa Purity' by Sherry B. Ortner, published in the magazine American Anthropologist. The beginning of that article is available online, here: https://www.jstor.org/pss/672339 but the story is not available unless you login etc.
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- Ronald M Davidson 2002, Indian Esoteric Buddhism: a social history of the Tantric movement (datura and betel)
- Stearns, Cyrus; Taking the Result as the Path: Core Teachings of the Sakya Lamdre Tradition (Library of Tibetan Classics), 2006, page 421, 432.
- Baker, Ian; The Heart of the World: A Journey to Tibet's Lost Paradise, Part Three, Hell night
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As Confessional Lutherans we believe in baptismal regeneration, the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper, and infant baptism.
- Brug, John F. "The Real Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in The Lord's Supper: Contemporary Issues Concerning the Sacramental Union" (PDF). Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-02-04. Retrieved 9 Feb 2015.
Lutherans have always emphasized that Christ's true body and blood are really present "in, with, and under" the bread and wine and that Christ's true body and blood are received by all who receive the elements, either to their blessing or to their condemnation...Lutherans emphasize that although the presence of Christ in the Sacrament is a supernatural presence, which is beyond our understanding and explanations, it is a real, substantial presence. Jesus simply says, "This is my body. This is my blood," and Lutherans confess this when they say, "The bread and wine we receive are Christ’s body and blood." They also combine the words "in and under" from the Catechism and the word "with" from the Formula of Concord into the expression “Christ’s body and blood are received in, with, and under the bread and wine."
- Jensen, R.M. (ed.), Vrudny, K. J. (ed.), Visual Theology: Forming and Transforming the Community Through the Arts, p85
- Article X: Of the Lord's Supper, Augsburg Confession
- Article X: Of the Holy Supper, The Defense of the Augsburg Confession, 1531
- VII. The Lord's Supper: Affirmative Theses, Epitome of the Formula of Concord, 1577, stating that: "We believe, teach, and confess that the body and blood of Christ are received with the bread and wine, not only spiritually by faith, but also orally; yet not in a Capernaitic, but in a supernatural, heavenly mode, because of the sacramental union..."
- "Real Presence Communion – Consubstantiation?". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 2 January 2008. Retrieved 4 Feb 2015.
Although some Lutherans have used the term 'consbstantiation' [sic] and it might possibly be understood correctly (e.g., the bread & wine, body & blood coexist with each other in the Lord's Supper), most Lutherans reject the term because of the false connotation it contains...either that the body and blood, bread and wine come together to form one substance in the Lord’s Supper or that the body and blood are present in a natural manner like the bread and the wine. Lutherans believe that the bread and the wine are present in a natural manner in the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s true body and blood are present in an illocal, supernatural manner.
- "Islam: Drugs".
- Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. "Islam Prohibits Alcohol and Drugs".
- Dan Merkur The Mystery of Manna: The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible (2001); James D. Dure, Manna Magic Mushroom of Moses : Manna Botanical I.D. of a Biblical Sacrament (self published, 2000)
- Economic Botany M. D. Merlin Archaeological Evidence for the Tradition of Psychoactive Plant Use in the Old World - University of Hawaii "23 May 2011 - ".. Judaism (Dure 2001; Merkur 2000), and Christianity (Allegro 1970; Ruck et al. 2001). Although this hypothesis and some of the specific case studies (e.g., Allegro 1970) have been widely dismissed as erroneous, others continue"
- Rowan Robinson, The Great Book of Hemp, Health & Fitness, 1995, pag. 89
- Lytton J. Musselman Figs, dates, laurel, and myrrh: plants of the Bible and the Quran 2007 p73
- "The Rituals of Asatru".