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Sacred Knowledge

Psychedelics and Religious Experiences
Paperback Book
Columbia University Press
December, 2018
$34.95 CAD
Banyen's Description: 

Sacred Knowledge is the first well-documented, sophisticated account of the effect of psychedelics on biological processes, human consciousness, and revelatory religious experiences. Based on nearly three decades of legal research with volunteers, Bill Richards argues that, if used responsibly and legally, psychedelics have the potential to assuage suffering and constructively affect the quality of human life.

While contributing to social and political debates over the responsible integration of psychedelic substances into modern society, his book serves as an invaluable resource for readers who, whether spontaneously or with the facilitation of psychedelics, have encountered meaningful, inspiring, or even disturbing states of consciousness and seek clarity about their experiences. Testing the limits of language and conceptual frameworks, Richards makes the most of experiential phenomena that stretch our conception of reality, advancing new frontiers in the study of belief, spiritual awakening, psychiatric treatment, and social well-being. His findings enrich humanities and scientific scholarship, expanding work in philosophy, anthropology, theology, and religious studies and bringing depth to research in mental health, psychotherapy, and psychopharmacology.

These exalted states of consciousness, once so rare and difficult to study, can now be fairly reliably accessed, and hence can be carefully and respectfully investigated… Page by page he unfolds his vision of the wondrous depths of the psyche and the equally wondrous underlying beauty of this world—a vision that, in his case, is not simply lofty yet unsubstantiated metaphysical speculation, but rather buttressed by the compelling and detailed accounts of the experiences and insights of his patients and research volunteers (as well as by narratives of his own generously offered and lucidly written experiences).

This text also offers calm and sober advice on how to deal with psychosomatic distress while taking psychedelic substances; how (when taking these substances) to maximize the potential for safely receiving a psychologically and spiritually transformative mystical experience; how to best integrate these profound experiences into one’s daily life; how these substances can potentially give meaning to both daily life and the experience of dying; how psychedelics can help survivors to cope with the grief associated with the death of a loved one; and finally, the rather astonishing potential of these substances to deal with various severe addictions as well as clinical depression. —from the Foreword by G. William Barnard

A seminal work that will become required reading for anyone seriously interested in either religious experience or psychedelic research. There has not been a book in this area as valuable since William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience, more than a century ago.’ —James Fadiman, author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys

William A. Richards is a clinical psychologist at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with formal training in theology and comparative religion. Earlier in his career, he pursued psychedelic research at Spring Grove Hospital Center and the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center in Baltimore.


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