LSD and the Rabbis: Part II

This article is Part II in a three part series. Click here for Part I and Part III. By Shalom Goldman In utilizing intoxicants to heighten individual religious experience, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi was influenced by the emerging zeitgeist of the early 1960s, a zeitgeist that the Esalen Institute of Big Sur, California, did much to develop and promote. In seminars led by luminaries like Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, and Humphrey Osmond, Esalen taught a generation of seekers about the theory and practice of “drug-induced mysticism.” In these seminars (though that may be too formal a word for the early Esalen classes) the teachers […]

Daily Sacred

                                      “Shunyata” by Hoyt Oliver: Wholly Holey Holy, a cedar log sculpture in the Oxford College library. Images of quite a few religions are included: an earth mother, yin/yang, Tao, eagle, OM, crescent, cross, star of David, Buddha, wood nymph — the whole piece is a lingam/yoni. Show us your sacred! Share your images with us by tagging your photos with #sacredmatters on Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr or email us at sacredmatters [at] emory [dot] edu. Please include where and when your photo […]

LSD and the Rabbis

This article is Part I in a three part series. Click here for Part II and Part III. By Shalom Goldman The reactions to the death last month of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi may be a sign that the conversation about psychedelic drugs and American religion is moving into a new stage. On July 8th that “Old Grey Lady,” the New York Times, published a long and very respectful obituary of Schachter. For this Times reader of the Sixties generation, it was quite surprising that the Times, with its long-history of disdain for the counterculture in general and counterculture religion in particular, would honor a religious innovator whose inspiration was so clearly psychedelic. The Times […]

Religion, Nationalism, and “Ancestral Homelands”

By Shalom Goldman In June of 2001, George W. Bush famously claimed that he had looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and “found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy, and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.” This month, after Putin’s speech on the Russian claim to Crimea and his subsequent annexation of the peninsula, Bush’s comment about Putin (dubbed by the late Christopher Hitchens as “one of the stupidest things a president has ever said”) was recalled by many news commentators. For not only had Bush said in 2001 […]

Noah: An Unrighteous Man

  By Jacob L. Wright The editors of Sacred Matters appreciated my comments on the film Noah in the video above, and they asked me to set it in context for their readers. What is included in this clip is just a short section of a much longer interview. I don’t offer a review of the film itself, whether it’s better than “the book.” My aim is rather to challenge the vocal criticism of the film by the religious right. I claim that it’s perfectly legitimate for the film’s creators to embellish the biblical story and to take it in […]

Holy Smoke

By Shalom Goldman Since the 1960s many in America’s alternative religious communities have embraced the use of marijuana and other mind-altering substances in their religious rituals. By hearkening back to Native American rites, these religious practitioners can point to a long tradition of American spirituality that had its religious experiences enhanced by intoxicants. With very few exceptions, federal law is reluctant to let these groups possess what are considered under American law “controlled substances.” Thus their religious practices are criminalized like all other uses of cannabis. Among the more flamboyant groups trying to change this situation are the various “cannabis churches,” […]