From Native Americans’ use of tobacco for solemnizing oaths to the spread of New Age religious beliefs in Haight-Ashbury coffeehouses, drugs have been intimately associated with American spirituality. In Stairways to Heaven, Robert Fuller presents a rarely considered but very important dimension of American religious history — the use of mind-altering substances as an aid to spirituality — in a clear, engaging style. Fuller’s entertaining narrative illustrates how such substances as peyote, jimson weed, hallucinogenic mushrooms, LSD, marijuana, wine, and coffee have stimulated ecstatic revelations of spiritual truth and strengthened the social bonds that sustain communities of faith.Stairways to Heaven is unique in the study of American religious history in two ways: first, it demonstrates that the ritual use of mind-altering substances has contributed to the innovation and diversity that characterize American religious life; second, it uses interdisciplinary research into the religious uses of drugs to shed light on the controversial legal, ethical, and spiritual controversies that surround drug use in the contemporary United States. The book’s final chapter assesses the usefulness of drugs in the quest for a mature, life-affirming, community-building, creative spirituality.
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