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Psychedelic Cults and Outlaw Churches

LSD, Cannabis, and Spiritual Sacraments in Underground America

Published by Park Street Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

A comprehensive tour of North American spiritual groups that use psychoactive drugs in the search for higher consciousness

• Explores prominent psychedelic churches and sects in depth, including the Native American Church and their peyote rituals, the cannabis-sex temple known as the Psychedelic Venus Church, and the Church of Naturalism, an LSD-therapy cult that came to a murderous end

• Presents an encyclopedic survey of dozens of minor organizations—many of which have never before been documented in an authoritative source

• Shares personal interviews and anecdotes about the strange, outrageous adventures of religious psychonauts, alongside rare photos and illustrations

From LSD-powered guru Timothy Leary to cannabis sex cults to psychedelic outlaw churches, Mike Marinacci presents a comprehensive tour of North American religious sects and spiritual groups who use entheogens and psychoactive drugs in the search for higher consciousness, mystical insight, and spiritual enlightenment. Exploring prominent churches and cults in depth, he examines the lives of their colorful leaders, the origins of their unorthodox beliefs, the controversial practices of their congregants, and their many conflicts with both law enforcement and public opinion. He looks at the Native American Church and their legal battle over their peyote rituals, the cannabis sex temple known as the Psychedelic Venus Church, the murderous end of the LSD-therapy cult known as the Church of Naturalism, and several other major groups and temples of psychedelic spirituality. He then offers an encyclopedic survey of dozens of minor organizations, many of which have never before been documented in an authoritative source.

Sharing personal interviews and anecdotes about the strange outrageous adventures of religious psychonauts alongside rare photos and illustrations, this extensively researched study of underground psychedelic religious sects in the United States reveals their spiritual and cultural influence from the 1960s to the present day.

About The Author

Mike Marinacci is an independent expert on psychedelic spiritual groups and nontraditional American religious sects. He is the author of California Jesus and Mysterious California and coauthor of the bestselling Weird California. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Park Street Press (July 4, 2023)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781644117088

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Raves and Reviews

“A well-researched and adeptly written history of the underground spiritual movement that swept through American popular culture in the 1960s and ’70s. It’s a concise and thoroughly engaging compendium of this important subculture and a must-read for any serious student of this revolutionary and awe-inspiring time.”

– Nick Schou, author of Orange Sunshine

“An essential encyclopedia of divine intoxication, documenting the dizzying parade of drug-crazed mystics and self-proclaiming prophets who’ve founded psychedelic cults and entheogenic churches over the past century. A long strange trip, indeed, from the obscure to the notorious, from the ridiculous to the sublime.”

– Don Lattin, author of The Harvard Psychedelic Club

“This book not only outlines the history and central principles of well-known modern entheogenic groups like the Native American Church and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love but also pulls from the shadows of history all-but-forgotten characters. Marinacci reproduces intriguing photos from the past as well as discusses the founding scriptures of these far out religions. All future research in this area will owe a debt of gratitude to this unique, well-written volume.”

– Thomas Hatsis, author of LSD—The Wonder Child

“Backed by indefatigable research, well-organized, and astonishingly comprehensive, this remarkable work brings together into one volume the true stories of the many saints and sinners, with a preponderance of the latter, who founded organizations that proclaim or proclaimed the religious value of psychedelics and who persisted under the threat and, in many cases, imposition of harsh prison sentences and confiscation of property. What is the point of all this work Marinacci has done? Why does it matter? Consider four possible positions on the issue of the religious value of psychedelics: they are a gift from God; they are a temptation from the Devil; they are both; they are neither. Whichever of these positions you choose and whatever other reasons you may give in defense, if that view is to have any hope of being the one closest to the Truth, it will have to be consistent with the history of the individuals and groups presented in this book.”

– Jack Call, author of Psychedelic Christianity

“Mike Marinacci has made the exciting, detailed, and adventurous journey back in time to chronicle the psychonauts of the era. Mike searched, found, and explains in a highly readable fashion some of the histories of those who crave to know more of our reality and more than what we’re legally allowed to find out. What’s beyond the ‘Do Not Enter’ signs? You can now sit comfortably and vicariously journey through the lives of some of the most infamous seekers of the past half century with no risk involved. This book is a reminder of the relatively unknown yet important history of human potential that will likely help make you smile and wonder and appreciate even more the gift of life we’re given on planet Earth.”

– Roger Christie, founder of THC Ministry and federal prisoner of the War on Cannabis

“Who other than the likes of Mike Marinacci knew there were so many psychedelics-focused groups, churches, and initiatives in our recent past, and especially in the expansive and chaotic glory days of the 1960s and ’70s? This is rich history in full color with a dose of bittersweet nostalgia for those who lived through and embraced the zeitgeist of the times; a cornucopia of inspiring, cautionary, and simply jaw-dropping true stories told in page-turning prose for younger readers and the rest of us. We owe a debt of gratitude to Mike for rescuing these invaluable segments and snippets of psychedelic and countercultural history from obscurity and giving them new life.”

– Stephen Gray, editor of How Psychedelics Can Help Save the World and Cannabis and Spirituality

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