“Nitrous oxide and ether, especially nitrous oxide, when sufficiently diluted with air, stimulate the mystical consciousness in an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond depth of truth seems revealed to the inhaler. This truth fades out, however, or escapes, at the moment of coming to; and if any words remain over in which it seemed to clothe itself, they prove to be the veriest nonsense. Nevertheless, the sense of a profound meaning having been there persists; and I know more than one person who is persuaded that in the nitrous oxide trance we have a genuine meta physical revelation.”
THUS WROTE WILLIAM JAMES in 1902. The Varieties of Religious Experience is a philosophical treasure chest for anybody studying the spiritual quest of humans, so we give you a snippet from James' chapter on “Mysticism”. We also have Ruth Benedict, describing in an article from 1922, the pursuit of the vision among Plains Indians. We have Émile Durkheim's “Definition of Religious Phenomena and of Religion” from 1912. We have some great 1946 photos showing snake handling in a Holiness Church in Kentucky. And we've been reading Erik Davis and Michael Rauner's beautiful book Visionary state: A journey through California's spiritual landscape.