An entheogen ("generating the divine within") is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context. Entheogens can supplement many diverse practices for transcendence, and revelation, including meditation, psychonautics, psychedelic and visionary art, psychedelic therapy, and magic.
Entheogens have been used in a ritualized context for thousands of years; their religious significance is well established in anthropological and modern evidences. Examples of traditional entheogens include: peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, uncured tobacco, cannabis, ayahuasca, Salvia divinorum, Tabernanthe iboga, Ipomoea tricolor, and Amanita muscaria. With the advent of organic chemistry, there now exist many synthetic substances with similar psychoactive properties, many derived from these plants. Many pure active compounds with psychoactive properties have been isolated from these organisms and chemically synthesized, including mescaline, psilocybin, DMT, salvinorin A, ibogaine, ergotamine, and muscimol, respectively. Semi-synthetic (e.g. LSD is usually derived from ergotamine) and synthetic substances (e.g. DPT used by the Temple of the True Inner Light and 2C-B used by the Sangoma) have also been developed. Entheogens may be compounded through the work of a shaman or apothecary in a tea, admixture, or potion like ayahuasca or bhang.
More broadly, the term entheogen is used to refer to any psychoactive substances when used for their religious or spiritual effects, whether or not in a formal religious or traditional structure. This terminology is often chosen to contrast with recreational use of the same substances. Studies such as the Marsh Chapel Experiment have documented reports of spiritual experiences from participants who were administered psychoactive substances in controlled trials. Ongoing research is limited due to widespread drug prohibition; however, some countries have legislation that allows for traditional entheogen use.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Entheogens
- 3 Usage
- 3.1 Psychological use
- 3.2 Cultural use
- 3.3 Religious use
- 4 Archaeological record
- 5 Classical mythology and cults
- 6 Research
- 7 Legal status of entheogens
- 8 Literature
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
The neologism entheogen was coined in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists and scholars of mythology (Carl A. P. Ruck, Jeremy Bigwood, Danny Staples, Richard Evans Schultes, Jonathan Ott and R. Gordon Wasson). The term is derived from two words of ancient Greek, ἔνθεος (entheos) and γενέσθαι (genesthai). The adjective entheos translates to English as "full of the god, inspired, possessed," and is the root of the English word "enthusiasm." The Greeks used it as a term of praise for poets and other artists. Genesthai means "to come into being." Thus, an entheogen is a substance that causes one to become inspired or to experience feelings of inspiration, often in a religious or "spiritual" manner.
Entheogen was coined as a replacement for the terms hallucinogen and psychedelic. Hallucinogen was popularized by Aldous Huxley's experiences with mescaline, which were published as The Doors of Perception in 1954. Psychedelic, in contrast, is a Greek neologism for "mind manifest", and was coined by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond; Huxley was a volunteer in experiments Osmond was conducting on mescaline.
Ruck et al. argued that the term hallucinogen was inappropriate owing to its etymological relationship to words relating to delirium and insanity. The term psychedelic was also seen as problematic, owing to the similarity in sound to words pertaining to psychosis and also due to the fact that it had become irreversibly associated with various connotations of 1960s pop culture. In modern usage entheogen may be used synonymously with these terms, or it may be chosen to contrast with recreational use of the same substances. The meanings of the term entheogen were formally defined by Ruck et al.:
In a strict sense, only those vision-producing drugs that can be shown to have figured in shamanic or religious rites would be designated entheogens, but in a looser sense, the term could also be applied to other drugs, both natural and artificial, that induce alterations of consciousness similar to those documented for ritual ingestion of traditional entheogens.—
In essence, all psychoactive drugs that are naturally occurring in plants, fungi, or animals can be used in an entheogenic context or with entheogenic intent. Since non-psychoactive drugs can also be used in this type of context, the term "entheogen" refers primarily to substances that have been categorized based on their historical use. Toxicity does not affect a substance's inclusion (some can kill humans), nor does effectiveness or potency (if a substance is psychoactive, and it has been used in a historical context, then the required dose has also been found).
High caffeine consumption has been linked to an increase in the likelihood of experiencing auditory hallucinations. A study conducted by the La Trobe University School of Psychological Sciences revealed that as few as five cups of coffee a day could trigger the phenomenon.
Synthetic entheogen recognition
Many man-made chemicals with little human history have been recognized to catalyze intense spiritual experiences, and many synthetic entheogens are simply slight modifications of their naturally occurring counterparts. Some synthetic entheogens like 4-AcO-DMT are theorized to be prodrugs that metabolize into the natural psychoactive, similar in nature to how the synthetic compound Heroin is deacetylated by esterase to the active morphine. While synthesized DMT and Mescaline is reported to have identical entheogenic qualities as extracted or plant based sources, the experience may wildly vary due to the lack of numerous psychoactive alkaloids that constitute the material. This is similar to how pure THC is very different than an extract that retains the many cannabinoids of the plant such as Cannabidiol and Cannabinol.
2C-B is used by the Sangoma over their traditional plants. Although acting strongly as an empathogen-entactogen, 2C-B is notably psychedelic in a unique way. Although some users feel the 2C-x series are better suited for recreational purposes, 2C-B is consistently excluded as an exception and is an exceptional example for its class.
Dipropyltryptamine (DPT) is used as a religious sacrament by the Temple of the True Inner Light, a New York City offshoot of the Native American Church. The Temple believes DPT and other entheogens are physical manifestations of God.
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On the 1962 expedition organized by R. Gordon Wasson to see Maria Sabina, Hofmann came along and brought a bottle of psilocybin pills. Sandoz was marketing them under the brand name "Indocybin" — "indo" for both "Indian" and "indole" (the nucleus of their chemical structures) and "cybin" for the main molecular constituent, "psilocybin." ("Psilo" in Greek means "bald," "cybe" means "head"). Hofmann gave his synthesized teonanacatl to the curandera, who divulged the Indians' secret. "Of course," Wasson recalls of the encounter, "Albert Hofmann is so conservative he always gives too little a dose, and it didn't have any effect." Hofmann had a different interpretation: activation of "the pills, which must dissolve in the stomach before they can be absorbed, takes place after only 30 to 45 minutes, in contrast to the mushrooms, which, when chewed, work faster because part of the drug is absorbed immediately by the mucosa in the mouth." In order to settle her doubts about the pills, more were distributed, bringing the total for Maria Sabina, her daughter, and the shaman Don Aurelio up to 30 mg, a moderately high dose by current standards but not perhaps by the Indians'. At dawn, their Mazatec interpreter reported that Maria Sabina felt there was little difference between the pills and the mushrooms. She thanked Hofmann for the bottle of pills, "saying that she would now be able to serve people even when no mushrooms were available."[needs copy edit]
Yohimbine has been used to facilitate recall of traumatic memories in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yohimbine is an alkaloid naturally found in Pausinystalia yohimbe (Yohimbe), Rauwolfia serpentina (Indian Snakeroot), and Alchornea floribunda (Niando), along with several other active alkaloids. There are no references to these species in traditional use to induce past memories, most likely because their alkaloid content is to low, even when extracted.
The spiritual use of entheogens have been both altruistic and egoistic through history.
Altruistic drug use
Egosyntonic drug use
- Entheogens have been used by people for:
- People given entheogens have been exposed with:
- Unvoluntary egodystonic drug use. Ayahuasca tourists have been given strong doses deliriants (eg Brugmansia or Datura) but told it was an ayahuasca brew. One datura trip can cause irreversible mental insanity.
- Brainwashing and mind control: Research experiments were performed by CIA in Project MKUltra, especially with LSD.
- Psychochemical weaponry: Ancient psycho-chemical use of Datura but also usage of a BZ-related compound (another deliriant) called Agent-15 in Iraq.
- Psychological torture: Some forms of methods attempt to induced a bad trip to destroy the subject's normal self-image.
- Plastic shamans: One unofficial stat floating around Iquitos says the number of arriving pilgrims has grown fivefold in two years. Roger Rumrrill, a journalist who has written 25 books on the Amazon region, including several on shamanism, told me there's "a corresponding boom in charlatans – in fake shamans, who are targeting foreigners.". There are alleged stories of female tourists who, under ayahuasca's stupor, have faced sexual predators posing as healers.
Cultural enforcing children's rights
Datura in 8 year old children: Datura wrightii is sacred to some native Americans and has been used in ceremonies and rites of passage by Chumash, Tongva, and others. Among the Chumash, when a boy was 8 years old, his mother gave him a preparation of momoy to drink. This was supposed to be a spiritual challenge to the boy to help him develop the spiritual wellbeing that is required to become a man. Not all of the boys survived. They believed momoy was a spiritual plant that helps with spiritual wellbeing among adults also. For instance, during a frightening situation, such as when seeing a coyote walk like a man, a leaf of momoy was sucked to help keep the soul in the body.
Entheogens have been used in various ways, including as part of established religions, secularly for personal spiritual development as tools (or "plant teachers") to augment the mind, secularly as recreational drugs, and for medical and therapeutic use. The use of entheogens in human cultures is nearly ubiquitous throughout recorded history.
Naturally occurring entheogens such as psilocybin and DMT (in the preparation ayahuasca), were, for the most part, discovered and used by older cultures, as part of their spiritual and religious life, as plants and agents that were respected, or in some cases revered for generations and may be a tradition that predates all modern religions as a sort of proto-religious rite.
One of the most widely used entheogens is cannabis, which has been used in regions such as China, Europe, and India, and, in some cases, for thousands of years. It has also appeared as a part of religions and cultures such as the Rastafari movement, the Sadhus of Hinduism, the Scythians, Sufi Islam, and others. For additional information, see Religious and spiritual use of cannabis.
The best-known entheogen-using culture of Africa is the Bwitists, who used a preparation of the root bark of Tabernanthe iboga. Although the ancient Egyptians may have been using the sacred blue lily plant in some of their religious rituals or just symbolically, it has been suggested that Egyptian religion once revolved around the ritualistic ingestion of the far more psychoactive Psilocybe cubensis mushroom, and that the Egyptian White Crown, Triple Crown, and Atef Crown were evidently designed to represent pin-stages of this mushroom. There is also evidence for the use of psilocybin mushrooms in Côte d'Ivoire (Samorini 1995). Numerous other plants used in shamanic ritual in Africa, such as Silene capensis sacred to the Xhosa, are yet to be investigated by western science. A recent revitalization has occurred in the study of southern African psychoactives and entheogens (Mitchell and Hudson 2004; Sobiecki 2002, 2008, 2012).
Entheogens have played a pivotal role in the spiritual practices of most American cultures for millennia. The first American entheogen to be subject to scientific analysis was the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii). For his part, one of the founders of modern ethno-botany, the late-Richard Evans Schultes of Harvard University documented the ritual use of peyote cactus among the Kiowa, who live in what became Oklahoma. While it was used traditionally by many cultures of what is now Mexico, in the 19th century its use spread throughout North America, replacing the toxic entheogen Calia secundiflora (mescal bean). Other well-known entheogens used by Mexican cultures include psilocybin mushrooms, morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor and Turbina corymbosa), and Salvia divinorum.
Indigenous peoples of South America employ a wide variety of entheogens. Better-known examples include ayahuasca (most commonly Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis) among indigenous peoples (such as the Urarina) of Peruvian Amazonia. Other entheogens include San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi, syn. Trichocereus pachanoi), Peruvian torch cactus (Echinopsis peruviana, syn. Trichocereus peruvianus), and various DMT-snuffs, such as epená (Virola spp.), vilca and yopo (Anadenanthera colubrina and A. peregrina, respectively). The familiar tobacco plant, when used uncured in large doses in shamanic contexts, also serves as an entheogen in South America. Also, a tobacco that contains higher nicotine content, and therefore smaller doses required, called Nicotiana rustica was commonly used.
In addition to indigenous use of entheogens in the Americas, one should also note their important role in contemporary religious movements, such as the Rastafari movement and the Church of the Universe.
In Hinduism, Datura stramonium and cannabis have been used in religious ceremonies, although the religious use of datura is not very common, as the primary alkaloids are strong deliriants, which causes serious intoxication with unpredictable effects.
Also, the ancient drink Soma, mentioned often in the Vedas, appears to be consistent with the effects of an entheogen. (In his 1967 book, Wasson argues that Soma was Amanita muscaria. The active ingredient of Soma is presumed by some to be ephedrine, an alkaloid with stimulant and (somewhat debatable) entheogenic properties derived from the soma plant, identified as Ephedra pachyclada.) However, there are also arguments to suggest that Soma could have also been Syrian rue, cannabis, Atropa belladonna, or some combination of any of the above plants.
Fermented honey, known in Northern Europe as mead, was an early entheogen in Aegean civilization, predating the introduction of wine, which was the more familiar entheogen of the reborn Dionysus and the maenads. It religious uses in the Aegean world are bound up with the mythology of the bee.
Dacians were known to use cannabis in their religious and important life ceremonies, proven by discoveries of large clay pots with burnt cannabis seeds in ancient tombs and religious shrines. Also, local oral folklore and myths tell of ancient priests that dreamed with gods and walked in the smoke. Their names, as transmitted by Herodotus, were "kap-no-batai" which in Romanian was supposed to mean "the ones that walk in the clouds".
The growth of Roman Christianity also saw the end of the two-thousand-year-old tradition of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the initiation ceremony for the cult of Demeter and Persephone involving the use of a substance known as kykeon (the term 'ambrosia' is used in Greek mythology in a way that is remarkably similar to the soma of the Hindus as well).
A theory that natural occurring gases like ethylene used by inhalation may have played a role in divinatory ceremonies at Delphi in Classical Greece received popular press attention in the early 2000s, yet has not been conclusively proven.
Mushroom consumption is part of the culture of Europeans in general, with particular importance to Slavic and Baltic peoples. Some academics consider that using psilocybin- and or muscimol-containing mushrooms was an integral part of the ancient culture of the Rus' people.
It has been suggested that the ritual use of small amounts of Syrian rue is an artifact of its ancient use in higher doses as an entheogen (possibly in conjunction with DMT containing acacia).
Philologist John Marco Allegro has argued in his book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross that early Jewish and Christian cultic practice was based on the use of Amanita muscaria, which was later forgotten by its adherents. Allegro's hypothesis that Amanita use was forgotten after primitive Christianity seems contradicted by his own view that the chapel in Plaincourault shows evidence of Christian amanita use in the 13th century.
In general, indigenous Australians are thought not to have used entheogens, although there is a strong barrier of secrecy surrounding Aboriginal shamanism, which has likely limited what has been told to outsiders. A plant that the Australian Aboriginals used to ingest is called "Pitcheri", which is said to have a similar effect to that of coca. "Pitcheri" was made from the bark of the shrub Duboisia myoporoides. This plant is now grown commercially and is processed to manufacture an eye medication. There are no known uses of entheogens by the Māori of New Zealand aside from a variant species of Kava. Natives of Papua New Guinea are known to use several species of entheogenic mushrooms (Psilocybe spp, Boletus manicus).
Kava or Kava Kava (Piper Methysticum) has been cultivated for at least 3000 years by a number of Pacific island-dwelling peoples. Historically, most Polynesian, many Melanesian, and some Micronesian cultures have ingested the psychoactive pulverized root, typically taking it mixed with water. Much traditional usage of Kava, though somewhat suppressed by Christian missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries, is thought to facilitate contact with the spirits of the dead, especially relatives and ancestors (Singh 2004).
Judaism and Christianity
According to The Living Torah, cannabis may have been one of the ingredients of the holy anointing oil mentioned in various sacred Hebrew texts. The herb of interest is most commonly known as kaneh-bosm (Hebrew: קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם). This is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as a bartering material, incense, and an ingredient in holy anointing oil used by the high priest of the temple. Although Chris Bennett's research in this area focuses on cannabis, he mentions evidence suggesting use of additional visionary plants such as henbane, as well.
The Septuagint translates kaneh-bosm as calamus, and this translation has been propagated unchanged to most later translations of the old testament. However, Polish anthropologist Sula Benet published etymological arguments that the Aramaic word for hemp can be read as kannabos and appears to be a cognate to the modern word 'cannabis', with the root kan meaning reed or hemp and bosm meaning fragrant. Both cannabis and calamus are fragrant, reedlike plants containing psychotropic compounds.
In his research, Professor Dan Merkur points to significant evidence of an awareness within the Jewish mystical tradition recognizing manna as an entheogen, thereby substantiating with rabbinic texts theories advanced by the superficial biblical interpretations of Terence McKenna, R. Gordon Wasson and other ethnomycologists.
Although philologist John Marco Allegro has suggested that the self-revelation and healing abilities attributed to the figure of Jesus may have been associated with the effects of the plant medicines, this evidence is dependent on pre-Septuagint interpretation of Torah and Tenach. Allegro was the only non-Catholic appointed to the position of translating the Dead Sea scrolls. His extrapolations are often the object of scorn due to Allegro's non-mainstream theory of Jesus as a mythological personification of the essence of a "psychoactive sacrament". Furthermore, they conflict with the position of the Catholic Church with regard to transubstantiation and the teaching involving valid matter, form, and substance — that of bread and wine (bread does not contain psychoactive substances, but wine contains ethanol). Allegro's book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross relates the development of language to the development of myths, religions, and cultic practices in world cultures. Allegro believed he could prove, through etymology, that the roots of Christianity, as of many other religions, lay in fertility cults, and that cult practices, such as ingesting visionary plants (or "psychedelics") to perceive the mind of God, persisted into the early Christian era, and to some unspecified extent into the 13th century with reoccurrences in the 18th century and mid-20th century, as he interprets the Plaincourault chapel's fresco to be an accurate depiction of the ritual ingestion of Amanita muscaria as the Eucharist.
The historical picture portrayed by the Entheos journal is of fairly widespread use of visionary plants in early Christianity and the surrounding culture, with a gradual reduction of use of entheogens in Christianity. R. Gordon Wasson's book Soma prints a letter from art historian Erwin Panofsky asserting that art scholars are aware of many 'mushroom trees' in Christian art.
The question of the extent of visionary plant use throughout the history of Christian practice has barely been considered yet by academic or independent scholars. The question of whether visionary plants were used in pre-Theodosius Christianity is distinct from evidence that indicates the extent to which visionary plants were utilized or forgotten in later Christianity, including so-called "heretical" or "quasi-" Christian groups, and the question of other groups such as elites or laity within "orthodox" Catholic practice.
Daniel Merkur at the University of Toronto contends that a minority of Christian hermits and mystics could possibly have used entheogens, in conjunction with fasting, meditation, and prayer.
Religion and alcohol
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The current Arabic word for alcohol appears in The Qur'an (in verse 37:47) as الغول al-ġawl — properly meaning "spirit" or "demon"— with the sense "the thing that gives the wine its headiness." The term ethanol was invented 1838, modeled on German äthyl (Liebig), from Greek aither (see ether) + hyle "stuff.". Ether in late 14c. meant "upper regions of space," from Old French ether and directly from Latin aether, "the upper pure, bright air," from Greek aither "upper air; bright, purer air; the sky," from aithein "to burn, shine," from PIE root *aidh- "to burn" (see edifice).
Sometimes alcohol has been invested with religious significance, as in the ancient Greco-Roman religion which included the ecstatic rituals of Dionysus (also called Bacchus). Some scholars have postulated that pagan religions actively promoted alcohol and drunkenness as a means of fostering fertility. Alcohol was believed to increase sexual desire and make it easier to approach another person for sex. For example, Norse paganism considered alcohol to be the sap of Yggdrasil. Drunkenness was an important fertility rite in this religion.
Many Christian denominations use wine in the Eucharist or Communion and permit alcohol consumption in moderation. Other denominations use unfermented grape juice in Communion; they either voluntarily abstain from alcohol or prohibit it outright.
Judaism uses wine on Shabbat and some holidays for Kiddush as well as more extensively in the Passover ceremony and other religious ceremonies. The secular consumption of alcohol is allowed. Some Jewish texts, e.g. the Talmud, encourage moderate drinking on holidays (such as Purim) in order to make the occasion more joyous.
In his Laws, Plato said that alcoholic drinking parties should be the basis of any educational system, because the alcohol allows relaxation of otherwise fixed views. The Symposium (literally, 'drinking together') was a dramatised account of a drinking party where the participants debated the nature of love.
Some religions forbid, discourage, or restrict the drinking of alcoholic beverages for various reasons. These include: Islam, Jainism, the Bahá'í Faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism), the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, Scientist, the United Pentecostal Church International, Theravada, most Mahayana schools of Buddhism, some Protestant denominations of Christianity, some sects of Taoism (Five Precepts (Taoism) and Ten Precepts (Taoism)), and Hinduism.
The Pali Canon, the scripture of Theravada Buddhism, depicts refraining from alcohol as essential to moral conduct because intoxication causes a loss of mindfulness. The fifth of the Five Precepts states, "Surā-meraya-majja-pamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi." In English: "I undertake to refrain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness." Technically, this prohibition does not include other mind-altering substances. The Canon does not suggest that alcohol is evil, but believes that the carelessness produced by intoxication creates bad karma. Therefore, any substance (beyond tea or mild coffee) that affects one's mindfulness be considered to be covered by this prohibition.
R. Gordon Wasson and Giorgio Samorini have proposed several examples of the cultural use of entheogens that are found in the archaeological record. Evidence for the first use of entheogens may come from Tassili, Algeria, with a cave painting of a mushroom-man, dating to 8000 BP. Hemp seeds discovered by archaeologists at Pazyryk suggest early ceremonial practices by the Scythians occurred during the 5th to 2nd century BC, confirming previous historical reports by Herodotus.
Classical mythology and cults
Although entheogens are taboo and most of them are officially prohibited in Christian and Islamic societies, their ubiquity and prominence in the spiritual traditions of various other cultures is unquestioned. "The spirit, for example, need not be chemical, as is the case with the ivy and the olive: and yet the god was felt to be within them; nor need its possession be considered something detrimental, like drugged, hallucinatory, or delusionary: but possibly instead an invitation to knowledge or whatever good the god's spirit had to offer." (Ruck and Staples)
Most of the well-known modern examples, such as peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, and morning glories are from the native cultures of the Americas. However, it has also been suggested that entheogens played an important role in ancient Indo-European culture, for example by inclusion in the ritual preparations of the Soma, the "pressed juice" that is the subject of Book 9 of the Rig Veda. Soma was ritually prepared and drunk by priests and initiates and elicited a paean in the Rig Veda that embodies the nature of an entheogen:
Splendid by Law! declaring Law, truth speaking, truthful in thy works, Enouncing faith, King Soma!... O [Soma] Pavāmana (mind clarifying), place me in that deathless, undecaying world wherein the light of heaven is set, and everlasting lustre shines.... Make me immortal in that realm where happiness and transports, where joy and felicities combine...
The kykeon that preceded initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries is another entheogen, which was investigated (before the word was coined) by Carl Kerényi, in Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter. Other entheogens in the Ancient Near East and the Aegean include the opium poppy, datura, and the unidentified "lotus" (likely the sacred blue lily) eaten by the Lotus-Eaters in the Odyssey and Narcissus.
According to Ruck, Eyan, and Staples, the familiar shamanic entheogen that the Indo-Europeans brought knowledge of was Amanita muscaria. It could not be cultivated; thus it had to be found, which suited it to a nomadic lifestyle. When they reached the world of the Caucasus and the Aegean, the Indo-Europeans encountered wine, the entheogen of Dionysus, who brought it with him from his birthplace in the mythical Nysa, when he returned to claim his Olympian birthright. The Indo-European proto-Greeks "recognized it as the entheogen of Zeus, and their own traditions of shamanism, the Amanita and the 'pressed juice' of Soma — but better, since no longer unpredictable and wild, the way it was found among the Hyperboreans: as befit their own assimilation of agrarian modes of life, the entheogen was now cultivable" (Ruck and Staples). Robert Graves, in his foreword to The Greek Myths, hypothesises that the ambrosia of various pre-Hellenic tribes was Amanita muscaria (which, based on the morphological similarity of the words amanita, amrita and ambrosia, is entirely plausible) and perhaps psilocybin mushrooms of the Panaeolus genus.
Amanita was divine food, according to Ruck and Staples, not something to be indulged in or sampled lightly, not something to be profaned. It was the food of the gods, their ambrosia, and it mediated between the two realms. It is said that Tantalus's crime was inviting commoners to share his ambrosia.
The entheogen is believed to offer godlike powers in many traditional tales, including immortality. The failure of Gilgamesh in retrieving the plant of immortality from beneath the waters teaches that the blissful state cannot be taken by force or guile: When Gilgamesh lay on the bank, exhausted from his heroic effort, the serpent came and ate the plant.
Another attempt at subverting the natural order is told in a (according to some) strangely metamorphosed myth, in which natural roles have been reversed to suit the Hellenic world-view. The Alexandrian Apollodorus relates how Gaia (spelled "Ge" in the following passage), Mother Earth herself, has supported the Titans in their battle with the Olympian intruders. The Giants have been defeated:
When Ge learned of this, she sought a drug that would prevent their destruction even by mortal hands. But Zeus barred the appearance of Eos (the Dawn), Selene (the Moon), and Helios (the Sun), and chopped up the drug himself before Ge could find it.
The legends of the Assassins had much to do with the training and instruction of Nizari fida'is, famed for their public missions during which they often gave their lives to eliminate adversaries.
The tales of the fida’is’ training collected from anti-Ismaili historians and orientalists writers were confounded and compiled in Marco Polo’s account, in which he described a "secret garden of paradise". After being drugged, the Ismaili devotees were said be taken to a paradise-like garden filled with attractive young maidens and beautiful plants in which these fida’is would awaken. Here, they were told by an "old" man that they were witnessing their place in Paradise and that should they wish to return to this garden permanently, they must serve the Nizari cause. So went the tale of the "Old Man in the Mountain", assembled by Marco Polo and accepted by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (1774–1856), a prominent orientalist writer responsible for much of the spread of this legend. Until the 1930s, von Hammer’s retelling of the Assassin legends served as the standard account of the Nizaris across Europe.:16
Notable early testing of the entheogenic experience includes the Marsh Chapel Experiment, conducted by physician and theology doctoral candidate, Walter Pahnke, under the supervision of Timothy Leary and the Harvard Psilocybin Project. In this double-blind experiment, volunteer graduate school divinity students from the Boston area almost all claimed to have had profound religious experiences subsequent to the ingestion of pure psilocybin. In 2006, a more rigorously controlled experiment was conducted at Johns Hopkins University, and yielded similar results. To date there is little peer-reviewed research on this subject, due to ongoing drug prohibition and the difficulty of getting approval from institutional review boards.
Legal status of entheogens
In 1963 in Sherbert v. Verner the Supreme Court established the Sherbert Test, which consists of four criteria that are used to determine if an individual's right to religious free exercise has been violated by the government. The test is as follows:
For the individual, the court must determine
- whether the person has a claim involving a sincere religious belief, and
- whether the government action is a substantial burden on the person’s ability to act on that belief.
If these two elements are established, then the government must prove
- that it is acting in furtherance of a "compelling state interest," and
- that it has pursued that interest in the manner least restrictive, or least burdensome, to religion.
In City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997) and Gonzales v. O Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006), the RFRA was held to trespass on state sovereignty, and application of the RFRA was essentially limited to federal law enforcement.
Many works of literature have described entheogen use; some of those are:
- The substance melange (spice) in Frank Herbert's Dune universe acts as both an entheogen (in large enough quantities) and an addictive geriatric medicine. Control of the supply of melange was crucial to the Empire, as it was necessary for, among other things, faster-than-light navigation.
- Consumption of the imaginary mushroom anochi [enoki] as the entheogen underlying the creation of Christianity is the premise of Philip K. Dick's last novel, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, a theme that seems to be inspired by John Allegro's book.
- Aldous Huxley's final novel, Island (1962), depicted a fictional psychoactive mushroom — termed "moksha medicine" — used by the people of Pala in rites of passage, such as the transition to adulthood and at the end of life.
- Bruce Sterling's Holy Fire novel refers to the religion in the future as a result of entheogens, used freely by the population.
- In Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Book 1 of The Dark Tower series, the main character receives guidance after taking mescaline.
- The Alastair Reynolds novel Absolution Gap features a moon under the control of a religious government that uses neurological viruses to induce religious faith.
- El-Seedi HR, De Smet PA, Beck O, Possnert G, Bruhn JG (October 2005). "Prehistoric peyote use: alkaloid analysis and radiocarbon dating of archaeological specimens of Lophophora from Texas". J Ethnopharmacol 101 (1–3): 238–42. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2005.04.022. PMID 15990261.
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