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Category Archives: Entheogens

The Entheogenic Evolution | Free Podcasts | PodOmatic

Posted: May 6, 2017 at 3:47 am

May 04, 2017 10:41 AM PDT

Postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, Alan Kooi Davis, discusses his 5-MeO-DMT online survey and forthcoming human research at Johns Hopkins. You can find the survey here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/433388667010024/?hc_ref=SEARCH

May 01, 2017 09:57 AM PDT

Shuntsu comes clean to the Humanist public, and makes a stunning proposal regarding Hydar

April 24, 2017 09:46 AM PDT

Aryshta shares her thoughts on cannabis and spirituality from her talk at Peace Village Festival. Aryshta will also be joining us again for Exploring Psychedelics 2017 with a talk on Blue Lotus

April 10, 2017 09:53 AM PDT

We now move on to a few recorded talks from the Entheogenic Wisdom Forums at Peace Village Festival. To start us off, we have Ana Holub discussing entheogens and forgiveness

April 05, 2017 12:57 PM PDT

This is an announcement episode with full information about the line-up and schedule for the upcoming Exploring Psychedelics conference and continued fundraising

March 22, 2017 09:04 AM PDT

Tom shares more info on psychedelic European witchcraft, all while stunning the audience by going au natural - catch more of Tom (with clothes on, presumably) at the upcoming 2017 Exploring Psychedelic conference in a debate about mushroom use in Christianity

March 13, 2017 10:06 AM PDT

Matthew Targett discusses his ideas of "Purgatory and Atonement" in psychedelic experience, from the 2016 Inlakesh Festival in Ashland, Oregon

February 27, 2017 09:39 AM PST

Jaya shares information about Huachuma, the mescaline-containing cactus from Peru, at the 2016 Inlakesh Festival Entheogenic Wisdom Forums. Plus, donations for the 2017 Exploring Psychedelics conference are encouraged, as well as submissions for speakers: http://www.exploring-psychedelics.org

February 13, 2017 10:29 AM PST

We start off talks from the Entheogenic Wisdom Forums at the Inlakesh Festival with Tom & Sheri Eckert of the Oregon Psilocybin Society and legalizing psilocybin assisted therapy. Lots of great info on their website, http://www.opsbuzz.com.

January 30, 2017 10:32 AM PST

At long last we reach the final talk from the 2016 Exploring Psychedelics conference with Meriana Dinkova and "Navigating Altered States." Submissions for the 2017 conference begin on Feb 1st, and donations are now being accepted. Visit http://www.exploring-psychedelics.org for more info!

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The Entheogenic Evolution | Free Podcasts | PodOmatic

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5 of the World’s Most Mind-Bending Drug Cultures – National Geographic Australia

Posted: at 3:47 am

A strong stigma in the West bullies our idea of drug culture, fueled by perceptions of mind-altering substances, man-made chemical compounds, and destroyed communities. But throughout the world, spiritual practitioners' use of entheogenspsychoactive substances applied in religious or shamanic contextsis nothing short of a learned art, unique to the people and regions whove studied it for centuries.

Their ultimate goal isnt a supreme high but a realisation of the supreme, wherein an individual ingests a plant with psychoactive properties in order to have a conversation with or listen to it. Its a captivating notion, to be one with nature, driven by the need to sustain a relationship with an ancient voice and to absorb its knowledge.

Outgrowths of corruption and violence are evidence of high human costs. But the draw to the substances is so powerful that its also compelled interested outsiders to become active partakers, creating a whirlwind of well-documented drug tourism, and, consequently, the commercialization and commodification of religion, threatening not only the practices themselves but also, in some cases, the plants central to them.

Its tricky to toe the line when travelinghow to experience a place without actually reaching out and swallowing it whole. We have the inclination to stay in neighbourhood apartments over chain hotels, to seek out street food in lieu of pricey restaurants, to do as the locals dowhatever it is that theyre doing. Somewhere therein, lines of responsible tourism blur. Some might say its the difference between sipping pisco sours in Cusco and cupping ayahuasca tea in Iquitos: Both give you a taste for the lands traditions, but only one has the potential to disrupt a delicate cultural ecosystem.

Here are five such ecosystems around the world, each imbued with its own tradition of entheogenic practices that have drawn curious eyes to peek through the mainstream veil. And while we cant endorse a next-level trip to Mexico to meet Mescalito in a cloud of peyote, we can say that the deserts sparkling mirages have captured our attention, too.

In Gabon, a country nearly Colorados size that straddles the equator on the west coast of Central Africa, theres a shrub that blossoms with white and pink flowers and tasteless orange fruit. It isnt particularly prettyits produce nutritionally unremarkableand yet, the iboga plant is sacred, worshipped by the Babongo tribe (among others) that discovered its uniquely powerful properties some thousand years ago, when a religion called Bwiti formed around its bark.

ILLUSTRATION BY MIKE DUTTON

Loosely translated, Bwiti means simply otherworldly tree medicine or the being who calls. Bwiti adherents eat the psychedelic bark for both individual spiritual growth and community fortificationbut first, its a rite of passage, an initiation into the plants spiritual wisdom and a connection to ancestral knowledge.

Revered and intense as it isthe closed-eye and waking-dream hallucinations, with effects lasting up to 48 hoursiboga requires a complex courtship. Once the root bark has been scraped off and crushed into chips or a fine powder, a ceremony unfolds under the stewardship of a Nganga, or shaman, with clapping, chanting, and complex music thats heavy on percussion. Its a communal event, with elders, healers, and even children sitting on the sidelines to pay witness to whatever message might surface as iboga reveals itself, the initiate unfolding into its guidance and recounting visions aloud in real time so that the Nganga can interpret and direct the proceedings in real time.

ILLUSTRATION BY MIKE DUTTON

Skin covered in a slippery film of sweaty heat, sitting in a platform hut deep in the Amazon rainforest, a shaman sings icaros, or ceremonial songs, as Pachamama, or Mother Earth, takes hold of your intestines and gives a good squeeze. And so begins the period of intense vomiting (and bouts of diarrhoea) found in most ayahuasca ceremonies, wherein physical and emotional bile is released to induce a mystifying haze of transcendental healing, characterised by wild visual and aural hallucinations that challenge limits of both love and fear for the next four to six hours.

The plant decoction is murky to the eye and not so pleasing to the tongue, made from mashed ayahuasca vine and chacruna leaves (often with jimson weed and pure jungle tobacco, called mapacho, added to incite the purge), boiled for 12 hours and blessed with sacred tobacco smoke blown over and into the cauldron by a shaman. The compound of two Quechua words (though with Spanish spelling), ayahuasca means vine of souls or rope of the dead, depending on interpretation. As the name suggests, its a powerful entity calling to Pachamama, a central figure to the indigenous and mestizo populations who have invited herin all her formsinto their bodies for centuries.

In the torrid deserts of northeastern Mexico and southern Texas, people dig the land for a small, thornless cactus said to have untold powers of sight that it shares with those brave and strong enough to greet it. You dont take peyoteit takes you.

ILLUSTRATION BY MIKE DUTTON

Mescalito, as the hallucinogenic cactus was later personified, has shown himself to Aztecs, Mexican Indians, and Native Americans for more than 5,000 years as a centrepiece in cultural and religious practices. While the ceremonies may vary, theyre often communal, with a shaman guiding a group through special peyote songs as together they ingest the dried cactus buttons. Over the course of 10 to 12 hours, hallucinations (and bouts of violent vomiting for novices) transport the user through both space and time and across a range of emotions, where challenging or fearful interactions might linger in the shadows. The reverence it commands borders on fearful, the promise of enlightenment and respect for peyotes power neither dramatised nor undersold.

ILLUSTRATION BY MIKE DUTTON

Arguably one of the most mellow entheogens, kava (also known as kava-kava or yaqona, nourishment of the gods) is the only substance in this article thats legal in the United States for use outside of religious contexts. Known for its peacemaking properties across the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, and Fiji, kava is an intrinsic part of traditional Polynesian life, used in everything from the sacred to the social. It acts as a mediator or spiritual messenger between people and the Vu, or spirit forcewithout kava, its said, the Vu wont show up.

The leafy plants long, gnarled roots can be fresh or dried then pounded, chewed, or otherwise pulverised to make the opaque, milky drink. It purrs in the belly, stoking an odd mix of tranquility and euphoria while sustaining a sharp mind. Prolonged consumption, however, engulfs the kava drinker in a canopy of mental stillness, a sort of amiable waking sleep. But one needs to approach the kava stupor in the right mindsetlike asking it for directions or meditating on a questionto be guided purposely by its warmth.

In the 1950s, a centuries-old Mazatec tradition in Oaxaca trickled through its historic guard and into the mouths of two Americans, who brought word of their profound experiences back home in a now-famous Life photo essay. And thus began a widespread, tempestuous affair with psilocybin mushrooms, the psychedelic fungi that Timothy Leary so famously championed for its psychological and religious properties in the Harvard Psilocybin Project and beyond.

ILLUSTRATION BY MIKE DUTTON

In its unadulterated form, the Mazatec custom, which is shared by other pre-Columbian Mesoamerican peoples, serves a medicinal purpose, healing physical, mental, and ethical maladies. Like ayahuasca and peyote, the mushrooms are honoured for their capacity to guide users beyond their prescribed realities, to break open convention and incite perspective, introducing novel conduits for compassion and empathy for both themselves and the world. The sacred ritual is communal in Mazatec practice, the mushrooms bathed in smoke from copal incense then eaten two at a time to represent the duality and power of the unified sexes. Together, participants share the darkness and silence of a hut, the shaman the groups designated voice, a channel through which the mushrooms issue their chatterand as it happens, they have a lot to say.

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5 of the World's Most Mind-Bending Drug Cultures - National Geographic Australia

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Lamp & Labyrinth: Conceptualizing a Multitude of Spirits – Patheos (blog)

Posted: May 2, 2017 at 11:12 pm

The word inspiration comes from the Latin word inspirio, which means to become inflamed, or to be blown upon. Spirio is seen by linguists to be from a word like the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word *(s)peys. Inspirio is also the root word of spiritus in Latin and spirit in English. If we consider the many literal and figurative meanings these words carry, we can safely reconstruct our theology using them.

Psyche Served by Invisible Spirits by Luca Giordano. From WikiMedia.

In this exploration we will no doubt be establishing parameters of our polytheism. Parameters vary wildly from tenets or doctrine. Parameters are variables which can change, and since Our Magic is an orthopraxic one where we have the machinery of practice, and the results rendered will yield a different output based on what youve plugged into the parameters. Here I simply state what data I plug into the parameters of my polytheism. One may even call these my Polytheistic Values. Within any system, some values are given while some remain immutable. Some of these should be obvious, but here they are in order of importance.

Given Values Useful to Theological Discovery

A person who puts blind faith in, and it need not be total trust, the things theyve seen in the Otherworld is an utter fool.

Regarding Given Value 3 above, like language allinformation has a certain signatureof entropy and complexity. Read entropy as Average Uncertainty coined by Claude Shannon, who shows that if fewer questions are needed to predict the next iteration in a pattern, then the system generating that pattern contains less information. So when thinking about our paganism and polytheism, if it can be told and studied quickly, if it is as round as a circle, and quartered like a clock, and is easy to guess the next principle based on a few common expressions, then it has less information. If it is asymmetrical, odd, and hard to predict, it must contain more information. These concepts from information theory apply, methinks, to folks resurrecting, recreating, and reconstructing religions from the past. The paganisms of iron aged Europe were wholly bound to the language, arts, laws, and cultures so these are the things we must look at and model our theology after if we wish it to become what it once was in a modern context. A whole tribesreligion would have to contain enough complexitythat it provided all varieties of minds with what they needed from it. If your paganism, modern or old, isnt all messy and hairy and instead resembles a puzzle, it has almost no entropy. It would be a religion of certainty and, therefore, has implied goals of satiating fear in my mind. The entirely critical mind faces oblivion and nihilism, in actual consideration, and pushes though into theism. Satiating fear, a healthy skeptic does not do.

A whole tribesreligion would have to contain enough complexitythat it provided all varieties of minds with what they needed from it.

So in answering what a spirit is, we will ignore everything we know from non-indo-european sources, such as popular fiction, modern mythology, and neopaganism. And we will look for answers which we can hardly predict as they speak to a more entropic, and thus more developed polytheism. Why is the quest for a more developed polytheism relevant?

As offensive to some as it may be, perfectly aligned geometrically sound religions seem the most made by man and the least made by natural process. We find that organic spirituality is better than artificed. Asymmetry, odd numbers, fractals, and self similarity from one order of magnitude to another are additional subterranean values which we hold, often unrecognized, which weve come to associate with deeper, longer flowing wells. That is to say, traditions and religions made by many minds, for many more moons speak to us in a way that matches the inner fulfillment of more people. These are the given assumptions with which we approach the problem.

The likelihood of respiration being required for a person to be classified as a spirit, is low. Figuratively something that breathed had life and in Latin we can see that in the etymology presented at the beginning of this article. However, we cannot see into the latin language deeper toward a proto-indo-european origin. The polytheist PIE Yamnayan herdsmen who indirectly invented nearly all the polytheisms of europe had animist roots. Their understanding of a spirit goes beyond some hypothesized shift from animism to holding gods close to their beliefs. In my personal theories, those folks didnt have much difference between spirits and gods, until they established nobilities of their own and that was reflected in their religion. But before that, I envision that the existence of spirits existed through the practice of ancestor worship. Out of the three Kindred of gods, ancestors, and spirits, the ancestors no doubt became the first to be honored. I think the evidence is there in the language too, and that the first spirits were ancestors, and their breathing or not breathing was big deal. Isee a ton of associations with spirits of the dead and the wind as well, as if their breath continues when the leave, arrive and altogether visit us. In the Fairy Faith, the Sidhe folk are sometimes the spirits of the dead.

The Souls of Acheron by Adolf Hirmy-Hirschl. From WikiMedia.

On the other hand, a spirit might be what we perceive when we do certain breathing practices. Holotropic breathing practices, though modern, scientifically generate entheogenic experiences. In my own breathwork, and even in entheogenic practices Ive done in the past affected, I experience other beings which communicate to me. Changing the breath affect sleep patterns and dreaming. Alan Watts says that the breath is interesting because of its involuntary and voluntary nature, he says about its uniqueness: On one hand you are doing it, and on the other, it is being done to you. And in the nature of that secret, you find the boundary between you and not you. In our mysticism, the psyche is filled with many other spirits and phenomenon other than your consciousness. Joseph campbell would say that this is the special world in which the hero of the monomyth descends. A polytheist Irish-style american druid like yours truly might say that this space is your own yard in the otherworld. That means that just beyond its edge youll find bounded, the otherworlds where the gods and spirits are.

Are the spirits things in the otherworld, this world, our mind, or archetypal things? Yes. 42.

Embracing paradoxes, our kind of paganism includes all the dualities that illumination brings. The gods exist, and they dont. The otherworld is your mind, and it isnt. Were all one isolated system of expression, we are dismembered and utterly alone and separate. These arent opposites which cannot coexist. When the File(Poet) or Draoi(Druid) reach Imbas, or put their thumbs in their mouths, they seek to dismantle the curtains of perception which filter our senses into this symbol structure we call a worldview. Sipping from that well, one cannot see North and South, Positive and Negative as separate things but rather, interlinked extremes in a system of complexity. Why is this relevant? Because asking certain questions framed in a way which prejudges the thing youre trying to discover is a problematic approach.

In my personal experience there is no difference between your mind and the otherworld, the things in it and the things outside it, and you. It is a landscape that contains all of these things. It is a real place made of spacetime of the realest sense. It simply doesnt have the same rules and has no doorway in the philosophically defined material world, which may not even exist. Material is a symbol, weve dug into matter and still we cant find anything but information which isnt solid, and instead floats in off/on/halfsies type states. I hardly call that material, and it is the least of what Matters.

If there were no respiring beings on earth, would there be a spirit? Sure, the spirits of other living things and the living earth which respires in a different way. It is important that respiration is how we recognized spirit first and how we see spirit.

The Multitude

My Otherworldly journeys are mostly induced by fasting, sleeplessness, ecstatic practice, and plants rather than guided imagination work. I really have a hard time imagining a scene, populating it with characters, and coming away from that not feeling like Ive spent an hour talking to myself. When I try this work, the gnosis I walk away with is what youd expect from talking to yourself. To me, spirit happens to you and youre learning the entire time. I can now use imagination work to a degree of worth, but only after I kicked the door open with entheogens.

When over there, beyond the veil, there are many places, many membranes you can penetrate, and certainly an infinite amount of layers to explore that are as real as this reality when youre there. In one place, a place I felt was the sacred center of all the worlds, was where the mead of wisdom was.

I partook of it and saw what I am calling the Multitude. It was a structure of all beings in a sphere and sometimes when I see it it is a ring. Like a place where all beings are seated, visit or return to. The ring or sphere was a spectrum of all possible dispositions of persons. It is my belief that when you create an egregore, it becomes a spirit house for one of the Multitude to inhabit. In that way, Jesus exists. In that way, the indigenous thought pattern of certain tendencies and impulses belonging to other spirits fits.

If the mind is a place in the otherworld, than when the ancestors approach you can feel it. And so there is a god behind every thought that occurs to you. It was clear to me in my state, that I was immortal, and that the thing that was imortal was an eternal witness, an observer to the things that I experience. The Multitude is simultaneously all the cosmic machinery that happens to you and the beings that inhabit said cosmos. Another word for the Multitude is the Kindred, to use an ADF specific term. A bit of information is a bit of consciousness, and that is a god. That is a spirit. Any enduring process with cycles is a spirit.

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Lamp & Labyrinth: Conceptualizing a Multitude of Spirits - Patheos (blog)

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Dank Magic: How Witches Use Weed in Their Craft – Broadly

Posted: April 21, 2017 at 2:36 am

Happy 4/20! For millennia, witches have been getting high to access the spirit realm and/or have orgies with the devil.

For most people, the most quintessential image of a witch is a figure in silhouette, perched on a broomstick and flying in front of the moon. I don't know about you, but the closest I've ever come to feeling like I'm flying across the moon has been when I'm stoned out of my mind.

As it turns out, this may not be a total coincidence: The history of magic and witchcraft is full of orgies, drinking, and entheogens, all used as a way to achieve a magical, transitional state of mindone where your body may still be in the physical realm but your spirit is elsewhere, free to roam "between the worlds."

Read more: Witches Allegedly Stole Penises and Kept Them as Pets in the Middle Ages

One of the oldest, and most notable, examples of using altered states in magic is the Oracle of Delphi: For centuries, ancient priestesses of the Greek god Apollo, stationed at a temple built around a sacred spring at Delphi, would divine the future for visitors from all over the ancient world; so significant was their influence that kings would consult with them about whether they should go to war. It was generally understood that Apollo's spirit would enter each priestess, enabling her to see the future. According to Uses and Abuses of Plant Derived Smoke, an ethnobotanical compendium on the use of smoke throughout the world, the priestess would sit on a tripod above a hole through which vapors arose, and these vapors were thought to induce her visions.

Though many researchers believe the vapors contained "a variety of potentially toxic natural gases" emanating from the ground, some hypothesize that hallucinogenic plants were burned beneath the temple and vented up towards the smoke-shrouded seer, or that the priestesses would smoke or eat hallucinogens in addition to inhaling the fumes from the earth. While many scholars theorize the Oracle burned bay leaves, since they were sacred to Apollo, others have taken it a step farther. Dr. DCA Hillman, a bacteriologist and classicist who has written about drug use in the ancient world, argues that there is evidence cannabis was traditionally burned to induce the Oracle's trance state since bay leaves are not known to have psychoactive properties, and marijuana was already introduced to Greece from central Asian tribes who knew of the herb's potent psychotropic powers.

The Oracle of Delphi was far from the only ancient magic practitioner to utilize marijuana in her craft: As noted in Uses and Abuses of Plant-Derived Smoke, "Members of the Gaddi tribe of India's Himachal Pradesh State in the western Himalayas, for example, smoked the resin of female [cannabis] plants, called sulpha, for the hallucinations it induced." Shamans and nobles from China to Russia have also been found buried with marijuana plants, denoting its sacred role.

The Oracle of Delphi. Image via Wikipedia Commons

There isn't much evidence that marijuana was used widely during the Middle Ages in Europeother than the fact that Pope Innocent VIII explicitly banned itbut European witches still found ways to get high. During this period, they would rub entheogens such as belladonna, henbane, datura, and mandrake on their bodies (some theorize they rubbed these substances on the broomsticks and inserted them vaginally) in order to loosen their spirits from their physical form. In the resulting hallucinations, witches were said to fly to The Sabbath, the supposed time each month when witches, demons, and even the devil himself would come together to share magical secrets, sign evil pacts, and have wild, orgiastic parties.

It's likely that the use of these herbs in a ritual context points back to ancient cults like the Oracle of Delphi, and are one of the clearest links to witchcraft's primordial past. As witch, historian, and teacher at Colorado State University Chas Clifton writes in the famous essay If Witches No Longer Fly, "I would argue that the danger of these recipes, combined with the centuries-long tradition of their use, is the best argument for any 'Old Religion' surviving from pre- Christian times. Without some sort of oral tradition of preparation and dosage, similar to that of the ayahuasca shamans of South America, the risks would be too great." The danger he cites is real: Modern witches and non-magical people alike have been sent to the hospitalor have even died, as in the case of the English witch Robert Cochranefrom taking too much belladonna and other witchcraft-related herbs.

So why is herbal magicthe use of weed, most notably, but also other hallucinogensless prevalent in modern witchcraft? After all, the occult revival of the 19th century revolved around absinthe and opium dens, and the second big occult revival happened during the drug-crazed days of the 1960s and 70s. It seems like magic and getting high go pretty hand in hand.

One obvious answer is because marijuana is still illegal, even for medical use, in many states and countries. This makes it nearly impossible for occult book publishers to let authors recommend using weed as a method to achieve trance states and soul flight, even if that is their preferred method. As Gordon White laments in The Chaos Protocols, "Magical publishing in the last thirty years has been significantly hamstrung by the way psychedelics have been used as geopolitical footballs. As an author, I cannot legally advocate a reader break any laws, and publishers can, in theory, be held liable for damages arising from actions taken as described in their books."

Still, modern witches are continuing to use marijuana in their practices, most often in solitary meditation or to help them access the spirit realm. Elizabeth DeCoursey, owner of Antidote Apothecary and Tea Bar in Brooklyn, says she typically uses weed as a meditative aid. "When I want to thin the veil and access ancient knowledge and the collective consciousness of water, the total, deep, and cellular calm I can achieve with an edible in deep trance is pretty profound," she tells Broadly. There's a reason weed has historical ties to magic: Having a safe, reliable way to enter altered states of consciousness can be an amazing tool in witchcraft.

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Melissa Madara, a witch and co-owner of Catland Books in Brooklyn, uses weed to help focus herself during meditation, and to stop "questioning what she sees" during spirit contact. She recommends using this simple visualization as a good place to start: "You should lie on your back, focus on your deep breathing, and push your mind's eye deep, deep into your body," she says. "Each new breath brings in fresh air, white light, and healing energy, and each exhale expels tension, old emotions, and stress from the body."

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Dank Magic: How Witches Use Weed in Their Craft - Broadly

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In Alabama church, marijuana is part of spiritual journey – Tuscaloosa News

Posted: March 23, 2017 at 2:08 pm

By Greg GarrisonAL.com

BIRMINGHAM With a stained-glass window behind them, a lineup of speakers stepped to the front of the church and talked about the potential health benefits of legalizing plants that are currently outlawed in Alabama.

"I smoke cannabis on a daily basis for my pain," said Janice Rushing, president of the Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light in Alabama. "If I did not, I'd be on pain pills."

Her husband, Christopher Rushing, chief executive officer of Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light, says he also uses marijuana routinely.

The Rushings founded the Oklevueha Church in 2015 and claim that it has a legal exemption for its members to smoke marijuana and ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms and peyote cactus.

At a January forum with an audience of about 30 gathered at Unity Church in Birmingham, which allowed the use of its facilities, speakers discussed the potential benefits of marijuana and other substances for medicinal purposes.

"I had an ungodly facial rash," said Sherrie Saunders, a former U.S. Army medic who is now a member of Oklevueha Native American Church in Alabama.

"We made a cream that completely got rid of that rash," Mrs. Rushing said.

Someone in the audience discussed a heart problem and sleep apnea.

"That could be something that cannabis could help," Saunders said.

She also said marijuana can ease manic bipolar disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

"The medical establishment took away cannabis so they could sell us pills," Saunders said.

Before marijuana was stigmatized as an illegal drug, Native Americans valued it as a natural herbal treatment for more than 90 percent of sicknesses, she said. "A woman in Nicaragua showed me how to cure cancer with cannabis," Saunders said.

The woman had a son who was cured, she said. "I know why," Saunders said. "God and cannabis."

The National Cancer Institute, in its overview of cannabis in treatment of cancer, makes no claims for curative powers, but acknowledges that cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and that it "may have benefits in the treatment of cancer-related side effects."

Chris Rushing stood in the pulpit and preached a sermon that mixed theology and a belief in natural, hallucinogenic plants. "That is God's way of turning our brain on," Rushing said.

"These entheogens work like tools to open up spaces and pathways of the mind," Rushing said. "Yet it's illegal. We all walk around producing natural chemicals that do the same."

Rushing said it does not make sense that pharmaceutical companies make large profits on harmful synthetic and dangerous drugs, while plant and herbal medicines are illegal.

Rushing said the health benefits of marijuana, mushrooms and cacti are enormous. They can combat depression and cure people of addictions, he said.

The Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light in Warrior has been licensed as a federally registered branch of the Oklevueha Lakota Sioux Nation Native American Church, Rushing said.

The church has a religious exemption to use psylocibin mushrooms and peyote cactus, both of which have properties that augment traditional Native American spiritual beliefs and experiences, Rushing said. He calls their use in religious ceremonies a sacrament.

All 120 members in the Alabama church carry photo identification, similar to a driver's license, that identifies them as members of a church that has a federal religious exemption to use natural drugs that are otherwise prohibited by law, he said.

He believes all natural plants should be legal for medicinal use, including marijuana, peyote cactus and psylocibin mushrooms.

Rushing carries around with him documentation of court rulings such as a unanimous ruling in United States v. Robert Boyll in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that a non-Native American who was arrested for possession and intent to distribute peyote had the same constitutional protections as Native American members of the church.

Rushing said he was licensed in the church by James Warren "Flaming Eagle" Mooney of Utah, who won a court battle with the state of Utah. The Utah Supreme Court ruled in Mooney's favor in 2004, in State of Utah vs. Mooney's and Oklevueha Native American Church. The state had argued that Mooney was engaged in a criminal enterprise for distributing peyote and tried to seize the church property. The Supreme Court ruled that the Native American Church was entitled to the religious exemption.

After the Jan. 21 forum at Unity Church, some in attendance expressed hope Alabama might soon follow in the footsteps of other states that have legalized marijuana. More than half of the states have decriminalized marijuana for medical uses and eight states have decriminalized marijuana for recreational uses.

Some of them say the Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light in Alabama is helping raise awareness.

"I think Chris' work is vital," said Jonah Tobin, founder of the Alabama Mother Earth Sustenance Alliance, or MESA. "People like him are part of that movement."

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Pro-Marijuana Alabama Church Promotes Psychoactive Drugs as Medicine – MERRY JANE

Posted: March 21, 2017 at 12:04 pm

The Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light, founded in Alabama in 2015, is fighting to raise awareness of the medicinal potential of marijuana and other natural drugs. The church has been licensed as a federally registered branch of the Oklevueha Lakota Sioux Nation Native American Church, which has a religious exemption allowing its members to use psilocybin mushrooms and peyote cactus. Each of the 120 members of the church carries a photo ID that identifies them as protected under this exemption.

"I smoke cannabis on a daily basis for my pain," said Janice Rushing, president and co-founder of the church. "If I did not, I'd be on pain pills." Oklevueha CEO Chris Rushing has said that natural, hallucinogenic plants are God's way of turning our brain on. Rushing pointed out how plant or herbal medicines like marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms are illegal, while synthetic drugs that have addictive properties or harmful side effects are still legal.

"These entheogens work like tools to open up spaces and pathways of the mind," Rushing said. "Yet it's illegal. We all walk around producing natural chemicals that do the same."

Last May, clinical psychologist Peter Hendricks spoke at an event sponsored by the church about research that he has conducted on psilocybin. "I don't support criminalizing any drug use," Hendricks said. "People who have addictions are not helped by criminalization. If it were up to me, there would be more emphasis on providing treatment, less emphasis on punitive measures for people who are addicted."

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Pro-Marijuana Alabama Church Promotes Psychoactive Drugs as Medicine - MERRY JANE

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So A Minister, A Rabbi And A Buddhist Took Drugs For Science… – Huffington Post South Africa (blog)

Posted: February 9, 2017 at 6:22 am

On April 20, 1962, a group of theology students and professors gathered outside Boston Universitys Marsh Chapel, waiting for Good Friday services to begin. These particular services were to be unlike any other: On their way into the chapel, Harvard psychiatrist Walter Pahnke administered the group a dose of psychedelic mushrooms.

As part of his Ph.D. thesis under Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass), Pahnke sought to test his hypothesis that psychedelic drugs, taken in a religious setting, could provoke a genuine spiritual experience. His investigation would go down in psychedelic history as the Good Friday experiment.

He was right. Nine out of the 10 students who took the mushrooms reported having a mystical experience.One of those students was the historian Huston Smith, who went on to writeCleansing the Doors of Perception, a classic philosophical work exploring the potential of psychedelic drugs as entheogens, or God-revealing chemicals.

The experience was powerful for me, and it left a permanent mark on my experienced worldview, Smith, who passed away in December, reflected. I had believed in God... but until the Good Friday experiment, I had no personal encounter with God of the sort that bhakti yogis, Pentecostals and born-again Christians describe.

Today, another research project is taking up where the Good Friday experiment left off this time, with modern research tools and leaders from not just the Christian faith but an array of world religions.

As part of a small pilot study, psychologists at Johns Hopkins and New York University are giving psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, to spiritual leaders. Their aim is to demystify the transcendent and deeply meaningful experiences that people often report having under the influence of psychedelic drugs.

A Zen Buddhist roshi and an Orthodox Jewish rabbi have embarked on consciousness-expanding journeys in the name of science, along with Episcopal, Presbyterian and Eastern Orthodox Christian clergy. The research team is about halfway done with the study, which will include a total of 24 participants. (Theyre still looking for Muslim imams and Catholic and Hindu priests.)

Theyre helping us map out this landscape of mystical experience with their incredible training and experience, Dr. Anthony Bossis, project director of the NYU Psilocybin Religious Leaders Project, told The Huffington Post.

By working with leaders of different faiths, the researchers hope to learn something about the shared mystical core of all the worlds major religions what the author Aldous Huxley called the perennial philosophy. Understanding these mystical experiences might also shed light on the therapeutic benefitsof psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs, which researchers are exploring as treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder, end-of-life anxiety and depression, addiction and other psychological conditions.

If you give psilocybin psychedelics to 20 different people, you get 20 different experiences, Bossis said. But there is a common mystical experience... It seems that the efficacy of these medicines is in their ability, pretty reliably in the right set and setting, to activate or trigger this mystical experience.

This experience of deep connection with the sacred can have long-lasting effects. Mushroom-triggered mystical experiences have been linked with positive changes in behavior and values, and with lasting increases in the personality domain of openness to experience, which encompasses intellectual curiosity, imagination, adventure-seeking and engagement with music and art. People commonly reportthat the experience is one of the most personally and spiritually meaningful of their lives.

The term mystical experience might not sound especially rigorous, but its something that has actually been studied in depth. Psychologists define the experience based on its major components, including a sense of sacredness, feelings of unity, ineffability, peace and joy, transcendence of time and space and feelings of being confronted with some objective truth about reality.

The experiences are often said to be impossible to put into words. But Bossis and his colleagues hope that the unique expertise of these spiritual leaders will provide greater insight into their workings.

One of things I was struck by, doing this research, was the experience of love that they spoke of, he said. Its quite striking to witness... people speak about this overwhelming experience of love loving-kindness to self, love towards others, and what the Greeks called agape,this kind of universal, cosmic love that they say permeates everything, and which recalibrates how they live.

You may feel tempted to brush off this sort of talk as mere drug-induced reverie. (One thinks of the Onion articleUniverse Feels Zero Connection To Guy Tripping On Mushrooms.) But early research and anecdotal reports suggest that chemically induced mystical experiences may not be so different from those that occur as a result of years of meditation and prayer.

Mystical experiences, whether drug-induced or spontaneously occurring,seem to connect the individual with the mystical core of all the worlds major religions a sense of unity, oneness and interconnection with all beings.

I think to understand the depth of religion, one needs to have firsthand experience, saidJewish Renewal movement leader Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomiin an interview published in 2005. It can be done with meditation. It can be done with sensory deprivation. It can be done a number of ways. But I think the psychedelic path is sometimes the easiest way, and it doesnt require the long time that other approaches usually require.

The psychedelic path has led many people, including the American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, to take up more traditional spiritual practices as a way to stay connected in their daily lives to the sorts of insights and sensations they first experienced with psychedelics.

In spiritual communities, we need an honest exploration of this delicate and sometimes taboo topic, Kornfield wrote in 2015. Let us approach the use of these drugs consciously.

While psychedelics may have a stigma attached in todays culture,altered states of consciousness have long been an aspect of human spirituality, and theyve featured in religious rituals around the world for thousands of years.

For the past several years, entheogens have been quietly making their way into modern medicine.A landmark study from NYU and Hopkins, published last month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, showed a single dose of psilocybin to be effective in relieving death-related anxiety in cancer patients.

In a majority of the patients, the psilocybin triggered a mystical experience, which may be largely responsible for the renewed sense of meaning and relief from existential distress described by the patients. In fact, the extent to which the patients experienced reductions in depression, anxiety and fear of death correlated directly with the intensity of the mystical experience.

Increasingly, it appears that the mystical-type experiences measured immediately after a session is predictive of enduring positive effects, Dr. Roland Griffiths, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins and one of the studys lead authors, told HuffPost. Thats consistent across studies of healthy volunteers, addicted cigarette smokers, and in psychologically distressed cancer patients. Theres something about the nature of those experiences that is predictive of subsequent positive effects.

Dr. Craig Blinderman, director of adult palliative care services at Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital, said the research presents an exciting meeting of the minds between modern medicine and ancient healing modalities.

A return to entheogens for the treatment of psycho-existential suffering may signal that medicine has come full circle, Blindermanwrote in a commentary published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, to embrace the earliest known approach to healing our deepest of human agonies, by generating the divine within.

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So A Minister, A Rabbi And A Buddhist Took Drugs For Science... - Huffington Post South Africa (blog)

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So A Minister, A Rabbi And A Buddhist Took Drugs For Science… – Huffington Post

Posted: February 7, 2017 at 10:32 pm

On April 20, 1962, a group of theology students and professors gathered outside Boston Universitys March Chapel, waiting for Good Friday services to begin. These particular services were to be unlike any other: On their way into the chapel, Harvard psychiatrist Walter Pahnke administered the group a dose of psychedelic mushrooms.

Those services would go down in history as the Good Friday experiment. As part of his Ph.D. thesis under Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass), Pahnke sought to test his hypothesis that psychedelic drugs, taken in a religious setting, could provoke a genuine spiritual experience.

He was right. Nine out of the 10 students who took the mushrooms reported having a mystical experience.One of those students was the historian Huston Smith, who went on to writeCleansing the Doors of Perception, a classic philosophical work exploring the potential of psychedelic drugs as entheogens, or God-revealing chemicals.

The experience was powerful for me, and it left a permanent mark on my experienced worldview, Smith, who passed away in December, reflected. I had believed in God... but until the Good Friday experiment, I had no personal encounter with God of the sort that bhakti yogis, Pentecostals and born-again Christians describe.

Today, another research project is taking up where the Good Friday experiment left off this time, with modern research tools and leaders from not just the Christian faith but an array of world religions.

As part of a small pilot study, psychologists at Johns Hopkins and New York University are giving psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, to spiritual leaders. Their aim is to demystify the transcendent and deeply meaningful experiences that people often report having under the influence of psychedelic drugs.

A Zen Buddhist roshi and an Orthodox Jewish rabbi have embarked on consciousness-expanding journeys in the name of science, along with Episcopal, Presbyterian and Eastern Orthodox Christian clergy. The research team is about halfway done with the study, which will include a total of 24 participants. (Theyre still looking for Muslim imams and Catholic and Hindu priests.)

Theyre helping us map out this landscape of mystical experience with their incredible training and experience, Dr. Anthony Bossis, project director of the NYU Psilocybin Religious Leaders Project, told The Huffington Post.

By working with leaders of different faiths, the researchers hope to learn something about the shared mystical core of all the worlds major religions what the author Aldous Huxley called the perennial philosophy. Understanding these mystical experiences might also shed light on the therapeutic benefitsof psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs, which researchers are exploring as treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder, end-of-life anxiety and depression, addiction and other psychological conditions.

If you give psilocybin psychedelics to 20 different people, you get 20 different experiences, Bossis said. But there is a common mystical experience... It seems that the efficacy of these medicines is in their ability, pretty reliably in the right set and setting, to activate or trigger this mystical experience.

This experience of deep connection with the sacred can have long-lasting effects. Mushroom-triggered mystical experiences have been linked with positive changes in behavior and values, and with lasting increases in the personality domain of openness to experience, which encompasses intellectual curiosity, imagination, adventure-seeking and engagement with music and art. People commonly reportthat the experience is one of the most personally and spiritually meaningful of their lives.

The term mystical experience might not sound especially rigorous, but its something that has actually been studied in depth. Psychologists define the experience based on its major components, including a sense of sacredness, feelings of unity, ineffability, peace and joy, transcendence of time and space and feelings of being confronted with some objective truth about reality.

The experiences are often said to be impossible to put into words. But Bossis and his colleagues hope that the unique expertise of these spiritual leaders will provide greater insight into their workings.

One of things I was struck by, doing this research, was the experience of love that they spoke of, he said. Its quite striking to witness... people speak about this overwhelming experience of love loving-kindness to self, love towards others, and what the Greeks called agape,this kind of universal, cosmic love that they say permeates everything, and which recalibrates how they live.

You may feel tempted to brush off this sort of talk as mere drug-induced reverie. (One thinks of the Onion articleUniverse Feels Zero Connection To Guy Tripping On Mushrooms.) But early research and anecdotal reports suggest that chemically induced mystical experiences may not be so different from those that occur as a result of years of meditation and prayer.

Mystical experiences, whether drug-induced or spontaneously occurring,seem to connect the individual with the mystical core of all the worlds major religions a sense of unity, oneness and interconnection with all beings.

I think to understand the depth of religion, one needs to have firsthand experience, saidJewish Renewal movement leader Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomiin an interview published in 2005. It can be done with meditation. It can be done with sensory deprivation. It can be done a number of ways. But I think the psychedelic path is sometimes the easiest way, and it doesnt require the long time that other approaches usually require.

The psychedelic path has led many people, including the American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, to take up more traditional spiritual practices as a way to stay connected in their daily lives to the sorts of insights and sensations they first experienced with psychedelics.

In spiritual communities, we need an honest exploration of this delicate and sometimes taboo topic, Kornfield wrote in 2015. Let us approach the use of these drugs consciously.

While psychedelics may have a stigma attached in todays culture,altered states of consciousness have long been an aspect of human spirituality, and theyve featured in religious rituals around the world for thousands of years.

For the past several years, entheogens have been quietly making their way into modern medicine.A landmark study from NYU and Hopkins, published last month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, showed a single dose of psilocybin to be effective in relieving death-related anxiety in cancer patients.

In a majority of the patients, the psilocybin triggered a mystical experience, which may be largely responsible for the renewed sense of meaning and relief from existential distress described by the patients. In fact, the extent to which the patients experienced reductions in depression, anxiety and fear of death correlated directly with the intensity of the mystical experience.

Increasingly, it appears that the mystical-type experiences measured immediately after a session is predictive of enduring positive effects, Dr. Roland Griffiths, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins and one of the studys lead authors, told HuffPost. Thats consistent across studies of healthy volunteers, addicted cigarette smokers, and in psychologically distressed cancer patients. Theres something about the nature of those experiences that is predictive of subsequent positive effects.

Dr. Craig Blinderman, director of adult palliative care services at Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital, said the research presents an exciting meeting of the minds between modern medicine and ancient healing modalities.

A return to entheogens for the treatment of psycho-existential suffering may signal that medicine has come full circle, Blindermanwrote in a commentary published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, to embrace the earliest known approach to healing our deepest of human agonies, by generating the divine within.

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So A Minister, A Rabbi And A Buddhist Took Drugs For Science... - Huffington Post

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A conversation with Haroon Mirza – Ocula Magazine

Posted: February 6, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Haroon Mirza, 2011. Photo: Simon Pollock.

I've worked with organic materials before quite a lot, mainly water and ants. I've also worked with plants before, but not in any great detail. I've always been interested in organic matter, material, and organisms because of their chaotic, unpredictable and autonomous nature, and also as a metaphor for other things - water and the sound of water is quite interesting because it produces white noise. Ants are chaotic systems, so you can create truly chaotic systems from using natural material. But then, on top of that, I've used a natural material constantly in my work over the last 10 years: electricity. Electricity is also a natural phenomenon, which we kind of think we control but we don't really. Electricity is completely chaotic.

The most recent piece I developed with ants was called Pavilion for Optimisation (2013). To talk about the ants in the work, the term 'optimisation' is a mathematical reference to a kind of logic. So for instance, satellite navigation systems use optimisation algorithms, which they derive from ants. Ants find a food source and use pheromones to communicate where that source is in relation to their nest, and then find the shortest route from the nest to the food and communicate that. That method of communication and of finding the shortest route is also how navigation systems work. And it's similar with water. If you think of a window when it's raining, you get the little droplets of water coming down a window. The water works as a whole to create the shortest routes, and then other particles of water can join and follow the same route. It's partly to do with gravity as well, but there is sort of this optimisation logic that takes place, which is chaotic but controlled. So there is that tension in nature. Chaos theory itself is about those sorts of structures and logic in chaotic systems, like patterns, recognition, and microcosms. These are really exemplified by fractals, like in geometry. Fractals kind of work their way back round to psychedelics and entheogens, because they're a part of what's more commonly known as entoptic phenomenon, which is commonly what's seen when you ingest psychedelics or you have endogenous-altered states of consciousness. Whether it's induced by psychedelics or by other natural means - stress to the body, for instance - that's the first stage of psychedelic experience: images of geometric patterns and fractals.

The first thing that led me to psychedelics was just being a teenager and doing LSD. Taking acid as a kid, that was my first interaction with psychedelics. Then it kind of went away and I sort of made sure to not really take drugs and concentrate on other things. But I know full well those kinds of experiences have had a profound influence on my aesthetic and theoretical taste, specifically the aesthetics of audio or the timbre of sound that I adopt in my work. It predates going to Brazil, but that trip did lead me to ayahuasca.

My interests lie in consciousness, and how consciousness relates to scientific endeavours: what we know about the physical world and universe, and how that doesn't make sense in terms of metaphysics and consciousness, because we don't understand consciousness in scientific terms. But we claim to understand it through either religion or other forms of spiritual engagement, whether it's yoga, Vedic traditions or more westernised traditions of spiritual practice, or these mind-altering substances or practices that do the same thing. It's the same effect. It's not a proven thing, but it could be argued that a high-level effect of yoga is DMT releasing in the mind, which is the same as meditating or other spiritual experiences. It's linking these metaphysical and physical things, which are what we know about the world and the universe. But what joins these two together is consciousness, and that's the crux of my interest.

That's a funny one, because those words literally refer to objects that are in the piece. There's a speaker that's branded an 'Adam' speaker and there's another that's branded 'Eve' - they're kind of similar marketing schemes. Then there's a little LED device that is called a UFO. So 'the others' are just the other speakers in the installation, but at the same time they set up this sort of narrative that has all these references. It's a two-fold thing. It's about the real, everyday reality of the physical, reductionist, materialist world that we live in, which we sort of have to accept somehow to come to consensus. But then it also refers to this metaphysical, spiritual world that we don't really have any access to. We're not allowed legally to take a plant out of the ground and ingest it; we literally don't have access to this other world, or other level of consciousness.

There are various processes that are going on. The caps of the mushrooms are placed onto the copper and release spores to reproduce, so you get prints that are the fingerprint of the mushroom. Some are done like that, some are electro-etched. Through the mushroom you run a negative charge, and you complete the circuit with a positive charge on the copper so the moisture in the mushroom will actually oxidise on the copper itself. That can be quite beautiful, and specifically beautiful with the peyote cactus and the San Pedro cacti. A lot of the titles refer to what they look like, so there's one that looks like a cosmological nebula, and one that looks like a comet. Sometimes the titles are just descriptive of what they are - some of the mushrooms refer to constellations.

Yes, there's a sort of cosmological narrative in there - this relationship with cosmology, ritual, and psychedelic experience that kind of collapses. That's identified mostly in Dec 21 [a work included in the Contemporary Art Gallery show], which is a representation of an astrotheological idea. Astrotheologists are a group of people who believe that many religions are tied to celestial events. One of the most famous is the astronomical event happens every 21 December: Winter Solstice. If you look up at the sky on 21 December, you will see Orion. Orion's Belt has been known throughout history as the Three Kings, and also referred to as the Three Wise Men. Southwest of that is a very bright star called Sirius, which is in the Canis Major constellation. If you make a line from the three stars of Orion's Belt to Sirius and continue that line to the horizon, on that point is where Virgo and the sun both rise. Astrotheologists believe it was the personification of this event that led to lots of religious ideas. Nativity, for example, is apparently based on this: the Three Kings in the story follow the brightest star in the sky, and then the Virgin Mary gives birth to the Son. When you personify these celestial objects, the story and the myth grows.

It's pronounced 'ahh,' like you're thinking about something. It's a funny one, because it's playing with typography. This has more to do about typography and syntax, typography and its relation to sound and linguistics. It comes from, in a convoluted way, McLuhan's idea of acoustics in visual space. He talks about how pre-linguistic man perceived visual space and acoustic space as one form of perception. It was only with language and the advent of syntax and spoken word that we started abstracting the thing itself. -[O]

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A conversation with Haroon Mirza - Ocula Magazine

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Entheogen | Psychology Wiki | Fandom powered by Wikia

Posted: February 4, 2017 at 1:58 am

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The word entheogen is a modern term derived from two Ancient Greek words, (entheos) and (genesthai). Entheos literally means "god (theos) within", more freely translated "inspired". The Greeks used it as a term of praise for poets and other artists. Genesthai means "to cause to be" or becoming. So an entheogen is "that which causes God (or godly inspiration) to be within a person".

In its strictest sense the term refers to a psychoactive substance (most often some plant matter with hallucinogenic effects) that occasions enlightening spiritual or mystical experience, within the parameters of a cult, in the original non-pejorative sense of cultus. In a broader sense, the word "entheogen" refers to artificial as well as natural substances that induce alterations of consciousness similar to those documented for ritual ingestion of traditional shamanic inebriants, even if it is used in a secular context.

The word "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 literal meaning of the word is "that which causes God to be within an individual". The translation "creating the divine within" is sometimes given, but it should be noted that entheogen implies neither that something is created (as opposed to just perceiving something that is already there) nor that that which is experienced is within the user (as opposed to having independent existence).

The term was coined as a replacement for the terms "hallucinogen" (popularized by Aldous Huxley's experiences with mescaline, published as The Doors of Perception in 1953) and "psychedelic" (a Greek neologism for "soul-revealing", coined by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, who was quite surprised when the well-known author, Aldous Huxley, volunteered to be a subject in experiments Osmond was running on mescaline). Ruck et al. argued that the term "hallucinogen" was inappropriate due to its etymological relationship to words relating to delirium and insanity. The term "psychedelic" was also seen as problematic, due 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.

The meanings of the term "entheogen" were formally defined by Ruck et al.:

Since 1979, when the term was proposed, its use has become widespread in certain circles. In particular, the word fills a vacuum for those users of entheogens who feel that the term "hallucinogen", which remains common in medical, chemical and anthropological literature, denigrates their experience and the world view in which it is integrated. Use of the strict sense of the word has therefore arisen amongst religious entheogen users, and also amongst others who wish to practice spiritual or religious tolerance.

The use of the word "entheogen" in its broad sense as a synonym for "hallucinogenic drug" has attracted criticism on three grounds. On pragmatic grounds, the objection has been raised that the meaning of the strict sense of "entheogen", which is of specific value in discussing traditional, historical and mythological uses of entheogens in religious settings, is likely to be diluted by widespread, casual use of the term in the broader sense. Secondly, some people object to the misuse of the root theos (god in ancient Greek) in the description of the use of hallucinogenic drugs in a non-religious context, and coupled with the climate of religious tolerance or pluralism that prevails in many present-day societies, the use of the root theos in a term describing non-religious drug use has also been criticised as a form of taboo deformation. Thirdly there are some substances that at least partially fulfil the definition of an entheogen that is given above, but are not hallucinogenic in the usual sense. One important example is the bread and wine of the Christian Eucharist.

Ideological objections to the broad use of the term often relate to the widespread existence of taboos surrounding psychoactive drugs, with both religious and secular justifications. The perception that the broad sense of the term "entheogen" is used as a euphemism by hallucinogenic drug-users bothers both critics and proponents of the secular use of hallucinogenic drugs. Critics frequently see the use of the term as an attempt to obscure what they perceive as illegitimate motivations and contexts of secular drug use. Some proponents also object to the term, arguing that the trend within their own subcultures and in the scientific literature towards the use of term "entheogen" as a synonym for "hallucinogen" devalues the positive uses of drugs in contexts that are secular but nevertheless, in their view, legitimate.

Beyond the use of the term itself, the validity of drug-induced, facilitated, or enhanced religious experience has been questioned. The claim that such experiences are less valid than religious experience without the use of any chemical catalysts faces the problem that the descriptions of religious experiences by those using entheogens are indistinguishable from many reports of religious experiences without drugs. In an attempt to empirically answer the question about whether drugs can actually facilitate religious experience, the Marsh Chapel Experiment was conducted by physician and theology doctoral candidate, Walter Pahnke, under the supervision of Timothy Leary and the Harvard Psilocybin Project. In the double-blind experiment, volunteer graduate school divinity students from the Boston area almost all claimed to have had profound religious experiences under the influence of psilocybin. (A brief video about the Marsh Chapel experiment can be viewed here.)

Naturally occurring entheogens such as Datura were, for the most part, discovered and used by older cultures, as part of their spiritual and religious life, as plants and agents which were respected, or in some cases revered. By contrast, artificial and modern entheogens, such as MDMA, never had a tradition of religious use.

Currently entheogens are used in three principal ways: as part of established traditions and religions, secularly for personal spiritual development, and secularly in a manner similar to recreational drugs. A lesser use of entheogens for medical and therapeutic use is rarely pursued due to legislative and cultural objections.

The use of entheogens in human cultures is generally ubiquitous throughout recorded history. The number of entheogen-using cultures is therefore very large. Some of the instances better known to Western scholarship are discussed here.

The best-known entheogen-using culture of Africa is the Bwitists, who used a preparation of the root bark of Iboga (Tabernanthe iboga).[1] A famous entheogen of ancient Egypt is the blue lotus (Nymphaea caerulea). There is evidence for the use of entheogenic mushrooms in Cte d'Ivoire (Samorini 1995). Numerous other examples of the use of plants in shamanic ritual in Africa are yet to be investigated by western science.

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 of Oklahoma. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_E._Schultes) Used traditionally by many cultures of what is now Mexico, its use spread to throughout North America in the 19th century, replacing the toxic entheogen Sophora secundiflora (mescal bean). Other well-known entheogens used by Mexican cultures include psilocybin mushrooms (known to the Aztecs under the Nahuatl name teonanacatl), the seeds of several morning glories (Nahuatl: tlitliltzin and ololiuhqui) and Salvia divinorum (Mazateco: Ska Pastora; Nahuatl: pipiltzintzintli).

Urarina shaman, 1988

Indigenous peoples of South America employ a wide variety of entheogens. Better-known examples include ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi plus admixtures) among indigenous peoples (such as the Urarina) of Peruvian Amazonia. Other well-known entheogens include: borrachero (Brugmansia spp); San Pedro Trichocereus spp); and various tryptamine-bearing snuffs, for example Epen (Virola spp), Vilca and Yopo (Anadananthera spp). The familiar tobacco plant, when used uncured in large doses in shamanic contexts, also serves as an entheogen in South America.

In addition to indigenous use of entheogens in the Americas, one should also note their important role in contemporary religions movements, such as Rastafarianism and the Church of the Universe.

The indigeneous peoples of Siberia (from whom the term shaman was appropriated) have used the fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) as an entheogen. The ancient inebriant Soma, mentioned often in the Vedas, may have been an entheogen. (In his 1967 book, Wasson argues that Soma was fly agaric. The active ingredient of Soma is now presumed to be ephedrine, an alkaloid with entheogenic properties derived from the soma plant, identified as Ephedra pachyclada.)

The use of entheogens in Europe was all but eliminated with the rise of post-Roman Christianity and especially during the great witch hunts of Early Modernity. European witches used various entheogens, including deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) and henbane (Hyoscyamus niger). These plants were used, among other things, for the manufacture of "flying ointments". In Christian society, witches were commonly believed to fly through the air on broomsticks after coating them with the ointment and applying them to the skin. Consequently, any association with these plants could have proven extremely dangerous and lead to one's execution as a practitioner of witchcraft. The imposition 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 possibly entheogenic substance known as kykeon. Similarly, there is evidence that nitrous oxide or ethylene may have been in part resposible for the visions of the equally long-lived Delphic oracle.

In the Christian era the Eucharist plays a symbolic role in religious tradition that has occasionally attracted the label of "entheogen" or "placebo entheogen", even though it does not conform to the original definition involving the use of vision-inducing substances.

The entheogenic use of substances, particularly hashish, by ancient Sufis is well-documented. Its use by the "Hashshashin" to stupefy and recruit new initiates was widely reported during the Crusades. However, the drug used by the Hashshashin was likely wine, opium, henbane, or some combination of these, and, in any event, the use of this drug was for stupefaction rather than for entheogenic use. 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. John Marco Allegro has argued in his book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross that early Jewish and Christian sects and cults were based on the use of Amanita muscaria,[2] though this hypothesis has not achieved widespread currency.

Indigenous Australians are generally supposed 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. Natives of Papua New Guinea are known to use several species of entheogenic mushrooms (Psilocybe spp, Boletus manicus).[3] It has been suggested that the Mori of New Zealand used Mori Kava (Macropiper excelsum) as an entheogen (Bock 2000).

Although entheogens are taboo in Christian and Islamic societies, their ubiquity and prominence in the spiritual traditions of other cultures is unquestioned. The entheogen, "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, psilocybe and other psychoactive mushrooms and ololiuhqui, 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:

The Kykeon that preceded initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries is another entheogen, which was investigated (before the word was coined) by Carl Kereny, in Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter. Other entheogens in the Ancient Near East and the Aegean include the poppy, Datura, the unidentified "lotus" eaten by the Lotus-Eaters in the Odyssey and Narkissos.

According to Ruck, Eyan, and Staples, the familiar shamanic entheogen that the Indo-Europeans brought with them was knowledge of the wild Amanita mushroom. 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, argues that the ambrosia of various pre-Hellenic tribes were amanita and possibly panaeolus mushrooms.

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.

Even in cultures where they are acceptable, improper use of an entheogen, by the unauthorized or uninitiated, has led to disgrace, exile, and even death. The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden can be understood as such a parable of an entheogen misused, for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge by its very nature is clearly part of what is denoted by "entheogen" a point made clearly by God:

Indeed the entheogen offers 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:

Consumption of the imaginary mushroom anochi as the entheogen underlying the creation of Christianity is the premise of Philip K. Dick's last (science fiction) novel, "The Transmigration of Timothy Archer".

Aldous Huxley's final novel, Island (1962), depicted a fictional entheogenic 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.

In his book "The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross: A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East", [2] John M. Allegro argues etymologically that Christianity developed out of the use of a psychedelic mushroom, the true body of Christ, which was later forgotten by its adherents.

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