Australian ABC posted a fantastic and thorough write-up on the psychedelics and their deeply entwined relationship with spirituality and mystical experiences.
In the soundbite above, Kerry Stewart explains what makes some psychedelics “transcendent compounds.”
Today the word entheogen is used because the other words were thought to be too closely linked to delirium, psychosis, and 1960s pop culture. Entheogen also comes from two Greek words meaning ‘full of God’ and ‘to come into being’. Rak Razam, an Australian gonzo journalist, filmmaker, and author of Aya: A Shamanic Odyssey, says the new term captures the modern approach to the drugs as spiritual aids.
‘Ayahuasca and plant entheogens in general, give us an active dynamic sacrament, and that is often what has been missing in the other mainstream world religions or the big three Abrahamic religions,’ Mr Razam says. ‘So what we’re seeing now is a rejection of religion across the world as a hierarchical business model to connect to spirit and they’re going straight for spirit.’
But Dr Bill Richards, psychologist and researcher at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Centre in Baltimore, says the effect of psychedelic substances on the mind is not always so straightforward.
‘The relation of the drug to the experience is not like taking an aspirin to get rid of your headache,’ Dr Richards says. ‘What the psychedelic substance…they all seem to be skeleton keys that open up the mind, that give you an opportunity to explore, but where you go and what happens depends on who you are, kind of who you are, your maturity, your life history, your capacity to be able to choose to trust unconditionally, your feeling of safety, your courage. So much more is involved than just taking the drug.’
Users of entheogens insist on the substances being non-toxic and not addictive, and advocate taking appropriate doses in the right mindset and environmental setting. The experience is not for everyone, particularly those with mental problems like schizophrenia and some physical conditions.