What are Entheogens?

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 1-26-11

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 1-26-11. http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3243

Question of the Week: What are Entheogens?

A paper in the Journal of Consciousness Studies defined entheogens as,

“psychoactive agents more generally known as psychedelics (etymologically, mind manifesting) or hallucinogenic … that bring one in touch with the Divine within.”

A 2009 Cornell Law School research paper went on to state that,

“The word entheogen is believed to translate into the phrase “God inside us”. In the literal sense this word refers to plants, shrubs, fungi and seeds used for centuries in religious or shamanic rituals for the purpose of obtaining revelations, spiritual enlightenment, or healing illnesses. Some of these substances include, Ayahuasca, Amanitas Muscaria, Blue Lotus, Hawaiian Baby Woodrose and Morning Glory Seeds, Salvia Divinorum, Khat, Kanna, San Pedro Cacti, Kratom, Henbane, Yopo and Mandrake. There are many more, some of which are illegal (such as DMT, Kava Kava, Cannabis and Psilocybin Mushrooms)…”

Wikipedia includes LSD, Ibogaine, and even ethanol, aka alcohol as entheogens.

The Cornell paper noted that,

“The first scholar to highlight the sacramental use of psychoactive substances was de Felice [who put] forward the hypothesis that the use of psychotropic substances is deeply embedded in human culture, and that it is intrinsically intertwined in a most basic human instinct — the search for transcendence. Thus, he proposes, the use of psychotropic substances is at the roots of perhaps all religions.”

The Cornell paper finally asks, is

“the legal status of many entheogens … another example of legislative inertia and a defect in the law? Are these drugs harmful enough to warrant criminalization? Or, alternatively, are these drugs, with their connection to peoples’ spiritual beliefs, to be protected … as an expression of people’s religion?”

These facts and others like them can be found in the new Entheogens Chapter of Drug War Facts at www.drugwarfacts.org.

Questions concerning these or other facts concerning drug policy can be e-mailed to mjborden@drugwarfacts.org