In our own time we are excited by entheogenic/psychoactive substances

[In our own time we are excited by entheogenic/psychoactive substances. It’s not unreasonable, considering we are in the rebound from more repressive times. New age religion combines with more openness and availability of entheogens and Internet-sourced information on their use to create an infatuation with entheogens and new experiences.

The term entheogen (“generating the divine within” according to Wikipedia) goes back only to 1979. Why hadn’t the term been used before? The quote from an Erowid review may sum it up best:]

“Quoting from a considerable number of pre-twentieth century accounts of accidental ingestion of psychedelic mushrooms and finding that the experience was invariably regarded as poisoning or illness, not as spiritual epiphany or gratuitous grace, Lechter contends that there is nothing intrinsic to the experience of eating psychoactive mushrooms such that people in other cultures would necessarily interpret it as valuable.”

Pasted from <https://www.erowid.org/library/review/review.php?p=263>

[Given the state of medical care in the past and the general availability of information, we don’t doubt the usual reaction on consuming entheogens in Northern Europe was not “Oh wow,” but “Oh shit.”

Perhaps the most extensive experiences with enthogens and other psychoactives were during periods of famine, which were fairly common. People were reduced to eating things we wouldn’t consider. “Tripping” may just have been a misstep followed by “falling” and “dying.”

The experience may well have been viewed as a near-death experience caused by starvation or poisoning. The survivor wouldn’t likely go looking to repeat the experience, though it could add to the folklore about death and there are certainly records of people having mystical visions which could well have been drug-induced, as well as being the symptoms of what we now classify as psychiatric disorders.]

From Wikipedia on mystical psychosis:

“Mystical psychosis is a term coined by Arthur J. Deikman in the early 1970s to characterize first-person accounts of psychotic experiences that are strikingly similar to reports of mystical experiences. According to Deikman, and authors from a number of disciplines, psychotic experience need not be considered pathological, especially if consideration is given to the values and beliefs of the individual concerned. Deikman thought the mystical experience was brought about through a “deautomatization” or undoing of habitual psychological structures that organize, limit, select, and interpret perceptual stimuli. There may be several causes of deautomatization—exposure to severe stress, substance abuse or withdrawal, and mood disorders” Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystical_psychosis>

[In our times do people really think they’re seeing (experiencing) God when they’re on drugs? Surely there’s always an understanding that they are on a drug, and what they are experiencing is possibly a representation of some kind. There’s always a doubt. Without dismissing the reality of an experience — if they’ve experienced it; it’s an experience, and experiences are undeniably real and can be life-changing — it’s a jump to conclude it’s more than the drugs talking. People know they’re taking a drug and that it’s the nature of a drug to alter the chemistry of the body. The term entheogen implies actual contact with divinity, and seems overly-naive.

Still if European Faustian types through the centuries – willing to do whatever it takes to find God, or gain secret knowledge – may not have seen such medications and poisons as a legitimate or useful route to God until the eighteenth century or so, why did they do so afterward?

The answer may partly lie in the fact that the parts of Europe that engendered Faust had lousy, dangerous entheogens, with the possible exception of psilocybin-containing mushrooms – and wild mushrooms aren’t always safe or palatable and lots of people avoid them. If opium and cannabis were available centuries earlier, perhaps European history would be much different.

But still, the question is answered unsatisfactorily. We may have to revisit the easy claim that religious and social repression best explain why we don’t have a history of entheogen use in northern and western Europe during the Christian period.]

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