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Hallucinogens and Entheogens

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Abstract

Entheogens include a variety of substances referred to as hallucinogens, psychedelics, and sacred plants. The term “entheogen” was introduced by Carl Ruck and associates (Ruck, Bigwood, Staples, Ott and Wasson 1979) as an alternative to pejorative terms such as ‘hallucinogen’ and ‘psychedelic,’ and to more accurately convey the inherent theological implications of these spiritual experiences described from prehistoric shamanism, through the classical civilizations, and into modernity. “Entheogen” overcame the inability of the dominant terms to properly convey, as the author’s wrote, “transcendent and beatific states of communion with deity,” and more accurately described these states than the pejorative medical term hallucinogen, which implies false and deluded perceptions; and the more recent term ‘psychedelic’ which had radical connotations because of its cooption by the 1960’s drug subculture. In contrast, entheogen reflects the perspectives embodied in traditions around the world, where they are seen as having intrinsic spiritual properties and intelligence. This view is reflected in the etymological roots of “entheogen” in the Greek entheos, referring to “the god within” or “animated with deity”; and gen/genesis, “action of becoming.” Mark Hoffman and Carl Ruck (2004) define entheogen as “any substance that, when ingested, catalyzes or generates an altered state of consciousness deemed to have spiritual significance” (p. 111-112). They describe the entheogenic epiphany as involving the dissolution of the experience of all distinctions or boundaries between the individual and the mystical dimensions of the universe, a direct communion with the pure and primal Consciousness of the Divine. Thus, in addition to its theological implications, “entheogen” also carries a distinctly gnostic or deist connotation that implies a direct, unmediated experience of deity.
Vocabulary for the Study
of Religion
Volume 2
F–O
Edited by
Robert A. Segal
Kocku von Stuckrad
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Introduction................................................................................................................................................................ vii
List of Contributors .................................................................................................................................................. viii
List of Articles ............................................................................................................................................................ xvii
Articles A–E ................................................................................................................................................................ 1
 
Articles F–O ................................................................................................................................................................ 1
 
Articles P–Z ................................................................................................................................................................. 1
Index ............................................................................................................................................................................. 619
Table of Contents
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
records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/nietzsche/genealogy2.htm,
[1887].
——— , On the Genealogy of Morals, ed. and trans.
W. Kaufmann, New York, 1967.
D C
Hallucinogens and Entheogens
Entheogens include a variety of substances
referred to as hallucinogens, psychedelics, and
sacred plants. The term “entheogen” was intro-
duced by Carl Ruck and associates (Ruck, Bigwood,
Staples, Ott and Wasson 1979) as an alternative
to pejorative terms such as “hallucinogen” and
“psychedelic,” and to more accurately convey the
inherent theological implications of these spiri-
tual experiences described from prehistoric sha-
manism, through the classical civilizations, and
into modernity. “Entheogen” overcame the inabil-
ity of the dominant terms to properly convey, as
the authors wrote, “transcendent and beatic
states of communion with deity” (Ruck et al. 1979)
and more accurately described these states than
the pejorative medical term “hallucinogen,” which
implies false and deluded perceptions; and the
more recent term “psychedelic,” which had radical
connotations because of its cooption by the 1960s
drug subculture.
In contrast, entheogen reects the perspectives
embodied in traditions around the world, where
they are seen as having intrinsic spiritual proper-
ties and intelligence. This view is reected in the
etymological roots of “entheogen” in the Greek
entheos, referring to “the god within” or “animated
with deity”; and gen/genesis, “action of becoming.”
Mark Hofman and Carl Ruck dene entheogen
as “any substance that, when ingested, catalyzes
or generates an altered state of consciousness
deemed to have spiritual signicance” (2004: 111–
112). They describe the entheogenic epiphany as
involving the dissolution of the experience of all
distinctions or boundaries between the individ-
ual and the mystical dimensions of the universe,
our communities and nations. I believe that we in
the West sufer from a kind of free-oating guilt,
more or less unconscious, that we tend to attribute
to our failings as individuals but that really arises
from the dependence of our relative auence on
the unconscionable exploitation of the poor, both
at home and abroad.
Bibliography
Carveth, D.L., “Self-Punishment as Guilt Evasion:
Theoretical Issues,Canadian J. Psychoanal. 14: 176–
198, 2006.
——— , “Degrees of Psychopathy vs. “The Psychopath,
(comments on J. Reid Meloy, “A Psychoanalytic View
of the Psychopath”) part of 18th Annual Day in
Psychoanalysis, Toronto, TVOntario video and pod-
cast (www.tvo.org), 2007.
——— , “Superego, Conscience and the Nature and
Types of Guilt,” Modern Psychoanalysis 35(1): 106–
130, 2010.
Carveth, D.L., and J.H. Carveth, “Fugitives From Guilt:
Postmodern De-Moralization and the New
Hysterias.,Am. Imago 60: 445–479, 2003.
Fernando, J., “The Borrowed Sense Of Guilt,” Int. J.
Psycho-Anal. 81:499–512, 2000.
Freud, S., “The Ego and the Id,The Standard Edition of
the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud,
Volume , 1–66, London, 1961.
——— , Civilization and its Discontents, in The Standard
Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of
Sigmund Freud, Volume , 57–146, London, 1961.
Grinberg, L., “Two Kinds of Guilt: Their Relations with
Normal and Pathological Aspects of Mourning,” Int.
J. Psycho-Anal. 45: 366–371, 1964.
Jaspers, K., The Question of German Guilt, trans. E.B.
Ashton, New York, 1947.
Kierkegaard, S., The Sickness Unto Death, trans.
A. Hannay, Harmondsworth, 1989 [1849].
Klein, M., “Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms,” in
Envy and Gratitude and Other Works, 1–24, London,
1975 [1946].
——— , On the Theory of Anxiety and Guilt,” in Envy
and Gratitude and Other Works, London, 25–92, 1978
[1948].
Nietzsche, F., On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemical
Tract. Second Essay, “Guilt, Bad Conscience and
Related Matters,” ed. I. Johston, accessed online at
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  
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side of the person; establish relationships with ani-
mals and induce an experience of transformation
into an animal; provoke an experience of death,
transformation and rebirth; provide information
through visions; and produce healing. The entheo-
genic bases of shamanism are well illustrated in
the trans-Siberian use of Amanita muscaria mush-
rooms, the peyote cactus traditions of Mexico,
Mesoamerican psilocybin mushroom practices and
in the use of ayahuasca in Amazon basin.
Historical and Cross-Cultural Evidence
There is also abundant evidence of prehistoric
entheogen use in complex pre-modern cul-
tures. Stephen Berlant reviews evidence that the
Amanita mushroom as well as Psilocybe species
had central roles in both representations and
practices of ancient Egypt (2005). Other studies
(e.g., Emboden 1989) have indicated royal and
priestly entheogenic use of other psychoactives
such as the mandrake root of the Mandragora
genus, the Egyptian water lily (Nymphaea caeru-
lea) and Peganum harmala (Syrian rue). The Maya
have evidence of entheogenic substances from
both mushrooms (Guzman 2008) and animals, the
bufotine from the toads of the Bufo genus (Dobkin
de Rios 1984).
Anthropologists Peter Furst (1972) Michael
Harner (1973), Marlene Dobkin de Rios (1984),
Christian Ratsch (2005), among others, have pro-
vided evidence of entheogen traditions world-
wide. Richard Schultes and Albert Hofmann’s
classic book Plants of the Gods (1979) covered the
most widely-known entheogen traditions involv-
ing: fungi of the Amanita genus and psilocybin-
containing mushrooms (Psilocybe, Conocybe, and
Panaeolus genera); the pan-Amazonia ayahuasca
traditions using vines of the Banisteriopsis spe-
cies combined with Psychotria spp. or other plants
containing N,N- and 5–meo- Dimethyltryptamine
(), as well as other “plant teachers”; cacti such
as peyote (Lophophora williamsii) and San Pedro
(Echinopsis pachanoi, syn. Trichocereus pachanoi)
which contain mescaline; the snufs made from
a direct communion with what is perceived as
the pure and primal consciousness of the divine.
Thus, in addition to its theological implications,
“entheogen” also carries a distinctly gnostic or
deist connotation that implies a direct, unmedi-
ated experience of deity.
Alterations of Consciousness
Entheogens include many substances that alter
experience in dramatic ways which are interpreted
as sacred, evoking experiences of direct contact
with a supernatural or spiritual domain, includ-
ing special relationships with spiritual beings,
often plant or animal deities. Entheogens have
shamanic uses, and have been noted for their abil-
ity to provoke the personal experience of transfor-
mation into an animal. They are used in a variety
of rituals, where they are viewed as essential to a
community’s contact with sacred and mythologi-
cal realities, and promote social solidarity by rein-
forcing interpersonal relations among members of
the community.
Such alterations of consciousness have com-
prised the central aspect of shamanism, spiritual-
ity and religion of many pre-modern societies. The
great historian of religion Mircea Eliade empha-
sized this in his distinction between the human
experiences of the “profane” and “sacred” and his
hypothesis that such ecstatic, non-ordinary states
form the basis of shamanism and constitute a fun-
damental aspect of religion (1957). While Eliade
initially discounted the role of entheogens as
degenerate forms of shamanism, he too later rec-
ognized the central importance of such substance
in spiritual practices.
According to anthropologist Michael Winkelman,
the pre-modern uses of entheogens share some
commonalities with shamanism (2010) in that
they both: produce a dramatic encounter with
a spiritual world or the supernatural, bringing
the mythical world to life; induce an experience
of the separation of one’s soul or spirit from the
body and its travel to the supernatural world;
activate latent powers or abilities within and out-
   
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keykeon potion as an ergot derivative, chemically
related to  (Wasson, Ruck, and Hofmann, 1978).
Entheogens have been documented in the
major religious traditions of the world. Mike
Crowley (1996) published evidence of the use
of entheogens in the formative mythic origins
of Buddhism. Pre-Islamic Indo-Aryan entheo-
gen use has been reviewed by David Flattery and
Martin Schwartz (1989) and Carl Ruck and Mark
Hofman (2002, 2011). Islamic entheogenic ele-
ments are also illustrated in Alan Piper’s review
of Sus (2002), the mystically-inclined sects and
gnostic traditions which incorporated Pre-Islamic
mystical traditions of using psychoactive agents as
aids to meditative practices. These included hash-
ish/marijuana, opium, and wines, honey drinks
and even milk which also contained unidentied
intoxicants whose efects are described in mytho-
logical accounts of ight and traveling through
heavens and symbolic reference to lightning and
the rain-bringing storms which provoke mush-
room ushes.
The research of Carl Ruck (et al. 2001, 2007)
and Mark Hofman (et al. 2001) illustrate that the
ancient cultures of Europe display clear and wide-
spread evidence of entheogen use. In The Sacred
Mushroom and the Cross John Allegro (1970), world-
renowned researcher of the Dead Sea Scrolls, inte-
grated information from linguistics, ethnobotany,
and prehistory to argue for the foundational role
of entheogenic mushrooms in the formation of
early Judeo-Christian mythology and religion.
Although his conclusions and methodology still
evoke controversy, his book did much to popu-
larize the idea that the roots of Christianity also
involved entheogenic practices. Jan Irvin (2008)
has resurrected Allegro’s hypotheses, reviewing
supportive material including paintings of Adam
and Eve, Christ, and many Christian gures that
include mushrooms with the signature character-
istics of Amanita muscaria, as well the entheogenic
Psilocybe and Stropharia genera of Europe. The
entheogenic pasts of Judeo-Christianity, includ-
ing both Roman and Greek Orthodox Christianity,
has been documented by Clark Heinrich (1995),
Anadenanthera and Virola species which contain
 and 5–Me-O ; the -like ergots from
Claviceps fungi which infects rye and other grasses;
the iboga root (Tabernanthe iboga); and Cannabis.
Although the entheogenic traditions initially
rediscovered by modern scholarship were pre-
dominantly found in the Americas, the work of
R. Gordon Wasson and his many collaborators
(1957a; 1957b; 1980) expanded recognition of these
practices throughout the world. While Wasson, a
professional banker, was the primary investigator
and author of many books and papers on entheo-
gens, he rigorously pursued the involvement and
contributions of world-renowned experts and
leading intellectuals. He developed close work-
ing and personal relationships with such notable
gures as Aldous Huxley, Robert Graves, anthro-
pologists Marija Gimbutas and Weston LeBarre,
chemist Albert Hofmann, mycologists Roger Heim
and Gaston Guzman, and ethnobotanist Richard
Schultes, among others. Thus, the new multidisci-
plinary discipline of entheobotany was launched
with vigor, aided in no small part by a popular
awareness of the powerful spiritual efects of
entheogenic plants and substances by the 1960s
counterculture that inspired future generations of
academic researchers, multi-disciplinarians, and
popular authors.
Gordon Wasson’s early research included
addressing the long-standing problem of the
identity of the original Vedic sacrament Soma. In
Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality Wasson
(1968) proposed that the entheogenic mushroom
Amanita muscaria was the original identity of
the sacred Vedic plant Soma and the sacred elixir
of the ancient Vedic gods. Although not without
controversy, this conclusion was generally well
received; while other plants were also later called
Soma, the abundant evidence of Amanita as a
“god of ancient India” supports this identication
(Heinrich 1995). Wasson then turned to the roots
of the Western tradition via the ancient Greek
Eleusinian Mysteries. In collaboration with classi-
cist Carl Ruck and chemist Albert Hofmann, they
identied the active ingredient in the venerable
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Carl Ruck and colleagues (2000, 2001; Hofman,
Ruck, and Staples 2001) and others including Cris
Bennett (1995, 2010), Dan Merkur (2001) and John
Rush (2011).
Entheogens in the Modern World
Entheogens continue to be a source of religious
traditions in the modern world, most notably in
the ayahuasca traditions of South American which
combine -inhibiting Banisteriopsis species
to make available the N,N-Dimethyltryptamine
() from other plants. Among the most sig-
nicant contemporary international entheogen-
inspired religions are the Brasilian União do
Vegetal and Santo Daime churches (Labate and
McRae 2010) originally inspired by shamanic and
mestizo ayahuasca practices surviving in the fron-
tier Amazon regions of Brazil.
The ayahuasca traditions and other modern
survivals of entheogenic practices have supported
a popular upswell of interest since the early 1960s.
This popular engagement, which continues to this
day, was nurtured by periodicals such as The Journal
of Psychedelic Drugs, The Entheogen Review, and
Psychedelic Monographs and Essays, and popular
books by Terence and Dennis McKenna. The cur-
rent general trend toward on-demand publishing
and online/multimedia resources has contributed
to a proliferation of non-academic presentations
of entheogenic arguments. Popular presentations
sometimes lack good evidential standards and lim-
ited contextual information supporting evidence
of past entheogen use. They are nonetheless based
on the inspirations provided by these scholarly
investigations and a persistent belief that there
are innate biological factors motivating the cur-
rent rediscoveries of the power of the entheogens.
The Psychobiology of Entheogens
The similarity in cross-cultural use of entheo-
genic substances and the associated beliefs and
experiences regarding their nature reects efects
on a common underlying human biological sub-
stratum which provides psychophysiological and
psychopharmacological mechanisms for explain-
ing both their ability to induce experiences of
the sacred, as well as entheogens’ therapeutic
properties (Winkelman and Roberts 2007). The
biological basis of entheogen-inspired mystical
experiences, independent of expectation, is illus-
trated by the study of Roland Griths and col-
leagues (2006) that provided objective evidence
that psilocybin can directly induce mystical expe-
riences and produce persistent efects on the par-
ticipants’ attitudes, moods, and behaviors. The
comparison with controls showed that psilocybin
produces higher ratings on all of the subscales of
an hallucinogen rating scales assessing the mysti-
cal oceanic boundlessness, visionary experiences,
introvertive and extravertive mysticism; a sense of
unity with all of the Universe; intuitive knowledge
and transcendence of time and space; and noetic
experience characterized by a sense of sacredness;
and signicantly higher levels of peace, harmony,
joy, and intense happiness. This careful clinical
study illustrates that mystical experiences involve
intrinsic biological properties of the substances
and our brains, and must be considered as a natu-
ral source or genesis of spiritual traditions.
This intrinsic power of the entheogens to
induce religious experiences and extreme altera-
tions of consciousness illustrates and explains
their primordial association with shamanism and
mystical traditions worldwide. Rick Strassman’s
(2001) study of the experience of high-dose N,N-
Dimethlytriptamine (), an endogenous
entheogen, is illustrative of the potential of the
shamanic paradigm (Winkelman 2010) to explain
basic aspects of these experiences. Strassman’s
study showed a relative paucity of classical mysti-
cal/unitive experiences reported in Grith’s psilo-
cybin study. Much more prevalent were subjects’
descriptions of entering a highly articulated realm
of intensely saturated light which they believed
was a free-standing parallel level of reality. In this
state, they willfully interacted with what they
reported were sentient, extraordinarily powerful
beings, who often expected the volunteers and
   
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seemed to impart information to them in an obvi-
ous parallel to the shaman’s relationships with
spirits.
Although entheogenic substances are found in
a wide variety of families and genera, their efects
primarily derive from similar chemical com-
pounds known as indoleamines which have direct
and indirect efects on the brain’s neurotrans-
mitter systems. The major classes of indoleam-
ines—tryptamines (e.g., , , psilocin, and
psilocybin) and phenylethylamines (e.g., mesca-
line,  [“ecstacy”], 2C–B) exert similar inu-
ences on serotonergic neurons (Nichols 2004;
Nichols and Chemel 2006; also see Fantegrossi,
Mernane, and Reissig 2008) and produce similar
experiential efects (see Torsten Passie et al. [2008]
for review).
A general macro-efect of entheogens involves
high-voltage slow-wave synchronous brain-wave
activity that increases the connectivity between
the emotional and behavioral brain, and between
these lower brain areas and the frontal cortex (see
Winkelman 2010 for discussion). These systematic
changes in the overall dynamics of brain processes
are reected in high-voltage brain wave discharges
of a slow wave frequency (typically theta, 3–6
cycles per second). These biochemically-based
physiological dynamics are primarily based in
serotonin disinhibition and the consequent loss
of its inhibitory efects on dopamine and the
mesolimbic structures, enhancing the activity of
lower brain structures. The efects of entheogens
provoke a consciousness of these evolutionarily
earlier structures because they have efects on
neurotransmission in ways that stimulate these
integrative processes of the brain.
Efects on neurotransmitters and neural net-
works provide a basis for therapeutic uses of
entheogens and the universality of shamanistic
healing practices. Therapeutic efects are pro-
duced by the activation of emotional processes of
the limbic system and paleomammalian brain that
underlie self-formation, attachment, and social
bonding. Winkelman has reviewed how these
manipulations provoke the integration of lower-
level brain processes in ways that produce thera-
peutic efects, for example through the integration
of traumatic memories into consciousness. These
efects epitomize the efects that Winkelman
(2007) has called psychointegration, where bio-
logical stimulation by the entheogens expands
awareness of repressed aspects of the self and the
personal unconscious. This provides an enhanced
awareness of processes in the lower structures of
the brain such as those discussed by psychiatrist
Stanislav Grof (1992) as the transbiological realms
of perinatal and transpersonal domains, including
archetypal and mystical dimensions.
The biological origins of religious experience
are supported by the research of Roger Sullivan
and colleagues (2008) who have presented evi-
dence of human adaptations to what are consid-
ered plant toxins, reecting selective inuences
in our ancestral lines for those who could exploit
these exogenous sources of brain transmitters. The
ndings of several generations of scholars have
borne out what is undeniable in the mythic and
cultural traditions around the world: that entheo-
genic inspiration—if not the outright origin of
religious sentiments—is seminal to the develop-
ment of ancient, historical, and modern spiri-
tual traditions. As Michael Winkelman and John
Baker point out in Supernatural as Natural (2008),
there are natural origins of our spiritual impulses,
and the entheogens are primary candidates for
understanding the evolutionary origins of human
spirituality.
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  
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M W & M H
Happiness
The word “happiness” means several diferent
things (e.g., joy, satisfaction) and therefore many
psychologists prefer the term “subjective well-
being” (), which is an umbrella term that
includes the various types of evaluation of one’s
life that one might make. It can include self-
esteem, joy, and feelings of fullment. The essence
of the denition is that the person makes the eval-
uation of his or her own life: It is a subjective self-
evaluation. Thus the person herself or himself is
the expert here: Is my life going well, according to
the standards that I choose to use?
It has also been suggested that there are three
primary components of : general satisfaction,
the presence of pleasant afect, and the absence of
negative emotions (including anger, anxiety, guilt,
sadness, and shame). These can be considered at
the global level or with regard to specic domains
like work, friendship, and recreation. More impor-
tantly,  covers a wide scale from ecstasy to
agony, from extreme happiness to great gloom and
despondency. It relates to long-term states, not just
momentary moods. It is not a sucient, but prob-
ably a necessary, criterion for mental or psychologi-
cal health.
Most religions are concerned with teaching
people how to lead their lives to maximize their
own health and happiness. Most religions provide
social support from fellow believers, satisfaction
in a sense of direction and values (i.e. meaning
in life), and positive feelings of transcendence.
Hence there is an interest in the question of the
relationship between believers and happiness
(Francis and Robbins 2000).
The rst books on the psychology of happiness
started appearing in the 1980s. Subsequently, a
few specialist academic journals appeared. There
are at least two major journals in this area—the
Journal of Positive Psychology and the Journal of
Happiness Studies.
The psychology of happiness attempts to
answer some fundamental questions pursued over
the years by philosophers, theologians, and politi-
cians. The rst series of questions are really about
the denition and measurement of happiness; the
second are about why certain groups are as happy
or unhappy as they are; and the third group of
questions concerns what one must do (or not do)
to increase happiness.
Most measurements of happiness are taken
by means of standardized self-report question-
naires or interview schedules. On the other hand,
they could be made by informed observers: those
people who know the individuals well and see
them regularly. Another method that has been
used is sampling, when people have to report how
happy they are many times a day, week, or month
as prompted by a beeper, and these ratings are
... Institutionalized use of psychedelics in religions of pre-modern societies worldwide reveal the central roles of these substances in the evolution of spiritual experiences, cultures, and religions (Schultes et al., 1992;Rätsch, 2005;Rush, 2013;Ellens, 2014;Winkelman, 2014;Winkelman and Hoffman, 2015;Panda et al., 2016). The role of psychedelics in human evolution is indicated by evidence that psychedelics bind to human serotonergic receptors with a higher affinity than they do to those receptor systems in other primates (Pregenzer et al., 1997). ...
... The neuropharmacological dynamics of psychedelics are central to understanding the nature of spiritual experiences. Psychedelics are associated with pre-modern religious forms and the early history of the current major world religions (Winkelman and Hoffman, 2015). Furthermore, there is evidence established by double blind clinical studies that spiritual experiences are directly caused by neuropharmacological effects of psychedelic substances (Griffiths et al., 2006(Griffiths et al., , 2008. ...
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Neuropharmacological effects of psychedelics have profound cognitive, emotional, and social effects that inspired the development of cultures and religions worldwide. Findings that psychedelics objectively and reliably produce mystical experiences press the question of the neuropharmacological mechanisms by which these highly significant experiences are produced by exogenous neurotransmitter analogs. Humans have a long evolutionary relationship with psychedelics, a consequence of psychedelics' selective effects for human cognitive abilities, exemplified in the information rich visionary experiences. Objective evidence that psychedelics produce classic mystical experiences, coupled with the finding that hallucinatory experiences can be induced by many non-drug mechanisms, illustrates the need for a common model of visionary effects. Several models implicate disturbances of normal regulatory processes in the brain as the underlying mechanisms responsible for the similarities of visionary experiences produced by psychedelic and other methods for altering consciousness. Similarities in psychedelic-induced visionary experiences and those produced by practices such as meditation and hypnosis and pathological conditions such as epilepsy indicate the need for a general model explaining visionary experiences. Common mechanisms underlying diverse alterations of consciousness involve the disruption of normal functions of the prefrontal cortex and default mode network (DMN). This interruption of ordinary control mechanisms allows for the release of thalamic and other lower brain discharges that stimulate a visual information representation system and release the effects of innate cognitive functions and operators. Converging forms of evidence support the hypothesis that the source of psychedelic experiences involves the emergence of these innate cognitive processes of lower brain systems, with visionary experiences resulting from the activation of innate processes based in the mirror neuron system (MNS).
... Since pre-modern societies typically conceptualized psychedelics as entheogens [i.e., as gateways to a spiritual or religious experience and/or communication with the spirit worlds (Winkelman and Hoffman, 2015)] that provide sacred knowledge and power, they have to be understood as a source of inspiration of primordial magico-religious impulses. Importantly, controlled studies show that psychedelics reliably produce mystical-type experiences involving self-loss and a sense of awe and connectedness (Griffiths et al., 2006(Griffiths et al., , 2018, as well as a range of anomalous experiences (e.g., synaesthesia, out-of-body and near-death experiences, entity encounters; see Luke, 2020;also Strassman, 2001;Winkelman, 2018) that are commonly interpreted as spiritual interactions in pre-modern cultures. ...
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Our hominin ancestors inevitably encountered and likely ingested psychedelic mushrooms throughout their evolutionary history. This assertion is supported by current understanding of: early hominins’ paleodiet and paleoecology; primate phylogeny of mycophagical and self-medicative behaviors; and the biogeography of psilocybincontaining fungi. These lines of evidence indicate mushrooms (including bioactive species) have been a relevant resource since the Pliocene, when hominins intensified exploitation of forest floor foods. Psilocybin and similar psychedelics that primarily target the serotonin 2A receptor subtype stimulate an active coping strategy response that may provide an enhanced capacity for adaptive changes through a flexible and associative mode of cognition. Such psychedelics also alter emotional processing, self-regulation, and social behavior, often having enduring effects on individual and group wellbeing and sociality. A homeostatic and drug instrumentalization perspective suggests that incidental inclusion of psychedelics in the diet of hominins, and their eventual addition to rituals and institutions of early humans could have conferred selective advantages. Hominin evolution occurred in an ever-changing, and at times quickly changing, environmental landscape and entailed advancement into a socio-cognitive niche, i.e., the development of a socially interdependent lifeway based on reasoning, cooperative communication, and social learning. In this context, psychedelics’ effects in enhancing sociality, imagination, eloquence, and suggestibility may have increased adaptability and fitness. We present interdisciplinary evidence for a model of psychedelic instrumentalization focused on four interrelated instrumentalization goals: management of psychological distress and treatment of health problems; enhanced social interaction and interpersonal relations; facilitation of collective ritual and religious activities; and enhanced group decision-making. The socio-cognitive niche was simultaneously a selection pressure and an adaptive response, and was partially constructed by hominins through their activities and their choices. Therefore, the evolutionary scenario put forward suggests that integration of psilocybin into ancient diet, communal practice, and proto-religious activity may have enhanced hominin response to the socio-cognitive niche, while also aiding in its creation. In particular, the interpersonal and prosocial effects of psilocybin may have mediated the expansion of social bonding mechanisms such as laughter, music, storytelling, and religion, imposing a systematic bias on the selective environment that favored selection for prosociality in our lineage.
... Psychoactive drugs, which typically produce NOEs including the sense of leaving one's body, perceiving and communicating with extraordinary beings, and ego dissolution, have a long history of use in religious rituals (Winkelman & Hoffman, 2016). ...
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At the turn of the 20th century, researchers compared case studies of patients diagnosed with hysteria and mediums who claimed to channel spirits. In doing so, researchers recognized the phenomenological overlap between the experiences reported by their subjects: alterations in the sense of self. Yet, notwithstanding its early promise, this comparative approach to “nonordinary experiences” (NOEs) was never fully realized: disciplinary siloing, categorical distinctions such as between “religious” and “psychopathological” experiences, and the challenges involved in comparing culture-laden first-person accounts all limited such efforts. Here, we argue for a renewed feature-based approach for mapping the universality and diversity of NOEs across cultures and investigating the ways in which culture and experiences interact. To do so, we argue that researchers must solve two problems: (1) how to query experiences without eliminating the culture, and (2) how to query experiences when the ordinary-nonordinary distinction itself may be culture-dependent. We introduce a survey —the Inventory of Nonordinary Experiences (INOE)—that addresses these problems by separating the phenomenological features of a wide-range of experiences from the claims made about them, and then querying both the features and claims. We demonstrate how this approach enables us to investigate a few ways in which culture shapes experiences and make inferences regarding the reasons why experiences stand out for people. We conclude by highlighting future directions for the comparative study of NOEs across cultures.
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Although psilocybin has been used for centuries for religious purposes, little is known scientifically about its acute and persisting effects. This double-blind study evaluated the acute and longer-term psychological effects of a high dose of psilocybin relative to a comparison compound administered under comfortable, supportive conditions. The participants were hallucinogen-naïve adults reporting regular participation in religious or spiritual activities. Two or three sessions were conducted at 2-month intervals. Thirty volunteers received orally administered psilocybin (30 mg/70 kg) and methylphenidate hydrochloride (40 mg/70 kg) in counterbalanced order. To obscure the study design, six additional volunteers received methylphenidate in the first two sessions and unblinded psilocybin in a third session. The 8-h sessions were conducted individually. Volunteers were encouraged to close their eyes and direct their attention inward. Study monitors rated volunteers' behavior during sessions. Volunteers completed questionnaires assessing drug effects and mystical experience immediately after and 2 months after sessions. Community observers rated changes in the volunteer's attitudes and behavior. Psilocybin produced a range of acute perceptual changes, subjective experiences, and labile moods including anxiety. Psilocybin also increased measures of mystical experience. At 2 months, the volunteers rated the psilocybin experience as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance and attributed to the experience sustained positive changes in attitudes and behavior consistent with changes rated by community observers. When administered under supportive conditions, psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences. The ability to occasion such experiences prospectively will allow rigorous scientific investigations of their causes and consequences.
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American Imago 60.4 (2003) 445-479 In Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media (1997), Elaine Showalter explores a range of conditions—chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple personality disorder, recovered memory, satanic ritual abuse, alien abduction, Gulf War syndrome—that she views as modern forms of hysteria as distinct from the old conversion and anxiety hysterias characteristic of the last fin-de-siècle and associated with the names of Charcot, Janet, Breuer, and Freud. Against the widespread claim that hysteria is a thing of the past, having disappeared due to the rise of feminism or a level of psychological sophistication incompatible with the formation of hysterical symptoms (except perhaps among culturally "backward" populations), Showalter argues that, on the contrary, far from having died, hysteria is alive and well in the form of the psychological plagues or epidemics of "imaginary illnesses" and "hypnotically induced pseudomemories" that characterize today's cultural narratives of hysteria (4-5). Although she provides a rich description of the new hysterias—the "hystories" or hysterical stories of chronic fatigue, alien abduction, etc.—Showalter does not pretend to offer a depth-psychological account of the psychodynamics underlying these conditions beyond identifying the role of suggestion on the part of physicians and the media in their creation and dissemination. Her definition of hysteria as "a form of expression, a body language for people who otherwise might not be able to speak or even to admit what they feel" (7) and as "a cultural symptom of anxiety and stress" arising from conflicts that are "genuine and universal" (9) is accurate enough as far as it goes. From a psychoanalytic point of view, however, it does not go far enough. Although she does not appear to share Juliet Mitchell's (2000) insight that "there is violence as well as sexuality in the seductions and rages of the hysteric" (x), Showalter does call attention to the centrality of externalization (i.e., projection) in these conditions. She writes: "Contemporary hysterical patients blame external sources—a virus, sexual molestation, chemical warfare, satanic conspiracy, alien infiltration—for psychic problems" (1997, 4). In recognizing the paranoid element in hysteria, albeit without theorizing the connection, Showalter contributes to the evolution of a deeper understanding. In the following, we will fasten upon this externalizing feature and offer a psychoanalytic—more particularly, a modern Kleinian—understanding of hysteria (including so-called multiple chemical sensitivity, environmental illness, and fibromyalgia syndrome) as subtypes of a more general hystero-paranoid syndrome. Whereas traditional psychoanalytic accounts have emphasized the role of oedipal and preoedipal sexual wishes and conflicts in hysteria, seldom associating it with aggression and paranoia, we will argue that such overlooked psychological factors as unconscious aggression, envy, hostility, malice, destructiveness, and the resulting persecutory "guilt" and need for punishment occupy a central place in both the old and the new hysterias. Following a previously articulated (Carveth 2001) conception of the unconscious need for punishment as a defensive evasion of unbearable conscious guilt, rather than (as in Freud's view) its equivalent, we view hysterical, psychosomatic, depressive, masochistic, and other self-tormenting conditions as defensive alternatives to facing and bearing conscious guilt. Although our analysis has much in common with both Showalter's Hystories and Edward Shorter's From Paralysis to Fatigue (1992), we at the same time seek to correct their occasional blurring of the important distinction between hysteria and psychosomatic conditions and their use of the term "somatization" in the description of both. Showalter, for example, even while correctly noting that "on the whole, Freudians make strict distinctions between hysterical symptoms and psychosomatic symptoms" (1997, 44), refers to "psychosomatic conversion symptoms" (36). She muddies the waters further by describing the conversion symptom as a particular form of "symbolic somatization" (44). But psychosomatic symptoms result from a process of somatization in which psychological and emotional forces contribute to the development of genuine organic disease and in which symbolization, if it is operative at all (and we believe it often is), takes a somewhat different form from that in conversion. Showalter makes no secret of her difficulty with these concepts: "How psychiatrists tell the difference between hysterical and psychosomatic symptoms is hard for a layman to figure out" (44). But in...
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Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in Mexico: An Overview. Psilocybe, with 53 known hallucinogenic species in Mexico, is the most important and diverse group of sacred mushrooms used by Mexican indigenous cultures. Psilocybe caerulescens, known by the present-day Nahuatl Indians as teotlaquilnanácatl, is hypothesized to be the ceremonially-used teonanácatl mushroom cited by Sahagún in the 16th century, the true identity of which has remained obscure for centuries. Correcting a widely disseminated error derived from early published information on Mexican hallucinogenic mushrooms, emphasis is placed on the fact that Panaeolus species have never been used traditionally in Mexico. Reports of the use of species of Amanita, Clavaria, Conocybe, Cordyceps, Dictyophora, Elaphomyces, Gomphus, Lycoperdon, Psathyrella, and Stropharia as sacred or narcotic mushrooms are discussed. A brief history of the discovery of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Mexico is presented, as well as notes on their taxonomy, distribution, and traditional use in Mexico.