There are all kinds of religious issues in the news this week. The Pope is in the US, its Yom Kippur (Sundown Sept. 22), and presidential candidates are spouting Islamiphobia left and right (mostly right). Nevertheless, I chose a different topic. A less headline grabbing one.
This weekend in LA will be the PlantTeacher 2015 Visionary Convergance, which is:
"The first of its kind in Los Angeles, PlantTeachers presents Visionary Convergence 2015, a conference and a community gathering where we will coalesce our collective interest and cultivate awareness of entheogenic medicinal and visionary plants such as ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, iboga, peyote, cannabis, San Pedro cactus, and other plant wisdom medicines.
Join visionaries, doctors, researchers, spiritual teachers, healers, therapists, filmmakers, and artists as we illuminate the intersection of entheogenic plants and people, honor traditions, and explore and reveal new meanings and mechanisms for healing, medicine, growth, integration and visionary experience in the 21st Century."
Entheogens are substances that "generate the divine within" (En= within, theo= god, gen= create), and include those listed in the above quote and more. While at first we might be prone to lump these people with drug addicts there is actually a very long history of using drugs in religious ritual.
The simplest of these substances is alcohol and is part of the rites of deities from the Celtic Sucellos to the Mesopotamian Ninkasi to the Greco-Roman Dionysus/Bacchus just to name a few. Other cultures have used stronger entheogens.
Cannabis has also appeared as a part of religions and cultures such as the Rastafari movement, the Sadhus of Hinduism, the Scythians, Sufi Islam, and others.
There are suggestions that the ancient Egyptians used psycho active mushrooms, going so far as to model their crowns after the stages of its growth.
Mescal has been in widespread use in many cultures of North America.
I could go on.
The first link deals with the ayahuasca. Note the disclaimer:
"Ayahuasca can have dangerous and even fatal results when not brewed properly or administered with proper care. Sita stressed that it is a powerful, psychoactive substance that practitioners should use only in a ceremonial setting under the careful guidance of a shaman."
Interestingly, even though the mainstream of Judeo-Christian teaching askews most of these substances (maybe, there are some theories out there about the origins of certain practices in both Judaism and early Christianity) the more esoteric and monastic streams of both use other methods to achieve the same or similar results. Notably fasting, dehydration, and exposure to environmental extremes.
God is not a drug or a mental disorder. But maybe chemicals are prayers.