Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rosicrucian Digest: Eleusis

Rosicrucian Digest: Eleusis
Volume 87 Number 2 2009


Web additions with Mp3’s & more

This is the seventh in a series of thematic issues of the Rosicrucian Digest exploring sources that have contributed to the Rosicrucian tradition. I think most of you will really enjoy The Message of the Eleusinian Mysteries for Today’s World by Albert Hofmann, Ph.D.

The Message of the Eleusinian
Mysteries for Today’s World
Albert Hofmann, Ph.D.

PDF: Read article
MP3: Audio
Image: Albert Hofmann; Marcus Aurelius at Eleusis; Telesterion at Eleusis; The Rape of Proserpine; Ecstasy of St. Teresa; Leaders of Zen; Persephone purifying a candidate





What We Can Learn about
the Eleusinian Mysteries
George Mylonas, Ph.D.

PDF: Read article
MP3: Audio
Image: Eleusis;Rossetti’s Persephone


Demeter and Persephone
Charlene Spretnak, M.A.

PDF: Read article
MP3: Audio
Image: Ceres; Persephone; Ceres and Triptolemos


The Wisdom of the Sages: On the
Homeric Hymn and the Myth of Demeter

Nicholas P. Kephalas, F.R.C.

PDF: Read article
MP3: Audio
Image: Karyatid; Cave of PlutoTriumph of Demeter;Return of Persephone; Plato; Triptolemos

At Eleusis
Ella Wheeler Wilcox, S.R.C.

PDF: Read article
MP3: Audio
Images: Ella Wheeler Wilcox; Eleusis Museum and Mountains

The Lesser Mysteries of Eleusis
Stefanie Goodart, M.A., S.R.C.

PDF: Read article
MP3: Audio
Images: View of Athens from the River Ilissos; Purification of Herakles; Herakles Veiled; Purification of Herakles from Torre Nova

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

PDF: Read article
MP3: Audio
Images: Georg Hegel; Main Entrance to Eleusis Sanctuary

The Ritual Path of Initiation into
the Eleusinian Mysteries

Mara Lynn Keller, Ph.D.

PDF: Read article
Images: Main Entrance to Eleusis Sanctuary; Aristotle Teaching; Acropolis at Night; Votive Piglet Statue; Asclepius; Rape of Persephone; Demeter and Kore; Dionysus and Ploutos; Cicero

The Eleusinian Mysteries and
the Bee

Julie Sanchez-Parodi, S.R.C.

PDF: Read article
MP3: Audio
Images:Rembrant’s Rape of Persephone; Golden Anatolian Bee; Minoan Gold Bee; Bees of Malia; Robert Fludd’s Dat Rosa Mel Apibus

Eleusis: The Card Game
Robert Abbott, John Golden, and the Staff of the Rosicrucian Digest

PDF: Read article
MP3: Audio
Images: Ruins of Eleusis

Supplementary Web Articles


The Rapture of Being Alive: Reflections on a Journey to Eleusis
Elisa Cuttjohn, S.R.C.

PDF: Read article
Images: Completion; Circle Dance; In the Womb; A New Day; Gratitude; Great New Story; Learning; Gaia; The Mysteries

Wisdom of the Sages: The Eleusinian Mysteries (Full Version)
Nicholas P. Kephalas, F.R.C.
PDF: Read article
Images: Ruins of the Temple at Eleusis; Koliva; Fronticepiece to The Golden Ass; Plutarch’s Lives; Academy of Plato: Phaedrus: Orpheus; Temple at Eleusis; Athena’s Olive Tree; Production of The Frogs; Temple of Demeter at Eleusis; Eastern Orthodox Ritual

The Eleusinian Mysteries and Other Mystery Religions
Jeremy Naydler, Ph.D.

PDF: Read article
Images: Bronze Osiris Images; Isis Finial; Eros and Psyche; Ziggurat at Ur; Osireion at Abydos

Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries
Richard G. Geldard

PDF: Read article
Images: Telesterion at Eleusis; Mountains at Eleusis; Dionysus-Osiris; Demeter; Demeter, Persephone and Triptolemos; Phryne at the Poseidonia in Eleusis; Kore; The Ninion Votive Plaque; Eleusis and Part of the Island of Salamis; Demeter and Metanira; Hades and Cerberus; Triumphant Return of Dionysus; Hunt for the Calydonian Boar; Eubouleus


Mastery of Life at Eleusis and in the
I Ching

Antonietta Francini, M.D.

PDF: Read article
Images: Ruins of Eleusis Telesterion;The I Ching; The Emerald Tablet


If you enjoyed this issue, I also recommend Rosicrucian Digest Volume 89 Number 2 2011 on Gnosticism


Pax ~EROCx1

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011




A one-day seminar celebrating the life and ideas of Terence McKenna and taking the next steps beyond 2012

WITH: Bruce Damer and Lorenzo Hagerty.and including a musical performance by Constance Demby. EROCx1 will be in attendance.

COST: $40 (lunch included) A sandwich and drinks lunch is included in the cost. Vegetarian options available.

WHEN: Saturday, January 28, 2012 PARKING:

10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Due to limited parking space in the location,
a short shuttle service will be provided (included in the cost.)

Directions for parking are spelled out in the attached map and note below.

WHERE: Nature Friends
423 Yucca Trail
Sierra Madre, CA 91024

Join Bruce Damer and Lorenzo at a beautiful location in the foothills of Sierra Madre for a one-day special event this coming January 28th. This is our kickoff event in a series of similar seminars to be held throughout the USA later in 2012. It will take you on a deep dive into the life, times, journeys, and thoughts of Terence McKenna, and then lead you to bounce his ideas and ours way beyond 2012.

Terence has been described as Copernicus of consciousness and intrepid explorer of the psychedelic plane, a scholar of history and the human condition, and an optimist about the future of our civilization. Bruce guided Terence into the virtual worlds in the late 1990s, and he will build on the themes he and Terence explored: complexity and novelty in the universe, the mind altering powers of technology, the meaning of visionary and virtual worlds, and the perils and prospects for human civilization. Lorenzo will take us from 2013 into the emerging era of cyber-enhanced humans, immersed in a meme-space stranger than we can suppose.


Dr. Bruce Damer is a visionary technologist, researcher, and pioneer of avatar virtual worlds. He has visualized and designed missions for NASA, created the DigiBarn Computer Museum and Psychedelia Archives, and leads the EvoGrid project which takes aim at the conundrum of the origin of life, and the understanding of the strange properties of the conservation of novelty. Learn more about Bruce and his work at: .

Lorenzo Hagerty is the host of the globally influential Psychedelic Salon podcast. He brings an engaging style to his teaching from his years as a naval officer, lawyer, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and award-winning author. Find out more about Lorenzo at: .

Constance Demby is an internationally acclaimed, Grammy-nominated, award winning performing and recording artist. In live concert, Constance presents a range of sonic environments, accompanied by her penetrating voice: the Cosmic-Electronic-Symphonic Orchestra performed on digital sampling synthesizers, the Hammer Dulcimer with over 100 vibrating strings, and the Sonic Steel Space Bass, a ten foot sheet of steel that produces deep, primoridal, resonant sounds. An original design by Demby, the Sonic Steel Instruments have been recorded by Lucas Skywalker Studios for use in their filmscores, and also filmed by Discovery Channel at Gaudi's Parc Guell for "The Power of Music." Learn more about Constance at: .

REGISTRATION: Register now for this very special event by sending your check or money order (sorry, no credit cards) payable to the seminar registrar:

Kenneth Symington Phone: 626-355-5571
722 Woodland Drive E Mail:
Sierra Madre, CA 91024 Fax: 626-790-6398

Ken is an author and translator of several books, among which is The Three Halves of Ino Moxo”, by Cesar Calvo, about Amazonian shamanism. Ken was also one of the 4 organizers (along with Terence, Jonathan Ott, and Rob Montomery) of the Entheobotany Seminars, held in several locations during the 1990s.

This seminar is expected to fill up quickly, and capacity is limited, so don’t wait to send in your registration as soon as possible. Make sure you let us know your phone and or e-mail address, and we will confirm your registration as soon as it is received.

If you have any questions, call or e-mail Ken at the above numbers.


Follow directions in the attached map, and park in the public parking spaces behind Taylor’s Market, at the SE corner of Baldwin Ave. and Sierra Madre Blvd. The shuttle van service will take you from the South side of the lot to the Nature Friends site (5-10 minutes.) If the parking space there gets full, there is additional parking in public parking lots to the left of it in Mariposa St., behind the shops in Sierra Madre Blvd. The shuttle van will operate continuously from the Taylor’s Market lot to the site, from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM as needed. Wait for it at the Taylor’s Market lot.

Facebook Event

Robert Anton Wilson: Maybe Logic

Robert Anton Wilson Predicts Occupy Movement: Download FREE MP3

Maybe Logic: The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson (2003) Guerrilla ontologist. Psychedelic magician. Outer head of the Illuminati. Quantum psychologist. Sit-down comic/philosopher. Discordian Pope. Whatever the label and rank, Robert Anton Wilson is undeniably one of the foundations of 21th Century Western counterculture. Maybe Logic - The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson is a cinematic alchemy that conjures it all together in a hilarious and mind-bending journey guaranteed to increase your brain size 2 - 3 inches! From the water coolers and staff meetings of Playboy and the earth-shattering transmission of the Illuminatus! Trilogy, to fire-breathing senior citizen and Taoist sage, Robert Anton Wilson is a man who has passed through the trials of chapel perilous and found himself on wondrous ground where nothing is for certain, even the treasured companionship of a six-foot-tall white rabbit. Featuring RAW video spanning 25 years and the best of over 100 hours of footage thoroughly tweaked, transmuted and regenerated, Maybe Logic follows a reality labyrinth which leads through the hollows of human perception to the vast star fields of Sirius where we find one man alone, joyfully accepting his status as Damned Old Crank and Cosmic Schmuck. Beaming with insight, frustration, compassion, and unshakable optimism, the ever-open eye of Robert Anton Wilson penetrates human illusions exposing the mathematical probabilities and spooky synchronicities of the 8 dimensions of his Universe. Written by Anonymous


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Terence McKenna: What’s So Great About Mushrooms?

Terence McKenna on the Psychedelic Salon Podcast
Episode 287 What's So Great About Mushrooms? #1 FREE Download
Episode 288 What's So Great About Mushrooms? #2 FREE Download
Download Mp3 To Download, right click & save target as.. subscribe


[NOTE: All quotations are by Terence McKenna.]

“There is no scientific truth, or new paradigm, can arrive in a vacuum vis-à-vis the opinions of the general informed public. If it doesn’t fly with the general informed public it doesn’t matter what degree of internal rigor it has, an idea is probably doomed to a kind of or a kind of obscurity.”

“How are we to relate to the plants which intoxicate? Do they drive us mad, or do they return us to the “religio” to our own origins? Are we to see the states of mind which they invoke as tremendously alien, or are we to see them as, in fact, a way of going back to the primary situation in which everything that we call human found genesis?”

“If you want to change people’s minds about something you have to get scientists to change their minds.”

“It’s actually cooperation is what nature seeks to consolidate and conserve. And it is the species which can make itself most user-friendly to its neighbor species which actually survives.”

“The de-sacrilizing of natural space is the process of cutting it into grids and erecting flat, planer surfaces along those grids to cut out the influx of energy that is part of the natural world.”

“Whatever Christianity was, it was a historical episode where the most patriarchal wrath extant on the planet was suddenly pumped full of so much energy that everything else was just shoved to the wall.”

“It’s impossible to stop the forward march of information.”

“This is the chaos at the end of history.”

“Because our culture crisis is so much deeper [than during the Renaissance], we are casting back to 20,000 or 30,000 years back into the past.”

“I think the task of finding the extraterrestrial is a task of recognizing it when you find it.”

“When talking about evolution it is important to remember that the cardinal dictum of Darwinian mechanics is that there is no teleology. That means that evolution is not moving toward something. All notion of purpose has to be given up. It isn’t that things evolve or move toward higher forms. It’s just that things complexify, and this complexification gives rise to what we define as higher form.”

“Culture is sort of a shockwave which follows behind language. Culture is fossilized language.”

“One of the reasons I think these psychedelic compounds still are important is because they catalyze the evolution of language.”

“I see the whole world we’re living in as basically the legacy of LSD.”

“The dreams of the alchemists of the 16th Century have been entirely realized in the technical accomplishments of the 20th Century.”

“[Acid] heads are in charge of designing the cutting edge of culture.”

“But there are no professionals in the field of self-exploration. That’s everybody’s job. I mean, you all are Ph.D.s in consciousness exploration, or if you’re not you should be, because what else have you got going?”

Terence McKenna

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Manifesting The Mind : Documentary On Psychedelics & Shamanism

Manifesting the Mind features various aspects of shamanism with a broad look at psychedelics in general. Why are psychedelics so brutally suppressed in our culture? What exactly are some of the psychedelic plants and chemicals and how can they benefit us? With philosophy and insight from Robert Bussinger, Mike Crowley, Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, Alex Grey, Clark Heinrich, Nick Herbert, John Major Jenkins, Dennis McKenna, Terence McKenna, Daniel Pinchbeck, Dr. Rick Strassman & others.

Chapter 1 – Start
An introduction to shamanism and shamanic medicines.

Chapter 2 – Manifesting God?
A discussion regarding the word “Entheogen” verses other words such as “Psychedelic” to describe shamanic medicines and psychoactive substances.

Chapter 3 – Psychedelic Fanatic
What are the effects of psychedelics and are these psychedelic substances addictive?

Chapter 4 – Psychedelic Remedy
Cannabis and other shamanic medicines used medicinally

Chapter 5 – Drugs and Culture
From coffee to cocaine… What constitutes a “bad drug”?

Chapter 6 – War on Consciousness
Is the war on drugs a war against certain states of consciousness?

Chapter 7 – Ibogaine
Can a shamanic medicine cure heroin, meth, alcohol and other addictions?

Chapter 8 – DMT
DMT, the most hallucinogenic substance known to exist, is found naturally in the human body and in nearly every other living thing.

Chapter 9 – Ayahuasca
What are the components and the effects of Ayahuasca? How is it different than other forms of DMT?

Chapter 10 – Reality Thermostat
Where do the boundaries between our selves and the world exist? Are hallucinations “real”? What is ego-death? What can be learned from a psychedelic experience?

Chapter 11 – Controlling the Masses
We are groomed to be consumers - this is encouraged via propaganda - as long as we consume those things that are sanctioned by the corporate hegemony.

Chapter 12 – Manifesting Change
Turn on, Tune in, and Drop out. Psychedelics as a catalyst for change.

Chapter 13 – Amanita muscaria
This archetypal mushroom has been used in religious art and modern iconography. How does it compare to other psychedelic substances?

Chapter 16 – Religious Roots
Psychedelic substances can often be found in early religious traditions.

Chapter 17 – Flesh of the Gods
The religious/spiritual experience. What is the origin of the sacred meal? Did the original “communion” induce a psychedelic experience? The replacement of the shamanic sacrament with a placebo.

Chapter 18 – The Heart of the Mysteries
Has the direct access to the mysteries been cut off from our modern culture?

Chapter 19 – Soma
What was the original Soma and Amrita?

Chapter 20 – Credits and Biographies

Buy the DVD

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Timothy Leary Interviews

Timothy Leary on the Psychedelic Salon Podcast
Episode 284 Timothy Leary The Revolution Continues #1 Download
Episode 285 Timothy Leary The Revolution Continues #2 Download
 Episode 286 Timothy Leary The Revolution Continues #3 Download 
                        Download Mp3 To Download, right click & save target as..

subscribeOn November 13, 1976 Howard Pearlstein & Henry Marshall interviewed Dr. Timothy Leary just a few months after his release from prison in 1976. It took place in Houston, Texas for the local Pacifica Station, KPFT. Unlike most radio interviews, instead of just one person asking the questions this one consisted of a panel of men who at times seemed more like a board of inquiry of some kind. However, it doesn't take long for Dr. Leary to be in full command of the situation. And for historians who are interested in whether or not Leary gave evidence against one of his attorneys, you'll be quite pleased when the questions trend in this direction. Tim defends his own sanity but quickly moves on to a preliminary discussion of Leary's 8-Circuit theories, evolution, the future, space migration, life extension & more.

Tim Leary Arrested

Timothy Francis Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) was an American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs. During a time when drugs like LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment. Both studies produced useful data, but Leary and his associate Richard Alpert were dismissed from the university.

Leary believed LSD showed therapeutic potential for use in psychiatry. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy, such as "turn on, tune in, drop out ", "set and setting", and "think for yourself and question authority". He also wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts involving space migration, intelligence increase and life extension (SMI²LE), and he developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977).

During the 1960s and 1970s, Leary was arrested regularly and was held captive in 29 different prisons throughout the world. President Richard Nixon once described Leary as "the most dangerous man in America". Leary was released from prison on April 21, 1976 by Governor Jerry Brown.

[NOTE: All quotations are by Dr. Timothy Leary]

“From my earliest years I wanted to figure out what life was about. I wanted to find out why I was here so that my actions and my desires would have some meaning. I don’t understand why everyone isn’t mainly and centrally a philosopher, because if you aren’t trying to figure that out for yourself you’re borrowing, or begging, or passively taking on someone else’s philosophy, and this may lead to situations that are unsatisfactory.”

“A philosopher never gets in trouble if his ideas are not new.”

"I spent four years in 29 jails and prisons on four continents."

“Looked at it pragmatically, the trick of taking intelligence tests is to get the highest score possible in terms of intelligence as defined by middle class intellectuals who designed the test.”

“It’s the nature of the game that a philosopher who’s proposing radical new ideas will be opposed by 80% of society.”

“My responsibility is to the genetic process and evolutionary process as I see it.”

“We have to be gentle with each other because we are going through a period of mutations.”

“I think, though, that there has never been a cultural change in history that was as profound, as pervasive, and as bloodless as the cultural revolution of the Sixties. By and large it was a smiling revolution.”

“By and large I’m very proud of what happened in the Sixties, every aspect of our culture was reformed and revised and reviewed and improved.”

“Now, LSD is a dangerous drug because it’s basically a post-terrestrial experience. And for caterpillars to start taking a butterfly drug, it gives you perspectives, and forecasts what’s to come.”

“There’s perhaps less than ten percent of the population who should even consider, under the best circumstances of disciplined control, to take this drug, because LSD is not a hedonistic, laid-back, multi-orgasm drug. It really isn’t. It’s a neurological experience. It’s a sixth circuit neuroelectric experience, and it’s basically preparation for post-terrestrial life.”

“To summarize, I’m an evolutionary agent using electromagnetic energies to broadcast evolutionary signals. The signals are ‘leave the planet’, ‘get smarter’, and ‘learn how to live as long as you want’.”

Leary makes a point about President Kennedy attempting to turn the solution to a bad economy away from war and into space.

Further information may be found at:
FREE Mp3 recordings are featured on the Psychedelic Salon Podcast
Dr. Timothy Leary on Wikipedia
The Timothy Leary Movie Archive

Monday, October 17, 2011

Secrets in Plain Sight


Quicktime intro for iPad users

Watch individual episodes and read the blog for the latest discoveries.

Synopsis: Secrets In Plain Sight is an awe inspiring exploration of great art, architecture, and urban design which skillfully unveils an unlikely intersection of geometry, politics, numerical philosophy, religious mysticism, new physics, music, astronomy, and world history. Exploring key monuments and their positions in Egypt, Stonehenge, Jerusalem, Rome, Paris, London, Edinburgh, Washington DC, New York, and San Francisco brings to light a secret obsession shared by pharaohs, philosophers and kings; templars and freemasons; great artists and architects; popes and presidents, spanning the whole of recorded history up to the present time. As the series of videos reveals how profound ancient knowledge inherited from Egypt has been encoded in units of measurement, in famous works of art, in the design of major buildings, in the layout of city streets and public spaces, and in the precise placement of obelisks and other important monuments upon the Earth, the viewer is led to perceive an elegant harmonic system linking the human body with the architectural, urban, planetary, solar, and galactic scales.

Scott's Youtube page at:

GnosticMedia Youtube page at:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Carl Ruck: Mushrooms, Myth & Mithras

mythandmithras From:
Podcast Episode #122 – DOWNLOAD MP3
Mushrooms, Myth & Mithras: The Drug Cult that Civilized Europe
Professor Carl A.P. Ruck interviewed by Jan Irvin

This episode is an interview with Prof. Carl Ruck, titled “Mushrooms, Myth and Mithras: The Drug Cult that Civilized Europe” and is being released on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. My interview with Carl was recorded on Sept. 22, 2011.

Today Carl Ruck is back for his 3rd interview with us to discuss his explosive new book, Mushrooms, Myth and Mithras, The Drug Cult that Civilized Europe.

Carl A.P. Ruck is Professor of Classics at Boston University, an authority on the ecstatic rituals of the god Dionysus. With the ethno-mycologist R. Gordon Wasson and Albert Hofmann, he identified the secret psychoactive ingredient in the visionary potion that was drunk by the initiates at the Eleusinian Mystery. In Persephone’s Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of Religion, he proclaimed the centrality of psychoactive sacraments at the very beginnings of religion, employing the neologism “entheogen” to free the topic from the pejorative connotations for words like drug or hallucinogen.

Also included in this post is the video Heretical Visionary Sacraments Amongst the Ecclesiastical Elite" by Carl A. P. Ruck & Blaise Daniel Staples A talk presented to : The Italian Society for the Study of the States of Consciousness on August 30, 2003 at Perinaldo, Italy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Entheogens & Existential Intelligence

Entheogens & Existential Intelligence:
The Use of “Plant Teachers” as Cognitive Tools
By Kenneth Tupper
Download: Full Text Version
Yvonne McGillivray
Painting by Yvonne McGillivray


In light of recent specific liberalizations in drug laws in some countries, this article investigates the potential of entheogens (i.e. psychoactive plants used as spiritual sacraments) as tools to facilitate existential intelligence. “Plant teachers” from the Americas such as ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, and the Indo-Aryan soma of Eurasia are examples of both past- and presently-used entheogens. These have all been revered as spiritual or cognitive tools to provide a richer cosmological understanding of the world for both human individuals and cultures. I use Howard Gardner’s (1999a) revised multiple intelligence theory and his postulation of an “existential” intelligence as a theoretical lens through which to account for the cognitive possibilities of entheogens and explore potential ramifications for education.


In this article I assess and further develop the possibility of an “existential” intelligence as postulated by Howard Gardner (1999a). Moreover, I entertain the possibility that some kinds of psychoactive substances—entheogens—have the potential to facilitate this kind of intelligence. This issue arises from the recent liberalization of drug laws in several Western industrialized countries to allow for the sacramental use of ayahuasca, a psychoactive tea brewed from plants indigenous to the Amazon. I challenge readers to step outside a long-standing dominant paradigm in modern Western culture that a priori regards “hallucinogenic” drug use as necessarily maleficent and devoid of any merit. I intend for my discussion to confront assumptions about drugs that have unjustly perpetuated the disparagement and prohibition of some kinds of psychoactive substance use. More broadly, I intend for it to challenge assumptions about intelligence that constrain contemporary educational thought.

“Entheogen” is a word coined by scholars proposing to replace the term “psychedelic” (Ruck, Bigwood, Staples, Ott, & Wasson, 1979), which was felt to overly connote psychological and clinical paradigms and to be too socio-culturally loaded from its 1960s roots to appropriately designate the revered plants and substances used in traditional rituals. I use both terms in this article: “entheogen” when referring to a substance used as a spiritual or sacramental tool, and “psychedelic” when referring to one used for any number of purposes during or following the so-called psychedelic era of the 1960s (recognizing that some contemporary non-indigenous uses may be entheogenic—the categories are by no means clearly discreet). What kinds of plants or chemicals fall into the category of entheogen is a matter of debate, as a large number of inebriants—from coca and marijuana to alcohol and opium—have been venerated as gifts from the gods (or God) in different cultures at different times. For the purposes of this article, however, I focus on the class of drugs that Lewin (1924/1997) termed “phantastica,” a name deriving from the Greek word for the faculty of imagination (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1973). Later these substances became known as hallucinogens or psychedelics, a class whose members include lysergic acid derivatives, psilocybin, mescaline and dimethyltryptamine. With the exception of mescaline, these all share similar chemical structures; all, including mescaline, produce similar phenomenological effects; and, more importantly for the present discussion, all have a history of ritual use as psychospiritual medicines or, as I argue, cultural tools to facilitate cognition (Schultes & Hofmann, 1992).

The issue of entheogen use in modern Western culture becomes more significant in light of several legal precedents in countries such as Brazil, Holland, Spain and soon perhaps the United States and Canada. Ayahuasca, which I discuss in more detail in the following section on “plant teachers,” was legalized for religious use by non-indigenous people in Brazil in 1987i. One Brazilian group, the Santo Daime, was using its sacrament in ceremonies in the Netherlands when, in the autumn of 1999, authorities intervened and arrested its leaders. This was the first case of religious intolerance by a Dutch government in over three hundred years. A subsequent legal challenge, based on European Union religious freedom laws, saw them acquitted of all charges, setting a precedent for the rest of Europe (Adelaars, 2001). A similar case in Spain resulted in the Spanish government granting the right to use ayahuasca in that country. A recent court decision in the United States by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, September 4th, 2003, ruled in favour of religious freedom to use ayahuasca (Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, 2003). And in Canada, an application to Health Canada and the Department of Justice for exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is pending, which may permit the Santo Daime Church the religious use of their sacrament, known as Daime or Santo Daimeii (J.W. Rochester, personal communication, October 8th, 2003)

One of the questions raised by this trend of liberalization in otherwise prohibitionist regulatory regimes is what benefits substances such as ayahuasca have. The discussion that follows takes up this question with respect to contemporary psychological theories about intelligence and touches on potential ramifications for education. The next section examines the metaphor of “plant teachers,” which is not uncommon among cultures that have traditionally practiced the entheogenic use of plants. Following that, I use Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (1983) as a theoretical framework with which to account for cognitive implications of entheogen use. Finally, I take up a discussion of possible relevance of existential intelligence and entheogens to education.

Plant Teachers

Before moving on to a broader discussion of intelligence(s), I will provide some background on ayahuasca and entheogens. Ayahuasca has been a revered “plant teacher” among dozens of South American indigenous peoples for centuries, if not longer (Luna, 1984; Schultes & Hofmann, 1992). The word ayahuasca is from the Quechua language of indigenous peoples of Ecuador and Peru, and translates as “vine of the soul” (Metzner, 1999). Typically, it refers to a tea made from a jungle liana, Banisteriopsis caapi, with admixtures of other plants, but most commonly the leaves of a plant from the coffee family, Psychotria viridis (McKenna, 1999). These two plants respectively contain harmala alkaloids and dimethyltryptamine, two substances that when ingested orally create a biochemical synergy capable of producing profound alterations in consciousness (Grob, et al., 1996; McKenna, Towers & Abbot, 1984). Among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, ayahuasca is one of the most valuable medicinal and sacramental plants in their pharmacopoeias. Although shamans in different tribes use the tea for various purposes, and have varying recipes for it, the application of ayahuasca as an effective tool to attain understanding and wisdom is one of the most prevalent (Brown, 1986; Dobkin de Rios, 1984).

Notwithstanding the explosion of popular interest in psychoactive drugs during the 1960s, ayahuasca until quite recently managed to remain relatively obscure in Western cultureiii. However, the late 20th century saw the growth of religious movements among non-indigenous people in Brazil syncretizing the use of ayahuasca with Christian symbolism, African spiritualism, and native ritual. Two of the more widespread ayahuasca churches are the Santo Daime (Santo Daime, 2004) and the União do Vegetal (União do Vegetal, 2004). These organizations have in the past few decades gained legitimacy as valid, indeed valuable, spiritual practices providing social, psychological and spiritual benefits (Grob, 1999; Riba, et al., 2001).

Ayahuasca is not the only “plant teacher” in the pantheon of entheogenic tools. Other indigenous peoples of the Americas have used psilocybin mushrooms for millennia for spiritual and healing purposes (Dobkin de Rios, 1973; Wasson, 1980). Similarly, the peyote cactus has a long history of use by Mexican indigenous groups (Fikes, 1996; Myerhoff, 1974; Stewart, 1987), and is currently widely used in the United States by the Native American Church (LaBarre, 1989; Smith & Snake, 1996). And even in the early history of Western culture, the ancient Indo-Aryan texts of the Rig Veda sing the praises of the deified Soma (Pande, 1984). Although the taxonomic identity of Soma is lost, it seems to have been a plant or mushroom and had the power to reliably induce mystical experiences—an “entheogen” par excellence (Eliade, 1978; Wasson, 1968). The variety of entheogens extends far beyond the limited examples I have offered here. However, ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote and Soma are exemplars of plants which have been culturally esteemed for their psychological and spiritual impacts on both individuals and communities.

In this article I argue that the importance of entheogens lies in their role as tools, as mediators between mind and environment. Defining a psychoactive drug as a tool—perhaps a novel concept for some—invokes its capacity to effect a purposeful change on the mind/body. Commenting on Vygotsky’s notions of psychological tools, John-Steiner and Souberman (1978) note that “tool use has . . . important effects upon internal and functional relationships within the human brain” (p. 133). Although they were likely not thinking of drugs as tools, the significance of this observation becomes even more literal when the tools in question are plants or chemicals ingested with the intent of affecting consciousness through the manipulation of brain chemistry. Indeed, psychoactive plants or chemicals seem to defy the traditional bifurcation between physical and psychological tools, as they affect the mind/body (understood by modern psychologists to be identical).

It is important to consider the degree to which the potential of entheogens comes not only from their immediate neuropsychological effects, but also from the social practices—rituals—into which their use has traditionally been incorporated (Dobkin de Rios, 1996; Smith, 2000). The protective value that ritual provides for entheogen use is evident from its universal application in traditional practices (Weil, 1972/1986). Medical evidence suggests that there are minimal physiological risks associated with psychedelic drugs (Callaway, et al., 1999; Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1979/1998; Julien, 1998). Albert Hofmann (1980), the chemist who first accidentally synthesized and ingested LSD, contends that the psychological risks associated with psychedelics in modern Western culture are a function of their recreational use in unsafe circumstances. A ritual context, however, offers psychospiritual safeguards that make the potential of entheogenic “plant teachers” to enhance cognition an intriguing possibility.

Existential Intelligence

Howard Gardner (1983) developed a theory of multiple intelligences that originally postulated seven types of intelligence (iv). Since then, he has added a “naturalist” intelligence and entertained the possibility of a “spiritual” intelligence (1999a; 1999b). Not wanting to delve too far into territory fraught with theological pitfalls, Gardner (1999a) settled on looking at “existential” intelligence rather than “spiritual” intelligence (p. 123). Existential intelligence, as Gardner characterizes it, involves having a heightened capacity to appreciate and attend to the cosmological enigmas that define the human condition, an exceptional awareness of the metaphysical, ontological and epistemological mysteries that have been a perennial concern for people of all cultures (1999a).

In his original formulation of the theory, Gardner challenges (narrow) mainstream definitions of intelligence with a broader one that sees intelligence as “the ability to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in at least one culture or community” (1999a, p. 113). He lays out eight criteria, or “signs,” that he argues should be used to identify an intelligence; however, he notes that these do not constitute necessary conditions for determining an intelligence, merely desiderata that a candidate intelligence should meet (1983, p. 62). He also admits that none of his original seven intelligences fulfilled all the criteria, although they all met a majority of the eight. For existential intelligence, Gardner himself identifies six which it seems to meet; I will look at each of these and discuss their merits in relation to entheogens.

One criterion applicable to existential intelligence is the identification of a neural substrate to which the intelligence may correlate. Gardner (1999a) notes that recent neuropsychological evidence supports the hypothesis that the brain’s temporal lobe plays a key role in producing mystical states of consciousness and spiritual awareness (p. 124-5; LaPlante, 1993; Newberg, D’Aquili & Rause, 2001). He also recognizes that “certain brain centres and neural transmitters are mobilized in [altered consciousness] states, whether they are induced by the ingestion of substances or by a control of the will” (Gardner, 1999a, p.125). Another possibility, which Gardner does not explore, is that endogenous dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in humans may play a significant role in the production of spontaneous or induced altered states of consciousness (Pert, 2001). DMT is a powerful entheogenic substance that exists naturally in the mammalian brain (Barker, Monti & Christian, 1981), as well as being a common constituent of ayahuasca and the Amazonian snuff, yopo (Ott, 1994). Furthermore, DMT is a close analogue of the neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine, or serotonin. It has been known for decades that the primary neuropharmacological action of psychedelics has been on serotonin systems, and serotonin is now understood to be correlated with healthy modes of consciousness.

One psychiatric researcher has recently hypothesized that endogenous DMT stimulates the pineal gland to create such spontaneous psychedelic states as near-death experiences (Strassman, 2001). Whether this is correct or not, the role of DMT in the brain is an area of empirical research that deserves much more attention, especially insofar as it may contribute to an evidential foundation for existential intelligence.

Another criterion for an intelligence is the existence of individuals of exceptional ability within the domain of that intelligence. Unfortunately, existential precocity is not something sufficiently valued in modern Western culture to the degree that savants in this domain are commonly celebrated today. Gardner (1999a) observes that within Tibetan Buddhism, the choosing of lamas may involve the detection of a predisposition to existential intellect (if it is not identifying the reincarnation of a previous lama, as Tibetan Buddhists themselves believe) (p. 124). Gardner also cites Czikszentmilhalyi’s consideration of the “early-emerging concerns for cosmic issues of the sort reported in the childhoods of future religious leaders like Gandhi and of several future physicists” (Gardner, 1999a, p. 124; Czikszentmilhalyi, 1996). Presumably, some individuals who are enjoined to enter a monastery or nunnery at a young age may be so directed due to an appreciable manifestation of existential awareness. Likewise, individuals from indigenous cultures who take up shamanic practice—who “have abilities beyond others to dream, to imagine, to enter states of trance” (Larsen, 1976, p. 9)—often do so because of a significant interest in cosmological concerns at a young age, which could be construed as a prodigious capacity in the domain of existential intelligencev (Eliade, 1964; Greeley, 1974; Halifax, 1979).

The third criterion for determining an intelligence that Gardner suggests is an identifiable set of core operational abilities that manifest that intelligence. Gardner finds this relatively unproblematic and articulates the core operations for existential intelligence as:

the capacity to locate oneself with respect to the farthest reaches of the cosmos—the infinite no less than the infinitesimal—and the related capacity to locate oneself with respect to the most existential aspects of the human condition: the significance of life, the meaning of death, the ultimate fate of the physical and psychological worlds, such profound experiences as love of another human being or total immersion in a work of art. (1999a, p. 123)

Gardner notes that as with other more readily accepted types of intelligence, there is no specific truth that one would attain with existential intelligence—for example, as musical intelligence does not have to manifest itself in any specific genre or category of music, neither does existential intelligence privilege any one philosophical system or spiritual doctrine. As Gardner (1999a) puts it, “there exists [with existential intelligence] a species potential—or capacity—to engage in transcendental concerns that can be aroused and deployed under certain circumstances” (p. 123). Reports on uses of psychedelics by Westerners in the 1950s and early 1960s—generated prior to their prohibition and, some might say, profanation—reveal a recurrent theme of spontaneous mystical experiences that are consistent with enhanced capacity of existential intelligence (Huxley, 1954/1971; Masters & Houston, 1966; Pahnke, 1970; Smith, 1964; Watts, 1958/1969).

Another criterion for admitting an intelligence is identifying a developmental history and a set of expert “end-state” performances for it. Pertaining to existential intelligence, Gardner notes that all cultures have devised spiritual or metaphysical systems to deal with the inherent human capacity for existential issues, and further that these respective systems invariably have steps or levels of sophistication separating the novice from the adept. He uses the example of Pope John XXIII’s description of his training to advance up the ecclesiastic hierarchy as a contemporary illustration of this point (1999a, p. 124). However, the instruction of the neophyte is a manifest part of almost all spiritual training and, again, the demanding process of imparting of shamanic wisdom—often including how to effectively and appropriately use entheogens—is an excellent example of this process in indigenous cultures (Eliade, 1964).

A fifth criterion Gardner suggests for an intelligence is determining its evolutionary history and evolutionary plausibility. The self-reflexive question of when and why existential intelligence first arose in the Homo genus is one of the perennial existential questions of humankind. That it is an exclusively human trait is almost axiomatic, although a small but increasing number of researchers are willing to admit the possibility of higher forms of cognition in non-human animals (Masson & McCarthy, 1995; Vonk, 2003). Gardner (1999a) argues that only by the Upper Paleolithic period did “human beings within a culture possess a brain capable of considering the cosmological issues central to existential intelligence” (p. 124) and that the development of a capacity for existential thinking may be linked to “a conscious sense of finite space and irreversible time, two promising loci for stimulating imaginative explorations of transcendental spheres” (p. 124). He also suggests that “thoughts about existential issues may well have evolved as responses to necessarily occurring pain, perhaps as a way of reducing pain or better equipping individuals to cope with it” (Gardner, 1999a, p. 125). As with determining the evolutionary origin of language, tracing a phylogenesis of existential intelligence is conjectural at best. Its role in the development of the species is equally difficult to assess, although Winkelman (2000) argues that consciousness and shamanic practices—and presumably existential intelligence as well—stem from psychobiological adaptations integrating older and more recently evolved structures in the triune hominid brain. McKenna (1992) goes even so far as to postulate that the ingestion of psychoactive substances such as entheogenic mushrooms may have helped stimulate cognitive developments such as existential and linguistic thinking in our proto-human ancestors. Some researchers in the 1950s and 1960s found enhanced creativity and problem-solving skills among subjects given LSD and other psychedelic drugs (Harman, McKim, Mogar, Fadiman & Stolaroff, 1966; Izumi, 1970; Krippner, 1985; Stafford & Golightly, 1967), skills which certainly would have been evolutionarily advantageous to our hominid ancestors. Such avenues of investigation are beginning to be broached again by both academic scholars and amateur psychonauts (Dobkin de Rios & Janiger, 2003; Spitzer, et al., 1996; MAPS Bulletin, 2000).

The final criterion Gardner mentions as applicable to existential intelligence is susceptibility to encoding in a symbol system. Here, again, Gardner concedes that there is abundant evidence in favour of accepting existential thinking as an intelligence. In his words, “many of the most important and most enduring sets of symbol systems (e.g., those featured in the Catholic liturgy) represent crystallizations of key ideas and experiences that have evolved within [cultural] institutions” (1999a, p. 123). Another salient example that illustrates this point is the mytho-symbolism ascribed to ayahuasca visions among the Tukano, an Amazonian indigenous people. Reichel-Dolmatoff (1975) made a detailed study of these visions by asking a variety of informants to draw representations with sticks in the dirt (p. 174). He compiled twenty common motifs, observing that most of them bear a striking resemblance to phosphene patterns (i.e. visual phenomena perceived in the absence of external stimuli or by applying light pressure to the eyeball) compiled by Max Knoll (Oster, 1970). The Tukano interpret these universal human neuropsychological phenomena as symbolically significant according to their traditional ayahuasca-steeped mythology, reflecting the codification of existential ideas within their culture.

Narby (1998) also examines the codification of symbols generated during ayahuasca experiences by tracing similarities between intertwining snake motifs in the visions of Amazonian shamans and the double-helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid. He found remarkable similarities between representations of biological knowledge by indigenous shamans and those of modern geneticists. More recently, Narby (2002) has followed up on this work by bringing molecular biologists to the Amazon to participate in ayahuasca ceremonies with experiences shamans, an endeavour he suggests may provide useful cross-fertilization in divergent realms of human knowledge.

The two other criteria of an intelligence are support from experimental psychological tasks and support from psychometric findings. Gardner suggests that existential intelligence is more debatable within these domains, citing personality inventories that attempt to measure religiosity or spirituality; he notes, “it remains unclear just what is being probed by such instruments and whether self-report is a reliable index of existential intelligence” (1999a, p. 125). It seems transcendental states of consciousness and the cognition they engender do not lend themselves to quantification or easy replication in psychology laboratories. However, Strassman, Qualls, Uhlenhuth, & Kellner (1994) developed a psychometric instrument—the Hallucinogen Rating Scale—to measure human responses to intravenous administration of DMT, and it has since been reliably used for other psychedelic experiences (Riba, Rodriguez-Fornells, Strassman, & Barbanoj, 2001).

One historical area of empirical psychological research that did ostensibly stimulate a form of what might be considered existential intelligence was clinical investigations into psychedelics. Until such research became academically unfashionable and then politically impossible in the early 1970s, psychologists and clinical researchers actively explored experimentally-induced transcendent experiences using drugs in the interests of both pure science and applied medical treatments (Abramson, 1967; Cohen, 1964; Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1979/1998; Masters & Houston, 1966). One of the more famous of these was Pahnke’s (1970) so-called “Good Friday” experiment, which attempted to induce spiritual experiences with psilocybin within a randomized double-blind control methodology. His conclusion that mystical experiences were indeed reliably produced, despite methodological problems with the study design, was borne out by a critical long-term follow-up (Doblin, 1991), which raises intriguing questions about both entheogens and existential intelligence.

Studies such as Pahnke’s (1970), despite their promise, were prematurely terminated due to public pressure from a populace alarmed by burgeoning contemporary recreational drug use. Only about a decade ago did the United States government give researchers permission to renew (on a very small scale) investigations into psychedelics (Strassman 2001; Strassman & Qualls, 1994). Cognitive psychologists are also taking an interest in entheogens such as ayahuasca (Shanon, 2002). Regardless of whether support for existential intelligence can be established psychometrically or in experimental psychological tasks, Gardner’s theory expressly stipulates that not all eight criteria must be uniformly met in order for an intelligence to qualify. Nevertheless, Gardner claims to “find the phenomenon perplexing enough, and the distance from other intelligences great enough” (1999a, p. 127) to be reluctant “at present to add existential intelligence to the list . . . . At most [he is] willing, Fellini-style, to joke about ‘8½ intelligences’” (p. 127). I contend that research into entheogens and other means of altering consciousness will further support the case for treating existential intelligence as a valid cognitive domain.

Educational Implications?

By recapitulating and augmenting Gardner’s discussion of existential intelligence, I hope to have strengthened the case for its inclusion as a valid cognitive domain. However, doing so raises questions of what ramifications an acceptance of existential intelligence would have for contemporary Western educational theory and practice. How might we foster this hitherto neglected intelligence and allow it to be used in constructive ways? There is likely a range of educational practices that could be used to stimulate cognition in this domain, many of which could be readily implemented without much Yet I intentionally raise the prospect of using entheogens in this capacity—not with young children, but perhaps with older teens in the passage to adulthood—to challenge theorists, policy-makers and practitioners.vii

The potential of entheogens as tools for education in contemporary Western culture was identified by Aldous Huxley. Although better known as a novelist than as a philosopher of education, Huxley spent a considerable amount of time—particularly as he neared the end of his life—addressing the topic of education. Like much of his literature, Huxley’s observations and critiques of the socio-cultural forces at work in his time were cannily prescient; they bear as much, if not more, relevance in the 21st century as when they were written. Most remarkably, and relevant to my thesis, Huxley saw entheogens as possible educational tools:

Under the current dispensation the vast majority of individuals lose, in the course of education, all the openness to inspiration, all the capacity to be aware of other things than those enumerated in the Sears-Roebuck catalogue which constitutes the conventionally “real” world . . . . Is it too much to hope that a system of education may some day be devised, which shall give results, in terms of human development, commensurate with the time, money, energy and devotion expended? In such a system of education it may be that mescalin or some other chemical substance may play a part by making it possible for young people to “taste and see” what they have learned about at second hand . . . in the writings of the religious, or the works of poets, painters and musicians. (Letter to Dr. Humphrey Osmond, April 10th, 1953—in Horowitz & Palmer, 1999, p.30)

In a more literary expression of this notion, Huxley’s final novel Island (1962) portrays an ideal culture that has achieved a balance of scientific and spiritual thinking, and which also incorporates the ritualized use of entheogens for education. The representation of drug use that Huxley portrays in Island contrasts markedly with the more widely-known soma of his earlier novel, Brave New World (1932/1946): whereas soma was a pacifier that muted curiosity and served the interests of the controlling elite, the entheogenic “moksha medicine” of Island offered liminal experiences in young adults that stimulated profound reflection, self-actualization and, I submit, existential intelligence.

Huxley’s writings point to an implicit recognition of the capacity of entheogens to be used as educational “tools”. The concept of tool here refers not merely the physical devices fashioned to aid material production, but, following Vygotsky (1978), more broadly to those means of symbolic and/or cultural mediation between the mind and the world (Cole, 1996; Wertsch, 1991). Of course, deriving educational benefit from a tool requires much more than simply having and wielding it; one must also have an intrinsic respect for the object qua tool, a cultural system in which the tool is valued as such, and guides or teachers who are adept at using the tool to provide helpful direction. As Larsen (1976) remarks in discussing the phenomenon of would-be “shamans” in Western culture experimenting with mind-altering chemicals: “we have no symbolic vocabulary, no grounded mythological tradition to make our experiences comprehensible to us . . . no senior shamans to help ensure that our [shamanic experience of] dismemberment be followed by a rebirth” (p. 81). Given the recent history of these substances in modern Western culture, it is hardly surprising that they have been demonized (Hofmann, 1980). However, cultural practices that have traditionally used entheogens as therapeutic agents consistently incorporate protective safeguards—set, settingviii, established dosages, and mythocultural respect (Zinberg, 1984). The fear that inevitably arises in modern Western culture when addressing the issue of entheogens stems, I submit, not from any properties intrinsic to the substances themselves, but rather from a general misunderstanding of their power and capacity as tools. Just as a sharp knife can be used for good or ill, depending on whether it is in the hands of a skilled surgeon or a reckless youth, so too can entheogens be used or misused.

The use of entheogens such as ayahuasca is exemplary of the long and ongoing tradition in many cultures to employ psychoactives as tools that stimulate foundational types of understanding (Tupper, in press). That such substances are capable of stimulating profoundly transcendent experiences is evident from both the academic literature and anecdotal reports. Accounting fully for their action, however, requires going beyond the usual explanatory schemas: applying Gardner’s (1999a) multiple intelligence theory as a heuristic framework opens new ways of understanding entheogens and their potential benefits. At the same time, entheogens bolster the case for Gardner’s proposed addition of existential intelligence. This article attempts to present these concepts in such a way that the possibility of using entheogens as tools is taken seriously by those with an interest in new and transformative ideas in education.


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i The 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances allows for indigenous peoples to use traditional medicines and sacraments even if those substances are prohibited under international drug control treaties (United Nations, 1977, Article 32).

ii Santo Daime is the name of the sacrament as well as the religion.

iii Writers and drug aficionados William S. Burroughs and Allan Ginsberg (1963) published an account of their experiences seeking out and drinking ayahuasca in South America in the early 1960s, but their report was mostly negative and did not inspire many others to follow in their footsteps. As ethnobotanist Wade Davis remarks, “ayahuasca is many things, but pleasurable is not one of them” (2001).

iv The original seven types of intelligence Gardner (1983) proposed were: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.

v Eliade (1964) identifies two primary ways of becoming a shaman: 1) hereditary transmission, or falling heir to the vocation in a family legacy passed down from generation to generation; and 2) spontaneous vocation, or being called to shamanism by the spirits. Prodigious existential intelligence may be manifest in either case.

vi Here I conceptually separate education and schooling; unfortunately, I don’t see the latter institution—the legacy of 19th-century homogenizing and democratizing socio-political programs (Cremin, 1961; Egan, 2002)—as inspiring much optimism for an embracing of existential intelligence.

vii Gotz (1970) argues that the practices of teachers might benefit from the mind-expanding potential of psychedelics.

viii “Set is a person’s expectations of what a drug will do to him [sic], considered in the context of his whole personality. Setting is the environment, both physical and social, in which a drug is taken” (Weil, 1972/1986). These factors influence all psychoactive drug experiences, but psychedelics or entheogens especially so.