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An entheogen (“generating the divine within”) is a chemical substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context that often induces psychological or physiological changes.
Entheogens have been used to supplement many diverse practices geared towards achieving transcendence, including meditation, yoga, prayer, psychedelic art, chanting, and multiple forms of music. They have also been historically employed in traditional medicine via psychedelic therapy.
Entheogens have been used in a ritualized context for thousands of years; their religious significance is well established in anthropological and modern contexts. Examples of traditional entheogens include traditional psychedelics like peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, and ayahuasca, psychedelic-dissociatives like Tabernanthe iboga, atypical psychedelics like Salvia divinorum, quasi-psychedelics like cannabis, and deliriants like Amanita muscaria. Traditionally a tea, admixture, or potion like bhang is the preferred mode of ingestion.
More broadly, the term entheogen is used to refer to any psychoactive drugs when used for their religious or spiritual effects, whether or not in a formal religious or traditional structure. This terminology is often chosen to contrast with recreational use of the same drugs. Studies such as Timothy Leary’s Marsh Chapel Experiment and Roland Griffiths’ psilocybin studies at Johns Hopkins have documented reports of mystical/spiritual/religious experiences from participants who were administered psychoactive drugs in controlled trials. Ongoing research is limited due to widespread drug prohibition; however, some countries have legislation that allows for traditional entheogen use.
In modern culture the spiritual use of ganja has been spread by the disciples of the Rastafari movement who use herb as a sacrament and as an aid to meditation.