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Editorial    by Royce Carlson

December 5, 1999

Psychedelic/Entheogenic Culture

When scientist Albert Hoffmann inadvertently discovered LSD about 50 years ago he planted the seeds of a new sub-culture built around the use of psycho-active substances for the purpose of spiritual and psychological growth. In the early 60ís, the Sandoz Pharmaceutical Company in Switzerland began manufacturing LSD and distributing it to researchers in America to study its effects. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (now known as Ram Dass) were two of the first researchers in the U.S. as psychology professors at Harvard. They experimented on graduate students and also themselves. Their experiences with various substances launched them on the careers that made them famous. By the late sixties young people were "turning on, tuning in, and dropping out" to quote Learyís famous phrase and a sub-culture was born.

Out of nearly forty years of this experimentation here in the West, the sub-culture has developed itís own art, music, politics, religious beliefs and lifestyle. Musically, bands such as the Grateful Dead and Phish grew out of this culture. More recently psychedelic trance, rave, and techno music are associated with these drugs. Political groups are active either working to get these drugs legalized or working to build a new society based on visions catalyzed by the psychedelic experience.

A new term for the exploration of the spiritual realm via psycho-active drugs is "entheogenic." This term essentially means "to become divine within." One of the persistent properties of the entheogenic experience is an enhancement of oneís sensitivities to the spiritual realm. Shamans of many cultures have been using psychotropic plants for thousands of years to establish contact with the Divine. Peyote is a sacrament in many Native American tribes as are sacred mushrooms. In the U.S., psycho-explorers began distilling the psycho-active chemicals from these plants as well as fabricating new alkaloids such as DMT and Ecstasy that produced similar experiences. The entheogens are seen as religious tools to help us get closer to God, realize our own Divine nature and/or experience communion and oneness with all life directly.

The psychedelic/entheogenic culture has itís champions and eloquent spokesmen such as Terence McKenna, Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, John C. Lilly, Stanislav Grof as well as Timothy Leary all very intelligent, respected and charismatic public figures who have had profound, life-changing experiences with entheogens.

The psychedelic sub-culture covers so much ground that it has been difficult to categorize in the usual way. Look at Zenzibar's Psycho-Active Drugs category for several links to sites on this subject. Also, use our new search box to get some of the sites that happen to reside in other categories of Zenzibar's database.  Have a nice trip!