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Registered: 06/06/03
Posts: 60,957
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Our Vocabulary
    #11160238 - 09/30/09 11:12 PM (8 years, 10 months ago)

Lately a topic that holds great interest for me is the vocabulary with which we discuss the class of substances that we come here to discuss.  While I admittedly love the word psychedelic, and gravitate towards many things that classify themselves as psychedelic, I think (or at least hope) that we can all agree this word carries a weight with it.  A heavy, heavy stone hangs around its neck.  The word psychedelic is bound up with all sorts of connotations, connotations that are not in of themselves "negative" but which are perceived as such by much of society at large. I don't know about the rest of you, but for me it's very important to do what little or as much as I can - whether affecting changes in perception in my own social circles, or writing articles and volunteering and participating with organizations trying to affect change on a larger scale - to shift negative attitudes towards these substances, to speak clearly to otherwise deafened ears, to reach a hand across the aisle. The psychedelic community - and there, I used the word! - is part of the larger community as a whole and we have things to offer the society of which we are a part.  Sometimes I think that when we use the word "psychedelic," we unwittingly (or perhaps wittingly) embrace a counter-cultural attitude.

Psychedelic, coined by Humphrey Osmond, is a wonderful word for the class of substances it describes. It means "mind-manifesting". Psyche meaning mind and delis from the latin to manifest.  In our sensory perceptions, our altered states of consciousness, we have a different sort of interaction with our consciousness, and with unitive consciousness and that consciousness that lay beyond our own minds. It is made manifest, in a way that is often difficult to perceive and cognate in our normal waking lives.  I love this word.

I also love a lot about the 1960's and the psychedelic culture that blossomed then, and died or went underground or was swallowed up by the years that followed and the unfortunate suppression of what some might call our cognitive liberty.  Regardless of how one feels about the sixties - and I might opine that, for all their cultural contributions to our community, the Merry Pranksters and Leary's League of Spiritual Discovery did indeed leave a bad taste in the mouths of those who we might not term "psychedelic insiders" - the word "psychedelic" is inexorably bound up with certain connotations.

At the Horizons conference this weekend, Bob Jesse, the organizer of the Council of Spiritual Pratices mentioned doing an academic Lexis-Nexis search of the word psychedelic. Among the top related terms in his search of thousands of publications over forty years of history were: bellbottoms, lava lamps, rock music.  Psychedelic is bound up with an aesthetic.  It's unavoidable at this point.

This puts us at an interesting situation.  What can we call this class of substances? I personally have used many terms to refer to them. I have called them chemicals, drugs, molecules, tools, sacramanets, psychedelics, hallucinogens, entheogens, psychotropics, vitamins.  As I move towards a commitment to my passion - these substances being that passion - and as I prepare myself to embark on what I hope is a successful attempt at participating in the current resurgence of research and attention being given to these substances, I'm personally making the decision to embrace the word entheogen more wholeheartedly.

This isn't a terribly easy editorial decision for me to make. There is a lot of baggage bound up with entheogen, even though it was only coined in 1979 by a group of scholars (including the noted Schultes, Wasson, Ott and Ruck) and has not necessarily entered into the greater social consciousness.  Entheogen is derived from latin much as psychedelic is, and it loosely translates to "generating the divine within" though perhaps this translation is not quite apt since the implication with entheogen is that the divine already exists inside one and does not need to be created/generated so much as awakened.

This is a problem word for many psychonauts because many of them (and many of you) would not necessary categorize or define your relationship to these molecules as being one of a spiritual nature.  Even though for many of you, your relationship to these substances is one of understanding your self better and your relationship to the infinite reality around you, and even though I might say that that is the essence of spirituality, you are the master of your realm and if you say this is not a spiritual or a religious relationship, then I cannot tell you otherwise, I can only respect your perception of your relationship.

For me, my relationship to (and I will commit here to the word) entheogens is inherently religio-spiritual.  These words are not easy for me to say or write, still. Though entheogens have the power to radically transform our ways of thinking, I was raised for eighteen years in an essentially militantly secular, rigidly atheist/agnostic household.  The vocabulary of spirituality and of belief was persona non grata in my household.  Those who held beliefs - about greater meaning in the universe, about another face behind our reality, about a beneficent energy binding reality, about any sort of existence beyond our death on this plane and on this planet - were looked down upon. I did more than toe the party line, I embraced it.  I wore my atheism on my sleeve - I was a card carrying member of American Atheists.  At every turn I looked for opportunities to challenge the beliefs of those around me, not realizing that in pushing my nihilism I was no better than the proselytizing Evangelists in my school and in my community.

When I first ingested psilocybin it was out of a desire to see things move, nothing more. I had read some reports on Erowid.org and to me the mystico-spiritual stuff was simply balhooey and psychobabble. It meant nothing to me, and I skimmed over it, intent on learning more about sensory perception alterations that I would undergo thanks to my psilocybin experience.  I was not quite prepared for what happened.

As a human being, as a living creature, I, OneMoreRobot3021, have one overriding desire inside me - to communicate myself to others.  (Sometimes, this makes me not as good a listener as I should be).  Nevertheless, I am desperate to communicate the complexity of my emotion and thought to others, and this is why I write. This is what drives me. As the three and a half grams of mushroom hit me like a bat out of hell, I was struck by the sense that there was language in everything, and that everything was trying to communicate to everything else. It was the first time in my life that I did not feel alone.

Subsequent experiences confirmed this. And the feeling stayed, even in sober periods between trips. It has never left me. Loneliness, to me, is a sort of hubris, when everything is interconnected always.  I have only recently begun to study mystical literature more - exploring the idea of unitive consciousness and understanding that many of the experiences I have do fall under the category of what can be termed Primary Religious Experience. (If any of you feel you want to explore similar avenues, I must say that the Council of Spiritual Practices website is an unimaginably rich resource for your personal explorations of your own experience of spirituality.)

I say all this but the eighteen year old atheist in me is still in here. And that wall is taking time to crumble.  But there is another power at work here. I see it as a triangle, in a way.  There was the climb up the hill, and as I climbed up one side of the hill I was staunch in my belief that matter was lumpen and lifeless, that death was a final end, and that we were no more than the firing of synapses across voids in the mind, and that all of life was essentially meaningless.  At the top of the hill are all my entheogen experiences. And now I walk down the hill, like Nietzsche's Zarathustra, finally deciding to rejoin the society at the bottom of the hill. And I don't want to keep my experiences to myself. I want to share them.

I truly feel these substances have bettered my life, my outlook, my temperament, my sense of social awareness. I feel far more desirous now than I was eight years ago, when I first ate those mushrooms, to do good in this world. To see people grow happier. To see needless suffering lessened. Perhaps this is closed-minded, but personally the way I want to do that is by helping other people gain access to the experiences that catalyzed this change in myself.

So, I write about my experiences. And I talk about them.  And to do that, I need words.  And when I say psychedelic, to old friends, to strangers, to people who have never done them, I can see the reaction that runs through them. It is, in fact, very similar to the reaction that at one point ran through me if someone said the word "religion."  But I have grown more comfortable with the word religion (I'll note Walter Houston Clark's definition of Religion here - ""the inner experience of an individual when he senses a Beyond, especially as evidenced by the effect of this experience on his behavior when he actively attempts to harmonize his behavior with the Beyond") but I don't know how possible it is for society to come to terms with the word psychedelic.

So I say entheogen now, as long as I can remember to.  Sometimes I slip. I don't berate myself for this.  The issue of drugs is an issue that is mired in a muck of vocabulary. The very fact that we call all substances "drugs" and that the "Drug War" relies so heavily on a word that encompasses a thousand wildly different substances is evidence enough that words pose a problem.  But for me, it's entheogen or bust.  Not because I think the psychedelic experience is inherently spiritual, or religious, or mystical.  But simply because it is for me.

This isn't to say entheogen makes it easier to talk to psychedelic-naive people, or anti-psychedelic people about this class of substances.  The fact is that as many of the people I encounter are anti-spiritual and anti-religious as they are anti-drug. And so when they ask me to define entheogen, I encounter a whole new bevy of problems. But - the debate takes on a different tone, I find.  Suddenly, they aren't thinking of the 1960's, they aren't thinking about the letters LSD, they aren't thinking about Pink Floyd or myths of people throwing themselves out windows because they think they can fly. Instead, they are thinking about me, the person right in front of them, and what I'm telling them about my own personal experience with entheogens.

This is just something heavily on my mind of late, especially in the wake of the Horizons NYC conference and the talk Bob Jesse gave.  I would be very interested to hear any and all of your opinions/thoughts/feelings on this subject.  I'd like to hear about your own take on the vocabulary of our experiences. I'd like to hear what you think about the word entheogen. I'd like to hear anything you have to say; that's why I came here to talk about this.

Acid doesn't give you truths; it builds machines that push the envelope of perception. Whatever revelations came to me then have dissolved like skywriting. All I really know is that those few years saddled me with a faith in the redemptive potential of the imagination which, however flat, stale and unprofitable the world seems to me now, I cannot for the life of me shake.

-Erik Davis

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Registered: 11/25/07
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Re: Our Vocabulary [Re: OneMoreRobot3021]
    #11160788 - 10/01/09 12:27 AM (8 years, 10 months ago)


Entheogen is a great word. Psychedelic as well. Many may not even be familiar with the term entheogen, and as you explain what it is to them, you'll get the same reaction as if you said psychedelic, LSD, Magic Mushrooms, Jesus Christ, or whatever.

These are things that go beyond day to day existence. There is fear and mystery within these words and concepts.

You can tell others of your experiences, recommend books from them to read, videos to watch, but embarking on an entheogenic experience is something that many may not be ready for.

Perhaps that ignorant perception of entheogens that many inexperienced people have may actually just be a subconscious fear. They cannot relate to what it is we are feeling and perceiving.

Interestingly enough, when you find someone who has entheogenic experience, it is so easy to talk and laugh, relate stories, discuss the divine, etc.

Hey, whatever will be, will be.

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Registered: 06/06/03
Posts: 60,957
Loc: the sky
Re: Our Vocabulary [Re: PsychoPsilocin]
    #11162646 - 10/01/09 11:00 AM (8 years, 10 months ago)

Thank you for chiming in, PsychoPsilocin. I'll admit I'm a little perturbed at the fact that no one else has wanted to contribute to this discussion. Which is the purpose of this post; just bumping the thread up for the Thursday morning crowd. :smile:

Acid doesn't give you truths; it builds machines that push the envelope of perception. Whatever revelations came to me then have dissolved like skywriting. All I really know is that those few years saddled me with a faith in the redemptive potential of the imagination which, however flat, stale and unprofitable the world seems to me now, I cannot for the life of me shake.

-Erik Davis

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Registered: 08/29/04
Posts: 2,194
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Re: Our Vocabulary [Re: OneMoreRobot3021]
    #11163225 - 10/01/09 01:11 PM (8 years, 10 months ago)

With regards to language, it's all too rare that we actually stop for a little second and consider its nature: our attachments to it, its possibilities, and its limitations.  If humans were incapable of feeling, and if we somehow lived entirely literal and unambiguous lives, a common language would fit like a glove.  Of course that world would be insufferably boring and stagnant but at least then we could claim a perfect match between cognition and communication.  As it stands now speech is only a primitive approximation of actual meaning and intent, and writing constitutes a limited improvement.
The way we abuse language by using particularly charged or broad words seems to divide us either into the camp in which we don't know exactly what we're talking about, or the camp in which we know exactly what we're talking about and are trying to systematically manipulate the audience--(as is particularly salient in mass media or with government propaganda.)  In such ways, a word like "drugs" can be offensive.  I hadn't thought about the word "psychedelic" in this light and still don't consider it nearly as potent an offender as the former, but given the popular connotations and inferences, "entheogenic" is much better -- just like "psychoactive substances" is an improvement because it de-charges the language and is able to cut a little closer to unspoiled meaning.

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DMT is Bullshit

Registered: 04/12/09
Posts: 6,525
Re: Our Vocabulary [Re: OneMoreRobot3021]
    #11163266 - 10/01/09 01:18 PM (8 years, 10 months ago)

I enjoyed reading about your atheist upbringing and how that style of reasoning affected your outlook of reality.  I can relate to that.

The use of these chemicals shook my atheism into a more agnostic perspective. 

I think entheogen carries too much mystical and spiritual nonsense with it.  These chemicals can gain the respect they deserve from the scientific community and the public without the "magic" factor.

Don't PM me with bullshit.  I don't sell or trade cactus and I don't know where you can get any, other than your mother's ass.

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Re: Our Vocabulary [Re: joemolloy]
    #11163521 - 10/01/09 02:10 PM (8 years, 10 months ago)

I don't like "entheogen" because has more of a religious overtone.  I like psychedelic because its the most accurate term for the experience.  I hate how psychedelic has a cultural stigma attached to it from the american LSD era

L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs

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Travelin Raver

Registered: 08/05/09
Posts: 1,023
Re: Our Vocabulary [Re: Cognitive_Shift]
    #11163992 - 10/01/09 03:41 PM (8 years, 10 months ago)

call them what they really are. if they are a chemical, they are a chemical, they are only called drugs, psychedelics, etc, bc at the dawn of civilization (which is ultimately bad) we started coining words for various things based upon their properties, attributes etc.  if they are a plant they are a plant.

a plants real name, or a chemicals real name is what they are/were known by to the natives, the ancients, etc, before science came along and corrupted everything. science isnt fact. its not law. its not the truth. its what it is only bc ppl put faith in something that seems right. doesnt meen it is let alone final. just as ppl put faith in myths and legends as a place to expain strange occurences, ppl put faith in science as a way to explain todays occurences. doesnt meen any of them are right. even if proven. doesnt meen ur proof is valid. u only think it is bc most human beings wants so desperately to feel secure and to have something "safe" to give them "comfort" so that they can better "understand" the world and nature.

nature formed on this planet without the help of man. it was born with no names. flowers had no idea what colors were. let alone a stem or a plant. a tree. the sky. the sun. nature had no idea what the fuck any of those terms even were, what they ment, etc. it was simply nature. nature didnt even know that it was nature. then science came along and tried to act like god and determine what everything really was, when in reality, everything is nameless. nature doesnt even know what nameless is. it simply "is". hell, it doesnt even know what "is" is. but i have no better way to explain it.

in modern terms (albeit incorrect and corrupt) we call them shrooms, drugs, psychedelics, minerals, plants, chemicals, etc.

in truth though, they are none of the above. they are simply there.

names only feign an attempt at classification. nature never asked to be classified or studied. it just came along. it just happened and came about into existence.


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Mushrooms, Mycology and Psychedelics >> The Psychedelic Experience

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