Entheogen is typically defined as a psychoactive drug or substance used in religious or spiritual practices. The term comes from the Greek en, meaning “in” or “within”; theo, meaning “god” or “divine”; and gen, meaning “creates” or “generates.” It translates as “generating or creating the divine within.” The term was coined in the late 1970s to replace “psychedelic.” Although, entheogen encompasses a wider variety of substances.
Entheogens have been used with the goal of achieving transcendence across many spiritual practices, including meditation, yoga and chanting.
Traditionally, entheogens were typically derived from plant sources and most do not create drug dependency. Today, synthetic substances are available that have similar properties.
Entheogens have been used in religious and spiritual rituals for thousands of years – from Asia to the Americas. Vajrayana (a form of Tantric Buddhism) has had a well-documented tradition – albeit not widespread – of the use of entheogens, particularly datura and cannabis. In Hinduism, both cannabis and, to a lesser extent, the potent datura have been used in religious practices.
The Vedas (a large body of Hindu texts) mentions an ancient drink called soma, which is believed to have had entheogenic properties; although, its exact composition is unknown. The drink, prepared by sages and yogis, was believed to open neural pathways and facilitate spiritual visions, insight and communion with the Divine. It was also believed to heal the body.