While the use of mind-altering drugs and other substances are prohibited in some religions, other traditions around the world have long celebrated their spiritual and medicinal benefits. Entheogens, or any chemical substance used in a religious or spiritual context, include psychedelics such as peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, and ayahuasca, and the substances often supplement practices geared toward achieving transcendence. Further, many believe entheogens can allow communication with the spirit world and help heal addiction, trauma, and depression.
A growing interest in entheogens is evident in several books coming from religion and spirituality publishers from now to next spring. Check out a few titles that explore the intersection of drugs and spiritual development here.
After a tour in Afghanistan with the U.K.’s Royal Marine Commandos, Seymour turned to ayahuasca to release his fears and traumas associated with the war. Using the psychedelic blend while practicing teachings and rituals led by a shaman on the Amazon River, Seymour was able to find a brighter outlook on his life. “Ayahuasca taught me many things, and one of the most important is that we always have a choice,” he writes in the book. “We have the power to choose our beliefs and our attitudes.”
Dreaming Wide Awake: Lucid Dreaming, Shamanic Healing, and Psychedelics
Brown, who holds a master’s degree in psychobiology and is a former neuroscience researcher at the University of Southern California, provides a guide to lucid dreaming—where the dreamer is aware they are dreaming. He explores the relationship between lucid dreaming and shamanic journeying, visionary plants, and psychedelic drugs, detailing the psychical and emotional healing available through lucid dreaming and how supplements, herbs, and drugs can enhance the experience.
The Psychedelic Gospels: The Secret History of Hallucinogens in Christianity
Using dozens of photos of medieval works of art, this book takes a close look at the presence of psychedelic plants surrounding Christianity’s origins. Husband and wife anthropologists Brown and Brown take readers through their decade-long search for evidence of entheogens in Christian art, sharing what they call their controversial theory about the role of the substances in the Bible. “Our findings do not deny the importance of religious sacraments but suggest that they should encompass all of God’s creations, including psychoactive plants,” the pair writes in the book.
Explorations In Awareness: Finding God by Meditating with Entheogens
This update to Aiken’s 1966 title includes 100 new pages and an introduction by Mike Marinacci, (Mysterious California). Aiken draws on ancient and modern sources, including Christian and Native American beliefs, to illustrate his approach to enlightenment using psychedelics. The book also features a guide to meditating effectively. “Meditation or silence (inner as well as outer) is practice in going beyond words and concepts to the Self, which is the reality underlying all thoughts, feelings, and actions,” Aiken writes.
The Re-Enchantment: A Shamanic Path to a Life of Wonder
Citing the ever-growing “spiritual but not religious” population, Wesselman details his view of a new spiritual movement in the Western world—“one that has the potential to replace or at least refresh all of our current mainstream religions with new perceptions and new insight,” he writes in the book. Using his research as a paleontologist and an evolutionary biologist, Wesselman makes a case for why the ancient path of shamanism, including the use of entheogens, prayer, and ritual, is the perfect fit for modern spiritual seekers.
Encounters with Power: Adventures and Misadventures on the Shamanic Path of Healing
Intended for modern shamanic practitioners and those curious about the tradition, shamanic teacher Stevens shares personal stories from his time with indigenous shamans around the world. The memoir features Stevens’ experiences with ayahuasca and peyote, encounters with powerful spirits and “dark” shamans, and other details of his life as a Westerner learning the ways of a shaman. “Power can destroy us or it can raise us up by teaching and nourishing us,” Stevens writes. “I may not be a master, but I have learned a few things that you may find helpful on your own quest.”
Listening to Ayahuasca: New Hope for Depression, Addiction, PTSD, and Anxiety
Taking the perspective of “a cautious researcher and an enthusiastic psychotherapist,” Harris looks at how ayahuasca is being used in a Western, psychospiritual context—despite it being outlawed in the U.S. The book is based on her study—the largest study on ayahuasca in North America—and demonstrates how the substance has helped those suffering from depression, anxiety, and more. “It’s not a simple story about healing,” Harris writes. “The risks [of ayahuasca] are significant but the opportunity is beyond what Western medicine and psychotherapy can offer.”
The Accidental Shaman: Journeys with Plant Teachers and Other Spirit Allies
Charing claims he developed healing abilities and began having visions after surviving an elevator crash in London, and sought guidance and training in shamanism. This book shares his teachings and experiences as well as descriptions of his work with entheogens as well as indigenous shamans. From the accident to the many spiritual encounters since, Charing hopes his story will encourage readers to explore different realms of consciousness in order to dissolve the boundary between the physical and the spiritual.