Our lives are based on the plant kingdom. The food we eat, the air we breathe, and the resources and materials we use are nearly without exception ultimately derived from plants. We have shaped plants to meet our needs by selectively breeding and creating hybrid species for all purposes, practical and artistic. The history of our civilizations started with the cultivation of plants for our benefit.
For as long as graphic and written records have existed, and certainly long before, plants with the power to alter human awareness have been part of our culture. These plants and fungi were used for spiritual purposes as well as recreation; some were fermented, others dried and smoked, some eaten whole. The effects have shaped our spiritual, artistic, and medical development.
Entheogenic plants are some of the most chemically complex on earth, and their respective spirits no less so. They have a long history of dealing with humans; their reasons for doing so are their own. I believe that the generations of attention paid to them has some value that makes it worth allowing and assisting us to make use of their powers. It seems that, as spirit workers of ever stripe, we contribute to the health of these spirits and their environment just by doing what we do; it is in their best interest to assist us as they are most able to. However, it's important to remember that they owe us nothing. They have survived quite well without our interference.
With the advent of mass media, many of these plants have taken on a new life as trendy members of a new culture and as part of a revival in interest in shamanic practices. Self-styled psychonauts experiment with these plants in ways that didn't exist in the cultures that originally utilized them; these people do this with little concern for their physical, mental, or spiritual health. I have mixed feelings about the place of these sacred plants in modern Western culture. On one hand many of these plants have been used for recreational as well as spiritual purposes, since the intrinsic healing powers of those plants aren't limited to those members of a society tasked with communicating with the spirits. However, habitual use has no thought behind it; getting high and calling it ritual does a disservice to everyone. It is the abuse of entheogens that leads to the endless cycle of habit and the misery of addiction.
Some plant spirits concern themselves with those people foolish enough to experiment with them; others do nothing. As in all things, plants take a very long view of things. They were here at the beginning of our species, and they will be here long after we are gone, pushing their way slowly through abandoned forests of concrete and still rivers of asphalt. They will continue to do as they have always done, enduring and evolving to the time of sun and rain. Those who have no idea of the complexity of the spirits they involve themselves with through experimentation and recreational use risk problems of physical and spiritual health, but the plant spirits expect little from them; from those who know better a greater measure of respect and effort is expected, and it is in our best interest to give it without grudge.