left biblioblography: Allegories Gone Wild – Psychoactive Sacraments And The Mushroom Man

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Allegories Gone Wild – Psychoactive Sacraments And The Mushroom Man

Cross posted @ God is 4 Suckers!entheogenic

Religion is the dream of the human mind. But even in dreams we do not find ourselves in emptiness or in heaven, but on earth, in the realm of reality; we only see real things in the entrancing splendor of imagination and caprice, instead of in the simple daylight of reality and necessity.” – Frederick Feuerbach,  The Essence Of Christianity

As an ex-stoner type, I still find myself fascinated by the constant struggles and efforts to instill an altered state in oneself. Whether it be fractal elves or magnetic helms, humanity has this ‘grass is greener on the other side’ mentality no matter how luscious the metaphorical vegetation may be.

And in my fractured ‘pilgrimage’ of the Internet, I stumbled across this little blossom, and thought to share it with you.

An entheogen ("creates god within," en εν- "in, within," theo θεος- "god, divine," -gen γενος "creates, generates"), in the strictest sense, is a psychoactive substance used in a religious or shamanic context. Historically, entheogens are derived primarily from plant sources and have been used in a variety of traditional religious contexts. With the advent of organic chemistry, there now exist many synthetic substances with similar properties.

More broadly, the term entheogen is used to refer to such substances when used for their religious or spiritual effects, whether or not in a formal religious or traditional structure. This terminology is often chosen to contrast with recreational use of the same substances. These spiritual effects have been demonstrated in peer-reviewed studies, though research remains difficult due to ongoing drug prohibition.

What it means by ‘spiritual effects have been demonstrated’, is that the substances in question have induced altered states.

And there’s some history:

R. Gordon Wasson and Giorgio Samorini have proposed several examples of the cultural use of entheogens athat are found in the archaeological record.[3][4] Evidence for the first use of entheogens may come from Tassili, Algeria, with a cave painting of a mushroom-man, dating to 8000 BP. Hemp seeds discovered by archaeologists at Pazyryk suggest early ceremonial practices by the Scythians occurred during the 5th to 2nd century BC, confirming previous historical reports by Herodotus.

Interestingly enough, it turns out that psychoactives were prolific in religions throughout all the world, from India to the Americas, and even the ancient Greeks used them in their initiation rites:

The Kykeon that preceded initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries is another entheogen, which was investigated (before the word was coined) by Carl Kerényi, in Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter. Other entheogens in the Ancient Near East and the Aegean include the poppy, Datura, the unidentified "lotus" eaten by the Lotus-Eaters in the Odyssey and Narkissos.

And of course, our old buds, Judaism and Christianity, partook (albeit the latter denies it strenuously):

According to The Living Torah, cannabis was an ingredient of holy anointing oil mentioned in various sacred Hebrew texts. The herb of interest is most commonly known as kaneh-bosm (Hebrew: קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם). This is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as a bartering material, incense, and an ingredient in holy anointing oil used by the high priest of the temple. Although Chris Bennett's research in this area focuses on cannabis, he mentions evidence suggesting use of additional visionary plants such as henbane, as well.

Hey, don’t bogart that oil!

The Septuagint translates kaneh-bosm as calamus, and this translation has been propagated unchanged to most later translations of the old testament. However, Polish anthropologist Sula Benet published etymological arguments that the Aramaic word for hemp can be read as kannabos and appears to be a cognate to the modern word 'cannabis', with the root kan meaning reed or hemp and bosm meaning fragrant. Both cannabis and calamus are fragrant, reedlike plants containing psychotropic compounds.

Huh – I always thought cannabis mellowed people out and made them more ‘existential’.

Although philologist John Marco Allegro has suggested that the self-revelation and healing abilities attributed to the figure of Jesus may have been associated with the effects of the plant medicines [from the Aramaic: "to heal"], this evidence is dependent on pre-Septuagint interpretation of Torah and Tenach, and goes firmly against the accepted teachings of the Holy See. However Merkur contends that a minority of Christian hermits and mystics could possibly have used entheogens, in conjunction with fasting, meditation and prayer.

‘Firmly against the teachings of the Holy See’. Yeah, hard not to see that one coming.

Allegro was the only non-Catholic appointed to the position of translating the Dead Sea scrolls. His extrapolations are often the object of scorn due to Allegro's non-mainstream theory of Jesus as a mythological personification of the essence of a "psychoactive sacrament", furthermore they conflict with the position of the Catholic Church in regards to transubstantiation and the teaching involving valid matter, form, and substance—that of bread and wine, which do not contain psychoactive substances. Allegro's book, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, relates the development of language to the development of myths, religions and cultic practices in world cultures. Allegro believed he could prove, through etymology, that the roots of Christianity, as of many other religions, lay in fertility cults; and that cult practices, such as ingesting visionary plants (or "psychedelics") to perceive the Mind of God [Avestan: Vohu Mana], persisted into the early Christian era, and to some unspecified extent into the 1200s with reoccurrences in the 1700s and mid 1900s, as he interprets the Plaincourault chapel's fresco to be an accurate depiction of the ritual ingestion of Amanita muscaria as the Eucharist.

Shorter version: it’s way easier to believe in wine=blood and bread=flesh, if you’ve imbibed enough. Allegro’s also a parallelist like myself (though maybe not a myther)

The question of the extent of visionary plant use throughout the history of Christian practice has barely been considered yet by academic or independent scholars. The question of whether visionary plants were used in pre-Theodosius Christianity is distinct from evidence that indicates the extent to which visionary plants were utilized or forgotten in later Christianity, including so-called "heretical" or "quasi-" Christian groups, and the question of other groups such as elites or laity within "orthodox" Catholic practice.

That’s a confusing paragraph. It’s barely been considered, but the evidence is distinct in what way? The accompanying references don’t explain it well enough. I think it’s a fair sociological evaluation (my fancy way of saying ‘guess’) that it’s a strong likelihood that plenty of Christians over the centuries have partaken of some of these items.

And, for a fairly amusing capper:

James Arthur asserts that the little scroll from the angel with writing on it referred to in Ezekiel 2: 8,9,10 and Ezekiel 3: 1,2,3 and Book of Revelation 10: 9,10 was the speckled cap of the Amanita muscaria mushroom.

Chewing on the old magical papyrus, ey, Zeke?

This comes as no surprise: history resounds with the echoes of powerful hallucinations, delusions that have wiped the world clean and scoured the perceived scourges from the public eye.

The question for the future is…can our species, with this knowledge, stop accommodating the crazy, and instead of granting them great power, medicate them instead? (And I don’t mean the self-medication we’ve discussed here.)

One can only hope.

Till the next post, then.

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