Philosophical “Entheogens” and your own version of human spirituality.

Let’s forget for the moment the impact of a plant-based entheogen which strengthens the imaginative and creative power of your mind and consider how a philosophical “entheogen” has been placed into your unconscious awareness earlier in your life when you immersed your identity into the assumptions upon which your personal and group religious beliefs are based and taught.

Let me begin by asking that you describe to yourself (and for your own understanding)  the spiritual image that comes to mind when you think of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Ghost and – but not least – Mother in Heaven.

Is your image of God the Father defined by the doctrine and theology of your particular religion?

Is your image of Jesus that defined by fundamental Christian theology?

If you pray to Jesus Christ, do you pray to the standard Christian theological definition of the Savior of the World, the Redeemer, the He-Who-Accomplished-the-Atonement?

How then- if you carry such an image – do you perceive Heavenly Mother; the Goddess?

Many ancient pagan religions encouraged prayer to statues. Christianity has a tradition of bowing and praying to statuary images of Jesus, Mary and the Saints. It  would be interesting to discover whether we offer prayers to internally imagined anthropomorphic divine images, merely offer mental oblations to the cosmos or carry out something entirely different?

If one had achieved a genuine and spiritually sensed relationship with the higher  power -God, if you will, as one had come to understand God – how would you respond to the following portrayals if they did not fit what you already possessed in your experience?

Could you easily accept a new idea of God as a Boss of the Universe no matter how respectfully and reverentially that notion is expressed.

Could you easily accept a new idea that God is a kindly, and benevolently divine version of a Caesar?

Could you easily accept a new idea that God is the male head of a divinely created and eternal Patriarchal Order that relegates every female to a secondary role in a forever of existence?

Based on a relationship with the Divine that you had already achieved, could you easily accept a new idea that the Divine with whom you commune is actually a judgmental and critical god who cannot look upon nor tolerate sin with any degree of allowance?

Could you easily accept a new idea that the higher power with whom you have intimate and personal communion is also the Divine Author of Compassion as the ultimate way of human interaction?

Could you easily accept the idea that the God you have come to know is focused entirely on our loving one another and entirely not focused on our condemnation of anyone?

Could we not propose that just as our lives are the living myths of our own creation, our personal stories are made of all the stuff inside with which we show and tell others who we are?

The adolescent religion of my birth was presented to me as the defined nature of life based on a continuous pattern of spiritual prompting. Mormonism came into being in the world of 19th-century American religious literalism based on experiences that bore in their very existence widely-accepted assumptions as to the perceptive definitions and meanings of spiritual promptings, revelation, as it were.

The Father and Son described by Joseph Smith in his Vision were entirely consistent with the fundamentalist bible-based definitions of who God is. The Father and the Son were exactly what he expected to see once he conceived the idea that they were visible to him.

In addition, there is consistency with how that male and patriarchal god communicates to man, not to mention a notion that the Almighty rarely speaks to humans. However, when God the Father speaks, such communication includes an investiture of authority to those “called” to speak on His Divine behalf and become his middle men to the rest of the mortals.

It is necessary to understand and acknowledge one’s own personal cosmic vision and acknowledge the assumptions upon which definitions and constructions of both reality and the spiritual world are created.

We create them all by ourselves. Others do not create them for us except to the degree that we let someone else’s constructs become our constructs. In very powerful but subconscious ways, many believers practice their religion with an internal image that they “know” exists. This internal image they have never actually seen exists essentially because believers have accepted the testimonies of others who likewise have never seen it but also “know” it exists as defined in the traditional LDS way of testimony and authority.

In the same fashion, many believers “know” of the reality where the patriarchal god “is,”  where Jesus Christ  “is,” and where Satan “is” and “works” and “wants to rule.”

For many Christians, that spirit world exists in some other dimension and interacts with our own world in supernatural ways. The imagined Mormon reality has its conflicts with the imagined reality of other Christians, not to mention other non-Christian religions who define the High Power in their own way.

But based on my own life experience, let me write specifically to the assumptions most believing Mormons live by.

There is the view of a purely supernatural, all-wise, all-knowing and almighty God who at times intervenes in the affairs of mortals in dramatic or not-so-dramatic ways. Most believing Mormons easily accept and live according to the idea of an invisible Jesus/God personage who is vitally invested in human life and who directs forces of good against the other supernatural power and source of evil, Satan.

I am then prompted to ask about those practicing and believing Christians who do not have to see the supernatural Jesus/God as a personage who exists “somewhere else” outside the sphere of mortal perception and who communicates spiritually from a distance through the Holy Spirit.

Taking a cue from Jesus’ words, “The kingdom of God is within you,” they have a sense of God being omnipresent. They have a sense of on-going constancy in which the Holy Spirit is an uninterrupted and steady influence toward good works and compassion.

Mormons are encouraged with relentless consistency to accept the notion of spiritual warfare, with evoked images of the spirit world as some sort of zone of conflict in which Satan and God operate simultaneously for and against human life.

Those who do so seem almost oblivious to their willing mental action of making Satan a god who like the Father is everywhere, omnipresent and forever asserting his contrary will. Satan becomes the direct opposite and yet needful counter to the goodness and righteous-requiring Commander-God; a supernatural reality who tempts mortals to both “sins” of commission and of omission.

Does it not seem that most believing Mormons have difficulty with the psychology of evil and the idea that Satan does not have to be supernatural to function more as a conceptual part evil’s existence?

Satan represents among other things the natural mortal tendency to self-focused, self-interested acts that disregard the good of anyone else. In this regard concepts of laziness, selfishness, arrogance and intolerance, for example, represent tendencies that can easily be related to evil and its impact on actions.

It seems hard for most believing Mormons to see evil as not something we are tempted to do by a supernatural Satan, but a more negatively aggressive temptation in life that serves as a kind of resistance or counter force against our intention or tendency to behave in an independent manner – acting in a ways that reflect the highest good of all concerned.

Mormonism is unapologetically a performance-based legalistic relation. As such it must come down on the side of biblical literalists who do regard God as the Boss of the Universe. Mormonism requires that its members live according to the will of a Divine who commands humans to behavior based purely on obedience and morality.

Yet other Christians live comfortably with an imagined reality of a non-judgmental God who fully encourages positive human behavior as a consequence of total agency; a God who will not condemn mortals for not believing the right things and not participating to worthiness-defined degrees.

Many of us, as Dr. Marcus Borg has written, have never gotten away from our pre-critical naiveté that still forms our internal Imaginative spiritual reality. Many literalists won’t admit it but they tend subconsciously to imagine that Moses looked like Charlton Heston’s movie character; that the good versus evil portrayals in Exodus portrayed by Edward G. Robinson, Debra Padgett and Yul Brynner were what it was really like … that 600,000 Israelites walked away from Egypt on a grand camp-out trek.

Our internal imaginative interpretation of reality is always up, always running.  The curtains of our internal stage are always pulled back as we “look and see.” Most of our internal religious constructs are inherited. What well-meaning but spiritually immature Christians have tended to do is hide behind the more simple acceptance of their own myths which include a God who does not prompt as much as speaks almost entirely and exclusively through scriptures …

a god more interested in obedience than experience; a God limited to rewards or punishments as He presides over a conflict with Satan.

Human spirituality in this century is no longer even the simplistic 19th century evangelizing fundamentalism of the American frontier. Modern spirituality is best blended with common sense and ethics rather than organized religion driven by hundreds of years of theological guesswork that becomes more and more obviously flawed and inadequate.

What is called for is spirituality that functions as part of and not a background to a reality that is defined daily by human interaction, curiosity, discovery and challenge. Contemporary Mormonism is one example of the Old Time Religion that does not work – principally because all those old assumptions that were never valid are now seriously impeding social movement toward social justice and genuine compassionate concern for each other.

The old imperial and monarchical imaginary heaven peopled by an emperor pretending to be a king no longer describes the spiritual reality of which more and more human beings are becoming conscious. In our modern fundamentalist/literalist mindset about Christian religion, the “philosophical entheogen” no longer works.


The Psychedelic Origin of Christianity

The Psychedelic Origin of Christianity SAM WOOLFE
Freelance Writer, Blogger & Journalist

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (1970) is a book by the British archaeologist John Marco Allegro. His early career focused on studying the earliest manuscripts of the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls. With this book, however, many say that it ruined his career, although others say it gave him the fame that he deserved.

The basic idea behind the book is that primitive religions were based on fertility rites (rituals that recreate the reproductive processes of nature either symbolically or through sex). Allegro believed that fertility cults like this used the hallucinogenic mushroom, Amanita muscaria (or fly agaric – the red mushroom with white spots). He also said that these mushrooms are at the root of many religions, including early Christianity. Christianity was essentially the product of a sex-and-mushroom cult, and the mushroom was seen as the gateway to understanding God. Through this understanding, it was believed that fertility would also be promoted.

Allegro argued that the mushroom and its powers were a secret, so they had to be written down in the form of codes hidden in mythical stories. In his own words: “This is the basic origin of the stories of the New Testament. They were a literary device to spread the rites of mushroom worship to the faithful.” Jesus in the Gospels was code for the Amanita mushroom, according to Allegro. All major scholars rejected Allegro’s ideas, including his academic mentor. Even his publisher regretted publishing the book.

Allegro draws on some interesting evidence to support his hypothesis. He argues that the fresco in the 13th century Chapel of Plaincourault in Central France clearly shows Adam and Eve next to a tree made of large Amanita muscaria mushrooms. The serpent can be seen coiling around the tree. It seems strange that this mushroom would be depicted in arguably the most famous story in the Bible.

Fresco at the Chapel of Plaincourault

Terence McKenna in Food of the Gods also claims that the fruit which Adam and Eve ate from was a symbol for a psychedelic mushroom since it gave them “knowledge” (e.g. that they were naked) which they didn’t previously have.

In October 2008, Jan Irvin published The Holy Mushroom: Evidence of Mushrooms in Judeo-Christianity which was the first book to present texts which supported Allegro’s theory. For example, a 16th century Christian text called The Epistle to the Renegade Bishops explicitly mentions and discusses “the holy mushroom”. Irvin provides dozens of Christian images to support Allegro’s ideas – images that weren’t available when The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross was originally published in 1970. The front cover of Irvin’s book includes one of these images – some mushrooms can be seen. Some say that in these kinds of images, it is not the Amanita mushroom that is shown, but psilocybin mushrooms, such as the ones shown below.

More examples of mushrooms in Christian art (including some more dubious examples that people often use to support the psychedelic Christianity hypothesis):

Allegro asserts that it’s not such a controversial idea that religions could be based on the use of psychedelic plants. It’s been said that other ancient cultures might have used psychedelic plants as well in their religious rituals. In Book 9 of the classic Hindu text, the Rig Veda, a “pressed juice” called Soma is mentioned as something drunk by priests. Some sort of visionary state is reported: “Make me immortal in that realm where happiness and transports, where joys and felicities combine, and longing wishes are fulfilled.”

Some say that Soma could have been a psychedelic mushroom, maybe the Amanita mushroom – R. Gordon Wasson held this opinion. Terence Mckenna in Food of the Gods says that a more likely candidate for Soma, due to its better efficacy at inducing psychedelic states, is the Psilocybe cubensis mushroom. This mushroom can grow in cow dung in certain climates, which may explain why the cow has gained such a sacred status in the Hindu tradition. However, other academics claim that Soma was cannabis. In addition, the blue lotus flower was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians and it is now known to have some psychoactive properties.

The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone in ancient Greece. A drink called kykeon was consumed which the Illiad says was made up of barley, water, herbs and goats cheese. In the Odyssey, however, the character Circe adds a magic potion to it. Some speculate that the barley used in this drink was parasitized by ergot (a fungus) and that the psychoactive properties of the fungus were responsible for the intense experiences that people reported at Eleusis. Ergot contains ergotamine, a precursor to LSD – this is why Albert Hoffman used ergot to synthesise LSD.

‘Mushroom cults’ in Mesoamerica date back to at least 1,000 BC, indicated by mushroom stone effigies found in the Guatemalan highlands. In addition, frescoes from central Mexico dated to 300 AD show signs of mushroom worship. ‘Sacred mushrooms’ feature in Aztec texts as well – the Codex Vindobonensis, for example, visually depicts the ceremonial use of psychedelic mushrooms. The Aztecs called these mushrooms teonanacatl which literally means “flesh of the gods”. (Here’s further information on ancient mushroom use). Allegro argues that Christianity is just one more example of a religion which at its core involves the use of psychedelic plants as a way to access the ‘divine’.

Mushroom statues indicate the presence of ‘mushroom cults’ in ancient Mesoamerica. Professor of anthropology John A. Rush, in his book The Mushroom in Christian Art, attempts to bolster Allegro’s position that Jesus was not a historical figure, but a psychedelic mushroom. He draws on these examples of art as pieces of evidence. Rush also elaborates the argument for a hallucinogenic basis of Christianity, by highlighting – in a Da Vinci Code-esque manner – the secretive nature of this knowledge. But as Psychedelic Press UK state in its review of the book:

As with any art interpretation, it can be extremely difficult to take symbology out of its cultural context and this is perhaps the most challenging point of this project. Has Rush succeeded? Typically, yes and no. Yes, because Rush has demonstrated that the mushroom does play a particular role in Christian art, something hitherto ignored by religious scholars in the main. But no, because the groundwork for the reinterpretation of the symbology is based on an, as yet, still scantily evidenced theory, and the idea that knowledge of the mushroom has remained in secret with an elite priest class within the Church all this time, really needs more evidence than the art itself.

Just because mushrooms have been depicted in Christian art, it does not follow that Christianity is based on the use of magic mushrooms. Allegro might be guilty of creating a sensationalised hypothesis about the origins of Christianity. It may also be a leap to say that these examples of mushrooms depicted in Christian art necessarily mean that the religion is based on the consumption of psychedelic mushrooms. In the case of the Aztecs, on the other hand, the evidence of magic mushroom consumption is far more clear. It is possible that magic mushrooms were a key factor in the birth and development of Christianity (maybe even a driving force), but this idea is still within the realm of speculation.