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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Strange Fruit: Alchemy, Religion and Magical Foods, A Speculative History.

Heinrich, Clark. (1995).
London: Bloomsbury.

ISBN: 0-7475-1548-4

Description: First edition, hardcover, xii + 212 pages.

Contents: A Brief Explanation of an Unusual Book, 14 chapters, last word, Appendix: The Legend of Miskwedo, notes, illustrations, index.

Excerpt(s): I have discovered a definite pattern of related symbols in story after story, even stories from different traditions and different parts of the world. As disparate as these stories are they all have in common distinct correspondences to one and the same thing: the beautiful and intoxicating Amanita muscaria mushroom, commonly known in English as the fly agaric. ...

The correspondences contained in the succeeding chapters are too numerous to assign to mere chance or an overactive imagination, although some will do just that. If it is simply a matter of imagination I invite anyone to take any other single plant (real, not imaginary), or anything else for that matter, and make it fit these stories and works of art as easily as the fly agaric does. The futility of the exercise should become apparent very quickly (page x).

After all, even if Jews and Christians had engaged in the use of sacred drugs it wouldn't necessarily have been incorporated into the state religion as it had been with the Vedic Aryans. The Jewish priests and prophets wielded extraordinary power on the basis of their 'special' relationship with Yahweh. If they had used drugs to gain and keep that relationship, as the Vedic priests did, quite likely they kept it a secret among themselves.

As I thought about this I realized that in both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles there are a number of significant episodes involving eating and drinking which led to, or at least preceded, a dramatic change in the consciousness of the person or persons involved (pages 6-7).

What, for instance, was the all-important fruit eaten by Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden? It gave them knowledge yet it didn't kill them as God had told them it would. What was the mysterious flame-coloured god-plant encountered by Moses on the Mountain of God which gave him amazing power and courage and tricks enough to defeat Pharaoh's magicians? What was the 'cake' that an angel gave to Elijah when he too was on his way to the Mountain of God and which gave him the endurance to walk, on the strength of that food alone, for forty days? What was the curious 'scroll' that an angel gave Ezekiel to eat that lifted him up to heaven? Or the similar scroll eaten by John on Patmos so that he could prophesy? Or the sacred meals of the Essenes and the Gnostics, what were these and why were they a secret? And what about Jesus, himself the bread of life and the human dispenser of living waters, whose very flesh and blood were eaten in a ceremony of ritual cannibalism? A can of worms indeed, and they were crawling all over the Bible (page 7).

We were getting cold so we went to Michael's home and made a fire. Neither of us had urinated since before we started eating mushrooms. This was intentional as we wanted to test the urine's effects, but now both of us were ready to burst. Michael got out two bowls and handed me one. We looked at each other, laughed nervously, and retired to opposite corners of the room where we filled our respective containers. I stress respective containers; even seminal research had its limits. We returned to the centre of the room and looked at the tinctured water we had wrought: it was glowing with a fiery orange cast. Since we were about to drink it we first smelled it to see what we were in for, and were surprised at its pleasant odour, or rather its fragrance.

The phrase 'water into wine' redefined itself in my mind as we drank off what we were truly hoping would do something extraordinary to us; if it didn't we would be more embarrassed than disappointed. We might even be angry, but at least se would know where the phrase 'pissed off' originated.

Even before we drank we were feeling good. Very good. Extremely good. But within minutes after drinking something amazing started to happen. My body began to feel very light, as though I weighed almost nothing. It felt as if the molecules that comprised my body were separating and allowing air to pass through, or that I could feel the space between the atoms. I became aware of tremendous energy at my feet that rose up through my body in wave after wave. 'Feeling good' was rapidly changing into the most blissful feelings I had ever experienced. I looked at Michael and he was radiant, truly radiant. We started laughing and exclaiming in disbelief as the bliss kept increasing. My mind and entire body were in the throes of a kind of mega-orgasm that wouldn't stop not that I wanted it to.

I picked up a Bible from the shelf, opened to John and started reading aloud. What I had before considered beautiful but ridiculously partisan poetry, fiction really, was now revealed in a whole new light. It became for us a fly agaric initiation document, speaking the living truth directly to Michael and me through the mists of the centuries, uncovering layer after layer of meaning artfully hidden in the text. We understood it all; all the references, all the metaphors, all the hidden wisdom. We were completely delirious, of course; but in our delirium we were being initiated into the ancient cult of the personified fly agaric. It was as though God had manifested from the book and was addressing us directly, and we couldn't have been happier (pages 192-193).

What I will say is this: psychedelic or entheogenic drugs should not be criminalized. They have played roles in our past of which we are not even aware, as the present work has endeavored to show, and they continue to influence the life of the planet through its human inhabitants. Never before have so many people known so much about such a wide variety of psychoactive plants. The unprecedented reach and pervasiveness of the electronic and mass media coupled with growing interest in the subject ensures that this trend will continue. Whether one approves of the situation is immaterial: there is no going back to the ignorance of the past. Let us therefore treat the situation with intelligence and compassion. ...

The cat is out of the bag. Pandora's box lies open. The cover has been blown off the ark of the covenant. Wisdom cries in the streets and shouts from the rooftops, once again trying to make herself heard above the din. Whoever has ears should listen. Whoever has a voice should consider speaking up, for the time of the end is near, as it always is in this brief life.

Let me testify in no uncertain terms: the kingdom of heaven is much closer, and far easier of access, than we have been lead to believe. And it is worth the trip (page 198).

This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby, © 1995-2003 CSP

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