The Visionary Activist Show

The Visionary Activist Show – At Dark of Solstice Moon, Entheogenic Renaissance!

Caroline welcomes Jerry B Brown, co-author of “Psychedelic Gospels, History of Hallucinogens in Christianity,” a compendium of fantabulous Magic Mushroom Christian iconography, that reminds us that being Christian Mystic in Capadoccia might have been fun and effective!

  • Considering the “Re-Wedding of Intellect and Mysticism” #3

    Be that as it may, there are also questions of heuristic approach concerning Mr. Brown’s psychedelic interpretation. For instance, there is his reliance of the now overused theme of “the missing years of Jesus,” which has been employed to explain new-age theories from Jesus studying with the Essenes to Jesus in India studying Hinduism. As far as I can tell, all these theories are based on either flimsy evidence to none whatsoever. You can use this “missing years of Jesus” pseudo-biography to justify anything. On another level, that of the problematic translation of the words of Jesus, when Mr. Brown interprets the Aramaic as “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you,” this is contested by other translators who have it as “the Kingdom of Heaven is all around you, but men do not see it.” This problem of translation is not to be taken as proof that Mr. Brown is off the mark, but only to demonstrate that the subject of how we translate Jesus’ words is complicated—and certainly not definitive of a magic mushroom inspired doctrine. Furthermore, I’m not convinced that the Christian iconographic record proves Mr. Brown’s “extravagant claim.” There are definitely mushrooms in some of the Christian art, but I didn’t hear any evidence that came close to causal. (In the same way, evidence of the “Green Man” image in Christian chapels and cathedrals doesn’t prove that Christianity was hiding a Celtic-pagan cult of the “Horned God” in its religion, but rather speaks of an esoteric strain of eclecticism or syncretism within a particular historical moment of a Celtic Christianity.) Nor (to add another problem) does, as Mr. Brown claims, the radical reinterpretation of the “Fall” in the Genesis story mean that the “problem of evil” is eliminated. In point of fact, the Gnostic-heretical reinterpretation (as already alluded to), where the Serpent was a heroic wisdom figure and God the oppressive “Demiurge,” didn’t eliminate the perennial “problem of evil.”

    In any case, I’m sure that Mr. Brown’s book will be a valuable contribution to the study of the origins of Christianity. It’s just that for someone like me, whose *intellect* makes demands (hermeneutical, psychological, sexual, ethical) on his *mysticism* and who refuses to sacrifice his intellect on the altar of new-age mystification, I remain skeptical till proven otherwise—call me “creatively suspicious”! In other words, my own stance here is one of *openness to possibilities*, but not an uncritical acceptance of Mr Brown’s thesis.

    However, I’m wholeheartedly one with the author’s social project of legalization and psychedelic centers. (And I’m even more one with the VA and her uncompromising spiritual autonomy of “The church is an ordeal—take the sacrament and run”! That “the sacrament should grow the ritual form” reminds me of Blake’s antinomian Christianity: “The Whole of the New Church is in the Active Life & not in Ceremonies at all” or Emerson’s “faith makes its own forms”.)

    Speaking for myself, then, I personally don’t require Jesus of Nazareth to be psychedelic in order to bless my entheogenic practices, but, hey, if Christians need to know that it’s okay to worship a magic-mushroom savior—that they have the historical precedent and the exegetical/iconographical blessings—, then I say go for it: “Praise the Lord and pass the (eucharistic) mushrooms!”

  • Considering the “Re-Wedding of Intellect and Mysticism” #2

    On a secondary level concern, it’s my opinion that Mr. Brown’s thesis of the psychedelic origins of Christianity raises stubborn questions that require more technical knowledge than the average person interested in taking sacred psychedelic journeys is in possession of, so it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the layman on his or her own to ascertain the veracity of the book’s “extraordinary claims.”

    I mean, many parts of Mr. Brown’s thesis are subject to skeptical questioning—exactly in the rationalistic-scientific Carl Sagan challenge he himself quoted: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This is a tall order for the book to satisfy, let alone what I heard Mr. Brown claim today, which may or may not turn out to be “extraordinary evidence.” For instance, one of the stubborn questions for me is how did what was originally an archaic Northern-Siberian, shamanic “magic mushroom cult” (reindeer herders drinking their urine) and its pagan, *animistic* cosmology get taken up in the Axial age with the rise of a “Christian magic mushroom cult” and come out the other end with a (patriarchal) *monotheistic* God (ontologically transcendent to Nature) and worldview (which some critics have identified as essentially a religious authoritarianism/totalitarianism, notably the eminent historian of religions, James Henry Breasted, who asserted long ago that “monotheism is imperialism in religion”).

    To play the Devil’s Advocate for a moment, a sympathetic theologian or historian of religions would (at least to the extent of what Mr. Brown expressed today) call a lot of his evidence “circumstantial.” And even an amateur in the field like myself at times felt like the numerous examples given of magic mushrooms in Christian iconography was little over-determined—as if once you make the case for the psychedelic origins of Christianity you’re obliged to see magic mushrooms everywhere; even DaVinci hid mushrooms in the Last Supper painting: a kind of all-out psychedelic version of the Dan Brown “DaVinci Code” conspiracy! (This is not a specious analogy, since Jerry Brown explained that he and his wife were inspired to go to the Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland because of Dan Brown’s books, where they saw the Amanita muscaria mushroom. So, Jerry Brown’s explanation confirmed my spontaneous association with the Dan Brown hidden “conspiracy theory.” Unfair to associate it with such? Then what else is the Browns’ challenging Wasson’s legacy in claiming that Watson had a secret relationship with the Vatican that led to his refusal to pursue his hallucinogen theory into the hallowed halls of Christianity—what is this but a “conspiracy theory”? Which Mr. Brown is dealing in secret Vatican conspiracies?)

  • Considering the “Re-Wedding of Intellect and Mysticism” #1

    I applaud the VA for having Jerry B. Brown (not to be confused with Jerry Brown Jr., our California governor, who, btw, could be seen at Esalen back in the day) on the show promoting his co-authored book on “Magic Mushrooms” in early Christian iconography (“Psychedelic Gospels, History of Hallucinogens in Christianity”)—the implications he draws out of his research (i.e., the role of psychedelic mushrooms in the origins of ancient religion, in this case “Christianity” and “Amanita muscaria”) is immensely intriguing (and challenging to the academic field of the historical study of religion)—and may be as mind-blowing as the magic mushrooms themselves)!

    I must say that this is not the first time I’ve heard (or read about) linking magic mushrooms with the origins of Christianity. I’m sure that both the VA and her guest author know about John M. Allegro’s controversial book (since his name was at least mentioned) that caused a big stir in 1970: *The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross: A study of the nature and origins of Christianity within the fertility cults of the ancient Near East*. (And what better time to be availed of this fantastic information of a pagan-type “fertility cult” than at this pagan Summer Solstice time?) Allegro, an English archaeologist and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, argued that the so-called “primitive Christianity” of the theologians was actually a “magic mushroom cult,” before its perversion and co-option by scribal mistranslations of the texts and then outright persecution of heretics. (That he also placed this—the heart of Christianity—in the context of the complex of the earlier ancient Near-East fertility cults, and maybe Hellenistic Mystery religions, is especially salient. Is it any wonder then that Carl Ruck, of psychedelic-soma in the Eleusinian Mysteries fame, wrote the new Forward to the 2009 Anniversary Edition?) However, I should point out that Allegro wasn’t the first to write a serious book on the religious uses of “magic mushroom,” Amanita muscaria, albeit not in Christianity per se but in ancient “religions” in general. Chalk this up to one Andrija Puharich, a medical and parapsychological researcher and physician, who published *The Sacred Mushroom: Key to the Door of Eternity* in 1959. (Those old enough to remember the Uri Geller phenomenon of the mid-seventies might remember Puharich as his sponsor. Btw, I have both books.)

    So, while I don’t doubt for a minute that Mr. Brown is on to something here (after all, I’m a fan of the Magic Mushroom origins in the folk-myth of a northern shaman type Germanic-European Santa Claus, of which the VA is so fond), I must confess here that although I’m open to revolutionary re-visionings of Christianity (along the lines of my long-time deep interest in the deconstructive revelations of heretical theologians) I cannot readily accept as fact the conclusions Mr. Brown and his co-author arrive at. I have, for the present, too many questions (as someone who was a “Religious Studies” major in college exposed to the rigorous methods of interpretation). I must read the book first and reflect longer on the issues raised across the board, from the religious to the social.

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