A selection of recent articles, arguing that contemporary universities and academics are largely beholden to the status quo, that the university system and academic career turn professors into careerist conformists, not radicals. Universities want to avoid bad press, lest it harm donations and enrollment. Tenure and it attendant job security have become rarer, replaced by a growing number of adjunct teachers. In order to have a shot at tenure, graduate students and early-career academics are encouraged by the job market to be as safe as possible in their research and teaching. Academics become accustomed to serving the university.


[P]rofessors rarely exercise the freedoms tenure grants them. I taught for more than forty years, and I knew teachers who espoused radical principles when they were hired. They decided to keep these under the radar but promised to let loose once they earned that coveted job security. I can say from experience that not one of these erstwhile militants did so. Those of us who were troublemakers from the day we began working continued to “stir the pot,” as my Division Chairman accused some of us of doing, after we were granted tenure. For those who kept quiet, the hierarchy they accepted as the price they had to pay to someday be free became internalized. They got used to, habituated if you will, playing it safe. The years of willingly submitting to authority slowly but surely warped whatever radical instincts they once had, so that by the time they got tenure, they were already ruined.

The professor who says, wait until I get tenure and then I will activate my radical heart and soul, is lying. The great day may come, but by then he or she has already seen that fighting the power is bad business. Better to work inside the system, be polite, write an occasional letter of protest, and avoid troublemakers like the plague you have come to see they are. Be a good worker and help train students to follow in your footsteps.


[U]niversity faculty are less and less likely to threaten any aspect of the existing social or political system. Their jobs are constantly on the line, so there’s a professional risk in upsetting the status quo. But even if their jobs were safe, the corporatized university would still produce mostly banal ideas, thanks to the sycophancy-generating structure of the academic meritocracy. But even if truly novel and consequential ideas were being produced, they would be locked away behind extortionate paywalls.

The corporatized university also ends up producing the corporatized student. Students worry about doing anything that may threaten their job prospects. Consequently, acts of dissent have become steadily de-radicalized. On campuses these days, outrage and anger is reserved for questions like, “Is this sushi an act of cultural appropriation?” When student activists do propose ways to “radically” reform the university, it tends to involve adding new administrative offices and bureaucratic procedures, i.e. strengthening the existing structure of the university rather than democratizing it. Instead of demanding an increase in the power of students, campus workers, and the untenured, activists tend to push for symbolic measures that universities happily embrace, since they do not compromise the existing arrangement of administrative and faculty power.

The “professor-as-revolutionary” caricature serves both the caricaturist and the professor. Conservatives can remain convinced that students abandon conservative ideas because they are being manipulated, rather than because reading books and learning things makes it more difficult to maintain right-wing prejudices. And liberal professors get to delude themselves into believing they are affecting something.


[T]he conditions ravaging our profession are also ravaging our work. The privilege of tenure used to confer academic freedom through job security. By now, decades of adjunctification have made the professoriate fearful, insular, and conformist. According to the AAUP, adjunct faculty are about half as likely to undertake risky research projects, and the timidity moves up the ladder. “Professionalization” means retrofitting your research so that it accommodates the critical fads that will make you marginally more employable. It means cutting and adding chapters so that feathers remain unruffled. Junior faculty play it safe — conceptually, politically, and formally — because they write for job and tenure committees rather than for readers. Publications serve careers before they serve culture.

If my book deserves recognition, then we must also recognize that no young scholar with any sense would be foolish enough to write it. Graduate students must tailor their research projects to a fickle job market, and a book like mine simply doesn’t fit.

The message is clear: Stick to the old dissertation formula — six chapters about six authors. The most foolish mistake is addressing an audience beyond the academy. Publishing with Penguin or Random House should be a wonderful opportunity for a young scholar. Yet for most hiring committees, a trade book is merely one that did not undergo peer review. It’s extracurricular. My book exists because I was willing to give up a tenure-track job to write it.

We cannot blame this professional anemia on scarce funding. The largest adjunct-faculty increases have taken place during periods of economic growth, and high university endowments do not diminish adjunctification. Harvard has steadily increased its adjunct faculty over the past four decades, and its endowment is $35.7 billion. This is larger than the GDP of a majority of the world’s countries.

The truth is that teaching is a diminishing priority in universities. Years of AAUP reports indicate that budgets for instruction are proportionally shrinking. Universities now devote less than one-third of their expenditures to instruction. Meanwhile, administrative positions have increased at more than 10 times the rate of tenured faculty positions. Sports and amenities are much more fun.


The search for truth, critical thinking, intellectual creativity, academic standards, scientific invention, and the ideals of citizenship have been discounted in favor of maximizing profits, vocational training, career success, applied research, and bottom-line considerations.

The overuse and abuse of contingent faculty members is a threat to academic freedom and intellectual innovation. The contingent faculty finds its teaching constrained by fear of the administrators’ uncontested right not to renew their contracts.

In an address to the American Council of Learned Societies, Clifford Geertz, one of our most influential scholars, once recounted his own career, calling it “a charmed life, in a charmed time. An errant career, mercurial, various, free, instructive, and not all that badly paid.”

Geertz continued: “The question is: Is such a life and such a career available now? In the Age of Adjuncts? When graduate students refer to themselves as ‘the pre-unemployed’? … Has the bubble burst? … It is difficult to be certain. … But there does seem to be a fair amount of malaise about, a sense that things are tight and growing tighter … and it is probably not altogether wise just now to take unnecessary chances, strike new directions, or offend the powers. Tenure is harder to get (I understand it takes two books now, and God knows how many letters. … ), and the process has become so extended as to exhaust the energies and dampen the ambitions of those caught up in it. … All I know is that, up until just a few years ago, I used … to tell students and younger colleagues … that they should stay loose, take risks, resist the cleared path, avoid careerism, go their own way, and that if they did so, if they kept at it and remained alert, optimistic, and loyal to the truth, my experience was that they could … have a valuable life, and nonetheless prosper. I don’t do that anymore.”


Though conservatives frequently attack higher education as a radical enclave, the institutional culture of the contemporary university is really far more aligned with institutional liberalism than radical leftism. The concept of the “deep state” has been debased lately, but in its original form – the idea that there is a bureaucratic class that persists within elected governments regardless of the outcomes of elections and which has its own interests that it asserts through subtle administrative power – is true of colleges, perhaps even more than of governments themselves. And the deep state of most universities is not radical but rather progressive. It’s not comprised of Sanders-style insurgents but of Clinton-style establishmentarians. It’s this class of people that college students have been petitioning, and so the presumptions held by that class of people represent the boundaries of what much contemporary college activism can achieve.

[W]e need to recognize that higher education has developed an entire set of administrators whose fundamental purpose is to prevent controversy from happening before it starts. I’ve come to call them the “Liability and Controversy Avoidance Class.” They are the diversity officers, the Title IX coordinators, the fixers of Greek life controversies, the public relations and marketing people who know just how much intersectionality language to pepper into their press releases.

I don’t think that none of these jobs are worthwhile; in fact some of them are essential. But anyone who cares about genuinely radical action on campus has to understand the way that universities have adapted to protests by treating them as a marketing issue to be managed.

Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIVL6LyX_NE

This episode introduces the topic of altered state cybernetic/deterministic interpretation of Plato and Platonist philosophy. Topics covered include:
– The relation between Platonism and Christianity
– Plato as foundational figure behind academic philosophy
– The Platonist theme of unity transcending multiplicity appearing in Judeo-Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.
– The enhanced degree of rationality in Plato compared with earlier writers
– Socrates’ rhetorical style in the Platonic dialogues
– Socrates’ dialogue with the prophet Euthyphro on the nature of piety
– Platonism as a two-level system, initiated versus non-initiated interpretations, playful and humorous blending of levels.
– Unwritten esoteric platonist content equating the form of The Good with The One.
– Secrecy surrounding mystery initiation, experiential and verbal aspects of initiation
– The crime of profaning the Eleusinian mystery by revealing secret content
– The trial of Socrates, the precise nature of Socrates’ crime
– Political aspects of Platonist thought, democracy versus oligarchy
– Literal and metaphorical interpretations of Plato
– Age restrictions on mystery initiation
– Plato’s description of the ideal state governed by enlightened philosopher kings
– Competing interpretations of altered state phenomenology
– Maintaining the societal appearance of egoic freewill agency after initiation
– Academic taboo and censorship of psychedelic drug issue
– Michael Rinella, David Hilman and Carl Ruck’s writing about ancient drug use
– Plato’s cybernetic charioteer analogy for the human soul in the Phaedrus dialogue
– Fallacious single-state interpretation of Plato
– Possibility of access to the altered state for modern students of mysticism
– The alien-social-psychology theory of ancient altered state experiences, Anything-But-Drugs (ABD) explanations
– Ustinov’s theory that caves provided ancient people with access to the altered state, Plato’s cave allegory

[first pass]

The poet, fiction writer, and essayist Robert Graves wrote about mushrooms in Greek religion and myth in the 1950s. He corresponded with Wasson from an early stage of Wasson’s research into mushrooms and contributed evidence and ideas to Wasson on the role of mushrooms in religion. Wasson, however, did not credit him or acknowledge his published work on mushrooms, putting a strain on their friendship. Moreover, Graves’ work has been ignored by the majority of subsequent scholars on mushrooms in Greek myth and religion. Credit that has gone to Wasson and Carl Ruck as first popularizers of the role of mushrooms in Greek myth and religion should go to Graves. This post will clarify what Graves asserted and what the strengths and limitations of his approach were.

Graves primary contribution is the essay “Centaur’s Food,” first published in The Atlantic magazine, but reprinted and more commonly available in Food for Centaurs (1960), a collection of Graves’ poetry and essays. His other writings on psychedelics in religion and history primarily reiterate the findings presented in “Centaur’s Food.” Additionally, “The Poet’s Paradise,” the transcript of a lecture delivered at Oxford in the early 60s, published in Oxford Addresses on Poetry (1961), contains some material on Graves’ views on contemporary use of psychedelics and some new interpretations of religion and mythology. Below I list the claims of the two essays and summarize and comment on the methods Graves’ uses to advance these claims. Finally, I add a few notes about Graves’ relationship with Wasson and Graves’ self-presentation and its impact on the effectiveness of his arguments.

Graves makes some serious blunders, but some of the evidence he draws our attention to remains strikingly relevant and has not been given its due by subsequent entheogen scholars. Graves is the true origin of the middling moderate entheogen theory of religion, as defined here: psychedelics were used commonly in the origins of religion, but later became more and more restricted to select occasions or a select group, until finally they became so secretive that common knowledge of their role was lost; the role of the scholar is to unveil the presence of plants in religious myth and ritual.

In “Centaur’s Food,” Graves claims:

  • The taboo on mushrooms in some cultures is a sign of their earlier use in sacred ceremonies
  • That Greek priests later banned the use of the mushroom and that Greek myth reflects this change by depicting the punishments of figures for serving ambrosia to mortals
  • Mushrooms are found in Greek art: An Etruscan Bronze mirror dating to 500 BC depicts a mushroom at the feet of Ixion; A vase painting of the centaur Nessus dying after being shot with an arrow by Heracles depicts mushroom in between centaur’s feet; The relief scultpure from Phrsalus from 5th BC depicts Demeter and Persphone holding a mushroom
  • That the first letters of the ingredients for the recipes given for Ambrosia, Nectar, and the Eleusinian Kykeon in Greek sources spell out the Greek word for mushroom in various forms; The mu- syllable of the Greek word for ‘mystery’ musterion refers to fly (muos) and mushroom (muka). Mystery celebration at Athens held during the fall, the mushroom season. The corresponding spring festival was named for flowering, springtime plants (anthesterion), so seems like that musterion somehow refers to a substance.
  • Dionysus was the mushroom, both born from lightning; that Maenads raged like Berserk in amanita-state; that ripping off of heads in Dionysus rituals refers to removal of head of mushroom from stalk.
  • That animals used as symbols of major cities in the Peloponnese refer to mushrooms (toad for Argos, fox for Messene, serpent for Laconia); nearby city name Mycenae refers to mushroom. Founder of Argos, Phoroneus, name may refer to toad, born from an ash-tree, which are known to attract lightning, which is sign of mushroom. The fox-skins worn by the avid followers of Dionsysus, the Thracians, resemeble mushrooms in vase paintings. The little foxes in Old Testament stories refers to amanita. The fox in the story of the Spartan boy who snuck a fox into school in his tunic and then said nothing in order to not be found out even as the fox began to gnaw on his innards refers to amanita. Swelling in Old Testament and Greek Myth refers to mushroom.
  • The Athenian festival called Scirophoria is a procession of mushrooms or later mushroom-like parasols.

“The Poet’s Paradise” claims:

  • Visions of paradise and of hell due to drugs; commonality of these visions not to due to Jungian collective unconscious, but due to shared culture and drug experiencing; ‘Wisdom’ due to drugs
  • Amanita was used in Europe, but reserved for the priesthood and taboos were used to deter others from having it; the taboo hung on long after rites were over; Amanita was initially used, but later the more common panaeolus and psiloybe used; Mushroom use was secretive and reserved only for those of a certain integrity; No Christian or Jew consumed mushrooms; despite Christian peyote churches, predicts that Catholics and Protestants cannot accept visionary plants and will lead Prohibition, in cahoots with tobacco and liquor industries
  • An Aztec fresco depicts a river in paradise as a mushroom
  • Pastries offered during Eleusis rite shaped like phallus and piglets refer to mushrooms to due shape and name respectively
  • Dionysus was sometimes called the lame god, so were toads (which refer to mushrooms)
  • Perseus ability to fly refer to visionary state, who named Mycenae from a mushroom he found growing on the spot.
  • Sea metaphors due to a physiological effect of psilocybe, that of lowering body temperature

Methods used by Graves:

  • Anthropological theories (taboo is sign of earlier sacredness, taboos had ritual exceptions)
  • Common names for mushrooms or nicknames reflect taboo and can be used to interpret myth/religion/art
  • Compare with known mushroom use in Siberia and Mexico (Berserk and Lightning God)
  • Identification of mushrooms in visual art
  • Connects myths and figures to each other through shared imagery or other similarities, then applies characteristics of one myth to another
  • Gets mushroom recipe for Ambrosia, Nectar, Kykeon with poetic feature of listing a secret word with the first letters of a series of words
  • Notes a few comments by ancients about mushrooms – Nero says they are food of the gods, I.e. ambrosia; Porphyry calls them god-nourishing, normally an epithet for ambrosia; Plutarch says mushrooms grow from no roots or seed, but from lightning; Dionysus’ feasts called the Ambrosia
  • Common sense – what else causes visions?
  • Ritual action and mythology symbolically refers to mushroom, mushroom-induced activity, or mushroom preparation
  • Mu- roots of words suggests links between concepts muketa, musterion, muos
  • Analogy between names of festivals to point to mushrooms
  • Draws on personal experience in “The Poet’s Paradise” to claim heaven and hell are visionary states.
  • Physiological and phenomenological effects of mushroom explain metaphor (but in a weakened way)


  • Mushroom religion earlier, taboo’d and then supressed, so we have to sift through later evidence for the signs of this earlier religion. This is moderate entheogen view. Assumes secret hidden pagan tradition, not Jewish (yet he interprets some Old Testament stories as referring to mushrooms) or Christian. Bad Anthropological theory immediately hinders; Graves is deficient at theoretical level. This affects the type of evidence that he sees and the ways he interprets it. This is the important theoretical limitation, affects Wasson (or tied up in Wasson’s work) and subsequent entheogen scholarship (especially Ruck)
  • Has some understanding of phenomenology and altered state, uses it in interpretation, but vague and incomplete; for Graves myths more prominently reflect ritual and practice, should be treated as history and asked historical questions of.
  • Relies on ‘connections’ strategy typical of anthropological approaches to myth; explains myths by other myths instead of internally. This is a bad characteristic of Ruck’s writings, too.
  • Not mono plant fallacy – amanita as original, later substituted with more common but still visionary mushrooms
  • Cross cultural evidence; variety of evidence
  • For contemporaries he wants to reserver drugs for those with good moral character. Says good moral character necessary for positive experience.
  • Equates drug state with non-drug poetic trance, but elevates poetic trance as ‘active’, against ‘passive’ mushroom state

Graves was a literary figure and, like Wasson, an amateur scholar. His writings reflect these two features. The writings often have a literary flow and include bits of poetry. For example, “Centaur’s Food” is written as a travelogue, tracing the development of Graves’ hypothesis as he travels from his home in Majorca to England, and “The Poet’s Paradise” concludes with an ode to Dionysus composed by Graves. Furthermore, Graves is very aware of his outsider status to academic scholarship. He mocks scholars’ braindead interpretations of Greek Art and the authority given to them, and also comments self-deprecatingly on his own ideas as the musings of an amateur. This last feature, though, leads him not present his arguments as strongly as possible. Citations to texts he refers to and images of works he refers to are missing, and the reader is usually unable to read or see the Graves’ evidence.

Graves speaks frequently of his relationship with Wasson in his published work on psychedelics, and the letters published in Between Sun and Moon: Selected Correspondence (1984) reveal more of that relationship. Graves was contacted by the Wasson’s wife Valentina as the Wassons prepared their first book, Mushrooms and Russia. She contacted him to ask his opinion about the poisoning of the Roman Emperor Claudius in AD 54, who was said to have died after ingesting a poisonous mushroom. Graves had become famous for his works of historical fiction featuring Claudius. Graves is excited by their interest in mushrooms in culture and develops and shares with the Wassons the idea that the negative association displayed by some cultures towards mushrooms is the sign of an earlier religious usage of mushrooms and taboo. He discovers and informs Wasson about the ritual use of mushrooms in Oaxaca, Mexico, the publicizing of which would make Wasson famous and cement his reputation as foremost enthnomycologist. Wasson’s account of the mushroom ceremonies in Oaxaca in turn prompt Graves to think about mushrooms in Greek religion. The correspondence shows Graves sharing evidence and interpretations with Wasson that he would later publish in “Centaur’s Food”. Their relationship begins to sour, however, when Wasson fails to cite “Centaur’s Food” or mention Graves’ role in developing the ideas published in Soma. Graves complains of this in a published review of Soma, “The Two Births of Dionysus”, and Wasson apologizes in a private letter, claims that on the one hand he had merely forgotten to cite Graves’ role in idea development and on the other had omitted Greek culture from Soma in order to take on only one group of scholars at once.

Wasson appropriated (stole?) Graves’ ideas and downplayed Greek (Western) myth/religion, just as he later did, when arguing against Allegro. Wasson later addressed Greek religion in The Road to Eleusis, but in the way to maximize publicity, but minimize uptake by scholars. Ruck’s solid research on Dionysus and wine is obscured and downplayed by Wasson’s grandstanding about Eleusis.

Bogus outdated anthropological theories explain the limitations of all the bad moderate entheogen scholarship (e.g. Wasson, Allegro, Ruck). The theory that psychedelics were used in the remote past at the origins of religion, but restricted to a few elites and/or priests and taboo for the general populace is rooted in outdated and bogus anthropological theories. Bad theory has caused some evidence to be overlooked, other evidence to be interpreted badly. Sweep those theories away and start again with better theories.

My outline of theories of mythology indicates the harmful role of bad and outdated anthropology on the study of myth. A similar sort analysis of bad anthropology in entheogen scholarship is needed, to show how it has distorted our use of available evidence. The bad theorizing in the field has limited the scope and power of its interpretation.

Researching for my post on Robert Graves has made this clear. It is amazing how limited this field has been. It is likewise amazing the role that a few influential researchers can have on the development and constraining of a field. There is a direct line from bad anthropological theories to Graves, to Wasson, to Ruck, the leading voice in the study of psychedelics in Greek religion and culture.

Graves proposed to Wasson in the 50s, before the publication of Soma, that the taboo on eating mushrooms found in some contemporary cultures could be explained by the anthropological principle of taboo. The revulsion felt towards mushrooms was the sign of an earlier prohibition on mushrooms due to their sacred nature. The prohibition kept mushrooms reserved either for a special elite or for certain special festival days. Later the mushrooms were either banned, fell out of use, substituted with a placebo, or knowledge of them became even more restricted and secret. The taboo then morphed into a feeling of revulsion towards mushrooms evidenced in some cultures and in many disgusting or unsavory names/nicknames for mushrooms found worldwide.

Graves claims this is based on “a sound anthropological principle” and takes it as proven and true before he sets off looking for evidence in ancient Greek myth/religion/art/literature. But this theory limits the sorts of evidence he notices and distorts his interpretation of that evidence. This theory lies behind Wasson’s Soma, though he does not credit Graves, leading to a breakdown in their friendship. This theory dominates Road to Eleusis so much that Ruck’s far more wide-ranging work on wine in that book is so frequently overlooked for the single, supposedly exceptional and secretive, case of Eleusis.

More details to come as I complete my post on Robert Graves.

Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTPM_CQd6RE&t=6s

A follow-up episode on Terence Mckenna. Topics include:

The pathway from Mckennaism towards metaphorical psychedelic eternalism
Reconciling Terence Mckenna’s ideas with the ego death theory
Terence’s understanding of esoteric religion
Terence’s tepid defence of free will
Different motives for defending free will and determinism
Undesirability of the no free will position
David Hilman’s problems with official academia when presenting psychedelic theories of ancient Greek culture
The process of scientific advancement, Kuhn and Popper versus Feyerabend
Michael Hoffman’s engineering background, his focus on model building and practical problem solving
Terence Mckenna’s criticism of scientific reasoning and inductivist logic
Terence’s status as a radical and critical thinker
Exotericism and sober meditation as substitute wish-fulfilment
Terence’s attitudes towards sober meditation
Michael Hoffman’s characterisation of psychedelic tripping as loosened cognition
Max Freakout’s process of intellectual development from Terence Mckenna to Michael Hoffman’s ego death theory
Mono-plant fallacy in Terence’s thinking, Terence’s dismissal of LSD
The entertaining quality of Terence’s thought
Lack of metaphor awareness in Terence’s thought
Modifying Terence’s ideas with metaphorical interpretive lense, similarity to Christianity

Brown, J.B. and Brown, J.M. 2016. The Psychedelic Gospels. Park Street Press.

Publisher’s website.

Authors’ website.

Presents evidence of psychedelics in Christian art, primarily in paintings and architectural decoration in the High Middle Ages in Western Europe (1000-1300), but also in earlier and later Christian art and text. Provides clear and high-quality images in both color and black and white of psychedelics in Christian art coupled with interpretation of that evidence.

Written as a travel narrative. Brown and Brown depict their first recognition of a psychedelic in Christian art and their travel throughout Europe to look for more examples. The narrative style of the work allows them to convey their process of discovery and testing of the theory and evidence. This may be useful and convincing for a reader encountering the evidence and theory for the first time. Still there is much content not directly relevant to the psychedelic theory of religion and to the evidence for psychedelics in Christian art and text. Authors, anthropologist and psychotherapist, are interested in what contemporary locals think of psychedelics in Christian art in their local churches.

Surveys Wasson’s role in both promoting and limiting the role of psychedelics in religious history. Account of Wasson’s scholarship and activity interwoven into the travel narrative.

Addresses Allegro’s theories of mushroom use in Christian origins and Jesus as metaphorical code for amanita. Agrees with Christian mushroom use, but rejects ahistoricity of Jesus and Allegro’s linguistic arguments for Jesus as amanita.

Includes some analysis of recent work by J. Irvin, J. Rush, T. Hatsis, C.A.P. Ruck, and M. A. Hoffman concerning methodology for identifying psychedelics in art. Discusses Hatsis’ rejection of Irvin and Rush on methodological grounds. Praises Ruck and Hoffman’s identification of psychedelics in Christian and esoteric art hidden using illusionist tricks, visual puns, double entendres, and symbolic elements. Calls for creation of interdisciplinary team to establish standards for identifying psychedelics in Christian art.

Across the book, there is an interweaving of travel narrative, new evidence of psychedelics in Christian art, and survey of scholarship:

  • Part 1 surveys Wasson’s work on non-Christian and pre-Christian psychedelics use in religion. This lays groundwork for question of psychedelics in Christianity.
  • Part 2 introduces evidence of psychedelics in Christianity with conflict of Wasson and Allegro over interpretation of Plaincourault fresco. Psychedelics in Christianity is central question of the book. This continues Wasson’s story and illustrates tension in Wasson’s identification of and promotion of psychedelics in non- and pre-Christian religions but denial of psychedelics in Christianity. Brown and Brown criticize Wasson on Plaincourault and present new evidence for psychedelics in Christian art. Part 2 overturns Wasson’s denial of psychedelics in Christianity.
  • Part 3 ties visit to Rome and Vatican museums (which they claim has no examples of psychedelics in art) with revelation that Wasson had ties to the Vatican and the Pope, which explains his denial of Christian psychedelics. This concludes Wasson’s story. Part 3 adds some more new evidence for psychedelics from further afield: a late-antique church in northern Italy; a Byzantine-era church in Turkey; 2nd century Gnostic texts; and ancient Egyptian art. Part 3 culminates in discussion of recent work by scholars on identification of psychedelics in Christian art and in Brown and Brown’s call for committee to develop standards for identifying psychedelics in Christian art.

Other premodern cultures:

India: discusses Wasson’s identification of Soma in Rigveda as Amanita.

Siberian shamanism: discusses Wasson’s contributions and evidence presented since then.

Greek and Roman: Road to Eleusis discussed as part of survey of Wasson’s activities. No mention of Robert Graves’ writings on psychedelics in Greek myth and religion, a major oversight. Graves’ work still waits to be integrated into the story of the psychedelic theory of religion, alongside his contemporaries Wasson and Allegro. Carl Ruck’s work after Road to Eleusis on psychedelics in Greek and Roman myth, religion, and culture not discussed.

Egyptian: Some Egyptian art presented with identification of psychedelics.

Jewish: mentioned in passing, cites work of B. Shanon, D. Merkur, C. Bennett on psychedelics in Jewish religion.

Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaYPWHBmS1g&feature=youtu.be

Comparison between Terence Mckenna and Tim Leary
Tension between metaphorical and literal interpretation of Mckenna’s ideas
Mckenna’s ‘Stoned Ape’ theory of human evolution
Brian Aker’s Lamarckist criticism of stoned ape theory
Differing views of Mckenna’s motivations
Mckenna’s criticism of scientism
Mckenna’s emphasis on natural drugs and dismissal of LSD
Mckenna’s feminist ideals
Mckenna’s analogical model of psychedelic cognition (explicit representationalism)
Mckenna’s model of time and reverse-causality and its relation to 4D block-universe determinism
Mckenna’s ‘timewave zero’ equation
2012 as teleological eschaton
Mckenna’s idea of accelerating ingression into novelty
Scientistic reliance on inductivist logic
Mckenna’s DMT induced ‘Machine Elves’, comparisons with religious myths such as prophet Jacob’s wrestling with an angel
Mckenna’s concept of telepathic communication
Mckenna’s rejection of psychedelic Christianity via dismissal of John Allegro and Leary’s Good Friday experiment

Pharmaceutical companies, police, prison guards, and alcohol industry are terrified because they stand to lose big when Prohibition falls. They are funding pro-Prohibition groups.




A podcast listener sent me this article from the New Yorker magazine on Ayahuasca in the U.S. : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/09/12/the-ayahuasca-boom-in-the-u-s

Spot the pop sike cliches! McKenna brothers; brain scanning; nonduality; psychedelics can imitate meditation; psychedelics for trauma healing; Western tourism of another culture.

For affluent urban Westerners, ayahuasca / south american jungle culture is the new ‘eastern religions’. It’s trendy. We could have covered Martin Ball from this angle. It’s fitting that the trip scene described happens in a yoga studio.

The article is almost a check-list of our podcast topics.

Article mentions the ayahuasca churches yet there is no mention that these are explicitly *Christian* churches. Instead profiles neo-shamanism of south american variety.

Separate mysticism from culture. Authentic religion not dependent on cultural forms / ritual actions. Ingest psychedelics to learn about metaphor and eternalism. Learn eternalism and metaphorical expression of switch from possibilism to eternalism and you can recognize it everywhere.

Rituals are usually tied to specific cultural traditions and reinforce those traditions through repetition. This often involves reinforcing specific societal arrangements, including hierarchies of power in economic, gender, racial, and other aspects of society. Rituals could be channeled to reinforce group opposition to political/social domination, promoting egalitarianism against elite control, as in the radical democracy of ancient Athens (although such radical action was restricted to male citizens of Athenian descent; women, slaves, and foreigners were excluded) or in early house church Christianity as counter Roman empire movement (although co-opted by proto-Catholic leaders).
From the one who sent me the article: a reaction to the rhetorical and authorial self-presentation of the article. Stance is that of sophisticated cultural critic and taste-maker. The closing narration of the article reinforces self-control power of author and moralizing authority.

Okay. We’re going to run a major-ish article on ayahuasca. A shallow smattering of everything; a quick panoramic view. We’ll talk about it ‘scientifically,’ from the standpoint of the mainstream medical community. We’ll talk about with reference to contemporary North American culture, as a growing fad. We’ll talk about it historically, both in terms of original context and of the shifts/developments away from that context. We’ll be, like, super objective, examining the views of proponents from different sectors, walks of life, and with differing goals/visions for this stuff. We’ll talk about the supposed best of its properties from these different perspectives. We’ll also talk about the worst, about the risks, trying to involve various kinds of voices and types of information from that standpoint as well.

But then—get this—at the end, it’s *also* going to turn into a hybrid David Sedaris/Elizabeth Gilbert short story with an added feel-good, moralizing twist.

The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Is it really true? Suspense builds. The writer of this article is going to try this stuff for the first time and let us know what’s *actually* up with it. Those who haven’t tried or heard of ayahuasca but have been made curious by the article put themselves in her shoes; the “investigative journalist” the reader is most likely to trust and identify with tries so we don’t have to.

(The implication perhaps being that none of the other circulating voices, including those cited and interviewed by her, can actually be trusted; she, New Yorker contributor and True ‘Cultured’ People’s cultural authority/ educated and savvy Metropolitan Pilgrim, is the one who has provided us with this information so far. She has also established her identity as ‘trained and professional channeler of objective data/perspectives.’ And, after all, who really knows who the other people talking about these things are? Probably sketchy, is what they are; probably not Like Me.)

The lesson that emerges, of course, is that: “The power isn’t really in the plant, it’s in me. Not only that, but in retrospect, I was WAY better off than all of those other miserable, vomiting people who were clearly having a variety of unpleasant experiences.” At best they are easy targets of caricature and patronization; at worst they are throwing their lives away and on the possible verge of permanent mental/physical damage.

Status quo remains unchallenged. Experience in many ways ultimately foo-food as a hyped-up let down. Threat (however exciting) of new way of seeing exchanged for (disappointing, though ultimately comforting) comic relief that keeps us grounded in the familiar.

Though, of course, the narrative might also be seen as a commentary on some of the more absurd parts of culturally re-appropriated ayahuasca rituals (the jungle-print pants, yoga mats, trick-or-treat buckets, etc.; made me think of some of Max’s commentary in episode 7). It’s-a-fad slant also indicated by title.

Article: Hatsis, T. 2016. “Born of a Version: Parthenogenesis and The Holy Mushroom.” Psychedelic Press 17:21-39.

Another Hatsis self-promotional hack job masquerading as academic scholarship. Shame on Psychedelic Press for promoting this regressive piece.

According to Hatsis, Christian mushroom theorists John Allegro, Clark Heinrich, John Rush, and Jan Irvin and Andrew Rutajit promote the idea that the story of the life of Jesus refers to the life cycle of a mushroom. In this theory, Jesus’ birth from the virginal Mary refers to the apparently spontaneous growth of a mushroom from the earth without a visible seed. In reply, Hatsis argues that the virgin birth is a late addition to the stories of the life of Jesus; therefore, he claims, it cannot refer to a mushroom. We are to be ashamed for the unhistorical and unscholarly Christian mushroom theorists and respect instead the rigorous academic work of Hatsis.

It’s the same old piecemeal attack on Allegro’s theory of Christian origins as a secret mushroom cult, in the style of Andy Letcher. A sad, tired routine. Never mind that Allegro’s theory is but one scenario for psychedelics in Christianity. It’s actually not even clear what precisely Hatsis thinks of the subject of psychedelics in Christian history. He doesn’t say. Instead he just critiques Allegro’s theory of coded mushroom references in the life of Jesus and the scholars who have adopted it.

Hatsis is out for destruction, aiming to push the competition out of the rink. The article has no constructive point, in terms of theory or evidence. It only serves to promote Hatsis as respectable and rigorous against his perceived opponents in the historical psychedelics field. Yet the article is little more than posturing and fails in precisely the quality of rigor that Hatsis claims is so lacking from his chosen targets and that he claims to provide.

There is no evaluation of the arguments of his opponents. He does not allow them to speak for themselves with full quotations and full consideration of their arguments. He merely shows that each one connects the virgin birth to the mushroom’s growth without seed and dismisses each without analysis. At the end of the post I critique Hatsis’ presentation of Allegro’s argument in detail.

Hatsis acts as though historians agree about Christian origins and early Christian textual history. He uncritically assumes the historicity of Jesus and the apostles. He acts as though historical evidence is self-evident and not always tied to an interpretative framework. He tautologically uses the ‘consensus of historians’ to criticize a theory that explicitly challenges the ‘consensus of historians’.

He acts as if proving that the virgin birth is a late addition to the story of the life of Jesus means that the virgin birth cannot refer to a mushroom. He acts as though suggesting that the motivation for the story of the virgin birth was to cover up the accusation that Mary was a whore means that the virgin birth cannot also refer to a mushroom. He argues that because Mithras was virgin born and because Dionysus was virgin born, Jesus’ virgin birth was a pagan idea interpolated into the story of his life and therefore cannot refer to a mushroom. He cites Carl Ruck for the evidence that Dionysus was virgin born, yet ignores Ruck’s work relating Dionysus to mushrooms.

The tone of the piece is often joking, mocking, and, in places, vulgar. It is unbecoming of scholarship, which should strive for a neutral tone and prize the content of analysis over schoolyard taunts and jokes.

Hatsis needs to move past this simplistic focus on proving Allegro (and Jan Irvin, his favorite target) wrong. As Michael Hoffman showed a decade ago, the real task is to answer in what ways was Allegro right and in what ways was he wrong. Hatsis has to engage with not only the topic of psychedelics in Christian history but also the related topic of the ahistoricity of Jesus and the apostles. Hatsis uses the ‘consensus of historians’ regarding the historicity of Jesus and the reliability of the Christian textual tradition to attack his chosen mushroom scholars. Yet this consensus is an illusion.

Hatsis, in his taunting, destructive way, wants to encourage historical psychedelic scholars to engage with historical and literary scholarship more than they have done. He should do the same and drop the ‘just-so’ story of Christian origins. Certainly he should stop using it to promote his credentials and allegiance to Prohibitionist academia.

Of course, to really improve his scholarship, he should study the Egodeath theory. Without it he will never understand that the virgin birth refers to the possibilism mind impregnated not by physical seed, but by the eternalism hidden thought source, producing new life, the mortal/immortal mix that is possibilism corrected by eternalism.


An example of Hatsis loaded presentation of Allegro’s arguments:

There is poor citation right from the start, which makes it difficult to evaluate his claims: Hatsis writes,  “Quoting from Pliny’s ancient description of the mushroom in his Natural History (c. 80 CE), Allegro writes “[fungi are the] greatest marvels of nature … belong[ing] to a class of things that spring up spontaneously and cannot be grown from seed [italics mine]”. Editorially, this is a mess and obfuscating. What parts of this are from Pliny? What passage of Pliny is this from? It turns out that these are the parts that Allegro quoted from Pliny. So, Allegro did not write that. Hatsis does not make clear what is Pliny and what is Allegro. It turns out to be all Pliny, and yet Hatsis writes that “Allegro writes”, allowing a reader to attribute ideas to Allegro that are not his. Sloppy at best, misleading at worst.

Moreover, Hatsis elides Allegro’s argument. Following the above he writes “Allegro then associates Jesus with the mushroom, using the notion of seedless birth as a parallel to the virgin birth; he continues, “The baby that resulted from this divine union was thus the ‘Son of God,’… [h]ere in the tiny mushroom, was God manifest, the ‘Jesus’ born of the Virgin”. You can see the eliding with the sudden mention of ‘divine union,’ which was not present in the first extract, and the word ‘thus’, indicating the conclusion to an argument. Where has the idea of divine union come from? What role does that play in Allegro’s argument? Hatsis does not provide his reader with the tools to evaluate the argument.

Rereading Allegro, the extent of Hatsis’ elision becomes more apparent. Before the sentences quoted by Hatsis, Allegro had been discussing the use by both the ancient Pliny and a modern mycologist of the language of childbirth to describe the growth of a mushroom. It is not merely Allegro and his followers who use the language of childbirth to describe the mushroom, as Hatsis’ unclear attribution and selective quotation would imply. Then Allegro shows that the ancients viewed it as a mystery how the ‘womb’ of the earth got ‘fertilized’. Again, it is not Allegro who viewed the growth of the mushroom as a marvel and a mystery, as Hatsis sloppy quoting implies. Allegro next discusses one explanation given by the ancients for that fertilization, namely that it was caused by lightning: the sky father god sends his lightning seed to the womb of the earth mother, which produces the mushroom. It is here that Hatsis’ second quotation from Allegro follows, “The baby that resulted…”

In describing Allegro’s argument, Hatsis makes it seem that Allegro based it merely on the seedlessness of a mushroom’s growth, but he leaves out the lightning theory and sexual analogy. Allegro’s argument for the virgin birth as referring to a mushroom is tied to a fuller context of argument and evidence than Hatsis displays, including linguistic, mythic, and cultic evidence. Instead of engaging with that fuller context, Hatsis artificially reduces it to the single dimension of ‘seedlessness’ and takes the easy route of dismissing it because Allegro was rejected by the academic establishment. Hatsis presentation of Allegro’s theory thus fails to be properly scholarly. He does not engage with Allegro’s theory or evidence directly or fully and seeks to hide this from the reader through elision.


Metaphorical Psychedelic Eternalism
May 2017
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