My notes:

Road to Eleusis: ‘unveiling’ of ‘mystery’ as publicity event, despite Ruck’s claim that there was little publicity. It’s certainly announced by Wasson that way in his opening section of the book: the grand collaboration between mycologist, chemist, and classicist, finally revealing the truth about the ancient mystery cult.

Wasson needed confirmation of another ancient mushroom to corroborate his claim that soma of ancient India was mushroom. This helps explain why Ruck’s far more relevant Dionysus material was relegated to ‘additional’ evidence. If the book was meant to cause a stir, they failed because they over emphasized the main ritual at Eleusis at the expense of all the other rituals associated with Eleusis and the rest of Greek religious practice. At a glance, the book seems to deal with only the the one-time event at Eleusis, when in fact Ruck provides evidence for widespread entheogen use and knowledge in Greek culture.

Authors made it easy to dismiss and ignore due to brittleness of ergot identification (Hofmann admits this in his section) and to minimizing wine and Dionysus evidence at expense of grand gesture of ‘unveiling the mystery.’ Ruck provides something of a corrective here, alluding to a different identification, which he claims is sounder, and placing emphasis on wider entheogen knowledge and use in Greek, Roman, and Christian religion.

Wasson had already proposed in a lecture and Robert Graves had already published that mushroom was in Eleusis potion.
  • Wasson proposed mushroom in Eleusinian kykeon in 1956 in a [unpublished?] lecture.
  • Graves proposed and published it in 1960 Food for Centaurs and put stone relief carving from Northern Greece of Demeter and Persephone holding mushroom on cover of new edition of Greek Myths published in same year.
  • Then in 1976 Ruck says that Wasson proposed that they ‘solve’ the Eleusinian mystery. What was there to solve? Wasson himself and Graves had already made the point. Again, this intention to ‘solve’ the mystery seems like a publicity event. Ruck provides plenty of evidence for Wasson’s interest in publicity for his earlier work. Elitist Wasson tried to set himself up as balance to the popularizing Leary, walking a fine line of publicity and defense of elite culture.

Typical Ruck problems:

  • Stops after finding presence of plants, mistakes presence of plants with the ‘mystery’.
  • Relatedly, this knowledge of the presence of plants was held by only an elite few.

Also, Makes Prohibition-compliant claim that ‘abuses and excesses’ caused Prohibition.

E. R. Dodds, author of Greeks and the Irrational: still very respected by mainstream Classicists. Graves regarded as poet and novelist, not scholar. Ruck blacklisted for decades.

Ruck seems to imply that Eliade knew differently, but published drug-diminishing view of shamanism due to Prohibition:
“Mircea Eliade, the renowned authority on religion, mysticism, and shamanism, […] disavow[ed] his own considerable evidence about shamanism in Siberia and elsewhere and declare[d] that drugs were characteristic only of the decadent last stages of a cult, affording only inauthentic hallucinatory communion with the divine. Inevitably, anyone who thought differently was assumed to have ruined his mind on drugs.”