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From daily reading, my translation:

None of us has investigated what truth is, but each has delivered fear to another; no one has dared to come near to that by which disturbance arises and to know the nature and the good of his own fear. And so something false and empty is trusted still because it is not refuted. [6] We should consider it worthwhile to look carefully: then it will be apparent how brief, how fluid, how safe are the things that we fear. The confusion of our souls is such as it seemed to Lucretius:

for just as children are alarmed and fear everything | in the obscure shadows, so we fear everything in the light.

What of it? Are not we who fear everything in the light more foolish than every child? [7] But it is wrong, Lucretius, we do not fear everything in the light: we make everything into shadows. We see nothing, neither what harms nor what helps; for our entire life we rush forward nor we do either stop or step more considerately on account of this. You see how mad a thing it is to rush on in the dark. But, by Hercules, we press on to be recalled from a greater distance, and although we do not know where we are being carried, still we continue quickly in the direction to which we are tending. [8] But if we wish, day can break. In one way, however, can this happen: if someone acquires this knowledge of the human and the divine, if he doesn’t sprinkle it on himself, but imbues and dyes himself with it, if he reviews the same things, although he knows them, and often reproduces them to himself, if he investigates what things are good, what things are bad, to what things this name has been wrongly attributed, if he investigates what is honorable and what is shameful, and providence.

Read every ‘we,’ ‘us’ and similar as ‘the mind in the altered state investigating control systems in light of possibilism and eternalism’. My following commentary is a running gloss on the above:

The mind still attached to possibilism cannot know the truth, still has fear. The possibilism mind recoils from approaching the source of control instability and recoils from learning about the fear of loss of control and the good of switching to eternalism. Because the mind recoils, it does not refute but still trusts possibilism, although it is false and empty (alternate translation for ’empty’: illusory; empty like a void). If the mind looks [vision] closely at the fearful control instability, it becomes how obvious how quick and safe it is. But in the amplified light of the altered state that the mind turns on its control system the possibilism mind is confused and afraid, worse than children alarmed at shadows. The mind still attached to possibilism avoids the light, makes everything into shadows, rushes on through life in the dark, without seeing the fixed path that it travels. Light can come by getting knowledge of the human [possibilism doomed to die changing] and the divine [eternal immortal unchanging eternalism]. The mind must not just sprinkle, but immerse itself in that knowledge [loose cog liquid metaphor]. The mind must remind itself again and again. The mind must learn the true meaning of morality and words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘honor’ and ‘shame’. Finally, it must learn providence [i.e. eternalism, pictured here as perfect fixed future foresight].

Original Latin:

Nemo nostrum quid veri esset excussit, sed metum alter alteri tradidit; nemo ausus est ad id quo perturbabatur accedere et naturam ac bonum timoris sui nosse. Itaque res falsa et inanis habet adhuc fidem quia non coarguitur. [6] Tanti putemus oculos intendere: iam apparebit quam brevia, quam incerta, quam tuta timeantur. Talis est animorum nostrorum confusio qualis Lucretio visa est:

nam veluti pueri trepidant atque omnia caecis
in tenebris metuunt, ita nos in luce timemus.

Quid ergo? non omni puero stultiores sumus qui in luce timemus? [7] Sed falsum est, Lucreti, non timemus in luce: omnia nobis fecimus tenebras. Nihil videmus, nec quid noceat nec quid expediat; tota vita incursitamus nec ob hoc resistimus aut circumspectius pedem ponimus. Vides autem quam sit furiosa res in tenebris impetus. At mehercules id agimus ut longius revocandi simus, et cum ignoremus quo feramur, velociter tamen illo quo intendimus perseveramus. [8] Sed lucescere, si velimus, potest. Uno autem modo potest, si quis hanc humanorum divinorumque notitiam acceperit, si illa se non perfuderit sed infecerit, si eadem, quamvis sciat, retractaverit et ad se saepe rettulerit, si quaesierit quae sint bona, quae mala, quibus hoc falso sit nomen adscriptum, si quaesierit de honestis et turpibus, de providentia.

Updated (see below); Updated 2 (typos and *); Updated 3 (grammar)

See my previous post for a description and first batch of notes on Plato’s dialogue, Euthyphro.

Let’s unpack in more detail the depiction of the charges against Socrates as depicted at the beginning of the Euthyphro (2a-3e; Grube translation):

Euthyphro: What’s new, Socrates, to make you leave your usual haunts in the Lyceum and spend your time here by the king-archon’s court? Surely you are not prosecuting anyone before the king-archon as I am?

Socrates: The Athenians do not call this a prosecution but an indictment, Euthyphro.

Euthyphro: What is this you say? Someone must have indicted you, for you are not going to tell me that you have indicted someone else.

Socrates: No indeed.

Euthyphro: But someone else has indicted you?

Socrates: Quite so.

Euthyphro: Who is he?

Socrates: I do not really know him myself, Euthyphro. He is apparently young and unknown. They call him Meletus, I believe. He belongs to the Pitthean deme, if you know anyone from that deme named Meletus, with long hair, not much of a beard, and a rather aquiline nose.

Euthyphro: I don’t know him, Socrates. What charge does he bring against you?

Socrates: What charge? A not ignoble one I think, for it is no small thing for a young man to have knowledge of such an important subject. He says he knows how our young men are corrupted and who corrupts them. He is likely to be wise, and when he sees my ignorance corrupting his contemporaries, he proceeds to accuse me to the city as to their mother. I think he is the only one of our public men to start out the right way, for it is right to care first that the young should be as good as possible, just as a good farmer is likely to take care of the young plants first, and of the others later. So, too, Meletus first gets rid of us who corrupt the young shoots, as he says, and then afterwards he will obviously take care of the older ones and become a source of great blessings for the city, as seems likely to happen to one who started out this way.

Euthyphro: I could wish this were true, Socrates, but I fear the opposite may happen. He seems to me to start out by harming the very heart of the city by attempting to wrong you. Tell me, what does he say you do to corrupt the young?

Socrates: Strange things, to hear him tell it, for he says that I am a maker of gods, and on the ground that I create new gods while not believing in the old gods, he has indicted me for their sake, as he puts it.

Euthyphro: I understand, Socrates. This is because you say that the divine sign keeps coming to you. So he has written this indictment against you as one who makes innovations in religious matters, and he comes to court to slander you, knowing that such things are easily misrepresented to the crowd. The same is true in my case. Whenever I speak of divine matters in the assembly and foretell the future, they laugh me down as if I were crazy; and yet I have foretold nothing that did not happen. Nevertheless, they envy all of us who do this. One need not worry about them, but meet them head-on.

Socrates: My dear Euthyphro, to be laughed at does not matter perhaps, for the Athenians do not mind anyone they think clever, as long as he does not teach his own wisdom, but if they think that he makes others to be like himself they get angry, whether through envy, as you say, or for some other reason.

Euthyphro: I have certainly no desire to test their feelings towards me in this matter.

Socrates: Perhaps you seem to make yourself but rarely available, and not be willing to teach your own wisdom, but I’m afraid that my liking for people makes them think that I pour out to anybody anything I have to say, not only not charging a fee but even glad to reward anyone who is willing to listen. If then they were intending to laugh at me, as you say they laugh at you, there would be nothing unpleasant in their spending their time in court laughing and jesting, but if they are going to be serious, the outcome is not clear except to you prophets.

Euthyphro: Perhaps it will come to nothing, Socrates, and you will fight your case as you think best, as I think I will mine.

Translation always involves choices that flatten out and obscure the full meaning of the original language. Let’s see what the Greek has to offer. My commentary:

Euthyphro asks Socrates why he has come to the ‘stoa of the king’ (τὴν τοῦ βασιλέως στοάν) and doubts that he too has a ‘case, trial, judgment’ (δίκη). Socrates and Euthyphro have come before the king ruler commander for a legal judgment. In the altered state we come before the judge ruler to have our thinking judged. The egoic claim to wielding control power over one’s own thinking is repudiated and condemned to die.

Socrates’ accuser, Meletus, is portrayed as young, immature, and inexperienced. He is long-haired and without much of a beard. These are signs of youth. Because of his youth, it is ironic that he knows so much about what corrupts the young.

‘corrupts’: the typical way of translating the accusation against Socrates, but the basic meaning of the word that it derives from, διαφθείρω, is ‘destroy’. So, ‘corrupting the youth’ means ‘killing the youth’ means ‘ending the youthful self-concept of claiming to wielding control power over one’s own thinking.’ The word is also used in the context of moral corruption.

Socrates calls Meletus ‘wise’ (σόφος) and says that he must see Socrates’ ‘ignorant/unknowingness’ (ἀμαθίαν). So, we have an ironic reversal, in which the young and inexperienced Meletus is wise, while the adult experienced Socrates is ignorant. But also, Socrates’ ignorance works as the agent of destabilizing loose cog thinking. Socrates knows nothing himself and destroys freewill moralism, which he reveals to have no true knowledge of itself.

Meletus seeks protection from the city as from a mother to protect the youth / egos from the dangerous destruction that Socrates brings.

Socrates agrees that it is best to care for the youth that they become as good as can be. The Greek word for ‘care’ (ἐπιμελέω / epimeleo) plays on Meletus’ name. The care will be like a farmer caring for plants. This is analogous to god caring for the branching paths of plant growth. Meletus will ‘cleanse, purify’ (ἐκκαθαίρει) those who destroy the youth, remove the egodeath destruction of the plant branching paths and so rescue the youths. Then he will care for the older people and will be a source of great good for the city. This is an ironic inversion. The youth become as good as possible, not by avoiding egodeath and thereby staying in perpetual youth, but by passing through it into true adult maturity.

*Or Socrates needs to purged like the egoic claim to independent self-control needs to be purged, to allow the plant shoots to grow.

Socrates is said to be a ‘maker, poet, author, composer, creator of gods’ (φησὶ γάρ με ποιητήν εἶναι θεῶν), to make strange new gods and not to believe, esteem, honor the old gods (καινοὺς ποιοῦντα θεούς, τοὺς δ᾽ ἀρχαίους οὐ νομίζοντα). Socrates is thus accused of elevating himself above normal human agency.

The charge of corrupting/destroying the youth by introducing new gods goes both ways: either the old gods are determinism and Socrates is wrong ego creating new ones OR the old gods are ego and Socrates creates new deterministic ones. Better still to say that this is a competition between transcendent knowledge systems, between the ‘old gods’ of the city and Socrates’ ‘new gods’. The charge of ‘corrupting the youth’ is a cover, a pretext, that uses the threat of egodeath and the desire for protection and rescue from that as a cover/pretext for punishing Socrates’ innovations and undermining of traditional religious cults and the societal set-up tied to those cults.

Socrates frequently talks of the ‘divine sign’ coming to him. The ‘divine sign’ is a poor translation of τὸ δαιμόνιον, which refers to something divine, marvelous, a heaven-sent messenger. So, Socrates talks of a direct messenger from the divine to him, an individual relation to the divine outside of the jurisdiction of the traditional collective cults.

Euthyphro points this out and links it to his own activity as a self-proclaimed prophet. He looks down on the majority, saying that it is easy to misrepresent innovations about the divine to them. He complains that they laugh at him in the assembly (of citizens gathered to discuss matters of public policy) and are jealous of them. Euthyphro characterizes himself and Socrates as outsiders to the majority of Athenians with respect to their relation to the divine. Here we can see emerge the combativeness that will be typical of his characterization in the dialogue.

Socrates reminds Euthyphro that his case has more serious consequences than being laughed at. He hypothesizes that Euthyphro is not in the same sort of danger because he does teach his wisdom. This foreshadows Socrates’ repeated complaint later in the dialogue that Euthyphro is not teaching him very well when he questions him about piety.

Nonetheless, Socrates criticizes the rest of the Athenians for their hostility to sincere teachers. He suspects that his own ‘liking for people’ (φιλανθρωπίας) and habit of refusing money has lead them to be angry with him. All this is a typical Platonic inversion of the other public intellectuals of the time, conventionally called Sophists. It is a trope of Plato’s that the other public intellectuals didn’t believe what they taught and that their teaching was compromised because they accepted money for it. Hence the suspicion that they only taught what they taught to make money, not to truly improve the student.


To sum up the competing mystic state interpretations of the accusations against Socrates as depicted in the Euthyphro:

  • Plato alludes to the mytheme of a court-room judgment, in which we weigh the case of the ego and judge its claims to cross-time control power. The ego is condemned for its claims and imprisoned or killed. But another part of us is mercifully saved. The judge is both harsh and benevolent.
  • Socrates is accused of corrupting/destroying the young by introducing new gods and ignoring/not believing in/not honoring the old.
  • Euthyphro attributes the charge of innovation to Socrates’ claims that a divine voice speaks to him. While Socrates does often speak of a divine voice, this is precisely the sort of feature that Euthyphro as a prophet would single out and focus on. Socrates neither confirms nor denies Euthyphro’s attribution.
  • The accusation that Socrates corrupts/destroys the youth can allude to the destruction of the youthful claim to independent self-control; Socrates is a dangerous destabilizing element in the city and needs to be purged. The accusation that Socrates corrupts the youth can allude to the confusion caused by re-introducing egoic thinking into a deterministic system; Socrates is a dangerous destabilizing element in the city that needs to be purged.
  • As a matter of context we have to recognize that the disproving in the altered state of the youthful claim to independent self-command was present in the city already. We have evidence from the Eleusinian mysteries, from the other cults of the traditional gods, from civic rituals that allude to altered state initiation, from symposium drinking parties, from poetry, from magic and other smaller-scale and/or unofficial religious practices.
  • What, then, do we make of the accusation against Socrates and of his eventual condemnation? Socrates is brought to trial not for teaching the youth about eternalism, but for the way he teaches eternalism. The specific charges are too some extent a cover. The accusation against Socrates can work both ways in a dichotomy of egoic/determinism. Either Socrates introduces a deterministic system (new gods) and disbelieves in the egoic system (old gods) and thereby destroys the youth; or Socrates rebelliously disbelieves in the traditional deterministic system (old gods) and teaches the innovation of freewillist thinking (new gods), which confuses and corrupts the youth.
  • If Euthyphro is correct that Socrates’ divine voice is the root cause, then we may conclude that the problem was related to this more individualized system of relation with the divine, as opposed to the mass rituals of the various state and community-oriented cults and practices.
  • From other evidence it is clear that there was a political motive to the accusations. Socrates’ youthful associates were primarily aristocratic youth, many of whom took part in anti-democratic, pro-oligarchic activity. Socrates became viewed as a cause of their sedition and his influence needed to be removed. Politics and religion were intertwined, so the legal charges against Socrates were religious in nature.

Updated 7/30 (missing text in fifth paragraph entered)

Socrates and Euthyphro discuss piety. They meet before the offices of the magistrate in Athens who hears charges of for court cases involving religion. Socrates has been charged with impiety, for corrupting the youth by creating new gods and not believing in the old. Euthyphro is a self-proclaimed prophet and expert in religious matters. He is present to submit a murder charge against his own father. Murder was a religious crime because it involved pollution that needed to be ritually cleansed in order to appease the gods. Euthyphro, however, is considered impious by his relatives and community for prosecuting his own father, but defends himself as acting justly and piously for prosecuting an unjust murder.

Both Socrates and Euthyphro are in conflict with others about piety and the divine. Euthyphro for his part claims special knowledge of the divine, of piety and impiety. Socrates invites Euthyphro to teach him, so that he too can be have knowledge of the divine and so answer his own accusers. Socrates asks Euthyphro to teach him what piety and impiety are, what being pious and impious are.

Euthyphro first says that the pious is doing what he is doing now, prosecuting a wrongdoer, no matter who the wrongdoer is. Euthyphro cites the myths of Zeus punishing his father Kronos for wrongdoing and of Kronos punishing his father Ouranos for wrongdoing as justification for his action and calls his critics contradictory because they accept these myths, but now criticize Euthyphro for prosecuting his father for wrongdoing. Socrates rejects those sorts of stories about the gods and alludes that this is why he is being put on trial, though he does not expand on that. He instead presses Euthyphro for a general definition of the pious, its form, so he can use it as a model to tell whether actions are pious or impious.

Euthyphro first defines the pious as what is dear to the gods and the impious as what is not. Socrates points out that traditional mythology, such as the ones Euthyphro cited above to defend his prosecution of his father, creates a problem for this definition of the pious and the impious. Traditional mythology shows that some gods love some actions, while other gods hate those actions. For example, punishing one’s father will be pleasing to Zeus, but not to Kronos, in the myth alluded to above.

Euthyphro tries to define more narrowly that all the gods would agree that unjust murder should be punished. Socrates appears to doubt that all the gods agree that Euthyphro is acting rightly in his particular case and challenges Euthyphro to prove it. Euthyphro dodges the challenge and Socrates realizes that they have wandered away from a definition of piety and impiety and that his line of questioning doesn’t really matter, since it can only show that all the gods hate a particular action, but will not make clear the nature of the pious and the impious.

Next they try out defining the pious as what is loved by all the gods and the impious as what is hated by all the gods. Socrates then moves to a new line of questioning: is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious or is it pious because it is loved by the gods? In other words, is piety inherent in someone or action and is loved by the gods for that inherent quality or does it only become pious because it is loved by the gods? Socrates then leads Euthyphro to agree that something loved is so because of the action of loving done by another to it, not because of some inherent quality of being loved. Euthyphro is then lead to agree that the pious is loved by the gods because it is pious (i.e. an inherent quality), but that it is something loved by the gods because of the action of loving done by the gods. Therefore Socrates concludes that the pious and the god-loved are not the same because the pious is loved because of it being pious, while the god-loved is god-loved because it is being loved by the gods.

Euthyphro accuses Socrates of being intentionally confusing, while Socrates accuses Euthyphro of doing the same. Socrates tries a new line: is all that is pious also just and all that is just also pious? Euthyphro agrees that piety is a part of justice; the pious is always also just, but the just is not always pious. What part of justice, then, is piety? Euthyphro says that it is the part of justice that is concerned with the care of the gods, while the other part of justice has to do with the care of men. Socrates wants to know what this ‘care’ is. Euthyphro redefines it as the kind of care that slaves give to their masters, as ‘service’. Socrates presses him to explain what the gods accomplish through this service. Euthyphro avoids answering specifically for a bit, but eventually says that, among other things, service to gods means saying and doing things pleasing to the gods at prayer and sacrifice, with the result that both private and public affairs are preserved.

Socrates presses Euthyphro to admit that this definition makes piety into a skill of trading and exchange between gods and men. But how can mortals benefit immortals? Euthyphro says they receive honor, reverence, and what is pleasing to them. Socrates points out that their argument has come back around to defining piety as that which is pleasing to the gods and reminds Euthyphro that they had earlier agreed that the pious and the god-loved were different. Socrates proposes to start the investigation anew from the beginning because he is certain that Euthyphro has clear knowledge of piety or impiety or he would not have risked being wrong in prosecuting his father, an action taken to be impious. Euthyphro, however, tells Socrates that he must go, and the dialogue ends.

The work indirectly critiques the use of piety and impiety in court cases. Euthyphro cannot back up his frequent claims to expert knowledge on divine matters. Socrates implies that his accusers likewise do not know what they are talking about when they accuse him of impiety, and Euthyphro’s inability to explain piety clearly suggests that others are not able to, as well.

The work shows the difficulty of basing a notion of piety in human life on the traditional myths of Greek polytheism. Ancient Greek religion can be said to have a number of uneasily overlapping spheres: the myths, the rituals of sacrifice and prayer, and the expectations placed on individual action to be pious and not impious. The work points to the tension between these areas. First, the work exposes the problem of deciding on universal definitions of piety and impiety in the light of the traditional myths that depict the gods in conflict. Later, the work implicitly wonders what the rituals of sacrifice and prayer actually have to do with determining whether or not the actions of individuals outside of those contexts are pious or impious.

The work questions the link between mundane, daily life acts (pious and impious action) and both traditional mythology and ritual. It is implied that this sort of questioning and making of difficulties with religion is what leads to Socrates to be put on trial for corrupting the youth by making innovations in religion and for not believing in the old gods. The works shows that there’s no good reason for basing legal/moral judgment on traditional mythology and ritual.

There is subtle slandering of Socrates’ accusers and of the Athenians more generally. From 2b-3a:

Euthyphro: Who is he [who has indicted you]?

Socrates: I do not really know him myself, Euthyphro. He is apparently young and unknown. They call him Meletus, I believe. He belongs to the Pitthean deme, if you know anyone from that deme called Meletus, with long hair, not much of a beard, and a rather aquiline nose.

Euthyphro: I don’t know him, Socrates. What charge does he bring against you?

Socrates; What charge? A not ignoble one I think, for it is no small thing for a young man to have knowledge of such an important subject. He says he knows how our young men are corrupted and who corrupts them. He is likely to be wise, and when he sees my ignorance corrupting his contemporaries, he proceeds to accuse me to the city as to their mother. I think he is the only one of our public men to start out the right way, for it is right to care first that the young should be as good as possible, just as a good farmer is likely to take care of the young plants first, and of the others later. So, too, Meletus first gets rid of us who corrupt the young shoots, as he says, and then afterwards he will obviously take care of the older ones and become a source of great blessings for the city, as seems likely to happen to one who started out this way.

Although a youth himself, Meletus’ accusation shows that he claims to understand how it is that the youths are corrupted.

A bit later he describes the Athenians (3c-e):

…the Athenians do not mind anyone they think clever, as long as he does not teach his own wisdom, but if they think that he makes others to be like himself they get angry, whether through envy, as you say, or for some other reason…

Euthyphro is a strange character. He is a self-proclaimed religious expert and quite proud of his claims. Socrates and he are similar in that they both in conflict with the majority of people regarding divine matters and piety. Speaking of Socrates’ accusers, he compares his situation (3b-c):

…[Meletus] comes to court to slander you, knowing that such things are easily misrepresented to the crowd. The same is true in my case. Whenever I speak of divine matters in the assembly and foretell the future, they laugh me down as if I were crazy; and yet I have foretold nothing that did not happen. Nevertheless, they envy all of us who do this. One need not worry about them, but meet them head-on.

Socrates asks Euthyphro about Euthyphro’s case (3e-4a):

Socrates: Whom do you prosecute?

Euthyphro: One whom I am thought crazy to prosecute.

…[Euthyphro reveals that he is prosecuting his own father for murder]

Socrates: Good heavens! Certainly, Euthyphro, most men would not know how they could do this and be right. It is not the part of anyone to do this, but of one who is far advanced in wisdom.

Euthyphro: Yes, by Zeus, Socrates, that is so.

Euthyphro is confident in his knowledge of the divine, while Socrates seems to gently mock him (4e-5c):

Euthyphro: …for, they say, it is impious for a son to prosecute his father for murder. But their ideas of the divine attitude to piety and impiety are wrong, Socrates.

Socrates: Whereas, by Zeus, Euthyphro, you think that your knowledge of the divine, and of piety and impiety, is so accurate that, when those things happened as you say, you have no fear of having acted impiously in bringing your father to trial?

Euthyphro: I should be of no use, Socrates, and Euthyphro would not be superior to the majority of men, if I did not have accurate knowledge of all such things.

Socrates: It is indeed most important, my admirable Euthyphro, that I should become your pupil, and as regards this indictment, challenge Meletus about these very things and say to him: that in the past too I considered knowledge about the divine to be most important, and that now that he says that I am guilty of improvising and innovating about the gods I have become your pupil. I would say to him: “If, Meletus, you agree that Euthyphro is wise in these matters, consider me, too, to have the right beliefs and do not bring me to trial. If you do not think so, then prosecute that teacher of mine, not me, for corrupting the older men, me and his own father, by teaching me and by exhorting and punishing him.” If he is not convinced, and does not discharge me or indict you instead of me, I should repeat the same challenge in court.

Euthyphro: Yes, by Zeus, Socrates, and, if he should try to indict me, I think I would find his weak spots and the talk in court would be about him rather than about me.

Socrates: It is because I realize this that I am eager to become your pupil, my dear friend. I know that other people as well as this Meletus do not even seem to notice you, whereas he sees me so sharply and clearly that he indicts me for ungodliness.

This sort of caricature continues throughout, with Socrates becoming more biting as Euthyphro proves unable to defend his claims.

Euthyphro claims that the traditional mythology is true and that it can be used to justify real world actions. Socrates dissents from this, though he does not expand on it (5d-6c):

Euthyphro: I say that the pious is to do what I am doing now, to prosecute the wrongdoer, be it about murder or temple robbery or anything else, whether the wrongdoer is your father or your mother or anyone else; not to prosecute is impious. And observe, Socrates, that I can cite powerful evidence that the law is so. I have already said to others that such actions are right, not to favor the ungodly, whoever they are. These people themselves believe that Zeus is the best and most just of the gods, yet they agree that he bound his father because he unjustly swallowed his sons, and that he in turn castrated his father for similar reasons. But they are angry with me because I am prosecuting my father for his wrongdoing. They contradict themselves in what they say about the gods and about me.

Socrates: Indeed, Euthyphro, this is the reason why I am a defendant in the case, because I find it hard to accept things like that being said about the gods, and it is likely to be the reason why I shall be told I do wrong. Now, however, if you, who have full knowledge of such things, share their opinions, then we must agree with them, too, it would seem. For what are we to say, we who agree that we ourselves have no knowledge of them? Tell me, by the god of friendship, do you really believe these things are true?

Euthyphro: Yes, Socrates, and so are even more surprising things, of which the majority has no knowledge.

Socrates: And do you believe that there really is war among the gods, and terrible enmities and battles, and other such things as are told by the poets, and other sacred stories such as are embroidered by good writers and by representations of which the robe of the goddess is adorned when it is carried up to the Acropolos? Are we to say these things are true, Euthyphro?

Euthyphro: Not only these, Socrates, but, as I was saying just now, I will, if you wish, relate many other things about the gods which I know will amaze you.

Socrates: I should not be surprised, but you will tell me these at leisure some other time.

Euthyphro shows himself to be a performer of mythology and religious expertise, alluding to and promising many amazing things that he could reveal to Socrates. In a passage above, he also claims to foretell the future. Socrates’ questioning shows that this is largely for show and that he cannot give a consistent and general account of piety. Euthyphro’s justification for prosecuting his father is revealed to be an adhoc one, more supported by bluster than by reasoning. In the context of Socrates’ trial, it is implied that his accusers likewise rely not on a reasoned account of piety, but on the inconsistent mixing of traditional myth, ritual, and individual moral action.

Socrates exploits traditional polytheistic myth that depicted the gods in conflict to create a problem in Euthyphro’s definition of piety (7e-8b):

Socrates: But you say that the same things are considered just by some gods and unjust by others, and as they dispute about these things they are at odds and at war with each other. Is that not so?

Euthyphro: It is.

Socrates: The same things then are loved by the gods and hated by the gods, and would be both god-loved and god-hated.

Euthyphro: It seems likely.

Socrates: And the same things would be both pious and impious, according to this argument?

Euthyphro: I’m afraid so.

Socrates: So you did not answer my question, you surprising man. I did not ask you what same thing is both pious and impious, and it appears that what is loved by the gods is also hated by them. So it is in no way surprising if your present action, namely punishing your father, may be pleasing to Zeus but displeasing to Cronus and Uranus, pleasing to Hephaestus but displeasing to Hera, and so with any other gods who differ from each other on this subject.

Socrates challenges Euthyphro’s redefinition of the pious as that which all the gods love by asking (10a):

Is the pious being loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is being loved by the gods?

As discussed above, Socrates concludes that the pious and the ‘god-loved’ cannot be the same thing because the pious is something inherent to a person, thing, or action, while the ‘god-loved’ is only so because of the action of loving by the gods (10e-11b):

But if the god-loved and the pious were the same, my dear Euthyphro, then if the pious were being loved because it was pious, the god-loved would also be being loved because it was god-loved; and if the god-loved was god-loved because it was being loved by the gods, then the pious would also be pious because it was being loved by the gods. But now you see that they are in opposite cases as being altogether different from each other: the one is such as to be loved because it is being loved, the other is being loved because it is such as to be loved. I’m afraid, Euthyphro, that when you were asked what piety is, you did not wish to make its nature clear to me, but you told me an affect or quality of it, that the pious has the quality of being loved by all the gods, but you have not yet told me what the pious is.

Throughout this section, Euthyphro complains that Socrates is being unclear and uncharitable. And we have to agree. The section relies on a confusing set of definitions that are worded in an unclear way. Euthyphro is carried along rather uncertainly by Socrates’ questioning and is not convinced nor satisfied by the end of it. He accuses Socrates of moving the arguments and positions around.

Later Socrates seems to deliberately misinterpret Euthyphro in a mocking way. When Euthyphro says that the pious is the part of the just that is concerned with the care of the gods, Socrates begins to question Euthyphro as if Euthyphro meant ‘care’ in the same way that humans ‘care’ for animals (12e-13c). Then when Euthyphro says that the care is the sort that slaves give to their masters, Socrates begins to question Euthyphro as if he meant ‘service’ in the same way that a craftsman’s ‘service’ is directed towards his craft (13d-14b). Euthyphro becomes more annoyed, and Socrates becomes more openly mocking in turn, saying that Euthyphro clearly does not want to teach him.

Is the pious being loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is being loved by the gods?

This question would later become a key dilemma in theology, though transposed to ‘is the morally right commanded by god because it is morally right, or is it morally right because it is commanded by god?’ Are morally right actions morally right in and of themselves or are they only morally right because they are commanded by god? Is morality prior to god’s will? This later formulating of the question makes clearer the topic underlying the Euthyphro, of the relation of morality and freewill to the divine.

Some theologians answered that actions that are morally right are morally right in and of themselves, and so god must command them. God is bound by something necessary and external to God. In this answer the moral righteousness is pictured as a like determinism and god is like the agent, compelled by necessity to command morally right actions. This answer was exploited by moralists to argue that there are timeless ethical standards and rules.

Other theologians said that an action is only morally right because it is commanded by god. God is the root cause of everything and whatever god commands is morally right. In this scheme, God is determinism and everything operates in the deterministic scheme of God’s command. This scheme, too, was exploited by moralists. How are we to know what is and what is not God’s will?

Here –

Cutting edge conversation between Max Freakout and Cyber Disciple. In this episode Max and Cyb continue to discuss Plato, his philosophy and political involvement. Topics discussed include:

– Psychedelic initiation in ancient Greece
– Application of Platonism to religion
– The importance of rationality in Platonism, applying strict rationality to the psychedelic altered state
– Competitive nature of Socratic dialogues
– Socratic interrogation as metaphor for loosened cognition
– Platonic dualism – two-level system
– Geometric illustration of Platonic higher-level perfection
– The cave allegory and how it models multi-state cognition
– Unhelpfulness of the “real/unreal” binary distinction
– Plato’s Republic and the difficulties of integrating psychedelic initiation into society
– Comparison of Platonism with Christianity, their respective political motivations


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.

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.

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.”

Michael wrote that I bring the Classics department perspective in the invisible college of transcendent knowledge. What does that consist of?

My background in official academia:

My training is primarily in the field of Classics, the study of the ancient Greek and Latin languages and literature written in those languages. This primarily involves study of the technical grammar and syntax of the languages, of the figures of speech and rhetorical structures typically employed, of the plots of major works, and of the implied viewpoint and assumptions of an author. In its most basic form this consists of a close reading of the Greek or Latin in order to better explain what a text means. Classical authors typically wrote in a dense and layered way, even without taking into account encoding of altered state cybernetics

For the majority of contemporary Classicists, the literature to be studied primarily consists of ancient Greek literature from c. 800 BC to c. 300 BC and Latin literature from c. 200 BC to c. 200 AD. I take a wider view of this field than most and include anything written in those languages, including works of Late Antiquity, Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, however we should define or understand those periods. Even within official academia I am something of an outsider in this way. A better name for the field may be ‘Classical Languages and Literature’, to de-emphasize ‘pagan’ antiquity in favor of a more natural and balanced focus on the full history of the languages and literature. Contemporary classicists unduly limit themselves in general to non-Christian texts, creating an artificial divide in the ‘western tradition’ that negatively affects both the study of Classical texts, which are assumed to be wholly different from Christian texts, and the study of Christian texts, which are not subjected to close reading and linguistic and literary analysis as works of Greek and Latin literature as often as Classical texts. For many, studying the Classics has become either a refuge from bunk Christianity, similar to the turn to Eastern religions, or a way of avoiding the critical study of Christianity and preserving the just-so story of early Christian history and texts.

I have also intentionally sought out advanced training in the related disciplines of ancient history and archaeology/art history. This is relatively unusual among academics of my generation, who are usually encouraged to hyper-specialize by the demands of graduate training and the academic job market, and by the tendency observable in the 20th-21st centuries of academic fields to wander away from each other into increasingly specialized subfields. I saw these pressures early on and resisted them, wanting to cultivate a fuller picture of the ancient world than the study of language and literature could afford. Although based in the study of language and literature, I embraced the study of history and archaeology/art history.

I remain, however, highly skeptical of these fields, as I am of my own. Besides not recognizing the role of psychedelics, they remain tied to the overly naive literalism of 19th century scholars who founded the modern fields. Contemporary scholars in those fields have not overthrown that literalism to the degree needed, especially to the general public. The fields, as presented to the general public, undergraduate students, and even many graduate students, rely on a degree of certainty about reconstructions of the past that is unfounded and misguided.

Ancient history: the majority of modern narrative histories of antiquity largely follow works of history written by ancient Greeks and Romans themselves. They tend to use those ancient works as the basis for their chronology and history-telling, with some additions or corrections based on non-literary sources. This however continues to ignore work done since the 1970s detailing how the works written by ancient historians were not founded on the principle typical of the modern discipline of history that the past be recorded and depicted as accurately as possible with as much objectivity as possible. Instead ancient history writing was a branch of literature, one that had some relationship with the concept of an accurate representation of the past, but certainly not in the same was as moderns would like. It has been shown again and again that history writers in antiquity were willing to distort events for a wide variety of reasons, from advancing specific political positions, to creating arresting emotional effects, to crafting an account that corresponded with poetic motifs. Moreover, as I have been showing in my ongoing translations from the first history writer, Herodotus, episodes presented as history regularly reflect altered state cybernetics, and so we have to wonder to what extent the representation of events has been modified to conform to altered state cybernetics or whether certain episodes are privileged because they conform to the typical trajectory of altered state experiencing. Modern narrative histories that rely on ancient histories should acknowledge and reflect those dynamics. As it is, they flatten out those dynamics, literalizing them, flattening the inspired air out of them, reducing them to a simple narrative.

Archaeology has a similar problem. Archaeologists of the 19th and early 20th centuries regularly relied upon ancient texts as straightforward descriptions of sites and topography. The authority given to the texts regularly shaped the identification and interpretation of sites and parts of sites. Even though working archaeologists have questioned the authority of texts, some abandoning them off completely, the identifications and interpretations made by their predecessors have often been taken over by guide books, informational signage aimed at tourists, and academics outside of the field, who are unaware of challenges to the initial work or unable to enter into the debate. The presentation of sites to the public is affected issues of local and national identity that are often obscured. A problem for the classical era, it is even more so for early Christian sites, where mythology is repeated as historical fact time and time again. My graduate training in archaeology has resulted in a deep skepticism regarding the way sites are presented. To a certain extent this is out of the hands of practicing archaeologists, and I know many who call for revisions to the identification and chronology of sites, based on more reliable dating techniques than suspect literary texts.

John Bartram is one such scholar, who calls for a revised chronology and identification of ‘early Christian’ sites and texts based not on the received chronology, but on more reliable dating techniques (more of relevance throughout his site).

Classics itself, as the study of classical literature, is not free of these problems of received assumptions in chronology and identification. The field is inconsistent in its assumptions of authorship and authenticity of texts. The 19th century was characterized by a great deal of skepticism regarding the unity, authorship, and authenticity of classical texts. A good deal of that skepticism was rejected primarily because literary scholars wanted whole texts by single authors to analyze. Moreover, the field relies upon unverifiable assumptions regarding the transmission of texts from antiquity to the earliest currently extant edition, which may date to centuries after the believed date of composition.

All my studies in official academia have shown me that we have far less certainty regarding our historical reconstructions of the ancient world than is normally presented. When researching I favor alternating between two approaches – a wild, throw anything against the wall approach to see what sticks and a careful questioning of assumptions and of importations of material from outside the immediate topic under consideration.

Altered state cybernetics are inherent to the human mind, even if expressed and in a certain way experienced differently by different cultures. To truly unlock ancient thinking and writing, learn to recognize those dynamics and metaphors for them.

There is an analogy between my reservations concerning received historical reconstructions of the ancient world and the uncertainty and detachment concerning the reality of the external world, the splitting of representation and represented referent, in the loose state of cognition. This skepticism and reservation is not an abandoning of all possibility of knowledge about the past, as recommended by some post-modernist thinkers, but rather a detachment and flexibility regarding our reconstructions and assumptions. Researchers must be more open than they have been to questioning wide swaths of assumptions at once, not simply manipulating individual pieces of evidence at a time.


Metaphorical Psychedelic Eternalism
August 2017
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