Home (theory of the ego death and rebirth experience)



History of definition of "entheogen" 1

Defining 'entheogens' 1

Definition of 'entheogens' vs. 'psychoactives' 3

Great entheogen divide in scholarship. 3

What constitutes an entheogen?. 4

Best cognitive-loosening agents & techniques. 5

Why the snake represents medicinal plants. 6

Snake = magical plants = psychoactive death. 6

Entheogens university course Spring 2002. 7

Must actively promote all entheogen scholars & constructive criticism.. 8

Tikkun article: Hayes' Psychedelic Sedition. 12

Mushroom Galaxy SmartShop online store open. 13

Amsterdam.. 15


History of definition of "entheogen"

>> Drugs, particularly entheogens, are the body of Christ and the main vehicle

>> for the Holy Spirit.  The Pope is against drugs, and thus is the


>"Entheogens" is not in my Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.

History of terms for plants and substances that produce loose cognition and religious experiences:



1980: Entheogen nov. verb.: 'God within us', those plant substances that, when ingested, give one a divine experience, in the past commonly called 'hallucinogens', 'psychedelics', 'psychoto-mimetics', etc etc, to each of which serious objections can be made. A group headed by the Greek scholar Carl A. P. Ruck advances 'entheogen' as fully filling the need, notably catching the rich cultural resonances evoked by the substances, many of them fungal, over vast areas of the world in proto- and prehistory.... We favor the adoption of this word. Early Man, throughout much of Eurasia and the Americas, discovered the properties of these substances and regarded them with profound respect and even awe, hedging them about with bonds of secrecy. We are now rediscovering the secret and we should treat the 'entheogens' with the respect to which they were richly entitled. As we undertake to explore their rôle in the early history of religions, we should call them by a name unvulgarized by hippy abuse.

– R. Gordon Wasson. The Wondrous Mushroom:

Mycolatry in Mesoamerica (NY: McGraw-Hill, 1980), xiv"

Defining 'entheogens'

Entheogens are plants or chemicals that produce religious experience.

From Jonathan Ott's _The Angels' Dictionary_, in the volume _The Age of Entheogens_:

Entheogen -- Plant Sacraments or shamanic inebriants evoking religious Ecstasy or vision; commonly used in the archaic world in Divination for shamanic healing, and in Holy Communion, for example during the Initiation to the Eleusinian Mysteries or the Vedic Soma sacrifice.  Literally: becoming divine within.  (1979 Ruck, Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 11:145.  In Greek the word entheos means literally 'god (theos) within'... In combination with the Greek root -gen, which denotes the action of 'becoming,' this word results in the term that we are proposing: entheogen.  1980 Wasson: The Wondrous Mushroom, xiv ... )

In my cognitive theory of the ego-death and mystic altered state experiences, I characterize the primary action of entheogens as cognitive-association loosening agents.  Thus in the native language of my theory I speak of 'cognitive-loosening agents' rather than 'entheogens'.  Entheogenic experiences are a subset of the experiences that happen due to cognitive loosening.  Cognitive loosening agents facilitate deep re-indexing of mental-construct association matrixes.

>I can't find the word 'entheogen' in any dictionary.

That's true.


No entry found for entheogen.

I'm committed to the use of 'entheogens', and am not going to slow down for the beginners or the narrowly informed during daily postings.  One major project on my todo list is a custom glossary.  If you have such elementary questions, search the Web.


14,100 hits (that's a massive number of hits)

Entheogens are those plants which bring about an intense mystic altered state.  A broad definition would include chemicals which bring about an intense mystic altered state.  Synthetic chemicals or "artificial" chemicals is a weakly founded idea, because LSD, for example, may very well occur in nature -- LSA exists in several species.  Also, usage dictates whether something is entheogenic. 

Massive doses of many non-entheogenic psychoactives can produce some entheogenic effects, and ancient mixed wine likely combined non-entheogens such as opium with entheogens, producing a useful, ergonomic entheogenic blend.  The term 'psychedelic' is useless, because of overly strong connotations of exclusively late-1960's culture, as though to safely cordon off and bury the subject as having negligible relevance to overall human culture. 

Eating hashish may be frankly entheogenic, and THC augments the classic entheogens.  Classic entheogens include LSD and psychoactive mushrooms.  Per McKenna, a strong candidate for the most classic entheogen is the psilocybin mushroom, though for reasons of shape-shifting fascination, Amanita also has a claim to being classic.  The most popular medicines in Western history were cannabis and opium, so they have a certain claim to some sort of classic status.

A useful characterization of entheogenic effects on the mind is that entheogens cause a loosening of mental construct associations.  Entheogens cause loose, schizoid cognition -- perhaps an overbroad generalization, but still very useful in forming a simple model of why entheogens have such broad and deep effects on the mind, or on cognitive processing.

>Does it mean 'high priests' (on mushrooms)?

No, though entheogens are associated with religious practice and rituals, and are the most important source, center, origin, and foundation of religion.

Entheogens and the Future of Religion

Robert Forte (Editor), Albert Hofmann, R. Gordon Wasson, Jack Kornfield (Editor), Ann Shulgin (Editor), Alexander Shulgin (Editor), Robert Jesse (Editor), Thomas Riedlinger (Editor), Eric Sterling (Editor), Rick Strassman (Editor), Thomas Roberts, Dale Pendell, Terence McKenna, David Steindl-Rast


Book list: The entheogen theory of religion


Definition of 'entheogens' vs. 'psychoactives'

>Are entheogens ANY drug which expands consciousness and the capabilities of the mind or only drugs which give a 'religious', 'closer to God' enlightenment?  I've always thought they [entheogens] were the primary, active chemicals in any drug?

Jonathan Ott provides all the authoritative definitions in The Angels' Dictionary, in the volume The Age of Entheogens.  'Psychoactive' is a synonym of 'psychotropic', and denotes drugs which produce inebriation or altered consciousness whether stimulation, sedation, euphoria, or other mental effect. 

These two terms are "precise, etymologically correct terms to embrace all classes of drugs with effects on consciousness" (page 129).

I respect all psychoactive drugs -- plants, extracts, semi-synthetics, and full synthetic drugs which produce some mental effect.  Only some drugs should be considered entheogens.  Entheogenic plants sometimes contain poisonous toxins along with entheogens. 

Entheogenic plants include entheogenic molecules or chemicals or compounds.  Psychoactive drugs (or psychoactive chemicals) have some mental effect.  A subset of psychoactive plants/drugs/chemicals is entheogenic plants/drugs/chemicals.

In my theory of ego death, I characterize entheogens as being entheogenic primarily due to their effect of loosening cognitive associations, through loosening cognitive binding among mental constructs. 

I think this is a more tangible measure than saying "the entheogenic substances are that subset of psychoactive substances which produce religious experiences or reveal the mind."

The entheogenic molecules are that subset of psychoactive molecules which produce loose cognitive binding and thus reveal cognitive processes and often produce religious experiencing as well as a wide but definitely bounded and distinctive range of effects, including time stopping, cessation of the sense of being a control-agent, metaperception, and perceptual distortion.

Great entheogen divide in scholarship

The great entheogen divide in scholarship

How many times have we read, "I researched philosophy and religion for decades, but afterward, when I discovered entheogens, all my previous researches were as nothing, in comparison."  There we have it: "The books I wrote are as nothing, because they are not informed by entheogenic knowledge." 

So what then is the point of a next-generation, entheogen-based scholar bothering to read their self-avowed worth-little books?  The previous generation authors have declared their own work to have been revealed as nothing by the vastly superior entheogenic basis for research. 

I am a next-generation theorist, who has begun from the other side of the chasm where the previous generation left off.  My position is so surprisingly unique: I am not an entheogenist; I am a properly entheogen-based philosopher. 

Clark Heinrich or R. Gordon Wasson, or Jonathan Ott -- those are true entheogenists.  They are not philosophers; they theorize about entheogens.  I philosophize about philosophical issues in light of the state of loose cognition triggered by entheogens. 

It's important to know how to utilize this mode of cognition as a tool, but entheogenists focus more on the tool rather than what you can do with it.  So I'm different than almost all previous philosophers and religionists because I began research starting within the new entheogen era, and I'm different than almost all entheogenists because I take a purely utilitarian and matter-of-fact view about entheogens as the taken-for-granted philosopher's prime material. 

Previous philosophers and religious scholars find themselves standing on the acknowledged endarkened side of the entheogen chasm, and entheogenists remain near the edge on the entheogen side of the chasm.  But I was intellectually born surrounded on all sides by the land of entheogens as a given. 

I had to journey to reach the chasm and realize that all the previous scholars are waving from the other side and wishing to come across.  How can I be relevant to their books?  Are their self-avowed "as- nothing" books even *worth* citing?

It just kills me to read scholars like Watts in the 50s trying to explain how religious experience can be possible though it is "not possible" and "not attainable".  He preaches a grossly false doctrine of the unattainability of mystic experiencing.  In his newer preface in such books, he disparages his own arguments as "tortured", which is how I feel while being subjected to it. 

How can I take seriously any of these philosophy books, when they are so absolutely and completely clueless, based in almost total darkness? 

I am an alien descending upon these philosophers upon whom it has recently dawned how "as nothing" their work is while bereft of direct knowledge and use of the entheogenic state of cognition.  This technology I'm putting together is so vastly more superior -- what have we aliens to learn from the mere humans; what have the gods to learn from the mere mortals?

Would the superior aliens even bother to quote Watts, Kerenyi, Wilber, Ott, Heinrich to make a point?  I can't even stand to read the work of these modern philosophical fumblers-in-the-dark.  Then I look to the entheogenists for hope, but they are stuck celebrating the tools rather than using them -- they are not yet doing philosophy or religious study. 

How can I pull together the philosophy and religion frameworks from the previous-generation scholars, together with the tools of the entheogenists? 

James Arthur is more positive; "once you learn to ferret out the potential references to entheogens that have miraculously remained partly visible in conventional religious scholarship, you can read such works as entheogenically informed."  But that approach is only frustrating, because the modern authors are unable to grasp the entheogenic meaning that manifests itself despite the authors. 

It is wearisome having to completely mentally transform their dross into gold, having to re-index all the networks of meaning in the conventional books in order to bring out their potential. 

I can never anymore read a book "straight", without the labor of transformation.  I always have to labor to convert the words from the author's meaning to the potential insightful meaning. 

It's so frustrating to read descriptions of the entheogen state and its phenomena, written by authors who are completely ignorant of entheogens.  Such works feel like "cargo-cult religious scholarship" - - the scholars study the surface until they die of old age, never penetrating into the essence because lacking all knowledge of entheogens and the loose-cognition state.

What constitutes an entheogen?

>What constitutes an entheogen?  John Lilly had amazing insight on Ketamine -- is that an entheogen?  Is Salvia Divinorum an entheogen?

Scopaline plants such as Datura are categorized as deliriants, partially overlapping the entheogen category.  Opium was likely an ingredient in Hellenistic entheogenic "mixed wine", serving largely as a digestive stabilizer.  Cannabis is entheogenic at the uppermost dosages, such as eating a significant amount of hashish.

LSD and psilocybin mushrooms are candidates for the most definative entheogens.  LSD is very pure and clean and dosage-controllable, long-lasting (~10 hours), and very comprehensive in its effects, and also surprisingly safe compared to others -- there have been no reported deaths from physiological reactions.  Psilocybin mushrooms are common, clean -- no side effects -- conveniently medium-length duration (~4 hours), and have a full range of classic effects, including visual distortion and loosening of cognitive associations.

Salvia Divinorum has only subtle visual effects, and when smoked, is so short-lasting that it's as hard to characterize as it is intense.  It produces an intense mystic altered state, including the sense of affixion to the timeless block universe.  It strongly affects the body-sense, or bodymind-sense, or mental body.

4-Ace (4HO-DiPT) stands out among fairly short-lasting entheogens.  It seems to have the classic range of effects, It lasts about an hour, for periodic redosing so as to form a fairly controllable intensity/duration curve.

Amanita is a great *symbol* for all visionary plants, but is particularly dirty, with lots of undesirable side effects such as profuse sweating -- possibly counteracted by cannabis.  The best candidate to directly represent visionary plants as an ideal species with classic effects is psilocybin mushrooms, which might as well be called "cow mushrooms" or "the holy fruit of the cow".

Best cognitive-loosening agents & techniques

>Which cognitive-loosening agents are the best for contemplating the core ego-death concepts most conveniently, efficiently, quickly, fully, and skillfully?

There are pro's and con's regarding the response curve (duration) of super-short, short, medium, and long-duration triggers for loose cognition.  The short-duration materials can be redosed to more closely control the intensity level, rapidity of increase, and rapidity of decline.  However, it is a distraction to have to stop philosophical reflection in order to redose.

o  Smoked DMT or Salvia last only a few minutes, so have an almost transient-spike curve.

o  4-Acetoxy DiPT aka 4-HO-DiPT lasts an hour.  The usable visionary peak window will only be a fraction of that duration, say 5 or 10 minutes.

o  Psilocybin lasts around 4 hours.  The usable visionary peak window will be a fraction, such as half an hour.

o  LSD or 2CT7 lasts around 12 hours, with a visionary peak window beginning surprisingly quickly, such as 2 1/2 hours (unless literally swallowed after a large meal) and lasting an hour. 

It is possible to redose the 12-hour materials at perhaps 90 minute intervals in order to maintain a flat extended visionary plateau, but with such a long-lasting curve, it is impractical to do this except during a reserved weekend.

To skirt close to a dangerously high peak, a short-lasting trigger would work best -- but would require so much attention to timing and redosing.  A short-lasting material also enables elevating to the ideal working level of cognitive looseness at 6 pm, maintaining the level, then rapidly descending to toward tight-cognition at 11 pm, returning to baseline (the default tight-binding state) at midnight.

Extremely short-duration materials enable a series of spikish blasts that can be fit into an arbitrarily short time, such as lunch hour -- but it's hard to remain in a practical, flat working window, due to the constant distraction of redosing.  Despite the disadvantages of long curves (slow rise, very slow descent/poor braking), the 12-hour materials do have a certain convenience that enables focusing entirely on philosophical investigation with no distracting redosing.

Duration charts including DMT, LSD, and mushrooms


Think in terms of chaining these curves to control the level.  The LSD and 2C-B charts emphasize a series of peaks rather than a single peak-window model.

The most efficient loose-cognition state for philosophy work is "moderately strong".  Extreme looseness only backfires and results in a mostly wasted session.  Ego-death does not require extreme cognitive loosening -- rather, it needs moderate to fairly strong loosening, combined with skillful and focused reflection on the relevant concepts of time, self-control seizure, cross-time control, and the steering of the will.  The concepts are listed reasonably well in the Intro article.  http://www.egodeath.com/intro.htm

Some Mithraic rituals involved burying the initiate up to the neck.  This would enable intense cognitive loosening with little chance of physical harm.  This may connect with the embedding of Attis in the trunk of a pine tree, in addition to enacting the idea of experiencing oneself as fastened to the cross, chained to the rock, being a Dionysian mask on a marble pillar, or otherwise experiencing one's embeddedness (as a quasi-controller-agent) in the eternal block-universe.  After being released, after tight cognitive binding returns, one could say that they conquered their embeddedness in the block universe and were lifted out of the predetermined cosmos in which inevitability reigns.

Why the snake represents medicinal plants

Physically, the first thing you should see when you see the mythic symbol of a snake is something that is not even shown in the picture: a drop of venom.  The snake lives in a nest underground.  Plants come up from underground.  The snake bites the psychoactive/medicinal/poisonous plants. 

We must here consider these to be a single category, not three separate categories.  Magical plants are poisonous plants are psychoactive plants are entheogenic plants are medicinal plants.  The bee is also a representative of plants. 

Our main connotation of plants these days may be agriculture for food, but the ancients likely held the psychoactive/medicinal properties to be most characteristic of the concept of "plants".  Also they may have made much less of a radical barrier between the idea of plants as food and plants as medicine/psychoactives.

The snake bites the psychoactive/medicinal/poisonous plants, or magical plants, injecting its venom into them; and the snake eats these plants, absorbing their psychoactive and medicinal properties. 

The snake is reborn, by shedding its skin.  The snake can bite itself, injecting itself with its venom and killing itself yet being reborn, as we are reborn as mystery-religion initiates or Dionysian drinkers of the extremely inebriating wine-mixtures.

The Amanita is like a bright red fruit growing up from a nest-like hole in the ground, in the sacred grove, which is a demarcated space around the host tree -- especially Birch or Pine. 

The snake is able to offer the soil-marked Amanita to Eve because the snake is the guardian and owner of plants, certainly including mushrooms.  The snake emerges from its nest like the mushroom, and crawls along the ground. 

You must not ingest these poisonous psychoactive plants, or you will die -- you will in fact die from the Amanita, in a mythic/mystic death, and you will surely not die: you will be reborn again.  You will suffer the death penalty for eating this forbidden plant, and you will retain life, having broken through the taboo.

We can expect the earliest forms of Western religion to be based on genuine, actual religious experiencing through psychoactive and entheogenic plants.  Use of entheogens may possibly have tapered off during the late mystery-religion era, shortly before the rise-to-power of State Christianity.  Or entheogens may have continually saturated the Hellenistic world until State Christianity violently forced them underground -- it's too early to say; research has barely begun on the use of entheogens in the Hellenistic world. 

We can be certain that the term "wine" should be globally be replaced in all the books by the phrase "wine-based psychoactive mixture".  The only real question is, what psychoactive plants were commonly included in such mixtures?  It's certain the common pharmacopoeia included opium and cannabis.  Mushrooms are likely, and probably water extract of an ergot.

The best book to start with on this subject is Dan Russell's Shamanism and Drug Propaganda.  A Brief History of Drugs is also helpful.  The greatest masterpiece about the Amanita in Christianity is Clark Heinrich's book Strange Fruit.  A compact and dense book that is also essential and establishes the Christmas/Shaman/Amanita connection is James Arthur's book Mushrooms and Mankind.

Snake = magical plants = psychoactive death

"The idea has finally hammered itself into my head: snake = venom = toxin = psychoactive = self-poisoning ability = self-cancelling ability.  Poison is like potion or a psychoactive/healing drug.  The bee is related; it has a venom.  Persephone's Quest, p. 199.  Good discussion of psychoactive "wine", p. 197.  See also the bee goddesses in Dan Russell's Shamanism & Drug Propaganda. 

Persephone's Quest demands slow and respectful reading to catch terms such as "ceremony of dilution".  p. 195: after receiving Dionysus' gift of wine-mixture, they "saw double" and thought themselves poisoned, for which they killed Dionysus and buried him beneath a pine tree (an Amanita host).  Erigone found Dionysus' body and hanged herself from the tree in grief.  Cyclops and seeing double likely refer to third-eye metaperception.

The snake wrapped around the Mithras symbols has psychoactive-plant or potion connotations.  Through this poison/potion which magical plants, venomous snakes, and stinging bees share in common, we are born forth from the Fated deterministic cosmos as Mithras from the rock/egg/cave.

When you see a mythic snake, think of:

1. Venom as poison/potion

2. Drug-plants eaten by the snake

3. Ability to form a loop and inject itself with the poison/potion.

chthonian \Chtho"ni*an\, a. [Gr. in or under the earth] Designating, or pertaining to, gods or spirits of the underworld; esp., relating to the underworld gods of the Greeks, whose worship is widely considered as more primitive in form than that of the Olympian gods. The characteristics of chthonian worship are propitiatory and magical rites and generalized or euphemistic names of the deities, which are supposed to have been primarily ghosts.

A snake wrapped around an egg, and the underground Mithraic cave, suggest magical plants/potions.

Entheogens university course Spring 2002


Course to study role of psychedelic drugs in religion

by Mark McGowan

Tom Roberts believes the use of psychedelic drugs can enhance, or perhaps deliver, a mystical spiritual experience. He questions if such mystical experiences, spawned by drugs or not, account for the origins of religion or whether they contribute to them. He wonders if entheogens—psychoactive plants and chemicals—can tap into the "divine within." He offers a sounding board to those people who have put aside their identity for a "peak experience" and then turn silent for fear of being labeled crazy. Roberts, a professor of educational psychology, has taught classes on mind-altering substances for more than a quarter century. This spring, he'll bring his first-ever course in religion and drugs to NIU-Naperville. ...


From: TRoberts

Sent: October 31, 2001

Subject: MAPS: Entheogens: university course Spring 2002 --

Course Offering

Northern Illinois University

Spring 2002


Religion and Drugs

3-credit course                

EPS 592 – Graduates        

EPS 492 – Undergraduates

Naperville Campus

Northern Illinois Univ.

Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations

Entheogens are psychoactive plants and chemicals which are sometimes considered to engender the experience of the divine within. This course will consider these claims and associated topics in psychology, anthropology, theology, popular culture, religious studies, and related fields.

Meeting times: 6 Saturdays

Jan. 26     9AM-12 noon

Feb. 2      9AM-5PM

Feb. 16     9AM-5PM

Mar. 2      9AM-5PM

Mar. 23     9AM-5PM

April 6     9AM-5PM

Instructor: Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. is the editor of "Psychoactive Sacramentals: Essays on Religion and Entheogens" and other writings on psychedelics and drug policy. He organized and chaired a conference co-sponsored by the Chicago Theological Seminary and the Council on Spiritual Practices on entheogens, and is coeditor of the online reference resource Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments  http://www.csp.org/chrestomathy. ....


Among the texts being considered (selection to be made later) are:

Forte, R. (ed.)     Entheogens and the Future of Religion

Huxley, A.          The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell

Roberts, T. (ed.)   Psychoactive Sacramentals

Smith, H.           Cleansing the Doors of Perception

Wasson, R. G. et al     Persephone’s Quest

Wasson, R. G. et al.    The Road to Eleusis

Must actively promote all entheogen scholars & constructive criticism

The Mystery of Manna: The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible

Dan Merkur



Rank 148 K

The Psychedelic Sacrament: Manna, Meditation, and Mystical Experience

Dan Merkur



Rank 264 K

These rankings need to be raised to 90 K or better.  If a few people buy these books and highly rate them and clearly recommend them, this would help keep them in print. 


A needlessly and harmfully negative review (edited) of Mystery of Manna, followed by my strategic commentary:

July 11, 2003 -- Reviewer: Jan R. Irvin from Redlands, California

>>After reading Dan Merkur's book The Mystery of Manna, it has become quite clear that the author has no comprehension of Mythology, Mycology, or Shamanism.  Mr. Merkur in his notes of Chapter #1 footnote #5 states that "Neither is there evidence to support the cavalier allegation of John M. Allegro in the book The Sacred Mushroom & The Cross that manna was Amanita Muscaria, the fly agaric mushroom." 

>>Merkur is clearly not a world leading Philologist/Mythologist, and has written an entire book backing John Allegro's theory, but does not even see it himself, and clearly had to ignore volumes of other's research in order to make his case.  

>>Although Merkur makes a couple of good points about the bitter waters being ergot, his entire thesis backs Allegro, where he points out numerous statements about:

o  The bread (in most cases, a term for the Amanita)

o  The rock (a baby Amanita)

o  The staff (the stem of the Amanita) caused fire to come from the rock (the term for the undeveloped Amanita bursting forth its red cap),

o  The miraculous fire (the red of the Amanita)

o  The oak (one of the few trees the Amanita grows under)

o  The wilderness (the place where the Amanita grows)

o  The Ark (another name for Amanita, as well as the burning bush)

o  Manna and water in the wilderness (the tea made from the Amanita)

o  The 'Angels', which is a morphing of the words AAHKUT, AKKHUT, AAK HUT, ANGKHUT, and ANKH, which are ancient words for Hongo, or Hanggo, and Anggelos which are words for "mushroom".

>>Merkur's lack of experience with these substances becomes painfully clear,  as he just does not get it.  He is by no means a Shaman who is writing about Shamanism, which he refers to as "Cults", which depicts a clear lack of understanding of what this is all about.  Merkur's book is excellent for finding the passages in the Bible that refer to entheogens, and he does make a few good points. 

>>But, for one with a firm understanding of mycology, and especially of that surrounding the Amanita, by changing the ergot references to Amanita, the book becomes somewhat readable.  Regardless, Merkur is so far off-base that it appears that his indoctrinated Ph.D. has got the best of him.  I would recommend reading his book only if you're doing your own research for writing purposes, etc. But for factual information on what Manna is, this guy doesn't even come close to the target.


I am considering revising the following and updating my review of Mystery of Manna to set straight Jan Irvin's needlessly negative and harmful review.


Criticisms of Merkur's book Mystery of Manna may be correct, but when turned into a recommendation to avoid reading the book, mistake lesser disputed points for the overarching paradigm which all entheogenists are intent on establishing.  Without Merkur, we'd have no scholars revealing entheogens in Judaism.  Entheogen researchers should be grateful and thankful that Merkur has provided these books to the world, even though Merkur is imperfect, just like any other entheogen scholar.

Reviews of entheogen books should aim to maximizing readership and sales of all the entheogen scholarship books (with possible rare exceptions), and maximizing constructive criticism of the weaknesses in these books -- but specifically with a view toward the goal of redeeming these flaws in an improved future version of the book.

If I could contact Jan Irvin, Jan would weep at recognizing such self-defeating folly harmful to the cause, and hasten to rewrite the review.  What must be done is to give as many stars as you can, resoundingly praise these books and authors and the paradigm they are forming -- that entheogens are the ongoing wellspring of actual religion, and provide *supportive* and *constructive* criticism: clear criticism with clear and specific recommendations, to help the author write more books, better books, improved editions, and sell more books, with greater readership. 

How many stars to give an imperfect book in the field of entheogens?  There is no reason to withhold stars, as long as you are absolutely clear and effective in specifying the current flaws in the book, recommending additional specific books, and specifying to the author exactly what to do to improve the next edition of the book.  A useful way of writing reviews is to list the pros and cons, and with each con, be sure to positively recommend what to do next time to eliminate and repair the con.

There is no feeling of constructiveness at all in Irvin's style of writing in the review -- a terrible missed opportunity to help Merkur write better versions or editions, and to encourage as many people as possible to read as many entheogen scholarship books as possible.

It is self-defeating and harmful to the cause of entheogen scholarship, the way most entheogen scholars wholly disparage John Allegro, while actually citing and using aspects of his work and the paradigm of Christian origins he helped define; and it is also positively evil the way they trash each other and refuse to clearly cite and thank each other and fail to actively promote each others' work and book sales.  This is not a research field in which scholars should wholly disparage and ignore each other. 

Entheogen scholars must be infinitely critical of each other while being infinitely supportive of each other and positively improving each other and getting the overall, general word out, that myth-religion is based on the ongoing wellspring of entheogens rather than on drug-free meditation/contemplation. 

Every time an entheogen scholarship book omits mention of the other such books, this is a missed opportunity to establish the most important area of the paradigm they all are committed to establishing: that entheogens are the main perennial wellspring of religion.

To state that Merkur has no comprehension of mythology, mycology, or shamanism would be extremist, oversimplified, idealistic, and impractical.  Merkur deserves kudos and supportiveness, in addition to clear and specific criticisms and recommendations.

It is wrong and harmful for Merkur to not praise the good aspects of other books of entheogen scholarship.  But advocates of the entheogen theory of religion really don't want to wholly dismiss Merkur for his deep folly here.  We should firmly reject Merkur's simplistic disparagement of Allegro, but should not act as though this mistake is all there is to Merkur's pair of books.  We must have more of a sense of balance, proportion, and broad paradigm-developing strategic considerations.

Merkur should be praised and encouraged like a child learning to walk, not blamed and wholly put down for tumbling.

To demand that Merkur be a certified Shaman is childish, demanding too much, absolutely insisting on so much and wholly dismissing anything less.  Merkur can be lightly criticized for possibly lacking sufficient experiential qualification, but that is not the entire basis upon which to formulate one's entire rating and recommendation of the book; consider the broad cultural situation in which Merkur writes.

Even if Merkur clearly lacks understanding of entheogens, at least he's doing the world a huge favor by revealing entheogens in Jewish religion, unlike everyone else.

Which visionary plant was most important is a relatively minor issue.  I have asked several published entheogen scholars about this point, and there is definitely a clear concensus that identifying which plants were most important is a lesser issue than the general use of visionary plants throughout religion.  A recommendation to entirely avoid reading Merkur just because he has a different hypothesis about *which* visionary plant was most important, is a serious misstep against entheogen scholarship. 

It would be shooting oneself in the foot by discouraging people from reading the only contribution any Jewish scholar has made in the field of entheogens in Jewish religion -- a serious strategic misstep that can do nothing but harm for the most important issue, the general theory of the primacy of entheogens as the wellspring of religion.

Merkur comes far closer to the target than the other Jewish scholars.  At least he identifies manna as generally being a visionary plant -- unlike practically every other Jewish scholar, who assumes that manna is not a visionary plant at all.  Merkur is relatively much closer than all the other scholars, who assume that entheogens have nothing to do with Jewish religion at all; his playing may be somewhat bad but at least he is in the right ballpark, unlike the other scholars of Jewish religion.

Our reviews must be as helpful for authors and readers as possible.  What must Merkur do to fix his flaws in his updated edition of the book?  What other books must he and we read, to work toward a more correct and insightful understanding? 

All entheogen scholars must actively promote the others: James Arthur, David Spess, Jonathan Ott, Dan Russell, Mark Hoffman, Carl Ruck, Blaise Staples, Clark Heinrich, Peter Furst, John Allegro, Huston Smith, Robert Forte, Jack Herer, Robert Thorne, Chris Bennett, Jose Alfredo, and all the other urgently needed scholars.  They all need to constructively criticize each other as well as actively promote each other. 

Book list: The entheogen theory of religion


To criticize each other is one thing; to disparage each other is quite another and is only self-defeating, shooting oneself in the foot, harming the cause, which is to work to uncover the true, entheogen basis, origin, and perennial wellspring of religious experiencing.  Maximize constructive criticism -- or the entire cause has no hope of success. 

When advocates of the entheogen theory of religion torch each other, we must do so in a way that makes the other stronger and better and leads toward the greater spread of the knowledge that entheogens are the primary wellspring of religious experiencing. 

We need a meeting of the tribes for strategic peace, cooperation, and solidarity, so that we are all pulling in the same direction on the core point about entheogens being the central perennial origin.

Particularly problematic and troublesome is this logical reasoning: "Every entheogen scholar is disrespected by the Establishment scholars.  Therefore, to promote my entheogen theory among the Establishment scholars, I must make a great show of disparaging the other entheogen scholars, so that the Establishment scholars are assured that I am one of them; that I share their worldview; that I am the one level-headed and trustworthy entheogen scholar, against all other entheogen scholars, who are certainly crackpots, nutcases, amateurs, and mere sensationalist popularizers."

Heaven forbid that logical reasoning!  That strategy cannot succeed in the long run.  Instead, entheogen scholars need to demonstrate that they are rightly discerning the valuable aspects of the other entheogen scholar's hypotheses, rightly and rationally identifying and retaining the valuable aspects of all other entheogen scholars, while rejecting the particular aspects which are incorrect and need to be justifiably discarded. 

When each entheogen scholar does all they can to affirm and incorporate selectively all the contributing aspects and evidence from the others -- including the general coherence of the overall paradigm that religion is entheogen-based -- this provides the strongest basis of support for one's own version of the entheogen theory of religion.

Entheogen scholars must make it clear that their harsh criticisms of each other are intrafamily disputes over lesser aspects than the core paradigm which they all share even if there are still some other paradigm mismatches regarding, for example, the efficacy of drug-free meditation, which particular visionary plants were most important, and how much personal experience with entheogens an entheogen scholar has.


My original review or commentary at Amazon:

5 out of 5 stars

Much-needed valuable contribution to religion studies, June 30, 2003

Reviewer: Michael Hoffman (see more about me) from Egodeath site 

Anyone interested in the entheogen theory of religion should definitely read this book. It is well-written and scholarly. The field is inherently speculative at this early point. This is a much-needed valuable contribution to religion studies.

Today's situation is a perfect example of a paradigm shift: if you examine each hypothesis separately and each book on the subject separately, and assume the dominant paradigm or non-theory of "those crazy and primitive ancients are simply unfathomable and alien to our way of thinking," you'll be able to easily dismiss each hypothesis and each book.

But when you consider the still-small set of all books and articles about the entheogen theory of religion, a viable alternative paradigm is coming into view. This new paradigm, within which Merkur is only one of a growing number of researchers, is readily yielding specific plausible hypotheses, while the official dominant view has no hypotheses other than "the ancients' minds operated differently than ours, and we simple can't comprehend them, and they were remarkably excitable by wine -- lightweights, unlike us."

Therefore, any one book in this field cannot be reasonably evaluated in isolation; instead, read Merkur's book Psychedelic Sacrament, Clark Heinrich's 1995 book Strange Fruit, which also has coverage of ergot in the Old Testament, and several other books in the field of the entheogen theory of religion. Only then are you reasonably equipped to assess how much this book contributes to our understanding of the history of religion and the nature of religious experiencing.

Tikkun article: Hayes' Psychedelic Sedition

>>The entheogen theory is no longer a novel proposal.  Even Martin Marty is aware of that alternative; he took the opportunity to mock it and distort Allegro's theory (Sacred Mushroom & The Cross).  In a blurb in the beginning of Crossan's new book Excavating the Bible, Marty welcomes the book as a sensible alternative to such theories as that "Jesus was a member of a mushroom cult".

>>If Marty is thinking of Allegro, he missed half the point: Jesus wasn't a *member* of the cult, but was, as the Jesus figure is made to say in the scriptures, the sacred food that saves and cancels sin, consumed by the cult members.

>The book I have in mind is:

Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts, by John Dominic

>Crossan, Jonathan L. Reed, October 2001



>It's a good book covering the socio-political background of the formation and

>origins of Christianity, supplemented but not dominated by archaeological


A funny more recent publishing event that's related: in the current issue of Tikkun, Martin Marty's article on violence in all religions is grouped with Charles Hayes' great entheogen article "Is Taking a Psychedelic an Act of Sedition?"


I would say yes, salvation and cancellation of sin, and ascension to rule the cosmos at the right hand of God by ingesting the entheogenic flesh of the ointment-rubbed savior has seditious implications in the eyes of the "divine" empire."

Mushroom Galaxy SmartShop online store open

If I were to locate and walk up to this store in the labyrinthine canal city of Amsterdam,


I would be able to purchase these mushrooms, fresh or dried (click the Amanita photo)


and other sacramental inducers of philosophical insight.

>Sent: Friday, June 21, 2002 12:29 PM




>Our new website is finally online.

>With many more products and much much more information.





>The staff of Mushroom Galaxy

Moecat's list of Plant and Herbal sites:

















































>I will be in Europe in the near future and hope to make it to Amsterdam and Spain (would appreciate any helpful recommendations).

Definitely buy a compass.  It would be hard to find the way to the next Smartshop when the streets keep turning.  Also buy a lighter with a compass, sold by the demo man at the Hemp Museum.  A good book is Get Lost.  I hate travel, yet I fondly recall the experience of Amsterdam, Brugge, and Paris.  Amsterdam didn't seem intellectual, but no place is.

Get Lost! The Cool Guide to Amsterdam

by Joe Pauker, Joe Joe Pauker, Jun 2001, rank 7K (very popular)


The history book Radical Enlightenment is centered around Amsterdam and Spinoza, including history of skepticism about Christianity.  The "Enlightenment" we hear about (1750) is a wimped-out, compromising, bastardized shadow of the true, early, original enlightenment, of whom Spinoza (1650) is the foremost founder.  If you trace the mythic-only Christ tradition back to the start, it would surely pass through Spinoza and the true, early, Radical Enlightenment.

Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750

by Jonathan Irvine Israel, Mar 2001, rank 62K (popular)


(Many French sentences, a thick book.)  Interesting to know it exists, at least.


Home (theory of the ego death and rebirth experience)