The Origins of Christianity in Entheogenic Initiation
The Sociopolitical Strategy of Canonical Christianity
The Altered State Was Integrated into Ancient Culture
Modernity Is a Single-State Culture
Freedom for Higher-Order Religion
The Role of Democracy for Ecstatic Danger
Initiation as a Natural Developmental Sequence
The Entheogenic Future of Religion
The main origin and ongoing wellspring of religion is the use of visionary plants. These plants include Psilocybe mushrooms, Henbane, Cannabis, Opium, Peyote, Salvia divinorum, and Amanita mushrooms.
Visionary plants have been commonly used around the world throughout the history of religion and culture, including in the various forms of Western Esotericism. Greek and Christian mythic-religious systems often refer to visionary plants. Leading mystics throughout the history of various religions have used visionary-plant sessions on-demand, with mystic-state experiencing that was largely rationality-oriented.
Meditation, shamanic drumming, and liturgical ritual were developed as activities to do in the plant-induced dissociative state, not as methods of inducing the dissociative state in the first place.
The extent of entheogen use throughout Christian history has barely been considered yet. Early Christianity involved mystical, religious, visionary experiencing, including the experience of the transformative, transcendent power of the Holy Spirit at Eucharistic agape meals. Early Christian writings show familiarity with ecstatic mania, inspiration, elevated sobriety, and ‘drunkenness’ induced by ‘mixed wine’.
The Jesus figure is portrayed in the New Testament as a spirit-possessed altered-state shamanistic healer. The figure of Paul the Apostle is portrayed as a shamanistic mystic, and the apostles are portrayed as adepts in altered-state mystic experiencing.
Solving the riddle of the original mystic-metaphorical meaning of Christianity requires also understanding the surrounding metaphorical altered-state initiation systems throughout Christian history. These altered-state initiation systems that were related to Christianity, include Roman religion, Neoplatonism, Western Esotericism, and astral ascent mysticism.
The large window of the Legend of St. Eustace in Chartres cathedral shows many ‘mushroom trees’ and unambiguous depictions of mushrooms throughout its panels. Hundreds of depictions of mushrooms appear in Christian art.
The New Testament editors utilized the era’s standard mastery of mystic-state metaphor and the altered-state experience of communal unity to direct the Jewish mystic-metaphor system into the figure of Jesus. This combination of Jewish themes, mystic-state metaphor, and the communal altered-state unity experience enabled the ruling-class church leaders to profitably sweep together the various quasi-Christian groups. The early Catholic bishops claimed themselves to have been appointed as the administrators of the Eucharistic gatherings by Jesus, who they portrayed as having been around just long enough to commission them exclusively with all authority.
Jesus and all the apostles were entirely and strictly mythic, not historical individuals. The figure of Paul served as a controverted authorial token that was used to endorse the positions of competing camps. The authors and redactors of the writings attributed to Paul don’t mention any biographical information about the life of Jesus because the gospel story was a later, literary creation. The gospel story of the life of Jesus was based on many sources, including Roman imperial ruler cult, Josephus’ writings, and Hellenistic literature.
Mystic revelation about the nullity of self-will was routine in antiquity. Roman imperial theology utilized this routinized mystic-state revelation to legitimate the Roman sociopolitical arrangement. Christianity became popular as a polemical counter-narrative about how the entheogen-accessed mystic revelation should be used for sociopolitical concerns. The figure of the ‘king on the cross’ in the New Testament is a depiction of the mystic-state insight of non-autonomous control, in service of a rebuttal and alternative to Roman imperial theology.
The entheogenic altered state was integrated into culture, using metaphor to map all domains together. Altered-state experiencing served as a standard point of reference for banquets and parties, civic processions, punishment, release of captives, sport, taxation, and alliances.
A common standard banqueting tradition with reclining at table while drinking ‘mixed wine’ ran across many seemingly disparate cultural practices. ‘Mixed wine’ was the central, reliable means of accessing the intense mystic altered state throughout antiquity. Ancient ‘mixed wine’ specifically meant visionary-plant mixtures, such as Psilocybe mushroom wine. If Electric Kool-Aid in an Acid Test type of gathering were switched with ‘mixed wine’ in a Hellenistic symposium, neither party would notice much difference.
Socrates’ initiation of elite youths outside official democratic channels carried political implications and risks, because ancient politics and religion were deliberately interlinked by mystic-state experiencing.
The adept use and comprehension of metaphor faded after the battle between politicized Christianity and Scientism around 1700, leaving a long-term standoff between mystically neutered religious literalism versus exclusively ordinary-state-based Science. The culturally predominant type of religion in the modern era neutralized and reduced the traditional initiation system by a combination of non-transformative surface ritual and intellectual speculation based only in the ordinary cognitive state.
The modern cultural experience resulted from the predominance of the ordinary cognitive state. The lack of culturally integrated altered-state initiation caused the egoic mental world-model, which is based in only a single cognitive state, to become completely predominant.
Authentic initiation is widely present in modern culture, including art, literature, spirituality, and popular culture, but is not integrated into the official culture; for example, the song “Help!” written by John Lennon, the album Ride the Lightning by Metallica, and the Matrix movie series.
Lower-order religion is derivative, limited to mundane conduct-of-life doctrine suited for the ordinary state of consciousness. The higher-order version of each religion involves transformation of personal control-agency concepts; revelation about control-system limits and dependence on the transcendent; and re-attribution of the origin of one’s will and thoughts.
The essence of religious freedom is specifically the freedom to reliably access mystic-state consciousness, as in early, house-church Eucharistic agape meals, the ancient banqueting tradition, the mystery religions, and symposium “drinking-party” associations. All of these mainstream cultural practices utilized mixtures containing visionary plants as their central sacrament.
Suppressing entheogens because of their danger amounts to a blanket illegalization of higher-order religion and primary religious experiencing. As long as modern culture forbids itself the true, ergonomic Eucharist, legislating against the entheogen-based ecstatic heart of religion, religious freedom is restricted to selecting among various brands of lower-order religion; higher-order religion is placed off-limits, out of reach.
The ever-expanding drug schedules directly conflict with the only kind of religious freedom that amounts to specifically religious freedom; that is, freedom to regularly and ergonomically access primary religious experiencing. The system of schedules is not from God, but is an invention that ignores the central role of visionary plants in religion, multi-state cognitive psychology, and the innate human drive to self-transcendence.
The proper role for representative democracy regarding drugs is to work out how visionary plants and psychoactive substances are to be healthily integrated into mainstream culture, making dissociative-state religious initiation as ergonomic and as safe as possible. Drugs are not a problem to be eliminated and suppressed, but a means of maturing to be channeled.
The Supreme Court of the United States has recognized the legitimacy of Peyote and Ayahuasca in worship; these plants have the same effects as LSD and Psilocybe mushrooms, including causing the person’s power of will and power of self-control to become seized and then restored in a religiously transformed configuration.
The threat of the encounter with the power of the divine is, specifically, the threat of loss of control of one’s thoughts when studying self-knowledge in the ecstatic state. This inherent danger of entheogens is inherent in the encounter with the power that transcends our personal control of our will. This danger is mitigated by having a systematic model of personal control agency, in conjunction with mastering the skilled use of entheogens and understanding how past cultures have accommodated this danger. This necessary danger that is inherent in the encounter with the power of the divine is the gateway to mature religious knowledge.
Greek and non-modern cultures integrated a series of altered-state initiations. Initiation classically combines a series of visionary-plant sessions with learning perennial philosophy, followed by subsequent religiously integrated dissociation such as agape meals, festival banquets, and symposium parties. Entheogenic religious initiation was a prerequisite for symposium banqueting, so that participants were experienced. The banqueting tradition including symposium “drinking parties” included prayer and sacrifices. Social recreation and religious experiencing were not opposed activities.
People often use entheogens recreationally or with other non-religious intent, but are then surprised when they are overcome by the inherently entheogenic nature of the visionary plants. This unanticipated primary religious experience unexpectedly reveals how personal control depends on a source of thoughts outside one’s domain of control – a realization which is the gateway to religion. Young adults naturally seek initiatory transformation; the modern culture of Prohibition demands that they suppress this drive and permanently stunt their growth, settling into the non-initiate’s mindset for life, foregoing enlightenment and religious revelation.
Ergonomic tools, including a systematized model of personal agency and controllable use of entheogens, will make the mystic state common knowledge again in the post-modern era, but with a more explicit and systematic understanding than in antiquity. For example, Salvia divinorum makes the dissociative-state experience accessible, practical, and ergonomic. With the systematic explanation of ego death in hand, there is no need for heroic doses of psychoactives; moderate dosage is most effective.
New, culturally intelligible metaphor-systems will result from the culturally integrated use of entheogens to transform our conception of personal agency, including metaphors for self-control cybernetics.
The religio-political philosophy in the true spirit of the United States is to accept entheogens, accept culturally supported religious self-control breakdown and transformation, and accept the transcendent as the ultimate ruler or governor, but reject all claims that a given earthly system of government is divinely authorized or approved.
Hallucinogenic drug-plants will be revived as the authentic vehicle for the mystic state in communal religion, because they are immediately available to all people and are fully ergonomic. Christianity will reawaken to its original idea of applying mental worldmodel transformation based on the altered state toward providing an alternate sociopolitical configuration. Worldly systems of sociopolitical government typically use metaphors from mystic-state revelation to support a claim that they are divinely mandated. Christianity will return to its original New Testament purpose of serving as a counter-narrative to such attempts to abuse mystic-state revelation.
Copyright © 2007 Michael Hoffman. All rights reserved.