by John Lash
12 November 2009
Company is a section of Psychonautics dedicated
to research and evaluation on the controversial
topic of the entheogenic theory of religion:
that is, the claim that the religious experience
of the human species originated in altered
states induced by the ingestion of sacred
medicine plants such as the amanita muscaria
mushroom or other psychoactive fungi.
R. Gordon Wasson receiving psilocybin mushrooms
from the Mazatec curandera
Although there are important antecedents, the argument for the
entheogenic basis of religion can
be said to have been formally launched by R. Gordon Wasson in
Soma - Divine Mushroom of Immortality.
Initially, due in part to the influence
of his Russian wife, Valentina, Wasson posited the existence of a
prehistorical shamanic mushroom cult in the Ural mountains. He
sought to prove that the natural sacrament and inebriant of this
cult was the fly-agaric,
amanita muscaria, which he
identified with the Vedic inebriant, soma.
Variations of the Wasson thesis,
including some considerable extrapolations and departures from it,
have been advanced by,
...and many others.
Most recently, John Rush: "Failed God - Fractured Myth in a Fragile World":
The Entheogenic Catch-22
At the outset, let me emphasize that
I differ from most of the other exponents of this theory in two
key respects, each of which implies a kind of
Catch-22 in the
To refresh your memory, Catch-22
is defined like this:
A situation in which a
desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain
because of a set of inherently illogical rules or
The rules or conditions that
create such a situation.
A situation or predicament
characterized by absurdity or senselessness.
A contradictory or
self-defeating course of action.
I draw a strong distinction between
religious experience and religion as such, i.e., dogma,
hierarchy, institution, ritual and regalia.
I reject the claim (expounded by
Benny Shannon) that authoritarian religious dogmas such as the
Ten Commandments could have been derived from visionary
states induced by sacred plants. Consistent with this stance, I
reject the notion that genuine visionary revelations given by
plant-teachers became corrupted or co-opted into dogmatism and
I insist that the corruption of
paternal/authoritarian religion was present from its inception,
a calculated and deliberate strategy for behavioral control.
I argue that religious belief-systems and associated rules that
locate their origin and authority in a paternal off-planet deity
cannot have been derived from visionary trance induced by sacred
plants, for such plants are teachers given by nature to assist
the human species in maintaining continuity with nature and,
when required, healing its rupture from nature due to
socialization of the species.
The second part of this proposition
states my assumption - pet theory, if you like - that sacred
planets teach and inspire our connection to the earth, so they
cannot be cited as the source of off-planet dogmas or
psychoactive agents designed and
provided by nature to connect the human species to nature
cannot induce visions that turn humankind against nature in
favor of off-planet divinity, as all the major religions do.
I discount the widely accepted
associations between psychoactive mushrooms and the historical
Jesus, famously argued by John Allegro in
The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross.
In my view as a comparative
mythologist, a great part of Allegro's conflation of
mushroom/penis/savior is unfounded, if not downright fatuous.
His scholarship is excellent except when he gets lost in word
games with terms in lost languages.
In parallel with my objection in the
first point, I reject the idea that true, pure, or genuine
teachings of Jesus existed, having been derived from
visionary trance induced by sacred mushrooms, but then were
later repressed, distorted, co-opted or otherwise corrupted by
those who wished to profit from such visions while prohibiting
them to the world at large.
The supposed original teachings
of Jesus as leader of a Palestinian mushroom cult cannot
have been corrupted into the message of the New Testament
because that message is proven by historical and textual
analysis to be a systematic contrivance that does not
require a hidden or esoteric message for its basis. In
short, the NT cannot be corrupted or encoded mushroom
Various points of difference and my
reason for them can be found in the files linked from this page.
Principally, I object to attributing
paternal dogmatic religion such as the Mosaic cult of Yahweh to
visionary trance induced by psychoactive plants because that
argument lends a kind of legitimacy to belief-systems which are
hostile to the Goddess and the earth.
I insist that endorsing this argument
turns out to be a good thing for religion, making it look good
because its basis is presumed to have been an authentic visionary
revelation, but a really bad thing for psychonautic visionary
someone who navigates
the psyche by the aid of psychoactive plants given by
nature, or synthetic compounds produced in the
laboratory. Term proposed by
A psychonaut (from the
Greek ψυχονα?της, meaning literally a sailor of the
mind/soul) is a person who uses altered states of
consciousness, intentionally induced, to investigate
his or her mind, and possibly address spiritual
questions, through direct experience.
Psychonauts tend to be
pluralistic, willing to explore mystical traditions
from established world religions, meditation, lucid
dreaming, technologies such as brainwave entrainment
and sensory deprivation, and often psychedelic drugs
Because techniques that
alter consciousness can be dangerous, and can induce
a state of extreme susceptibility, psychonauts
generally prefer to undertake these explorations
either alone, or in the company of people they
Therefore, they are
averse to using altered consciousness in a social or
"party" context. Psychonauts generally regard the
latter sort of use as irresponsible and dangerous.
psychonautics: the practice and technique of
exploring altered states of consciousness; a mode of
cultural-cognitive expression, comparable to physics,
esthetics, ethics, etc.
The Wikipedia entry reflects a bias inherent to the
generally agreed definition:
namely, psychonauts explore
"inner states" or investigate their own minds. Nowhere
does the definition specify that nature, the external
world, the biosphere, or the cosmos at large, could also
be investigated psychonautically.
But given that psyche and
cosmos are co-emergent, contiguous, interpenetrating and
interactive, exploration of the one will lead to the
This qualification is
perhaps helpful in pointing out that psychonautics is
not navel-gazing, or the mere narcissistic contemplation
of subjective states, moods, and impressions.
G1 psychonaut Aldous Huxley characterized his experience
with mescaline as an encounter with "Mind at Large." To
allow that Mind at Large is present and active both
inside our minds and in the external world independent
of us affords an expanded view of psychonautics.
An old Gnostic adage says,
"Not everything that
transpires in the human mind originates there."
I oppose Shannon and others mainly on
this point: they give mainstream religion a specious provenance and
Finally, I would point out that in
my opinion it is no coincidence that the argument for "Moses on
marijuana or mushrooms" attained international press coverage at
the very moment that governmental agencies around the world
commenced a brutal crackdown on psychoactive plants, homeopathic
medicine, and natural remedies.
Tell me, if you can:
Why did media interest in
Shannon's thesis come at a moment when the practice of
psychoactive shamanism around the world came under extreme
Dead Sea ET
Not in His Image, I argued that
Zaddikim of the Qumran settlement were a UFO cult, not a
In that same book I showed that
disciplined use of psychoactive planets in the Mysteries was guided
by a master narrative, the myth of the fallen goddess, Sophia. This
myth includes an episode that explains the origin, nature, and
effects of alien intrusion
upon the human mind - the riddle of the Archons.
I contend that,
Archontic suggestion or subliminal
entrainment by that one identified species of predatory psychic
entity can account for the salvationist belief-systems
and paternal/authoritarian religion in human history.
Gnostics of the Pagan Mysteries were
trained clairvoyants, clairaudients, and adepts of astral projection
and lucid dreaming.
Like the new seers of
Carlos Castaņeda, they were
able to explore the Nagual, navigate the supernatural layers of the
universe, and investigate other dimensions and alien entities,
including inorganic beings like
In short, they were past masters of the
noetic sciences and experts in parapsychology.
The Gnostics attributed Judeo-Christian religion to mental
aberrations due in part to the intrusion of extraterrestrial
predators, the Archons. Their characterization of the mode of
operation of these
entities accords closely with the "spiritual control program"
Jacques Vallee to ETs, whom he
called "Messengers of Deception."
Not agent of evil, please note.
Apocryphon of John and other
Gnostic texts describe the Archons in exactly the same manner.
Following the Gnostic view, I attribute Judeo-Christian religion
(the Abrahamic creeds) to the influence of these "messengers of
deception," rather than to visions and revelations inspired by
psychoactive plants, or a later distortion of such visions and
revelations. On the contrary, such visionary experience, or trance
learning, offers healing insight and corrective instruction against
Such is my position on entheogenic
revelation contrasted to mainstream religious doctrines, rites, and
Noetic sciences in the Mysteries carried a fail-safe against
the risk of tricking ourselves into delusional beliefs by the
cleverness of our own minds.
To safeguard their investigations, the
telestai ("those who are aimed," self-designation of
initiates in the Mysteries) used sacred plant-teachers that enabled
them to learn directly from Gaia, and correct errors in their
mystical vision of the earth and humanity. They would have argued
that such plants cannot impart to our minds any teaching, belief, or
dogma of a paternal, off-planet, authoritarian, anti-feminine
Sacred plants are emissaries of the
living earth, the Aeon Sophia who morphed into the planet. In
shamanic trance induced by psychoactive plants, the telestai
detected what deviates us from rapport with nature.
I conclude that,
It is absurd to speculate that the
plant-teachers provided by Gaia to keep us sane and align us to
her purposes could have been the source of an off-planet
religion, deviating us from our rapturous bond with the planet.
But hold on a second.
The famous account by Michael Harner
of his shamanic initiation with ayahuasca lends a further twist to
this scenario. Harner saw dragon-like entities in long-boats
sailing through the sky. In the altered state, he understood these
entities to declare that they were the creators of humanity.
When he recounted this incident to an
old-timer who had monitored his ayahuasca session, the veteran
shaman replied with a chuckle,
"They always say that, but they are
it was not the plant entity of
ayahuasca itself who spoke to Harner claiming to be the
off-planet or ET creator of the human race. That was the claim
of skybound entities who appeared in the ayahuasca-induced
This distinction supports my view that
ancient seers who investigated the cosmos in altered states induced
by sacred plants were able to detect alien deception and intrusion.
They had the power of true discernment,
just like the old ayahuasquero who widnesed up Michael Harner.
Knowing how we can be deviated was one of the primary concerns of
the Pagan initiates of the Mysteries. Like them, I have encountered
Archon/ETs in lucid dreams and other altered states, with and
without the assistance of plant teachers.
But I have learned what to make of these
encounters, and how to distinguish predatory entities from
benevolent or neutral ones, through long and disciplined practice
with sacred plants, the medicine of true vision.
Harner's anecdote is extremely instructive. It shows how two aspects
of Gnostic teaching dovetail into a single, supremely important
Cognitive ecstasy induced by sacred
plants exposes the alien factor in our own minds and the cosmos
at large, providing a crucial discrimination: anti-human and
anti-nature beliefs attributed to an off-planet deity arise with
that alien factor and not from the plant-teachers who alert us
to its presence.
Gnostic teaching in this vein were
The centerpiece of the study of entheogenic
religion is the
Paris Eadwine Psalter,
a one-of-its-kind manuscript from the 13th
century which I had the good fortune to
discover in the National Library in Paris in
September 2007, just prior to the
publication of my book, Not in His Image.