Wasson and Company
The Entheogenic Theory of Religion
Wasson and 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.
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 his book, 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 John Allegro, Ralph Metzner, James Arthur, Terence McKenna, Benny Shannon, Jim de Korne, and many others.
Most recently, John Rush. Failed God: Fractured Myth in a Fragile World.
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 practice. I oppose Shannon and others mainly on this point: they give manistream religion a specious provenance and false legitimacy.
Dead Sea ET Cult
In Not in His Image, I argued that the Zaddikim of the Qumran settlement were a UFO cult, not a mushroom cult. 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
Gnostics of the Pagan Mysteries were trained clairvoyants, clairaudients, and adepts of astral projection and lucid dreaming. Like the new seers of Carlos Castaneda, 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 the Archons. 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 m.o. of these entities accords closely with the "spiritual control program" attributed by Jacques Vallee to ETs, whom he called "messengers of deception." Not agent of evil, please note. The Apocryphon of John and other Gnostic texts describe the Archons in exactly the same manner.
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 bearing. 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
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 veternan shaman replied with a chuckle, "They always say that, but they are liars."
Note well: 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-incuded trance. This distinction supports my view that ancient seeers 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 ayahuascero who wisened 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 belevolent 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 insight:
Gnostic teaching in this vein were tremendosly sophisticated.
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.
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Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.