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The Psychedelic Gospels
Psychedelic Mushrooms in Early Christianity
With Dr Jerry Brown

Podcast summary

Jerry Brown, PhD, author of Psychedelic Gospels, joins us to talk about psychedelic mushrooms in early Christian society. We hear about the evidence for psychedelic use that exists in Christian art, and how the Inquisition could have resulted in the destruction of these psychedelic traditions. Jerry also shares his vision of a future with freedom to practice psychedelic use as part of our basic religious rights.

Podcast highlights:

  • The Amanita muscaria mushroom was used by Siberian nomads and its use spread to early Christianity

  • Use of psychedelic mushrooms was probably targeted by the Inquisition

  • Amanita muscaria is the most likely identity of the ‘soma’ mentioned in many ancient texts.

Jerry was professor of anthropology at Florida International University for the past 39 years, and ran a course entitled “Hallucinogens and Culture.” Unsurprisingly, his classes were always popular.

Jerry’s course covered the indigenous use of psychedelic plants, including Amanita muscaria; the famous fly agaric mushroom. This red and white-spotted mushroom was used mostly by Siberian nomads, who noticed their reindeer acting strangely after eating the mushrooms.

It was on a visit to Scotland that Jerry and his wife Julie became interested in how psychedelic mushrooms might have been used in Christian tradition. Upon seeing the famous Amanita muscaria mushroom engraved upon fertility symbols in Rosslyn Chapel, Jerry and Julie set out across the world to discover how deeply psychedelic mushrooms were set in Christian art.

They found symbols of psychedelic mushrooms spread throughout Europe and India, as far back as 300AD and throughout the Middle Ages. There’s evidence to suggest that both Amanita muscaria and Psilocybin mushrooms were used in secret rituals throughout Christianity.

During the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, herbal medicines and midwifery were clamped down on, and treated as witchcraft. It’s believed that the Inquisition was a large factor in the gradual decline of psychedelic symbols from Christian art.

Jerry hopes that we won’t see another Inquisition-style crackdown on psychedelic ritual. He envisions modern psychedelic centers, where anyone can go to explore psychedelics in the presence of trained guides. He thinks that this time, a psychedelic renaissance is unstoppable.

Show links:

Jerry and Julie’s book, The Psychedelic Gospels

Soma by Gordon Wasson – investigating a mythical and mysterious psychedelic found in many ancient cultures

Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna – looking at psychedelic plants and their usage throughout human history

The Road to Eleusis by Gordon Wasson – unveiling the secretive psychedelic rituals of ancient Greece

This Week in Psychedelics:

Answering your Questions:

LSD Flashbacks: Only around 5% of people report LSD flashbacks – and they’re usually harmless.

The LD50 of Psychedelics: estimated 12mg of LSD, 17g psilocybin, 400g alcohol and 3g nicotine (all extrapolated from rat). It’s important to remember that LD50 is not as meaningful as the ratio of effective dose to lethal dose; which puts LSD and psilocybin as some of the safest drugs in existence.

Psychedelics and Neuroplasticity: for more on this topic, listen to our interview with Neuroscientists Dr Zach Mainen.

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