THIRD WAVE PODCAST
Were Early Christians Tripping On Psilocybin Mushrooms?
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.
- 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.
0:00:28 Paul Austin: Hey, listeners, and welcome back to The Third Wave Podcast, where we look at how we can reframe psychedelics. I’m your host, Paul Austin. And if this is your first time listening, welcome to our podcast. If this is you returning, welcome back, of course. It’s great to have you back. So what we’ll get into this week is a podcast with Dr. Jerry Brown, who wrote a book called, The Psychedelic Gospels: The Secret History of Hallucinogens in Christianity. But before I get into details about the podcast, I wanna start off by just going over a couple of things for this week in psychedelics and other substances like cannabis. The first bit of news comes from The Rooster about how there is going to be a vote in Oregon for legal psilocybin. Potentially in November of 2018, there is a group called The Oregon Psilocybin Society that has recently submitted a proposal to the Oregon State Government for a ballot initiative that would legalize psilocybin mushrooms by as early as November 2018. If it passes, however, mushrooms would not be sold at the cornerstone like marijuana. Instead they would be done with a trained person, like a guide or a sitter, with the approval of a doctor. Similar to the way ketamine treatments for depression are done. Now, we saw the recent global drug survey results of 2017 that showed that mushrooms are the least dangerous and harmful recreational substance that we have. And, of course, the term recreational is even questionable in itself.
0:02:05 PA: We know these substances are safe. We know they’re not addictive. All of us know that. And so it would be great to see if we could get this in the ballot and approved. My belief is that it’s very unlikely this will happen from a popular vote perspective, just because there are still so few people who have actually done mushrooms. I think 10-15% of people have actually done psychedelics in the United States. So to pass something like this will require more than popular support. It will require more time, I think. But the initiative is there. It has started, and I think getting the ball rolling now is better because getting this done sooner rather than later is important. The second piece of news is about a do-it-yourself cannabis cultivation app called “We Grow” that wants to bring flower to the people. We Grow is a free app designed to help new and experienced cannabis growers cultivate their own plants as well as share their expertise. It combines AI-powered assistance with crowdsourced input and course work to help put the control of cannabis back in to the hands of those that consume it. There’s a dialogue going on right now in the legalization of cannabis conversation about the importance of keeping cannabis decentralized, and keeping cannabis in the hands of the people. A lot of people are worried about Big Green. They’re worried about pharmaceutical companies. They’re worried about corporations getting involved with this.
0:03:25 PA: And although I don’t think that will happen, I never have thought that would happen, largely because of tech and decentralization. It is important to start actively doing things that prevent the centralization and corporatization of cannabis. And I think creating an app that teaches people the educational process of growing their own cannabis is going to be a major step forward in helping to facilitate the transition from centralized corporate interests to decentralized grassroots interests. So this is great news. And I’m super excited to try this when it comes out. I’m also excited just because the iOS Store has a reputation for denying applications that involve any sort of illicit substance like cannabis or psychedelics. And I recently came across an app that was recently approved about psilocybin and psilocybin education, as well as this app. Right now, we’re in the process of developing a microdosing app, and we are definitely going to make it available on Android. And we’re skeptical about iOS. But I think with these two pieces of news, with the do-it-yourself cannabis cultivation app, and the psilocybin app, there might be hope after all.
0:04:32 PA: So that’s this week, in psychedelics. You can find links to those on our page. Let’s get now into the interview, for today. So as I mentioned earlier, the interview is going to be with Dr. Jerry Brown, who published a book called the, or wrote a book called, The Psychedelic Gospels: The Secret History of Hallucinogens in Christianity. This book reveals evidence of visionary plants in Christianity in the life of Jesus found in Medieval Art and Biblical Scripture. It’s been hidden in plain sight for centuries. It follows Jerry’s anthropological adventures discovering sacred mushroom images in Europe and Middle Eastern churches including The Roslin Chapel and Chartres. Provides colored photos showing Gordon Wasson’s psychedelic theory of religion, and how it clearly extends to Christianity and reveals why Wasson suppressed this information due to his secret relationship with the Vatican. And it also examines the Bible and The Gnostic Gospels to show that visionary plants were the catalyst for Jesus’s awakening to His divinity and immortality.
0:05:31 PA: Now, in our interview itself, we don’t really dig too much into the book. We talk a little bit about the topic. But what I like to do when I bring on authors like this, is I like to give you a context and a sense for who they are, where they come from, why they wrote this book, why they wrote the book that they wrote, and then give you an opportunity to purchase the book to support the author because it’s important to do that. It’s important to support people if we enjoy their work. So in the podcast itself, you’ll hear about some of the evidence for psychedelic use that exists in Christian art. We’ll talk about how The Inquisition resulted in the destruction of the psychedelic traditions. And we also discuss a future where we will have the freedom to practice psychedelic use as part of our basic religious right.
0:06:12 PA: So enjoy the podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, again, we are listener supported. There are no advertisements. We will never have advertisements. But at the same time, I have to pay for basic things. So we have a Patreon page. We’re also going to roll out another kind of donation platform. So if you guys enjoy this podcast, if you find it valuable, if it’s helpful for you, please support us on Patreon. We really would appreciate that. There are also little gifts and prizes that we will give to you if you do so. Also, leave us a review on iTunes. I would really appreciate it. We have about 15 reviews right now. The more the merrier. It’s really helpful in terms of spreading the message and the word about the responsible reintegration of psychedelics for particular benefits to the individual and community. That’s about it. Enjoy the podcast with Dr. Jerry Brown about psychedelics in Christianity.
0:07:17 PA: I’d love to hear a little bit more just about your background and how that led into you writing a book about mushrooms in the gospels.
0:07:23 Jerry Brown: Certainly. I’m an anthropologist by training, and I was teaching a course at Florida International University on hallucinogens and culture. I started that course in 1975 after my first LSD trip at a rainbow family gathering, which took place high in the Rocky Mountains, Rocky Mountain Park of Colorado, and it was a tumultuous time in my life and the experience was very challenging, not to put it on par with Albert Hofmann’s experience where he thought he was taken to other worlds, thought he was going insane, thought he was dying. But it was a, it was somewhat frightening experience that I had, and I used that as a challenge and a catalyst for wanting to learn more, a lot more about psychedelics.
0:08:13 JB: And being a cultural anthropologist, I designed and taught a course on hallucinogens and culture, starting from 1975 actually until I retired from Florida International University in 2014. So it went on for a long time, it was always packed. And the course was a survey course, indigenous use, archeological record on hallucinogens and entheogens as we now call them, up through the classical cultures of Soma in the Rigveda and Claviceps purpurea, the ergot that’s in the Kykeon of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and then on to some of the modern mind explorers or psychonauts. So that course went on for a long time, and in the process I had to do a lot of interdisciplinary research on Art History, on Ethnobotany, on Mycology, on mythology and that was the background that I brought to 2006 when my wife and co-author Julie took me in an anniversary trip to Scotland. And drawn by The Da Vinci Code which was just out in film at that time, we went to Rosslyn Chapel, and Rosslyn is a Catholic church, it is from the 15th century, and it is an incredible synthesis of Pagan and Catholic imagery. It’s unique in Christendom. There’s no church like it.
0:09:35 JB: And there are over 100 green men, fierce fertility symbols faces throughout the church, and hanging down from the ceiling on a stone boss, a stone shaft was the face of the most prominent green man of Rosslyn Chapel. It was so striking that I bought a memento of it, a plaster replica of it. And a couple of weeks later, I was turning it around on the table, and lo and behold, embedded upside down in the far head of the green man was a perfectly shaped Amanita muscaria mushroom. And this discovery set Julie and my mind spinning. Why was it here, what’s it doing in a Catholic church? What was Sir William St. Clair trying to tell us about maybe the use of psychedelics in Christian ritual? Because this was right over the altar where Mass was said. Does this mean that Christians used this? Could this have been the original Eucharist? What about Jesus in the life of the disciples? And before our mind got taken away by a rambunctious overthrow of reason, the words of Carl Sagan, the famous astrophysicist popped up, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
0:10:52 JB: And if you think there’s evidence of psychedelics in Christian art that’s remained hidden in plain sight for centuries, then you’d better go out and do the field work and make original photographs of this. So this is Julie and I went back and forth before really realizing that if we didn’t do this research, we would regret it the rest of our lives. So in 2012, we undertook a journey through Europe and the Middle East, looking at abbeys and chapels and cathedrals and churches and looking for evidence of psychedelic mushroom images, mainly Amanita muscaria and varieties of Psilocybin in stained glass windows and sculpture, in frescoes, in paintings, in mosaics and we found them in nine sites that we visited, which I can’t say are representative of all of Christian art in any way but it was just amazing to us how much we found. And at a stop in the Church of St. Martin in France, we saw so much evidence there that we… It gave us the inspiration to generate the theory of the psychedelic gospels as a possible alternative history of Christianity.
0:12:08 JB: We went to England, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey, up into the Holy Land, and also looked at the Egyptian just for historical depth, because we believe Jesus sojourned in Egypt during the missing years. We were not able to go to Egypt because of the uprisings. But, basically, where this all led us all was to propose a theory of the psychedelic gospels as a different master story of Christianity, and as an inspiration for many of the visions that take place and are documented throughout the Bible, from the Old Testament to Revelations. It’s been for us a journey of a lifetime, and we just feel incredibly grateful to have the photographs which are sort of the indisputable evidence to back up the claim that there is evidence of psychedelics in Christian art.
0:13:05 PA: I think the first thing that I’d like to get into is like, in terms of your personal background, were you raised Christian, or were you a Christian? And are you? And what’s your belief system, and did that tie into your interest in pursuing this path? Or was your interest in pursuing this path just purely out of curiosity because it was such an interesting phenomenon?
0:13:25 JB: To be frank and honest, my father was an atheist, he just believed that religion was a delusion, my mother was extremely spiritual. Way before, I’m talking about when I was a teenager back in the ’50s, way before there was anything called a new-age, she read and had many esoteric books in the house. And let me just put it this way, she was a major influence in my life in a search for a deeper spirituality beyond the material world. A few days before she passed away, she was beaming, and I said, “Mom, what’s happening with you?” And she said, “I had a dream, God is a river of love that flows through the universe, and all I have to do is let go into the river.” And a few days later, she had passed away, so she was a major influence in my life. And I would say that I had my first authentic experience of the divine on psychedelics, and this is back in the ’60s and ’70s, and I write about that in our book, I write about that in the chapter on the miracle of Marsh Chapel, and the book is available on Amazon, and also at our website, Psychedelic Gospels.
0:14:44 JB: So that was our background. Julie also long before I met her, had in her starting in the 60s, a lot of psychedelic experience, had a cosmic consciousness experience which is described in our book as well. But we saw this back in the ’60s and ’70s as an individual quest that many of the people that we knew were on, and were undertaking. I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams that now, in the 2010s we would be in the middle of a psychedelic renaissance, and that there would be this new science of psychedelics, there would be this incredible interest in psychedelics at the nexus of maybe the future of religion for many people who consider themselves to be spiritual but not religious, which is a growing number of people. So this is my background, and in many ways, I believe that God, or the creator, is a divine intelligence that permeates everything in the universe.
0:15:53 JB: And in this I have come to agree with Stanislav Grof, who after decades, who along with Jim Fadiman, I think are the two leading researchers with the most experience with psychedelic sessions. And in one of his books, Grof says and I’m quoting, “We are not just highly evolved animals with biological computers embedded inside our skulls, we are also fields of consciousness without limits, transcending time, space, matter, in linear causality.” So that’s a lot to take in, and unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to look at those words and understand what they mean. And so, what happened when Julie and I made this discovery of the Amanita Muscaria mushroom in the far head of the Green Man in Rosslyn Chapel, and decided to undertake this research journey, our personal experience of the psychedelics from decades ago, now overlapped with our professional interest, minus an anthropologist interested in the study of religion, and Julie as a psychotherapist who worked a lot with spiritual guides, and in our healing work.
0:17:03 JB: And we just turned out to have a good combination of talents and interest for this research journey. Most of my work before that, this is the first, well, the second thing I’ve ever written on psychedelics, the first thing was an article on sacred plants in the gnostic gospels, which was published in the Journal of ancient history back in 2014. But this is the first book that we’ve ever done on this particular topic. So this brought us deeply into the study of Gordon Wasson, Terence McKenna, revisiting these major thinkers and their works and into developing our own theories about its role in Christianity.
0:17:47 PA: So I would like to clarify something just because I’m a little confused, and so maybe some of the listeners are as well. What is the Green Man? Who is that or what is that? What’s the significance of that?
0:18:00 JB: Yeah the Green Man, and you can find Green Man heads from India through Europe, you’ll find bars in England called The Green Man, these are heads, they can be carved in wood, they can be carved in stone, and they are in Churches, in public places, in trees, you can find them. And they are a series of faces, in a way they’re fertility symbols, and they can have vines and laurels enveloping the head, they can have little lines and tendrils growing out of the mouth and nostrils and eyes. So they sort of show a pagan vision of humanity, very enveloped in the natural world. And so these are signs of fertility, of a fierce vitality that you’ll find throughout the pre-historical world.
0:18:57 PA: And do we know who created them? Who were the originators of these Green Men?
0:19:03 JB: They’re so ubiquitous that we don’t know originally who created them. For the case of Rosslyn Chapel, we know that Sir William St. Clair, who was the founder of Rosslyn Chapel, and he personally designed and oversaw every sculpture that went into Rosslyn Chapel, including the famous apprentice pillar which have the dragons of Yggdrasil gnawing at the Tree of Life. So he created these 100 green men, over a 100 green men, and because this particular Amanita Muscaria in the head of the Green Man was so seminal and provided the catalyst for our research, that when Julie and I met with the eminent mycologist Paul Stamets while we were writing the book. And I pulled out a picture of this Green Man, and I said, “Paul, you agree with us that this is an amanita muscaria?”
0:20:04 JB: And he said, “That is precisely,” and I quote him, “a taxonomically, correct, amanita muscaria.” And then he laughed and he said, “Let me show you something.” And Paul Stamets pulled out his computer and he showed us his photographs when he had visited Rosslyn Chapel. And he showed us many other mushroom images that he with his incredibly expert eye identified at Rosslyn. So this is a little bit of the history of the Green man. You will find in churches that you will find at times some pagan images, some images that have an entheogenic history and we found Paul that they were there, as far back as we could go would be 300 in the Cathedral of Aquileia, in Italy, in North Eastern Italy, north east of Venice, all the way up through the middle ages. And things fall off with the coming of the Inquisition.
0:21:02 JB: So we found a rich history of psychedelics at practically all of the places that we visited and we start out in Central France, and I’ll just give you the broad brush. And we found them at three sites in central France and including the famous giant mushroom in the Eden, Garden of Eden scene in the tiny Chapel of Plaincourault and we saw it in several other areas around there, and we stopped and asked ourselves, “Well, is this just a marginal Catholic cult, a Catholic mushroom cult, here in the center of France. Are these some renegade hippy priests in the forest far from the crown and the church?” And then we decided to visit the high holy places of Christendom, Chartres Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral, Church of St. Michael’s in Hildesheim in Germany, which was built by Bishop Bernward, the tutor of Otto the third, the Holy Roman Emperor who later became sainted by the Catholic Church.
0:22:05 JB: And that brought us to the conclusion that unlike many people think, psychedelics and Christian art was not suppressed prior to the Inquisition. It was really practiced in secret among the initiates, which is not surprising since we know from Eleusis to Maria Sabina and the Mazatec. This is the Holy of the Holies. And these were treated with reverence. The practices were done in secrecy. There was a lot of ritual and initiation around them, so it’s not surprising that this was carried over into Christendom that it was not something for everyone, but as Pope Gregory, said in the sixth century, “Let art be the bible of the illiterate.” And through the Middle Ages until the printing press, most of the population were peasantry, and were illiterate. So, this history is embedded in the art work.
0:23:02 JB: And I can take you through some of the specific artwork at any time you’d like, but I think it’s an important point to recognize that this was an avenue to the divine that can be related to many of the mystical flights of the soul to many of the visions that happened in the Bible, and happened throughout Shamanism. This is an integral part of the shamans exploration of the supernatural world. And If you have powerful entheogens, chemicals and plants that generate the divine within, of course they’re gonna be integral to the practice of Shamanism, which is somehow sometimes defined as archaic techniques of ecstasy, ancient tools for ecstasis in the Greek sense of the word, the flight of the soul, ancient techniques for inducing the flight of the soul. And if these could provide a direct experience of the divine, a direct experience of Jesus, a direct experience of angels, a direct experience of the heavenly dimensions, and also be used in healing, remember, a lot of Jesus’s mission was healing and a significant aspect of shamanism is for healing to use the tools and powers of the spirit world that the Shaman accesses in healing.
0:24:28 JB: It’s not surprising that it would be there. We have to remember that Christianity emerged from a Circum-Mediterranean area that was rife with healing cults and mystery cults and Therapeutae and Eleusinian Mysteries which had a vast knowledge of the herbal world and of a psychedelic Pharmacopoeia. I would like to just say at this point that we do not believe our work is incompatible with Christianity. And we don’t present it unlike John Allegro did in The Sacred Mushrooms and The Cross to challenge anyone’s belief in Christianity but rather to reintroduce a mystery that we believe is found in many, many of the world’s religions, the use of psychedelics. It’s not the only portal to the divine in the ancient world, but it certainly was a significant one. And why we say it’s not contradictory as we quote brother David Steindl-Rast in our book of the Order of Saint Benedict, who said, “Look, if I can experience God through a sunset on a mountain top, why not through a mushroom prayer-fully ingested?” And that’s the end of the quote. These are all of God’s creations just as cannabis is God’s creations. And he said, “Enjoy all the fruit and herbs of the land.”
0:25:57 PA: Now, one thing I wanna dig into a little bit based on everything you talk about is this difference between the Amanita Muscaria and Psilocybin mushroom. When humans consume the Amanita Muscaria, it’s psychoactive, but not nearly as psychoactive and not nearly as psychedelic as Psilocybin mushrooms. From my understanding, typically Amanita Muscarias were consumed by reindeer in Siberia and then the Shamans, which is Shamans came from Siberia. They would consume the urine of the reindeers to start basically tripping up on Amanita. However, if you consume Amanita on its own or if you cook it and consume it, it often just leads to stomach aches and headaches and sometimes you get a bit of psychedelic visions, but not really. So with your research that you were doing in terms of these mushrooms that you were finding were they by and large Amanita? Were they by and large Psilocybin mushrooms or combination of both?
0:26:55 JB: I found both of them there. We found Amanita at Plaincourault, at Canterbury Cathedral and at Hildesheim and also in the mosaics of the church of Aquileia. But I would respectfully disagree with a couple of statements that you’ve made. First of all, the reindeer herders of Siberia, who are known among some people, as the fathers of Shamanism, they consume Amanita directly. There are about 30 different groups of reindeer herders left all the way from the Far East Kamchatka Peninsula to the Okhotsk and the Koryak in Central Russia and the reindeer herders of Scandinavia. Secondly, they did and they still today, consumed Amanita directly and they dry it, and they ingest it. And in fact, we believe and we write in a chapter on our book on Santa the reindeer herder, Santa the reindeer Shaman that all of the themes and names of the modern Santa Claus image come directly from the reindeer herders. So one, they consume Amanita Muscaria directly, and they use it in their vision quest.
0:28:17 JB: Number two, unlike I would say all of the other psychoactive plants, and we could go through the list here, one of the things that happens with the psychoactive agents in Amanita Muscaria, the Muscarine and the Ibotenic acid and the Muscimol is that they’re not metabolized well by the body. So they pass out in the urine. And there has been in the historical record, soldiers of fortune and travelers who have been in Siberia, who have watched the Shaman come out of his yurt after climbing up the tree, and expounding widely on his visions and urinating. And the other people in this group collecting his urine in the cup and drinking it. So yes, they drink the urine. Number two, the reindeer love the urine. Number three, it is hypothesized that the Siberian reindeer herders maybe first recognized the properties of Amanita Muscaria by watching the reindeer with whom they live in close companionship nibble on this red and white Amanita Muscaria and then go off and cavort in a very un-reindeer-like fashion.
0:29:33 JB: Gordon Wasson, in his seminal work, Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality gave us a brilliant description of the Siberian reindeer herders and their Amanita complex. Number three, I have found that different psychoactive plants depending on set and setting, depending on dose, depending on preparation affect people in different ways. And I have ingested, Soma, and I’ve had very powerful experiences with it. I know that other people have not, but I also wanna go back to the most powerful descriptions of Soma Amanita Muscaria known in English as the fly agaric from Wasson’s quotations of the Rig Veda, one of the earliest religious texts, the oldest of the Vedas, written down in the Sanskrit, some 3500 years ago. And they describe this in Mandala 10, the 10th cycle of the Rig Veda, which is pretty much devoted in praise of Soma.
0:30:34 JB: “I can pick up the Earth or put it here or there. Have I been drinking Soma.? Heaven does not equal one half of me. Have I been drinking Soma?” And then to paraphrase the most famous verse of the Rig Veda, “We have found the light, we have met the gods. What now can the malice of mortality, do us? Oh, immortal Soma.” So for some people historically and for some people presently, Amanita Muscaria is a very powerful psychoactive plant. One has to be extremely careful because while Amanita Muscaria is not poisonous, there are many deadly poisons in the Amanita family, including Amanita Phalloides, which can kill you. I don’t think there’s any known antidote for it. There’s Amanita Russula, known as the sickener for good reason, intense vomiting, stomach cramps, profuse sweating. And I’ve read that they’re about 200 kids. Amanita grows in the Tundra Arctic area or at 6000 to 8000 feet, and it grows in a symbiotic relationship with the conifers, with the pine trees, with the fir trees. And that gets back to the Santa Claus analogy.
0:31:49 JB: But every year, and I just wanna put this right out there, there’s about 200 kids in the United States, in Colorado or in the Rockies who end up having their stomach pumped because they read or they heard something like this, they went out, they saw a red and white mushroom, they ate it and it wasn’t Amanita Muscaria and they got very, very sick from it. So to come back to your more general question, what we found was overwhelmingly psilocybin, several varieties of psilocybin, in fact in the artwork, it is so precise that in some cases, mycologist people who study mycology have been able to identify the exact variety of psilocybin that the medieval or early Christian artist is depicting. But Amanita Muscaria and psilocybin are the primary psychoactive plants that we found in the Christian art.
0:32:41 PA: You bring up Soma, which I think is interesting because I’ve read both Gordon Wasson’s and Albert Hofmann’s work on Soma, but I’ve also read Terence McKenna in Food of the Gods, he pecifically challenges Gordon Wasson’s hypothesis that Soma was Amanita Muscaria and Terence says that Soma is Psilocybin mushroom. Can you just provide a little bit more clarity on that? What is your thought on that? Is Soma the Amanita Muscaria. Is it the Psilocybin? Is it both? And was it just dependent on the setting and the location? I’d be interested to hear more about that.
0:33:15 JB: No, in my view on this point I think Gordon Wasson is absolutely right. And what he set out to do was to resolve all of the enigmas and puzzles of the Hindu Rig Veda in its description of Soma. And when the Rig Veda was translated into the English and German and French several hundred years ago, people loved the majestic poetry of the Rig Veda, and it is incredible, it is hair-raising poetry at times. And then there’s this Soma plant. And the Soma plant is a very strange plant. It has no branches, it has no trunk, it has no leaves it has no bark, it has no visible seeds. And they talk about it, it comes to rest in its vestiture of grand occasion and it comes in these white robes and then it becomes resplendent red. That’s Amanita Muscaria. It pops up after the rains and the thunderbolt, that’s Amanita Muscaria.
0:34:19 JB: And one of the big enigmas of it was there’s another verse in the Rig Veda, that says, I think it’s Indra speaking, “Come, come here like a stag pissing Soma day and night. Now you have assumed your most mighty force.” Amanita Muscaria is unlike Psilocybin. Psilocybin does not pass out in any potent way into the urine. And Wasson’s goal was to see if there was a plant. And I know there have been like 200 different candidates proposed by different researchers over the decades as the Soma including obviously Psilocybin by Terence McKenna, a person for I have the most incredible respect, when I think in this solution to the urine piece of the puzzle, this was one of the more definitive pieces, not the only one that go with this description of Amanita Muscaria.
0:35:16 JB: And we also have to remember that this tradition was brought into the Indus Valley by the Aryan people, not Hitler’s Aryan people, these were the original Aryans who exploded out of Central Eurasia, and probably had relations with the reindeer herding people into the Indus Valley. And they brought with them a pantheon of gods, that we’ve become to know as some of the Hindu gods, and goddesses, and they also brought Soma who was at once a God, a plant and the juice of the plant. And there’s no question in my mind that Soma is Amanita Muscaria. And I know there are scholars and people, researchers like Terence McKenna who disagree, but I agree with Wasson’s interpretation. And we found both Amanita Muscaria and Psilocybin mushrooms, strongly represented in Christian art in the nine churches and chapels and Abbeys and cathedrals that we visited.
0:36:19 PA: Now, that’s great to clear that up, and I don’t know enough about the Rig Veda to make a conclusive decision on is it Amanita or Psilocybin, so I’m glad that we discussed this. Now, a follow-up question that I have, and this is more a follow-up question to some things that you talked about before, is you have discussed basically how there is all this art, and art obviously before the printing press was a way to communicate with people who were illiterate and spread messages in a way. And then, of course, the printing press came around and soon after the printing press, I believe maybe 75-100 years after the printing press, was the Inquisition. And most people know about the Inquisition in terms of it was largely focused on Jews and Gypsies, but we don’t hear a lot about how it also was oriented towards the suppression of gnosticism and consciousness to some degree. So I just would like to hear more about that in terms of what did you notice in your studies in terms of that cut off with the Spanish Inquisition. Why do you think there was no more mushroom art after that? Why did it all disappear? Why did they stop making it? What impact did the Inquisition have on this stream of history related to psychedelic mushrooms and Christianity?
0:37:34 JB: Yeah, let me clear up a little bit of the timeline here.
0:37:38 PA: Yeah, please do.
0:37:38 JB: Because the processes that lead to the Inquisition were really set in motion and we discussed this in depth in our book. By the black plague which comes into Europe and in a very short period of time, from about, I’d say about 1348 to 1352, at least a third, and in some people’s estimates up to 60% of the entire population of Europe was wiped out, practically overnight, I mean in a four-year period of time. This thing just burned, the bubonic plague, the Black plague just burned through Europe. The church, the Catholic Church, which was supposed to have the hotline to God, could not protect people. So they had to find a scapegoat. They started out with the lepers and they either killed the lepers or exiled them and the plague continued. Then they turned on the Jews and they did the same thing and the plague continued.
0:38:38 JB: And at this point, that’s when they turned on the wise women of Europe, the keepers of the ancient tradition, the herbal medicine, the midwifery, the use of aphrodisiacs and certainly the use of entheogens. And so, what you find by 1485 is a papal bull that’s very significant because what it does is it makes witchcraft a heresy and it describes the witches ointments, and it also develops the concept of the satanic witch which Tom Hatsis in a book on the witches’ ointment described in great depth. It’s at this point, Paul that witchcraft goes from being a civil crime to a heresy punishable by death. What I mean by that is prior to that, “Oh, she poisoned my well. Oh he killed my cow.” Okay, three months in the stockade for that. Now, it’s a heresy punishable by death.
0:39:37 JB: And Kramer and Sprenger, two inquisitors developed a book called the Malleus Maleficarum, The Hammer of Witches, that was hundreds of pages long that sat at the side of the inquisitors for 300 years and told them how you identify a witch, how you torture a witch. Who pays for the wood that’s used to burn her to death? Her family. I mean, incredible detail. And 85% of the people burnt at the stake for witchcraft according to some demographic anthropologists who looked at the records in these European cities of the witch craze were women. So this was the chilling experience of the Inquisition. And it’s after this period of time, 15th Century that we don’t find psychedelics prevalent in Christianity anymore. They couldn’t undo what was there in very prominent places if they recognized it at all, but it certainly put a chill on any further acknowledgement of these practices in Christian art. So this is how we see where it really ended.
0:40:51 PA: That’s interesting, because my impression was the clamp on consciousness was put on with the institution of Roman Catholicism as the major religion of the Roman Empire. This is in 30 AD with Constantine. And they pretty much put a nix on all the Eleusinian Mysteries around that time. And your book and what you’re explaining now just basically says a lot of this went underground to some degree, meaning these initiations and these rights were obviously still going on, however they just weren’t as openly talked about because there was still some level of repression. Would you say that’s correct? In terms of…
0:41:30 JB: Yeah, I would say that that is very correct, in the sense that look, Eleusis was amazing. It went on for almost 2000 years without interruption from 1500 before Christ to the time in which Christianity under Constantine becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire. And at that point Eleusis was destroyed. Prior to that Eleusis went from being a minor cult at the site of Eleusis just 14 kilometers West of today’s Athens and then it became a Pan-Hellenic cult practiced throughout all of Greece. And then it eventually became a cult throughout the Roman empire when room took over Greece. And Roman emperors went to Eleusis. And I have Julie and I have visited Eleusis. There’s an incredible archeological site there and you can walk through the Telesterion where the mystery was performed in which the Hierophants and the priestesses gave out the potion.
0:42:37 JB: And in a marvelous book called The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries, Gordon Wasson along with Albert Hofmann, the person who… The incredible chemist who first synthesized LSD in 1938 in his laboratory and first experienced it in 1943′ and also Carl Ruck, a classical Greek scholar. The three of them unearthed this mystery. What was in the potion? No one knows. And in fact, if you go to the archeological museums in Greece today, they still tell you it’s a mystery 25 years after Wasson, and Ruck and Hofmann published the book. And Wasson asked Hofmann, “What could have been the psychoactive? Could there have been a psychoactive drink potion, component in the Kykeon, the drink?” And Hofmann analyzed this and said, “Yes.” It was an ergot, a fungal growth, on the rye and barley that grew around the planes of Eleusis, and it’s water soluble, and it certainly could have been used, the technical name is Claviceps Purpurea.
0:43:41 JB: So absolutely, it was there and certainly this was suppressed as paganism, but the value of it remained known to the pagan royalty and to some, not all, because we have not researched all, but obviously to the Catholic hierarchy, to the priests, to the Benedictines who made these drawings at Plaincourault, and they knew about it, and it was practiced in secret, just as many Shamanic rites with or without psychedelics are practiced in secret throughout the ages. And we just wanna stress again, that secrecy is in no way the same as suppression. We don’t believe it was suppressed in the earlier medieval Catholic church but it was for the initiates a well-known portal to the divine, to healing, to prophecy that was kept alive.
0:44:34 PA: So I’m gonna jerk us forward into the present moment, because what you’re talking about gets me thinking about what’s going on right now with psychedelic research. And on the podcast before I interviewed someone about drugs in the Bible, and he talked about how people in ancient Judea, the priests and the temples would often rub a psychoactive ointment on themselves and they would only have access to the ointment and that was to give them this direct connection to God. But it was only for the initiated, it was only for the priests. Now you’re talking about the Eleusinian Mysteries, how they were secret, it was only for the priests, with the psychedelic mushrooms. For the next thousand years you had largely women initiates who had access to these secrets. Again, secrecy, and if I’ve learned one thing in my time in the psychedelic space and learning about things related to psychedelics and consciousness and all these things, it’s things happen in a cyclical nature meaning that once things become unleashed, there tends to be some sort of a crack down. There tends to be some sort of backlash. So we see this with the Eleusinian Mysteries, and although they went on for 2000 years, eventually, there was this Christian backlash against it.
0:45:41 PA: The same thing happened with the Inquisition, the same thing happened with the war on drugs in the 60s and 70s. And now we’re at a point in time where we might make these substances medically available to solve issues, like PTSD and depression. 24 million people have PTSD in the United States. There are hundreds of millions of people who have depression, and there are serious worries and concerns that once you turn an entire nation into mystics, meaning that they’ve done psychedelics, what happens as a result of that? Because right now, there is still this sense of secrecy in the psychedelic space with underground therapy and with these ayahuasca retreats. And so, I would just like to hear your thoughts on, based on your understanding of history and what has happened in the past, what concerns do you have in terms of the present day and moment when we start giving many millions of people access to these things? What implications could that have in the future?
0:46:37 JB: Well, I think it’s one of the most exciting and interesting questions. And if you would have asked me back in the 60s and 70s if we would be having this conversation today, if we would be in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance, if we would be contemplating an entheogen reformation as maybe holding the seeds of a real religious future for many people who consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. It would have been in the Timothy Leary years and the war on drugs, and Nixon saying that Timothy Leary is the most dangerous man in America. If only that was our biggest problem today, I wish, it would have been unimaginable. And obviously, MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, and the kind of research that you, with microdosing and an entire younger generation of researchers are doing, and the whole gamut of scientists and doctors who are looking at the medical implications. This is truly a renaissance as we saw with cannabis that legalization follows medicalization.
0:47:50 JB: So, obviously framing and exploring psychedelics for their medical implications with anxiety and depression, mentally disturbed people, and terminally cancer patients with stress disorders, with cluster headaches, with cancer and Alzheimer’s implications. I mean, we’re at the beginning, we just have our toe in the water now because we banned these substances under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970s. We banned them. And it’s very rare that a culture completely bans something. So, it is incredibly exciting to see this is going through clinical trials, FDA approval for especially with use of MDMA with veterans and first responders who are suffering from the horrible trauma, anxiety. This is a phenomenal development. And I think it will continue, and I think that the American population, when they see that something has a medical value, it really takes away the stigma and the taboos that came out of the 1970s. People understand that, the media has been extremely receptive to this.
0:49:06 JB: So, I think we’re gonna see a florescence of this, no matter what happens with this administration that’s there. I think you cannot turn back, you may not agree, you may fight against what’s going on on the state level, but I think state level approval of these things is gonna move ahead. And I think that medical implications, if it’s helping veterans, and there’s millions and millions of dollars being spent on veterans with stress disorder, that when you put a medical benefit together with an economic benefit, it’s gonna be phenomenal. And one of the things I wanna stress here, and this is what the pioneer of the modern medical research role, Roland Griffiths and many of the things he says he observed that, look, these things are highly effective in one or two sessions. In other words, you don’t need to have someone on an anti-depressant for years with all of the side effects. So we have something that is incredibly effective and incredibly efficient. And we believe that it will work its way into the medical system and in our lifetime. And hopefully sooner rather than later, we’re gonna see legal psychedelic assisted therapy centers springing up just the way you see a clinic for addiction in a neighborhood.
0:50:22 JB: And that will all happen. Then that leaves the question about what about the rest of us who may be creative, who may have explored psychedelic. There are 26 million people who have taken LSD in the United States at some time of their life. What about the rest of us who believe there’s personal growth, creativity, and religious value in psychedelics? And I wanna just pause on the creativity, because Steve Jobs loved LSD, he told his biographer. It was one of the two or three most significant things and experiences in his life. It helped him think different in the creation of Apple. So, it certainly has a value, as Jim Fadiman has pointed out, in his problem solving research that went all the way back to the late 60s that psychedelics can be used in scientific discovery and in creativity. But when I say this, what about the rest of us? We do not have until this work on psychedelics and Christianity, the kind of religious tradition that went on with peyote that allowed it to be legalized and approved by the Supreme Court under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
0:51:25 JB: And the same has gone on for the use of ayahuasca in Santo Daime and in the Uniao do Vegetal, Vegetal. The branches of these churches that use ayahuasca in the religious ceremonies out of Brazil, but that all have branches in the United States and also in Europe. And these have been legalized also for use. But what about the rest of us? And that is why Julie and I call for in our book, the establishment of sacred centers, sort of a modern Eleusis, where people who are mentally healthy can go to responsibly explore psychedelics with the availability of trained guides to have them, should they need them. We believe that this is a First Amendment right and should be legalized under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which says that Congress shall make no prohibition against the expression of religion or restrict it in any way, and we hope to see that come about. It’s certainly happening in Brazil where actually the Brazilian Council of Bishops have approved Ayahuasca for use in a Christian ceremony in Santo Daime.
0:52:38 JB: And it’s certainly happening in a legal framework in sacred centers like Rythmia, in Costa Rica, where the founders of Rythmia which is a retreat center that provides medical support and shamanic guidance for the use of Ayahuasca, they’ve gotten it legalized in Costa Rica. So we’re seeing a florescence here, and we hope that under the very fundamental religious freedom, which has been assiduously defended by the Supreme Court, this is not a liberal versus a conservative issue. The Supreme Court has been very often, very either unanimous or overwhelmingly in support of religious freedom. We hope to see this eventually happen for the use of entheogens for spiritual religious purposes and personal growth.
0:53:29 PA: And I think that’s a nice, optimistic way to wrap up the talk. But before we go, Jerry, I just wanna give you a chance to tell our listeners where they can find your book, the best place to get it, and if you have a website or something that they can visit for more information, that sort of thing.
0:53:47 JB: Absolutely, yes, on our website, you will find videos, you’ll find blogs you’ll have direct links to buy our books from Amazon, Powell’s, Indy book sellers, a variety of options to buy the book. It’s available in paperback, with many brilliant color photos taken by my wife, Julie. So you can get it directly from our website, psychedelicgospels.com or you can go and look for Psychedelic Gospels on Amazon and buy it directly there. We invite you to do that, and we hope you’ll look at our work with an open heart and an open mind. We’ve done a bunch of podcasts that are also posted on the website, we blog regularly, and we invite you to follow our work, and thank you so much, Paul, for this opportunity to share this information with your listeners, and I learned a lot from you, as well as Jim Fadiman about the important pioneering work you are doing with microdosing. And this is a very important and fascinating new frontier in the whole panoply of possibilities that psychedelics bring to us.
0:55:00 PA: Well, thank you, Jerry. It was a pleasure to have you on the show. And I… We had met at Psychedelic Science about a month ago or so, and had some great conversations. So I’m really glad that we could continue these in a more public way, because you clearly have a very strong grasp of psychedelic history and knowledge, and so it was really a pleasure to talk with you for the past hour. So thanks again.
0:55:21 JB: Thank you so much for the opportunity, Paul.
0:55:40 PA: Welcome to this week’s question series where we take questions from listeners related to psychedelics. Each week we will take three questions from you the audience, the community, about psychedelics, and so I encourage you to submit those questions to our community manager, [email protected]. You can also go on our Facebook page and submit the questions there, Twitter as well. Submit the questions, we are answering questions every week on the podcast and we’d love to hear what questions you have. So, three questions this week. The first one comes from Riz, “What are your thoughts on acid flashbacks? Are they real?” Yes, they are real. Flashbacks happen, but they rarely happen. Only about 5% of people report flashbacks after psychedelic use, and most of these flashbacks are mild and not traumatic. Psychedelics are intense, and they are an intense experience, and they will stick around with you for a while. Now, there is also something called HPPD, Hallucinogenic Perceptive Persistent Disorder, I believe, which is the technical medical term for some of these issues.
0:56:43 PA: But these issues HPPD are, I think, slightly different than flashbacks from LSD use. My sense with flashbacks is, it’s almost like a deja vu type thing, where when we’re in a certain setting in a sober state, after an intense psychedelic experience, something happens in our environment, that elicits re-living some aspect of the psychedelic trip. In fact, people report this when they for example, smoke Ganja, cannabis, after a psychedelic experience. Some of these thoughts and experiences will come back. Now, this is different than HPPD, which is an actual disorder when your vision gets messed up if you do psychedelics, that happens very rarely. I think 1-2% of people, it happens with but that is also another thing.
0:57:29 PA: The next question is from Matt. “Could you please answer what the LD50 is for LSD, and Psilocybin? How does that compare to the LD50 of alcohol and tobacco?” So first of all, the LD50 is the dose that is fatal for 50% of recipients. And typically the more important question to ask is not the LD50, but what is the ratio of effective dose to a lethal dose for a substance? So for example, an effective dose for alcohol is one beer. A lethal dose might be 25 beers. And effective dose for LSD could be as little as 25 micrograms or 50 micrograms, whereas a lethal dose will be much, much, much more. So the more important question often when asking this is, what is the ratio of an effective dose to a lethal dose. So for LSD a lethal Dose 50 is 12 milligrams, and that’s extrapolated from rats because we don’t have any sort of human experience or subjects that that’s happened with. In fact, some humans have ingested over 40 milligrams, which I believe is 40,000 micrograms and survived. The LD50 in mice is 46 milligrams per kilogram of body weight the LD50 in rats is 16 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. And again, we can extrapolate that to understand that it would be about 12 milligrams or 12,000 micrograms for a human. That is obviously an enormous amount.
0:59:00 PA: So again, coming back to effective dose, if one beer is an effective dose for alcohol, and 25 beers will kill you, it’s a 1-25 ratio. For LSD we could just even say something like 50 micrograms is an effective dose and 12,000 micrograms is a LD50 dose. So 50 into 12, I think that’s 600, I wanna say. No my math is wrong. It’s a lot. Let me do the math live on air, right now. 240. So a ratio of 1:240, whereas alcohol is 1:25 so obviously LSD is extremely non-toxic. For psilocybin, it’s 280 milligrams per kilogram in mice and rats. It’s 12.5 milligrams per kilogram for rabbits. In estimation, it is 17 grams as an LD50 for humans, and this is estimated from rats. Again, we’ve never done these experiments, though. And I don’t think anyone could actually ever consume that much psilocybin by just eating psilocybin mushrooms. That would have to be intravenously injected in order to have that effect. And obviously, no one is going to intravenously inject 17 grams of psilocybin into themselves. Alcohol is 7 grams per kilogram in rats, and that means it’s around 400 grams in humans.
1:00:19 PA: And again, I would assume that’s like a bottle of vodka drink in 45 minutes, or a bottle and a half of vodka. Approximately that. But again, it depends on the individual, it depends on their previous alcohol consumption habits. For nicotine it’s 50 milligrams per kilogram. This is again in rats, and that’s estimated 3 grams in humans. I don’t really know what that means, in terms of the amount of cigarettes someone might be smoking. But we just know that it would be a ton of nicotine. Last question from Max, “Does psychedelic use have an effect on neuroplasticity. More specifically, would it be possible for full-grown adults to learn things with a similar degree of mental imprint to that of a developing youth?” Max, I’m going to direct you towards a recent podcast episode that we did with Zack Mainen who is a co-director at the Champalimoud Institute in Lisbon. And we talk all about neuroplasticity, and we address that question in full.
1:01:12 PA: In short, I think so. I think psychedelic use definitely has an effect on neuroplasticity. And I think it would be helpful in terms of helping adults to re-access this childlike mentality and approach to life, which would help with the acceleration of the learning process. In fact, this is what a lot of people are reporting when they’re microdosing on LSD or Psilocybin, is easier for them to learn at a much quicker pace. I’ve experienced this myself. I’m much more adaptable to unlearning and relearning new things. And that’s been incredibly helpful with the process of growth for Third Wave. So those are the three questions for this week. Again, please send in your questions to us on Facebook, email, or Twitter, and we will include them in our podcast episodes. Next week, we have Julian Vayne coming up, who is an author with the Psychedelic Press, out of the UK. And Julian Vayne wrote a book called Getting Higher: The Manual of Psychedelic Ceremony. And in that episode we’ll talk all about how we create a really great environment for psychedelic experiences. So again until next time, please leave us a review on iTunes. And if you can, if you found this podcast valuable, please support us on Patreon. And we’ll see you next week.