The essential activity in religious reading isn't so much *what* one reads as *how* one reads. Wilber provides nice treatment of the idea of developing competent facility within a given realm. You never reach a point of being omniscient in a certain realm, but you do reach a milestone of being generally competent in a field or realm; it's something less than being an expert -- it's more on the order of getting an undergraduate degree in a certain subject.
Indeed it took a few years of studying double-entendres in Classic Rock to learn to reliably transform and search out lyrical meaning. Understanding mythic stories is the same skill: learning not to stop at literal meaning, but instead to transform and map the stories as allegories of mystic-state phenomena, phenomena such as perceiving concepts that alarmingly overthrow the self-concept of oneself as controller-agent.
This mode of reading is something that is learned, and that is taught by things that teach or by people who teach. When the student becomes a teacher, the student has presumably attained a certain milestone of facility and mastery, which is not to say that the student is an expert or master.
Certainly, myth/religion writings can be systematically and satisfyingly read through the lens or transformation that is esoteric interpretation. This interpretation shouldn't be seen as an innovative operation, but rather, a restoration of deliberately enfolded meaning: recovering the higher meaning. Attaining this level of competence is easy and rewarding, achieving a basic interpretive mood and stance.
It's harder to confirm the specifically entheogenic source of such mystic encoding in myths. Religion-myth is, first of all, encoded mystic-state phenomena, but it hasn't been proven that the mystic state informing religion-myth was essentially and originally entheogenic.
It was hard to uncover the mystic meaning because the literalist meaning has become, especially since the Reformation, so firmly dominant -- and it's even that much harder to uncover the even more suppressed *entheogenic* nature of that rediscovered mystic dimension. The mystic dimension is plausibly the primary dimension of religion, but the entheogenic aspect of mysticism hasn't been established as being the primary source of mysticism.
It's not clear that most mystic experiencing was triggered by entheogens, but per McKenna, entheogens are the real origin and earliest source of mystic experiencing. Entheogens were very influential in mysticism even if they were used by a minority. Was *most* mysticism entheogenic? The available evidence is, so far, subtle and covert and scarce.
It currently appears that only a minority of mysticism was entheogenic. But there is a huge margin of error, a margin that's not symmetrical, but likely swings in the direction of much more use of entheogens. It *appears* that only 10% of mysticism was entheogenic, but it could quite plausibly be that 75% of mysticism was entheogenic or at least entheogen-inspired. Any plant in any religious scene potentially represents an entheogen.
The worst problem for the state of evidence is, during modernity, no one among the scholars was even *looking* for evidence of entheogen-oriented mysticism in Christendom or Western religion, or religion at all. *So* in the dark were we, we weren't even looking for a light switch, being ignorant of the very possibility such a thing. Only the other day -- really -- did we even know that entheogens are standard practice for shamans.
The supposed expert Mirceau Eliade, so recently, arbitrarily and unprofessionally assumed, with no basis whatsoever, that entheogens were a late, degenerate form of Siberian shamanism. So it makes some sense that we appear to have so little evidence for mysticism being typically entheogenic.
However, this is subject to change just as quickly as the world has changed from assuming that entheogenic shamanism was deviant and a degradation to instead knowing, incontestably, that "entheogenic shamanism" is completely redundant by definition, like "psychedelics-using hippies" or "jazz-listening Beats", or "drug-using Heavy Rock groups".
The term "entheogenic mysticism" might be revealed as such a blatant and pointless redundancy, but there's little evidence so far for that outcome. There is far more evidence than scholars realize, and we can only wonder just *how much more* is forthcoming.
If we learn to read "mixed wine", "sacred meal", "banquet", "potion", "dream", and "flying" as indicating psychoactives used as myth-resonant entheogens, and if we recognize the lotus and grape leaf and lily as indicating entheogens, the evidence suddenly flips from little to overwhelming, just as the evidence for universally entheogenic shamanism went from little to overwhelming only a few years ago, as soon as we began looking for such evidence.
It's a "Death Star chute" catastrophic victory scenario, or an Achilles' Heel or Trojan Horse scenario: if the sacred meals were ordinary food, Mystery Religion remains completely baffling; if the sacred meals were entheogenic, then we understand everything of importance.
That is, looking for entheogen evidence in the Hellenistic religions, the challenge seems insurmountable to the point of being unthinkable -- yet, given the unanimous agreement that the Eucharist is the absolute center of Christian ritual and liturgy, and given the use of mixed wine and sacred meals in the Mysteries and Seder and Symposium, there is a clear, open path right to the very heart of the problem.
If this holy Hellenistic eating and drinking can somehow be revealed as entheogenic, suddenly we go from no evidence but fringe use, to perfectly fitting evidence right at the very core, the core that runs right through all orthodox religion. The situation ended up this way because orthodoxy had incentives to keep their phony empty cargo-cult ritual close to its real entheogenic origin, while appropriating the original and ever-vital entheogenic sacramentalism.
Based on this situation, it's axiomatic that the sacred meals were entheogenic, because this framework is the only one that's been found, in hundreds of years, that enables theorizing to develop in any direction. This doesn't mean we are logically forced by the evidence to affirm the meals were entheogenic, but rather, that given a practical research and theorizing programme, this is the only practical axiom; it's the only axiom that enables some viable theory construction.
The entheogen theory of the Mysteries is the only viable theory; no one has managed to come up with even the beginning of a theory or workable hypothesis.
It's simplistic and pre-Kuhnian to think in terms of "evidence". To the extent that evidence is theory-dependent, there is no such thing as evidence, but only theory-evidence.
We don't have abundant evidence for the primacy of entheogens in Hellenistic religion and later mysticism, but we do have abundant theory-evidence, and that clear research framework then enables revealing the maximum straightforward, difficult-to-refute evidence such as, for example, finding cannabis in Shakespeare's pipe, or praise of henbane in famous mystic writings, or uncovering a mosaic showing Jesus holding an amanita, or finding a Hellenistic recipe book for common "mixed wine" potions.
We are now in the position to write such a wish list of hard-to-refute evidence indicating the primacy of entheogens in Hellenistic religion and mysticism. And we are well within the area of being able to construct a strong-entheogen theory of Hellenistic religion and mysticism, defining such a scenario in some detail with high plausibility.
For a theorist intent on establishing the entheogenic origin of religions, Hellenistic religion is more profitable than the other religions, because we know that sacred meals were central in the mystery religions and the Eucharist has always been the heart of Christian liturgy. Sacred eating and drinking aren't so clearly central in other religions.
It's no coincidence that Wilber is weak in both the area of entheogens and Hellenistic religion, because the two are one; you can't understand one without understanding the other. There is an entheogen-shaped hole -- a receptor -- right in the middle of the official religions, including official mysticism.
The below review definitely and distinctly fosters the distorted history of religion which holds that the old (unspecified) methods of triggering the religious state of consciousness were not drug-based, and that the drug approach is new and can only be an artificial approximation. Even many entheogen scholars foster that topsy-turvy story.
The best paradigm for research maintains that drugs are not "similar to" "traditional religious experiences"; drugs *are* the main traditional perennial origin and wellspring of religion.
The entheogen theory of religion is really the only specific, clear paradigm available; the no-contest winner by default. The only thing close to an alternative is the meditation/contemplation theory of the origin of religion -- a theory that largely developed as a dogmatic reaction to the psychedelic spiritual 1960s. The current entrenchment of the meditation theory of the origin of religion was thereafter encouraged by censorship dynamics.
Today, there are two theories of the origin of religion: meditation, and visionary plants. The former is dominant and official, yet is completely ramshackle, in just the same ways as the prohibition framework; there can be no genuine, honest debate, because the pro-drug explanation and worldview is so manifestly superior to the supposed "competing alternative" (prohibition, or the meditation theory of the origin of religion).
Sent: Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Subject: MAPS: Strassman, Jansen, & Saunders book reviews
The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion
Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 75-77, 2003
DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences. By Rick Strassman. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2001. xviii + 358 pages. $16.95 paper.
Ketamine: Dreams and Realities. By Karl Jansen. Sarasota, FL: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, 2001. 355 + [v] pages. $14.95 paper.
In Search of the Ultimate High: Spiritual Experience Through Psychoactives. By Nicholas Saunders, Anja Saunders, and Michelle Pauli. Trafalger Square/Rider: London, 2000. 272 pages. $19.95 paper.
Reviewed by Thomas B. Roberts
Northern Illinois University
As Dogen, a thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhist teacher said,
"We must always be disturbed by the truth." -- Quoted in DMT (p. xvii).
If we are to believe their authors, these three books have some important but disturbing truths for us. For one thing, religion basically isn't about theology, philosophy, or beliefs. For another, entheogens - psychoactive plants and chemicals used in religious contexts - may be pathways to the sacred Absolute, and to a lot more. Furthermore, the psychoactive sacramentals they propose are not the good-old traditional, tried-and-true peyote, mescaline, or LSD. Horrors!
These books present MDMA (N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine, a.k.a. Ecstasy, the Rave Drug), ketamine (a now seldom-used anesthetic), and DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) as resources for spiritual questers. Each book recognizes that its featured substance has non-religious uses as well and that it can be dangerous when misused; but the authors also claim that, used with care and precision, these drugs can serve as powerful entheogens.
Rick Strassman, the author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule and a psychiatrist associated with the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, was the first person in recent decades to obtain federal approval for human-subject research with a hallucinogen (now an antiquated word but still used). Strassman hypothesizes that under extreme conditions the pineal gland produces psychedelic amounts of DMT. It is hard to know what to make of his subjects' experimentally induced reports about their experiences with this very quick-acting, powerful, and short-duration drug. Strassman groups these experiences into three categories:
1. Personal experiences - those that were limited to the participant's own thoughts and feelings. Strassman reported that, although many volunteers desired a spiritual encounter, the drug gave them "the trip they needed rather than the one they wanted" (p. 156). For some, this state triggered processes that are fundamental to psychotherapy, such as encountering painful feelings, supporting the claim that mental and bodily healing are often associated with shifts in psychophysiological states.
2. Invisible experiences - which consist of encounters with seemingly solid and freestanding realities coexisting with consensual reality. What are psychologists of religion to make of reports of aliens, helpers, guides, and other such creatures that seem to inhabit science fiction rather than our ordinary reality? But they seemed real to the volunteers. If we say that these are only constructions of the mind in altered states of consciousness, as in the case of dreams, how does our interpretation apply to reports of angels, gods, or goddesses in traditional religious contexts?
3. Transpersonal experiences - ones that constituted "the most sought-after and highly prized sessions" (p. 155) and included near-death and spiritual-mystical experiences. The near-death experiences often possessed elements that Raymond Moody described as typical of such experiences: the life review, the light at the end of a tunnel, and so on. Assuming that DMT is released by the pineal gland at the time of death (or near-death), Strassman expected that injected DMT would provide near-death experiences; however, only two subjects' sessions were dominated by NDE experiences. Is this a lead worth following up on?
Strassman's most interesting religious speculations concern the pineal gland and its possible role in spiritual experience. Combining modern brain research and Tibetan Buddhist teachings, Strassman speculates that the soul may enter the body on the 49th day of gestation, when the pineal gland first appears, and that the gland's release of DMT may be the physiological correlate of various kinds of spiritual events. If Strassman is correct, DMT opens a door for neurotheologians. Regrettably, his book lacks an index.
Saunders, Saunders, and Pauli's book In Search of the Ultimate High compiles reports of mostly illegal explorations into altered states with both psychedelics and MDMA. The book contains many first-person reports as ways of illustrating how using these drugs may fit into a spiritual quest and into the world's religious traditions. To use an older vocabulary, this work collects many witnesses for MDMA's spiritual effects. Although the book's popular appeal is to the psychedelic and rave cultures, several chapters may turn out to be treasure maps for specialists in new religious movements: Chapter 2, "A Different Kind of Church," Chapter 4, "Contemporary Shamanism for Westerners," and Chapter 6,"Rave Spirituality." A psychology of religion needs to encompass such experiences and include these groups if it is to be thorough.
Karl Jansen, author of Ketamine: Dreams and Realities, is also a psychiatrist. Some readers may remember him as the host-narrator of a BBC television special on "LSD, Psychedelic Science," which was broadcast in the United States on the A&E channel. In keeping with his professional concerns, Jensen recognizes ketamine's potentials for dependence and addiction, spending a chapter on each. Psychedelic veterans will recall John Lilly's brinkmanship bouts with ketamine, experiences that Jensen describes in "The Dark Side" section of his book.
Jensen also reports on spiritual aspects of ketamine use. Are our brains built to experience mystical states, as neurotheologians such as Andrew Newberg claim? Jensen notes that people who never thought about spirituality or the meaning of life reported having experiences that are consistent with Eastern teachings or the "insight that they can exist without their bodies as pure consciousness or pure spirit" (p.78). Sometimes these were given Christian interpretations, sometimes not. "Many of them said that as a result of their experience, they understand the Christian notion of the separation of the soul and the body, and that they now believe some part of them will continue to exist after death" (p. 78).
What to make of these three books and similar writings is the hard question. Are the experiences they report merely hallucinations? If so, we should consider the possibility that traditional descriptions of similar events may be hallucinations as well. Are these apparently spiritual experiences genuine? If not, might they still be useful teaching aids--not the real thing but still heuristic approximations? Did God design our brains and nervous systems so that we might follow the chemical path to spiritual growth? Who gets to decide the answers?
Considered together, DMT, Ketamine, and In Search of the Ultimate High exemplify approaches to an expanded paradigm for the psychology of religion. In addressing the question What are the religious implications of entheogens? the authors of these books point in new directions and illustrate new research models for exploring the mind and religion. There are more than enough questions here to keep scholars of religion busy for all of the new century and perhaps years beyond. Followers of Dogen's advice will not be disappointed. "We must always be disturbed by the truth." And it's worth adding: The truth shall set you free.
I have read many of Thomas Roberts' articles and edited books (http://www.csp.org/general/site_index.html: CSP Entheogen Book Series) and look forward to his forthcoming writings. His presentation at the Entheogenesis conference http://www.entheogenesis.ca/roberts.html at the end of this month is the presentation that stands out the most as one I'd like to see. His book reviews are groundbreaking in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion.
Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief
Andrew Newberg, Eugene D’Aquili, and Vince Rause
Stairways to Heaven: Drugs in American Religious History
Neurotheology and religiobotany *have* met and married, but not publically; the professional organizations are not admitting it. The fact that they have met is clear; the secret is given away, when at the academic Consciousness conferences, the talks on entheogens are filled to overflowing. Like divinity students and American meditation practitioners, the fact is, a large part of the audience was drawn to the field of Consciousness Studies as a direct result of their transcendent experience with psychoactives.
A brain-and-botany approach is a given for entheogenists. The problem lies in the attitudes and socio-political constraints restricting the writing and thinking of the "brain" camp; the entheogenic scholars of religion already are on board for a brain-based approach to religious theory.
My posting expressed my own thinking about conventional reviews of entheogen books and didn't actually connect with any of the content of your particular review, of _DMT_, _Ketamine_, and _In Search of the Ultimate High_. I was honing in on the fact that the review didn't explicitly refute the usual error; the review *permitted* the usual error to be made: the false dichotomy between entheogens and "traditional methods".
Your review didn't make the usual mistake of portraying entheogens as a novel simulation of vaguely assumed "traditional methods" -- but neither did it deny that default, mistaken received view. Your review doesn't explicitly make the usual mistake, but it still allows people to make the usual mistaken assumption.
I have had a strong affinity for paradigms; this involves paradigm detection, so I've developed a hypersensitivity to paradigms when reading. It doesn't surprise me to read your statements "Newberg ... investigated traditional paths to mystical experience; Fuller retraces untraditional ones. ... Fuller reports that entheogen-experiences seekers may have genuine mystical experiences. ... What if entheogens and meditation were combined? Might they strengthen each other?"
These statements tend to support the default, incorrect received view, that "traditional methods" of religious experiencing are something other than entheogenic, and that meditation has historical and effectual primacy over entheogens. For all of its relative progressiveness, when all is said and done, such statements end up sustaining the basic status quo, the dominant paradigm that denies that entheogens are by far the main wellspring of religion, myth, and perennial philosophy.
The simpler and more elegant paradigm is that external chemicals are the most ergonomic and historically influential, strongly predominant method of triggering internal chemical brain-state change.
The review of _DMT_, _Ketamine_, and _In Search of the Ultimate High_ avoids explicitly asserting the usual distorted history of religion which holds that the old (unspecified) methods of triggering the religious state of consciousness were not drug-based, and that the drug approach is new and can only be an artificial approximation. Even many entheogen scholars foster that topsy-turvy story.
I am concerned that the review still permits the strongly dominant current view to remain standing; I'd like to see explicit statements that contradict the current received view.
The overall problem today for entheogen book reviews is that there is, as the default starting point for assumptions, a strongly dominant conventional view and set of assuptions: that "traditional methods" in religion are not entheogenic. The question in evaluating a book review is, how much does the book review support the received view, and how much does the book review work to dismantle the default, received view? With that basic problem in mind, how much do the following passages condone or resist the default received view?
Of the various passages in the review, the following passages are the most variable in their potential interpretation: people who assume that the "traditional methods" in religion are non-entheogenic will likely read the passages one way, while those adhering to the maximal entheogen theory of religion will likely read the passages another way:
========= excerpts: =============
... these three books have some important ... truths for us. ... religion basically isn't about theology, philosophy, or beliefs. ... entheogens - psychoactive plants and chemicals used in religious contexts - may be pathways to the sacred Absolute ... the psychoactive sacramentals they propose are not the good-old traditional, tried-and-true peyote, mescaline ...
_In Search of the Ultimate High_ compiles ... first-person reports ... illustrating how using these drugs may fit into a spiritual quest and into the world's religious traditions. ... several chapters may turn out to be treasure maps for specialists in new religious movements: Chapter 2, "A Different Kind of Church," Chapter 4, "Contemporary Shamanism for Westerners," and Chapter 6,"Rave Spirituality." A psychology of religion needs to encompass such experiences and include these groups if it is to be thorough.
... these three books ... Are the experiences they report merely hallucinations? If so, we should consider the possibility that traditional descriptions of similar events may be hallucinations as well. Are these apparently spiritual experiences genuine? If not, might they still be useful teaching aids--not the real thing but still heuristic approximations?
... DMT, Ketamine, and In Search of the Ultimate High exemplify approaches to an expanded paradigm for the psychology of religion. In addressing the question What are the religious implications of entheogens? the authors of these books point in new directions and illustrate new research models for exploring the mind and religion. There are more than enough questions here to keep scholars of religion busy for all of the new century and perhaps years beyond.
These passages have a minor and subtle problem that is yet a foundational part of today's troublesome misunderstanding: they are ambiguous in terms of which interpretive paradigm they support:
o The default paradigm, which holds that entheogens are a deviant and minority simulation of the traditional religious methods.
o The maximal entheogen paradigm, which holds that entheogens are by far the main perennial wellspring and ongoing origin of religions and religious experience.
For example, overall, Huston Smith distinctly tends to support the default paradigm ("entheogens are a deviant and minority simulation of the traditional religious methods") -- he doesn't resist it, and his writing tends to support it. Commentary that doesn't deny the default paradigm effectively *supports* the default paradigm; it lets the bad habit of assumptions continue.
I am reducing the amount of attention I spend on the maximal entheogen theory of religion, having formulated an interpretive framework to my satisfaction that extends even to form the "maximal entheogen theory of the perennial philosophy". I need no more work directly on the question of *whether* entheogens are the perennial wellspring and origin of religion; they are such (according to this framework) but the issues now are, for example:
Exactly how much evidence, and what sort, is there for the maximal entheogen theory of religion?
What is the relation between entheogen use in Western esotericism and official Christianity?
How closely was official Christianity involved with use of entheogens during the Middle Ages?
How did entheogen use in Medieval/Renaissance Judaism mutually influence entheogen use in Medieval/Renaissance Christianities and Medieval/Renaissance esoteric systems such as Magic, Alchemy, and Astrology? What was their dynamic historical/cultural relationship?
Shouldn't we move the familiar idea of "all Alexandrian esoteric systems in 250 CE were entheogen-based and intermixed" to the Medieval/Renaissance era, against the usual Liberal history premised on an all-powerful Church shutting out all entheogenic enlightenment during a long Dark Ages?
Instead of saying "Christianity was completely intermingled with Hellenistic esoteric systems until the Catholic Church of 313 CE", shouldn't we instead say that "Christianity was completely intermingled with Western esoteric systems until the Protestant Reformation of 1517"?
The questions now are more like "How did the entheogenic basis all during religious history *work* in practice, specifically?" rather than the far-too-feeble question posed by the conventional modern paradigm, "Were entheogens present at the beginning of the major religions?"
With the maximal entheogen theory of perennial philosophy formulated as a distinctive and viable interpretive framework, we no longer need to use up all our time asking whether entheogens are to be found in the various religions -- they certainly are, and adhering to a paradigm that still holds that question in abeyance is inefficient and counterproductive.
Now the question is, *given* that entheogens are the perennial wellspring and origin of religion and of perennial philosophy and of myth, why isn't there an even greater amount of direct and explicit evidence for this than we have?
What exactly is the historical relation between entheogens and other, less ergonomic triggers for the mystic altered state? It's no longer a matter of questioning the basic hypothesis that entheogens were important: they are held in this framework to be ever the main wellspring of myth-religion-philosophy, and the questions appropriate for this framework are different questions about filling in the details, and about basic historical relationships between systems of esotericism and religion.
Along with discarding the non-entheogenic assumption that so defines the conventional modern view, we also need to discard many basic assumptions about the character of Christianity and Christendom, and Medieval and Renaissance culture. This amounts to a paradigm shift that extends well beyond the paradigm shift of finding entheogens at the beginning of religion with traces later.
When entheogens are found all throughout premodern religion-philosophy-myth to the extent proposed by the maximal entheogen theory of religion, this cannot but change an entire set of basic assumptions about the character of religious history.
Another profitable and required direction for investigation and theory-formation called for by the "maximal entheogen" research paradigm is the dynamics of use of and obscuring of entheogen use in Western and Eastern culture, applying clues from study of Eastern entheogen history to the questions about Western entheogen history, and vice versa -- forming a programme of comparative maximal-entheogen studies.
>As for the arguing then; until such time that I have reams of proof that messing with drugs is safe and beneficial on a large social scale for human evolution then I only have the thousands of reports which we get every day of drug abuse, social disorder, crime, and quite a few suicides or death by virtue of it. I will want a lot of convincing that it is both safe and beneficial to humanity - as of yet I do not have that proof. I want to read of many of their experiences and the long term outcome of its effects. At least I am open to that. Unlike some of the comments which I have seen here saying that natural experiences are virtually junk in comparison. Natural mystical experience does work and has beneficial effects on the recipients - prove to me that drugs do the same - I am all ears for learning true facts based on much data of many people.
These points all warrant serious, extended, in-depth debate and development, as a top priority for fields including religion, philosophy, and cognitive psychology. Theorists of religion could do nothing better than debating this key issue: the merits of drug-induced versus non-drug-induced mystical experience. Every point above, and every choice of wording in them, is highly debatable and contestable.
I'm still looking for the right way to glorify natural drug-based mystic experience and put down artificial, non-drug meditation techniques or the non-technique of waiting and waiting and waiting until a spontaneous mystical experience appears on rare occasion, if ever. I'm not sure whether I would maintain that non-drug meditation or spontaneous mystical experiences are virtually junk in comparison to what drug-induced mysticism is.
Such alternative techniques or non-techniques can be seen as the mind's entheogen-ready capabilities making slight noise to call attention to themselves. The tired cliche and fib is that drugs provide a glimpse of authentic, non-drug mysticism. The truth is, as so often, the opposite: non-drug mystical experiences are of little value in themselves, in comparison to the full, authentic drug-based mysticism that they serve to awaken one to.
After the debate at last became fully formed between non-drug meditation/contemplation versus drug-induced mysticism, a third camp now spings up, advocating spontaneous mysticism and disparaging and diminishing the two others. In my effort to debunk and vanquish entheogen-diminishing popular meditation-based spirituality, I omitted to consider as a third alternative, purely spontaneous mystic experience episodes.
The ancients wrote pseudo-history for various reasons. Orthodox promoted one of those pseudo-histories for various reasons. Orthodoxy became culturally dominant (but not all-dominant). Orthodoxy's pseudo-history became strongly, though not wholly, dominant.
Only the official history was permitted to be published. Alternative histories, even speculative histories, were burned and banned and the authors imprisoned, fined, punished, killed.
Critical thinking was made illegal. Devotional thinking was enforced. Devotional shared hyper-credulity was sanctioned and enforced by the officials that profitted from that history. This encouraged a kind of propaganda, telling only "whatever claims benefit the faith".
This effectively results in an elaborate conspiracy as an emergent result, in the same way as corporate-owned news tells a false "state of the world" every day using all technology available. Many livelihoods are on the bandwagon, with vested interest in telling a certain story, regardless of truth, reality, and plausibility.
We underestimate how strong and widespread the incentive is to join in the official construction of reality, the official story of what's going on and what happened in history, who we are and how we got here. There are systematic forces mitigating against discovering the truth, and instead encouraging people to conform to the consensus reality, no matter how totally implausible it is.
The driving goal of scholarship that reinforced the official story of the origin of Christianity wasn't coherence, explanatory power, or truth; the driving goal was to prop up the official worldview to undergird the ruling class, the power elite, the ruling elite: aristocrats and upper-class clergy.
That's always a problem of coercing the underclass majority, the ruled, to support the system as much as possible (see Chomsky's movie/book The Manufacture of Consent).
The official history *isn't* convincing, consistent, impressive, persuasive. It's dubious and implausible to the extreme, throughout; the only wonder is how they managed to make it seem as though such an implausible, frankly impossible history, could even be considered possible for a moment. So, another main ingredient was the attempt to force people from having any critical-thinking ability.
How did the conspiring scholars pull off this more or less elaborate false history? By the disconnection between the fictional world in a real world. By distortion of motives.
This was a more or less highly elaborate and central false history that faked the "scholars" -- that is, the apologist scholars; not scholars so much as a willfully self-deceiving army of apologists, and if you joined in that army and at least put on a show of believing that false, devotional history, you had a viable livelihood, and if you fought against that army, you'd be killed, with no viable livelihood.
We are not the first people to call into question the official Christian history of the origin of Christianity: rather, in this Web era, we are the first generation to be able to publish alternative history (that is, a history other than the official one) and still have a viable livelihood.
It's *not* that it has taken people 2000 years to come up with the view that the official history is bunk; rather, it's taken 2000 years for the publishing technology and culture to be able to support the publishing of such views.
The roots go back to unverifiable fictional convergences "virtual single historical individuals"; convergence-focused virtual individuals -- Paul is a "convergence-focused virtual individual"; same with Jesus, Ignatius, Peter, James, and John.
We could call these six convergence-focused virtual individuals "the six false pillars of the Church's official history", but a more general point is that the false convergence-focused creation of literalized virtual individuals -- the technique of literally personifying types of people as a single pseudo-person -- is *the* false pillar of the Church's official history.
When not in a generous mood, I'm inclined to say the ancients got what they deserved, by their withholding of knowledge and their delight in fabricating literalized founding figures for fun and enlightenment. They didn't know how dangerous such reification could be -- or perhaps they did know how powerful it could be; that's a major reason they did it: to wield power, reify and literalize your fictional, symbolic founding figures.
This is literalization as a strategy for garnering power and authority. Devotional false history wasn't used only by the official Church; the ancients enjoyed tall tales with literalized and hyper- reified founding figures, and why should we deny them that method and way of thinking? We escape into television and movies; they reified their fictional founding figures.
You might as well ask how it happened with others - "the Buddha" -- people who could very well and very likely be convergence-focused virtual individuals rather than actual individuals.
The question is "how are we able to construct such an elaborate and entrenched false history?" It's no harder than writing Star Trek episodes, an elaborate -- or actually, not so elaborate -- detailed fantasy world, but the false history of official Christianity is unreal throughout, all sepia-toned iconographic, blatantly devotional history.
False history is shared fantasy history -- shared false fantasy history. But how did such an elaborate and intricate hoax fly? An uncritical, willing-to-believe driven attitude (devotional desire to suspend disbelief" -- it's *not* consistent; it's not convincing, not elegant, not coherent and elaborate. Attitude "it's implausible but we want faith anyway".
What sort of "belief" and "consensus" have the "historians" had? Devotional history is nothing if not easy to please. Devotional hyper-gullibility, hyper-credulous, hyper-credulity. The false history was somewhat protected by the dark ages (500-1000) for awhile; few people knew much of anything about ancient history.
The question is why a serious challenge, alternate history, has taken so long -- official history was legally sanctioned; one literally was *forced* to proclaim the official history and the official paradigm; put to death for rejecting that official history paradigm -- as soon as scholars were permitted to *voice* scenarios other that the official story.
The official story was protected by selective publishing; only the histories and scholarly research which supported (or didn't hurt) the power-establishment were permitted to be published. Writing publicly a history other than the officially sanctioned history of the origin of Christianity is a political act, requiring political empowerment.
We are now, unlike earlier such as the 19th Century, politically empowered (including technologically empowered) for the first time, enough to allow us to publish a history that contradicts the official history, and retain our livelihood -- except for those whose current livelihood is dependent on confirming the official history, or official paradigm.
There is room in the official paradigm for a variety of ways of telling the official story, or variants of the official history. There are disputes between various versions of the official history; these are debates within the official paradigm of the historical origins of Christianity. Within the official paradigm, there are relatively radical and relatively conservative versions of official history.
Radical versions explore how far you can push the official paradigm without breaking out of it and becoming a serious threat to the official paradigm. The litmus test for whether you are upholding the official paradigm is that you must postulate no more than a couple underlying historical people underlying each member of the leading cast -- Jesus, Paul, Ignatius, Peter, James, and John.
The official paradigm of Christian origins doesn't require supernaturalism, but it does require a certain literalist and concretistic mode of thinking, a certain credulous stance of "accept each element of the literalist official paradigm, unless that element, considered in isolation, presents some clear reason to doubt that element -- and then, if that element is rejected, reject *only* that element, leaving all the others in place".
But don't question the overall paradigm, the overall conception of historical origins of Christianity. Don't question too far, too widely, too wholly; question *within* the official way of thinking about history; don't question the paradigm at an encompassing scale.
Interestingly, the official paradigm can even encourage and promote certain limited types of "rejecting" the official history: it's necessary that there be the *appearance* of people promoting a supposedly contradictory history, but in a way that actually falls within and therefore reinforces still more the official paradigm, the official style of thinking about history.
The swoon/Shroud/India theory of Jesus' death falls into this category, of a pseudo-alternative history of Christian origins that is "safe" and subtly encouraged because it reinforces the official paradigm, propping up the false impression that we have a narrow restricted range of possibilities, a range that comprises only the officially sanctioned type of rebellion, the officially sanctioned type of atheism and the officially sanctioned type of "alternative".
Like the Jesus Seminar, most "alternative histories" are effectively just pseudo-alternative histories that secretly reinforce the official paradigm. They don't actually involve a significant, deep change in the way we think about the origins of Christianity.
To some extent, the essentially same *type of thinking* about Christian origins is involved in the typical half-informed atheist mind, the liberal Historical Jesus researcher's mind (Funk), and the supernaturalist conservative mind (N. T. Wright).
The officially sanctioned atheist "alternative history", the officially sanctioned type of liberal Christian history, and the officially sanctioned type of conservative Christian history don't really present a direct serious threat to the official paradigm of Christian origins, only a "slippery slope" threat that could eventually lead to a serious threat.
The serious threat only is presented when a full-fledged compelling alternative (anti-official) paradigm, worldview, and way of thinking is put together. This could be considered a matter of degree, but more it's a matter of thresholds and assembling a fairly large number of revisions or alternative elements.
The swoon theory, when considered in isolation, only involves a few changes that *seem* fundamental and earth-shattering, but are no more so than the unearthed scriptures when they are considered in isolation.
It's only when you put together about 12 such alternative elements, that a large-scale genuinely alternative *paradigm* starts coming into focus -- a full-scale challenge to the whole official paradigm, not only down to the roots, but across the width.
The problem with most "alternative historians" is that they uncritically take for granted the majority of the elements, the worldview, the paradigm, while attempting to merely swap out one element in isolation. Instead, all alternative theories must be gathered together and integrated.
o One group of researchers within the official paradigm merely proposes to change one element: there was no Jesus.
o A separate group of researchers within the official paradigm concentrates solely on proposing to change one element: Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
o Another separate group of researchers within the official paradigm "makes a living" out of proposing to change one element: all the Pauline epistles are inauthentic (Detering, Conley).
o Another isolated group of researchers within the official paradigm proposes to change one element: some inner circle original Christians used entheogens such as Amanita (Heinrich, Ruck et al, Allegro).
o Other researchers concentrate all their attention on how heresy and direct primary religious experiencing was much more widespread and continuously ongoing than officially admitted in the history books that were approved, permitted and sanctioned to be published with the imprimatur of the censorious power-elite ruling authorities.
Not until you *integrate all* the alternative adjustments does a truly alternative paradigm start coming together. This requires adjusting each of the proposed alternative elements to enable them to fit smoothly together. It requires an alternative story of the politics of historical scholarship as well, showing the power- politics factors that engendered the official history as an emergent false story that scholars were actively promoted or forced to uphold.
Typical atheists and secular humanists don't contradict the official paradigm of Christian history; they instead reinforce that paradigm by not stepping truly outside it to erect a truly threatening alternative paradigm ("alternative" meaning not "minor" or "wacky", but simply "different than the official one").
Discovering and publishing a more real history of the origin of Christianity is now largely a political-cultural power struggle. Vested interest has given every benefit to the official false history, as totally implausible as such a history has always been, and has put every obstruction in the way of seeking a truer history of the origin of Christianity.
It would be ridiculous to say that "sexual climax has no value in itself, but its value must be measured entirely in terms of how it enhances daily life." It would be just as ridiculous in the same way to claim, as do the anti-entheogen meditation proponents, that "mystic climax has no value in itself, but its value must be measured entirely in terms of how it enhances daily life."
That altered-state disparaging attitude has not a leg to stand on, historically. It is a trite, uninformed, faddish, trendy New Age attitude, serving to excuse and cover for the gross inefficiency of meditation.
Reading about the history of world religions, I see no basis whatsoever for this "magazine Buddhism" attitude, and I will continue to push the edge as much as possible and condemn that attitude as a sorry, deceitful, pathetic excuse for the sham of today's meditation practice that falsely claims to be significantly effective at religious ends. It's an excuse just like the theology that tries to explain why the placebo Eucharist utterly and obviously fails to deliver the promised regeneration.
Pop Buddhism is more honest than official Christianity: when the placebo Eucharist obviously is a total failure at delivering its marketed promises, then officials still stick to making the same false promises.
In contrast, when non-entheogenic meditation obviously is a total or near-total failure at delivering its marketed promises, Buddhism withdraws those marketed promises, saying "We weren't really serious. Actually, all that meditation is for is just the enhancement of daily life, and you ought to really highly value and glorify this goal of enhancing daily life, infusing it with a feeling of spirituality combined with a few tenets about transcendent oneness, grace, and compassion. You ought to value the enhancement of daily life far more than the intense mystic state and metaphysical enlightenment."
That portrayal of the purpose of meditation, however, is disconfirmed by the history of religions, and shown up as the deceitful excuse and substitute that it is.
I hear what the entheogen-positive meditationists are saying in praise of popular meditation, and what the daily-spirituality focused meditationists or magazine Buddhists are saying in praise of elevating daily life in contrast to experiencing transcendent enlightenment. But I read an entirely different emphasis in history of religions. The books tell a story that contradicts today's popular view of meditation as being centered on the goal of enhancing daily life.
The vast majority of the books confirm the view I've advocated: the real and main goal of meditation is to induce the intense mystic altered state and after some time lead to enlightenment and mental worldmodel transformation, and to help others *not* in their daily life nearly so much as in their own reproducing of the same mystic altered state and metaphysical or transformative enlightenment.
The books are filled with value expression such as "the goal is the vision of God" or "the goal is enlightenment about reality" -- too bad for magazine Buddhism and pop meditation, but the books do *not* put any emphasis or priority on "enhancing daily life" as the purpose and goal of meditation. Such secular meditation might be a wonderful thing, but it is definitely a different creature than the view of meditation reported in the history of world religions and world mysticism.
I'm not against non-entheogenic meditation of "secular spirituality" meditation for elevating daily life. I'm firmly against the false and harmful claim that the main purpose, goal, and value of meditation is secular -- that is, the enhancement of daily life. All the scholarly literature leads to the conclusion that in fact the main purpose of meditation is mystic enlightenment about metaphysical reality, including the nature of personal agency.
The improvement of mundane daily life is more like a side-effect of enlightenment or of spiritual practice, or a method to assist spiritual enlightenment. The story consistently reflected in the books is that (if we have to subsume one under the other) the purpose of daily life is to support metaphysical enlightenment, rather than the other way around; they don't support the faddish claim that the purpose of metaphysical enlightenment is to support daily life.
Reconciling the theory of "eras of collective psychological evolution" with the history of use or suppression of entheogens. Critique of 20th-century Psychology.
Reconciling Ken Wilber's 3 eras of collective psychological evolution with the history of entheogen use
My critique of Wilber's theory of psychospiritual collective evolution: there's some truth in Wilber's idea that humanity is developing from classic-era pre-ego consciousness, through a pre-modern and modern egoic era, to a postmodern ego-transcendent era. However, his model is based too much on modern Psychology, and too little on entheogens.
The most real, main, relevant, important reason why the classic/Hellenistic era was pre-egoic or non-egoic was because their culture was based on entheogens, which reveal ego to be merely a useful illusion. The real, primary reason why the pre-modern and modern era was egoic was because of the loss (more or less) of entheogens -- every adult remained in the childish, pre-initiated mental worldmodel, forming a whole culture upon this delusion.
The real, primary reason why postmodernity will be ego-transcendent is because of the rediscovery of entheogens. These 3 stages are characterized in the essay "The Age of Entheogens, The Pharmacratic Inquisition, and The Entheogenic Reformation" in the book
The Age of Entheogens & the Angel's Dictionary
Wilber's notion that the ancients had a "different psychological consciousness" is true, but the reason isn't some spooky 20th Century type of Psychology theory -- they had a different way of thinking, mainly because they used entheogens, at the basis of their culture. The main error of Psychology is that it too often assumes the ordinary state of consciousness, or states of consciousness other than the mystic state, and doesn't put nearly enough central emphasis on the intense mystic altered state.
The ancients -- or pre-moderns -- based or would have based their theory of psychology first on the mystic state, in a way that puts down the ordinary state of consciousness. The emphasis of Psychology on dreams is a debased version of the proper emphasis on the intense mystic altered state and its phenomena and its alteration of the mind's mental worldmodel.