"In his search for food, early man tried all kinds of plants. Some nourished him, some, he found cured his ills, and some killed him. Few, to his surprise, had strange effects on his mind and body, seeming to carry him onto other worlds. We call these plants hallucinogens, because they distort the senses and usually produce hallucinations--experiences that depart from reality. Although most hallucinations are visual, they may also involve the senses of hearing, touch, smell, or taste--and occasionally several senses simultaneously..."
The compounds that we call "hallucinogenic" are drugs that modify the function of the central nervous system by altering the input from the senses and changing the mood and behavior of the individual. These short term effects have caused some concern among our parents and leaders, but it is the long term influence that we will consider here.
"In the history of mankind, hallucinogens have probably been the most important of all the narcotics. Their fantastic effects made them sacred to primitive man and may even have been responsible for suggesting to him the idea of deity."
Dr. Richard Evan Schultes was no drug crazed hippy, but a respected Harvard professor with impeccable credentials. It was apparent to Dr. Schultes that hallucinogens were deeply involved in early religions. He also understood that to broadcast such views could be hazardous to one's career. Hence he confined his revolutionary discovery to one line in a popular guide to plant identification rather than publishing in some academic journal. When etymologist John Allegro went public with his discoveries linking early Christianity to hallucinogenic mushrooms, his career was ruined. It is indeed a subject that can cause deep emotional reaction.
That was one of the early tipoffs that something important was going on here. There were such extreme reactions to inquiries about mushrooms that researchers had to come up with terms to describe mushroom haters and lovers. Whole cultures can be categorized by their view as to whether certain mushrooms are considered food or poison.
Besides religion, the study involves ritual cannibalism, sex, and behavior modification. All of this is dangerous territory and may cause strong emotional reactions in the reader. If you DO have an emotional reaction to any of this material, you should sit very still, breath deeply and try to relax. Try to identify your feelings. Are you feeling anger? Frustration? Fear? Hatred? If these feelings are strong, you may want to quit reading. But please don't be mad at me. I'm just telling it like I see it.
A certain amount of denial is necessary for survival in these troubling times. In order to function we all need a solid emotional state from which to operate. Like it or not, our basic beliefs, our "World View", is a major component of said state. Messing with your core beliefs can be tricky business. It hurts. It can cause damage; but so can ignoring the Truth. The trick is to use denial to keep your peace of mind, being careful not to be crushed by the Truth when it lands on you.
Our beliefs are what holds us together. When the leaders we trust turn out to be liars, thieves and murders, it can shake our confidence and certainly be painful. The feeling of betrayal can lead to nearly uncontrollable anger. When our Gods betray us, it may be too much for some people to bear. Some folks might be better off if they just pass on this material and stick to their beliefs. Proceed at your own risk. However, if you are a seeker, and serious about "meaning of life" issues, you can't afford to turn back now.
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1 Schultes, Hallucinogenic Plants, Golden Press, New York, 1976, p 5.
2 Schultes, Hallucinogenic Plants, Golden Press, New York, 1976, p 5.