From: jls@yoda.Rational.COM (Jim Showalter)
Subject: Drugs as Origin of Religion
Keywords: addiction drugs religion legalization
Date: 17 Feb 91 22:20:12 GMT
>Traditional society (i.e.,
>Christian America) is VERY threatened by psychoactive drugs -- often
>equating them with Satan -- and it is easy to see why. What if
>the chemical/neurological basis of religious belief can be isolated
>AND controlled? What if one could take a pill and all of that
>ossified network of catechisms and ritual could be rendered plastic
>again, thus allowing one's brain to develop all new patterns?
1) There are over 3,500 psychoactive plants in the New World alone.
There are also numerous psychoactive animals, from bufotene-
secreting toads to tetrodotoxin-containing puffer fish.
2) Primitive humans were hunter-gatherers.
3) From #1+2 above, we can conclude that it was not so much a matter
of primitive humans having to grope around to locate psychoactive
plants and animals as it was having to work hard to AVOID accidentally
ingesting them--the landscape was literally strewn with little landmines of
one form or another!
4) The effect of psychoactive agents on the human brain is often to
produce a state of religious ecstasy.
5) Virtually every "primitive" culture studied in the New World uses
psychoactive plants and/or animals in its religious rituals (e.g.
peyote cults in America, sweat lodges using marijuana as the source
for the smoke, DMT users in the Amazon, Haitian voodoo practioners, etc).
6) Mystery cults in ancient Greece consumed a beverage containing
ergot that, not surprisingly, resulted in seizures and visions.
7) The Central American indians' name for psilocybin mushrooms was
"teonanacatl", literally "flesh of the gods".
8) References to "soma" in ancient Vedic religious texts have been
convincingly linked to the consumption of psychoactive mushrooms.
This is further bolstered by the presence--at considerably higher
than background level concentrations--of preserved spores of
psychoactive mushrooms in ancient temples.
9) "Witches" during the middle ages were actually expert herbalists
who used brews containing henbane, belladonna, datura, and other
psychoactives, possibly even including hallucinogenic toads (e.g.
"skin of frog"...).
And so forth. Again and again the relationship between religion and
psychoactives is obvious. And even in those cases where drugs are not
used, esoteric techniques/rituals that induce brain chemistry changes
ARE used: fasting, whirling (a la Dervishes), pain (a la the Kavandi
of India, the Hopi Sun Dance), chanting, sensory deprivation (sitting
in a cave), conscious dreaming, etc.
In short, Showalter's theory of the origin of religion is that the
initial founders of a given religion got higher than a fucking kite at
some point, and then tried to tell people about it.
Predictably, what they said often sounds like complete gibberish.
(Try reading translations of early Vedic writings sometime!) But,
place what they said in the context of an acid trip or similar
experience, and it suddenly makes a lot more sense ("the light of
all lights manifesting inside the wheel of all wheels", "the eternal
dance of all dances, interpenetrating, creating and destroying
simultaneously" blah blah blah).
My favorite example of this is a statue on my mantlepiece of one of
those many-armed Hindu dancers. Looked at in the wrong context, a person
could piss away an entire academic career trying to explain the reason
for the multiple arms. Put in the context of an acid trip, however, the arms
become trails, and the statue becomes the FINEST PIECE OF HALLUCINOGENIC
ART IN HISTORY: a three dimensional representation of a four dimensional
event--a geodesic of acid trails preserved in bronze like a multiple-
frame overlay of movie film.
For those of you who know what trails look like, check out one of these
statues next time you see one in a store, and imagine watching on acid
someone sweeping their arms from top to bottom in a circle... see what
Now, some may argue that this is all well and good, but that THEIR religion
wasn't just caused by some potheads a couple thousand years ago, but is, instead
revealed truth from whatever God du jour they happen to believe in.
Yeah, right. As far as I'm concerned, the only difference between a modern
religion that doesn't use drugs in its ceremonies and a more "primitive"
religion that does employ drugs is TIME. It seems to be the case that as
time goes on, what started out as a fresh new religion (e.g. a "cult"
or "heresy") becomes increasingly orthodox and stale. First the drugs are
forbidden for all but the priests/shamans of the religion. Then, at some
point, the use of the drugs fizzles out completely, to be replaced by
dessicated and pointless rituals from which nobody can get high on a bet.
(There are, as with so many things, always exceptions: there are still
orders of monks even within the Catholic church who practice sensory
deprivation [it's DARK in those monasteries] and extended chanting to achieve
a state of religious ecstasy, and one can find similar examples in other
religions. But these are hardly the norm.)
This is sad, since it seems to me it is every person's birthright to
achieve a state of religious ecstasy if they want to.
Anyway, given all of the above, it is not at all surprising to me that
established religions are the most vocal opponents of psychoactives.
Of COURSE a high priest in an established religion would feel threatened
by a simple little plant that allows just anybody to talk to god. Kind
of screws up the monopoly, yes? In other words, YOU can't experience
a transport of religious ecstasy--YOU'RE not QUALIFIED!
(There was a joke going around in the 60's
that when Time magazine asked on its cover "Is God Dead?" they just weren't
looking in the right places--had they asked the average street person in
Haight-Ashbury they'd probably have gotten "God? Naw, he's not dead: I
smoked some hash with him last Tuesday. What a cool dude".)
When the conquistadors landed in Central America, the priests
accompanying them were horrified because when they tried to convey to
the "savages" the wonders of the Christian god they got NOWHERE because
the people they were talking to were eating peyote and mushrooms and
seeing THEIR God(s) just fine--and in 4 dimensions with Dolby surround
sound and full color, thank you very much, rather than some sterile
bullshit in a book. This did NOT sit well with the priests, and they
launched a war on drugs that makes Bush & Co's current assault on the
Bill of Rights look downright civilized in comparison (at least Bush
et al aren't skinning pot smokers alive, or gouging out their eyes with
flaming pokers, or crushing their limbs with boulders...at least not
***** DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are my own. Duh. Like you'd
ever be able to find a company (or, for that matter, very many people) with
opinions like mine.
-- "When I want your opinion, I'll beat it out of you."