Subject: Drugs as Origin of Religion Keywords: addiction drugs religion legalization Date:

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

From: jls@yoda.Rational.COM (Jim Showalter) Subject: Drugs as Origin of Religion Keywords: addiction drugs religion legalization Message-ID: 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 I mean? 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 YET). -- ***** 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."

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank