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We quickly found that our individual attitudes characterized our respective peoples. Then we began gathering information, at first slowly, haphazardly, intermittently. The Russian poets and novelists filled their writings with mushrooms, always in a loving context.

The Psychedelic Eleusinian Mysteries of Ancient Greece

It would seem to a stranger that every Russian poet composes verses on mushroom-gathering almost as a rite of passage to qualify for mature rating! In English the silence of many writers about mushrooms is deafening: Chaucer and Milton never mention them, the others seldom. Lawrence and Emily Dickinson, "mushroom" and "toadstool" are unpleasant, even disgusting epithets. Our poets when they do mention them link them to decay and death. In all our inquiries and travels we looked, not to the erudite, but to the humble and illiterate peasants as our most cherished informants. We explored their knowledge of mushrooms and the uses to which they put them.

We were careful also to take the flavor of the scabrous and erotic vocabularies often neglected by lexicographers. We examined the common names for mushrooms in all these cultures, seeking the fossil metaphors hiding in their etymologies, to discover what those metaphors expressed, whether a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward our earthy creatures. A little thing, some of you may say, this difference in emotional attitude toward wild mushrooms.

But my wife and I did not think so, and we devoted most of our leisure hours for decades to dissecting it, defining it, and tracing it to its origin. Such discoveries as we have made, including the rediscovery of the religious role for the hallucinogenic mushrooms of Mexico, can be laid to our preoccupation with that cultural rift between my wife and me, between our respective peoples, between the mycophilia and mycophobia words that we devised for our two attitudes that divide the Indo-European peoples into two camps.

If this hypothesis of ours be wrong, then it must have been a singular false hypothesis to have borne the fruit that it has. But it is not wrong. Thanks to the immense strides made in the study of the human psyche in this century, we are all now aware that deep-seated emotional attitudes acquired in early life are of profound importance. I suggest that when such traits betoken the attitudes of whole tribes or peoples, when those traits have remained unaltered throughout recorded history, and especially when they differ from one people to another neighboring people, then you are face to face with a phenomenon of deepest cultural implications, whose primal cause is to be discovered only in the well-springs of cultural history.

Our card files and correspondence kept expanding and in the end, sometime in the early 's, we sat down, Tina and I, and asked ourselves what we were going to do with all our data. We decided to write a book, but there were so many lacunae in our evidence that it would be years before we could put words to paper. In our conversations at that time we found that we had been thinking along the same lines, afraid to express our thoughts even to each other: they were too fantastic.

We had both come to discern a period long long ago, long before our ancestors knew how to write, when those ancestors must have regarded a mushroom as a divinity or quasi-divinity. We knew not which mushroom s nor why. In the days of Early Man his whole world was shot through with religious feeling and the unseen powers held him in thrall.

Rupert Sheldrake on The Eleusinian Mysteries and The Sense of Being Stared at

Our sacred "mushroom" must have been wondrous indeed, evoking awe and adoration, fear, yes, even terror. When that early cult gave way to new religions and to novel ways emerging with a literate culture, the emotions aroused by the old cult would survive, truncated from their roots.

In one area the fear and terror would live on, either of a particular mushroom as in the case of A. Here would lie the explanation of the mycophobia vs. Through tabu, "toadstool" lost its focus and came to hover over the whole of the mushroom tribe that the mycophobe shuns. It was in Mexico that our pursuit of a hypothetical sacred mushroom first achieved its goal. On 19 September we received in the post two letters from Europe: one from Robert Graves enclosing a cutting from a pharmaceutical journal in which there were quotations from Richard Evans Schultes, who in turn cited a number of with century Spanish friars telling of a strange mushroom cult among the Indians of Mesoamerica; the second from Giovanni Mardersteig, our printer in Verona, sending us his sketch of a curious archaeological artifact from Mesoamerica.

It was exhibited in the Rietberg Museum of Zurich. The artifact was of stone, about a foot high, obviously a mushroom, with a radiant being carved on the stem or what mycologists call the stipe. Here was perhaps the very cult we were seeking, well within our reach. Earlier we had resolved that we would avoid the New World and Africa in our inquiries: the world was too large and our hands were full with Eurasia. But in a trice we changed our minds and the course of our studies, and we concentrated on Mexico and Guatemala. We had been postulating a wild mushroom as a focus of religious devotion, a fantastic surmise.

What Was Kykeon?

Now here it was on our doorstep. All that winter we went racing through the texts of the 16th century Spanish friars, and what extraordinary narratives they give us! We flew down to Mexico in that summer of and for many rainy seasons thereafter. With wonderful cooperation from everyone in that country, on the night of June we finally made our breakthrough: my photographer and friend Allan Richardson and I participated with our Indian friends in a midnight agape conducted by a shaman of extraordinary quality. This was the first time on record that anyone of the alien race had shared in such a communion.

It was a soul-shattering experience. The wild surmise that we had dared to postulate in a whisper to each other years before was at last vindicated. And now, nearly a quarter of a century later, we are prepared to offer another mushroom, Claviceps purpurea, as holding the secret to the Eleusinian Mysteries. That there might be a common denominator between the Mexican mushroom Mystery and the Mystery of Eleusis had struck me at once. They both aroused an overwhelming sense of awe, of wonder. I will leave to Professor Ruck the discussion of Eleusis but will quote one ancient author, Aristides the Rhetor, who in the 2nd century A.

At what place in the world have more miraculous tidings been sung, and where have the dromena called forth greater emotion, where has there been greater rivalry between seeing and hearing? This description point by point tallies with the effect on the initiate of the Mesoamerican mushroom rite, even to the "rivalry" between seeing and hearing. For the sights that one sees assume rhythmical contours, and the singing of the shaman seems to take on visible and colorful shapes. There seems to have been a saying among the Greeks that mushrooms were the "food of the Gods", broma theon , and Porphyrius is quoted as having called them "nurslings of the Gods", theotrophos.


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The Greeks of the classic period were mycophobes. Was this not because their ancestors had felt that the whole fungal tribe was infected "by attraction" with the holiness of the sacred mushroom, and that mushrooms were therefore to be avoided by mortal men?

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Are we not dealing with what was in origin a religious tabu? I would not be understood as contending that only these alkaloids wherever found in nature bring about visions and ecstasy. Clearly some poets and prophets and many mystics and ascetics seem to have enjoyed ecstatic visions that answer the requirements of the ancient Mysteries and that duplicate the mushroom agape of Mexico.

I do not suggest that St. John of Patmos ate mushrooms in order to write the Book of the Revelation.


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  • Yet the succession of images in his Vision, so clearly seen but such a phantasmagoria, means for me that he was in the same state as one bemushroomed. Nor do I suggest for a moment that William Blake knew the mushroom when he wrote this telling account of the clarity of "vision": The Prophets describe what they saw in Vision as real and existing men, whom they saw with their imaginative and immortal organs; the Apostles the same; the clearer the organ the more distinct the object. A Spirit and a Vision are not, as the modern philosophy supposes, a cloudy vapour, or a nothing: they are organized and minutely articulated beyond all that the mortal and perishing nature can produce.

    He who does not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and in stronger and better light than his perishing eye can see, does not imagine at all. From The Writings of William Blake, ed. III, p. The advantage of the mushroom is that it puts many, if not everyone, within reach of this state without having to suffer the mortifications of Blake and St.

    It permits you to see, more clearly than our perishing mortal eye can see, vistas beyond the horizons of this life, to travel backwards and forwards in time, to enter other planes of existence, even as the Indians say to know God. It is hardly surprising that your emotions are profoundly affected, and you feel that an indissoluble bond unites you with the others who have shared with you in the sacred agape.

    Ben Sessa of the University of Bristol. In both projects, the once-forbidden psychoactive substance will be legally administered to promote healing and emotional health. A few capsules, each containing approximately 0. With one or more skilled healers present, the sessions, both psychedelic and non-psychedelic, are carefully supported and guided. This process, the intelligent management of psychedelic Set and Setting to bring about transcendence and togetherness, is exactly what a shaman does, and indeed, is designed to create an exact replication of the transformative, healing experience which the Mystery rites delivered to those who participated in them in Eleusis.

    State recognition of the proven safety and power of these substances to heal those damaged by war and abuse in controlled conditions , is a defining moment. With the exception of the first wave of research into psychedelics following the discovery of LSD, this return is the first time since the days of the Eleusinian mysteries that mainstream culture has openly embraced the healing and re-birthing potential of the psychedelic journey. Ancient wisdom is being re-embraced. Our culture may finally be intelligent enough to appreciate the benefits of these medicines for human well-being and spirituality.

    Henryk Siemiradzki. Phryne in Eleusus It is argued that kykeon was a psychedelic substance used in these ancient Greek mysteries. By Julian Vayne and Rosalind Stone. The information presented in this article is the opinion of the authors and not Ancient Origins. Ancient Origins does not recommend the recreational use of psychedelic drugs, nor medical use, unless under the supervision of a professional.

    Rosalind Stone is a journalist and researcher with Read More.


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