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Platonists and psychedelics/entheogens?

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  • John Uebersax
    Here is a question: is there evidence of any kind that Platonists, Neoplatonists -- or, for that matter, other Greek philosophers after, say, the time of
    Message 1 of 10 , Sep 23, 2008
      Here is a question: is there evidence of any kind that Platonists,
      Neoplatonists -- or, for that matter, other Greek philosophers after,
      say, the time of Plato -- knew of the use of 'entheogenic' or
      psychedelic substances? Is use of these substances ever mentioned at
      all, whether positively, disparagingly, or obliquely?

      Apparently in the Mediterranean/Near-East culture there were a dozen
      or more psychoactive substances in use, including opium, cannabis, and
      mandrake -- at least for medicinal purposes. Some people have gone so
      far as to speculate that the drink given at Eleusis contained a
      natural LSD analogue, though that seems like an extravagant claim.
      I've heard various stories about the Delphic oracles working under the
      influence of vapors or incenses.

      Surely this wouldn't have been an entirely unfamiliar idea to Middle
      Platonists or Neoplatonists.

      The question becomes interesting almost no matter how you look at it.
      Was this a taboo subject? Or perhaps were people in those times
      simply not much interested in investigating the visionary properties
      of such substances?
    • Khem Caigan
      ... Hi, John ~ The quick answer is, there is no evidence that is not heavily disputed. The very idea that the founders of Western Civilization might
      Message 2 of 10 , Sep 24, 2008
        John Uebersax doth schreibble :
        >
        > Here is a question: is there evidence of any kind that Platonists,
        > Neoplatonists -- or, for that matter, other Greek philosophers after,
        > say, the time of Plato -- knew of the use of 'entheogenic' or
        > psychedelic substances? Is use of these substances ever mentioned at
        > all, whether positively, disparagingly, or obliquely?
        <SNIPS>

        Hi, John ~


        The quick answer is, there is no evidence that is not
        heavily disputed. The very idea that the founders of
        Western Civilization might have employed psychedelics
        is anathema.

        There is a small body of literature along these lines,
        however, starting with *Road to Eleusis*, which I am told
        is being re-issued sometime later this year by Richard
        Grossinger's North Atlantic Press.

        Here are a few titles that you might find useful :

        Persephone's Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of Religion
        by R. Gordon Wasson, Stella Kramrisch, Carl Ruck, Jonathan
        Ott, Yale University Press, 1992.

        The Apples of Apollo: Pagan and Christian Mysteries of the
        Eucharist
        by Carl A. P. Ruck, Clark Heinrich, Blaise D. Staples,
        Carolina Academic Press, 2000.

        Sacred Mushrooms: Secrets of Eleusis
        by Carl A. P. Ruck
        Ronin Publishing, 2006.

        The Hidden World: Survival of Pagan Shamanic Themes in
        European Fairytales
        by Carl A.P. Ruck, Blaise Daniel Staples, Jose Alfredo
        Gonzalez Celdran, Mark Alwin Hoffman
        Carolina Academic Press, 2007.

        The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries
        by R. Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann, Carl A. P. Ruck, Huston
        Smith (first edition - 1978)
        North Atlantic Books, 2008 <forthcoming>.

        You can find Georg Luck's review of *The Road to Eleusis*
        in The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 122, No. 1,
        Spring, 2001, pages 135-138.

        Here is an excerpt from his review :

        " The first edition of this book was published in 1978 by
        Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and did not receive much
        attention.

        Among the few reviews listed in L'Annee Philologique, the
        one by Michael Jameson (CW 73 [1979]: 197 ff.) was rather
        guarded but certainly not as negative as that by P. Walcot
        (G&R 26 [1979]: 105). I have been unable to consult the
        others. The prestigious Insel-Verlag (Frankfurt am Main,
        1984) brought out a German translation.

        Walter Burkert's skepticism (Ancient Mystery Cults
        [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987]) probably
        reflected the attitude of other scholars, while Carlo
        Ginzburg (Ecstasies [Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin Books,
        1991]) kept an open mind.

        The only enthusiastic endorsement that I know of (thanks to
        the kindness of Robert Forte) appeared in the Mexican review
        Vuelta (28 [March 1979]: 16-21), directed at that time by
        Octavio Paz; it was written by his friend, Jaime Garcia
        Terres, Hellenist, ambassador, and poet, and it is well
        worth reading along with the book, because it is beautifully
        written and adds new perspectives.

        Otherwise, there was the kind of embarrassed silence which
        often means that the profession is uncomfortable with a
        revolutionary idea. "


        Cors in Manu Domine,


        ~ Khem Caigan
        <Khem@...>
      • Curt Steinmetz
        As you say some people consider it likely that at least some of the Mystery Religions (Eleusis in particular) used entheogens. Plato has Socrates make a very
        Message 3 of 10 , Sep 24, 2008
          As you say some people consider it likely that at least some of the
          "Mystery Religions" (Eleusis in particular) used entheogens. Plato has
          Socrates make a very interesting reference to the Eleusinian Mysteries
          in the Meno - to the effect that "anamnesis" is much easier to
          understand for those who are initiated in those Mysteries.

          It would certainly help to explain certain passages in the Phaedo and
          the Phaedrus - and most of the Timaeus. What would the Greek be for "wow
          ... triangles .... triangles everywhere, man ....."? But it is safe to
          assume that any philosophers who were doing anything of this sort did
          not publicize it.

          A new paperback edition of "The Road to Eleusis" is due out in November,
          btw:
          http://www.amazon.com/Road-Eleusis-Unveiling-Secret-Mysteries/dp/1556437528/ref=ed_oe_p

          Curt Steinmetz

          John Uebersax wrote:
          > Here is a question: is there evidence of any kind that Platonists,
          > Neoplatonists -- or, for that matter, other Greek philosophers after,
          > say, the time of Plato -- knew of the use of 'entheogenic' or
          > psychedelic substances? Is use of these substances ever mentioned at
          > all, whether positively, disparagingly, or obliquely?
          >
          > Apparently in the Mediterranean/Near-East culture there were a dozen
          > or more psychoactive substances in use, including opium, cannabis, and
          > mandrake -- at least for medicinal purposes. Some people have gone so
          > far as to speculate that the drink given at Eleusis contained a
          > natural LSD analogue, though that seems like an extravagant claim.
          > I've heard various stories about the Delphic oracles working under the
          > influence of vapors or incenses.
          >
          > Surely this wouldn't have been an entirely unfamiliar idea to Middle
          > Platonists or Neoplatonists.
          >
          > The question becomes interesting almost no matter how you look at it.
          > Was this a taboo subject? Or perhaps were people in those times
          > simply not much interested in investigating the visionary properties
          > of such substances?
          >
          >
          > ------------------------------------
          >
          > Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
          >
        • christoph rhein
          Yes indeed wo know substance used as psychedelic drugs. Papaver somniferum, etc. are used during the whole history of human. But I think no platonist would
          Message 4 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
            Yes indeed wo know substance used as psychedelic drugs. Papaver somniferum, etc. are used during the whole history of human.
            But I think no platonist would have used drugs. They didn`t want to be addicted to "Hylé". They have waited for the intuition of the One and therefore they used their mind, their soul, their knowledge.
            But on the other hand, there is quite a big evidence that drugs, vapores are used during ceremonies in Eleusis and Delphi. All I heard in my philologic studies on Greek and Roman Medicine there is no doubt the hellenistic and classical period used psychodelic drugs. Traces you can see in Lucans "Pharsalia", or Senecas "Medea". And some evidence is found on the site of the temple of Isis recently found in Mainz, that cursing people asked for psychedelic drugs against their enemies.
             
            That is I can say.
             
            Your Chris

            --- John Uebersax <john.uebersax@...> schrieb am Di, 23.9.2008:

            Von: John Uebersax <john.uebersax@...>
            Betreff: [neoplatonism] Platonists and psychedelics/entheogens?
            An: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
            Datum: Dienstag, 23. September 2008, 20:38






            Here is a question: is there evidence of any kind that Platonists,
            Neoplatonists -- or, for that matter, other Greek philosophers after,
            say, the time of Plato -- knew of the use of 'entheogenic' or
            psychedelic substances? Is use of these substances ever mentioned at
            all, whether positively, disparagingly, or obliquely?

            Apparently in the Mediterranean/ Near-East culture there were a dozen
            or more psychoactive substances in use, including opium, cannabis, and
            mandrake -- at least for medicinal purposes. Some people have gone so
            far as to speculate that the drink given at Eleusis contained a
            natural LSD analogue, though that seems like an extravagant claim.
            I've heard various stories about the Delphic oracles working under the
            influence of vapors or incenses.

            Surely this wouldn't have been an entirely unfamiliar idea to Middle
            Platonists or Neoplatonists.

            The question becomes interesting almost no matter how you look at it.
            Was this a taboo subject? Or perhaps were people in those times
            simply not much interested in investigating the visionary properties
            of such substances?















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            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Michael Plaisance
            Yasou, I would tend to agree that psychedelics were used in ancient times, especially during initiations into the mysteries.  The important thing to remember
            Message 5 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
              Yasou,

              I would tend to agree that psychedelics were used in ancient times, especially during initiations into the mysteries.  The important thing to remember when considering this, is that the view of these substances were much different in ancient times than they are today.  Just as drunkeness was viewed as a form of entheistic possession by the god Dionysus, so were psychedelics viewed as a form of divine communication.  Today, we tend to think in terms of science and medicine and not divine communion.  Anything which could loosen the bonds of the conscious mind, could be used as a way to open a channel between the divine and the human soul. 

              If you want to experiment with something of this nature, burn Bay Laurel leaves on a charcoal within a small space and breath in the smoke - as was done by the Pythia.  You will quickly notice a definite, yet subtle shift in the conscious perception of the world around you.  If you combine this with chewing on fresh bay leaves the effect is even more pronounced.  I've never experimented with the inhalation of ethylene, which is believed to be the vapor that arose from the Delphic Chasm, but my understanding is that it creates a light-headed feeling which resembles a feeling of flying.

              Do I think that the Neoplatonists used psychedelics to acheive understanding of the One.  No, I do not think they did.  The use of these substances was not recreational and was considered sacred and therefore not something to be indulged in very often.  These are of course only my opinions, which are based on personal experience and research. 

              Kirios Museos and Kiria Gypsy Duarchy-Church of Thessaly._,___





















              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Marilynn Lawrence Moore
              Is that why we feel drugged after a nice Indian buffet? ... From: Michael Plaisance If you want to experiment with something of
              Message 6 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
                Is that why we feel drugged after a nice Indian buffet?

                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "Michael Plaisance" <kiriosmuseos1313@...>


                If you want to experiment with something of this nature, burn Bay Laurel
                leaves on a charcoal within a small space and breath in the smoke - as was
                done by the Pythia. You will quickly notice a definite, yet subtle shift in
                the conscious perception of the world around you. If you combine this with
                chewing on fresh bay leaves the effect is even more pronounced.

















                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Bradley Skene
                I should have doubts that figures like Plotinus or Porphyry, who, as Porphyry said, strictly speaking had no use for even ordinary religious ritual because
                Message 7 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
                  I should have doubts that figures like Plotinus or Porphyry, who, as
                  Porphyry said, strictly speaking had no use for even ordinary religious
                  ritual because they were material and appealed to spiritual entities that
                  were implicated in matter (*de abst*. 2; *V. Plot* 10), would have any
                  interested in visions that depended upon the sue of drugs. One could more
                  easily imagine Iamblichus treating some sort of intoxicating substance as a
                  theurgic *symbolon*, but I will leave discussion of that to a Iamblichus
                  expert, I merely suggest it as something that is more possible.

                  The use of such drugs in traditional Greek ritual is often suggested, that
                  the vision at Eleusis or some such depended on drugs, but there is really
                  little evidence for it. A drink was part of the ritual at Eleusis, but to
                  suggest on no further grounds that it was a hallucinogen, is like saying
                  that St. Theresa's visions were the result of altar wine. I am not aware of
                  any text that strongly and unequivocally suggest initiates entered into an
                  ecstatic state. If it were the case that such drugs were used, would not
                  Christians or Epicureans have said something about it (its clear from Luc. *
                  Alex*. That Epicureans investigated religious practices looking for what
                  they considered fraudulent in the Imperial period)? One of the few even
                  possible ancient descriptions of a hallucinogen used in a ritual context I
                  am aware of, is the mysterious plant kentritis in the Mithras Liturgy. If
                  anyone can suggest solid textual or archaeological evidence for the use of
                  such drugs in other sources, please present it, I would be extremely
                  interested in it.

                  That bay leaf business is a sort of urban legend among Classicists. Robert
                  Graves writes about chewing bay leaves to find out what happened and was
                  disappointed that nothing did. I've heard from some archaeologists that they
                  repeated the experiment in grad school, but never with a positive result. If
                  the plant does have hallucinogenic properties, there must be a medical
                  literature on it. Does anyone know that? Isn't " a definite, yet subtle
                  shift in the conscious perception of the world around you" what one would
                  expect form the frame of mind of undertaking a religious ritual?


                  Can Prof. Rhein cite the passages of Lucan and Seneca that he refers to? I
                  would be very interested to see them, but my initial impression of the
                  rather decadent style of those authors is that many of the fantastic
                  elements they discuss might not have an origin in actual cultic practice. I
                  would be especially interst in refernces to the cursing rituals he mentions.



                  I am very sorry to see Hale's ethylene theory repeated here as if it were an
                  established fact; I suppose things take on that status in popular
                  consciousness once they have been on television. But in fact the theory has
                  never been published in a peer-reviewed classics journal.

                  Here is the relevant literature:

                  Spiller, Henry A., John R. Hale, and Jelle Z. de Boer. "The Delphic Oracle:
                  A Multidisciplinary Defense of the Gaseous Vent Theory." *Clinical
                  Toxicology* 40.2 (2000) 189-196.
                  de Boer, J.Z., J.R. Hale, and J. Chanton, "New Evidence for the Geological
                  Origins of the Ancient Delphic Oracle," *Geology* 29.8 (2001) 707-711.
                  Hale, John R., Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, Jeffrey P. Chandon and Henry A.Spiller,
                  "Questioning the Delphic Oracl*e*," *Scientific American* August 2003.

                  Hale starts from the unexamined premise that there is something seriously
                  lacking in our understanding of the Delphic Oracle, although he never says
                  precisely what. He seems to assume, firstly that the Pythia spoke in
                  Classical times in some kind ecstatic trance, although perusal of the
                  sources makes that extremely unlikely, since the few testimonia of any odd
                  behavior (babbling and raving) on her part are all from Late Antiquity
                  (Plutarch knows nothing of this), and he assumes further that some kind of
                  drug is the only way to enter into a trance state. Going on from there he
                  offers the rising of ethylene from faults under Delphi as the explanation of
                  his supposed mystery. The proof he offers for this is the discovery of
                  ethylene in some carboniferous rock he and colleagues sampled near the
                  Castillian spring (he has never tested for it in gaseous form). I don't
                  doubt that he found ethylene there, as well as any number of other
                  hydrocarbons, but this in no way proves that vaporized ethylene was present
                  in the adyton in sufficient concentration to narcotize the Pythia as he
                  claims.

                  Hale's treatment of the relevant texts is strangely fundamentalist. Any text
                  which seems to support his claims must be true and literally true in a
                  scientific sense (without further demonstration), even if the ancient who
                  wrote them would not have fully understood the meaning of what he wrote.
                  Plutarch's famous statement that a *pneuma* flowed up from the earth and
                  made Delphi sacred is not contextualized within Stoic philosophy, but rather
                  Hale somehow knows that it describes the out-gassing of ethylene from
                  underground faults. The story of the shepherd finding the spot of Delphi by
                  observing the enthusiastic behavior of his goats�something that, if true,
                  would have taken place in the bronze age�is also a reliable historical fact
                  for Hale. The goats were affected in the open air, even though the
                  concentration of the vapor, he otherwise argues, was not enough to affect
                  the consulters and shrine personnel in the adyton and could only affect the
                  Pythia by concentrating it under sheets or screens. He also ignores the fact
                  that this is a folk story. Precisely the same story is told in Ethiopia, for
                  instance, to explain the discovery of coffee. Similarly, the story about the
                  Pythia who died because she was co-erced into prophesying on the wrong day
                  means that the Pythiae had a detailed knowledge of the cyclical fluctuation
                  of ethylene concentration in the adyton and knew to stay out when it was too
                  strong. He never address the fact that the adyton was lit by the open flames
                  of lamps and that ethylene is highly flammable. This is all quite ridiculous
                  and explains precisely nothing since there is no good evidence in the first
                  place that the Pythia ever entered an ecstatic state.


                  Bradley A Skene

                  St. Louis




                  On Thu, Sep 25, 2008 at 5:49 PM, Marilynn Lawrence Moore <pronoia@...>wrote:

                  > Is that why we feel drugged after a nice Indian buffet?
                  >
                  >
                  > ----- Original Message -----
                  > From: "Michael Plaisance" <kiriosmuseos1313@...<kiriosmuseos1313%40yahoo.com>
                  > >
                  >
                  > If you want to experiment with something of this nature, burn Bay Laurel
                  > leaves on a charcoal within a small space and breath in the smoke - as was
                  > done by the Pythia. You will quickly notice a definite, yet subtle shift in
                  > the conscious perception of the world around you. If you combine this with
                  > chewing on fresh bay leaves the effect is even more pronounced.
                  >
                  > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  >
                  >
                  >


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • John Uebersax
                  Thank you all for these interesting comments. Some stray remarks: 1. While I find Wasson s conjecture about amanita muscaria and the soma of the Rig Veda
                  Message 8 of 10 , Sep 27, 2008
                    Thank you all for these interesting comments.

                    Some stray remarks:

                    1. While I find Wasson's conjecture about amanita muscaria and the soma of the Rig Veda interesting, in the end that is all it is: conjecture. Unfortunately people tend to forget that. The vedic soma seems related to the Persian/Zoroastrian hoama, the use of which persisted at least until the last century, and perhaps occurs still. The Persian hoama appears not to be amanita muscaria, but rather, some suggest, harmaline or maybe ephedra.

                    2. Bradley Skene wrote:

                    > Hale's treatment of the relevant texts is strangely fundamentalist.
                    > Any text which seems to support his claims must be true and
                    > literally true in a scientific sense (without further
                    > demonstration),

                    Yes, that's exactly what I mean. It's endemic in the 'history of entheogens' literature. People look at an ambiguous piece of art and see mushrooms everywhere; because an upturned amanita muscaria looks vaguely grail-like, this is taken as proof that the grail legends are disguised references to sacred mushroom cults.

                    3. The Lotophagi section of the Odyssey is interesting. The Egyptian lotus is, in fact, psychoactive and a purported entheogen. Egyptian art often shows people sniffing, but never eating, lotuses.

                    4. There are some scattered remarks in Herodotus (1.202 and 4.73-4.75) about drugs -- cannabis, and another unidentified 'fruit'. Both are described as intoxicants, however, not entheogens.

                    See: http://www.general-anaesthesia.com/images/herodotus.html

                    5. The psychoactive potential of incense perhaps deserves more research than it's hitherto received. It may turn out that frankincense, for example, helps produce religious states of consciousness.

                    6. This book appears interesting and well researched:

                    Matthew Dickie
                    Magic and magicians in the Greco-Roman world.
                    Routledge, 2001
                    http://books.google.be/books?id=k3ONA1LMKv8C

                    Dickie devotes an entire chapter to "Sorceresses in the Athens of the fifth and fourth centuries BC." The word for sorceress, interestingly, is 'pharmakis'.

                    These sorcerers and sorceresses were apparently not distinct from the wandering mantics, referred to, for example, by Plato. One gets the impression of antagonism between magicians and philosophers.

                    But, later, in Egypt, the distinctions don't seem as clear. Many Egyptian magical texts are of the sorcery variety, with descriptions of magical drugs and potions. The so-called Mithra liturgy of the Great Magical Papyrus of Paris (Papyrus 574, Bibliothèque National) describes a mystical ascent through the cosmic spheres to an ultimate liberation. No drugs are mentioned in connection with this, but, potentially, this was being used/read by some people with a knowledge of drugs and potions for other purposes.

                    In Roman times, practicing sorcery was apparently illegal (over 100 sorcerers and sorceresses were expelled by Tiberius). Thus if anyone were using drugs to elicit religious visions, that might have seemed close enough to sorcery to warrant secrecy.

                    John Uebersax
                  • Bradley Skene
                    Dickie s book isn t bad. There were about half a dozen similar books published around that time, perhaps Frtiz Graf s is the most useful. See Robert K. Ritner
                    Message 9 of 10 , Sep 27, 2008
                      Dickie's book isn't bad. There were about half a dozen similar books
                      published around that time, perhaps Frtiz Graf's is the most useful.
                      See Robert K. Ritner on magicians in Egypt. Part of the self-definition of
                      philosophers (except those few who claimed magical powers), Hippocratic
                      doctors, and elite Greek culture in general was the condemnation
                      of herbalists, exorcists and the like as 'magicians,' i.e. non -Greek though
                      of course they were very much Greek, they jsut never became aprt of the
                      established culture of the polis. The situation in Egypt was
                      quite different. The temple priesthoods were only employed for part of the
                      year in temple service. On their down time, the very same priests who served
                      in the temples practiced private rituals for individuals, which the Greeks,
                      rather, than the Egyptians recognized as magic.

                      As for the Mithras Liturgy, in the section for the 'Instructions for the
                      rite" which detail various necessary procedures
                      for obtaining the cosmic vision described in the first section, this item
                      occurs (cited out of the translation in Betz, PGM IV 777ff):

                      If you want to show this [vision] to someone else, take the juice of the
                      herb called kentritis, and smear it, along with rose oil, over the eyes of
                      the one you wish; and he will see so clearly that he will amaze you.
                      I have not found a greater spell than this in the world.


                      It goes on to instruct the magician to consume the same herb himself by
                      writing a text with its juice and then licking it off the papyrus.

                      I have never read an ancient text that seemed to suggest so clearly that a
                      mystical practice depended upon the ingestion of a psycho-active drug.
                      Unfortunately the plant name kentritis seems to be a hapax.

                      And magic was not 'appraently illeagal, we have an excellent knwoeldge of
                      both Roman law dealing with magic and with actual prosecutions for magic:

                      Hamblenne, P., "Une «Conjuration» sous Valentinien?" *Byzantion* 50 (1980):
                      198-225.

                      Pharr, Clyde, "The Interdiction of Magic in Roman Law," *TAPA* 63 (1932):
                      269-95

                      Phillips III, C. R., "Nullum crimen sine lege: Socioreligious Sanctions on
                      Magic," *Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion* Christopher A.
                      Faraone and Dirk Obbink, edd., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991),
                      260-76.

                      Tupet, A.-M., "La mentalité superstiteuse à l'époque des Julio-Claudiens,"
                      *Revue des Études Latine*s 62 (1984), 206-235.

                      (the main laws involved are in Paul and the Codex Theod., under Constantine
                      and Constantius II, though I don't have the exact references to hand)

                      Bradley A. Skeen

                      On Sat, Sep 27, 2008 at 2:55 PM, John Uebersax <john.uebersax@...>wrote:

                      > Thank you all for these interesting comments.
                      >
                      > Some stray remarks:
                      >
                      > 1. While I find Wasson's conjecture about amanita muscaria and the soma of
                      > the Rig Veda interesting, in the end that is all it is: conjecture.
                      > Unfortunately people tend to forget that. The vedic soma seems related to
                      > the Persian/Zoroastrian hoama, the use of which persisted at least until the
                      > last century, and perhaps occurs still. The Persian hoama appears not to be
                      > amanita muscaria, but rather, some suggest, harmaline or maybe ephedra.
                      >
                      > 2. Bradley Skene wrote:
                      >
                      > > Hale's treatment of the relevant texts is strangely fundamentalist.
                      > > Any text which seems to support his claims must be true and
                      > > literally true in a scientific sense (without further
                      > > demonstration),
                      >
                      > Yes, that's exactly what I mean. It's endemic in the 'history of
                      > entheogens' literature. People look at an ambiguous piece of art and see
                      > mushrooms everywhere; because an upturned amanita muscaria looks vaguely
                      > grail-like, this is taken as proof that the grail legends are disguised
                      > references to sacred mushroom cults.
                      >
                      > 3. The Lotophagi section of the Odyssey is interesting. The Egyptian lotus
                      > is, in fact, psychoactive and a purported entheogen. Egyptian art often
                      > shows people sniffing, but never eating, lotuses.
                      >
                      > 4. There are some scattered remarks in Herodotus (1.202 and 4.73-4.75)
                      > about drugs -- cannabis, and another unidentified 'fruit'. Both are
                      > described as intoxicants, however, not entheogens.
                      >
                      > See: http://www.general-anaesthesia.com/images/herodotus.html
                      >
                      > 5. The psychoactive potential of incense perhaps deserves more research
                      > than it's hitherto received. It may turn out that frankincense, for example,
                      > helps produce religious states of consciousness.
                      >
                      > 6. This book appears interesting and well researched:
                      >
                      > Matthew Dickie
                      > Magic and magicians in the Greco-Roman world.
                      > Routledge, 2001
                      > http://books.google.be/books?id=k3ONA1LMKv8C
                      >
                      > Dickie devotes an entire chapter to "Sorceresses in the Athens of the fifth
                      > and fourth centuries BC." The word for sorceress, interestingly, is
                      > 'pharmakis'.
                      >
                      > These sorcerers and sorceresses were apparently not distinct from the
                      > wandering mantics, referred to, for example, by Plato. One gets the
                      > impression of antagonism between magicians and philosophers.
                      >
                      > But, later, in Egypt, the distinctions don't seem as clear. Many Egyptian
                      > magical texts are of the sorcery variety, with descriptions of magical drugs
                      > and potions. The so-called Mithra liturgy of the Great Magical Papyrus of
                      > Paris (Papyrus 574, Bibliothèque National) describes a mystical ascent
                      > through the cosmic spheres to an ultimate liberation. No drugs are mentioned
                      > in connection with this, but, potentially, this was being used/read by some
                      > people with a knowledge of drugs and potions for other purposes.
                      >
                      > In Roman times, practicing sorcery was apparently illegal (over 100
                      > sorcerers and sorceresses were expelled by Tiberius). Thus if anyone were
                      > using drugs to elicit religious visions, that might have seemed close enough
                      > to sorcery to warrant secrecy.
                      >
                      > John Uebersax
                      >
                      >
                      >


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • John Uebersax
                      Bradley Skeen wrote:   ...   Thank you for clarifying this.  The translation I first consulted (GRS Mead) didn t include the bracketing references to
                      Message 10 of 10 , Sep 28, 2008
                        Bradley Skeen wrote:
                         
                        > herb called kentritis ... PGM IV:
                         
                        Thank you for clarifying this.  The translation I first consulted (GRS Mead) didn't include the bracketing references to kentritis. 
                         
                        While on the subject, let's not forget Olympius (Vita Plotini, 10), whom Porphyry tells us tried to used sorcery and "star-spells" (astrobolesai) against Plotinus.  Olympius is described as an Alexandrian and a student of Ammonius.  Would he have known the PGM spells, including the ascent spell in PGM 4.475 ff.?  So, who knows, maybe some of Plotinus' classmates were experimenting with visionary drugs.
                         
                        Reading the PGM ascent liturgy, which I hadn't previously seen, naturally made me wonder about its connection with Merkaba.  Following up on that that led to a chance reference to Dio Chrysostorum's Oration 36.
                         
                        There Dio Chrysostom presents an interesting (though not related to the topic of entheogens) discourse on chariot-related myths of the Magi (sections 31-58, with 54-58 being especially interesting).  This can be found online here:

                        http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Dio_Chrysostom/Discourses/36*.html
                         
                        Also, Iamblichus in De Mysteriis 3.14 mentions potions for divination:
                         
                        'Concerning another kind of divination you say the following:  "others who retain consciousness in other respects, are inspired according to their imagination, some taking darkness as an accessory, others the ingestion of certain potions, others incantations and formulae of communications.  Some have visions by means of water, others on a wall or in the open air, others in the sun or some other celestial body."

                        Source: Iamblichus on The Mysteries: De Mysteriis. Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon, Jackson P. Hershbell (trs. & eds.). Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.

                        where, I guess, he is quoting Porphry's Letter to Anebo.

                        John Uebersax
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