Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [neoplatonism] Platonists and psychedelics/entheogens?

Expand Messages
  • 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 1 of 10 , Sep 24, 2008
    • 0 Attachment
      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 2 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
      • 0 Attachment
        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?















        __________________________________________________
        Do You Yahoo!?
        Sie sind Spam leid? Yahoo! Mail verfügt über einen herausragenden Schutz gegen Massenmails.
        http://mail.yahoo.com

        [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 3 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
        • 0 Attachment
          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 4 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
          • 0 Attachment
            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 5 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
            • 0 Attachment
              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 6 of 10 , Sep 27, 2008
              • 0 Attachment
                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 7 of 10 , Sep 27, 2008
                • 0 Attachment
                  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 8 of 10 , Sep 28, 2008
                  • 0 Attachment
                    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
                  Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.