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AW: [neoplatonism] Platonists and psychedelics/entheogens?

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  • 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 1 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
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      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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    • 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 2 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
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        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 3 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
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          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 4 of 10 , Sep 25, 2008
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            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 5 of 10 , Sep 27, 2008
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              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 6 of 10 , Sep 27, 2008
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                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 7 of 10 , Sep 28, 2008
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                  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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