According to the entheogen theory of religion: religion is essentially rooted in the experience of intense psychedelic tripping, the world religions consist of collections of stories which serve as metaphorical descriptions of psychedelic experiences (in particular the experience of mystical death and rebirth/ressurection/transformation).

This theory fits with the scientific evidence that entheogenic drugs trigger mystical/religious type experiences when they are administered in an appropriately conducive setting (the recent Johns Hopkins psilocybin study concluded this).

It would be interesting to get the atheist take on this theory, the issue here isnt religious beliefs (such as the belief in God) but rather religious/mystical/transcendent experiences of the kind that people commonly experience under the influence of entheogenic/psychedelic substances.

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@ Rocky John

"Your argument is as inane as me saying that because lots of people who take acid don't have an intense mystical experience therefor acid can't cause intense mystical experiences."

     You have misunderstood the point i am making, I havent said it is "impossible" to have a mystical experience without drugs. It's a question of the statistical efficacy of drug-based versus non drug-based techniques for causing intense alterations of consciousness. Psychedelic drugs are 100% reliable and repeatable for causing intense altered state experiences, whenever a person takes a sufficient dosage, they will invariably experience a psychedelic 'trip'. By contrast this kind of experience almost never happens when a person doesnt take drugs. A typical meditation session is a peaceful, relaxing and calming experience, which is why it is quite common for people to fall asleep while meditating. So meditating without drugs is an entirely different enterprise from taking psychedelics and tripping out.

     In terms of the subject matter of this thread, meditation typically doesnt cause anything like the kind of powerful transformative experiences that are repeatedly depicted throughout the world's religions. In particular, meditation typically doesnt trigger experiences of mystical ego death and psychological transcendence that are at the heart of all religions.

"You infact seem to be slavishly quoting Terrence Mckenna almost word for word"

I havent quoted Mckenna once in support of the entheogen theory, and i have pointed out several times that in fact Mckenna completely missed out on the whole subject of the specifically religious relevance of psychedelic drugs

"i have had experiences from some meditation practices alone that dwarf a breakthrough dose of DMT"

Could you describe what happened in one of these experiences?

"the hundreds of various types of practices that fall under the blanket term meditation"

The distinction between different meditation practises is not the relevant issue. What is centrally relevant here is the distinction between taking drugs versus not taking drugs.

Altered states of consciousness does not equal a transformative mystical experience. Many people take hallucinogenic drugs, even in extreme quantities, without having a transformative mystical experience, often this can lead to severe psychotic experiences though .

"A typical meditation session is a peaceful, relaxing and calming experience, which is why it is quite common for people to fall asleep while meditating."No it is quite common for people who have no real experience and practice in meditation to fall asleep during it. . That would be like me claiming that most people who take a really small dose of hallucinogenic drugs don't really have mystical style experiences and therefor that show nearly  no one does.

You are also forgetting the fact that most people who have transformative mystical style experiences were not on drugs. How many religious people will tell you a story that they know god exists because they where extremely grief stricken/sad and preyed called out to god when suddenly they felt the presence of god, hes love for all things descending over them etc etc. and which caused a transformative change in their life.  All while not on a single drug.

You are also ignoring what the religions themselves say. Lets take a look at some of them.

Buddha-"Resolved to continue his quest, Siddharta made his way to a deer park at Isipatana, near present day Benares. Here he sat beneath a tree meditating on death and rebirth. Discovering that excessive fasts destroy strength, he learned that as he had transcended earthly life, so must he next transcend asceticism. Alone and weak, he sat beneath the sacred Bodhi tree of wisdom, and swore to die before arising without the wisdom he sought.

Mara, the demon, fearful of Gautama's power, sent his three beautiful daughters to distract him. When that failed, Mara sent an army of devils to destroy him. Finally Mara attacked Gautama with a terrible weapon capable of cleaving a mountain. But all this was useless, and the motionless monk sat in meditation.

It was here that Siddharta attained a knowledge of the way things really are; it was through this knowledge that he acquired the title Buddha (meaning "awakened one")."

Jesus-" And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. 10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: 11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 12 And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. 13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him."

Muhammad- "Being in the habit of periodically retreating to a cave in the surrounding mountains for several nights of seclusion and prayer, he later reported that it was there, at age 40, that he received his first revelation from God."


According to the Bible, after crossing the Red Sea and leading the Israelites towards the desert, Moses was summoned by God to Mount Sinai, also referred to as Mount Horeb, the same place where Moses had first talked to the Burning Bush, tended the flocks of Jethro his father-in-law, and later produced water by striking the rock with his staff and directed the battle with the Amalekites.

Moses stayed on the mountain for 40 days and nights, a period in which he received the Ten Commandments directly from God."

Mahavira- "At the age of 30, Mahavira abandoned all the comforts of royal life and left his home and family to live ascetic life for spiritual awakening. He underwent severe penances, even without clothes. There is graphic description of hardships and humiliation he faced in the Acaranga Sūtra. In the eastern part of Bengal he suffered great distress. Boys pelted him with stones, people often humiliated him.

The Kalpa Sūtra gives a detailed account of his ascetic life:

The Venerable Ascetic Mahavira for a year and a month wore clothes; after that time he walked about naked, and accepted the alms in the hollow of his hand. For more than twelve years the Venerable Ascetic Mahivira neglected his body and abandoned the care of it; he with equanimity bore, underwent, and suffered all pleasant or unpleasant occurrences arising from divine powers, men, or animals.After twelve and a half years of rigorous penance he achieved kevalajñana" 

Are you noticing a theme here? renunciation, solitude, fasting, prayer, meditation etc. All practices that the various meditation disciplines have in common. What i am not noticing is the stories of them getting fucked out their heads on drugs. Infact most of them are seriously disparaging of drug use.

I can give you tons more examples if you like as these type of stories are virtually always found amongst  those considered great prophets.

@ Rocky John

"Altered states of consciousness does not equal a transformative mystical experience. Many people take hallucinogenic drugs, even in extreme quantities, without having a transformative mystical experience"

The psychedelic altered state of consciousness consists of a collection of loosely related phenomena. The phenomenon of 'transformative' style of experience (ie an experience which leaves a person feeling they have been transformed somehow - eg reborn, transcended, ressurected etc) is one such phenomenon. It doesnt happen in every single trip, but in high-dose psychedelic exploration, transformative experiences are very common. For example, a significant proportion of the subjects in the recent Johns Hopkins psilocybin study reported that their psilocybin experience was among the most personally significant events of their lives. Powerful psychedelic experiences can be transformative in a very similar way to the way an experience like witnessing childbirth can be transformative, ie it can leave a lasting emotional, metaphysical and spiritual imprint on a person's life. It is very common for psychedelic users to feel they have been transformed in this kind of way by their experiences, as the Johns Hopkins study demonstrated. This is why psychedelic drugs have applications in psychotherapy, such as helping terminal cancer patients  with their end-of-life anxiety.

   By contrast, these kind of experiences almost never occur in meditation sessions, where people are much more likely to fall asleep than to experience mindbending mystical rapture. You can see that for yourself in any group meditation class, people do not typically trip out and experience psychological transformation when they are not on drugs.

"Are you noticing a theme here?"

According to the entheogen theory of religion, all of the religious stories that you listed there (Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Muhammed etc) are metaphorical/allegorical descriptions of psychedelic altered state experiences, in particular the experience of mystical ego death and transcendent rebirth/ressurection. For example, the story of Buddha encountering an army of demons can be interpreted as a description of a bad trip (ie the experience of psychotic mental dis-integration which is common on psychedelics).

This has been recognised by many people, noted scholars such as Dan Merkur and Benny Shanon have written about how these religious stories correspond to psychedelic altered state phenomena. To an entheogenically enlightened mind, all religious stories (ie all stories about religious people like Jesus, Moses, Buddha etc) all look like descriptions of psychedelic experiences

This is a huge subject as there are many religious stories, but for a small example have a look at Benny Shanon's work, he pointed out that the story of Moses seeing a burning bush looks like a description of a person's DMT trip -

Jesus being crucified and ressurected, Moses going through the red sea, Mohammed's revelation from an angel, The Buddha becoming enlightened etc etc, these are all interpreted through the lense of the entheogen theory as descriptions of entheogen-induced mystical transformation (ego death)

Did you bother to read my post? as i said before "No it is quite common for people who have no real experience and practice in meditation to fall asleep during it. . That would be like me claiming that most people who take a really small dose of hallucinogenic drugs don't really have mystical style experiences and therefor that show nearly  no one does."

"This is a huge subject as there are many religious stories, but for a small example have a look at Benny Shanon's work, he pointed out that the story of Moses seeing a burning bush looks like a description of a person's DMT trip -"

It is more likely to be hallucinations brought on by intense dehydration and sun stroke(which are known to make people hallucinate) from wandering through a desert.

And again you are violating Occam's razor. Meditation style practices of fasting, sleep deprivation, intense solitude, meditation/prayer. Even intense pain can cause hallucinations (jesus on the cross)and  are sufficient cause to explain their experiences. They are also exactly what is described as leading up to the experiences. Trying to add drugs in here is then superfluous. 

And how do you explain all the people who have intense religious experiences who never took a drug in their life?
 Not to mention that intense religious hallucinations are extremely  common with people with temporal lobe epilepsy.

"Researchers interested in the connection of the brain and religion have examined the experiences of people suffering from Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. Apparently the increased electrical activity in the brain resulting from seizure activity (abnormal electrical activity within localized portions of the brain), makes sufferers more susceptible to having religious experiences including visions of supernatural beings and near death experiences (NDEs) (9). Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE) sufferers also may become increasingly obsessed with religion, the study and practice of it.This form of epilepsy often results in intense religious experiences "

"Trying to add drugs in here is then superfluous"

The crucial point here is that the drugs are the only ergonomic (ie repeatable and reliable) tool for triggering the psychedelic state of consciousness. It might be true that people with epilepsy have some degree of access to the altered state, but they don't have a tool for triggering it on demand. The drugs are the only means of access to the altered state that works for everybody (such as people who dont have epilepsy) and can trigger the altered state reliably, repeatably and on-demand

@ Jimmy

"One thing that I'm not sure about in Hoffman's theory is he relates this "ego death" experience to a fatalism."

How are you 'not sure' about this part of Hoffman's theory? This is not the entheogen theory of religion, the issue of determinism/fatalism relates more strongly to Hoffman's other theory, the cybernetic theory of ego transcendence (or the ego death theory). Hoffman employs the model of the 4-dimensional block universe (where time is the 4th spatial dimension, the universe is an eternally frozen 4-dimensional block) to explain the experience of radical control loss in the psychedelic state of consciousness (psychotic bad trip)

“Terence was not a hard determinist”

Terence's argument against determinism was extremely weak in light of his strongly deterministic theories about time and the eschaton. It only takes up about 1 sentence in 'invisible landscape'. Rational, critical thought leads inevitably to determinism, and psychedelic exploration also leads inevitably towards deterministic ego death.

“and the whole idea behind Hoffman's website is to define the "ego death" phenomenon as the revelation of hard determinism.”

That is the primary project, the secondary project is then to demonstrate how all religious myths describe the experience of discovering timeless determinism in the intense altered state. According to the entheogen theory, there was no historical Jesus or historical Buddha/Mohammed/Moses etc. All these stories are mythic symbolism that allegorically describe tripping, they are not singular historical events. Anyone can trip out and witness the transformative beautific vision (if only they know the secret forbidden technique), not just some singular historical person who lived 2000 years ago. The historical individual is utterly unimportant, what really matters is the experience that they are depicted as going though – entheogenic ego death.

“Michael Hoffman mentions in his website the recently deceased guru of India, Ramesh Balsekar, who proclaims something similar of eastern religion, that the "enlightenment" emphasized in eastern religion is the insight of an Eternalism that is exactly aligned with Hoffman's concept on "ego death," except Ramesh doesn't pin psychedelics as the sole route to this enlightenment, but perhaps one path of many to it.”

The last sentence here ^ is inaccurate, Balsekar never mentions psychedelics, he is completely unaware about the potential of drugs to reveal determinism via mystical experience. The major difference between Balsekar and Hoffman is that Balsekar interprets determinism as something that is primarily relevant to the ordinary state of consciousness, whereas Hoffman claims that determinism is primarily relevant to the intense altered state. Balsekar is not a mystic like Hoffman.

But Balsekar's insistence on determinism/no free will sets him apart from all the other Indian Guru teachers.

@ Gallup's mirror

“Not religious experiences.
Not mystical experiences.
Mystical-type experiences.

Now what do you suppose is the difference between a mystical experience and a mystical-type experience? ”

There is no specific definable difference between mystical vs religious experiences (adding 'type' after affirms that it is a specific type/category of experience). Both terms mean essentially the same thing, and are equivalently applicable to the psychedelic experience. Psychedelic tripping IS mystical/religious experiencing, and this modality of experience is not ergonomically accessible by any other means than taking drugs. Meditating is an entirely different kind of experience from tripping out on psychedelics, there is no real basis of comparison between the two experiences.

“Then the name [entheogen] contains a built-in assumption fallacy, unless the person who named it also provided scientific evidence that God exists.”

As I pointed out in my first post, the issue of God's existence is not relevant to the entheogen theory of religion, rather what is relevant to this issue is the subjective characteristics of psychedelic experiencing. It certainly isnt the case that when people trip out they start believing in God, mystical/religious experiencing is largely unconnected from what a person believes.

That is why imo the entire atheist/theist debate (ie does God exist? Y/N) is fundamentally misguided because it does not accommodate the reality of mystical/religious experiences and the entheogen theory of religion. The atheist/theist debate is grounded in christian monotheistic theology and has very little connection to the issue of religious experience. The kind of religion that stems from intense mystical experiencing has nothing to do with whether or not God exists, rather it is about the transformative character of the altered state experience. All religious stories focus on this particular transformation (from clueless ----> psychedelic).

11. Thou shall not assume that a belief is true, because you believe it to be so. (Self Referencing)


Wouldn't that be #4 or no?

“not one (if I may suggest) finds anything solid, by way of a 'theory' or explanation.”

The theory is very simple and clear – it states that the origin, essence and ongoing wellspring of religion is the experience of temporarily loosened cognitive associations (a 'trip') that is triggered by ingesting entheogenic plants and chemicals

“The whole narrative rests on countless exaggerations, distortions and oversights “

This theory rests on the fact that psychedelic drugs routinely trigger intense and psychologically transformative) mystical states of consciousness, as the scientific evidence demonstrates. That is not an exaggeration, distortion or oversight.

“1) Critical work-up of 'entheogen theory of religion' finds - that's a piece of talk, Trying to sound itself impressive. As such it exemplifies, true to form, a particular variety of - not qualified research in some discipline - of pop psychedelic narrative. For example, its going to focus on a phrase like 'ego death' - which (if you check into it) turns out to be ... right, another piece of talk from pop psychedelia. Leary and company like to put a whole lot of air into that one ... but can you find such a phrase in that Johns Hopkins (Griffith et alia) research you're trying to use in support?”

The entheogen theory of religion does not focus on the term 'ego death' so this ^ entire paragraph is mistaken.

The core claim is that religion is all about tripping on psychedelic drugs, because the psychedelic drugs cause people to have mystical/religious experiences. Although it is true that the predominant aspect of tripping that religion focuses on is the 'ego death' experience (ie mystical death and rebirth in the psychedelic state of consciousness) this is not the only phenomenon of interest. Another related but distinct phenomenon that is observed in the psychedelic state for example is that of psychological transformation, the experience can have a permanent effect on the way the subject thinks about life.

The entheogen theory suggests that the religious stories, such as Mohammed's revelation, Buddha's enlightenment, Jesus crucifixion etc. are all descriptions of psychedelic/mystical experiencing.

Dont get hung up on the term 'ego death' it is just a phrase. The important point is that regardless of what phrase you use to describe it, death and rebirth is a very common experience under the influence of psychedelic drugs.

“Like FOOD OF THE GODS - such phraseologies try to sound real 'theoretical.' But that type talk is neither from peer-reviewed research, published in some research society's journal or other academic/scientific sources. Nor is it part of specialized studies with established foundations in scholarly or scientific methods or theory. Its of, by and for the subculture. There's an entire fringe psychedelia communitarian tradition here, reverently doing its own versions of a Timothy Leary act, soliciting attention and trying to impress anyone it can - get them to go 'wow, that's brilliant.' Claiming some sort of authoritative critically-based interest, just part of the show.”

This ^ paragraph is also entirely irrelevant to the entheogen theory of religion.

“2) "This theory" (as you call it) "fits with the scientific evidence that entheogenic drugs trigger mystical/religious type experiences when administered in ... (the recent Johns Hopkins psilocyin study concluded this)"
That seems inaccurate, not reasonably correct - an exaggeration or distortion, that loses the clarity and balance of informed perspective. Indeed, expels it forcibly in order to claim "See, scientific evidence says so."

In fact there's no such quote from Griffiths et al in that work, purporting along such lines. Indeed one thing they found: about 1/3 subjects don't have any mystical effects even when psilocybin is 'administered in ...' the most conducive setting, and working with the most select subjects, exclusively. Griffiths' subjects were individually chose, carefully - for personal spiritual aptitude and interest. In fact, approx 1/3 had experiences dominated by unpleasant or stressful content and stimuli. Such were shown to be 'triggered' (as you put it) with every bit as much reliability, as mystical effects that resulted in other subjects.”

It is a baseless fallacy to equate 'unpleasant' with 'unmystical', which completely ignores the evidence that the religions themselves clearly provide – that mystical experiences are very often unpleasant, stressful, painful or traumatic. Mohammed very nearly commited suicide because of the acute anguish that his first angelic revelation caused in him. Similarly Buddha was confronted by an army of demons after he ate the magical rice-milk.

Unfortunately this same fallacy that you employ (by tacitly asserting that unpleasant = unmystical) is deeply rooted in modern understanding of mystical/religious experiencing, such that even the criteria that the johns hopkins study used to identify mystical experiences put an undue emphasis on the whole blissful/heavenly aspect to the exclusion of the harrowing/hellish aspect. As Huxley indicates in the title of his book, psychedelics can bring you to heaven or hell.

On the contrary, painful and hellish experiences in the psychedelic state of consciousness are just as crucial to an understanding of the entheogen theory of religion as are the joyous ecstatic type experiences, it isnt that one is “less mystical” than the other.

Per the entheogen theory, psychedelic tripping *just is* mystical/religious experience.

“What the research shows is that there is indeed, in some not all subjects - psilocybin can 'occasion' a psychologically definable mystical experience (Wm James, VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE laid first foundation of this type research more than a century ago). Exactly as described by Huxley, in 1954, from his experience with another hallucinogen (mescaline) - and questioned by many in that era, who thought Huxley may have been exaggerating, mistaken, or even just hallucinating.”

This ^ paragraph is entirely in line with the entheogen theory as far as I can tell

“But no, (and - please?) - the research does not support some fanciful 'entheogen theory'”

Yes it does, it provides direct support for the theory. Per W.James, religion originates from religious experience, and of particular relevance to the entheogen theory is the fact that all the religious stories depict people undergoing such experiences. The johns hopkins study demonstrates that entheogens are the 'missing link' between religion and religious experience.

“that according to its storyline (as cast) - explains, or is going to explain religion. These promotional 'theories' are too much like sermons, considering the intellectual theater they state. They're in search of believers they can impress; who will become further new 'fishers of men' - fellow casters of the line the gullibles bit on themselves, and got reeled in.For a 'theory' as purported to be (no, really ...) jawin' about 'ego death' and 'entheogen theory' - such jabberwocky is nonsensical, first. Second, its too much like a Village People lyric: We Want You, We Want You, We Want You As A New Recruit! Obviously folks can all individually make up their own minds what to think or believe etc. But please, is exaggeration and distortion of research, for such promotional 'theory' proselytizing, talking it up - really necessary? Can it be brought down to maybe a 7 or 8?

Don't we get enough of 'inspirational pseudotheorizing' with our good friends in 'Scientific' Creationism? And a bunch of other such 'theorizing' ops out their in the cultural wasteland?

Rocky J - my heart goes out to you. Looks like you tried your best to reason with this stuff. At least you gave it every fair shake. No harm finding out for yourself, using your own tests, by your own effort - what and how it has to say for itself, in reply.”

This ^ nonsense has no connection to the entheogen theory that we are discussing here. I wish you would get off your holier-than-thou Mckenna-hating high horse Brian, you could really contribute something relevant and important if you would put your intellect towards sensibly addressing the psychedelic issue. Forget about Mckenna, focus on the important issues, please.


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