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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He makes this claim amongst many other similarly baseless speculations, such as DMT coming from the pineal gland. I don't see any real value or relevance in Strassman's work, the only thing that is interesting about Strassman is that he was the only scientist who got the chance to do experimentation on human subjects with DMT. He didnt discover anything particularly interesting in his experiments, which is why he is only known for making these arbitrary speculations like 'DMT might get released when people dream or meditate' etc etc

I don't think it was necessarily baseless speculation, because the constituents to produce DMT are present within the pineal gland. The enzymes that are responsible in the process of the transmethylation of tryptophan and tryptophan itself are all present within the pineal gland. Tryptophan is two enzymatic steps away from transforming into N,N-DMT. In fact, in a recent study that was done this year, DMT was found through the process of microdialysis to be present in the pineal glands of rodents.

DMT found in the Pineal Gland of Rats

Terence McKenna once mentioned a citation in his interview with Art Bell of a study done at the University of Mississippi that confirmed there that there is a spike of DMT in deep sleep, particularly the REM stage of sleep. I tried to look for the official citation recently to link to it in this thread, but I could't find it. So, I'm not sure what Terence was referring to, but maybe you might have better luck finding it. I'll link to the spot where Terence mentions this in the interview below. It's after the 8 minute and 27 second mark.

Art Bell interviews Terence McKenna

Of course, I'm sure that you're also heard the speculation that DMT may be released  involved with human death and the near-death-experience. Watts referred to this as a "natural satori."

Alan Watts - Natural Satori

Don't be hypnotised by drug-war lies and propaganda like the claim that you can trip without drugs just by meditating, it is very insidious but with your entheogenic awareness you ought to be able to see through it.

Well, if Strassman's speculation is true, that meditation is the induction of endogenous DMT, then I suppose it isn't necessarily "tripping without drugs," because according to this claim, drugs are still part of the process. I've never found an "experience report" of sober meditation being described like a DMT-trip, but I do often find among people who claim they have had these type experiences of what Hinduism calls "nonduality" do seem to come to similar insights and conclusions. If you look into descriptions of "nonduality," you find that they're quite syonymous with "ego death."

Aside from meditation and near-death-experiences, there is also the possibility of other states of mind seemingly producing these psychedelic-like effects, a good example is Jill Bolte Taylor's "Stroke of Insight." Perhaps you're familiar with her story. She had a stroke, and there's plenty of videos on YouTube of her describing in careful detail this experience. When I first heard her describe this, I was surprised to hear how in tune it was to a psychedelic experience. Alan Watts also mentions a friend of his who had a similar experience while having a stroke, and believed it was "the most beautiful experience he had ever had."

I was unaware that Mckenna changed his view about this, do you have a quote from him about this? I think that the important issue is not whether drug-free tripping is a “possibility”, but rather it is the point that drugs are the only immediate, repeatable and reliable way to trigger intense tripping (Hoffman uses the term “ergonomic” to describe this quality of drugs). It might be true that some people rarely trip out when they meditate, but by contrast everbody, always trips out when they take a sufficient does of entheogenic drugs.

There's a mention in that same interview with Art Bell where Terence speaks of being able to do it "naturally" is a possibility and I'll post a link to it below, but I wanted to try and find another talk where he does mention that he's had enough people come up to him in his lifetime telling him that they could naturally enter the states he describes with psilocybin through meditation that he concluded that maybe DMT could be induced naturally in these states. I know it was a talk he did that was perhaps only a few months prior to his death, because he spoke about his seizures and that he had been having really strange dreams that were comparable to his DMT experiences.

This is another clue that led McKenna to believe that perhaps it is a natural possibility, because there's another talk where he discusses a dream that he had where in the dream he was offered a pipe filled with DMT, and smoked it, and had a full-blown vivid re-experience of a DMT trip. Now, I did try and find that piece, but unfortunately, I could not. I'll be looking out for it, though. You see, I used to be obsessed with McKenna's talks and discussions, and at work, I'd just make dozens and dozens of these playlists of just about every audio piece you could find on YouTube of Terence's talks, and usually I could recall a specific instance in these talks (since he named most of them) where something was mentioned relevant to a discussion like this, and so I'm really disappointed that I couldn't find this one. However, I do agree with you that psychedelics are far more effective and reliable in producing these experiences, because I could imagine that a monk could perhaps live a full life of disciplinary meditative dedication inside of a temple without ever reaching this state of mind. And perhaps he will experience it at death, but who knows for sure?

I'm linking to the 8 minute and 24 second mark on the hyperlink below, but if you don't have an ad blocker, and you get a YouTube ad, then it might prevent it from starting at that specific point and so it may start at the beginning, so if it does, feel free to fast-forward to 8m24s.

Terence McKenna - "on the natch"

I think that these 'Buddhas' who you describe here are oversimplifying by not taking into account Mckenna's distinction of psychedelic and clueless.

While Huxley doesn't speak about psychedelics in "Perennial Philosophy," he does speak of these kind of experiences in terms of mystical experiences and mysticism. Alan Watts borrowed the term "cosmic consciousness" from Robert M. Bucke who didn't coin the term, but did write a book with the same title, "Cosmic Consciousness." Bucke also wrote of these experiences in terms of a kind of "phenomenon in consciousness" that seems to occur due to various reasons. So, whether natural or psychedelically induced, I believe the phrase still holds true as "psychedelic and clueless," because I really believe that even if it does happen naturally, it is likely to be mediated by endogenous DMT.

Alan Watts - Cosmic Consciousness

@ Jimmy

“that's why I find this title "Entheogen Theory of Religion" to be somewhat misleading only if you interpret it through Huxey's "Perennial Philosophy."”

Bear in mind that Huxley wrote that book before he discovered tripping himself, at that point in his writing career he was still blind to entheogenic experiencing. The books to read by Huxley are doors of perception and heaven and hell, those were his psychedelic books. He doesnt mention drugs in the perennial philosophy

“Michael Hoffman doesn't believe that there were such people as Gautama, Christ, Muhammad, etc., but if, say, someone like Gautama were a real person, then it's possible that he could have had an experience of "ego death" naturally through meditation.”

The crucial question to ask is, given that entheogens make this kind of experience available on-tap to anyone who wants it, then what is so special about this one man Gautama? Why postulate a single man as the founder of a religion? Per Hoffman's theory of non-historicity of the religious founders, it isnt the person that is so special that they start a whole religion, rather it is the experience that the person is depicted undergoing that is so special (as every psychedelic person has discovered). Once this is realised, it becomes superfluous and unnecesary to postulate a single person as the founder of the religion. It is a 'big bang fallacy' to assume that religions started from one special man at one point in history; per the entheogen theory, it is lots of people tripping out over multiple generations that gives rise to religions like buddhism and christianity

The crucial question to ask is, given that entheogens make this kind of experience available on-tap to anyone who wants it, then what is so special about this one man Gautama? Why postulate a single man as the founder of a religion?

I have a sort of different perspective on this. Since you've mentioned Gautama, I suppose I will start with Buddhism. If you look into Buddhism, Gautama isn't necessarily emphasized as the one appointed individual who is a "special case." Alan Watts once described Buddhism as "Hinduism stripped for export." In other words, the essentials of Hinduism are taken. Watts pointed out that Hinduism poured great emphasis on asceticism which usually involved various techniques such as fasting, intense pain,  abstinence, etc. which they felt were paths to enter into these altered states. Then, the way Watts puts it, Gautama came along and through his enlightenment realized that all emphasis on asceticism was wasted effort and worthless. That all you need do is vanquish the "ego" to have this experience. Now, earlier I mentioned that maybe this distinguishing of the ego in meditation means the cessation of "personal will," but one thing is for sure, Hinduism and Buddhism are both surrounded by the notion that this revelation or insight is one that is attained through an altered state of consciousness. So, these religions were more or less aware that it had to do with a phenomenon in consciousness.

The term "Buddha" is not a proper name, as you may now, but a title given to anyone who awakens or who has undergone enlightenment. Gautama is only emphasized because he, of course, founded Buddhism and is the original buddha, but this doesn't necessarily make him special or superior to any other buddha. I'm not sure if Hinduism contains a term for someone who has experienced samadhi or moksha. I want to say yogi or sadhu, but these terms imply that they're still seeking enlightenment rather than having already undergone it.

Now, let's consider for a moment that this notion of "Cosmic Consciousness" is true, that these type of experiences do lie at the root of religion, whether naturally induced or psychedelically induced. Then if you look at western religion, on the other hand, in comparison to eastern religion, say, Christianity for example, you have Christ as interpreted through the bible as "the one appointed divine being." Christ is emphasized as the one and only person that has this union with God being the one and only direct offspring from God according to the bible, so on and so forth.

Alan Watts, if you take a listen to that talk I linked to in my previous post, "Jesus and His Religion," elaborates on this point. That if you suppose that Christ, if he was a real person, had such an experience then you'd also have to highlight the fact that he probably didn't know of any other religion other than those of the immediate near east, and that would in turn ultimately impact how he would interpret his "mystical experience."

Watts goes on to say that Christ might have knew about Egyptian religion, a little maybe about Greek religion, but mostly about Hebraism. There's no evidence whatsoever that he knew anything about Indian or Chinese religions. This would explain why Christ is depicted as "the son of God," because if you interpret this this type of experience through the filter of Hebraism where God is thought of as an omnipotent, omniscient entity then this could lead to what Jung called, ironically enough, ego inflation, a kind of megalomania of the God complex sort. This sort of interpretation is also present in more contemporary cases where a powerful LSD experience can cause one to undergo a very similar ego explosion in the fashion of a "Messiah complex."

So, the phrases in the bible quoting Jesus as in "Before Abraham was, I am," "I am the way, the truth, and the life," "I am the living bread that comes down from heaven," "I and the father are one, and he who has seen me has seen the father" all reflect this. So, Christianity seems to have been founded on this particular bent where Jesus of Nazareth is God, but stop right there! Nobody else.

So, what happened was that Jesus was pedestalized, he was put in a position that was safely "upstairs." So, his troublesome experience of "cosmic consciousness" would not come and cause other people to be a nuisance, and those who have had this experience, and expressed it during those times when the church had political power were almost invariably persecuted. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake, Johannes Scotus Eriugena was excommunicated, Meister Eckhart's theses were condemned, and so on and so on. A few mystics got away with it, because they used cautious language.

So, you see what happens if you pedestalize Jesus, if you appoint a "special person" as the one sole person that has this direct bridge to the divine, then you've automatically precluded the possibility for you to undergo the very same phenomenon that Christ underwent.

Pardon me for this prolix response, but I feel as though sometimes these ideas are somewhat difficult to express in concise form, and comes off a bit disingenuous if you're too succinct.

So, back to your question, "Then what is so special about this one man Gautama?" There is nothing particularly special about one person founding a religion. The way I see it is that religion is a kind of by-product of the people during those times long ago who had this experience and felt impelled to communicate it, and so then alas each one of these people become the founder of a religion. However, in the case of eastern religion, it is realized that this is a potential for everyone rather than the myopic view of Christianity where Christ is the only person vouchsafed to this direct communion with God.

Of course, today in western religious churches, you never hear anything about mysticism.  And the point I was attempting to make here is that due to this pedestalization of Jesus, religions such as Christianity is then not the religion of Jesus which was the realization of divine sonship, the realization of "cosmic consciousness" that is potential in us all, but the religion aboutJesus which pedestalizes him and and which says that only this man of all the sons of woman was divine, and no one else.

As a result, western religions become religions peddling high abstraction instead of direct experience. Espousing such concepts to be muddled, misinterpreted, misconstrued, handed down from generation to generation to be twisted, misremembered, contorted to meet social and political needs and so forth and so on. So, Christians must be subdued to these inherited series of mangled concepts which require you to believe based on "faith," and so their whole notion of reality is heavily distorted into these various concepts, and each Christian then understands their religion through the lens of their own individual eisegesis.

So, I felt your question would have made more sense with Christianity, that instead of saying what's so special about Gautama, the question makes more sense if you ask what's so special about Jesus? But perhaps it's because we're so bombarded with western religion in most parts of the English-speaking world, that we'd project that point-of-view across to eastern religion where, in eastern religion, it's instead viewed as a kind of panentheism where Gautama is regarded as divine as anyone else.

I do agree with your point that since more importance was put on Christ as "the son of God" rather than what Christ had experienced as a normal human being, people were left to rationalize and indulge in reverie about God instead of striving for an insight in consciousness that would resolve their conflicts.

So, if this point-of-view or Psychedelic theory is correct, then how do you suppose the anthropoidal projections of God as entity came about? Sometimes, I imagine that the early concepts that were based more on a kind of theosophy became intertwined with people who hadn't had a mystical experience's personified abstractions, so then God became a deified concept bestowed with the same attributes that were originally expressed in attempt to articulate facets of the experience of "cosmic consciousness." I'd really love to hear your thoughts on that, John.

That's why I've sort of leaned against Perennial Philosophy. I'm not sure if you ever had a chance to listen to Watts' talk on it, but he was at great pains to express this very point that I've been emphasizing, that in Christianity, Christ was pedestalized as the "divine appointed being,"  he was the only son of God, and so he takes this very strange place in the religion. So, I'm not sure what most people think of Christ, or even what Christians think of Christ, but from a perspective naive about these type of experiences, it's almost like thinking about an extraterrestrial or something. Christ is this eerie, numinous being from that perspective. 


Now, step over to Buddhism. Gautama admitted his mortality. The Buddhists surrounded their entire religion around this phenomenon in consciousness. Watts joked once that if Jesus was born in India, and had announced to everyone, "I and the father are one," then Hindus would have replied, "At last! You have found out," because they knew that everyone was in a sense "God" or "Brahman" or rather they knew that everyone had this latent revelatory experience within them.

If you posit that the "Entheogen Religion Theory of Religion" holds any merit, then it's a tragic situation that millions and millions of  people who are unfamiliar with this stuff are being made to feel guilty about simply trying to understand their own spiritual yearnings and their own place in the cosmos. I believe it's retarding cultural transformation that these things are illegal. Well, anyway, I apologize for my lack of brevity.

I have had wonderful moments of the 'oceanic feeling', which to me seem very normal, but deepened states of mind. I have never seen/felt anything truely weird, no alien abductions, no angels, and no disembodied voices. A few meditation experiences have very much impressed me with very intense mental images and visualizations, some of which seem to have been helpful while working on projects or life's challenges.

I think you are missing out on the simpler and far more likely explanation . And that is that the type of experiences associated with entheogens can be acquired from simple techniques that require no special plants or chemicals. Things like meditation, prayer, fasting, repetitive mantra's , going alone into the wilderness for long periods of time , spinning in circles until exhaustion sets in etc etc. To add to this these sort of practices are found in all religions.

"the type of experiences associated with entheogens can be acquired from simple techniques that require no special plants or chemicals."

Entheogens trigger intense mystical/religious experiences immediately repeatably and reliably, including the experience of death and rebirth/mystical transformation which is the centrepiece of all the major religions. People do not typically report entheogenic style experiences from drug free alternative practises such as meditating or praying etc.

According to the entheogen theory, meditating and praying make more sense as activities to do within the entheogenic altered state. A person who only meditates and never takes entheogens is avoiding exposure to the altered state, rather than trying earnestly to experience the altered state.

"Entheogens trigger intense mystical/religious experiences immediately repeatably and reliably,"

You are wrong there mate, the problem about entheogenic trips is how extremely unreliable the experience is. Yes they can cause mystical experiences but their is no real reliability of experience from one trip to another. How many times can you take a hallucinogenic drug and have an absolutely amazing trip only to afterwards take ever increasing amounts trying to chase the same trip? Or have a set of experiences once on the drug but never have the same experience again.

There is also the fact that these meditation type practices are ripe throughout all religions well drug use is often frowned upon. In the religions really devoted to altered states of cosciousness through meditation , like Buddhism , drug use is heavily discouraged as it completely messes up their control of the mind .

"including the experience of death and rebirth/mystical transformation which is the centrepiece of all the major religions." This is completely possible without drugs and is known as samadhi in some schools.

Lastly, trying to use drugs + meditation to explain something that meditation can alone cause is a serious violation of Occam's razor.

"How many times can you take a hallucinogenic drug and have an absolutely amazing trip only to afterwards take ever increasing amounts trying to chase the same trip?"

This question is completely at odds with the biological/medical reality. Psychedelic drugs do not produce any tolerance after a few days, they can be taken on a regular basis and will never fail to produce intense alterations of consciousness if the correct dosage is taken

"trying to use drugs + meditation to explain something that meditation can alone cause is a serious violation of Occam's razor."

You could just as easily say the precise inverse of this ^ statement: "trying to use drugs+meditation to explain something that drugs can alone cause is a serious violation of Occam's razor". As i suggested earlier, these practises such as meditating/chanting/drumming etc make far more sense as activities to do within the entheogen-induced altered state sessions.

"This question is completely at odds with the biological/medical reality. Psychedelic drugs do not produce any tolerance after a few days, they can be taken on a regular basis and will never fail to produce intense alterations of consciousness if the correct dosage is taken"

It has nothing to do with tolerance mate. The first few times on any drug are usually the most intense, after that you can stop taking the drug for years and when you take it again it nearly never resembles the first times you took it. And this is my personal experience from taking a shit ton of hallucinogens, Both the more common ones and exotic ones few other people ever try.

And that was not even the main point i was raising. Which is just how unreliable hallucinogenic experiences are. You can take the exact same amount of the exact same drug every month for a year and al your trips will likely be very different. There is no control or reliability on them , unlike meditation or such practices.

"You could just as easily say the precise inverse of this ^ statement: "trying to use drugs+meditation to explain something that drugs can alone cause is a serious violation of Occam's razor". As i suggested earlier, these practises such as meditating/chanting/drumming etc make far more sense as activities to do within the entheogen-induced altered state sessions."

And i would agree with you if drug use was as common a theme in religions as the meditation side of things. The problem is that virtually every religion has meditation style exercises,  while only a handful use drugs. Making drug use as the originator of said religion highly superfluous as an explanation. We know know meditation can cause mystical type experiences , we know meditation allows the person more control over said experiences and we know all religions contain something like meditation while often being disparaging of drug use. So why add drugs on top of this when meditation can perfectly explain it?

The problem about using drugs+ meditation is once again the extreme unreliability of the experiences.

"You can take the exact same amount of the exact same drug every month for a year and al your trips will likely be very different. There is no control or reliability on them , unlike meditation or such practices."

Drugs are 100% reliable at triggering intense altered states of consciousness. You can take drugs as many times as you want and this is guaranteed to be the result. Meditation typically doesnt trigger intense altered states of consciousness, the effect of meditation is more like a kind of mild relaxation.

Mate you are really finding it hard to understand that i never once said drugs don't alter your perception of consciousness. That is kinda the definition of what a recreational  drug does. I am simply saying their is no reliability on just how they change your perceptions. One trip you may talk to mechanical beings and on the next you might be chased by the colour red while end up being lost in fractals on a third. There is absolutely no reliability nor control over just what altered state you will experience even when taking the exact same amount of the exact same drug.

And you obviously have no real clue on what you are talking about regarding the meditation style practices. The mild relaxation is only the first step in certain practices.

Now i have both taken lots of hallucinogenic drugs and spent ages practicing different forms of meditation and i can promise you the meditation is alot more intense , controllable and reliable. At best the drugs offered me brief glimpses of what is possible without them. The problem is i found most people advocating  drugs to achieve these states are bloody lazy. They are not willing to put in all  the  hard work, patience and self control necessary to achieve these states. They instead expect everything to be handed to them on a golden platter and most of all they want it handed to them right now  without putting any effort into it.

A problem with this theory in my mind: psychedelic tripping doesn't seem to account for the controlling nature of the popular religions. Religious dogma is carefully crafted by coherent controllers for desired effect. One can just as easily argue that religion is born of dreams during REM sleep. I doubt it. I am sure tripping was integral to some religions, but not all.

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