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Sun Apr 10 21:47:37 EST 2005

Le 24 Mars nonante-neuf Monsieur Marshall Lewis ecrivit:

>>ASC and Self-Experience in Study of Consciousness
>>I have lurked within JCS On-line for a couple of years now and have been
>>struck by the lack of discussion on alternate states of consciousness
>JCS-online readers may be interested to read my book review of the
>re-edition of Wasson, Hofmann, and Ruck's *The Road to Eleusis,* which will
>appear in the forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Drug
>Policy. In this review, I discuss some of the reasons why psychedelic drugs
>and their ASCs have been ignored by science, among other topics. As this
>list is semi-private, I can reproduce this review here as a
>"pre-publication version" for commentary by colleagues:
>Roots and Herbs
>Peter Webster   vignes at monaco.mc
>The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries.
>Twentieth Anniversary Edition, Hermes Press, 1998.
>R. Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann, Carl A.P. Ruck
>copyright International Journal of Drug Policy 1999
>"We, the Inquisitors against heretical perversity and apostasy, by virtue
>of apostolic authority declare, inasmuch as the use of the herb or root
>called Peyote has been introduced into these Provinces for the purpose of
>detecting thefts, or divining other happenings, and of foretelling future
>events, it is an act of superstition condemned as opposed to the purity and
>integrity of our Holy Catholic Faith. This is certain because neither the
>said herb nor any other can possess the virtue or inherent quality of
>producing the effects claimed, nor can any cause the mental images,
>fantasies and hallucinations on which the above stated divinations are
>based. In these latter are plainly perceived the suggestion and
>intervention of the Devil, the real author of this vice, who first avails
>himself of the natural credulity of the Indians and their tendency to
>idolatry, and later strikes down many other persons too little disposed to
>fear God and of very little faith." (Leonard, 1942)
>The Inquisitors had obviously not ingested any of the condemned herbs or
>roots in the course of their investigations, for in doing so they would
>have had little doubt as to their powerful effects. If they had been the
>intellectuals they pretended to be, rather than mere propagandists for the
>subjugation and confiscation of the entire hemisphere, they might
>themselves have achieved the power of devination through ingestion of the
>native spirit-medicines to see the course of horror they were helping to
>unleash. But it was not to be. Nearly three centuries would have to pass
>before Western man could muster the intellectual courage to experience what
>the conquered primitives had been experiencing for millennia.
>It was the beginning of the strong and popular perception, reinforced over
>the centuries, that altered states of consciousness and the use of the
>magical plants which produced them were something to be rigorously avoided,
>something irrational that only primitives engaged in, something beneath
>the dignity of any civilised person, something that must be repressed by
>every means possible. Not only the Peyote cactus, but many other long-used
>Mexican and pan-American psychoactive plants were condemned by the Catholic
>Church and civil authorities alike, and the tribes which employed such
>tools of the devil relentlessly persecuted. Only a few of the wide range
>of New World psychoactives came to be accepted by Europeans, such as
>tobacco, cocoa, and coffee, (and for a time, much later, coca), and it
>might be immediately observed that the drug plants that were accepted were
>those that acted merely as stimulants, substances which did not so much
>alter consciousness to some unaccustomed or even fantastic state, but which
>merely restored or accentuated normal work-a-day consciousness.
>Peyote, however, along with ololiuhqui (a seed containing LSD analogues),
>teonancatl (psilocybin mushrooms), and literally dozens of other shamanic
>drug plants which appeared to give native peoples powers and perceptions
>that were in conflict both with Catholic dogma and the paradigms of the
>dawning Age of (so-called) Rationality, were declared diabolical, the
>states they produced insane, and much effort was expended attempting to
>convert the peoples that used them. The Drug War had begun, and its
>essential if unstated justification was that the diabolical substances and
>the experiences they produced posed a threat to both religious and colonial
>authority at a practical level, undermining the colonial enterprise, and
>even more significantly, a threat to the fundamental beliefs and
>assumptions  the paradigms  of the dawning Age of Progress, Science, and
>The persecution of drug-users by the Inquisition had its parallels in
>Europe too, for the practice of witchcraft in medieval times had long been
>accompanied by the use of psychoactive hallucinogenic plants such as
>Atropa, Datura, Hyoscyamus, and Mandragora species. The witches
>flying-ointments did not enable adepts to fly through the air as has been
>the myth, but when applied to the genital area with broomsticks, produced
>strong and reliable hallucinations of flying during the resulting trance
>and delirium. (Harner, 1973). Several modern experiments have confirmed the
>effect. (Ott, 1993)
>The use of psychoactives in Europe had roots extending far back into
>history and prehistory as did such use in the New World, but the traditions
>and rituals in Europe had become decadent and far removed from mainstream
>society, whereas in the New World they had by the time of the European
>conquest attained primary importance almost universally among the
>aboriginal tribes and civilisations. And it was the long influence of the
>Catholic Church which was responsible for the difference. At first glance
>one might conclude that Christianity had thus saved wider European society
>from the primitive practice of drug use, but that first glance would be
>as devoid of truth as were the views and motives of the Inquisitors.
>It was not surprising that Catholicism took the same attitude in the New
>World as it had taken concerning the practices of European witchcraft,
>because that attitude had its roots many centuries before in the Catholic
>Churchs drive for centralisation of religious and political power and the
>accompanying excommunication or eradication of competing sects seen as
>threats to orthodoxy. One such sect was centred in Greece, and in the year
>395 A.D. Alaric the Goth and his merry band of Onward Christian Soldiers
>overran and destroyed the Temple at Eleusis, the holy place where the
>famous and two-thousand-year-old Eleusinian Mysteries had been practised.
>The central feature of that yearly celebration, initiation, and revelation
>was the partaking of a powerful and mysterious potion, the kykeon. Far from
>being a minor and obscure sect, the Mysteries had been for centuries a
>central and important religious experience and inspirational revelation
>whose initiates included essentially all the great names of Greek
>antiquity. Its importance, along with the secret of the divine and
>psychoactive sacrament used in the yearly celebration, has remained to this
>day almost entirely ignored by scholars.
>                2.
>The perception that drug use was something primitive, something
>pre-scientific, an anachronistic practise which modern people with
>rational minds not only did not need but should actively shun and
>condemn, that although it was something done by nearly all tribal peoples
>modern rational society had outgrown it and, indeed, was now harmed and
>threatened by it, had its origins in a long Catholic politic and gathered
>momentum in the general mind-set and philosophy of intellectuals and
>religious authorities during the time of the colonial era. But the attitude
>soon attained the status of an obvious truth that would reign
>unquestioned for centuries. Of course, the outlook was well-suited to the
>dawning age of exploration and expropriation. It provided a powerful
>justification for the depredations of colonialism and European manifest
>destiny by insinuating the great superiority of European consciousness,
>religion and philosophy; it thus assisted the centralisation of power and
>authority first by the Church and later by governments and their
>institutions; it assisted the scientific world view to slowly replace the
>superstition of heretics and out-groups everywhere and eventually even of
>religion itself, becoming in the process the modern equivalent of that
>which it replaced. Calling the practises diabolical was perhaps more of
>propaganda than philosophy, even then.
>Thus it wasnt until late into the 19th century that a few curious
>scientists and intellectuals began to experiment with the long-ignored
>drugs and the states they produced, but even then it required the passage
>of another half-century before any general research program began to study
>the subject. (And even then, the research at first was directed largely at
>possible uses of the drugs for warfare and mind-control.) Although
>scientific study of some widely-observed phenomenon has for various reasons
>sometimes been delayed or ignored for long periods, the general and
>centuries-long ignorance both public and scientific of the widespread use
>of psychedelic and hallucinogenic drugs is unprecedented, and leads to the
>conclusion that deep psychological and metaphysical prejudices embedded in
>the collective mind and perception of Western, Industrial-Age man must have
>been at root. The up-tight reaction by mainstream authorities to the sudden
>rediscovery and wide interest in psychedelic drugs in the 1960s, (and we
>are perhaps now at the height of the backlash, the reactionary attempt to
>erase even the memory of positive findings about the substances and their
>use), provides further strong suspicion that the subject of drugs strikes
>some deep chord within the human collective unconscious, that the states of
>mind they unleash have some hitherto unsuspected, intimate and powerful
>connection with the general psychological makeup not only of modern man,
>but of the human race in general. Even the long propaganda of Catholic
>orthodoxy in fostering the myth of drug use as a heathen and unclean
>practice would not have been as effective were it not for some much deeper
>and more fundamental connection between drug-produced altered states of
>consciousness and the roots of the human psyche both Western and aboriginal.
>The only counterpoint to such automatic perceptions about drug use as
>discussed above  the experiments and writings that began late in the 19th
>Century with Louis Lewin, William James and other pioneers of the study of
>altered states of consciousness and which continued on to its peak in the
>1960s  has in general been considered an oddball pursuit and of little
>interest or significance to Western traditions and thought. This remains
>the general attitude. The convictions sown by nearly two millennia of
>Catholic dogma and reinforced by the perceptions and practicalities begun
>in those early days of colonialism have apparently become so much a part of
>the modern paradigm that they act almost invisibly. When proposed as
>reasons for peoples prejudices against drugs and altered states of
>consciousness, and the continuing illogic and tragic folly of Drug
>Prohibition, the suggestion is routinely dismissed as absurd. But history
>proves otherwise. Deeply ingrained into the modern consciousness is the
>notion that modern society represents the final triumphant exit of man from
>the primitive world and all its dirty devices, despite the fact that our
>beloved Century of Progress has seen atrocities that would have awed and
>perhaps even disgusted the greatest tyrants of the ages, and despite the
>important body of modern research which shows beyond a shadow of a doubt
>that some of those dirty devices, the drugs now prejudicially called
>hallucinogenic or even psychotomimetic,[1]  are intimately connected
>with the deepest levels of the collective psychology of the human race and
>demand a thorough exploration. The situation even suggests that the
>knowledge such an exploration will produce may well be the most important
>element yet missing in mankinds understanding of himself and his place in
>                3.
>The connection of drug-use with aboriginal peoples and our perception of
>tribal man as so inferior that he cannot possibly have anything of value to
>teach we moderns, has thus long helped to prevent the merest suspicion that
>psychoactive plants and their preparations might have played a role in
>early European times before the Christian era, or in other cultures which
>constitute at least to some degree the intellectual roots of Western
>civilisation. The work of R. Gordon Wasson and his wife Valentina in the
>1950s, showing the possible sources of certain European customs and
>language features in an early ritual use of psychoactive mushrooms, or that
>psychoactive mushrooms were also the identity of the Soma of the Rg Veda
>and that Siberian use of the same mushroom by shamans goes back many
>thousands of years, (Wasson, 1957, 1968) has not held much interest either
>for scientists nor religious authorities. Such research is dismissed as an
>irrelevant curiosity despite the fact that it brings the use of psychedelic
>and hallucinogenic plants much closer to home than was possible to believe
>If the use of such plant drugs was universal and of utmost importance to
>tribal man, we must conclude that drug use extends back into the most
>remote periods of human prehistory: the prevalence and importance of the
>drugs makes it highly unlikely that their use suddenly appeared throughout
>the world in some later stage of human development. These same factors also
>argue strongly that drug use was not an impediment, and certainly not the
>curse the medieval Church, and many of us still today believe it to be, but
>rather a very positive influence, otherwise we would have either long
>succumbed to the practices or eliminated them during our long developmental
>process.[2]  The seeking of drug-produced altered states of consciousness
>must have been a frequent and contributory feature of human life from the
>very beginnings of our existence and continuing for a period representing
>more than 98 percent of our time on earth.[3]
>The practices must thus permeate our own history and pre-history so
>thoroughly that failing to look for and discover their prevalence in
>societies and civilisations that gave rise to Western civilisation is far
>more than mere oversight. Such failure would posit either the unbelievable
>heresy that medieval Catholic dogma thus still controls the outlook and
>agenda of the modern scientific enterprise, or, far more likely, that the
>significance of the phenomenon, when its true dimensions will have been
>revealed, will necessitate some drastic revisions, perhaps even
>revolutions, in the entire range of sciences of man including psychology,
>sociology, anthropology, evolution, and the practice of medicine and
>psychiatry, not to mention religion! The history of scientific discovery
>has repeatedly demonstrated that collectively, the scientific enterprise
>seems to have an inbuilt mechanism tending to preserve its position in
>favour of embracing pending revolutionary changes even when a significant
>minority has convincingly shown the way toward the inevitable. (Kuhn,
>1962). It is a conservatism that somehow resists and causes its individual
>workers to avoid any radical changes in their perceptions or research
>programs that might topple the structure of authority and chain of command,
>and in that aspect it has undeniable similarities with the religious
>orthodoxy and authority structure it has today largely replaced.
>The final discovery of the connection between the evolution of the human
>psyche and the use of mind-altering plant drugs may well turn out to be the
>General Relativity Theory of both psychology and religion and have far
>reaching consequences for theories of cognition and mind, human biological
>evolution and the entire range of life sciences. We are being forced to
>realise that not only our continuing prejudicial attitudes toward
>aboriginal populations, but our conviction that altered states of
>consciousness and the modern western mind are and should be mutually
>exclusive are grave errors. To separate ourselves from this long
>developmental process, or to believe our own ancestors drug-free, to
>believe that we do not still harbour in our collective psyche not only the
>traces but the continuing need for altering consciousness in profound ways,
>is profoundly ignorant, wilfully ignorant, and reminds this writer of the
>position of the Creationists in denying evolution, positing that God placed
>fossils on the earth to tempt us away from the truth as revealed in the
>Bible. No doubt He also placed heathens and their evil drugs amongst us as
>even greater tests of faith. With regard to elucidating the importance of
>psychedelic and hallucinogenic drugs, the modern scientific enterprise
>resembles far more the attitude of the Creationists and Creation Science
>than the model of objectivity it purports to be.
>                4.
>One of the most interesting and potentially revolutionary books that has
>been published concerning the connection between psychedelic drugs and the
>antecedents of European civilisation, again a work from the pen of R.
>Gordon Wasson and in this instance in collaboration with Albert Hofmann and
>Carl A. P. Ruck, is the volume under review here. Originally published
>twenty years ago, the theory described in The Road to Eleusis was presented
>as a series of papers to the Second International Conference on
>Hallucinogenic Mushrooms held in the state of Washington in the United
>States in October of 1977. As we might expect from my observations on the
>avoidance of revolutionary discovery by the mainstream, the original
>publication of the book went practically unnoticed. Carl Ruck, co-author
>and an authority on ancient Greece, its myths and religions, writes in one
>of the new chapters added to this Anniversary Re-edition:
>"The book excited no interest amongst colleagues in my profession, and
>rarely has anyone even mentioned it to me... The discussion of Dionysos and
>Greek wine, including the symbolic significance of the thyrsos, has been
>completely ignored by Classicists; and the work on Eleusis rarely earns
>even a disparaging footnote in treatments of Greek religion. More recently,
>the Eleusinian Mystery has been expropriated for the curriculum in Womens
>Studies, but despite the grain Goddess, ethnobotany is not on their
>agendum; and they, too, dont speak to me. Students who work with me have
>been warned that they will be blacklisted. My textbooks in grammar, as
>well, as if by contagion, are viewed by some as suspect and a threat to
>Indeed, the principal hypothesis of the book, merely considered as if
>unsupported conjecture, is so important as to pull the rug out from under
>the entire set of modern preconceptions and prejudices about psychedelic
>drugs both popular and scientific. That hypothesis is, that the secret of
>the kykeon, the active ingredient of the potion which inspired the great
>philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, artists, architects and poets of
>ancient Greece who we recognise as the progenitors of Western civilisation,
>the sacrament which was revelation for these greatest of the greats was an
>analogue of LSD: A naturally-produced lysergic acid alkaloid whose effects
>were identical to those of that greatest of all evils, that diabolical
>drug which destroyed a generation, that fly now, die later drug, that
>greater threat to the nation than the Vietnam War, (to quote merely a few
>of the more tame epithets that have been hurled at the revered sacrament of
>Eleusis in its newly discovered form.)
>In the original edition of The Road to Eleusis as in the new, we read three
>chapters in the story of Eleusis that rightfully should become three
>parallel chapters in the story of civilisation. In the first, Gordon Wasson
>describes the long and fascinating voyage of his ethnomycological
>investigations, first in Europe and Asia and later in Mexico with his
>discovery in the 1950s of continuing aboriginal shamanic use of sacred
>psychedelic mushrooms and other plant drugs. The road he followed finally
>led him to Eleusis and the surprising but inevitable conclusion which he
>draws about the long-ignored religion.  The story might be considered an
>allegory of mankinds own ethnomycological investigations in which the
>sacred plants, discovered by our most ancient forebears, became a constant
>feature of civilisation culminating with the ultimate use of the most
>powerful and inspiring of those substances in Greece and the corresponding
>rise of Greek society from a bronze-age tribal society to the highest
>levels of civilisation.
>In chapter two Albert Hofmann, discoverer of LSD and the active principles
>of the Mexican sacred mushrooms, and perhaps the worlds foremost authority
>on the chemistry of psychedelic and hallucinogenic plant drugs, presents
>the result of his own investigation into the Eleusis hypothesis, and in his
>story we can recognise the highest traditions of our own civilisation in
>the scientific exploration of the perennial questions that have been the
>central quest for mankind since the dawn of consciousness. In a deceptively
>brief, always concise presentation, Dr. Hofmann tells the story of his long
>collaboration with Wasson, and the Challenging Question to which that
>road of friendship and seeking led: Given the conclusion that the kykeon of
>Eleusis was a consciousness-altering sacrament, what were its active
>ingredients and how might they have been prepared by the Eleusinian Priests?
>In chapter three Carl Ruck explores the mythology, art, and surviving
>writings from and about ancient Greece to fit together the assembled puzzle
>from Wassons surmise, Hofmanns biochemical researches, and pieces of
>evidence long lost and long ignored. In the process he shows that the
>Eleusis hypothesis is far more than mere conjecture, but has attained the
>status of a theory supported by several lines of evidence and which reveals
>a wide spectrum of truth about the entire development of civilisation.
>In the new edition of the book, and in homage to the life and work of the
>late Gordon Wasson, Carl Ruck and Albert Hofmann have contributed further
>chapters of their reflections and afterthoughts on the Eleusis theory, and
>have concluded that the passage of time has proven a positive test for it.
>And as a special surprise, the noted theologian Huston Smith, who has been
>writing on the connection between religion and psychedelic drugs for over
>thirty years, (Smith, 1964) has contributed a short commentary on the
>importance of the hypothesis for modern society. In recognising this
>importance we shall find a new Road to Eleusis, for this Road is a
>two-way street: In our time it is the discovery by these three scholars of
>some of the most important information on the roots of our civilisation and
>the herbs which nourished them, yet Eleusis was also the triumphant end of
>another road, that of the evolution of human consciousness toward high
>civilisation. Thus, as Eleusis stood most significantly in the midst of
>Greek Civilisation so does it stand for the evolution of humankind and our
>modern discovery of the scenario of our own genesis.
>                5.
>In our recent history, outrage from every quarter has certainly been
>forthcoming concerning drugs, and considering its source in age-old
>prejudice we can perhaps understand and even forgive outrage when it comes
>from public opinion and perception. But outrage is supposedly not among the
>tools of the scientific method, and neither is wilful ignorance. Modern
>myth insists that science is transparent and immune to cultural prejudice,
>that it pursues truth wherever it may lead, that it shirks not its duty to
>reveal even when religious or social convictions criticise and try to
>impede it. Where, therefore, is the appreciative recognition of this great
>Eleusinian discovery, the accolades from the scientific establishment, or
>even from the influential minority of researchers that Kuhn has shown to be
>the vanguard of scientific change and revolution? Where are the expressions
>of scientific astonishment that psychedelics should have played such a
>fundamental role in the early evolution of Western consciousness? The
>discovery of the role of psychedelics in mankinds evolution both social
>and psychological should be the equivalent of the discovery of relativity
>for physics, the discovery of DNA for biology, the introduction of
>antibiotics for medicine...
>The proofs are there: the fact of long and intimate association with sacred
>drugs by the entire family of man (save post-Catholic-Inquisitional man),
>and here in this final volume of a long series of works by Wasson and a few
>other pioneers the research which irrevocably ties the most important
>foundations of our own civilisation to mind-changing drugs. Why is not this
>book acknowledged as one of the most important of our time, along with On
>The Origin of Species, The Meaning of Relativity, and other works which
>define the entire direction of modern thought? There is a simple answer to
>my questions which, if not obvious to the reader by now, should be.
>I urge scientists and all those whose future welfare and self-esteem
>depends on having not fallen prey to the prejudice and ignorance that
>devalues and even obliterates the work of a lifetime, all those who will
>wish to end their days with the idea that they helped to dispel
>superstition and not prolong it, to read of Wassons long life-work in the
>uncovering of facts that should astonish the world but have not, to read of
>the work of the brilliant Swiss chemist whose discoveries should have
>brought great prizes and universal recognition but have not, to read the
>facts revealed by an expert on Greek civilisation and religion who likewise
>should be sharing fame and fortune with the greats of our time; to read the
>case as presented in The Road to Eleusis and allow this revolutionary view
>to dissolve what is perhaps the most important and destructive prejudice
>and superstition that remains to be dispelled by modern man.
>If drugs have played the role we now see they must have, how can any
>rational person, or an organisation that more than any other represents the
>collective knowledge and momentum of modern civilisation, the United
>Nations, be promoting the conviction that a drug-free world is a
>desirable and necessary, a noble goal? Brian Inglis, in his excellent
>survey of Prohibitions, The Forbidden Game, wrote, Drugs will not be
>brought under control until society itself changes, enabling men to use
>them as primitive man did; welcoming the visions they provided not as
>fantasies, but as intimations of a different, and important, level of
>reality. Once the initial step is made, once the recognition of truth and
>necessity has let a thin shaft of light through the now precariously
>shuttered doors of our collective perception, these substances themselves
>will aid humanity to advance to its next phase. Considering the history of
>the 20th Century, advance is not only desirable, but critically necessary
>if we are to do more than survive. Considering some of the worst of modern
>trends, even survival may be an optimistic hope.
>No book, and no theory, of course, is perfect, and I have my quibbles with
>certain small aspects of the theory presented in The Road to Eleusis.
>Objections have been voiced that there remain problems with the proposed
>methods of preparation and use of the Eleusinian sacrament, and that no one
>has yet experimentally reproduced a potion with sufficient psychoactive
>properties. A recent article by Ivan Valencic, Has the Mystery of the
>Eleusinian Mysteries Been Solved? (Valencic, 1994), provides the best
>statement of current objections. But nowhere do we read of serious faults
>that can dismiss the larger view inherent in the entire body of scholarly
>study about psychedelic and hallucinogenic drugs, nor can it be refuted
>that there has been a deplorable lack of scholarship over the years in
>ignoring the Eleusinian religion, nor can it be maintained that anything
>other than illegitimate morality insists that the kykeon must surely not
>have been a drug! In light of the now available evidence, such objections
>today put a writer or a scientist in not much better position than were the
>Inquisitors who wrote the statement I quoted at the start of this review.
>The inseparable and symbiotic relationship between drugs and the entire
>family of man is in no more doubt than the fact that life has evolved. No
>amount of doctrine, convictions, hand-wringing, epithets,

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