World-renowned experts in law, medicine, Buddhism, art, psionics and ancient cultures congregated in January 2004 for the first Entheogenesis conference at Vancouver’s BC Marijuana Party Bookstore. The psychedelic secrets shared that weekend included that some Buddhists got high as part of their initiations, that the burning bush of Moses may have been an ayahuasca-induced vision, and that certain sects of the Catholic Church ate magic mushrooms and drank each other’s pee.
The entry fee of $125 was a paltry sum compared to the jeweled fruits of wisdom literally dripping from the walls and ceiling, as I and many others relaxed into LSD, mushroom and cannabis-induced euphoria. Many more watched from their computers around the globe. The shockwave of arcane knowledge that rippled out of the conference tested the capacity of Pot-TV’s servers, which streamed live to over 7,000 Internet viewers.
Pot seed magnate and entheogenesis hierophant Marc Emery hosted the event, popping in and out to guide the proceedings, dispense sacraments, share tokes, and meet everyone’s unspoken needs.
Early in the conference, Doctors Carl P Ruck and Blaise Staples, professors at Boston University, took the stage to explain the word “entheogenesis,” which they had coined. “The Greek word ‘theos’ means ‘god’ and ‘en’ means ‘in,'” Ruck elucidated. “With the addition of ‘genesis’ you get a word that means ‘experiencing divine inspiration through the use of these plants that have god within them.’ We hoped to come up with a word that would replace ‘psychedelic.'”
Tripping as initiation
One common theme during the conference was the use of entheogenic plants as the basis for spiritual and religious experiences. During the conference, Pot-TV manager Chris Bennett presented the convincing argument that cannabis was the main ingredient in the anointing oil used by the ancient Jews to initiate priests and kings, the recipe for which can be found in Exodus 30:23, a theme which he expands more fully in his book, Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible.
Author Mike Crowley, who admitted to being a distant relation to Aleister Crowley, blew our minds with the assertion that certain Buddhists used to get high on Amanita muscaria mushrooms as part of a soma initiation, and that perhaps they still do. Crowley traced the use of mushrooms to a tantric Hindu sect that was absorbed into Buddhism, the Vajrayana, or “thunderbolt vehicle” sect ? thunderbolts being commonly associated with mushrooms throughout ancient history. Crowley’s conference paper also showed that the Tibetan word for cannabis is So.Ma.Ra.Dza, a term which is borrowed directly from the Sanskrit Soma-raja meaning “king soma,” indicating that cannabis and mushrooms may have alternated as the ancient and mysterious soma. Other Buddhist deities, said Crowley, are associated with the psilocybe mushroom and the DMT-containing Acacia catechu tree.
Ancient mushroom eaters also commonly drank urine, as the liver would transform the active ingredients of Amanita muscaria into the less toxic and more potent chemical muscimole. Crowley showed a rare picture of the god Ganapati, with his wife swallowing his flaccid penis and a load of his psychoactive urine.
Professors Ruck and Staples argued that the famous “tauroctony,” the depiction of the god Mithras slaying a bull that appears in most of the god’s early Roman temples, was actually symbolic of the harvesting of the sacramental Amanita muscaria mushroom for use in the religion’s initiation rituals, which apparently included anal sex and drinking pee.
Professor Benny Shanon, of Israel’s Hebrew University, revealed that Jewish and Arabic folklore contains references to Syrian Rue, a Monoamine Oxidase (MAO) inhibitor that, when combined with the locally available DMT-containing Acacia tree, created a brew similar in constituents and effects to the entheogenic ayahuasca used by South American shamans. His research further showed that Moses’ burning bush episode, in which Moses talks with God, has profound, key characteristics of imagery in common with the visions of ayahuasca drinkers.
Medical doctor and cannabis researcher Ethan Russo took us on a tour of cannabis use in ancient Greek, Indian, Chinese, Egyptian and Sumerian cultures. Russo compared historical medical uses of ganja to the proven medical efficacy of pot’s cannabinoids, flavinoids and terpines, which have a wide variety of anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and even, somewhat paradoxically, anti-hunger effects! His presentation proved once and for all why a synthetic pharmaceutical THC product doesn’t stack up to fresh, whole bud.
Russo also told us how we all, even our tea-toting grandmothers, get high all the time on cannabinoids that are naturally produced in our brains. He described a twisted 2001 study in which baby rats, genetically engineered to be without cannabinoid receptors, wouldn’t drink their mother’s milk and subsequently died of starvation. Cannabinoid receptors, concluded the Frankensteinish experimenters, were integral to the process of learning how to eat.
“[Cannabinoid receptors] are in every animal species except insects, and that’s probably why they don’t have a sense of humor,” joked Russo, leaving many of us to wonder whether US government drug warriors also lacked these vital receptors.
Debunking the myth that psychedelics cause “holes in the brain” ? as advertised on Oprah and in police anti-drug flyers ? Rick Doblin took us step-by-step through an expose of the outrageous method used to fake such supposed evidence. Doblin, founder and head of the Multi-disciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), explained that drug war deceivers had deceptively used blood-flow images that simply show holes wherever blood flow is below an arbitrarily assigned figure.
He described many other faked and botched studies in MDMA and cannabis, including how the scientists, who conducted a key study used to prohibit MDMA, later admitted they had “accidentally” replaced the MDMA in their study with methamphetamine. He told how some religious groups had hoped to prevent the initial ban of MDMA, one rabbi publicly describing it as “a sabbath after a long week.”
Doblin also told how anti-drug forces today conspire to prevent studies into the benefits of MDMA and cannabis, but added that he had recently received support from Senators Kerry and Kennedy, and that positive and truthful studies could soon be underway, stirring a loud cheer from the audience.
The brain’s psychedelic receptors can be thought of as keyholes in locks defending the societally-fashioned ego from spiritual experiences that otherwise would open the door to a revolution in consciousness that includes telepathy, clairvoyance and radically new modes of thought.
Doctor Jean Molay, who once partied with the Grateful Dead, gave probably the most sensical model for understanding entheogen-fueled telepathy and clairvoyance, or “psi and psychedelics.” She explained that emotions can play havoc by creating projections that overpower the psi senses. She added that long meditations can be needed to rid oneself of internal emotional feedback.
Professor Tom Roberts, from the University of Northern Illinois’ Faculty of Educational Psychology, and editor of Psychoactive Sacramentals called psychedelics the “new Gutenburg revolution.” “It’s a change parallel to what happened in the 1500’s, when ordinary people began to read the bible,” he said. “Now we have a new democratization of experience, through psychedelic plants.” These new experiences, he explained, give the minds of the masses new information to process, and new conclusions to reach.
The current of revolution
Also appearing at Entheogenesis was a pantheon of psychedelic goddesses, who have dedicated their lives to the entheogenic revolution. Aurora Giraffe invited everyone to join her online community to share information about the responsible use of popular new plant allies like Salvia Divinorum; Sandra Karpetas from the Iboga Therapy House related how heroin and cocaine users have been miraculously healed of their addictions at her clinic; and Renee Boje, who fights extradition from Canada on charges she helped grow med-pot in the US, spoke eloquently about the suppression of entheogen-using goddess religions throughout history.
A palpable feeling of transformation took place in those attending the two-day event. They left entertained, stoned and well-fed, filled with the teachings and secrets of the highest minds in the entheogenic field, brimming with hope that decades of drug war injustice may someday end? and that plant sacraments will be free.