To begin with, I'm well aware that the subject of this post is unusually bizarre and extremely controversial, and so I'd like to stress the fact that it's definitely NOT my intention to offend anyone or put down anybody's religious beliefs. I'm merely trying to start a line of discussion that will hopefully be interesting to some of you. So there goes...
I recently heard about Professor John Rush's new book, Failed God: Fractured Myth in a Fragile World. In a (perhaps oversimplified) nutshell, this is a book about certain issues in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and their relation to entheogenic and psychedelic plants and substances.
Entheogens and psychedelics are basically chemical compounds that are capable of inducing altered states of consciousness. Some people believe those states to be of some existential, personal, and/or mystical pertinence and import, while others maintain that those states and the experiences that they provoke or induce are nothing more than hallucinations which result from the chemical imbalance that these substances produce in brain chemistry. While shamans and spiritual leaders of places like Amazonia, Peru, Siberia, and Middle Africa use these compounds as spiritual aids and sacred medicines, most Western societies outlaw the use of these substances on the basis that they're harmful on both the personal and societal levels. Examples of those substances include Psilocine (the active form of Psilocybin, which can be found in magic mushrooms), Ayahuasca (an orally-active form of dimethyl-triptamine, or DMT), and even nicotine and caffeine to some degree.
But back to the book. Professor Rush holds to the very unorthodox opinion that Jesus Christ, the central figure of the Christian belief system, was not actually a real person. Of course, many people have proposed the same idea over the years, presenting certain arguments that the historical accounts of a man called Jesus are nothing more than fictional accounts to propound a certain ideology/religion for one reason or another. Rush's contention, however, is even more heretical than this. He argues that there is overwhelming proof that Jesus was an experience with the Amanita muscaria mushroom and other mind-altering substances, and not a living, breathing human being.
Such an idea may seem outwardly nonsensical, probably even comical to many people. The interesting thing is that, throughout his book, Professor Rush makes a compelling case for such a wild claim. He's done a lot of research on the subject and he presents a significant amount of historical, anthropological, and even artistic data in support of this idea.
I haven't read the book yet, so I can neither defend it nor reject it. The only things I know about its content are things I read in reviews and several online discussions. However, I've read a number of other books and papers that revolve around similar notions and hypotheses. I can't say that I'm entirely convinced, but I must also admit that they're not just interesting and amusing ideas to ponder, but the evidence for them seems to be growing.
So anyway, I was wondering if somebody has read this book or has come across a similar idea. If so, what do you think about it? Of course, I'm hoping that the discussion, should it gain any interest, be more than a simple snub. And I'll write more about the book and its arguments as soon as I get my hands on it.
Again, I'd like to repeat that I'm neither an advocate nor an opponent here – at least, not yet. I'm simply interested in a new idea that, even if proved completely wrong, may lead to some important consequences and/or contemplations.
General Book Description [Copied from Amazon.com]
On a 2001 trip to the cathedrals of Europe, anthropologist John Rush and his wife entered St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and encountered a mosaic depicting Jesus surrounded by mushrooms with an Amanita muscaria cap in his hand. Examining the space with new eyes, they discovered images of mushrooms and mind-altering plants all over the Basilica. Intrigued, Dr. Rush spent seven years researching and reflecting on the profound effects hallucinogens had on the founding of all three major Western religions. He concluded that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are political constructions evolving out of the use of not only Amanita muscaria, but a plethora of mind-altering substances.
Failed God: Fractured Myth in a Fragile World re-examines the scriptural stories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as told in the Bible and Qur’an and reveals them as “concocted mythical charters stemming from drug-induced romps with the super-natural.” Rush shows how mind-altering substances played an instrumental role in the birth and development of Western religions and explains how they contributed to reports of “prophetic” experiences, including angry and disturbing messages from the divine. With chapters on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Rush fully addresses the effects of mind-altering substances on each tradition, convincingly discrediting the idea that they stem from actual human interaction with the divine. He also shows how an intoxicated and over-zealous Apostle Paul corrupted Jesus’s simple message of human decency, forming an oppressive religious system based on fear. In a thought-provoking conclusion, Rush asks how we can continue to attribute authority to traditions that were so clearly irrationally founded and incompatible with today’s world.