Month: June 2013

213. Earl Lee’s Shocking Theory Links Hallucinogenic Mushrooms to Christian Burial Rites

Interview explores theory suggesting that hallucinogenic substances were central to the development of religious thought and practices. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Earl Lee author of, From the Bodies of the Gods: Psychoactive Plants and the Cults of the Dead.  During the interview Lee talks about his theory: Alex Tsakiris:   In your book, you connect the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms by Shaman, depicted in these cave paintings, with some rather shocking ideas about how mushrooms might have been cultivated and used in early Christian. Take us through that. Earl Lee:   My theory is that in ancient times there were people who were identified as a Shaman, either male or female, who was the person who would consume the mushrooms in order to prophesize the future, whether it was good crops or they needed to travel to some other place, and that sort of thing. Over time, as a Shaman used the mushrooms, the mushroom spores would get on their clothing and then later when that person dies and is buried, I think there’s a very strong likelihood, especially if they’re in a shallow grave, and a moist grave, for those mushrooms to actually grow, living off of the mixture of the natural fibers plus whatever viscous liquids might be wicked up from the decaying body. The reason I think this is probably what happened is because I think that at some point the bodies were accidentally unearthed and people saw these mushrooms growing on these bodies and decided that this person was particularly holy and that the mushrooms that come from a corpse are probably particularly valuable in terms of communicating with the gods or the next world or the afterlife. That linked in people’s minds that this is what we use to communicate with the dead.  With the gods that listen to the dead.  And how we have visions of the next world. You can see that idea reflected, particularly in Egyptian religion, but in other religions, too. (continued below) Earl Lee's Blog Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It  Listen Now: Download MP3 (51 min.) Read It: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with the leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris, and on this episode of Skeptiko I have an interview with a professor from Pittsburg State University where we explore his interesting theory that the origins of many of our religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, can be traced back to the use of hallucinogenic drugs. He even has some startling evidence about the cultivation of those mushrooms but we’ll leave that for the interview. What I want to do before the interview is to add a little context to this dialogue, particularly since Earl Lee is an Atheist, a rather outspoken Atheist, and as much as I appreciate his scholarship on this topic and the information that he’s brought forth which is really important for understanding these traditions that are so much a part of our culture—I don’t care if you live in Europe and you think you’ve shed yourself from all religious trappings and all the rest of that. Hey, these Abrahamic traditions are woven deep, deep, deep into our culture and there’s no escaping that. So this kind of work, that aims at seriously re-writing or rectifying that history, I think is important to all of us. At the same time, I’m amazed how academics in general and Atheists in particular can’t look deeper into the psychedelic experience and what it points to in terms of extended human consciousness. I mean, all the current research we have with hallucinogenics, Rick Strassman, David Nutt, all the rest, suggest that hallucinogenics are pointing us not towards the same old mind equals brain paradigm but to this idea of extended human consciousness. Now, to Earl’s credit, I think he’s willing to go there more than most people are but it still amazes me that more can’t see how this little twist in the story from “tripping early Christians” to “early Christians who are achieving transformative spiritual experiences through the aid of psychedelic drugs”, why that little twist in the road isn’t more obvious. This was a fascinating discussion for me. I really appreciate the scholarship of Earl Lee, whose work continues to fly under the radar despite its massive implications. I hope you enjoy this dialogue with Earl Lee from Pittsburgh State University: Alex Tsakiris:   Today we welcome Earl Lee to Skeptiko as a faculty member and honorary professor at Pittsburgh State University. Now that’s in Kansas, folks, but it is called Pittsburgh State. Earl is the author of a fascinating book titled, From the Bodies of the Gods: Psychoactive Plants and the Cults of the Dead. Fascinating stuff. Earl, thanks so much for joining me and welcome to Skeptiko. Earl Lee:  I’m glad to be here.


212. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Janet Colli Treats Trauma of Alien Contact Experience

Interview explores the trauma and eventual spiritual transformation of those reporting alien contact. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Janet Colli author of, Sacred Encounters: Spiritual Encounters During Close Encounters.  During the interview Colli talks about how the trauma caused by these experiences: Alex Tsakiris:   Suppose you have an Iraqi war veteran who walks into your office and says, “I’m suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome,” which 20 years ago was highly controversial, but now we’d say, “Okay,” and you’d have a series of protocols you might take that person through. What are the limits on what you can do with someone like that versus what you do with someone who comes in and says, “I think I had an encounter with alien beings and I’ve had this for a long time and it’s really causing me a lot of stress.” As a clinician, how do you deal with those two situations? How are they similar; how are they different? Dr. Janet Colli:   I would say that the nervous system doesn’t make up trauma. The signs of trauma are pretty well recognized now. That knowledge and those experiences pretty much overwhelmed all of the questions of are people making up things? You want to treat it as trauma and to some degree respect what people are saying even if you yourself are not sure of the so-called objective reality of what happened. You want to be treating that using trauma methods. I use the EMDR a lot, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and it really does help the nervous system process things that are difficult. (continued below) Dr. Colli's Website Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It  Listen Now: Download MP3 (44 min.) Read It: (pre-interview) Dr. Janet Colli:   How would you characterize your audience, if I might ask? Alex Tsakiris:   No, I’m glad you did. My audience is very open-minded and progressive-minded so we just call the skeptical nonsense for what it is and say, “That’s just a crazy, irrational worldview that just really doesn’t make sense.” But in the spirit of doing that, I think we have to remain skeptical as well, and when we get into consciousness there are a lot of different people saying a lot of different things out there.