This post is about an episode from the Joe Rogan podcast with guests Brian Muraresku and Graham Hancock, episode number #1543. It centers around psychedelic use in ancient history, how these magical molecules have influenced humanity and culture, and how they seem to have heavily influenced all cultures and religions.
As with many Joe Rogan episodes, there is so much to flesh out from the guests. I haven’t addressed everything they discussed, but have touched on points that specifically stood out to me in this episode.
Disclaimer: Please note, this isn’t medical advice, I am just sharing what really stood out to me personally in this episode.
The interview can be found on Spotify as the original has been removed from YouTube (including uploaded copies on other channels).
Joe Rogan Experience #1543 – Brian Muraresku & Graham Hancock
“This is another aspect of psychedelics is the moral aspect, critics and enemies of psychedelics want to associate them with some kind of immorality. But actually, anybody who’s worked extensively with them will know that they contain moral teachings, whether it is the mushrooms or LSD they cause us to examine our own behavior, our own impact on others, to question our unkindness to others, and to give us a push to begin to be better people and more caring and nurturing for others. So this strong moral element in psychedelics is totally ignored by the critics who just want to demonize these substances.” – Graham C. Hancock
I have written about psychedelics before (see below). But if you don’t read further just remember that many psychedelics actually serve as anti-addictive substances and have tremendous therapeutic value both in clinical and private settings.
- DMT: The Experience, How It Works, And DMT Entities
- Psychedelics: Recommended Books & Sites
- What to do before taking Ayahuasca
Psychedelics are powerful healing agents and possess a unique ability that results in an introspective state of awareness, often fostering compassion for oneself and others. They can be low-risk when used safely with the proper precautions taken (including doing the appropriate research and being aware of the risks).
People who use psychedelics range from all walks of life – from military veterans treating their PTSD, to chemists who work in laboratories exploring the limits of consciousness, as well as terminally ill patients using it to assuage their anxiety over death.
Bear in mind that one can be against ‘drug culture’ or indiscriminate use of drugs, while also being for psychedelic molecules. Psychedelics are a very unique category of drugs.
Experiencing psychedelics can be one of the most amazing experiences of a person’s life, yet it remains uniquely sidelined and feared – this even despite its immense healing potential. Even from a single use, it has the ability to heal hardcore addiction from substances such as opiates and heroin. It has also been shown to have a powerful role in helping people heal from trauma and PTSD.
I think it’s fair to say that psychedelics are the least understood and most misunderstood of all drugs.
Brian C. Muraresku is an attorney, and scholar of Latin and Sanskrit. He is the author of The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name, which he spent 12 years researching and writing.
The Immortality Key is a “look into the psychedelic origins of the world’s great spiritual practices and what those might mean for how we view ourselves and the world around us.”
Graham Hancock, British author and journalist, explored the role of psychedelics in the origin of Christianity. Hancock is the New York Times bestselling author of America Before: The Key to Earth’s Lost Civilization.
Notably, Muraresku has never taken psychedelics in order to maintain a certain impartiality while studying and writing his book. Hancock, on the other hand, has a lot of personal experience with them.
Muraresku explains that his interest in psychedelics piqued when he mentally combined the statistic that two-thirds of participants in the psychedelic studies at NYU and Boston Universities described the experiences as the most amazing and profound experiences of their entire lives, and what he had come across over the course of his studies of the ancient world of a place called Eleusis – which is described as the spiritual capital of the ancient world.
That statistic just blew me away. Two-thirds of participants describing the experience as the most amazing and profound experience of their lives. It’s not just a visual experience, it is one that integrates meaning and lessons into your life in ways you were not aware of before. These lessons and insights often have a permanent impact – staying with people for the rest of their lives.
Psychedelic Use in the Ancient world
Hancock opens the discussion, talking about his interest in the influence of psychedelics on human culture. He references his book Supernatural, (2006) which in his words; looks at the huge role which psychedelics have played in culture and in religions all around the world, and the role of psychedelics in the origins of Christianity. He also mentions Muraresku’s book and explains how it presents evidence that the first Christians were using psychedelics and that the religious experiences they had were mediated by psychedelic experiences.
“…Eleusis is essentially the spiritual capital of the ancient world, where the best and brightest of Athens and Rome went to essentially meet a goddess in the flesh and have this mind-blowing visionary experience.”
“…before Jerusalem, before Rome, before Mecca there was Eleusis and for some reasons, we’re not taught about this in our high school mythology or western civilization classes. But it was there that Plato, Cicero, Marcus Auerelis all went to drink a magical potion and in their words, have this magical vision that Plato calls a blessed sight and vision – the holiest of mysteries in which they claim to have a direct encounter with the goddess and completely, eradicate their fear of death.”
Plato, Pindar, and Sophocles all reference Eleusis. Having read all available extant works by Pindar and Sophocles, and a fair amount of Plato, I came across mentions of the Oracle of Delphi and Eleusis. I had thought this was all fiction – I did not realise how much of this was potentially historically accurate.
“They talk about a vision that’s almost universal, and they almost universally talk about this once in a lifetime transformative experience event… At the time the Greeks didn’t really look forward to the afterlife, in fact, there was no afterlife you just disappeared into Hades to do God knows what. But people walk away from Eleusis saying that they found salvation. And we don’t know why or how, we know this potion is involved, we know they make this pilgrimage 13 miles to Eleusis and they prepare for months if not years, before it and they’re forever changed afterward.”
Our ancestors have been using psychedelic plants and consuming them in a variety of ways – from potions, in pastes, smoking, chewing, and even using the venom of toxic toads.
It is curious that we have as a culture shown little interest in psychedelics. And not just an indifference – but an active shunning of those who use or who wish to study them, either as part of academic research, or purely to increase personal knowledge of these mysterious plants.
The study of psychedelics goes so much further – it leads to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the origins of major institutions such as religion, and even to the understanding of how these molecules can increase empathy, self-understanding, and show unparalleled efficacy in treating addiction and trauma.
There are references to psychedelic mushrooms and plants in the artwork of cavemen as well as old Christmas cards of the early 19th century, and references can even be found in the stained glass art in Cathedrals.
“It’s fascinating to me that these cultures seem to have hidden these rituals – and this goes back as far as Soma from the ancient Hindu texts – which is described in incredible ways but we still don’t know what it is. – Joe Rogan”
These references have slowly over time been replaced and mostly forgotten, but the valuable work of people like Muraresku and Hancock shed a light on a significant part of our history. One that has continued all across the world and among many different isolated cultures, all using psychedelics for similar purposes, and in some cases with identical experiences.
The mystery cults of the ancient world used wine that may have been spiked or infused with plants containing psychedelic compounds as part of their occult rituals. These rituals included sacrificing animals, even dogs, as well as the scarring of genitals (and in some cases even castration), sex rites, and lavish parties.
“In 1978 the three renegades – Gordon Watson, Albert Hoffman, and Carl Ruck who was the chair of the classics department at Boston University, put out this book – the Road to Eleusis – claiming that they’d found the secret after 2000 years and what they claimed is that this potion was spiked with ergot. Which is a naturally occurring fungus from which you can synthesize LSD and in fact, it’s how Albert Hoffman synthesized LSD by accident in 1938 with cultures of ergot.”
Ergot has also been linked to the famous witch trials of the middle ages, though this link is controversial.
Ergot is a fungus, most commonly found on rye, and less commonly on other grasses such as wheat. Ergot was found in the ancient world – in fact the earliest mention of ergot dates to 1100 BCE in Chinese writings.
Ergot can cause hallucinations among those affected since among the chemicals it contains is lysergic acid, which is the precursor of LSD.
Muraresku talks about Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist who was the first person to synthesize, ingest, and learn of the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). He actually discovered LSD by accident – he was researching medically useful ergot alkaloid derivatives by combining lysergic acid with different organic molecules.
Psychedelics in the Modern World
Despite more studies being conducted on psychedelics, academics who study them to this day are still shunned and encounter resistance by closed-minded academics.
There are plenty of academics and research institutions that continue to do this amazing work. I think one of the difficulties with psychedelics being accepted into the mainstream is due to how people are using and consuming them.
In tribal societies, they are consumed during important rites, not in the wanton casual approach which is all too common today.
In comparison in the West, they are consumed frequently and indiscriminately. Stripping them of their spiritual value.
“They should be treated like you have a Willy Wonka golden ticket to meet God – Joe Rogan”
There was a great deal of secrecy that surrounded these potions and these potions were seen as a gateway to another dimension. Hancock agrees that psychedelics should only be used for the sacred and spiritual purposes for which they were intended.
“…Three puffs and all of a sudden you’re in Narnia…way more intense than Narnia…” Joe Rogan
“…You’re in Narnia and you’re in a place where entities are actually communicating with you and speaking to you and teaching you.” – Graham Hancock
It is interesting that as a culture we have shunned psychedelics yet in many parts of the tribal world they play an important role.
Research and discussions like the one between Joe Rogan, Brian Muraresku, and Graham Hancock, challenge us to rethink our past and serve as a bridge to connect us to our past in a unique way.
They teach us more about where we’ve come from and the origins of institutes like religion. We have parts of our history that have been forgotten or suppressed, including the origins of religions, certain elements of how the religions were practiced, as well as how psychedelics have played a role in various religions.
There are many parallels between what people experience on psychedelics and what people encounter during spiritual experiences. This is often expressed in artworks around the world which – despite geographic and cultural boundaries – have a surprising amount of similarity among them.
There is a lot of overlap with reports from the ancient world, and what people are finding today in studies conducted in controlled clinical settings. Reports such as loss of the fear of death, the feeling that this life is just one part of a journey, that life continue after death, etc.
It is peculiar how broad the scope of psychedelics becomes. This talk touches on rethinking ancient civilizations, spirituality, the medical benefits of psychedelics, mystical experiences, as well as the very origins of psychedelics. There aren’t many topics that seamlessly tie so many things together, even in the academic and research realms.
Books Mentioned in the Podcast
The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross: A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity Within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East is a 1970’s book about the linguistics of early Christianity and fertility cults in the Ancient Near East. It was written by John Marco Allegro (1923-1988).
The Road to Eleusis (1978)
The Immortality Key (2020)