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The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name

 

The Immortality Key, by the American author and lawyer Brian C. Muraresku, is at once entertaining, annoying, important, and badly argued. They key assertion is that the ancient mystery religions used psychoactive doped beer or wine, akin in its effects to psilocybin experiences of today. He does us a great service in reminding the present that the Eleusinian Mysteries, as they were called, involved a ceremonial consumption of psychoactive chemicals of unknown nature, and that the pilgrimage and associated ceremonies acted as the centre of a religious cult that lasted for centuries if not millennia. The Eleusisian Mysteries were not some trivial affair. The site, and its ceremonies, acted as the major cultic centre of the ancient Greek-speaking world. Romans too participated.

To summarize the argument, Muraresku claims:

  • that Eleusis (a city near Athens) was the centre of a cult that involved psychoactive chemicals absorbed in religious context. Though the participants were sworn to secrecy, enough has been written about the effects of the ceremonies to give a reasonable confidence that whatever went on there caused participants to have profound psychic events that erased in them the fear of death.
  • Other centres of such ceremonial consumption of psychoactive beer and wine existed in the Greek-speaking world.
  • That some early Greek-speaking Christians practiced holy communions of a similar type. This is called the “pagan continuity thesis”. It means that Christianity emerged out of the interaction of Judaism with a Greek-speaking, wine drinking culture and that, to be accepted by the Greeks, the core ceremonies of Christianity were made attractive to the followers of Dionysus, god of wine. Although Muraresku is not clear on this point, it appears from his argument that some but not all early Christian house churches of the Greek speaking world practiced a communion with pyschoactive chemicals.
  • This form of holy communion with the body and blood of the living God was suppressed by Roman Catholic Church authorities in the course of time.
  • The Roman and other churches have been offering a placebo communion for the last two thousand years.
  • The suppression of witches in the 16th and 17th centuries was a further continuing suppression of ancient female-borne knowledge of psychoactive chemicals.

The first two points are very likely to be true. The third is a stretch, but it could be true. The fourth point, suppression of psychoactive communions,  depends on the third point being true, because there might have been no psychoactive chemical communions to suppress. The fifth point, that what is offered in communion to this day is a placebo, a substitute for the eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood of the true God, constitutes (I believe) a huge mistake as to what the Chritian message is. The last point, that the suppression of witches was the suppression of female centred drug knowledge, seems plausible

Muraresku calls this the “pagan continuity with psychoactive twist” thesis.

I find it significant that the author has never tried psychoactive chemicals of any kind.  Thus his arguments cannot be refuted or defended against by saying he is a drug adept. For the same reason they also partake of a complete innocence of the issue.  In my experience, psychoactive chemicals, such as psilocybin and other entheogens, have to be approached in a spirit of religious awe, and in a completely secure and preferably beautiful setting. The reasons for this is obvious to anyone who has tripped. Nor should they be done in a crowd. Not everyone can handle it. Some might be in a very bad mental space. For many practical reasons, you cannot have thousands of people tripping on acid or psilocybin every Sunday. It is hard to see how the Church could have become universal in time and place if its core ceremonhy had remained (if it ever had been) a quasi-private drug initiation.

Yet none of these reasons of prudential wisdom capture my real objection to the Muraresku thesis. Whether you are tripping or stone cold sober, you are required to believe certain impossible propositions in order to be a Christian. Impossible to nature that is. The idea that Christ rose from the dead is not made any more likely depending on the chemicals in your brain at the time of hearing the news. And if it were made to seem more likely by the consumption of entheogens, then the Gospel message would be made to look ridiculous in the sober light of the day after the trip. Either way, you may get to belief through psychoactive chemicals, or not arrive at belief at all. Pschoactive chemicals can loosen tightly bound minds. They do not bring one to belief, however.

Belief is not knowledge. If we knew, belief would be superfluous. I do not have to believe the car is in the garage if I see it parked there. Belief is what you reserve for what you cannot prove.

For a brilliant discussion of Christianity’s revolutionary message and effects, you are far better off reading Tom Holland’s Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World. 

As a prose stylist and as a historian, Holland is a far superior writer to Muraresku.

 

In Dominion, Holland reminds us of just how revolutionary it was for God to sacrifice his son to the humiliating death of a slave, through crucifixion.

I have no objection to psychoactive drugs taken in religious ceremonies, or for therapy, or for any solemn exploration whatever. But I do not believe that Christianity’s core sacrament is made valid or invalid according as we are stoned on enthogens at the time of participation.

Finally, as a lawyer, and therefore as an crafter of arguments, Brian Muraresku needs to be reminded that a paragraph consisting of a series of questions, however suggestive, does not constitute a rational discussion. State your argument, man! Say it boldly! His book would have benefitted from a reader who was ready to challenge him by asking: “what are you really saying here, Brian?”. “And if you really believe it, say it!” The book suffers from too much narration of the author doing his reasearch and talking with sources, and not enough careful exposition and handling of obvious counter-arguments. In the long run, no one needs to know what kind of day it was when he visited the Vatican Library.

Still, Muraresku has written an annoying, interesting, badly-flawed but possibly important book. Holland’s by contrast, is impeccable in style and content, and I commend it unreservedly.

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Brian Muraresku appeared with Graham Hancock on the  Joe Rogan show. He did not have time to get to the last three arguments noted above in bullets.

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing new in the Church of Rome

St Joseph Calasanz

I came across this article in Wikipedia on a Roman Catholic educator, priest and saint, Joseph Calasanz.

It reads:

“His pedagogical idea of educating every child, his schools for the poor, his support of the heliocentric sciences of Galilei and his service towards children and youth all aroused the opposition of many among the governing classes in society and the ecclesiastical hierarchy.[4] In 1642, as a result of an internal crisis in the congregation as well as outside intrigues and pressures, Calasanz was briefly held and interrogated by the Inquisition.

“Problems were exacerbated, however, by Father Stefano Cherubini, originally headmaster of the Piarist school in Naples, who systematically sexually abused the pupils in his care. Cherubini made no secret about some of his transgressions, and Calasanz came to know of them. Unfortunately for Calasanz as administrator of the Order, Cherubini was the son and the brother of powerful papal lawyers and no one wanted to offend the Cherubini family. Cherubini pointed out that if allegations of his abuse of his boys became public, actions would be taken to destroy the Order. Calasanz therefore promoted him, to get him away from the scene of the crime, citing only his luxurious diet and failure to attend prayers. However, he knew what Cherubini had really been up to, and he wrote that the sole aim of the plan was “to cover up this great shame in order that it does not come to the notice of our superiors”.[7]

“Superiors in Rome found out but bowed to the same family ties that had bound Calasanz. Cherubini became visitor general for the Piarists. The Piarists became entangled in church politics and, partially because they were associated with Galileo, were opposed by the Jesuits, who were more orthodox in astronomy. (Galileo’s views also involved atomism, and were thought to be heretical regarding transubstantiation.) The support for Cherubini was broad enough that in 1643, he was made superior general of the Order and the elderly Calasanz was pushed aside. Upon this appointment, Calasanz publicly documented Cherubini’s long pattern of child molestation, a pattern that he had known about for years. Even this did not block Cherubini’s appointment, but other members of the Order were indignant about it, although they may have objected to Cherubini’s more overt shortcomings.[7] With such dissension, the Holy See took the easy course of suppressing the Order. In 1646, it was deprived of its privileges by Pope Innocent X.

“Calasanz always remained faithful to the Church and died August 25, 1648,[6] at the age of 90, admired for his holiness and courage by his students, their families, his fellow Piarists, and the people of Rome. He was buried in the Church of San Pantaleo.”

End of quote.

In the meantime, Pope Francis has declined the possibility that priests might marry [women]. Nothing changes. Until it does. I expect married Roman Catholic priests within a century.

Banning cousin marriage

Sometimes an article of fundamental importance gets through the ideological filters. One such was the publication this week in Science and reported on in Scientific American of the psychological and cultural effects of banning cousin marriages.

From the Scientific American report of it: “The engine of that evolution, the authors propose, was the church’s obsession with incest and its determination to wipe out the marriages between cousins that those societies were built on. The result, the paper says, was the rise of “small, nuclear households, weak family ties, and residential mobility,” along with less conformity, more individuality, and, ultimately, a set of values and a psychological outlook that characterize the Western world. The impact of this change was clear: the longer a society’s exposure to the church, the greater the effect.”

And from the article in Science in the words of the authors: “A growing body of research suggests that populations around the globe vary substantially along several important psychological dimensions and that populations characterized as Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) are particularly unusual. People from these societies tend to be more individualistic, independent, and impersonally prosocial (e.g., trusting of strangers) while revealing less conformity and in-group loyalty. Although these patterns are now well documented, few efforts have sought to explain them. Here, we propose that the Western Church (i.e., the branch of Christianity that evolved into the Roman Catholic Church) transformed European kinship structures during the Middle Ages and that this transformation was a key factor behind a shift towards a WEIRDer psychology.”

The scientists continue: “Globally, we show that countries with longer historical exposure to the medieval Western Church or less intensive kinship (e.g., lower rates of cousin marriage) are more individualistic and independent, less conforming and obedient, and more inclined toward trust and cooperation with strangers (see figure). Focusing on Europe, where we compare regions within countries, we show that longer exposure to the Western Church is associated with less intensive kinship, greater individualism, less conformity, and more fairness and trust toward strangers. Finally, comparing only the adult children of immigrants in European countries, we show that those whose parents come from countries or ethnic groups that historically experienced more centuries under the Western Church or had less intensive kinship tend to be more individualistic, less conforming, and more inclined toward fairness and trust with strangers.”

I am as much astonished as pleased with this report. Astonished, because it violates every contemporary commandment of political correctness, or the madness that is sweeping our intellectual life. Pleased, because it does so.

In general, you are not permitted to how that modern western mores might be preferable, let alone superior, to others, and more, that religion might have been the source of these values.

Cousin marriages have genetic effects. Visit childhood disease and mortality statistics from cousin marriages. Observe that societies or religions that extensively practice cousin marriages have much higher levels of genetic diseases than those which eschew the practice. For example, see the Guardian article here:

“Marriage between first cousins doubles the risk of children being born with birth defects, according to a study seeking answers to the higher than expected rates of deaths and congenital abnormalities in the babies of the Pakistani community.

“Researchers have concluded that the cultural practice of marriage between first cousins is a bigger factor than any other – outweighing the effects of deprivation in parts of Bradford, where the study was carried out. Marriage to a blood relative accounted for nearly a third (31%) of all birth defects in babies of Pakistani origin.

The main point of the Science article was not genetic defects, however, but the cultural effects on trust, conformity, openness, innovation, obedience to general law, and looseness of kinship connections by the proscription of first cousin marriages.

My question remains unanswered. I do not know how this article slipped through the pervasive censorship by the egalitarian forces that determine so much of what we are allowed to see. A glitch in the matrix is always possible, but people like Steve Sailer, Razib Khan, Gregory Cochrane and Henry Harpending, and other explorers in the minefields of culture and breeding have reasonable cause to be envious.