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Persephone's Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of Religion Paperback – July 29, 1992

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

This fascinating book discusses the role played by psychoactive mushrooms in the religious rituals of ancient Greece, Eurasia, and Mesoamerica. R. Gordon Wasson, an internationally known ethnomycologist who was one of the first to investigate how these mushrooms were venerated and used by different native peoples, here joins with three other scholars to discuss his discoveries about these fungi, which he has called entheogens, or 'god generated within.'

About the Author

Kramrisch is Curator of Indian Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Professor of Indian Art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (July 29, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300052669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300052664
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #482,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Although I only gave it 4 stars, this book is actually outstanding. I did not give it the highest evaluation because, although R.G. Wasson's material was monumental, some of the other material included did not seem of the same caliber. Wasson's perspective is really a must read for anyone interested in this subject. He was not only extremely intelligent, but he also had an innate ability to phrase his ideas in a manner that really conveyed a total picture of what he was discussing. His perspective of calling them "personal experiences rather than hallucinations" really describes his intelligent attitude of pioneering. He had the insight to realize that he was discovering a new frontier that no one had the understanding to call true, false or imaginary. He was aware of the power of people using psychoactive materials and did not try to fit all of this into a politically correct literary structure that the current autorities of his era would accept. He provides his own, somewhat negative, perspective of Dr. Timothy Leary "and those of his ilk". He did not agree with the psychedelic crowd about using these materials for entertainment and believed that there was something inherently sacred about them. Although he was the first person of modern civilization to discover and document the use of the Psilocybin mushrooms of Central America he realized there was a difference between the effects of these mushrooms and the Amanita Muscaria which has no Psilocybin and apparently produced effects that spawned a number of the major religions of the world. I recommend this book to anyone who would like REAL information concerning psychoactive experience.
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Format: Paperback
I am a student of Carl A.P. Ruck, who was one of the contributors for this collection. This volume is indeed a collection which covers several sides of the story, touching upon almost every civilization which was influenced by the entheogensis of the mushroom (Amanita and Psylocybe). For those who have read McKenna's work, this is the foundation of it, although the antithesis of his belief that the Psylocybin containing species are the Soma of ancient Aryans. The second part of this book deals with the secrets of the ancient Greeks, their worship of entheogens, their belief in their ancestors and the Eleusinian mysteries- the common temple of the world.

An incredible read, very accessible to anyone interested in mythology and with an open mind.
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Format: Paperback
The subtitle to this book is Entheogens and the Origins of Religion. For those not familiar with the term entheogen it literally means `god generated within' and refers to the various psychoactive substances that have been used throughout history in a spiritual context. These include the mushroom cults of rural modern Mexico, the use of a soma by the ancient Indo-European Aryan culture of pre Hindi India, and even in the rites of the Eleusis ceremonies of classical Greece. As can be inferred at this point, the book concerns itself to the investigation of these different spiritual rites that appear to form an almost common theme throughout the development of religion around the world. Wasson is the driving force behind not only the book, but also the study of entheogens as a discipline around the world. His pioneering world in the field of ethnomycology and ethnobotany in the 1940's and 50's lead him to be the first person from the western world to partake in the sacred mushroom rituals of Mesoamerica in 1953.

The book itself is divided into two parts. The first consists of essays by R. Gordon Wasson, Stella Kramrisch, and Jonathan Ott covering everything from analysis of the last meal of the Buddha and the connections in mythology between the lightning bolt and the mushroom to the systematic gathering of evidence across cultures and history of the widespread use of entheogens in religious rites. The second part of the book consists of three essays from Carl A. P. Ruck, a distinguished Greek scholar. As would make sense, Ruck's essays focus a bit more intently on the relation of entheogens to ancient Greek society.
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Format: Paperback
I believe R. Gordon Wasson is total genius. The prose is great, a must read. Also read, The Road to Eleusis. He and Ruck weave a web of scholarly inquiry that has been on the shelf waiting for discovery.
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I have not read the book though I would like to. However I am writing to notify all readers of these reviews of the DANGEROUS ERROR in Joseph Pierre's review of Persephone's Quest : Entheogens and the Origins of Religion. The mistake Mr. Pierre makes is in identifying the Fly Agaric mushroom as a source of psilocybin. It certainly is not a source of psilocybin and nor has Mr. Wasson claimed that it is. Merely an unfortunate error on Mr. Pierre's part. As he does note - the Fly Agaric mushroom is quite deadly. Psilocybin comes from different mushrooms - notably from the psilocybin and some panaeoulus varieties. READER OF THESE REVIEWS: BE FOREWARNED!!!
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