- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Park Street Press (January 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0892817720
- ISBN-13: 978-0892817726
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,226,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mystery of Manna: The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible Paperback – November 1, 1999
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"While the topic is definitely hot and very debatable, Merkur has well researched it and presents his material in a highly readable manner. A nice introduction to this controversial subject."
(Institute for Hermetic Studies, March 2006)
From the Back Cover
RELIGION / PSYCHEDELICS / HISTORY
WHEN MOSES FED MANNA to the Israelites, he told them that after eating the miraculous bread they would see the glory of God. And indeed they did: “They looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of Yahveh appeared in a cloud.” In The Mystery of Manna, religious historian Dan Merkur provides compelling evidence that this was the Israelites’ initiation into a psychedelic mystery cult that induced spiritual visions through bread containing ergot--a psychoactive fungus containing the same chemicals from which LSD is made.
Citing biblical material, as well as later Jewish and Christian writings, Merkur reveals the existence of an unbroken tradition of Western psychedelic sacraments, from Moses and manna to Jesus and the Eucharist. Most important, Merkur shows that this was not a heretical tradition, but instead part of a normal, Bible-based spirituality, a continuation of the ancient tradition of visionary mysticism. Even when this practice became unacceptable to the religious orthodoxy, it was perpetuated in secret by gnostics, masons, and kabbalists, as well as through the legends of the Holy Grail. Merkur traces a long line of historical figures who knew of manna’s secret but dared only make cryptic references to it for fear of persecution. The Mystery of Manna is the strongest contribution yet to our growing realization that, contrary to popular belief, psychedelics and religion have always gone hand in hand.
DAN MERKUR, Ph.D., has taught at Syracuse University and Auburn Theological Seminary. His research focuses on the varieties of religious experience in historical, cross-cultural, and psychoanalytical perspectives. He is the author of many books, including Powers Which We Do Not Know, Gnosis, and The Ecstatic Imagination. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.
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The primordial experience of mankind probably passes through this gate between Tree of life, Tree of knowledge
To open their venues of consciousness, the sacred transformation, was and is, a way to 'see' the supreme. The information in this book really contributed to my research.
Today's situation is a perfect example of a paradigm shift: if you examine each hypothesis separately and each book on the subject separately, and assume the dominant paradigm or non-theory of "those crazy and primitive ancients are simply unfathomable and alien to our way of thinking," you'll be able to easily dismiss each hypothesis and each book.
But when you consider the still-small set of all books and articles about the entheogen theory of religion, a viable alternative paradigm is coming into view. This new paradigm, within which Merkur is only one of a growing number of researchers, is readily yielding specific plausible hypotheses, while the official dominant view has no hypotheses other than "the ancients' minds operated differently than ours, and we simple can't comprehend them, and they were remarkably excitable by wine -- lightweights, unlike us."
Therefore, any one book in this field cannot be reasonably evaluated in isolation; instead, read Merkur's book Psychedelic Sacrament, Clark Heinrich's 1995 book Strange Fruit, which also has coverage of ergot in the Old Testament, and several other books in the field of the entheogen theory of religion. Only then are you reasonably equipped to assess how much this book contributes to our understanding of the history of religion and the nature of religious experiencing.
Merkur contends that the miraculous Manna of Exodus fed by Moses to the Israelites, was a psychoactive substance, namely a bread or biscuit made from ergotised grain. Ergot being a parasitic fungus of cereal plants from which the powerful hallucinogen LSD was derived. Unfortunately, no-one to-date has successfully bio-assayed a simple preparation of ergot, such as would be have been available to the ancients, demonstrating powerful psycho-activity without toxic side effects. The known toxicity of ergot would in fact make this a very dangerous exercise. Experiments to date with pure ergot derived alkaloids of limited toxicity have been inconclusive. Speculations about different ergot type fungi, infecting different grains and possible ancient methods of successfully isolating psychoactive components remain just that for the time being. This is in strict contrast to the other known naturally occurring psychoactives such as psilocybin and amanita mushrooms, cannabis, opium, datura with an ancient history of religious usage, still in use by shamans and thoroughly explored by modern investigators.
Despite Merkur's conviction that he has found unassailable evidence that the Manna of Exodus and elsewhere in the Bible was a psychedelic, the initial textual evidence is really only strongly suggestive, involving as it does a minor scriptural revision and an implicit rather than explicit relationship between eating Manna and seeing the 'Glory of God'. Thereafter, the bulk of his book rests significantly on the evidence of literary juxtapositions of references to Manna and journeys of ecstatic ascent, in a variety of mystical traditions from the New Testament to the Holy Grail, again without the connection being made explicit. These veiled references are taken as evidence of a secret tradition and there is actually little doubt that journeys of ecstatic ascent such as those of the Book of Enoch, Saint Paul and the Prophet Mohammed were sometimes accomplished through the use of psychoactives. Clear testimony to this exists in the Zoroastrian scripture 'Arda Wiraz Namag', where such a journey is accomplished by means of a narcotic, possibly cannabis, henbane or both. There is near universal scholarly recognition that later scriptural journeys of ecstatic ascent to the various levels of heaven, in the company of angelic guides, are in the ancient shamanistic tradition and psychoactives are the shaman's method par excellence of visiting the other world. However, moving from evidence that is the strongly suggestive to the cognoscenti and enthusiasts of the plant drug theory of the origins of religious ideas, to hard evidence that will convince a sceptical critic is an important jump that I don't think is made in Merkur's book. In addition, mushrooms would appear a more obvious contender for the original Manna as a psychoactive that appears overnight and is prone to rapid infestation with worms. One must bear in mind though that there may be a mixture of traditions here.
In the case of Merkur's thesis, as with the similar work of other authors before him, such as that of Gordon Wasson, John Allegro and Schwartz and Flattery, what matters most is the light thrown on the likely role played by psychoactives in the development of world religions and the examination of associated traditions, rather than whether the author's particular argument in respect of the role played by a particular psychoactive, in a specific tradition is right or wrong. A commonality of such scholarship is the conviction of each author has that his proposed psychoactive candidate for a particular religious tradition is the correct one. There is in fact strong evidence that a wide variety of psychoactive plants have been used since time immemorial to obtain states of religious ecstasy and communion and given the massive time scales and movements of people involved it is likely that people have mixed and matched according to what they knew and what was available. Most significantly, a respected scholar of the mystical tradition in Judaism, Islam and Christianity, Merkur has revised his caution as expressed in his book 'Gnosis : An Esoteric Tradition of Mystical Visions and Unions' regarding suggestive references to angel's bread and other heavenly foods.
Merkur applies a rigorous methodology which probably reflects his not only academic background and but also his own conviction that he is right even though he cannot produce really hard evidence, which is not surprising a concerning a tradition that was a secret. This book could easily have been written as a sensational pop-occult pot-boiler, uncritically drawing dramatic conclusions from sources that are really only suggestive. In fact, the rigour of the book's presentation requires close and careful reading to understand its arguments, even for those already interested by the subject matter and ready if not eager to be convinced. The literary references that Merkur has identified and other groundwork he has done will be of even greater value once other evidence for psychoactive drug use in the Judaeo-Christian tradition eventually emerges and when the toxicity versus psychoactivity problems of the ergot thesis are resolved. Dan Merkur's new book 'Manna, Meditation, and Mystical Experience' which elaborates on his original thesis has just been published.