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The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross: A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East Hardcover – May 18, 1970
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Allegro is into etymology and philology and Derrida himself would be amazed at the deconstructions he posits. Allegro is also what I call an "armchair Sumerologist" much like Zechariah Sitchin was: a self-taught expert on the Sumerian lexicon. Wasson berates him for his lack of credentials on the subject, but in the mid 50's to the mid 60's, when Allegro was composing this book, where could one obtain such credentials? As Sitchin himself once said: when he was writing "The 12th Planet" where may have been all of 20 people in the world that even knew how to read Sumerian, so Wasson can just go bite a big phallic-mushroom (which I'm sure he did many times) and cut Allegro some slack. Yes, some of his "word-brick" conjecture is spurious and some is partially (and partically) credible, but other examples he gives are like Babe Ruth knocking a home-run out of the park.
None of this changes the fact that this book is a MUST-READ. You need it on your shelf. Forever. End of story. So go buy it already!
If you're curious about where the world's foremost religions got their start, buy this book.
As of this writing, I haven't finished this book, but it's a true eye-opener by a man who was in a position to understand what he was writing about.
This 1970 book postulated that "Jesus" in the gospels was simply a code word for a psychedelic mushroom used by an ancient fertility cult; the lack of evidence presented effectively ended his scholarly career. He simply assumed the "truth" of his thesis in his subsequent books such as The End of a Road and The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth. [NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 360-page Bantam paperback edition.]
He wrote in the book's Introduction, "The dream of man is to become God... But God is jealous of his power and his knowledge... Under very special circumstances he will permit men to rise to the throne of heaven and glimpse the beauty and the glory of omniscience... For such a glimpse of heaven men have died... Our present concern is to show that Judaism and Christianity are such cultic expression of this endless pursuit by man to discover instant power and knowledge... these religions are logical developments from the older, cruder fertility cults... To seek the drug that would send his soul winging to the seventh heaven and back, the initiates into the religious mysteries had their priestesses... For the way to God and the fleeting view of heaven was through plants... The incantations and rites by which they conjured forth their drug ... were secrets of the cult... Very rarely, and then only for urgent practical purposes, were those secrets ever committed to writing... Such an occasion, we believe, was the Jewish Revolt of AD 66... The secrets, if they were not to be lost forever, had to be committed to writing, and yet, if found, the documents must give nothing away of betray those who still dared defy the Roman authorities and continue their religious practices... Our present study has much to do with names and titles. Only when we can discover the nomenclature of the sacred fungus within and without the cult, can we begin to understand its function and theology." (Pg. xii-xv)
He adds, "At long last identification of the main characters of many of the old classical and biblical mythologies is possible, since we can now decipher their names. Above all, those mushroom epithets and holy invocations that the Christian cryptographers wove into their stories of the man Jesus and his companions can now be recognized, and the main features of the Christian cult laid bare... What follows in this book is... primarily a study in words... Our fresh doubts about the historicity of Jesus and his friends stem not from new discoveries about the land and people of Palestine of the first century, but about the nature and origin of the languages they spoke and the origins of their religious cults... Concealed within are secret names for the sacred fungus, the sect's 'Christ.'' ... Once the ruse is penetrated, then research can go ahead fast with fitting the Christian phenomenon more firmly into the cultic patterns of the ancient Near East." (Pg xviii-xx)
He asserts, "Plant mythology... provided the New Testament cryptographers with their 'cover.' ... So it was an obvious device to convey to the scattered cells of the cult reminders of their most sacred doctrines and incantatory names and expressions concealed within a story of a 'second Moses'... thus was born the Gospel myth of the New Testament." (Pg. 42) Later, he adds, "if the writer has gone to the trouble purposefully to conceal his secret name for the mushroom by giving it a misleading rendering... then it follows that behind the story of Jesus and his companions there lies a secret layer of meaning which was not intended to be read or understood by the outsider." (Pg. 102)
As an illustration of Allegro's use of language: "The most famous of all the mythological twins are Castor and Pollux... Their joint name, Dioscouroi... appears in the New Testament as the name of Jesus' betrayer, Iscariot, and as the title of Jesus himself, 'son of God.'" (Pg. 108) He states, "Taking the sacred fungus, or, in New Testament parlance, 'eating the body' of the Christ, must have been a real peirasmos, 'trial,' of the body and spirit." (Pg. 163) He contends, "It would seem then that the 'Zealots' and the 'Sicarii' are one and the same, and that the common reference to both names is the sacred mushroom that gave them their dangerous hallucinations and much of their motive force." (Pg. 184)
He says, "The question must now be asked again... how much, if any, of these biblical traditions is history?... was there ever a REAL King David... Well, perhaps there was. What we are concerned with... [is] to find out ... to what extent and in what ways the sacred mushroom was worshipped, and how far its cult was responsible for the later mystery religions of the Near East and Christianity in particular." (Pg. 149-150) Later, he adds, "Israelitism was based on the cult of the sacred fungus, as its tribal names and mythologies now show." (Pg. 189) He summarizes, "The New Testament was a 'hoax,' but nevertheless a deadly serious and extremely dangerous attempt to transmit to the scattered faithful secrets which the Christians dare not permit to fall into unauthorized hands but to whose preservation they were irrevocably committed by sacred oaths." (Pg. 194)
Allegro's book is heavy on speculation and unpersuasive linguistic comparisons; it will probably be of interest to modern readers who are interested in particularly "off the wall" interpretations of Jesus and early Christianity. His daughter wrote a summary of his life and work, John Marco Allegro: The Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls & Related Literature).