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inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #0 of 105: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 16 Aug 11 11:08
    
Mircea Eliade defines shamanism as “a technique of ecstasy.” Shamans
are seen as intermediaries between human and spirit worlds. They have
deep understanding of the human soul, and they enter other realms or
worlds of experience, often by ingesting entheogenic or psychoactive
substances, usually derived from plant sources such as “magic”
mushrooms. In _Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in
Western Civilization_, its author, Donald P. Dulchinos, says that “the
indigenous practice of shamanism has been under siege for as long as
Western European societies have practiced colonialism and Christian
missionary work. Only very recently has there been a backlash that
condemning the cultural chauvinism that labels indigenous shamanism
‘primitive.’ Increasingly, shaman-centered cultures are respected for
values of community, environmental consciousness, and first-hand
spiritual experience. What is not widely known is that Western
civilization itself, beneath layers of Christianity and industrialism,
stands upon its own shamanic foundation.”  

_Forbidden Sacraments_ explores the rich historical record that shows
this foundation, beginning with an exploration of the Eleusinian
Mysteries, the central religious practices of Greek and Roman
civilization and the source of much of our Western cultural heritage.

Inkwell.vue welcomes author Donald P. Dulchinos, a longtime member of
the WELL and the author of three books on consciousness and
spirituality: _Pioneer of Inner Space: The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow,
Hasheesh Eater_, New York: Autonomedia Press, 1998, _Neurosphere_,
Portland ME: Weiser Books, 2005, and the subject of our current
discussion, _Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western
Civilization_, New York: Autonomedia Press, 2011.

In his day job, Don has spent fifteen years as an analyst and
executive in the telecommunications, clean energy and information
technology fields.  He
is currently at Cable Television Laboratories in Colorado, and has
done time at the United States Library of Congress, National Economic
Research Associates, and the Colorado Governor’s Office of Energy
Conservation.  

He holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration from the
University of Denver Graduate School of Business and Public Management,
and a B.A. in Economics from Union College in Schenectady, New York. 
He served as a charter member of the Board of Directors of the Boulder
Community Network, Past President of the Kappa Alpha Literary Society,
and as a Conference Host here on The Well, which he joined in 1988.

Leading the conversation is Jon Lebkowsky, a blogger
(http://weblogsky.com) and author as well as an Internet and web
pioneer who cofounded FringeWare, Inc., one of the first Internet
companies. in 1992.  Jon is an Internet expert and activist as well as
a web strategist and developer. He gives regular talks on the future of
the Internet, is president of the nonprofit EFF-Austin. and was
co-editor of the book Extreme Democracy. He also has a deep, longtime
interest in the evolution and expansion of consciousness and
transcendant philosophies and practices. Jon was editor of the
consciousness subdomain of the Millennium Whole Earth Catalog, and has
written for publications like Mondo 2000, Whole Earth Magazine, bOING
bOING, FringeWare Review, and 21C.
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #1 of 105: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 16 Aug 11 11:12
    
Welcome back to Inkwell, Don. My first question is one I often ask
authors - what experiences and processes of thought led you to write
this book? What was the foundation of the work? 
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #2 of 105: Donald Peter Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 16 Aug 11 18:43
    
First, let me say it's an honor to have Jon lead the conversation. one
of my inspirations as an online counterculture guy. 

What experiences? um, statute of limitations? College-age chemically
mediated visionary experiences got me started, but without reference to
the cultural history behind them. That all came way later. My point of
reference was Kesey/Thompson, but i was of a slightly later generation
as well.  

The experiences sparked a lot of reading on the history of mind
altering substances. gradually, that brought me around to anthropology
of indigenous use of natural entheogens (didn't encounter that word
until the 90's?)  So, among others, Wasson and Schultes and Weston
LeBarre, who all brought home the continuity of sacred uses of
mushrooms, peyote, et al. 

As far as thought process, i wondered all along how these experiences
could be illegal, but some reading on peyote led me to the fact that
some peyote use was legal. And I found the history and eventually the
court case that contained the legal argument legalizing peyote
consumption within a "legitimate" religious tradition.  That was one
kernel.  
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #3 of 105: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 16 Aug 11 20:32
    
You start with an account of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which you
relate to shamanism and to the evolution of later religions, like
Christianity and withcraft. How much do we know about the Eleusinian
Mysteries and the use of the drink kykeon? How strong is the evidence
that kykeon had psychedelic properties?
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #4 of 105: Donald Peter Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 16 Aug 11 20:58
    
ah, that's the second kernel of the idea - Wasson, Hofmann et al's
Road to Eleusis, making the case. It's a circumstantial case (to anyone
with no personal experience), but having just returned from a Greek
vacation, i am reminded how little hard evidence there is for much of
what we take for classical Greek history.  But as a third generation
Greek American (all grandparents were immigrants) I thought maybe there
was a case for my own cultural continuity, not to mention all of us
Western heirs to Hellenic civilization, similar to the rationale
underpinning the Native American Church's exemption from drug
prohibition.  

btw, you can see my thought process recorded for posterity in the
Drugs conference, topic 411.  A tip of the hat for all the worthies who
helped me get rolling on this book way back when. 
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #5 of 105: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 17 Aug 11 10:32
    
Just to clarify for those who are reading this and don't have access
to the WELL, Don's referring to a discussion called "Why not an
Eleusinian Revival?" in the Drugs conference or forum.

That conversation was mostly in 1992-93, so you clearly took some time
to write the book. While it's not a long book, it's filled with
references - it feels like you read a whole library full of books to
show the evolution of Western shamanism from ancient Greece to the
present. 

So there's no real certainty what the Greeks at Eleusis were drinking,
but there are descriptions of their experience,and inferences drawn in
works like _Road to Eleusis_, which incidentally has a web page here:
http://www.psychedelic-library.org/eleucont.htm. One of the authors,
Albert Hoffman, wrote that "the cultural-historical meaning of the
Eleusinian Mysteries, their influence on European intellectual history,
can scarcely be overestimated. Here suffering humankind found a cure
for its rational, objective, cleft intellect, in a mystical totality
experience, that let it believe in immortality, in an everlasting
existence."

You had asked, in the discussion in the drug conference, "if many
people here believe that entheogens [psychoactive substances] produce a
religious experience in the user, or are the inspiration for useful
long-term spiritual growth...?" Given what Hoffman has said above, and
assuming that entheogens were the jet fuel for the Eleusinian Mystery
experience, it sounds like these substances catalyzed whole elements of
our culture, including (based on your reseearch) elements of
Christianity?

Could there be another explanation - other than the incorporation of
pyschoactive agents - for the Eleusinian experience?
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #6 of 105: Donald Peter Dulchinos (dpd) Wed 17 Aug 11 14:25
    
Maybe.  And certainly when i started the book, others encouraged me to
propose other mind-altering practices - meditation, drumming, yoga,
etc. - but the other observation i made was the widespread use of
actual psychoactive agents in a religious context in indigenous
cultures everywhere else in the world except Europe.  i had to conclude
that it must have been true in Europe at some point, just that it had
been pressured out of existence earlier, partly by Christian conversion
of the experience into a more dogmatic ritualized process and later by
the onset of the industrial worldview.   
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #7 of 105: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 17 Aug 11 16:15
    
I get from the book that the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Western
shamanic tradition fed into Christianity - can you talk a bit about the
shamanic influence and mythic parallels you discuss in the book?
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #8 of 105: Donald Peter Dulchinos (dpd) Thu 18 Aug 11 19:42
    
a number of scholars talk about mythological predecessors to the
Christian Gospel. heroes born of virgins, resurrected gods (Osiris). 
the specific Greek mythology is around Persephone, daughter of Demeter
(Roman Ceres), the Earth Goddess. When Hades kidnaps/rapes her and
takes her to the underworld, Demeter is sad and the plants of the earth
die. When Persephone is ordered by Zeus returned to Demeter, Hades
contrives her to eat some seeds of a pomegranates, and it is decreed
every year she spends the winter in Hades.  What i know from Greek
Orthodox religion is that a pomegranate cake (Koliva) is still served
to mourners at funerals, a clear Eleusinian remnant. 

the bread and wine of christianity, the literal body and blood of the
god made man Jesus, is echoed in many other cultures that refer to
sacred mushrooms as "flesh of the gods". 

the rapid spread of Christianity through the Hellenistic world was
made possible by the many parallels, backed by Roman imperial command
and weaponry.  
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #9 of 105: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 19 Aug 11 03:58
    
So just to draw some lines here, the book is primarily about a
shamanic tradition that starts with the Eleusinian Mysteries. Shamanism
is, per Eliade, a "technique of ecstasy" or transcendence, so the book
is about what you might call the institutionalization or codification
of transcendental experience throughout the history of the West, and
this begins with the secret Eleusinian ritual in Greece. Would it be
fair to say that, when we look at the origins of Christianity in the
birth and life of Christ, we're not looking far enough back into
history? I.e. I get the sense that in moving from the reality of the
historical Christ to Christianity, you suggest that we incorporated the
earlier Hellenic traditions as well, e.g. the myth of Demeter is
incorporated into the mythic Virgin Mary.
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #10 of 105: Tuppy Glossop (mcdee) Fri 19 Aug 11 05:05
    
Reading about those connections has been interesting and enjoyable. 
As a fallen-away Catholic, I was well aware of the fact that many
Christian holidays were "over-printed" on existing pagan holidays...
but the book has given me a sense of how fluid the early doctrines and
practices of Christianity really were.

It was all sort of up for grabs in the beginning!
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #11 of 105: Donald Peter Dulchinos (dpd) Fri 19 Aug 11 21:04
    
well, primarily, the book started as a polemic in favor of legalizing
psychedelics, and turned out to be about cultural continuity, in this
case a shamanic tradition that among other manifestations shows up in
the origins of Christianity.  

mcdee, among the many sources I drew on, i'd especially recommend
Pagans and Christians by Robin Lane Fox, a long and deep history of
those first several hundred years of Christianity.
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #12 of 105: David Wilson (dlwilson) Fri 19 Aug 11 22:47
    
Is Fox the anthropologist?
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #13 of 105: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 20 Aug 11 04:54
    
Great overviews to get us started...I had the sense that things
changed for you during the writing. It is an historical feast and you
see the shift of focus from an emphasis on shamanic use of entheogens
to the impact of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Can we start with the
Mysteries and their immediate impact on Greek culture itself? Would you
talk a bit about how it got started and then spread throughout Greek
culture, as well as its possible sources from other cultures?
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #14 of 105: Teleological dyslexic (ceder) Sat 20 Aug 11 12:48
    
Yes!  How do they convey ontalogical truths?
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #15 of 105: a pythagorean (dpd) Sat 20 Aug 11 13:32
    
uh, can you ask me something a little harder...  

Fox is a classicist from Oxford. 

how the mysteries got started is impossible to say. the descriptions
we have date to the classical period ca. 500 - 300 B.C.E. and into the
Roman era.  Homer mentions kykeon, the potion drunk during the ritual,
in the Odyssey, so we're talking ca. 1,000 B.C.E.  it just seemed
natural to me that the practice survived from earlier tribal shamanism,
before the rise of Minoan or Mycenaen empires and urban civilizations.

and then again, one has to infer their impact on Greek culture.  I'm
far from a classical scholar, but it seems much of the philosophy of
Plato and Aristotle, especially the worlds of ideal forms, could be
informed by altered states/experiences. Plato's statement, "Time is the
moving image of eternity", certainly seems the stuff of mystical
vision.  

remember that advances in Greek philosophy or political thought were
accompanied by growing military power.  i now view the Eleusinian rites
as the beginning of the domestication of shamanism, a trend that led
to suppression of its mystical side by the time the Romans and
Christians came along.  
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #16 of 105: Donald Peter Dulchinos (dpd) Sat 20 Aug 11 14:30
    
oh by the way, something not in the book, but i wondered later:

"It is also said that Perseus (mythic founder of Mycenae), being
thirsty, picked up a mushroom (myces), and drinking the water that
flowed from it, named the site Mycenae."
http://www.maicar.com/GML/Mycenae.html
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #17 of 105: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 21 Aug 11 14:42
    
You (and others) have speculated that ergot infections on the grain
used in preparation of the kykeon, however I found a piece by Edward
Beach (writing for the Ecole Initiative - Early Church Online
Encyclopedia) doubting that was the case
(http://www.uwec.edu/philrel/faculty/beach/publications/eleusis.html),
citing an issue I had wondered about:

"This hypothesis is rendered less plausible, however, by the extremely
volatile character of ergot infections (as in Saint Anthony's fire),
which would have been difficult if not impossible to control safely." 

Ergot's been known to cause convulsions and death.

Beach also doubts that there was alcohol in the drink, "since the Hymn
expressly states that Demeter did not partake of wine." But he seems
open to the possibility that "there might have been an admixture of
some other intoxicating ingredients."
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #18 of 105: Tuppy Glossop (mcdee) Sun 21 Aug 11 14:52
    
I know we're throwing millions of somewhat random questions at you
here, but what made you decide to focus specifically on the Eleusinian
mysteries? 

As you note in the book, the Eleusinian mysteries probably reflect
still older traditions, some going back perhaps to the neolithic.

Were you looking to establish a clear connection between the main
stream of Western culture and shamanism?
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #19 of 105: Donald Peter Dulchinos (dpd) Sun 21 Aug 11 15:26
    
yes, i was, but for the specific purpose of constructing a legal
argument for legalizing psychedelics.  i read the Supreme Court ruling
in People v. Woody from 1964 which found religious use of peyote by
native americans to be protected by the First Amendment. There were a
number of factors, but one was legitimate religious context for such
use, including continuity of practice dating back several hundred
years.  I felt a practice tied to my own ethnic background (all my
grandparents were immigrants from Greece) might pass muster. i then
thought the fact that much of European civilization refers back to the
classical Greeks might not be too much of a stretch either.

here's a quote from People v. Woody that i love:
"The varying currents of the subcultures that flow into the mainstream
of our national life give it depth and beauty.  We preserve a greater
value than an ancient tradition when we protect the rights of the
Indians who honestly practiced an old religion in using peyote one
night at a meeting in a desert hogan near Needles, CA."
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #20 of 105: Tuppy Glossop (mcdee) Sun 21 Aug 11 15:33
    
That is beautiful.

And it's also one of the more peculiar Supreme Court rulings of all
time, in that it protects a specific religious observance only for
members of one ethnic group. One could also quibble that the peyote
religion was actually an import from Mexico c. 1870, and certainly had
nothing to do with the traditions of Indians from the vicinity of
Needles, California.

But still, the general sentiments are wonderful.  If only they were
more commonly lived up to!
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #21 of 105: Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Sun 21 Aug 11 15:36
    
Heya, Don! Is this book going to come out in an electronic version? 
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #22 of 105: Donald Peter Dulchinos (dpd) Sun 21 Aug 11 20:13
    
Hi Jennifer! 
not planned, good question. this and my Pioneer of Inner Space were
published by Autonomedia, which keeps books "in print" forever. (they
have migrated to print-on-demand - is it ok for me to point to

http://bookstore.autonomedia.org/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=8&zenid=86517
f47e1e9831135d674ec1b6dd33a

my other book Neurosphere is I assume out of print (published 6 years
ago) and lends itself to electronic form. 

anyway, give me a shout before the next Netroots gig and i'll gift you
an autographed copy
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #23 of 105: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 22 Aug 11 10:04
    
Anyone reading this, and not a member of the WELL, can post a comment
or question by sending it via email to inkwell at well.com. We welcome
your thoughts!
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #24 of 105: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 22 Aug 11 10:08
    
Do you think you have a strong enough argument to build the legal
case? Evidence that kykeon was or contained an entheogenic substance
seems largely circumstantial and indirect. 
  
inkwell.vue.416 : Donald P. Dulchinos, “Forbidden Sacraments: The Survival of Shamanism in Western Civilization”
permalink #25 of 105: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 22 Aug 11 14:59
    
To attempt one more overview:

So you are discussing the evolution of myths, shamanic history and the
use of entheogens, and the Eleusinian Mysteries as it underlies Greek
and Western civilizations. Due to your Greek background you are also
interested in seeing a restoration of the 'Mysteries'. And given your
personal journey, would also like to see the legalization of
entheogenic use within recognized 'religions' and native cultures.

Is that about it?
  

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