Qumran, Israel. A Bedouin shepherd boy tends to his goats on the banks of the Dead Sea (known today as the West Bank). On this warm winter’s day, the boy grabs a rock a throws it into a nearby cave. To his surprise, he hears a shatter inside the mysterious chamber. As he and his friends enter the cave, they find a number of dusty clay jars containing manuscripts made of papyrus.
The boy sells the scrolls to a local antique dealer, who eventually sells it to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After careful analysis, scholars learned that these boys stumbled upon the oldest known documents of the Hebrew Bible, roughly one thousand years older than texts from the medieval period (previously thought to be the oldest form). In the subsequent years to follow, the “Scroll Rush” sees local treasure hunters and archaeologists unearthing up to 900 manuscripts in over 12 caves in the surrounding area.
Later known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls”, scholars discover that the manuscripts were written by a radical, rebellious Jewish community known as The Sons of Light. At the time of its writing (between 2nd century BCE and 2nd century CE), Israel was wrapped in a conflict between various political/religious groups such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees all claiming to part of the true Israel. Out of these religious wars, groups such as The Sons of Light would leave Israel towards the tranquility of the desert to better focus on spiritual pursuits.
During the Jewish Revolt against the Roman empire, where an estimated 100,000 Jews were either killed or sold into slavery, members of the Sons of Light began storing their most valued documents in nearby caves. These scrolls laid untouched for nearly 2,000 years.
A team of international scholars was hand selected to decipher the mysteries written in these manuscripts. Of the eight international specialists who were recruited, all but one were devout Christians. Enter John Marco Allegro.
Once trained to become a Methodist minister, Allegro eventually left the Christian faith to later become a world-renowned scholar in philology, which is the study of ancient languages. For over 14 years, Allegro and his colleagues carefully deciphered the scrolls. Allegro’s interpretations would eventually threaten the very foundation of the Christian and Jewish religions.
In a nutshell, he believed that Christianity’s origins came from fertility cults, who used psilocybin mushrooms as tools to aid in their spiritual pursuits. These groups created texts like the gospels in order to retain this knowledge while hiding it in plain sight from the Roman empire. The story of Jesus of Nazareth was essentially an allegory, representing the sacred mushroom and its connection with the divine.
Allegro published these interpretations in a controversial book called The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, which the Catholic church eventually bought outright and banned from the public. In this article we’re going to explore some of the most important ideas from the text.
But First, a Warning…
Before we dive into the article, I want to stress to take everything I’m about to say with a grain of salt. This is one of the wackier articles I’ve written, and not something I’m even fully convinced of. Allegro’s theories are just that, a set of unproven ideas derived from a grossly illegible text written thousands of years ago.
Stay open-minded as I present you with these radical ideas, but always stay grounded in skepticism. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s dive in.
1. Fertility Cults
The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross starts off with a powerful opening that helps set the proper context around his main arguments in the book:
“Religion is part of growing up. The reasoning that taught man that he was cleverer than the animals made him also aware of his own deficiencies. He could catch and kill beasts stronger and fleeter than himself because he could plan ahead, seek out their paths, and construct booby- traps.
Later that same foresight led him to the art of farming and conserving his food supplies against the seasonal deaths. In the lands of marginal rainfall he learnt eventually the technique of digging and lining cisterns, and civilization began.
Nevertheless, vast areas of natural resources were outside man’s control. If the animals did not breed there was no hunting. If the rain did not fall the furrowed earth remained barren. Clearly there was a power in the universe that was greater than man, a seemingly arbitrary control of Nature which could make a mockery of man’s hunting and farming skills. His very existence depended upon maintaining a right relationship with that power, that is, on religion.”
According to Allegro, early man viewed fellow humans, the animals that roamed his environment, and the plants that surrounded him, all as offspring from the Earth. As Alan Watts once said, in the same you can look at an apple tree producing apples, the Earth sprouts people.
If man was in good graces with the divine, God would fertilize the womb of Mother Earth through natural events like rainfall. As God semen ejaculated his semen onto the Earth, crops would flourish, and good fortune would fall onto man.
Fertility deities have a rich history throughout the span of humankind. A simple search on Wikipedia shows numerous fertility Gods worship throughout time and culture: from the X, to the Y, to the Z. Phallic symbols are scattered throughout practically every major civilization in history. The Hohle phallus is the oldest known phallic symbol created some 28,000 years ago found recently in a German cave.
2. Magic Mushrooms & Jesus
So how does this all relate to magic mushrooms, Jesus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls? Here’s a passage from The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross to help better connect these ideas.
“We should not look for a multiplicity of gods in the ancient world, but rather many aspects of the one deity of fertility, the creative force that gives earth and its creatures life. The god was the seed, his name and functions finding verbal expression in the one Sumerian phoneme U; the whole fertility philosophy on which the various cults of the ancient Near East centred we may term simply a U-culture.
The god expressed his seed from heaven as a mighty penis ejaculating sperm at orgasm. It entered the womb of mother earth through the labia, the furrows of the land, and formed a great reservoir of potency in the heart of the world. There gestation took place in the furnace of the terrestrial uterus.
There, too, was thought to be the source of all knowledge, since the creative semen of the god was also the Word, acquisition of which by man gave him part of divine omniscience. It followed that those plants which were able to tap this power of knowledge to a greater degree than others, the sources of hallucinatory drugs, could impart to those who imbibed their juice “knowledge of the gods”.
According to Allegro, early man looked at psychedelic Mushrooms as not only a tool to connect directly with God, but as God himself. After plucking such a fungus from the ground and ingesting it, man could enter powerful mystical states, receiving visions from of the divine, of heaven and hell, and of the secrets of the cosmos. The fact that mushrooms are shaped like a penis, only strengthened the belief that it was an incarnation of the fertility God.
This insight has penetrated various cultures throughout history:
- A psychoactive plant called Soma (believed by Terence McKenna to be psychedelic mushrooms) revered in The Rigveda, one of the most ancient and sacred Hindu texts dating back over 6,500 years ago.
- Shamans in the forests of Siberia used the Amanita Muscaria mushrooms in special religious occasions (many believe these practices were the origins of the Santa Claus myth we practice today).
- The Aztecs and Mayans have a rich history of psychedelic use, which still impacts countries like Mexico today. States like Oaxaca, Mexico deeply integrate magic mushrooms into Christianity, referring to them as Los Diosesitos – meaning “The Little Gods.”
Cutting-edge research is starting to confirm these ancient insights. Roland Griffiths of John Hopkins University published a groundbreaking double-blind study in 2006, showing that Psilocybin (the psychoactive compound in Magic Mushrooms) could “occasion experiences similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences.” 1 Two-thirds of the participants ranked the experience as the top five most spiritually significant experience of their lives. A follow-up study 14 months later showed the participants sticking to these conclusions. 2
So how did early man connect Magic Mushrooms to Jesus Christ? Consider the following points made by Allegro:
- To date, there is no archaeological evidence that a rabbi named Jesus ever existed. Texts like the Gospels appeared long after his supposed death.
- Jesus was made famous through his birth from a Virgin womb. Early man may have looked at psychedelic Mushrooms being birthed from the womb of the Earth (which don’t require seeds or sunlight to grow).
- The origins of Jesus’ name comes from the Hebrew language, which was referred to as Joshua. This was derived from a Sumerian phrase meaning “seamen which saves” or “restores.”
- The ancient Hebrew terms for the mushroom was “the little cross”. Allegro believed the shape of Jesus on the cross, was actually a way to visually represent the mushroom.
- A famous sacrament in Christianity is the consuming of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ through bread and wine. Many non-Christians believe this cannibalistic ritual seems bizarre. Yet it makes a lot of sense if Jesus was represented by a Mushrooms. By eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood, one would unite with the Son of God. (Here’s a clip of John Marco Allegro expanding on this idea).
- Christianity has numerous ancient artworks which include psilocybin mushrooms (for more information on this check out Warrior Radio episode 17 : Uncovering Christianity’s Mysterious Psychedelic Roots – with Dr. Jerry Brown)
3. The New Testament as a “Cover” To The Romans
During the time of writing the Dead Sea Scrolls, its authors were viewed as part of a rebellious cult and were brutally persecuted by the established powers of the Roman empire. Emperors such as Nero rounded Christians and even burned many alive. This was especially true during 70 BCE which marked the Siege of Jerusalem by the Romans.
In such treacherous times, these individuals had to conceal their most treasured secrets in code. Allegro writes:
“Plant mythology, known for thousands of years over the whole of the ancient world, provided the New Testament cryptographers with their ‘cover’. Mushroom stories abounded in the Old Testament. The Christians believed, like their Essene brethren, that they were the true spiritual heirs to ancient Israel. 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”, another Lawgiver, named after the patriarch’s successor in office Joshua (Greek Iesous, “Jesus”).
Thus was bom the Gospel myth of the New Testament. How far it succeeded in deceiving the authorities, Jewish and Roman, is doubtful. Certainly the Roman records speak with loathing of the Christians and they were hounded with extreme ferocity reserved for political troublemakers within the realm.
Those most deceived appear to have been the sect who took over the name of “Christian” and who formed the basis of the Church, the history of which forms no part of the present study. What is of far greater importance is that we may now break the code and discover the secret names of the Holy Plant, as it was called from the earliest times, and gain a deeper insight than ever before possible into the nature of the cult and its place in the ancient world.”
Allegro further points out how the Gospels are ripe with secret invocatory phrases, used by cult members to help call upon God during spiritual rituals. For example, the famous Lord’s Prayer starts out with the phrase “Our father who art in heaven…”
According to Allegro, the phrase originally was “abracadabra” in Aramaic (the Semitic language originally spoken in Sumer and ancient Egypt). Although we associate the term with magicians, it could have been used in special, cultic ceremonies to help summon the God at times of need. Here’s a clip of Allegro explaining this point further.
Conclusion – The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross
The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross is a fascinating book that gives compelling arguments around the origins of Christianity, which are linked to fertility cults, psychedelic plants, and hidden messages in their earliest texts.
It contains radical ideas, that may have you viewing the Christian church in a completely new light. Although I’m still a bit skeptical of the arguments laid out by Allegro, it left me convinced that there is massive disconnect between the Christian church as we know today, and the ideas and practices of its earliest members.
Links and Resources
- John Allegro’s “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross” – a Gnostic Media exclusive video
- Terence McKenna speaks about John Allegro and Jesus Mushroom
- Sacred Mushrooms as the Origins of Religion Presentation by Nicklas Failla
- Joe Rogan Podcast – Dead Sea Scrolls
- John M. Allegro Dead Sea Scrolls Cover Up
- Was Jesus a Mushroom? Prof. John Rush interview
- Judith Anne Brown – John Marco Allegro (wife)
- John M. Allegro – Jesus and Qumran
- Griffiths, Roland R., et al. “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance.” Psychopharmacology187.3 (2006): 268-283.
- Griffiths, Roland R., et al. “Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later.” Journal of psychopharmacology 22.6 (2008): 621-632.