Half way through Brian Muraresku’s fascinating book, The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name, a deep dive into the mounting evidence for an original psychedelic sacrament at the Eleusinian Mysteries and then later, via the pagan continuity hypothesis, in Christianity, I got to wondering about the essential differences between a psychedelic Christianity and a non-psychedelic institutionalized Christianity.
Muraresku makes the point that mysticism has always had a difficult relationship with institutional religion, due to its essentially subversive nature. This is most starkly illustrated within the Buddhist tradition in the famous Zen koan, If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!
He writes, “In what he [Brother David Steindl-Rast] calls the centuries-long “tension between the mystical and the religious establishment,” the technicians who yearn for real experience are always butting heads with the authorities who are trying to keep the house in working order.” He also quotes Brother David (a Benedictine monk) as saying, “Every religion has its mystical core. The challenge is to find access to it and to live in its power.”
Christianity is undoubtedly a profoundly mystical religion. However, it has in many cases become an empty shell of its former self, devoid of any trace of spiritual substance, such as is in its modern post-Enlightenment rationalist, secularist, literalist versions, “so that “live doctrine fossilizes into dogmatism” and the ethics and morality that attempt to translate “mystical communion into practical living” are reduced to moralism.”
This doesn’t mean that Christianity devoid of its mystical core is completely useless, however. It has a strong ethic of selfless service and “good works”, of what the Indian Vedic tradition calls Karma Yoga. It has a highly developed liturgical and devotional system, replete with some of the most sublime art and music ever produced, engagement with which in India is called Bhakti Yoga. It has a profound and sophisticated theological tradition, with some extraordinary deep thinkers, all practitioners of Jnana Yoga. It has prayers and sacraments which connect believers to their spiritual essence or soul, akin to the Royal Road of Raja Yoga in the Indian tradition.
Regular, exoteric Christianity, the common-or-garden church-going variety actually ticks a lot of boxes: ethical, aesthetic, intellectual and spiritual. Just like any of the mature world religions, Christianity continues to attract followers because it does indeed address the four yogas, and it does it exceptionally well. Maybe too well.
Because without the mystical core, these practices degenerate into mere empty ritual. The exoteric needs to be undergirded, supported, infused, energized, illuminated, by the esoteric, the inner spiritual essence of its very raison d’etre. The exoteric can only survive on the fumes of the esoteric for so long before it collapses under the weight of its own fossilized structure.
Just as the secular humanist Enlightenment project is running on the fumes of the Judeo-Christian tradition it emerged from, the Judeo-Christian tradition itself is running on the fumes of direct, esoteric, mystical experience. And when the fumes run out, civilization itself will inevitably collapse in on itself, as old, decrepit civilizations tend to do.
There has understandably been a passionate call for a return of the mystical element within Christianity for a long time now. Many mystically-inclined Christians now meditate, for example. However, as Brian Muraresku’s book persuasively and suggestively demonstrates, there is also the psychedelic element to consider. Christianity clearly has a mystical core, which is often lost sight of, but it also has a psychedelic core, enshrined in the central mystery of the Eucharist. And real, hard evidence is mounting that this defining sacrament was originally a psychedelic spiked wine with the power to transport its partakers into spiritual communion with God.
If the exoteric side of religion can be represented by the four yogas and their corresponding archetypes, Warrior (karma yoga), Monk (bhakti yoga), Philosopher (jnana yoga), King (raja yoga), the esoteric side can be represented by two further yogas, dhyana yoga and soma yoga, meditation and psychedelics, Mysticism and Shamanism. Herein lies the real “immortality key”.
It’s time to put the marrow back into the old bones of tradition, and refill the empty tank of religion. It’s time for a truly Integral Psychedelic Christianity.