What follows is a transcript for the podcast HomeGrown Humans - Brian Muraresku - Religion - Hosted by Jamie Wheal
Topics include the following:
- Behind the Scenes of Brian Muraresku’s Book: Immortality Key
- The Approach to Writing Psychedelic Literature
- The Kairos Retreat, Jesuits, Dreams and Mysticism
- Neolithic Evidence of Psychoactive Compounds in Graveyard Beer
- The Hypothesis of the Wedding at Canaan
- The Greek Mystery Cults
- Vatican Catacombs
- Intersection Between Human Neurochemistry and Method Poetics
- The Stoned Ape Theory
- The Canonical Gnosticism and Gnostic Mysticism
- The Seductive Nature of Spiritual Bypassing
- Team Human Is/Are the Omegans
- The Introduction of Anthropos
- The Proposition of the Gnosticism
- The Story of the First Century Gnostic Christian
- Addressing Grief and the Sacramental Mystical Union
- The Story of Dick Schultes
Behind the Scenes of Brian Muraresku’s Book: Immortality Key
Jamie Wheal: Super psyched to connect with Brian Muraresku the author of the Immortality Key in New York Times, best seller from the tag end of 2020, a graduate of Georgetown Law, a both lawyer and a Renegade student from the Jesuit system and potentially persona non grata, the Vatican yet we haven't, I haven't heard the update, but Brian, great to have you and welcome to Homegrown Humans.
Brian Muraresku: Good to finally see you, Jamie. This is, I've been super excited about this.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, absolutely. And I had the chance and in fact, here it is here's a fantastic copy a big thick book. And, actually when I was reading it, I almost had complexity, envy. I was like Brian got to use footnotes. He got to use a bunch of Greek and Latin. Nobody stopped him and everybody was telling me to dumb my stuff down. So, I literally both felt permission and a little FOMO on the classical Nettery so well done, man.
Brian Muraresku: Thank you. Well, I mean for what it's worth, I drove my editor crazy with the end notes and everything else.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Well, I mean, I want to, this is probably, this is an inside baseball, but there were a couple of things that I emailed you right away, which was how the hell did you get footnotes in a popular book? Because I had to fight tooth and nail and mine got punted to... My compromise was to get to do it all online and just do a digital referral. But like this notion of you don't get to put a superscript where you're making an unverified truth claim to me seemed anathema, you're like, how do you get away with that?
Brian Muraresku: Right. No, it was, it was hard for me too, I mean, we didn't need... Fortunately we didn't have a long conversation about it. I mean, I just assumed that I'd be able to footnote. And when I started doing it, there wasn't much pushback. So I kept going until they told me to stop.
Jamie Wheal: Nice. And then, how about the other hidden challenge for an author, which is, do you or don't you get to read your own book? So how did you pull that one off was just, there was no, there were no rental active voice actors who could possibly have made their way through all the translations.
Brian Muraresku: I think that was it. I included just enough Greek and Sanskrit in the text to make myself the only viable candidate.
Jamie Wheal: Fantastic. Well, seeing that, I'm just about to jump into recording mine. What was your experience like? Because that's a thick book, the Immortality Key. So what was it like to actually put that thing to audio tape?
Brian Muraresku: Like in retrospect, it was an entertaining experience but while I was doing it, it was my first recording experience ever book or otherwise. So I didn't realize how sensitive the mikes were. So I had to sit perfectly still. So as not to even rub my arm against my sleeve for the better part of 30 minutes at a time. In fact, this is the position I'm doing right now. So I was strike this position for 30 minutes at a time without moving. And we did that for about five hours a day over the course of seven days.
Jamie Wheal: Sweet Jesus. Okay. So I'm in for it. Okay. That's the second half of February for me. So let's see. All right, what we'll do so. Then I'm working backwards from the small things. So I'd like to have as much time as possible to get into the deep dives. So what's up, do you get a chance to read the opening to Stealing Fire. The little section?
Brian Muraresku: Of course. I mean, your book has been on my wishlist for, you don't know how long man. So this is like thrilling for me.
Jamie Wheal: Fantastic. Because, dude, that came from 20 years ago, me reading and obscurity and it was literally gone down all the same rabbit holes that you've just unearthed. Right. So it was the Wasson and the rock and all the things. And I just remember this obscure statement and some book about there being a prosecuting case about someone having ripped off the [inaudible 00:07:38] on to use for a personal party. That's all I remembered. I just remembered. Holy shit. That's a fascinating story. So then going back to realize it was so great top student the whole bit, I was like, this just gets better and better. And then wrote a much longer treatment than ended up getting into the book. But just fascinating that our interests cross, because for me, I did, I followed all those things in the, up to the mid nineties and that was when I stepped out of academia.
And, and at that point it was sort of, you had the Wasson's Soma hypothesis, you had the provisional LSA taking on hypotheses. You kind of had them all out there. And there was even a conference at the palace of fine arts in San Francisco called the something, something, something world conference on empty agents. And I even sneakily got professional development money from the prep school where we were teaching right out of grad school. And I just fudged it and call it. Ethnobotany not MTO botany. That's what it was. It was an MTO buttony. And there was, I think a guy from the university of Lisbon who was there doing a really detailed breakdown on medieval tapestries and the pictures of Adam and Eve with Amanita and all the usual suspects. Right?
Brian Muraresku: Right.
Jamie Wheal: And it kind got to the end of the rope. It was sort of, okay, so this is the fascinating, fascinating signposting and possibilities, but to go any further than this is really going to be, to be just torpedo your academic credibility.
Brian Muraresku: That's Right.
Jamie Wheal: And that's where I left it 10 years, raising kids pop out and people like, you've got to read Brian's new book. I'm like, I've been there, I've done that. It Les he's come up with some new, some truly new research I'm not interested. And so I had an actual allergic response to the whole subject area. And then enough people were like, no, no, you really have to, you really have to. And then, and then I got to watch your riff with Joe, which is again, one of the few I ever have time for it because I don't commute and I don't use StairMaster. So like podcasts are a puzzle to me as to when I can ever do them. So I had watched yours and I'm like, fuck yes, this is right on.
Brian Muraresku: But that's meaningful to me, man. I just, I mean, I also wanted to do something new. And as a matter of fact, I mean more inside base. I was just for the past hour talking to Professor Paul Ruck up and I'm in Boston, by the way, who is this 85 year old professor whose career was very much impacted by writing and talking about the psychedelic mysteries as early as 1978. So his writing always inspired me and I vowed, I wasn't going to be just another white guy who did drugs found God and wrote about it. I was going to do something original to capture the attention of Jamie wheal.
The Approach to Writing Psychedelic Literature
Jamie Wheal: Well, and I would... The thing that I appreciated the most, about your general approach and we can for sure talk about literary style as well. Because there's some things where it takes one to know one and I'm going to bust your balls. But, I absolutely experienced a Delta, a difference between the way you showed up in the conversation with Joe and the way Grahams, where Graham was flying at a hundred thousand feet in generalities, teetering on the point of psychedelic. Polemicist, it's the man, it's the system it's always been this way. And then you would go and you would get into an incredibly precise. Here is this pottery. Here is this image, here is this word, here's the etymology of that translation and just really appreciating the considered. And I would have to imagine that was reinforced by your legal training, but probably incipient with your Jesuit schooling. Right. Which is close, textual reading and not getting out too far over your skis.
Brian Muraresku: Yeah. I couldn't put it better myself, man. I mean, the concept of exit Jesus, especially in classical languages started when I was 14 and then it's... But you're right. It actually got worse with the law. I mean, I went from reading ancient languages. I mean, literally one month to September 2002 in Georgetown, I'm doing just as much microscopic analysis on this case law, constitutional case law. And where you are reading notes and you are reading word by word and in a weird way, it was a very similar process of being extremely detail oriented.
Jamie Wheal: well, along those lines, so [inaudible 00:12:04]. Is it weenie Wiki or what is it Vini? So, do you go with, do you go with the Vulgate or do you go with the classical on pronunciation and you also spell kyki on with a U so break that down for me.
Brian Muraresku: Yeah, it is. I know. I've in fact, I also had this conversation this morning with a former Greek Orthodox priest. I'm always soliciting advice or having advice offered to me on the Latin. I have a weird pronunciation. I do to go with the soft, [foreign language 00:12:33] on the Greek, I have a very Erasmian pronunciation of the Greek, which is why I say [foreign language 00:12:40] instead of [foreign language 00:12:40], but then I will go into modern Greek for like that, that, that epigraph that appears at the beginning of my book about How To Die Before You Die. I do mix it up. So I'm a terrible hodgepodge of accidents.
Jamie Wheal: And then, and then what about magna graecia or which do you mean?
Brian Muraresku: I say magna graecia for some reason. Although on other words, I'll use a soft C because it sounds great.
Jamie Wheal: Good. We're wash in a sea of linguistics. And in fact, for me, Latin in high school, so I had Xaverian brothers. So, so we had the full black cast X the whole bit, but you know, slightly different flavor. And there was my advanced Latin teacher had a quote from Ovid over his board. And it said, who, looking down on 20 or 30 upturned shining faces does not say more than he knows which, which in this Instagram expert age should just be plastered fucking everywhere.
Brian Muraresku: We need more of it. Exactly.
Jamie Wheal: Tell you what no, I gave up there. I did not. I continued with, with French and other languages in college for like the grad school prep, but Latin, I got lost in the plume perfect. You start getting into some of that decoding and you're just like, okay, this is no longer a super fun crossword puzzle. Where at the end you get to understand what Caesar did in the Punic Wars. You're like now I like there's 17. This is like, same thing happened to me in calculus. Where you get, there's a certain point of sophistication where it then just becomes like Rorschach, blot, intuition, and art again. And those are the places I just crashed and burned, but I-
Brian Muraresku: But, me too, I mean, I left. So by the time I was 21, I went to law school because I was tired of Latin and Greek. I'd had eight years of it. And then it was only like taking that step back because you, spend so much time in the weeds of the grammar and syntax that you forget what you're reading and why you're reading it. And you miss really obvious things like the connection between pagan ancient, Greek, and very Christianize, Koine Greek in the new Testament. And that doesn't hit you until I was, I don't know, in my mid twenties and just sitting with Euripides and the new Testament or John and realizing, I mean, it's the same language. And if it's the same language where the same kinds of things happening to these people over centuries and centuries, I mean that, it really took me law school and just doing something completely different to reread those texts from adolescents, with just fresh eyes.
Jamie Wheal: We'll do, let's talk about that. So, the fact is you said you weren't going to be like a stony, white boy coming in and writing stories, fantastical stories about the past. And yet, on the other hand, that you were a dog with a bone, I mean, you did something that I never had the guts to do, which was, take time out of family life. And just say, I'm writing this some on spec, like you can take me or leave me as husband and father, but I'm just going to bankroll all these hours to do this other thing that may amount to nothing, that for me, was always the hurdle I couldn't get over. So I needed a book contract to be okay, I'm yoked to this. This is a real thing. So take us from, Jesuit Catholic boy, right through what was the seed of this idea and why, especially for someone who hadn't had direct experience of those experiences, what was it about it that you couldn't put down?
Brian Muraresku: Because I was always on the hunt for that thing that we have poor verbiage for, that we call God. This experience of the numinous and the sublime and the transcendent, and for some reason I... So I've had mystical experiences, thanks to the Jesuits. And thanks to other things. I mean, as a young boy had some strange experiences. And then when I started reading the psychedelic literature, I started to realize it was very similar to the near death literature, somewhat similar to the mystical literature from Christianity. And monasticism that I've been studying my whole life, except I was 27 when I was reading the suicide and reports out of Johns Hopkins. And it took me that long again, just to put all these pieces together. And when I started reading about psilocybin, I was reminded of guys like Gordon Lawson and Albert Hoffman and Carl Ruck.
Who'd, I'd read as an undergrad in the late nineties and just, again, put down for many, many years and here comes silicide them of all things reminding me that sacraments have always been there. And is it possible that another sacrament was descending upon us in these clinical trials and the place where you'd least expect them right. In the clinical laboratory? Is it possible that we were tapping into some of those, secrets, those best kept secrets from the ancient mysteries? I mean, the same things that got Gordon Wasson thinking about this in 1955, his first reaction on mushrooms was, I think this was elusive. I think this is what was happening. And it took him 20 years to put that together with Albert Hoffman, by the way, it didn't happen overnight. So, I mean, these things tend to percolate, which is part of the magic of these mysteries.
Jamie Wheal: Well, let's not skip over it. Right. So, you're long gone on book tour. There's nothing you can do. There's nothing you can say or do. I became increasingly out of facts basically from our last book as well. And I got enough of the talking points. Let's just talk Turkey. So you're an accidental mistake. That's what it sounds like. And how about walk me through, what were some of the more, productively disorienting experiences? You had the ones where you're like, the world isn't simply, as it seems.
The Kairos Retreat, Jesuits, Dreams and Mysticism
Brian Muraresku: Right. Well, I won't get into the details, but I had a near death experience when I was five that I didn't know how to compute as a five year old or a 10 or a 15 year old. And then on my retreat, my Kairos retreat, I know you're a big fan of that word on, on my Kairos retreat with the Jesuits when I was 17. I had, I guess, what I would describe to and I've never said this before, I would just, just describe as a confrontation with the thing that the Catholics call the Holy spirit or the pneuma. And so the concept of, not some imminent God, the father who I didn't know how to identify with and not some, sending divine figure anthropomorphizing Jesus, but I mean, some other kind of sense of feeling or being that I could actually interact with. And it hit me in the heart, like very, very hard that I was surrounded by people who loved me. And for some reason that hadn't occurred to me in the first 17 years of my life, or had been interrupted at some point. In my-
Jamie Wheal: And what was the situation where you by yourself, were you in the midst of things?
Brian Muraresku: So, as you know, what the Jesuits, I'm somewhat prohibited from talking about the details, but I will.
Jamie Wheal: Cute cunning bastard. That's how they've persisted so long.
Brian Muraresku: Yeah, it was over the course of these three days, you're doing different exercises in retreat, and it's not too different from what you would find in other retreat centers. And, it was just, it was very meaningful to me because it was the last Kairos retreat of the senior class. I'd been postponing and postponing it and focusing on my Greek and Latin instead. And I finally went and put the books down where I found solace really, and I found relief in my textbooks and I put it all down. And this was April 1998. And one thing leads to another and through some meditative practices and some contemplation, which I'd never really done in any kind of methodical way, all of a sudden I find myself pro straight at the Gates of all and things are happening. And I started having dreams that I couldn't really interpret things that never happened to me before. And that honestly propelled me towards studying mysticism in a very profound way.
Jamie Wheal: So wait, you had this initial breakthrough experience of Numa and then that catalyzed, that sort of, that veil state open, and then you had accelerated dream experiences as well.
Brian Muraresku: Yes. And, that's when... And so at 17, I mean, then I went to college, specifically the study of the classics, and that's when I picked up Sanskrit and I started meditating a lot when I was in Providence. And I think that's when it really started, was on my Kairos retreat.
Jamie Wheal: And, you're describing the Kairos retreat as a thing within the Jesuit tradition. So it should just give us a quick little backstory on what that is and the place it holds in that tradition.
Brian Muraresku: So quickly, I mean, it's the concept of it's that disruption, you need to pause the ordinary events of your life and take time off for contemplation. And so I went off and it was an all boys school. So I went off with a bunch of my mates. I don't know, maybe a couple a dozen. And so a couple a dozen would go at each time every couple of months, to this retreat. And we were accompanied by the brothers and the presidents of the school at the time, who I'll never forget because he looked just like Obi-Wan Kenobi, infact we called him, Obi-Wan to suit the super wise dude. Who's still around by the way, Father solder. Thank you. Okay.
Jamie Wheal: I just looked like father Guido. He had a gold chain and drove Cadillac back different, but we also had the hippie, the Jesus, the Jesus freak hippie brother from the 70s, with a bowl cut and a beard looked like he was straight out of the planet of the apes, said like we had a very likely.
Brian Muraresku: Yeah. And so I mean, so I'm, there at this. I think it was in rural Pennsylvania somewhere else. And you are... At least in my case, I was learning about a whole different kind of Christianity from the Jesuits. And we celebrated a mass that was unlike any mass I'd ever celebrated. And I received the communion, unlike any communion I'd ever seen it wasn't psychedelic, but it was very organic and kind of natural. And I remember thinking, there's something else to this religion. There's something else to this, know this, this is how it may have started just small groups of people getting together without the stained glass and incense, and just meeting in these intimate settings right. In nature, by the way, surrounded by nature. And-
Jamie Wheal: But not now, was this put on and coordinated by the Jesuits themselves?
Brian Muraresku: Yeah, for sure.
Jamie Wheal: But it was very distinct from the experiences you had within the school also overseen by them.
Brian Muraresku: Well, that's an interesting point. Yes. So we went to church on a regular basis with the Jesuits and we had religion class, we learned all about the new Testament and this was a part of that curriculum, but it was reserved for only one moment. It was three days in your four years of prep school, typically as a scene that you would take off and finally learn it was kind of an initiation for me.
Jamie Wheal: It sounds like a sort of conformation Booster pack.
Brian Muraresku: I mean, looking back on it now that's a great definition for Kairos. As a matter of fact it was a conformation yet. Because a conformation, I was 10. What the hell did I know for conformation? And my first I was eight when I first took communion. You're just way too young for that. And even 17 is young. So if it was a booster, maybe I think it was my real, I mean, it was something I would absolutely consider sacramental.
Jamie Wheal: Beautiful. So then, okay, you went hunting, for the real thing. And interestingly for me, by the way, like my path went in the opposite direction, I started looking for where did Western civilization go off the rails? The first experience of Kairos fuck this is a thing, thank God. And why aren't we all here still? Or and therefore, where did we bugger it up and drop a stitch? And so I went backwards all the way to like pro European contact, what was clash of civilizations when it was still a fair fight. So you could really kind of start seeing medically which culture actually, had it going on. So it's fascinating. We both come to kind of full circle, but let's I... I don't want you to have to repeat a single dog and pony thing that you had to in the fall.
Neolithic Evidence of Psychoactive Compounds in Graveyard Beer
Jamie Wheal: So let's keep this conversation fresh and generative for you. And then I am curious, I'd love to get into the book and I'd love to, because it feels to me that at least as I read it, there are a handful of like key way points in your thesis. And I was just super curious to kind of slow them down and hear you unpack the bridging moves because I mean, that's the whole thing. So the first is, neolithic evidence of neolithic use of psychoactive compounds into graveyard beer, into Ellises. So just walk us through, are there any kind of hard left turns at Albuquerque? Or there are a few hops in a skips in between those things, because obviously right.
The idea that humans have been making use of psychoactive compounds for as long as we've been human now, whether it's correlative or causative, honk and great TBDs and those in those inquiries. But the fact that there is evidence of that, whether that's burned hemp seeds, opium, poppies, all the things right. Yes. To them. Now, do you, do you perceive, would you stand by some things stronger than a circumstantial linkage between them? And if so, how and why, how do we go from graveyard beer to the holiest of Holies and elusive?
Brian Muraresku: Good question. Wow. So I was on the hunt for beverages as a way to reverse engineer the sacrament of the Eucharist. So if you start with a wine beverage, one question and one Avenue of pursuit for me was trying to trace back wine as far as it would go. And as far as I could tell, and I think this is still the case, it only goes back more or less to 6,000 BC in terms of Eurasian.
More, or less, to 6,000 BC, in terms of Eurasian wine-making and Which even at that time, you do find mixed beverages, mixed concoctions, like wine that's been resonated with terravin, for example, maybe it's just a preservative. By ancient Egypt, 3150 BC, you were seeing wine mixed with all kinds of things. We could say psychoactive, not necessarily psychedelic, but I'm starting with this concept of a potion. And my big question was, what kind of wine was this?
I call it the most overlooked question of the past 2000 years. I mean, there's the last supper, there's Jesus and his mates, and they're drinking something and it's called oinos in the new Testament. But when you look at what wine actually was to the ancient Greeks, it was routinely described as pharmakon right? In the language of Greek, which means drug obviously. So my idea, and I got this from Terence McKenna by the way. But my hypothesis was that wine and beer were the vehicles for administering these drugs. And it turns out that's how the archeo chemists talk about it too. Like Pat McGovern that you-
Jamie Wheal: And wouldn't that just be ethanol as extractive and stabilizing tincture. I mean the same way that grain alcohol is used for herbal remedies these days and...
Brian Muraresku: That's right. And I mean, that was my intuition 12 years ago, but it was, I mean, fun for me was to see that reiterate itself over and again, and exactly what you just said. For example, I've heard the same from Matt Johnson at Johns Hopkins university. I mean, so this is something that-
Jamie Wheal: we're doing a research project with Matt and we're co-sponsoring on PTSD and Brentwood. [crosstalk 00:28:37] Yeah.
Brian Muraresku: Oh, nice. Well, tell him, I said hi.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, for sure.
Brian Muraresku: He's a super insightful guy and that jumped out at him as well. And maybe this was Terrance's great intuition in the Food of the Gods, which is that these are actually perfect receptacles, perfect ways to administer and protect the sacraments. Right? And so I basically started looking for the hard data to support that. So I mentioned going back 8,000 years to wine, but it turns out beer's much older. And I couldn't find any psychedelic beer 12,000 years ago, but I did find beer 12, 13,000 years ago in places like archaic Israel, what is now Israel and Palestine and archaic Turkey, and then go back to the Taipei site. But I didn't really see any hard and fast data, hard scientific data for psychedelic beer or wine, until I got to about the second century BC. So my honest answer to you, is I don't know where the psychedelic beer and wine is all throughout the Neolithic. And I think that as we do more testing, hopefully we find it, but there's certainly lots of fertile territory.
Jamie Wheal: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Which actually that then brings to mind for me, my favorite of Graham Hancock's books, which is Entangled, which is that fictional story where he talks about the Neanderthals actually being awake and having kind of like hive mind, and then this super spooky energy coming in. And then there's time walk between story now and the story then. I wish he had actually finished that trilogy-
Brian Muraresku: Oh, wow. I Like that too, go on.
The Hypothesis of the Wedding at Canaan
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, I was like okay, Now this to me feels generative and interesting versus another cut on medic conspiracies. So, so hell yes to that. Right? And so the question is, so now you dusting off with this new evidence from the archeo chemistry and pharmacology, right? So that's awesome and also taking steps back that perhaps other scholars didn't and very much... I mean you're very obviously in that Gordon Wasson tradition in the sense of an amateur in the sense of simply not being institutionally affiliated enthusiastic going back, but with chops.
So like both your [adamalondrical 00:30:48]and pharmacological elements, I think are the two really key things that you've brought to this revision. So you are dusting off the pagan continuity hypothesis, right? Which is basically just that idea that from the Greco-Roman traditions, there was much that was absorbed, mutated carried forward, et cetera. And you're specifically linking it to the pharmacology of essential substances and sacraments. Right? Just for anybody that hasn't already kind of heard your argument. Now, my sense of that is that one of the places that you and I give you the heads up on this email, one of the places that I was like, ""Oh, you're pulling a fast one here." Was the wedding at Canaan. Right? So it's because you do something that again, I've done a couple of times, "I'm like, Oh my God, this isn't original at all."
Mine not being original, seeing you do it as well. Was seriously you tell a story without the reveal and you deliberately wrong-foot people. So like I did one in Stealing Fire on like 1803 Cane Ridge, Kentucky, the second great awakening describing it, identically to burning. I And I actually did it at Burning Man for the first time. And it was end of summer, the furthest West of the of theater people up deep, basically the DJ's up on scaffolding, everybody losing their minds, bloody butters. I was like, "But that didn't happen this week, it happened a few centuries ago." So you tell the story of the wedding of Canaan, which is in the book of John, right?
Brian Muraresku: Yes.
Jamie Wheal: And that's Jesus's first miracle and it's only described in the book of John and you make a really interesting case. And is it Naisia? Is that the town? The birth place of [Dionysus 00:32:25] , Not Naisia, but like [crosstalk 00:32:26].
Brian Muraresku: Nisa.
Jamie Wheal: Nisa. Right? So you've got a lot of fascinating circumstantial evidence that, Hey, there's this wine coat in the hood. Right? And the cultive Dionysus is abundant and around that, you've got the wedding at Cana. You've got the juxtaposition, the coincidence or not, epiphany of the date, first week in January. And then you've got the story where you actually reverse roles. And you're tell it as if it's Dionysus, not the Nazarene. Right? And your point there is Haas smoking gun. This is one of the main links you draw in the pagan continuity hypothesis. Now to do the Occam's razor approach to this.
Right? Which I'm sure one of your Jesuit teachers would have led you through. Riddle me this, so the fact that Yahweh there are accounts in the old Testament where Yahweh is also identified as a wine God, there are great briefs and things used for crowns there's an extent tradition within the Hebraic tradition, you've got gen blankets, syncretism, which is just any religion is always gobbling up and consuming that, which came before it. And that's everything from [Miffrey 00:33:31] receiving gifts as a sun King in a manger with wise men attending. And then Jesus pirating that story, like we're always rolling them up. And then you get the statement from Jesus at the wedding. "I am the true vine," Not just another vine or the OG vine, the true one. So give me... argue for me the counterfactual on this, which is why isn't this just an example of syncretic, accumulation of wine, mystery codes and Jesus, rather than tipping his hat as I'm [Baucus 00:00:34:14]. Why isn't he saying those guys were pretenders, I'm the real deal and kind of clearing the decks of competing wine, mystery coats.
Brian Muraresku: You're good. Jamie.
Jamie Wheal: These is what popped up as I was reading at night. I was like, "Oh, shit, I can't wait to talk to you."
Brian Muraresku: You're making me think. So those are the two ways to interpret John. And you alluded to all the salient points there. And again, this is not my idea. I called a lot of the exegesis from a great book, which with a great title, the Dionysian Gospel by Dennis McDonald, the reason being that the Greek of John's gospel is just so very weird. And we've always known that, which is why it's not one of the Synoptics, the Matthew Mark, and Luke, the fourth gospel has always been the outlier. It is the only place where you see the wedding of Cana. And so I think there's wide agreement amongst biblical scholars that John, whoever John was he or she, or they was trying to paint Jesus very much in the colors of Dionysis, but for what purpose?
To say that he actually was there to one up. And he was the culmination of all these pagan pretenders, or in fact that he was one and the same as the Dionysis of antiquity, I take the latter interpretation. And the reason, the reason I do that is because later in John, when he's describing the Eucharist and John's Eucharist is just as weird as the wedding at Cana. So in John, it's the only place you have the lamb of God, which is very strange image by the way, to feast on the blood of the lamb. For example, just the way the Maenads of Dionysis, which feast on the blood of the goat. It's the only place where you see the true vine, the only place where you have the wedding at Cana. It's also the only place where John uses graphic language to describe the Eucharist, talking about munching on the flesh of Jesus and guzzling down that blood and a very pagan way.
And after John very viscerally puts these words into Jesus's mouth. The Jews assembled around him in John 6:60, which is my new favorite line in John, they say, "What is this? What are... this is cannibalism? What are you talking about?" And so in that one line in John 6:60 when the Jewish community is hearing about munching on this flesh and cannibalistic drinking this blood, when they use the word sclerosis, like this is really difficult for us to comprehend. And that one line, I get the impression that that was John's wink, wink to initiates saying, "You will now find in the Jesus mysteries, everything you expected to find in the pagan mysteries of Dionysis. Not only that, not only is Jesus domesticating this, but it's bringing it directly to your own dining room. So [Alka Baitis 00:37:02] Right? The thing that used to be punishable by death, that is now being you can do at home. Jesus gives the green light for the celebration of the mysteries at home. And I think that's John's huge innovation.
Jamie Wheal: Holy smokes you say at home. So is it just that the church is not established enough yet? Could you... you spoke of... what was your term house? Sacraments? Or house...
Brian Muraresku: House churches.
Jamie Wheal: House churches. Yeah. So basically the idea that they should have decentralized epiphanix off an initiatory ritual.
Brian Muraresku: There was no other way. I mean, there were no wine shops, it was all Vino de Caza. So it was all these boutique wines, these craft beers in like Spain, for example, what I turned up in Spain, and that was a craft beer, a craft sacrament, Christianity only could have availed itself of craft sacraments. There was no central depository for church wine. There were no physical basilicas, there were no brick and mortar churches. It was all private homes, which acted as churches. And it was underground catacombs where the earliest Christians and like some Mexican day of the dead ceremony went to go visit their deceased ancestors. This was Christianity for the better part of 300 years. So all they had was Vino de Caza.
Jamie Wheal: So you think that sort of John was a little bit of a sort of nano wing Intel inside, like, boom, boom, boom. Like here is Dionysis smuggled into the new era and you know how to go get yours. Like, if you can follow these hooded instructions
Brian Muraresku: And why would that be if John's writing at the end of the first century AD because even though the followers of Dionysis were executed by as many as 6,000 people in one day, according to the sources in 186 BC by the Roman Senate, by the time of Caesar Augustus, and even into the second century, AD there was a lot of suspicion on people doing what the Christians were doing, or the Dionysians were doing, which is gathering together for these secret rights and employing these magical sacraments in this vaguely or explicitly cannibalistic ceremony. This was not the kind of thing that the Romans were happy about.
Jamie Wheal: Well, now I would have to think you've read Stranger in Strange land. Yes.Yeah. Right. So, and I'm actually rereading it for the first time since college. I think I must be weird because if I love a book or a movie, I don't go back and reread it all the time.
Brian Muraresku: It's too good you don't want to ruin it.
Jamie Wheal: Exactly. Like Lord of the rings is just lived in my mind since high school. And I haven't read it again, but so-
Brian Muraresku: I like it.
Jamie Wheal: I did that with Stranger in Strange Land and I specifically got the tip from someone who was like, "Get the unabridged edition only," because the rest was all bowdlerized and there's more like Gnostic, sexy time in the unabridged version. So that's what I'm reading right now, but it's just that was one of the first books obviously to widely popularize. Like, "Hey, you think cannibalism is so bizarre and strange, but look at the Christian Eucharist and look at what's going on here." So you hint at the funerary rites and we can go in one of two directions, we can either go to Vatican catacombs Magna Graecia and the mystery highway. So in your chronology or in the sense of your argument, which is the... as we jumped over from the wedding at Cana, where's next?
Brian Muraresku: That's a great one. Well, I mean, chronologically the mystery coast highway is not a terrible way to go because it will eventually take us to Rome and the catacombs [crosstalk 00:40:22] , I think do come later, but what Jamie's referring to is this... Again, I'm always on the hunt for like actual data that you can sit down actual scientist or an actual theologian like I did on Monday, by the way, at Harvard Divinity School, with my friend Charlie Stang. And he put me to the test man and good for him for doing it. And what we talked and argued and laughed about was this really witchy wine that I present in the book Confidently Dated to AD 79 outside of Pompei-
The Greek Mystery Cults
Jamie Wheal: That's the Pompei one. Yeah. So you have that apothecary, right. That gets uncovered and all the elements there. And then you make a connection of both cultural and pharmacological transport North, South, right? Between the Southern, I mean, I wouldn't even call them hinterlands around because right. I mean, they were sort of more like outposts of Greece when they were bumping. Right? And then is it circumstantial? Do you have any direct connections of that culture in Sicily and Southern Italy that is very Hellenized and you make a compelling case that they in fact have... They've got the mystery, like the secret got passed over there. It was vibrant and thriving here and there. Now we've got guilt by association. Right you got Rome in the Vatican right here. What, and so talk us through that because, and well, yeah. Talk us through that because they were in that apothecary, I think there was a listing of a whole bunch of interesting compounds, but let's stick with your main thesis for now.
Brian Muraresku: Well, I mean, yeah, just to put it quickly. So what was unearthed there in Pompei and data to just after the eruption of the Soviet? So we know 79 AD and I say, it's the right place at the right time to have potentially made its way into the hands of the earliest Christians, right? This is the first generations of Christians following Paul's letter to the Romans would have been around this time. And I say, it's the right place, because I don't think it's a coincidence, as I told Dr. Stang that the Catholic church and the Vatican sits, where it does today in Rome, because to itself, if you were looking for a good mystery call, you'd be hard pressed to go anywhere else in the Mediterranean outside Magna Graecia there were the mystery cults dedicated to Demeter and Persephone and Dionysis all these cults that have been around for centuries.
They had a really strong foothold in McNugget, Ikea, and around Naples and Pompei. And when the church has started getting built, here's the connecting thread that I call the mystery coast highway. It's going back and forth from Rome to the South. And it continues even after Constantine. I mean, so the first churches pop up in Rome in the fourth century, not too long after the only basilicas outside Rome that Constantine built were Naples and Capua. I mean, so,there was always a connection between Rome and part South in Christianity and in the Greek mystery cults that proceeded it. I mean, Peter Kingsley writes wonderfully about this in the Dark Places of Wisdom. He talks about the priestesses going up and down from [Vaidya 00:43:24] South, even further South up to Rome to serve in these sanctuaries, these very Greek sanctuaries that became the religion of Rome 400 years before Jesus, 500 years before Jesus, the Romans were already obsessed with Greek religion, and their cults so, I mean, the mystery coast highway is the glue that bridges all these circumstantial together.
All the way to Francis Ford Coppola's remix of the Godfather 3, and we got Sicily to the Vatican, it never ends. Right? So, although, I mean, and that actually, I'd like to come back to that, the notion of the, that not just the pagan continuity hypothesis, but the mystery continuity hypothesis through the Vatican. So here's a question for you. Do you think that the Christians as a nascent cult adapted a highly effective psycho technology that was rattling around their hood, bolted it on to an initial revelation from let's say the Nazarene and the original apostolic tradition, or was it causative and JC himself had hooked down the hooch.
See this is where I got into trouble with Dr. Stang and with other biblical scholars. I think JC hooking, the hooch is ultimately unknowable. And I do spend a couple of chapters in my book talking about the influence of the Dynesian mysteries before, during, and after the life of Jesus in Galilee, right? We're there today we have the evidence of vibrant cults to Dynesis in and around exactly where Jesus was preaching.
So I think it's unlikely that some of his earliest followers, including in Galilee would not have been unaware of these other pagan, Dynesian sacraments, and that goes to stand in Rome as well. So I don't know what was happening in Galilee in the first century AD, what I do know is that in these early pockets of very mystical Christianity, and again, I'm not claiming this was Christianity writ large, but some threshold minority of Christian communities and Southern Italy seems like a pretty viable candidate as does communities in Egypt, for example, what, like where the non-commodity Corpus was discovered, or the gospel of Mary Magdalene, or in parts of what is today Turkey Ephesus, for example, to whom John was writing.
I think there were ripe communities that would attempt to blend these two mystery traditions, because in many ways they're easy to blend, one Lord of death with his potion of immortality replacing another Lord of death and his potion immortality. I mean, I don't think it would have been crazy to worship both Dynasis and Jesus. And I think Jesus would have appealed to many, many mystics at the time for exactly that purpose.
Jamie Wheal: Okay. Awesome. So now let's go into the catacombs because that's supe rad part of your storytelling, right. And, and the idea that underneath the Vatican, I think it's underneath St. Paul's as well, right. There was a combination of different ones. Right. So, and is the presumption that the larger edifices that we see today were built on top of what we're already sacred sites in use, or what, is there a sense of then they were built and then excavated under for the super secret stuff. Was there any sense of sedimentary timing on that?
Brian Muraresku: Yeah, I mean, so St. Peter's Basilica again, it's no accident where it stands today. We're where it stands today.
Jamie Wheal: Same with [crosstalk 00:47:03] Notre-Dame shots. I mean, all sorts of places are continually accreted upon ancient, ancient, sacred spots.
Brian Muraresku: Yeah. Notre-Dame has a fascinating history, which we can discuss over a beer in Texas someday. And let's say St Peter's sits over 22 [Mozzeria 00:47:19] something and like a thousand tombs that were only relatively recently excavated in the last century, partly because there was a giant curse that people thought would be forced it upon them for any who dared disturbe the remains of St. Peter and those who lie around them. But we do know that there are, tombs down there and there's a giant necropolis.
There's a city of the dead under St. Peter's Basilica. And what was happening there, what was happening in this city is that earliest Christians were gathering together for chill outs. This is what Ramsey MacMullen Ameritas professor of history at Yale calls. These early Christian sacramental celebrations were chill out again, Mexican day of the dead type stuff like going down there with wine on the anniversary of your relatives, death, and just, getting drunk so that you could commune with them. This is what this is called the [foreign language 00:48:11] in Latin, when we get the word refrigerator, and this is what Christianity was before St. Peter's Basilica was heaped on top of it and down there-
Jamie Wheal: And didn't you say, there's little straws that go into the sarcophagus. [crosstalk 00:48:24] Like you were able to like poor
Brian Muraresku: Yeah. Ramsey MacMullen talks about the tubes, these vials that you would literally pour wine into so they can reach underground to the mouth of the deceased.
Jamie Wheal: So like pour a 40 on the cub for my homie, that kind of a thing.
Brian Muraresku: We forget it this is where we get it. Yeah.
Jamie Wheal: So back to correlation and causation, were those funerary rights of the [foreign language 00:48:46] was that was that linked practically and metaphorically with the death rebirth initiation ritual of what you're saying is the carry through of looses, or is it circumstantial? We're hanging out with our dead friends and getting hammered. So is the death rebirth thing more than just correlation there?
Brian Muraresku: I think so, no. I think the [foreign language 00:49:15] grows out of a tradition. I really do think stretches back 12,000 or more years, or maybe tens of thousands of years beyond that. But, I talked about evidence of the skull cult that go [Beckley 00:49:26] teppei where there's the same bizarre interaction of the living with the dead. This is the words of the German archeological Institute, by the way, not my crazy hippie theory. They found evidence of an actual skull cult at echo Beckley tepi close to 12,000 years ago, where there may have been the sacramental brewing of beer by the way.
So again, this concept of sacraments pilgrimage sanctuaries day of the dead ceremonies is a really old idea. It comes into the near East. And another tradition, I talk about the Marsiya, which is, this other, quite pagan event that made its way into ancient Israel and Judah, where there's another interaction of living with the dead over the sacrament of wine, actually entering into transits, falling down dead to commune with the wine, just like the wine gods of the time, like El or maybe Osiris before him. And then I think amongst the Romans, it's the same thing. It's just the variation of the same thing. The ultimate goal was death and rebirth. The way it comes out in Rome is these underground catacombs where you don't just let the dead lie, they need nourishment. They need constant attention. And what better way to do that than over an all night wine fix.
Intersection Between Human Neurochemistry and Method Poetics
Jamie Wheal: Nice. So yeah. So now let's talk about the [Grab Bai 00:50:46] because you knew there's been some more recent research from the temple of Jerusalem. I think the old temple, right? With cannabis as incense on the altars, there's Rick Strassman's conjectural stuff on, I mean, everybody in their mother's in that whole nation of [Homila 00:51:02] plus Acacia, those old world Ayahuasca analogs because of the MAO inhibitors plus the tryptamine rich Acacia trees. Was that a thing was that in the incense around the temples, was that creating anaestetic experiences, you speak of some of the stone age things, the witches Anguence Belladonna de Chira, some of these other things. So I'm sure you're familiar with like the sort of folklorist and anthropologists critique of Joe Campbell, right? They're like, "If everything's one story, nothing's one story." Right?
The idea of when you try and get too universal you just cherry picking facts, and you end up with kind of just a smear of what has all sorts of critical variations and psychedelic enthusiasts who want to see the psychedelic compounds behind, the invisible college, the invisible religion, that the greatest story ever told, how do we... if everything is drugs and everything is the one thing, how do we not end up with pharmacological reductionism in our study of this nuanced unfolding of both human neurochemistry and method poetics, and the kind of intersection of both.
Brian Muraresku: Dr. Stang at Harvard asked a very similar question, which I... It takes me some time to answer that. I mean, so I dropped this notion of a religion with no name, which is sensationalist and kind of implies the notion of continuity from paleolithic prehistory, all the way into classical history in early Christianity, which I know is absurd because what I'm really trying to do, and what he pointed out is what I'm really trying to tease out are the data points. I mean, so the whole first half of my book sits on a tiny piece of ergotized beer that was found in Spain in second century, BC, the whole second half of my book sits on an even tinier piece of witchy wine with cannabis, opium and henbane that may or may not have been Christian. So, but it's all wrapped up in this, hero with a thousand faces type analog of maybe this religion, for lack of a better phrase on name did it wind into all these different traditions.
Maybe there was this pharmacopeia know-how that for which there wasn't continuity. And I don't know if the protal into Europeans invented this and passed it on to Southern Europe. I do know that there were Anatolian agriculturalists who may have been out there proselytizing the sacrament of beer and beer does make its way around as this Holy wine. So, I mean, I'm always questioning myself as to whether there is this religion with no name or not. It's, it's a catch-all term, like Joe's hero for the concept of, direct experience and the role that sacraments play in that direct experience. And how do we turn, these data points into a narrative by doing more testing and we're not done yet. We got decades left on this stuff, and now we have.
We're not done yet; we got decades left on this stuff. Now, we have actual archeo chemists and actual universities who do want to take a look at this stuff. We have funding coming in to actually take a look at this stuff and do this work, so we're just beginning. I know it sounds trite, but we've only scratched the surface, and I think-
Jamie Wheal: Let's talk about that, because you've put a... What's the right word? I wanted to say pin in the map. It's not quite that. It's almost like you hit a tuning fork, right? You sent out a signal-
Brian Muraresku: Yeah.
Jamie Wheal: ...in this last year based on a lot of quiet, thankless, solitary work beforehand, right? But, it came into the world and sent out a lot of ripples. Has that helped crystallize the next chapter of this inquiry?
Brian Muraresku: Yes. The short answer is yes. And people have asked me, "Was this the right time for your book? Why didn't you wait until you'd found the Holy grail?" And I said, "Well, we've been looking for the Holy Grail for 2000 years. That's not my job?" I felt the book stands on its own, as proof of concept, that this is not something to be scoffed at. There is hard archeo botanical, archeo chemical data out there, and the only thing between us and a Holy Grail is a bunch of funding, a bunch of attention, and bonafide scholars taking a look at this and that's what's now happening.
So, after publication last September, I'm having wonderful conversations — including with Andrew Koh at MIT, who I profile throughout the book — and faculty from all kinds of departments at Harvard. From faculty at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. Folks who actually want to test the stoned ape theory, for example, in a very scientific way. So, the community is beginning to come around to the fact that this is not just a risible idea. This is something that can be investigated. It bears fruit, and I think it can be told in a way that excites people about the future of religion.
Jamie Wheal: Hell, yeah. And I think both you and I locked on to Michael Pollan's use of the term placebo in sacrament, right? The idea that birth right is to actually have first and second person experiences of the newness, not just hand-me-downs stories, right?
Brian Muraresku: Right.
Jamie Wheal: And that that's an essential for functioning psychosocial health and vibrancy and resiliency. We need our stories of... Because, death/rebirth is fundamentally a story of renewal, right?
Brian Muraresku: "Practice resurrection," said the great Jamie Wheal. And you also have a-
Jamie Wheal: That's Wendell Berry though. That's Wendell Berry. We got to give it up for him.
Brian Muraresku: Maybe this is yours: "First person humanity finding its first person divinity," which is something I really like from your forthcoming titles, which I think is fantastic by the way. And I think the only way to recapture that rapture is to invest in these very first person experiences with the divine, whether that's practicing resurrection or devising some other pharmacological method for significant ego disillusion. I think you've found it. I think you and I are both attracted to the same proposition.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Well, I was excited to read your book and hear you continually hammering death/rebirth, death/rebirth, because it has just bubbled up for me in a thousand different ways, and then ended up being the whole linchpin of the book, which was like, "Here's the actual neurophysiological profile folks. You get into this zone... High heart rate variability, super saturated nitric oxide, oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and anandamide. Cycle some form of energy in the form of sound, light, wave, orgasm, pain through a hominid nervous system. Drop your brainwaves into delta waves, super low frequency vibration. Reset your brainstem at a primal level with compounds and or sensory motor overload, and you too will have a wild-ass experience that will deliver accelerated information and pattern recognition, a nervous system reset, and some — quite likely — accompanying glimpse of the sublime."
Brian Muraresku: [crosstalk 00:58:20].
Jamie Wheal: I mean, I was curious what was your experience seeing the exact same thing we'd both been looking at laid out in a completely different discipline or format or language?
Brian Muraresku: Yeah, it was wonderfully confirming, to be quite honest, because I didn't write as much about breath work or sex, only because I love this concept of the psychedelic hypothesis and wanted to see how far it would go and wanted to see if there was any data for this. And, at the end of the day, it seems like we're working with the same data points. The phrase you just used, "the hominid nervous system". I mean, again, whether it's through the use of psychedelics or otherwise, we are walking bags of neurons. As Dennis McKenna says, "Every spiritual experience is ultimately a drug experience if you're talking about serotonin and dopamine and oxytocin, et cetera."
I mean, we're all just manipulating that nervous system in one way or another. I think that that's the real key. If there is a key beyond psychedelics, I think that's the key. Why are we built with this nervous system? Like [Eliani 00:59:29] says, "Religion or metaphysics is the combination of all this high aesthetics and biology." I mean, at the end of the day, we're biological beings. I don't see how you can investigate religion and ignore that.
Jamie Wheal: Well. So, the University... Was it Witwatersrand in South Africa, right?
Brian Muraresku: Yes.
The Stoned Ape Theory
Jamie Wheal: So, you said they have a rigorous hypothesis to test the stoned ape theory. In my book, I let the air out of that balloon and say, "It wasn't the stoned ape; it was the horned ape. It was our psycho sexuality that was largely, A, highly atypical in the animal kingdom, and also a certainly more widely distributed mechanism of action." I don't have a dog in that fight. That was all just rhetoric, right? But, I'm fascinated by... What is their hypothesis? How are they going to get under the hood of that?
Brian Muraresku: This is what we're trying to figure out. So, I reached out to Lee Berger, who's the paleo anthropologist there in South Africa. He's known, amongst other things, for discovering Homo Naledi, that previously undiscovered hominid species in 2013, 2014. Super archaic dates about 300,000 years ago. But, what's weird about Homo Naledi, and where Berger found it, is that it's in this ritual cave system where he sees evidence of burial rights. And so, what he says about Naledi is that it could be the first species where we have evidence of the recognition of self mortality. And, if they're confronting mortality and passing along these burial rights from one generation to another, he says you might need a couple of things. You might need language to properly do that, and you might need, or at least it might come in handy, a pharmacology. A sacred pharmacology.
And so, he's very open to the idea. We've been talking about this for months now. And so, what we've agreed is that, if the hypothesis is worth testing, like any scientific hypothesis... If this can be observable, testable, repeatable, falsifiable, then there's got to be a way to discover some kind of plant, fungal arrangement inside the stomachs or bones of these hominids. We have some technology. We have dental calculus analysis, and we have proteomics and things like that and DNA. But, I think that in the course of actually trying to figure this out... What really excites Lee is that we may in fact find new technology, and it may be like, what he says, "Like a 30 year old post-op in South Africa." Who actually comes up with the new technology to even test for the presence of archaic fungal spores? Which has never been done. I mean, this is the whole point of science.
Jamie Wheal: And are there a mummified remains? What's the material that's testable at this point?
Brian Muraresku: Bones. Not much artifact. There's some artifacts in the record, but it's a lot of bones. Some are better preserved than others. But again, this is how new technology is born. Can we look inside those bones and find something? It's possible.
The Canonical Gnosticism and Gnostic Mysticism
Jamie Wheal: You were saying you're interested in the initiatory experience of transformative culture at large.
Brian Muraresku: Right.
Jamie Wheal: You've focused on the pharmacology. Even if it's been a thread that's been dropped, it is there to pick up, right? There is some actual quantifiable data to assess, and that you stepped back a little bit from breath work, sexuality, some other techniques of ecstasy, to use Eliani's terminology again, right? But, let's go back. You mentioned [Nal Kamadi 01:03:09], and I would imagine that Elaine Pagels work has figured in your life. Hers is probably some of the more central in my own thinking over time. In fact, it really was. I think it's the Gospel of Magdalene's interpretation of Genesis, where they get to the fruit of the tree of knowledge and Adam and Eve are getting bitch slapped by Yahweh.
Right there, that critical scene. The pivotal scene for all of Christianity. Why we suck and are doomed to suffer. And then, in comes Sophia and says, "And who made you, son?" It's like this mic dropped, and you're like, "What the fuck?" That is the exact opposite of the entire thing. And the serpent is actually on team good guy, and you're like, "Wait a second." That's why I was so disappointed reading the Da Vinci Code, because you're on the search for the grail. You find, in fact, that this is true. That Jesus and Magdalene were lovers, had an offspring and a bloodline, and what? The outcome is, she's really good at detective mysteries? You're like, "Are you fucking kidding me?" Surely, surely there is supposed to be something a little bit more vibrant as God consciousness gets handed down.
Brian Muraresku: We'll find it someday, Jamie.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I'll tell you what... Because, that's obviously one of the things that is, I think, most noteworthy of the early Gnostics, and maybe you can help me. I've never been able to reconcile canonical Gnosticism with Gnostic mysticism. I'm a soft Platonist and a soft Gnostic, I think. In the sense that the platonic thing, I'm definitely like, "Yeah. There definitely seems to be a realm of information that is more implicate, infinite, and perfect than stuffed down here." But, back and forth on platonic doctrine, I don't have a dog in that fight, and the same thing with Gnostics. I don't buy into the [Valentinus 01:05:03] Arrhenius pissing matches, and the, "This world is completely illusory and is false and made by a demiurge." The OG matrix argument. But, the idea of Gnostic Christic mystic initiation feels like a, "Hell yes."
So, if we go back to Pagels making the case that first century to third century, roughly, is a highly participatory, de-centralized, experiential mystery cult of Gnostic Christians, right? And are, presumably, able to recreate that ineffable experience, at least in small batches. Definitely not the Pauline Church, but they had some repeatable, psycho technology there. What's your sense of all that? What do you think was going on there?
Brian Muraresku: Something I always struggled with too. I like how you captured this, by the way, in your forthcoming title. In chapter 15, you're talking about the difference between Kronos and Kairos, right? These two concepts of time. Linear time and transcendent eternity, right? And how those two can live together. So, there's a version, as you rightly put, off Gnosticism, where you reject the world for what it is, and you reject this pain. You reject this suffering as illusory. But, there are other mainly Neoplatonic readings. Neopythagorean readings, which bump up against Greco, Egyptian, Gnosticism, and Hermeticism, and all these wonderful things happening in the Mediterranean in those same centuries that Pagels is writing about.
And it produces a form of Gnosticism that I identify with, where the world is not to be rejected, and these mystical practices bring you back into Kronos. To right here, right now. To suffer through this stuff, right? And not just suicidally aspire to the celestial architects for the sake of that. I mean, it's here that the work is done, right? It's here that you engage the fight. And so, that's my own invented brand of Gnosticism outside the non-commodity corpus in this illusory failed state that we are in post Eden. I think there's another form, where the identification of the self with divinity is the thing that brings you right back to the here and now, and your very human state.
And so, all your writing about the bodywork and sex, et cetera, I think is a beautiful testament to that. A 21st century Gnostic tale for how we can do all the mystical work, but also live in these bodies and try to perfect the world at the same time.
The Seductive Nature of Spiritual Bypassing
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I mean, I don't know what conversations you might be focusing pleasantly, at least from where I sit, into the specific scholarly details, but then when I pop up a level into the contemporary scene — the psychedelic renaissance, transformational culture, all these kinds of things — I'm getting increasingly concerned by how... It almost feels like a centrist pro human position is almost standing on an upside down stainless steel bowl right now, and you get even just an inch off... People are just dropping off into these crazy ditches. One of them seems, to me, like a unholy metastasization of new thought, psychedelic hubris, and crypto fascism. It's one thing to have a nominally outright well do, like a [inaudible 01:08:55]. Sort of like, "It's all these things, and here's our team, and this is what it looks like."
And then, you have this... They meet around the backyard fence with the anti-vax. We keep our vibes high. Even lineage back to like Barbara Marx Hubbard. The evolutionary spirituality, and like, "Well, there may be a bifurcation. There may be all those folks that eat too many carbs and white sugars, and they're becoming obese and are diabetic. And maybe their frequencies are too low to make the transition." And again, a dual labor system. In many economies, there's almost a dual consciousness system with those who have access to nutrition, [bali 01:09:36], [taloon 01:09:36], [marin 01:09:36], 5-MeO-DMT, et cetera.
And there becomes this less, just go fuzzy around the implications as to whether... At what point do I actually put down my net and fuck off, and nevermind the [inaudible 01:09:56], nevermind my brothers and sisters. At what point do we actually create a bifurcation in our sphere of consent and our obligation and duty to act on behalf of our fellow humanity? Because, we've told ourselves, "Well, I mean, look. We're pretty healthy. I think we're going to weather this whole COVID thing ourselves. We're all good. You're good. We're good. We're mobile. We have choice." And, we keep going back to this wishing well, and the wishing well, funnily enough, keeps telling us more of what we'd like to hear. That's the tricksy and seductive nature of spiritual bypassing. It never fucking comes at you straight on, going, "Hi, this is a spiritual bypass."
Brian Muraresku: Yeah. And, you're right about the spiritual materialism that seeped in here. We're caught between the fundamentalists on the one hand and the nihilists, or the new atheists, on the others. Here's a lot of people in between, whether the neofascists or the neopsychedelic renaissance patrons. I fear —like you, I think — the medicalization of mystical experience, and I wonder about the over commercialization of sacred experience, and I wonder about why all this is just ultimately a hunt for personal wellness and personal salvation. That was not the call of the Gnostics, and I love how you always come back to... I felt the same pain, by the way, about my own home myth, right? I mean, I studied Hinduism and Buddhism, obviously. And Doaism and Sufism and [Cabolism 01:11:26], and I come back to the Gnostics, and I come back to Neoplatonism. I come back Neopythagorean, and this Jesus that I've reconstructed only for me.
I mean, so if you resonate with Dionysian Jesus, great, but it was my identity crisis to try and merge the Greek and Christian minds, and that's where I find peace. And the reason I find peace in that, because it's not just about... Truthfully, what I see in the Greek mystery cults is a lot of personal self satisfaction, a lot of wellness, right? A lot of-
Jamie Wheal: Do you mean historical or contemporary?
Brian Muraresku: Historically. I mean, what differentiated Christianity from the pagan mystery cults was agape, was love and charity and Goodwill, and taking care of brothers and sisters. The Christians were known for that. Pagels writes about this. Bart Ehrman writes about this. They were known for that. People wrote about this. It was weird that they took care of each other, and that's some of the same mysticism that I experienced at the very beginning of this conversation. I talked about my Kairos experience.
I realized it wasn't about my wellness and my search for personal salvation. What I found is that by getting rid of love, by spreading love, you actually get more back in this weird feedback loop, and I would hate to see the psychedelic renaissance just be another wellness culture. It's not about that. I think it's a very sacred path, and that if you don't take away from it the love of brothers and sisters, I don't think you're getting anything out of them.
Team Human Is/Are the Omegans
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, yeah. I mean, what came up for me is a couple of things. One is: I mean, we could have just been both been dumb monkeys banging away on a typewriter, but the fact that we have constructed versions of that Gnostic Christic identity that seem pretty much one-to-one. I mean, they seem to be the same, and even the mention of, not just Neoplatonism, but Neopythagoreanism as well. Pythagoras was a late breaker into my world in this respect. I was reading something on Gurdjieff, and there was a chapter called "The New Pythagorean", and I was like, "Oh, shit. That's a thing. He actually had it going on before Plato did." We're sample size of two, but I think that expanded out from anybody who's read things we're writing and vibe with that too, it could be a larger data set, which is like...
I doubt we invented them, sui generis. My sense is that this is a thing. And funnily enough, I mean, sharing my personal wrestling with being a closeted mystic Christic... That was the most vulnerable I felt in the whole writing of this book. I mean, I've said some utterly outrageous shit upfront, and I'm like, "Oh, fine. I'll just lean into that. I know how to snip the wire to these bombs. Let's go." But, it came to that-
Brian Muraresku: More [crosstalk 01:14:18] than skinny dipping with your family?
Jamie Wheal: That was such a sweet experience. I mean, I can absolutely already anticipate the shock and horror of my brother and sister. "Oh, Jamie. How could you?" But really, there was no dirty laundry shared. It was just a beautiful scene, so I was like... For me, it was the story of that rabbi, [Shamans Okta 01:14:42], and me weeping, realizing, "Fuck. I guess I'm a Christian, but what does that mean? That's such weak sauce. You got to be kidding me." And I remember it was from Ken Kesey. He had lost his son in an auto accident, well after his Merry Prankster days, and he somehow returned back to a Christian faith as well. I mean, I literally was like...
Everything I wrote was dead serious, fully heart out, and I was like, "It's got such a horrible branding problems. How do we do this? How do we name this thing, what feels like true light at the center without it triggering all of the backlash and all of the collected trauma of thousands of years?" And, I think, that's why I was so grateful to find your derelict Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin, right? The idea of the Omega point. I was like, "That's it. We can dust this off, and it can be the Omegans. It can be team human is/are the Omegans. At the end of time, becoming the body of Christ together."
Brian Muraresku: That's a big concept, the concept of [inaudible 01:15:55] Genesis. I mean, there's-
Jamie Wheal: Isn't it?
Brian Muraresku: Yeah, there's nothing bigger. I mean, as a historical religion that exists in time, right? It has to end in time as well, at least in chronological time in Kronos. And I think the only way to do that is at the expiration of the planet and the bifurcation of the Noah's fear. Now, we're getting into wonky concepts, but like, "What does this unity mean? Where is this unity going?" And I love that concept from de Chardin where he says that that moment when the death of the planet meets the death or resurrection of the species coincides with the redemption of a certain percentage of the universe, and that we are playing out the cosmic mystery here on [inaudible 01:16:38]. Right here, right now, we are the actors in a cosmic drama. And what we do, and what we think, and how we love impacts the evolution of the cosmos. There's nothing better than that.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Yeah, dude. It gave me goosebumps. Again, it was one of those ones that I had in my brain. In my brain, I had a little filed away that Teilhard had said something about the end of time, and the Omega point, and all of us becoming the body of Christ. I was like, "That's awesome." And then, as soon as I went back into it, and he described those three arcs that you just talked about, including the carrying capacity of the planet. He was writing in the twenties and thirties about this. There's that one, and then there's people drawn to love. It's basically light and dark, and those three intersecting at the end of time. No one can tell how it's going to end up, and that gives meaning to the whole experience and couldn't be anything other than. And you're like, "Oh, snap. He just stitched it up for us."
Brian Muraresku: That's right.
Jamie Wheal: And my first experience with Teilhard was actually Stephen Jay Gould writing about him in the Piltdown man and the Piltdown hoax. That was in my dad's bookshelf. I just remember reading that. So, I've always had him filed away as something to do with something untoward. There was this anthropological hoax. But, then to come back to him as a mystic has been phenomenal
Brian Muraresku: And as a prophet for love. Do you mind if I quote my favorite de Chardin phrase?
Jamie Wheal: Do it.
Brian Muraresku: I mean, it has to do with the Omega point, and it has to do with crunching down 2000 years of Christology and Thanatology into one bite-size word, which is "agape" or love. But, de Chardin says he anticipates that day at the Omega point, perhaps, when after harnessing the space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness, for God, the energies of love. And on that day, whenever that day is, for only the second time in the history of the world, humanity will have rediscovered fire. Right? Back to your Promethian image. So, the idea that it's only love that will drive the evolution of the cosmos and this Christ like being that [inaudible 01:18:55] becomes. I mean, that to me is a cosmic image.
Jamie Wheal: That's beautiful. If I had known that one, it would have made it into the book for sure. Did you get a chance to read that section on music in the Arcana Americana?
Brian Muraresku: Yes.
The Introduction of Anthropos
Jamie Wheal: The stuff with Harold Bloom and the introduction of Anthropos? How did that track for you?
Brian Muraresku: I've been reading Harold Bloom for longer than I can remember, and I love his notion of apocalypse. So, this is [Homo Religiosus 01:19:31]. I mean, this is the fully... What do you say? This is the realized human. Is this possible on the personal level? Is it possible on a collective level? The Anthropos, to me... It's funny, because this exists in Cabolism too. The idea of the [Adam 01:19:47], right? From which we came, into which we return. It's funny. It's the same idea as de Chardin actually, if you think about it, the Anthropos. Paul was talking about this. Maybe Paul wasn't such a bad guy, Jamie.
Jamie Wheal: I love his "Love keeps no record of wrong". Other than that, he's dead to me. But, we can always... [inaudible 01:20:06].
Brian Muraresku: But, he talks about the body of Christ, and he has strange views on women. Agreed. This concept was out there, 2000 years ago.
Jamie Wheal: Mm-hmm (affirmative), Yeah. And for me, my hope, right? This notion of the Arcana Americana being in our folk and song tradition, from gospel and slave spirituals and jazz and blues and folk. Is this embodied? You and I are not coming up with anything new. The great news about that is, we don't have to invent a culture to hold this from scratch.
All we need to do is just look behind us with fresh eyes and unearth these gems of testimony and suffering and redemption that are in our tradition. My sense is, is that... I don't know if you saw. There's been an obviously politicized news piece-
I don't know if you saw. There's been an obviously politicized news piece on San Francisco public schools who have basically barbarized like 40 school names. Including Lincoln and Washington and Jefferson, and not just the usual suspects, like General Lee, you know? You name it, if they did anything wrong ever, even once... Whack. They're getting disappeared. And obviously that is going to be utterly ineffectual and simply provide fodder for the 2022 midterms.
Just literally shoot ourselves in both feet but that sense of... As we become increasingly aware, let's say we are accelerating towards the Omega point. My sense is that Logos has been getting skinnier. In the beginning was the word and that made everything that's about as fatty Logos is, that you can have.
And then we're getting to the point now where we have anorexic Logos with Instagram shamans going to BrainyQuote and slapping something up on social media they didn't even read and you're like, that's not trustworthy. Even down to the Rasta notion of word, sound, power for 99% of all of humanity, you could feel the truth of what I had to say.
Then you get Gutenberg and that's a skinny, you know, before you had it, you had illuminated manuscripts. So they're like, Hey, these are words without, that aren't brought to life with intonation and vagal nerve and mirror neurons, but they're super important. Look how long it took us to make this book.
So we get this degradation to Instagram memes and at the same time, it feels like Kronos is getting thicker, fatter where the amount of information and the amount of awareness that we are burdened with is crushing us and that maybe there was a sweet spot, like 1700. Let's say the enlightenment to Max Headroom and MTV, somewhat like jump cut editing. There was a this rough Venn Overlap of like our rational individual identities and effectively the frame weight or density of awareness, like how much was going on.
We can more or less navigate. There was a bunch of gnarly stuff that happened in those three centuries, but we were more or less right-sized if you go back to circular, agrarian and hunter gatherer time, and I don't really have an individual identity, and I'm not wondering if I want to grow up to be president or move to Vegas. I'm like, I am who I am in the same little village doing the same thing, my father and my father before him.
So there was that sort of smeared identity construct and I just wonder if now so much of our grief, so much of our overwhelm is that we are aware where, of where we came from, where aware of where we're going, and it might be off a cliff, the greater [crosstalk 01:23:32] thing, the right kind of situation. We're also aware of the anguish, suffering and injustice. I think there was something arche typical about George Floyd. In no way, was that the most egregious, super shitty thing that has happened in race relations or police brutality or anything else, but it was that sense of the image on everybody's phone of like, I can't breathe and a man in blue to serve and protect and I can't breathe and so that sense, that's what I ended the book with.
I didn't think of it until after the writing, which was the radical hope. We actually... As rational individuals, banking on complete fulfillment and satisfaction of all my needs, hopes and dreams in my lifetime for myself, we're fucked. That was the PAX Americana. If we ever had a chance to just get all the things and win as consumer [crosstalk 01:24:38] zoo animals, that was then, but we almost feel like we have to re-expand via Agape, like what you were saying. To mind my walk on part. In our progress to the Omega point, it's the whole sort of Moses never making it to the land of milk and honey, it feels like that's the only way our psyches are going to be able to handle the burden of full awareness, of all that was all that is and all that's coming.
And there was a piece in like MIT Media Review. I'll send it to you after this, but it blew my mind. It just came out this week where some dudes done an intellectual history of humans becoming aware of existential threat from the ancients all the way through and it's really not until like 1700, 1800 that we can conceive of us snuffing it, but life continuing.
You have apocalyptic religious traditions where something crazy happens and then it's game over like completely new script. But this idea of even just paleontology, and this is where T.Laude was on the sharp end of that like that idea of... There are these weird buried bones and they weren't mythic monsters and we came out somehow from apes and then, Oh shit, there's a comet and the Halley's comment and the original tracking of that and oh shit that might even intersect with us orbit and then what would happen?
All this awareness and in fact, there's a French dude in like 1803 who writes the first existential risk science fiction book called The Lost Man [crosstalk 01:26:04] and then he promptly kills himself [crosstalk 01:26:07] and I'm like, Oh shit. So in some respects that feels like all of us these days. We're all just completely overwhelmed with the burden of knowledge without a G in front of it.
Brian Muraresku: I can agree with that in fact, one of the stark things about your book, I didn't realize that the so-called diseases of despair, actually take more lives than all natural disasters and war combined. That was shocking to me if you think about it.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah it super is and I think that that was a WHO report and I think I had just read it when I was at that conference, it was in Johannesburg that I opened the book to hear Aubrey de Grey talking about infinite life extension and the cognitive dissonance so strong. It was just like, Holy shit. We should really be looking after folks, so they want to stay.
Brian Muraresku: Yeah, yeah or at least terraforming Mars to give us another option.
The Proposition of the Gnosticism
Jamie Wheal: Yes, I have had that conversation with those Musk brothers and I think if anybody has a Mulligan to do whatever else the fuck they want, it's those guys but I for sure do wonder, is that are best use? Or more to the point, if it is, and they're on it and they're ahead of the curve, then the rest of us should be having some serious sit-downs [crosstalk 01:27:39] as to the implications of it.
Brian Muraresku: Yeah. What does that mean for the Terrans? What does that mean for us? The old species.
Jamie Wheal: That's the thing. When we were talking about the transformational culture, et cetera, and the intertwingularity. I think the idea that no one singular mono myth, no one's actual story of how this is going to go down is going to go down that way and we are getting this absolutely chaotic turbulent blending of the intertwingularity.
There's not going to be a single outcome and one group is right and 99 others are flat fuck wrong. They're all intersecting and crashing. And my sense is that unless we take stands now. A priority based on principle, you'll get sucked into some shitty outcome. It's either a bypass. It's a self deal. It's a something, something, unless you do the sort of, all of us or none of us. This planet, we're not fucking off to Mars. These bodies, we're not going to upload our consciousness to computers. This lifetime, no life extinction. Here I take my stand.
Brian Muraresku: That was the proposition of the gnosticism that I'm redefining at least. Is that just take the stand here and now, which is the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, the idea that the kingdom is here, says the Gospel of Thomas, and we just do not see it and then if we had eyes to see, we would notice that eternity is available in the here and now and not some everlasting state of suspended animation.
Whether here Mars or some other solar system, but maybe that maybe this is the next step on our extra solar adventure. I think we may be living through that transcendental object at the end of time that McKenna was talking about [crosstalk 01:29:24] and this big plan, remember in true hallucinations when he talks about the big plan? The big plan is all these fungal spores making their way to earth, hoping to ride on the star ships that some able-bodied hominid would scratch together after the appropriate millions of years of evolution and here we are for as far as we're aware, the only time in the history of our species about to go off planet.
And so we're becoming extra planetary and we may be extra solar because this Sun too will die and so maybe we're this great time where we can take the mystery of mysteries. This concept of finding eternity and discovering divinity in these bodies on these planets. Maybe we can actually see that idea throughout these star systems in a wonderful kind of Star Trek way. [crosstalk 01:30:15]
The Story of the First Century Gnostic Christian
Jamie Wheal: The best of the best I've ever heard on that is Philip K. Dick and I'll send it to you. It's in his exit Jesus of his, in fact, that that entire body it's like 700 pages of him trying to make sense of his experience and his getting... Did you know that story of like how he gets unstuck in time and he becomes a first century Gnostic Christian?
Brian Muraresku: No?!
Jamie Wheal: Living in what. Oh my God. Philip K. Dick pulp science fiction writer, mostly on amphetamines, goes to the dentist, gets a shot of sodium Pentothal. Comes home numb and whacked out and I think there's a pizza delivery girl or maybe it's the pharmacy. Anyway, delivery girl comes to the door and she's wearing a golden Jesus fish necklace. He looks at her, he looks at it, it shoots a beam of pink light at him.
He comes completely unstuck in time, like Billy Pilgrim and Slaughterhouse-Five and he is simultaneously living in Orange County, California in 1973 and First Century Rome as a persecuted Gnostic [crosstalk 01:31:12] and check this out. He can actually speak and decode Aramaic and classical Greek and he accurately gets a message that his son is about to die if he doesn't go to the doctor and sure as shit, he has a burst appendix or something.
So he spends the second half of his career. He was like, William James, before and after nitrous oxide, Phillip K. Dick spends the second half of his career writing to Ursula K. Le Guin and he's writing to all these other like luminaries in science fiction. I'm like, what in the ever-loving fuck was that? [crosstalk 01:31:40].
Brian Muraresku: I got to call that pizza shop.
Jamie Wheal: He says this phrase that gives me goosebumps. He says, we are living in apostolic times.
Brian Muraresku: Wow.
Jamie Wheal: Anyway, so he has a breakdown of this whole shooting match. He talks about, we are all plural forms of God and there is the masculine, not gender but like masculine. He calls it the Yang so he uses the I Ching as well. There's the Yang Element, which knows its own true nature and there's the Yin element, which descends into terraform and forgets itself. Then there's this paradox, which is that the Yang chooses to come down to reinfuse the fragmented, amnesiac Yin with its own nature.
But in, so doing it forgets its own true nature as well. He says a terrible irony, but one that can be redeemed when we reconnect and we become homoplasmates and then go home together forever. [crosstalk 01:32:44] It's that sense of like how do we choose to play the infinite game?
Brian Muraresku: Wow, wow. I need to sit with that. Jamie,
Jamie Wheal: I'll send it to you cause his languaging it's dense, but it's beautiful and it's the cleanest version of practical Gnosticism that I've ever come across. There is some other one where there's this beautiful story of the Fisher King, basically from the Arthurian Legend it's talking about the wounded King and how he heals others. He basically takes on the wound of the world and he heals others by letting them touch his wounds of light and then only in that relationship does the whole thing come home. That wounds are only love longing to come home. And it's that transfiguration or transmutation of bearing witness to the agony and the ecstasy that kicks us out of the chronological [crosstalk 01:33:50] end games and puts us in that omega point.
It's so interesting, but there's a part of me. That's like, Hmm, this could go Heaven's Gate to your Cathars in a hurry. If you get ecstatic, basically ecstatic, mystic death cult is going to be an increasing known issue. Because if people... Even if you alluded to this a few, like maybe 20 minutes ago, but the notion of becoming untethered.
Brian Muraresku: Right.
Jamie Wheal: And sort of seeking the ascendant versus the imminent. And my sense is that, you know tragically, Tony Hsieh died a few months ago and by all indications, he was spending a lot of time in the transcendent and there are lots of casualties outside these nice clinical therapeutic studies in the psychedelic space where people are going back to the wishing well, more often than they should or could.
And, and then coming undone and forgetting the 3D part. Often fatally, if not with serious consequences. That question off... I can't blame the Cathars if folks don't know that story. That's what the Spanish inquisition ginned up to go stamp out and they were radder than even the Templars and they instilled so much love in the townspeople of France, that even those folks chose to defend them, but rather than go to the rack and submit to torture, they chanted themselves into ecstasy and lept into the flames of the bonfire themselves. [crosstalk 01:35:24].
So you think, okay, so how do we address that at the end of time, as people's grief is already showing stress cracks and how do we help people digest their grief so that they can honor their commitment to this incarnation versus choosing to step off.
Addressing Grief and the Sacramental Mystical Union
Brian Muraresku: So what's your idea of that phase, sacramental mystical union. You talked about and you write about reincorporating these rites of passage at adolescents and marriage and at the end of life. Do you think that will work at large for everybody? Are there places in between where you can envision a modern day mystery school addressing that grief and helping to sacramentalize the human life?
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. My sense is, hell yes and I think that there should have been an info graph in there. I kind of forgot to put something in but there was the one it's just one more bell curve, right? 10% people should never try psychedelics or entheogens and sacramental and 80% hears the story which I then told, and then 10% get to be test pilots and they're actually navigating and mapping terrain helpfully.
So that gave ample room and permission for anybody who would ever read one of these books in the first place. So they didn't feel they were getting put in the corner, but my sense is that like the groove and reconciliation committee, like what's batch forgiveness? And we talked about Robin Dunbar at Oxford, who's famous for the Dunbar number of 150 people, but he's also talked about trans dance and the sound bushmen and all these kinds of things of like, they had more trans dances in times of social conflict and stress.
So what does a Sunday, what does a Sabbath that we kept? And if half of our Sunday was a three hour interactive movement, so movement, breath, celebration, and true release. Not, just kind off, sort off, not repressed waspy kind of situation, but like raise the roof true anamnesis and you could use cannabinoids, you could use oxygen, breath holds and nitrous oxide, any of the light things, or even do flash mobs of like synchronized consumption of prescription pharmaceuticals in a high vibe environment. You could be reborn at Dawn, embark at dark, just put it out on Twitter, see it in the park 12:00 PM, someone's bringing their jam box and we're going to hit play and then everybody does the thing because there is this micro PTSD. There's macro trauma, like the big [crosstalk 01:37:56] hits we've taken in life.
And that takes careful diligent and unsupportive work, but there's just micro PTSD, which is just the gunge and the shit and the grit and when we don't flush it, when we don't squeeze that out of our nervous systems, it shows up crimping our relationships and everybody's on hair trigger.
I mean, if you look again, social media is not exactly a test case for the best of us, but you look at it and you see people are just spring loaded looking to just vent because in their psycho neurological system, there's just aggregate stress.
Brian Muraresku: Yeah.
Jamie Wheal: Yes, the big rites of passage through a lifetime, but also frequent periodic, celebratory, ecstatic discharges of the community, so that we walk home as brothers and sisters, even if we didn't walk in that way.
Brian Muraresku: Yeah. That's exactly. This is what Euripides writes about, which is a weird segue but that is The Bacchae. Is that you ignore the irrational roots of that hominid nervous system that you mentioned to your own expense and to your death, to the extent that you marginalize those periods of venting.
It's interesting how you said that in periods of crisis, there's more trans dancing. I'm not sure what the frequency is, and I'm not sure what it looks like, whether it's weekly or monthly or annual, but in addition to those rites of passage, I completely agree. I think that the right heroic dose under the right circumstances, just for that portion of whomever is prepared for that could be the thing that helps to stabilize the Noosphere, which looks pretty dirty right now.
Jamie Wheal: For sure and when people become psychedelic evangelist and enthusiast, I think it's actually massively, I think they're missing the point. Not everybody needs to become a shaman. In fact, shamans were always rare and if you think that shamans are our musicians and our DJs and our filmmakers and our novelists by all means those folks should go close to the edge because they're called to, and they train for it and they're capable of it, but then instantiate into artifact.
That, which comes from the numinous that, which comes from the burning, but not everyone needs to try and learn to roast marshmallows over the burning bush. We don't need to kind of get into overly sort of naive democratization. Does it percolate through a society and does it help and serve in the best ways? This has been phenomenal man and I know we stretch long. I also just want to quickly check. Do have you read One River, Wade Davis' book about Richard Evans Schultes?
Brian Muraresku: I have a copy in my library up in Washington, DC.
The Story of Dick Schultes
Jamie Wheal: Awesome. That was what, that was a similar one for me. I got to riff with Wade on this program a couple of months ago. In fact, it comes out this week, so I'll send you, I'll send you a copy of that. And he told a story that Dick Schultes before he took his chair, starting ethnobotany at Harvard. Went out to Oklahoma with his buddy. Do you know this story? Went out to Oklahoma [crosstalk 01:41:02] with his buddy and hung out and the native American church for a whole summer just tripping on peyote.
Brian Muraresku: For summer.
Jamie Wheal: Yes! So the beginnings of his story, I always thought he was the button-down Indiana Jones, Harvard professor and it was Wade in the sixties that took that lineage into the Misto. But no Dick Schultes from the beginning and then apparently William Burroughs, he wrote the Yage Letters and he was down there in the Amazon at the same time. They crossed paths and Burroughs was ranting and raving to Schultes when they connected in the jungle and Dick was like, "Huh, that's funny, Bill. All I saw was colors." Which is like the best non trippy response for all those guys.
Brian Muraresku: That's hard to be.
Jamie Wheal: Well, man, thank you. I'm psyched. I hope that in soon to be more normal times, you can make your way out to Austin and we can...
Brian Muraresku: I would love to it's time for another... That was my last human interaction last September with Joe before I hightailed it to South America. So maybe it makes sense that it's my first return.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, zero pressure, but today is my last day to be submitting blurbs, so if you felt so interested in writing one, I'd be stoked to include it.
Brian Muraresku: I'd be honored.
Jamie Wheal: Oh, thanks man. I wanted this, this conversation to be about you and the book, but I'm super curious to hear any further thoughts you had on reading Recapture as well. Cause I mean, how about that? How about the Howard Thurman is the dude who gave the sermon at the Good Friday Experiment.
Brian Muraresku: Yeah. [crosstalk 01:42:55] I loved that.
Jamie Wheal: Rick Doblin dropped that on my lap on this show.
Brian Muraresku: Really?
Jamie Wheal: He didn't even know I was researching it or plan to end the book with Howard Thurman and he was like, "Oh yeah, by the way, did you know?" And then I went back and found the audio recording of the sermon and then he says what he says, I'm like, mind blown. Are you kidding me?
Brian Muraresku: Do you have that recording?
Jamie Wheal: Yeah.
Brian Muraresku: I would love to hear that man.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, I had no idea.
Brian Muraresku: It's mind blowing. It's absolutely mind blowing. I love how you wove it back in the middle too. When you talked about brother David and the 1984 experiment, obviously. [crosstalk 01:43:35] I love that, man. I love that.
Jamie Wheal: Well funnily enough, Rick and I were rapping at Burning Man a few years ago and he told me that story and I'm like, "Dude, that's so money." I'm going to write about that and then I think me juicing him on it and then he started telling it at all at the mass dinners [crosstalk 01:43:52] because I mean, it was his life. It was an awesome thing he did, but you know, I was like, "Dude, that was so fucking good." And so hopefully I get to be the journalistic one to break it, but you know, we'll see.
Brian Muraresku: I loved it. Honestly your writing is... It's funny, like having gone through the process, I can tell how much thought you put into it and really thinking through it. So it comes across very naturally, man. It's just sparkles, man. I just love how you write.
Jamie Wheal: Hmm. Thank you. Well, back at you, man. I mean, honestly. I read your book and I was like, "Fuck, I can go bigger." Honestly. I came downstairs. I was in a like healthily discombobulated, micro funk and I'm like, "Fuck, I should just send this. He's already cleared the way."
Brian Muraresku: Well, God bless, man. We have have lots of work to do in that case.
Jamie Wheal: Absolutely. All right, man. Lots of love brother.
Brian Muraresku: All right.