Wednesday, June 11, 2014

William Blake and Magic Mushrooms (Part 1)


A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
"Proverbs from Hell", William Blake

I do not suggest that St. John of Patmos ate mushrooms in order to write the Book of Revelations. Yet the succession of images in his Vision, so clearly seen but such phantasmagoria, means for me that he was in the same state as one be-mushroomed. Nor do I suggest for a moment that William Blake knew the mushroom when he wrote this of the clarity of visionSacred Mushrooms: Secrets of Eleusis, (40) R. Gordon Wasson.

 I do suggest that St. John and William Blake used mushrooms, and both of their works are inspired by eating mushrooms. Consider the following quotes:


I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings."
  Revelations 10:10-11, St. John
Notice handle of the Torah (above)/scroll looks like mushroom.
A dragon red and hidden Harlot which John in Patmos saw
From Milton, William Blake

Part I

     In 1954, Aldous Huxley published The Doors of Perception, a book about his experience using mescaline, the active psychotropic in peyote.  He took the title from William Blake’s, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”  In the 1960’s the psychedelic rock band The Doors, would take their name from the same quote. The full quote comes from Blake's A Memorable Fancy:
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite/ For man has closed himself up till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.  














If Aldous Huxley and Jim Morrison used psychoactive substances to open these doors of perception, it would seem likely that William Blake did as well. Yet, those such as Wasson claim that Blake could enter an altered state of consciousness without the benefit of psycho tropics. If one never looked at the art of William Blake or knew of his background in Gnosticism and alchemy, it is possible to come to the conclusion that he was simpley inspired. However, If one takes a closer look at his work, in conjunction with such works as John M. Allegro’s, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, or Jan Irving and Andrew Rutajit's Astrotheology and Shamanism, or my Hacking into Heaven: Mushrooms and the Bible, it should be obvious that William Blake knew the source of the Bible to be the mushroom, Amanita muscaria or fly agaric; and that he consumed them to become inspired. In this work, I will analyze the prints and writing of William Blake to demonstrate beyond a doubt that he used mushrooms, and incorporated them into his art, in an effort to emulate the Bible.
     Deconstructing a myth is a difficult task, for it involves tearing apart something sacred and rebuilding it into something more realistic; it is akin to ripping the wings off of an angel to bring the image back down to earth.  For example, part of the William Blake myth involves Blake having a vision of god at the age of four.  How can one confirm of deny this happened? How at four years old, do you have the linguistic ability to express a vision of god? Unless of course, Blake relates the story later in life to give credence to the narrative of his poetic vision.  This story comes to us from Blake’s wife, Kate, and is recounted in the Diary, reminiscences, and correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson: 
You know dear, the first time you saw god was when you were four years old, and he put his head to the widow, and set you a-screaming(77).  
Furthermore, this comes from a conversation Robinson had with Kate after Blake’s death in 1872.  Also, while Blake enjoyed some recognition during his own time, he was not published nor well read by his contemporaries, and most of his work was in private collections.
     Alexander Gilchrist wrote The Life of William Blake, in 1863, nearly 40 years after Blake’s death.  While it provides a narrative of Blake’s life, it does so by relying on dated information given to Gilchrist by Blake’s surviving friends.  To really understand Blake’s work, it is more important to look at who inspired his style and philosophies: Jacob Boehm and Emmanuel Swedenborg.  Both Boehm and Swedenborg attempted to reinterpret the Bible, and created their own methodology for their exegeses.  Both men came to the conclusion that the Bible was a sort of code in which the truth was hidden.  Consider the following quote from Boehm’s Clavis :
10. Reason will stumble, when it sees heathenish terms and words used in the explanation of natural things, supposing we should use none but scripture phrase (or words borrowed from the Bible); but such words will not always ply and square themselves to the fundamental exposition of the properties of nature, neither can a man express the ground with them: also the wise heathen and Jews have hidden the deep ground of nature under such words, as having well understood that the knowledge of nature is not for every one, but it belongs to those only, whom God by nature has chosen for it.


And consider a similar quote from Swedenborg’s The White Horse:

7. The Word is not understood, except by those who are enlightened. The human rational faculty cannot comprehend Divine, nor even spiritual things, unless it be enlightened by the Lord (n. 2196, 2203, 2209, 2654). Thus they only who are enlightened comprehend the Word (n. 10323). The Lord enables those who are enlightened to understand truths, and to discern those things which appear to contradict each other.
Swedenborg
     Both excerpts suggest that the actual words of the Bible are not to be taken literally, but interpreted.  Furthermore, Boehme suggests that only those chosen by god will receive insight, while Swedenborg suggests that only the enlightened will understand these spiritual truths. Apparently, Boehme and Swedenborg felt they were in possession of this faculty to discern the truth of the word, but where did they get this divine knowledge? How where they selected?
     Secret societies abounded in medieval and industrial Europe, and it has been suggested by many that the secret of the Divine Mystery of Jesus Christ has been passed down through secret societies, especially through the alchemical works of Paracelsus and secret society of Freemasonry.  Rather than try to prove that William Blake lived across the street from a Masonic temple, and was a Freemason, as well as those who inspired him, I would rather focus on the work of Blake to demonstrate the themes he includes originate from Freemasonry and alchemy. It was through these secret societies that certain members were initiated in into the inner circle and given the true doctrine of the world’s great religions; civilization evolved out of mushroom use, more specifically the consumption of Amanita muscaria. 

     In 1957, the western world was introduced to magic mushrooms via Life magazine, in an article about R. Gordon Wasson’s rediscovery of the magic mushroom in Mexico. The ancient mushroom ritual was still being practiced by the Mazatec Indians.  Wasson followed up the article with a self-published book, Mushrooms Russia and History.  And in 1969, he self-published another book, Soma: The Divine Mushroom of Immortality, which consequently was sold out before it was even published.  Only a year later, John M. Allegro would publish The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, based on his translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in which he claimed that the god the ancient Israelites was the Amanita muscaria mushroom.  Then 2001, that Dan Merkur published, The Mystery of Manna, in which he suggested ergot rather than amanita was the basis for the Bible.  And in 2002, Clark Heinrich published, Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy, in which he suggests that the Amanita muscaria mushrooms was behind both religion and alchemy.  Then in 2006, Jan Irving and Andrew Rutajit published, Astrotheology and Shamanism: Unveiling the Law of Duality in Christianity and Other Religions, which reasserted the Amanita muscaria theory.  Most recently, I published my own, Hacking into Heaven: Mushrooms and the Bible, which I too assert that the Bible is based on the psychoactive mushroom Amanita muscaria.  This work you are reading assumes that the reader is familiar with at least one of these books; however, I will include a previously written essay, “Language, Religion, and Slavery” to provide a brief model for how this paradigm works.