Entheogens in Christian Art: Wasson, Allegro and the Psychedelic Gospels

Journal of Psychedelic Studies 3 (2):142-163 (2019)
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In light of new historical evidence regarding ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson’s correspondence with art historian Erwin Panofsky, this article provides an in-depth analysis of the presence of entheogenic mushroom images in Christian art within the context of the controversy between Wasson and philologist John Marco Allegro over the identification of a Garden of Eden fresco in the 12th century Chapel of Plaincourault in France. It reveals a compelling financial motive for Wasson’s refusal to acknowledge that this fresco represents Amanita muscaria, as well as for Wasson’s reluctance to pursue his hypothesis regarding the entheogenic origins of religion into Christian art and artifacts. While Wasson’s view – that the presence of psychoactive mushrooms in the Near and Middle East ended around 1000 BCE – prevailed and stymied research on entheogens in Christianity for decades, a new generation of 21st century researchers has documented growing evidence of A. muscaria and psilocybin-containing mushrooms in Christian art, consistent with ethnobotanist Giorgio Samorini’s typology of mushroom trees. This article presents original photographs, taken during fieldwork at churches and cathedrals throughout Europe and the Middle East, that confirm the presence of entheogenic mushrooms in Christian art: in frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, mosaics, sculptures, and stained glass windows. Based on this iconic evidence, the article proposes a psychedelic gospels theory and addresses critiques of this theory by art historians, ardent advocates, medieval historians, and conservative Catholics. It calls for the establishment of an Interdisciplinary Committee on the Psychedelic Gospels to independently evaluate the growing body of evidence of entheogenic mushrooms in Christian art in order to resolve a controversial question regarding the possible role of entheogens in the history and origins of Christianity.

Author's Profile

Jerry Brown
Regent University


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