Sacred Plants and the Gnostic Church: Speculations on Entheogen-Use in Early Christian Ritual

Journal of Ancient History 2 (1):64-77 (2014)
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Abstract: It is the aim of this paper to establish a temporal and cultural link between entheogen-use1 in Classical mystery cults and their possible use in a segment of the early Christian Gnostic Church. As early Christianity was heavily influenced by the Classical world in which it first developed, it is essential to examine the evidence of entheogen-use within Classical mystery cults, and explore their possible influence on the development of Christian ritual. We will first present textual evidence from the New Testament and Nag Hammadi Library (NHL) that indicate possible use of ritual entheogens. Next we will examine entheogen-use by some of the main religious sects of the ancient Mediterranean world as part of their liturgical practice between c. fifth century BCE and the third century CE. Then we will show that the different schools of philosophical thought examined were quite fluid, and that there was considerable overlap among schools with respect to several key philosophies and practices. Ultimately the subject of entheogen-use in the Classical world necessarily falls into the realm of plausible speculation mainly due to the lack of primary sources. However, should the entheogenic hypothesis2 prove to be correct, it promises to be quite useful in future research and in the translation of original documents.

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Jerry B. Brown
Florida International University


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