Copyright © 1995-1996, Paul De Rienzo, Dana Beal
and Members of the Project
All Rights Reserved
CHAPTER 16: The Passover Plot
Three days after preliminary drafts of Chapters 14 & 15 were finished, Dana was thinking about the report from PIKAL, of the subject who went through “a door of light,” and was clinically dead for 3 minutes on an psychedelic drug, only to sit up on the gurney being rushed to the emergency room. How long could someone be clinically dead and recover? he wondered.
Quite a while, according to Day One producers. Fortuitously, when ABC finally ran its Ibogaine story, on the Monday after the FDA re-started the Miami IND, it was paired with a segment on people who are clinically dead and come back to life. (After so many months of juggling the Ibogaine story, for Day One programmers the NDE connection must have seemed natural.) As many as one fourth of the DOA’s hitting the emergency rooms are actually still alive, suspended in extreme shock, their blood moving so slowly that circulation can only be detected by inserting a sophisticated catheter into the vein.
This opening segment on the NDE featured interviews with people who were completely conscious throughout their ordeal. It fit in with the scenes of the Nganga, in the later Ibogaine segment, spooning root bark into the mouth of an initiate lolling, deathlike, in ataxia. To test to see if the dose is sufficient but not lethal, according to Goutarel, the Nganga would next determine if the extremities were sufficiently numb­p;an effect produced by the other Iboga alkaloids, but a good indicator of Ibogaine blood levels. ABC didn’t show it, but Dana, reviewing it in his mind’s eye, could visualize the Bwiti priest piercing the hand of the initiate with a sliver of wood. Once they’re in the NDE, there’s no pain, no jerk, no response.
This revery, a few days before Christmas, was interrupted by a CNN report of a curious admission by the Pope: Christmas had been moved to December to coincide with Roman winter solstice holidays.* The real J.C. was born sometime in late September! What next, thought Dana? Papal confirmation of a Dickian Bible in which Daniel took Peganum harmala to foresee the final days before the fall of the Temple­p;in order to discern the intervention necessary to reverse history and re-establish Israel? P.K. Dick believed early Christians had a secret sacrament that enabled them to conquer time­p;to remember who they were thousands of years later in another body. But he never identified a particular drug, or related its mechanism of action to the crucifixion and resurrection.
What would it take to be dead and revive­p;not after 3 minutes but a full day later?
First Dana asked his friend Ilan Moishe whether the Hassidim had any tradition to the effect that Jesus accomplished his crucifixion and resurrection with the aid of a drug or drugs which put him into a near-death state long enough to fool the Romans.
“Yes,” said Ilan, “What we’ve been saying the whole time is that he was not Moshiach, but a magician.” Bob Sisko added that a Jewish scholar of the New Testament named Hugh Schonfield had caused a big sensation in the 60’s with a book laying out the argument, from Biblical analysis, for an actual physical basis for the resurrection. The Passover Plot became a best seller, part of the same milieu as Bishop Pike and Albert Hoffman’s book on the Eleusinian mysteries. It depicted a Jesus firmly in charge, not only of his own fate but of history­p;combining the discipline of an Olympic athlete, techniques of a Buddhist monk, and a remarkable knack for scripting his Mission Impossible to fulfill prophetic gnosis: “What we chiefly note is that the plans of Jesus were laid with remarkable care for timing. He had singled out a particular Passover as the season when he would suffer, and had taken every precaution to ensure that he would not be arrested beforehand. During the first half of Passion Week, keeping himself in the public eye by conducting his activities in the Temple, he had aggravated the ecclesiastical authorities to the pitch that they were determined to destroy him as soon as it should be feasible without the risk of tumult; but he was careful not to help them by staying in the city after dark. Not until Wednesday evening did Jesus apply the pressure that decided Judas to go to the Council with an offer to betray him, and by his secret arrangements he saw to it that the arrest would not take place until Thursday evening after he had partaken of the Last Supper in Jerusalem with his disciples.
All this suggests that he intended that his crucifixion should be on Friday, which would be the eve of the Sabbath. Calculating that it would require some hours on Friday morning for the Council to obtain his condemnation by Pilate, which could not be withheld as the charge was treason against the Emperor, and knowing that in accordance with custom he would not be left on the cross over the the Sabbath, but would be taken down well before sundown when Sabbath commenced, Jesus could roughly reckon that he would experience crucifixion for not much more than three or four hours, whereas normally the agonies of the crucified lasted for many days…
“Jesus…relied on the Old Testament Oracles, and what these intimated…was that while there would be a conspiracy of the rulers to destroy him (as in Psalm ii), yet by the mercy of God he would be spared complete extinction of life…’ Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me; thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of my enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me. The bands of the grave compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple. He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of great waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy. God shall redeem my soul from the grasp of the grave. My flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in the grave; neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life. Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bring us up. After two days will he revive us; and on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord…He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever.’
“If Jesus was convinced from the Scriptures that he was to suffer on the cross, but not to perish on it, there is no reason why he should not have been concerned to make what provision he could for his survival. We have had ample evidence that Jesus used his intelligence to assure the fulfillment of the predictions. He believed that as Messiah the spirit of wisdom and understanding had been conferred on him, and that it was God’s will that he should employ these powers of the mind to accomplish what must come to pass. He did not expect, indeed it was alien to his nature, to sit with folded hands waiting for things to happen whether in a natural or supernatural manner. His whole ministry was purposeful, masterful and practical. He plotted and schemed with the utmost skill and resourcefulness, sometimes making secret arrangements, taking advantage of every circumstance conducive to the attainment of his objectives. It is difficult to credit that he had neglected to do anything about the supreme crisis of his career, when it was imperative that he should outwit the forces arrayed against him and wrest victory from the jaws of death.
“…If we follow the Fourth Gospel the ordeal lasted barely three hours, from a little after midday to about three o’clock in the afternoon. But this obviously was not enough. If he was to cheat death it was essential that well in advance of the time, which could not be much after five o’clock, when in any case he would be taken down because of the incoming Sabbath, he would have to give every appearance of being dead. Otherwise his actual death would be expedited by the soldiers in charge of the execution. Further, help must speedily be forthcoming. Unless his body came into the possession of friendly hands there would be no possiblity of his recovery…
“This person is identified as Joseph of Arimathea. He is one of the great mysteries of the Gospels. He is represented as a wealthy man, and a member of the Sanhedrin; and since he is said to have been waiting for the Kingdom of God he would have been a messianically-minded Pharisee. He enters the story unheralded, and after his task is fulfilled he disappears completely from the New Testament records…
“…Jesus could have got to know him through Nicodemus, mentioned only in the Fourth Gospel, during the three months from the previous October to January when he was at Jerusalem working out the details of the Passover Plot. He needed highly placed individuals on whom he could count to give him inside information on what measures were being taken against him by the Council, and also to advise him about relations between the Council and the Roman governor, procedures on political trials, and other pertinent matters with which he was unfamiliar, but which had a bearing upon his course of action and affected his plans. Evidently Joseph was deeply impressed by Jesus and was ready to co-operate in frustrating the intentions of the Sadducean chief priests. Luke says that he had not consented to their counsel and deed, and John describes him as a secret disciple.
“It transpired that Joseph had property in close proximity to Golgotha, the hill of execution. Part of this was under cultivation as a kitchen garden, and also on the site was a new tomb cut into the rock… Two things, however, were indispensable to the success of a rescue operation. The first was to administer a drug to Jesus on the cross to give the impression of premature death, and the second was to obtain the speedy delivery of the body to Joseph. No other manner of survival could be entertained by Jesus, since he was adamant about the fulfilment of the prophecies which demanded his suffering.
“Considerations of safety and secrecy…dictated that as few people possible should be in the know or involved…He dealt individually and singly with Judean individuals who were in a position to carry out the various parts of his design. His was the mastermind, and those to whom he gave his instructions neither worked together nor were acquainted with more than their specific function.
“The first stage of the present action was the cross. We are told that there were bystanders there, and one of them saturated a sponge with vinegar, impaled it on a cane and put it to the mouth of Jesus. He did not perform this office for either of the two robbers crucified with Jesus, which he might well have done if his intention had been purely humanitarian. The incident took place, according to Mark, after Jesus had cried, ‘My God [Eli in Hebrew], my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Mark gives the words in Aramaic, which Peter would have used in describing the crucifixion; but Jesus no doubt quoted from Psalm xxii in Hebrew. This prompted some onlookers to suppose he was calling for Elijah. The man who acted, who was sent there by Joseph to administer the drug, said:
‘Quiet! Let us see if Elijah will come and take him down.’ The man here showed his initiative by taking advantage of an opportune moment for his intervention, which no one would suspect was favourable to Jesus. Mark gives no reason for his action, but the Fourth Gospel says that Jesus called out, ‘I am thirsty,’ which could have been a signal. There was nothing unusual for a vessel containing a refreshing liquid to be at the place of execution, and it presented no problem to doctor the drink that was offered to Jesus. The plan may indeed have been suggested to Jesus by the prophetic words, ‘They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.’ If what he received had been the normal wine vinegar diluted with water the effect would have been stimulating. In this case it was exactly the opposite. Jesus lapsed quickly into complete unconsciousness. His body sagged. His head lolled on his breast, and to all intents and purposes he was a dead man.
“Directly it was seen the drug had worked the man hastened to Joseph who was anxiously waiting for the news. At once he sought an audience with Pilate, to whom he would have ready access as a member of the Sanhedrin, and requested to have the body of Jesus. Pilate was greatly astonished, as well he might be, to hear that Jesus was already dead, and being on his guard in view of all that had happened he sent for the centurion in charge of the execution to obtain confirmation. When this was forthcoming, he readily gave the necessary permission. It has been noted by scholars that Joseph asked for the body (soma) of Jesus, which could indicate that he did not think of him as dead. It is only Pilate who refers to the corpse (ptoma).
“Joseph hurried to Golgotha with clean linen and spices. The Fourth Gospel says he was accompanied by Nicodemus. It also reports another circumstance. In view of the need to hasten death because of the Sabbath the two robbers had their legs broken with mallets, but Jesus was spared this treatment because he was believed to be dead already. To make sure, however, one of the soldiers thrust a lance into his side. This incident may have been introduced to historicise certain Old Testament testimonies. The passage suggests that some doubt was thrown on this new information when it was published. If it is correct, the chances that Jesus would recover were heavily diminished. Much would depend on the nature of the wound. The reported emission of blood shows at least that life was still in him.
“As arranged, Jesus was conveyed carefully to the nearby tomb. The women of his following, who had been observing everything at a distance, saw where he was taken. Sorrowfully they made their way back to the city, proposing to return on the morning after the Sabbath to pay their tribute by anointing his body. It is evident they were not expecting any resurrection.
“Jesus lay in the tomb over the Sabbath. He would not regain consciousness for many hours, and in the meantime the spices and linen
bandages provided the best dressing for his injuries… But if the body of Jesus was taken from the tomb by his friends on Saturday night, we should be ready to agree with the Gospels that the immediate disciples of Jesus knew nothing about this, and they would be quite sincere in indignantly repudiating any contention that they had been guilty of perpetrating a fraud.
“Christians are surely right in protesting that the Church could not have been established on the basis of a deliberate falsehood on the part of the apostles, and therefore there must be another explanation for the removal of the body than an intention to pretend that Jesus had risen from the dead….We are left with the perfectly natural and fully justifiable reason that Jesus was taken from the tomb at the first possible opportunity for the entirely legitimate purpose of reviving him. For this action at least two persons would have been needed…
“…A plan was being followed which was worked out in advance by Jesus himself and which he had not divulged to his close disciples. What seems probable is that in the darkness of Saturday night when Jesus was brought out of the tomb by those concerned in the plan he regained consciousness temporarily, but finally succumbed. If, as the Fourth Gospel says, his side was pierced by a lance before he was taken from the cross his chances of recovery were slender. It was much too risky, and perhaps too late, to take the body back to the tomb, replace the bandages left there, roll the stone across the entrance, and try to create the impression that everything was as it had been on Friday evening…
“Jesus may not have overlooked that he might taste of death in spite of measures he had secretly taken for his survial. He could have interpreted Isaiah liii in this sense. ‘He made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his deaths [plural].’ Two deaths, two burials were thus foreshadowed. He would die as it were on the cross, and yet again after the cross. But whatever would happen his faith assured him that in some way God would raise him up and receive him until his coming in glory with the clouds of heaven….We are entitled to imagine him…regaining consciousness after he was taken from the tomb, and using these precious minutes to beg his friends to deliver a message to his disciples. He would repeat what was so much a part of him, the Scriptures relating his suffering and revival. ‘Tell them these things,’ he may have urged. ‘They must believe. Tell them that when I have risen I will meet them in Galilee as I said, and afterwards enter into glory.'” ­p;Hugh Schonfield, The Passover Plot, pgs.153 -167
So writes Schonfield, no expert on ethnopharmacology (perhaps imagining the action of a long-acting narcotic). Dana, familiar with the effects of a class of drugs perfectly capable of effecting “miraculous healing” (the “Ibogaine glow”) as the sequelae of an NDE was not so sure Jesus might not just have stuck around for the traditional 40 days. Long enough to impart the account of his descent into virtual space, his contest with the Adversary, as specified in the Scriptures. In fact, numerous occasions to slip him booster draughts of an Ibogaine-like drug to get Him up to the full-dose threshold are strewn throughout the Last Supper and the Passion (while toting the cross, for instance, when he’s allowed to sip the “water of life”)­p;and again after being taken down, to sleep through the Sabbath.
Leaving on a long-planned trip to Germany, Dana brought his inquiry to Hans-Georg Behr in the form of a question about the Holy Grail. How did this mythic code for the secret sacrament of the Gnostics­p;embodied in the tale of Parsifal, the knight who conquers death by conquering time­p;make its way into Europe?
Via the Crusades, Georg replied. Hans-Georg Behr, scion of the Esterhazy branch of the old Dual Monarchy, brought out a book on the fortresses of Teutonic Knights­p;architectural inspiration of Himmler’s SS. Another holy order, the Knights Templar, especially dedicated to the recovery of relics and lost knowlege, penetrated as far as Ethiopia in search of the Ark of the Covenant.*
They returned with monophysite heresies banned by Orthodoxy for centuries. These doctrines (which are perfectly African) of Christ’s out-of-body state during and after crucifixion are theological vestiges of the Grail Myth. In it the original wine cup from the Last Supper is present to catch Jesus’ blood from the spear wound because it’s been intentionally brought filled with vinegar and gall [extract of bitter herbs], thereby making His words (“This is my blood” ) both prophetic, and literally descriptive of the secret sacrament of the Gnostics, the drug that granted Him refuge in the NDE.**
Jesus, like all observant Jews, identified blood with the life-force itself. To be kosher, a Rabbi must still certify that an animal was slaughtered humanely and properly drained of blood. In offering his disciples wine and wafer, however, Jesus was incorporating into Christianity a version of dron ceremony of Zoroastrianism, whose origins are also bound up with the Priestly slaughter of cattle, but making an additional identification of the life-force–with soma.**
Both the spear and the Grail Stone of Parsifal are real-life artifacts in a Vienna museum. According to George, the Grail Stone is a Roman-era (100 AD) memorial cup carved from a single very large, rare crystal, called an Achat. Purported by Byzantium to be the true Grail when given to the Frankish King sometime before 750 AD, it was also supposed to test for the presence of poison.
More relevant, in Parsifal, was the sacrament in the Grail. It was organic (a wafer). and was eaten like the ordinary sacraments. And by virtue of the Cup that caught Christ’s blood, the pedigree of this special, secret sacrament was unimpeachable. Yet somehow this wafer was effective beyond ordinary sacraments that offer salvation only in the next life. It conferred healing in this life, and youthfulness “unto the 200th year.” P.K. Dick believed Parsifal’s originators further viewed this mysterious wafer as linked, according Medieval ideas of sympathetic magic,** through Christ’s Blood to the Spear that pierced His side; and that when Parsifal points the Spear at Klingsor and makes the sign of the
cross, and Klingsor’s evil castle disappears, the Spear is re-enacting the healing effect of the sacraments the cup originally contained.
Himmler and Hitler, who removed the Grail and the spear of Longinus from Vienna to Nuremberg until 1945, got it all wrong. They thought Parsifal was a story about racial purity of blood, when it’s really about liberation from sin, through the sacraments. In banishing the Evil Castle, the important thing (or clue) is that Parsifal finally gets control of a phenomena that’s been occuring throughout the script, i.e, shifting, changing backdrops. “You see, my son, here time turns into space.” (The whole landscape becomes indistinct. A forest ebbs out and a wall of rough rock ebbs in…The two men pass through the gateway.
What happened to the forest? The two men did not really…go anywhere, and yet they are not now where they originally were. …Wagner began Parsifal in 1845. He died in 1873, long before Hermann Minkowski postulated four-dimensional space-time (1908). …Where did Richard Wagner get the notion that time could turn into space?).” (P.K. Dick, VALIS, pps 40-41). The answer is that all the weird space-time shifts of Parsifal, including the climactic disappearance of Klingsor’s Castle, are part of the original storyline, not inventions of Wagner. Himmler and Hitler, Wagner’s biggest fans, were self-styled defenders of so-called “classical,” Newtonian physics. They derided Einstein. The Nazis were oblivious in 1938 when the secret of the Bomb was being smuggled out of the Reich.
In other words, Einsteinian space-time in Wagner is a bigger
anachronism than familiarity of the original storytellers with an intriguing potion used in the Cult of St. Michael, to induce visions. St. Michael was the patron Saint of Parsifal and the knightly orders­p;the Arch-Angel Michael of the Bible, who led the angels in putting down the rebellion of Satan. As part of their initiation into the Templars or the Teutonic orders, knights would go spend the night in certain grottos, which in ancient times had been shrines of Mithras. the Persian religion which was early Christianity’s chief competitor. As part of an ordeal, in order to have visions of Saint Michael and Jesus and psyche themselves for morning devotions, (see bottom, page 216 ) they took something-­p;hinted by the Grail myth to be the original gnostic substance used by Jesus.
Within a generation, however, as the Western Empire became more cosmopolitan, the Papacy became locked in a vicious struggle with the last strong Emperor, Fredrick II, who offended Rome by employing Arabs (infidels) in his government, and promulgated the first constitution since Roman times granting citizenship to commoners. He was particularly supported by the Templars. Before he died the Pope excommunicated him and began a 137 year exile in France, while St. Thomas Aquinas laid the theological basis for purging both Arabs and the nettlesome knightly orders.
Aquinas’ great idea was to exclude all “paganisms” that had crept into Catholicism by elevating Aristotle to near Biblical status (which made Arab scholars redundant), and then excluding all personal experience (either experiment or ecstasy) that didn’t fit the Bible or categories of Aristotle. Even more telling was Aquinas’ peculiar teaching that dreaming itself was suspect­p;an opportunity Satan uses to overpower the sleeper with lust, etc.* If something looked pagan, it was banned. This doctrine was called scholasticism, and was used by the Dominicans first to liquidate the Templars (1280), then the Cult of St. Michael altogether (by 1350 AD). Who could tell what they were worshipping in those caves?
Inasmuch as even a hint of other, secret sacraments undermined orthodoxy on the Resurrection, Aquinas set out to debunk the status of Archangels altogether by formulating the “how many angels fit on the head of a pin?” paradox.** By 1380 the Dominicans instituted witchcraft trials to be able to seize for mere thought-crimes the riches of people who didn’t actually own an Arab book. By 1580 the wives of commoners were being burned alive. Prophecy itself was a crime.
In banning all magic­p;propounding the doctrine that Christianity guarantees Aristotelian order against the eruption of Chaos­p;the Dominican Holy Inquisition unleashed by Aquinas ended up spying on and rooting out “incorrect” scientific experimentation. Alchemy had to be done in secret. In 1614 Galileo was arrested and forced to renounce what he could plainly see through the telescope. “It still moves,” he is supposed to have muttered, after the Papal commission refused to look at the moons of Jupiter for themselves.
So– Was the potion of St. Michael’s cult which set off the witchhunts one and the same gnostic sacrament, the very “gall for my meat” Jesus used to cheat the Cross? One clue, according to Georg, is that under torture, many Templars admitted spiritual commerce with a certain Baphomet, in order to gain access to hidden things. Baphomet is an anagram for Sophia. St. Sophia corresponds to both theGnosis of the Holy Spirit and the Athenalike Kybele, the chief female diety associated, long before St. Michael, with Mithras.
Sophia also was one of the names of Mary, since as the Mother of He who personified the Law, she bore the Annointed One as the Ark bore the Tablets of Law. Mithraism originally lost out because it was mainly a soldier’s religion­p;too male-dominant. The Christ had more of the qualities women as well as men could relate to. From the time of Aquinas on, the Devil came to be portrayed more and more like Mithras, gaining the name Lucifer and horns like a bull instead of goat.
Even after the Grail was shorn of Monophysite heresies and coopted to the Trinity via the Marian cult*, however, indentification of the spiritual realm with the Near Death Experience persisted among medieval mystics like Dante. Both Bwiti and P.K. Dick are in agreement, moreover, that each use of the true, plant sacrament to breach of the NDE entails a certain risk, specifically characterized inVALIS by the Heraclitus fragment “Time is a child at play….” Dana remembered another, second use of the fragment, in Divine Invasion; and found that the character who utters it turns out to be­p;Sophia. [The Shekhina, the female half of God, immanent in the World, who confers dreams; also in Kabala, she is Torah itself*, asMalkuth, the most junior of the Ten Sephiroth of the Tree of Life.] She utters it while arguing that God’s contest with Evil ought to be played out in each individual, with each being able to chose between the Adversary or one’s Advocate.**
This put Dana in mind of Sophia’s words as a child, reprinted on p. 124 of this Report: “Now you have a companion who never sickens, or fails, or dies; you are bonded to the Eternal… (VALIS, pg. 199). Not only is this guardian spirit (or Bwiti) another characteristic common both to Bwiti and Gnosticism, the storyline of Divine Invasion ends with one more twist signaling Dick’s own indentification of Sophia, the Divine Logos, with the Secret Sacrament. In the end survival of the righteous Herb Asher is insured through a microsecond of contact by his own guardian spirit with the Adversary­p;death.
The best evidence the wafer in the Grail was an Ibogainelike substance is psycho-pharmaceutical. The real McCoy, if the Grail myth is any guide, not only gives access to the Near Death realm, it zaps destructive reflexes at the moment of penetration into the dreamtime. Or in Bwiti terms, cerebellar reset occurs in the instant of the splitting of the skull. [Neuro-scientists woudl in fact employ EEG’s and MRI’s to discern whether a distinct but minute interval of cessation occurswhen the newbrain wave takes over from the old (see chapter 18).
Suddenly Dana realized the oscillating sensation Nico and others felt leading up to the “splitting of the skull” is precisely how the vestibular sense­p;balance­p;should register the rhythmic bursting of “new” wave activity as the Ibogaine effect built up.
He called Mark Molliver from Hamburg and asked him about the sense that enables us to feel it, even with eyes closed, when the jet we’re on levels off. The vestibular sense registers movement on three planes, Mark reminded him, via three semicircular canals in the inner ear. Projections from these receptor-sites lead directly into the vermis of the cerebellum­p;the area where Molliver had shown Ibogaine activity in rats. This area controls the anti-gravity muscles, which are completely incapacitated by Ibogaine ataxia. Also, because these projections in the vermis extend to the vestibular nuclei in the brainstem, which are adjacent to nausea centers, disoriention of this sense results in motion sickness, (or Ibogaine nausea.)
Georg, whose theory had always focused more on Ibogaine reset of the opiate receptors, felt that the demise of Nicola K., who was a German, had put a hold on further human research in Europe for the time being. In fact, the Dutch methadone faction was propagating the notion of persistent sensitivity to heroin after Ibogaine­p;acute sensitivity that might potentiate an overdose months afterward.
“But heroin overdose typically occurs with the first use after abstinence,” Dana objected. “And Ibogaine’s effect resembles prolonged abstinence. That’s not hypersensitivity.”
Even more compelling evidence that ancient Gnostic religions shared an Ibogaine-like sacrament, though, was waiting when Dana got back from Germany­p; HAOMA AND HARMALINE, The Botanical Identity of the Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen “Soma” and its Legacy in Religion, Language and Middle Eastern Folklore.” According to Flattery and Schwartz (Near Eastern Studies, Volume 21, published in 1989), the soma of the Vedas and Zoroaster­p;and therefore of Daniel in Babylon was haoma, an extract of the seed or root of Peganum harmala. In a word, harmaline.
Sure enough, at lower doses (the first cup) it initially causes insomnia, and instills excessive bravery. A second cup re-doubles strength, and numbs pain. And with the third cup, full onset, like Ibogaine, apparently causes sleep but actually induces a very similar sort of waking dream. One peculiar feature of this is “two world superimposition” since­p;writes Flattery, quoting Claudio Naranjo, “when the eyes are opened, there is no distortion of ordinary vision and, though the visions are sometimes superimposed, there is little confusion between what is visionary and what is real.” (p. 29)
The oldest Persian religious texts show that sauma brought about “a condition outwardly resembling sleep (i.e., stared ) in which visions of what were believed to be a spirit existence were seen…the source of revelation in Iranian religion.” (p. 23) “This “spiritual” existence…differs from the conception of the spirtual realm in other Near Eastern religions in being neither morally superior nor necessarily more sacred than the material world. …[God] does not… create material existence directly, but first creates it in spiritual form. All material things…exist simultaneously in spirit form…”(p. 19) “The consumption of sauma may have been the only means recognized in Iranian religion for seeing into menog [Mid. Pers.”spiritual”] existence before death;…and…the means used by [God] when he wishes to make the menog existence visible to living persons.” (p. 20)
The revelations of Zoroaster himself were said to have occurred because of consumption of “liquid omniscient wisdom,” and became the state religion after God caused the King, Wishtasp, to consume sauma, or haoma, also. “Haoma” is used at once for the plant, the drink prepared from it, and the personification of the plant. In the Hom Yasht “the righteous duraosa Haoma ” appears to Zoroaster as a luminous, beautiful man who cries out­p; “Take me…extract me that I may be drunk, praise me with might, as the other saosyants (saviors) have praised me. (3) Thus spake Zarathustra: “Praise be to Haoma!” (p. 61)
This idea of a succession of saviors wresting salvation for their people from the dreamtime via harmel persisted in Persian lands for millenia. When Hellenic influence was expelled by the Sassanids (c. 200 A.D.), for instance, “there were sedition and contention among the people…. And doctrines of many kinds and different manners of faith, and skepticism and different legislations appeared…(in conformity) with diverging… faiths… Religion was in confusion and people in doubt.” (pg. 15) In accordance with ancient custom, a certain Wiraz, the most righteous among them, was chosen by council and confirmed by lot (!) Afterwards the Magians filled three cups with wine and the mang [Mid. Pers. “drug”] of Wishtasp. Wiraz drank all three, said grace, and fell asleep on the blanket. When he arose he ate and dictated his visions to a scribe.
Flattery in fact feels Zoroastrians were clearly trying to promote their authority to decide religious doctrine by invoking a folkloric legitimacy haoma has had since ancientmost times in Iran, where harmala seeds are still burned as an incense and worn like garlic in charms that supposedly ward off noxious influences.
The Western Mithras of Roman times was even closer to the original religion that Zoroaster re-formed in Persia, [which still celebrates Mihragan (the Mithras-day sacrifice) by burning actual harmala seeds as hom. (p. 75)]. Zoroaster himself was said to have been conceived due to the legendary aphrodisiac effect of hamala (p. 62), which made it an appropriate sacrament for Mithras, a fertility god whose death and rebirth were said to cause the seasons. Mithras’ spread through the Roman Empire corresponds roughly with the time Flattery gives (p. 36) for introduction of peganum harmala around the Mediterranean. According to Georg Behr, the application to build the first Mithras Temple in Rome (15 BC) specified its use for consumption of sacraments. In short, it seems Mithras was another soma cult, complete with dim grottos to facilitate harmaline visualizations. Even if harmala hadn’t been the sacrament of the early Christians’ competition, its notorious power to inspire sexual lust as well as a notation in Plutarch about its use by the followers of Ahriman [Satan] certainly damned it for Aquinas and the Scholastics.
Soma (lit. “liquid extract”) was properly identified as early as 1794 by Sir William Jones, as originally pressed from harmel, or wild Syrian rue (See Exhibit, next page–Flattery, p. 102). So how could Bishop Pike and others in the ’60’s who believed it was also used in the Mysteries at Eleusis and by the Delphic Oracle of Apollo, think soma was a mushroom?
The answer is that in both Persia and India, in perhaps the earliest instance of harm reduction, for ordinary sacramental use (like the wine and the wafer in Christianity), the principal constituent of soma was replaced with non-psychoactive equivalents or denatured substitutes like cannabis and ephedra.
From most ancient Indo-Iranian times, according to Flattery (p. 75), the priesthood spiked their harmala extract with ephedra [plant adrenaline] to keep from sleeping through the visions. Because of “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” the ephedrine gave the resulting visions the strongly dualistic quality characteristic of Zoroastrianism, Mithras, etc., and contributed to the break-up of the proto-Indo-Iranian religion in the war of the followers of Ahura [God] and the devs, the Hindu pantheon. So even when harmala was in use, it was an ordeal reserved for extraordinary circumstances.
When Islam came in, fundamentally hostile to any drug as the key to revelation (although the Shia soon adopted the burning of harmel seeds as an incence of superior holiness), Zoroastrians successfully concealed the identity of Haoma. Hawrm-al-Majus (Harmel of the Magi) is a different plant, a decoy. As soma, for sacramental use withdron bread (i.e., the wine and wafer), they had long since substituted an extract that kept the additive ephedra (called hom ), combined with ordinary, non-psychoactive garden rue (which did not resist cultivation like harmala) a sprig of pomegranate (which resembles a giant harmel seed-pod) — thereby invoking haoma magically, in name and image.*
The antiquity of the pomegranate symbolism, moreover, puts to rest the queries of Bishop Pike et al. In Bullfinch’s Mythology, after Pluto spirits Proserpine daughter of Ceres Earthmother away to the land of the dead by striking the riverbank with his staff (“splitting the skull” again), she is able to return only half of each year because she ate of the pomegranate [!] The provenance of this story antedates Rome and Greece; it is Minoan, and reappears in the maze of the Minotaur­p;evidence that the bull-worhiping culture destroyed by the barbaric Greek invaders was survived by a soma cult which was able, by keeping harmala a mystery, to market its oracular services to the Achaean newcomers.
An Iranian folk medicine is still prepared by grinding the bitter seeds or roots into powder and boiling it in vinegar, which extracts 98% of the harmala alkaloids. As a mouthwash, it numbs a toothache, but an accidental swallow can cause visions (p. 31), which are deliberately induced only for maladies where all else has failed. Also known to promote rapid healing of the skin, it is still employed as a folk medicine by the Gnostic baptists called Mandaeans, who preach that John the Baptist, not Jesus, was the Messiah. “There is good reason to believe that the heirs of these Nazareans, though time and circumstances have wrought many changes, are the present Nazoreans (also known as Mandaeans) of the Lower Euphrates. Their literature,” writes Schonfield, “…reveals that they came formerly from northern Palestine, to which area they had migrated from Judea because of Jewish persecution. …The Jews regarded northern Palestine as the natural home of heresy. …We do not know so much about the old Israelite religion, but it would appear to have absorbed a good deal from the worship of the Syrians and Phoenicians… More of the older faith was carried down as folklore and in the ideas and usages of clans and sects which were active in the time of Christ.” (The Passover Plot, pgs. 200-202)
Flattery provides a vivid example of this: the Mandean “Scroll of the Wild Rue,” which is not canonical, but “magical.” It survives “wholly for the purpose of furthering the effectiveness of the spirit of harmel in a specific situation, that of purging someone of sickness… Wisdom or knowledge is not among the benefits sought, nor is intoxication… An unusual feature…is the use of the names, haoma and sambra respectively, at once for the plant, the drink prepared from it, and the personification of the plant. …Since the personification of Sambra as a diety is unknown elsewhere in Mandean writing, its appearance…may represent a borrowing…directly of the Avestan [Zoroastrian] Hom Yasht …[or] similar early Iranian invocation of sauma” of which Sambra is the Mandaean persona:
“O Sambra, go below like water which gusheth from the peak of a high moutain. The Lady of Gods and Men took thee and carried thee off to the male gods and the female astartes, and she gave favorable testimony concerning thee. And they sent (it) to everyone that was ill, working a cure, and healing was found in it. Thou didst spring forth of thine own strength, and didst come forth and camest into being.” (Haoma and Harmaline, pgs 55-57)
The scroll continues with a plea for “a cure that will free” the one taking the Sambra. Presentday Mandeans are unflinchingly monotheistic, repudiating Christ’s divinity­p;so Wisdom (but not healing) is presumably the province of the Holy Spirit. Schonfield writes that “the indespensable condition of membership [in the Essenes/ Nazoreans/Mandeans] was absolute faithfulness to the Laws of God delivered to Moses.” He adds that Jesus’ “…brother Jacob, who became head of the Nazoreans at Jerusalem, was a typical Essene sectarian …He… prayed constantly in the Temple for the forgiveness of the people…”
“We have every reason to hold that the family to which Jesus belonged was nurtured in this tradition, and much of his teaching confirms this. But his reading of his messianic mission led him in many matters to turn his back on it, which may well have been a cause of friction with his family. He associated freely with the people, even with the worst of them, and would have nothing to do with a Nazairite or regulated way of life. ‘The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous and a winebibbler, a friend of publicans and sinners.’ He relaxed the rigid Sabbath observance, and held that nothing which enters a man’s mouth defiles him. He taught that all secrets (so dear to ‘the Saints’) were to be revealed, and that what was whispered in the ear should be proclaimed from the housetops. No wonder, therefore, that in the Mandaean literature his is stigmatised as a false Messiah. But as Jesus said, ‘Wisdom is justified of her children.'”(The Passover Plot, pps. 204-205)
Now the only key left to nailing down the solution of the Resurrection mystery, Dana realized, was the degree to which harmaline reliably reproduces certain Ibogaine-like effects — including precognition, numbness of the extremities, and any tendency to induce out-of-body experiences, including techniques or special circumstances needed to produce full Near Death Experiences. By ancient usage, no other substance present in Antiquity could have been deemed appropriate–in that place, in that time–for such a purpose. And if as Schonfield speculates, use of “vinegar and gall” was in fact suggested to Jesus by the words of Psalm lxix, 21, the vinegar extract of harmala seeds still prepared by modernday Mandeans may have been “included in the Recipe,” according to Essene Gnosis, from the Beginning.
A week later, across the continent at the Essalin Institute in California, during a conference on recent medical advances with psychedelics, Deborah Mash came upon Anne Shulgin, sitting outside one of the presentations, who asked–
“Aren’t you the Dr. Deborah Mash who’s working with Ibogaine at the University of Miami?”
“Yes, I am. Why?”
“Make sure you get all your subjects to agree to come back before you give them any Ibogaine”–and Anne proceeded to recount the anectdote at the end of Chapter 14 of this report.*[see pg.177?]–about the fellow who went through death’s door for three minutes, only to come to and sit up on the cot as medics were rushing emergency equipment into room.
But by the time of that Essalin conference, Dana and Mark Molliver had already gotten together in person. They had a meeting with Peter Beilenson, head of the Baltimore Health Dept., on enlisting Mayor Schmoke to the cause of medications development. Beilenson had one question: “Is it real?” “Very promising, ” said Mark. Dr. Beilenson, who was impressed by the promise of research dollars for Baltimore, promised to get back with a response from Kurt Schmoke.
Afterwards, in the car, Molliver observed that the cerebellum generates wave activity for the entire brain­p;but the inferior olive generates the brainwave of the cerebellum. It’s reasonable, he agreed, that the cerebellum (which constantly models a somatic image of the body in three-dimensional space) might initially register Ibogaine activity in the olive as a sensation of the room oscillating.
With Ibogaine is firing ten bursts-a-second in the olive, however, this means that when the Ibogaine effect becomes strong enough, the new wave activity heterodynes with pre-existing brain-waves. Ergo the “splitting of the skull.” The kicker, according to Molliver, was that earlier researchers felt harmaline also, in some fashion, reset brainwaves. Dana asked if harmala alkaloids in high doses happened to cause numbness of hands and feet, like iboga does. Mark said he would try to find out.
Molliver’s real news, though, was that he was finding no toxicity in primates. In fact, he was giving 150 mg. per kg. orally, and nothing much was happening to his monkeys at all. He and O’hearn were checking to see if the Ibogaine was bio-available — if it was getting into the blood in the proper chemical form. Meanwhile, to duplicate Ibogaine ataxia in humans, they were having to inject 50 mgs.-per-kg. i.p. (in the gut). A double-dose. Only later did Linda Aronhoff let drop in a conversation that monkeys were having seizures with their injections.
Linda Aronhoff was all agog with a speech Bob Sisko had just made at the NIDA Advisory Committee. In it he reiterated that ICASH is not anti-drug: “We are pro-choice. We believe it is the right of the individual to self-medicate. We recognize however, that when an individual becomes addicted to drugs, he or she no longer has freedom of choice. We believe any person addicted to drugs who wishes to be free from that addiction should be able to have that choice…
“We applaud NIDA’s efforts to create a wide range of new cocaine analogs. I am especially excited to hear you are working on a cocaine analog with a longer duration of action. One of the main problems from cocaine user is that the effects of coke are so short lived. Addicts must use continually in order to maintain the high. I predict that a potent new long lasting analog would be popular among addicts, but might quickly end up on the streets, where it could be used as “cut,” mixed in with cocaine to make the high longer-lasting. After all, the same illicit chemists who currently manufacture both powder and crack cocaine by the ton could easily manufacture NIDA’s new cocaine analog as well.
“Next to the idea of across-the-board legalization, the idea of developing a new stimulant compound that could be used as a medication for cocaine dependent people, much like methadone is used for heroin addiction, is probably the most radical idea around…”
He went on to say that NIDA’s conceptual frame-work; all agonists, antagonists; shows they still have not really accepted the idea of the addiction interrupter. What, he asked, about people who don’t do well on
stimulants as maintenance drugs? What about people who want to quit drugs?
Kurt Schmoke, meanwhile, sent word that we were already in perfect agreement about medications development. Peter Beilenson did say Schmoke could be counted upon to take a public stand and lobby Congress for increased appropriations. In the Rolling Stone, after calling for a national commission to re-think drug policy, and allocation of 65% of the drug budget for treatment instead of enforcement, he wrote–
“Finally, as a third step, the federal government should increase its support of research into new treatments. For example, researchers at Johns Hopkins believe that finding a chemical to block cocaine craving is now possible. This kind of research requires strong backing from the federal government. The research is expensive. But it is an investment that is far more likely to produce successful results than building more prisons, trying to stop drugs at the border, arresting addicts or passing mandatory minimum sentences.”
–Side Effects, by Kurt Schmoke, Rolling Stone, May 7, 1994