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Exploring Psychedelics 2018: Reviewing zealotry and apologetics within the field of psychedelics

The 2018 Exploring Psychedelics conference was full of new, enthusiastic and well-informed psychedelic advocates as well as veteran psychonauts and therapeutic administrators. It was refreshing and exciting to see so many diverse speakers passionately pursuing interdisciplinary approaches to this field of study, and taking the time to share their information with the world. Unfortunately and quite ironically, however, the downfall of this years Exploring Psychedelics was in fact due to the actions of its coordinator, Martin W. Ball. By far the most surreal moment of the two days that I attended, was watching Martin, an adamant non-duelist and religious studies professor, ranting and pointing at his conference attendees for a few minutes while in the throes of a full-blown tantrum, repeatedly screaming such gems as, "fuck you" and, "go fuck yourself!" Martin's repeated and unfounded slandering of other authors and researchers in the field such as James Oroc and Terence McKenna, while later defending violent malpractice and non-consensual administration of psychedelics, was as shocking as it was disheartening. In the days following the conference, Martin sadly has refused to acknowledge that he did anything wrong, nor how as a representative of the psychedelic community, how he grossly misrepresented the field and actively attempted to keep a meaningful discussion regarding controversial issues from taking place.

For readers unaware of the events leading up to Martin’s outburst of unprofessionalism and egomania, some context should be given.

One of the presenters at this years Exploring Psychedelics conference, a rather controversial figure in the field at the moment, was 5-MeO Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) administrator and advocate Dr. Octavio Rettig Hinojosa. Octavio has an interesting and inspiring story from addiction, recovery via 5-MeO, to subsequently over a decade of educating on and administrating 5-MeO therapeutically. Octavio famously obtains his 5-MeO from the Sonoran Desert Toad which excretes a bioavailable form of the compound that can be vaporized and then inhaled with profound entheogenic and therapeutic effects. Octavio’s keen attention to sustainable collection methods and his efforts regarding the conservation of the Sonoran Desert Toad is more than commendable, enough to easily solidify his generally respected reputation. That said, after reportedly administering approximately 3500 therapeutic sessions, over the past two years some very troubling accusations and evidence of malpractice by Octavio has come to light. The following is a current breakdown of such accusations:

Substantiated in the form of video and eye-witness testimonies:

  • Physical assault in the form of kicking or slapping
  • Non-consensual administration of additional psychedelics during sessions
  • Unexpectedly electrically shocking participants into a standing position
  • Misogynistic bullying in an attempt to coerce participants into accepting additional doses of 5-MeO
  • Pouring water down the nose or throat of otherwise unconscious participants
  • Unexpectedly blocking the airways of participants for over 15 seconds.

Unsubstantiated rumors or accusations:

  • Unsolicited or inappropriate physical contact while under the influence (most reports are of kissing and touching)
  • Involved in the death of at least three individuals during sessions directed and lead by Octavio. Two elderly gentlemen who died officially of heart complications, and one 26-year-old woman Ana Patricia Arredondo whose body wasn't recovered until six days of search and rescue.
  • Severe psychological trauma from sessions which result in long-term depression and suicide.

These are clearly some very serious accusations and examples of malpractice. Rather than address such issues, Octavio has in the past ignored or censored criticism by flooding the internet with positive reports in an attempt to confiscate or otherwise drown out any critical or skeptical feedback. It has only been the last few months that Octavio has begun addressing such issues, but he has yet to apologize or even acknowledge why these issues are concerning to the public. Understandably, upon hearing that Octavio would be attending this year's conference a number of people directed their concerns towards Martin Ball the coordinator. I even sent a brief message politely addressing my concerns and asked Martin for an opportunity to address Octavio publicly regarding these accusations of malpractice. I received a rather curt response from Martin replying no, but that questions could be asked to anyone in the later panel discussion on 5-MeO.

During his presentation at Exploring Psychedelics, Octavio defended a well-circulated video of him kicking a participant who refused additional doses of 5-MeO. He passionately argued that essentially consent was only important up to a certain point, attempting to change ones consent was an act of cowardice, and that he as the administrator knows what is best for each person. At the conclusion of Octavio's presentation, rather than give the public a chance to respond, Martin jumped up on stage and began shouting that Octavio was a personal friend and a good person. He then began pointing out members of the audience at random and screaming that anyone who criticized or even questioned the actions of Octavio, "can go fuck yourself!" A phrase and sentiment he repeated ad nauseam for a few painful minutes. After taking my two kids out of the conference room and away from the screaming man-child, I watched no less than a dozen professional psychedelic healers and educators walk out of the same room one by one and visibly shake off the energy that had just been thrown at the audience. Throughout the conference, I overheard Martin again and again loudly referring to any negative comments about Octavio as "totally asinine."

Later during the 5-MeO panel discussion, only ten minutes were given to the audience for questioning, and depressingly after a series of audience stories the only actual question asked during that time was from my myself. Neither Octavio nor Martin made an attempt to speak in any way, although the other panelists such as Merrill Ward, Rak Razam, and Angela Ward all provided excellent responses. Both Martin and Octavio during the conference zealously defended and excused negative consequences from psychedelic administrators, maintaining that they knew best practices and blaming any negative consequences on the participants. Through no truly objective analysis or certification, their arguments at no point acknowledged the imperative nature of information, consent, and safety within psychedelically therapeutic sessions. As self-appointed experts on 5-MeO DMT, both Martin and Octavio seemed to feel no inherent need to take any administrative responsibility for negative side-effects, and quite effectively perpetuated a safe space only for those who think the way they do.

Martin spent the vast majority of his time onstage (about 90 minutes throughout the three days) self-promoting and informing the attendees about all of the great and wonderful work he does for the field of psychedelics. While it is admirable that the conference was free to the public, it is beyond me how one massive ego could organize and then systematically ruin the integrity of said conference in just a few brief minutes. As the author of eight books on the topic of ego transcendence and non-duality, the irony of Martin repeatedly screaming, "fuck you" to his attendees is hilariously apparent. I have looked for a recording of Octavio's presentation and Martin's tantrum, however, it seems Martin is in possession of the only known copy and so the hard evidence of his actions will most probably never see the light of day, lest the world see him for what he really is.

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***edit: Martin has since admirably released the audio in question on his Facebook page.***

After the conference, Octavio admirably stopped me and privately answered my question regarding the line between malpractice or malfeasance and that of otherwise taboo or unconventional practices. While Octavio was very polite and sincere in both his convictions and reasoning, I found his responses to be more apologetic diversions from the issue. As I was in the process of taking my two young kids to the car (who had just sat through nearly two hours of lectures and were releasing badly pent-up energy), we did not get a chance to talk for more than a couple of minutes. However, he did agree to be interviewed at a later date in an attempt to honestly and openly address his methods and we had a chance to exchange contact information. It is my sincere hope that we can connect in order to sort some of the facts from fiction and address the need for changes in protocol. I respect much of Octavio's work with the Sonoran Desert Toad, and it would be unfortunate to see his career ended completely over an inability or willingness to adapt towards better, or at the very least more informed and consensual practices.

It’s a shame that Martin didn’t pay better attention to the presentations given by Amanda Noconi, as this is the exact type of damaging censorship and colonization that she spoke of being perpetuated in the field of psychedelics. As Amanda stated in her presentation,”truth before comfort.” (Noconi, Amanda. “Psychedelics, Feminism, and Oppression: How Cognitive Liberty is a Feminist Issue” Exploring Psychedelics 2018.) Complacency, silence, and the 'live and let live' attitude simply cannot be an option anymore. We in the United States are in a precarious political position reminiscent of the late 1960’s. If we do not have these uncomfortable conversations and better vet our methods and protocols, than the Psychedelic Renaissance is doomed to failure. We have to evolve or die.

A lot of attention was paid at this years Exploring Psychedelics conference to intention. While unquestioningly intention is a wonderful place to start, it should by no means be that place the conversation ends. Pious fraud is a term coined in the late 17th century and denotes an individual who genuinely believes that their actions, pure or malfeasant, are justified by virtue of an arbitrarily conceived ‘greater good.' They often refuse to acknowledge or much less apologize for problematic behavior. The path to hell is paved with good intentions. Pious frauds have perpetuated some of the most grievous atrocities in human history. Individuals within the psychedelic community have to be vigilantly on guard against such insidious beliefs and over-zealous advocacy. If I may be so bold, the psychedelic field should be full of truth seekers which very critically approach those who claim to have found it.

 

By: Cody Noconi

 

Book Review - Liber 420: Cannabis, Magickal Herbs and the Occult

Chris Bennett’s latest book Liber 420: Cannabis, Magickal Herbs and the Occult, is easily the most comprehensive analysis regarding the use of cannabis in magic and occult praxes. Covering a span of nearly thirty thousand years, Bennett’s presentation expertly takes the reader through a wide expanse of human history. From the Scythians along the Steppes of Russia to the Hashishin of Islam and finally to the occult magicians of 19th century Europe, cannabis enthusiasts are sure to find a plethora of fascinating information regardless of their prior experience level or interest in history. As stated by Chris in the introduction to Liber 420:

Modern readers, who are familiar with cannabis’ effects may at first find this relationship between cannabis and the occult hard to accept, based on their own personal experiences of recreational use, and assume the use of more ‘potent’ narcotics and psychedelics are being identified. However, it is important to remember, that ancient magicians and initiates and their later counterparts in the occult scene, were not recreational users of cannabis. Set and setting played a key role in fermenting the right state of mind to elicit these ‘spiritual’ experiences, and we can be sure that magical ceremonies more often than not accompanied their use. Also, dosage levels and means of ingestion provided users with a much more powerful experience than that of the typical smoked joint or bowl of hashish, albeit, that even in mild doses, cannabis, introduced in the right mood and place, can have an entheogenic effect. (Bennett, 2018.)

In one particularly interesting section, Bennett highlights the hilarious yet courageous exploits of one Francious Rabelais (1494-1553), an ex-monk turned herbalist for whom Liber 420 is cleverly dedicated. In his most famous work Gargantua and Pantagruel, Rabelais not only managed to weave a satirically long-winded fantasy of mysticism and social commentary but also cryptographically made allusions to his cannabis inspired creations right under his reader's nose. Rabelais' literary ventures were so outrageous at the time that apparently his works once earned him the title ‘one who gives the pope the finger.' For those unfamiliar with the incredible influence Francious Rabelais had on Western mysticism, readers of Liber 420 are guaranteed to find a new cannabis folk-hero.

Another chapter, provocatively titled The Cabaret of the Phantasmagoria, has all the makings of an 18th century Scooby-Doo mystery. Using a combination of early projectors, smoke, and angled mirrors, a couple of creepy old white men (Johann Georg Schröpfer and Karl von Eckartshausen) dupe a large number of incredulous Parisians out of their money by pretending to conjure demons and spirits of the recently deceased. Drugged punch and salads, followed by subsequent fumigation of hashish within a confined theater were at last revealed to be the hypnotic agents which ensured the success of those psychedelically-fueled initiations. Unfortunately, this mystery ends in suicide or potential murder by Masons rather than a swinging dance party with Scooby the gang. Nonetheless, the magical, cannabis-based origins of modern cinema will no doubt prove engaging to just about anyone.

All too often in the field of psychedelic history, authors stretch credulity in order to validate single-answer solutions or a specific psychedelic substance. However, thankfully such is not the cast with Liber 420. The information Bennett has painstakingly compiled academically reinforces the intimate relationship between magic and cannabis while at the same time acknowledging and appreciating other intoxicating plants such as opium, mushrooms, acacia or the nightshades. Excellently sourced so as to dispel any accusations of over-speculation, Bennett objectively and passionately puts forward a virtual heap of unambiguous references to the medicinal, intoxicating, and entheogenic application of cannabis.

One 19th century author said of Francious Rabelais, “His large book is a giant-jest uttered by a giant-intellect,” a sentiment which rings just as true for Chris Bennett and the massive tome that is Liber 420. Bennett beautifully contextualizes and summarizes the long-standing history of cannabis as a medicine and entheogen within Western magical traditions, while pulling off several well-executed fart jokes. With the current political climate in America, Liber 420 is a welcome glimmer of hope among what is a stormy horizon for rational drug policy. Sadly, it is unlikely that anyone in the current administration has the fortitude or ability to read it. However, cannabis advocates now have another invaluable resource in Liber 420 for initiating desperately needed change, thanks once again to the work of Chris Bennet.

 

By: Cody Noconi

*Picture at the top found in Liber 420: Cannabis, Magickal Herbs and the Occult by Chris Bennett

 

Santa Claus, Krampus and the Magic Mushrooms

Santa Claus, Krampus and the Magic Mushrooms

by : Cody Noconi, (Ed.) Amanda Noconi

Mushrooms are by their very nature mercurial, and traditionally hard to define or study. No other variety better exemplifies this quality than the iconic fairy tale toadstool known as the Fly agaric or Amanita muscaria. Just about everyone in the world has at some point seen the classic red capped mushroom, speckled in cotton-like white dots. Amanita muscaria is a cosmopolitan variety of ectomychoryzzhal fungi native to conifer and deciduous woodlands, meaning that is can be found just about anywhere in the world where the appropriate environmental conditions are found. Thus far, it’s role in the birth and evolution of what most Americans associate with the Christmas holiday, has been underappreciated and sadly overlooked. The character of Santa Claus and his dualistic counterpart Krampus, is particularly worth further inquiry and speculation. That is not to suggest that Amanita muscaria directly inspired the characters Klaus and Krampus, but the subtle influences the mushroom has had on the holiday can certainly be traced to the post-Reformation period and reanalyzed from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

Typically not used as a foodstuff, Fly agaric is most often harvested for it’s hallucinogenic or intoxicating properties. Evidence in the form of cave paintings and linguistic analysis suggest that this mushroom has been used as such, conservatively for at least five millennia. In modern times it has gained a poor reputation for unreliable or dangerous experiences, especially among the mycophobic European and North Americans. As ethnobotanist Jonathon Ott pointed out, “A saying in German, "er hat verriickte Schwammerln gegessen" ("he has eaten crazy mushrooms") is still sometimes used in Austria, as is the corresponding phrase in Hungarian, employing the term bolond gomha ("fool's mushroom").” 1 This sometimes infamous association is likely due to some common misconceptions about mycology, combined with a serious lack of education regarding the various delivery methods, chemical constituents and dosages.

Amanita muscaria contains a high amount of ibotenic acid, a powerful hallucinogen that also causes tremors, chills, gastric distress and nausea as a side effect in even relatively low doses. In order to avoid these negative side effects, Ibotenic Acid must be broken down, or decarboxylated into the compound muscomol. While some methods are more effective than others, this transformation can take place through the drying process, via alcohol extraction, or by passing through the digestive system of another animal (we’ll get back to this shortly). The resulting muscomol is roughly four to five times more psychotropically potent than its chemical precursor, and causes little or no physical side effects. The mushroom contains small amounts of muscomol naturally, but generally not in significant enough amounts to reliably produce hallucinations or euphoria. 2

In order to better understand the emergence of the characters Klaus and Krampus in the Christmas mythos and to their curious relationship to the Amanita muscaria, one must first analyze the folk traditions of the cultures bordering and trading around the arctic circle.

 

Siberian Shaman and Magical Reindeer

Sometime between 5000-3000BcE, one can trace the earliest linguistic evidence of Amanita muscaria use as an intoxicant. Around approximately 4,000 BCE, the Uralic language split into two branches, both of which contain similar root words for intoxication. Curiously, in some of these languages the root "pang" signifies both 'intoxicated' and the A. muscaria mushroom simultaneously. These linguistic similarities suggest that A. muscaria was known to be intoxicating before the languages split around 4000 BCE. 3

Further evidence suggests that Siberian shaman have been using the fly agaric since approximately 3500 BCE. Petroglyphs along the Pegtymel River which drains into the Arctic Ocean in northeastern Siberia, seem to depict anthropomorphic figures with mushrooms attached to their heads. The Pegtymel river area is currently inhabited by the Chukchi culture, who are known to have used A. muscaria as a traditional intoxicant. The Chukchi people were one of the main subjects of 18th-and 19th-century reports on Siberian mushroom use in association with folk medicine and shamanic rites. The very first artistic depictions of Siberian shaman published in an academic sense, clearly depict the mystics wearing a caribou headdress and a drum, presumably made from the same animal. One can also observe what is clearly group intoxication within the huts of the sketches background. 4 It may be therefore supposed that knowledge of intoxicating mushrooms survived in this one region for at least five thousand years. 5

Caribou, or reindeer as they are often called, enthusiastically seek out Amanita muscaria, as the specimens are one of the ruminants most treasured food sources. Nomadic tribes of reindeer herders throughout the region have regularly observed caribou intoxication after the animals ingest, at times huge amounts of the hallucinogenic mushroom. 6 Reindeer herding extends beyond the same 5000-3500BCE timeline established by the linguistic evidence. Therefore it cannot be considered mere speculation to suggest that reindeer herding, shamanism and amanita muscaria intoxication were all deeply intertwined, if not totally inextricable from one another for thousands of years within those regions.

An interesting habit of caribou which has been regularly observed, involves reindeer drinking the urine of fellow herd members. Hunters have noticed this habit occurs most readily when males are in rut, as they likely use this technique to test females fertility. This practice also happens to coincide with Amanita muscaria season. Although not yet thoroughly documented, the traditional folklore suggests that when Reindeer X ingests and becomes intoxicated by Fly agaric, other caribou in the herd will then greedily drink the urine of the intoxicated Reindeer X. These other caribou then subsequently begin to show signs of inebriation as well. The reason for this behavior involves the decarboxylation process mentioned earlier, wherin ibotenic acid is transformed into it’s much more hallucinogenic counterpart muscomol while passing through the digestive tract of Reindeer X. The resulting muscomol laced urine from Reindeer X would theoretically be much more hallucinogenically active than the fresh mushrooms alone, and offer little or no negative side effects.

It is unknown if the nomadic herders of Siberia were inspired by their observations of the natural world or otherwise, but this practice of drinking the urine of an individual intoxicated by Amanita muscaria seems to have survived in the region by both reindeer and humans until modern times. The drinking of urine for health benefits may seem like an odd practice by today’s standards, but it has a long and well established history in the folk remedies along the Eurasian continents. Interestingly, it was also observed that the drinking of muscomol laced urine could continue for up to five cycles, passing from one individual to another before the urine lost its capacity for intoxication. 7 By some reports in Siberia during the 18th and 19th centuries, a single Amanita muscaria specimen could be traded for a whole reindeer! 8 This practice may have been perpetuated in order to further stretch such a precious commodity circulated within a traditionally poor region. Whether out of ritual, scarcity or sheer economy, the native tribes of Siberia regularly practiced this rustic form of myco-alchemy for thousands of years, most frequently during the Autumn and Winter seasons.

As reindeer urine is no doubt harder to obtain than from a humanoid friend, Shaman today still regularly use their own bodies to process ibotenic acid into muscomol. The person actually eating the mushroom would not only be subject to the considerable risk of gastric distress, nausea and vomiting, but would not get as hallucinogenically ‘stoned’ as his urine drinking cohorts. The shaman sacrifices themselves, handing out steaming cups of hallucinogen laced sacrament to willing and often enthusiatic initiates. In order to better illustrate this practice, Jonathon Ott keenly put forward the following account:

In 1730 a Swedish colonel named Filip Johann von Strahlenberg, who had been for twelve years a prisoner of war in Siberia; published a detailed account of life among the Siberian peoples. In a discussion of the Koryaks of the Kamchatka Peninsula (on the Bering Sea), von Strahlenberg stated: “When they make a Feast, they pour Water upon some of these Mushrooms, and boil them. Then they drink the Liquor, which intoxicates them...He further stated: The poorer Sort, who cannot afford to lay in a Store of these Mushrooms, post themselves, on these Occasions, round the Huts of the Rich, and watch the Opportunity of the Guests coming down to make Water; And then hold a Wooden Bowl to receive the Urine, which they drink off greedily, as having still some Virtue of the Mushroom in it, and by this way they also get Drunk.” ...Steller went so far as to say: "the urine seems to be more powerful than the mushroom, and its effect may last through the fourth or the fifth man.” 9

One would do well to take note of the authors use of the word liquor when referring to a freshly boiled mushroom tea, not any kind of alcoholic beverage. As Carl Ruck pointed out in Road to Eleusis, some wines of ancient Greece were so powerful that they had to be diluted with twenty parts water or else they induce madness or death. 10 Clearly the idea of intoxicating beverages has evolved over time, and it seems apparent that our ancestors did not make the same distinctions we make today about the alcoholic content of a beverage. The important variable that judged the merit of a given intoxicating substance, was instead its ability to intoxicate in the first place.

There are many who would quickly dismiss this heap of circumstantial evidence as correlation mistaken for causation, mere conjecture or irrationality. As Andy Letcher pointed out in his book Shroom, “a modern urban myth that shamans or anyone else drank reindeer urine: an intoxicated deer would be slaughtered and eaten, by which means the effects would be passed on...the majority of Siberian shaman had the discernment to avoid it [Amanita muscaria] all together.” 11 Andy also points out one of the main contentions to this hypothesis connecting Christmas symbolism to Amanita muscaria use, regarding the exact role of reindeer in Siberian cosmology. 12 This critique of the hypothesis is not wholly accurate however, and is itself mere conjecture. 13 Andy himself was later forced to change his position on the topic when faced with tangible connections to reindeer herding, shamanism and Amanita use. From Letcher’s blog in 2011:

I met a reindeer herder, with herds in both Britain and Scandinavia. We got chatting and I asked him whether it was true that reindeer have a taste for human urine. Quite true. They'll lap it up from the snow. And then, unprompted, he told me the following story. Once, while living amongst the Saami, his hosts started feeding reindeer with fly-agarics, which the deer consumed with some relish. Waiting for nature to take its course, the fruits of micturition were collected in a bucket (strapped to the animals' flanks perhaps?), boiled up in a pot (I'm guessing to concentrate the brew or perhaps to make it more potable) and shared round. "I don't drink and I've never taken any drugs" he told me. "But I took some when they passed it round. Well, you have to, don't you? They expect it. Anyway, I was high as a kite I was, high as a kite. There was an old eighty year old grandmother with us, and I fancied her, that's how high I was. High as a bloody kite!" 14

Despite a lack of cave paintings, given the ritual use of reindeer carcasses in the form of regalia or costume, spirit traps, and exorcisms, it is clear that the veneration of caribou has so far been wholly underappreciated. Letcher very admirably ended his 2011 blog post with, “A report from a credible witness that some Saami do drink fly-agaric-imbued reindeer urine and that the effects are palpable. I stand corrected.” 15 So far, this hypothesis has been limited to just the reindeer herders of Siberia, but it is becoming more and more apparent that this practice extends all along regions surrounding the arctic circle. Aside from Siberia, urine drinking induced intoxication is found in Scandanavia, old Germania, and even into North America. Magical reindeer that can provide a journey through the heavens is certainly an interesting connection to the later emergence of the Santa character which conveniently coincides with the cultural immigration of these traditions to colonial America.

 

Old Germania, The All-Father, Elves and Slepnir

In what the Romans called Germania, the ritual use of Amanita as an intoxicating beverage is found among the famous warriors of the All-Father Wotan, or Odin. While evidence of native reindeer herders that continue through the region, there lies more aggressive or hedonistic traditions of Amanita muscaria use. The Berserkers, the infamous shock troops of the ancient Germanic and Scandivian societies, existed in small, animistic tribal communities which venerated and emulated one of three main animals. Svinfylking – the boar warriors, Ulfhednar – the wolf warriors, and by far the most famous, Berserkers - the bear warriors. The warriors wore the skins or furs of their given totem guardian and were known to engage in pre-battle ceremonies in which they believed they could transform into their given tribal deity, entering the battle field in a frenzied or primitive-like altered state.16

His (Odin's) men rushed forwards without armour, were as mad as dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were strong as bears or wild oxen, and killed people at a blow, but neither fire nor iron told upon them. This was called Berserkergang.17

Though this theory is not well supported yet, a good deal of Scandivian historians believe that between approximately 500BCE and 1500CE, Viking 'Bezerker Warriors' ingested Amanita muscaria before going into battle. Mycologyst Gordon Wasson pontificated on the matter when he stated, “No one who discusses the fly agaric in Europe can ignore the debate that has been carried on for almost two centuries in Scandinavia on this issue. First Samuel Odman in 1784 and then Frederik Christian Schubeler in 1886 propounded the thesis that those Viking warriors known as 'beserks' ate the fly-agaric before they 'went beserk'; in short, that 'beserk-raging' was deliberately caused by the ingestion of our spotted amanita." 18

Wasson received heavy criticism for how he presented the Amanita - Berserker hypothesis. It is clearly apparent that they did not use the mushroom exclusively to reach their bestial altered states, as Wasson seems to suggest. Admittedly these totem warriors could have achieved these states endogenously by a variety of methods, or through a vast number of better documented herbs. While there is a definite lack of documented evidence to verify the theory, that does not necessarily mean that these cultures knew about Amanita muscaria intoxication. This argument against the hypothesis is akin to suggesting that oral sex was unknown at the time due to a lack of documented evidence for it’s existence. A lack of regular documentation does not conclusively rule out the use of Amanita muscaria by these cultures, simply that more work in this area needs to be done. In an accepted time frame of some two thousand years, it can be certain that these cultures availed themselves of every available and reliable vehicle for eliciting such ecstatic states.

These animistic totem tribes would hold large hedonistic feasts prior to battle, in which mixed meads were a staple commodity. Meads and wines have a suitable pH and alcohol content for the decarboxylation process to occur with relatively high efficiency. By simply soaking dried Amanita muscaria specimens in a wine or mead, one would very quickly produce an exponentially more potent beverage. During these pre-violence feasts, warriors could properly prep for battle with this liquid courage, while in the company of other like-minded individuals ritualistically achieving a shared altered state. Although the ancient tribes people of Old Germania did not use the same words that society recognizes today, these feasts are brilliant, though brutal, executions of dose, set and setting. If one were to remove the battle and bloodshed, it actually sounded like a pretty fun time.

The main reason for this digression being that the warrior initiates and hierophants of the All-Father would have similarly found a dependable source of their ritual intoxication through the World Trees. The local tree varieties associated with the universal archetype of the World Tree, are the same woods used by the Amanita as a suitable habitat for hallucinogenic fruiting bodies. A traditional harvesting and drying technique for nomadic reindeer herders around the Arctic Circle, involves running a string through the specimen, and hanging Amanita muscaria from vacant branch tips which are in closest proximity to the community fires. 19

Odin, often associated with the Father Winter archetype, often rides a mystical steed closely tied to mycological activity. Odin’s magical eight legged horse, Slepnir is said to have a red and white muzzle, zealously earned by devouring his enemies entrails and frothing from the speed at which the horse travels. It is sometimes circulated in folk traditions of Scandinavia and Old Germania, that when drops of this blood/saliva combination fall onto bare ground, Amanita muscaria mushrooms are believed to sprout quickly thereafter. The blood/saliva transformation into Amanita muscaria is the common running motif that links the areas, but the Slepnir version is by far the most metal. For instance, if Lemy were in the market for a holiday steed, he’d pick Slepnir. Slepnir is the brutal, Scandinavian equine god from which Rudolf the American pop star eventually coalesced. Although Rudolf was the sole conception of a mid 20th century Madison Avenue ad campaign, it is interesting that his motifs emerged independently yet still parallel to his predecessor.

Additionally, Scandinavian and Germanic folklore has a well established tradition of the feyfolk, otherwise known as pixies, elves, fairies, gnomes, and the like. The palpably mystical habit of Amanita muscaria to sprout in neat circles beneath the traditional World Trees, was often perceived as a physical gateway to other worlds. Given the mushrooms visionary qualaties, one can easily see where this perception emerged. These fungal circles are more commonly known as ‘fairy rings’ for their association with other realms and the feyfolk that were rumored to haunt the area. Another familiar element of this region includes the folk traditions of elfish humanoids, which bring precious gifts in the heart of winter. These small magical beings are often depicted near the mushrooms habitat, and actually in proximity to, or physically carrying Amanita muscaria specimens. In case there is any ambiguity left in regards to the creatures presence and demeanor, the wee persons are often highlighted with rosy cheeks and obviously intoxicated faces. The iconic mushrooms are also regularly represented as a gift on par with gold or lucky talisman such as horseshoes. These representations were commonly distributed during the winter holidays throughout the 18th through 20th centuries in the area.

The various ancient communities surrounding the Arctic circle were keen observers of their environment, and although they had some misconceptions regarding mycology, these communities certainly imprinted these fungal observations into their traditions and lore. It should be clear to even a casual observer at this point that these people clearly knew when to find these mushroom, where they could be located, and what affects they produced when ingested. The classic regional saying, “All mushroom are edible, but some only once,” suggests a well recorded history of experimentally and empirically derived knowledge. The impressive fungal pharmacopoeia these peoples gathered over the millennia and encoded into their culture, should be taken with more seriousness and better analyzed before the more esoteric aspects of that knowledge is lost forever.

 

Two Shaman, One Vessel: Krampus and Klaus

The ancient, non-Christian influences of Christmas’ emergence have been fairly well established at this point. What has been left largely untouched by historians regarding the groups discussed thus far, is that these groups of antiquity carried with them a nuanced perspective on plant medicines that the modern mind generally lacks. They appreciated the dualistic and at times troublingly introspective or frightening nature of the psychedelic experience. This perspective then lent itself to their cultural pantheon and iconography of the time and place, which was in turn later tossed into the cultural melting pot that was colonial America. That symbolism then lent itself to the evolution of the holiday Christmas, most clearly from the 17th century until today. An esoteric chain of breadcrumbs which should now begin to come into focus.

Slavic, Scandanavian, Germanic, and Dutch immigrants all made their way to colonial North America, bringing with them a deeply held veneration of Saint Nicholas. In what later became the United Sates, the Dutch Sinterklass was homogenized into Santa Klaus or Claus. 20 It is during this post-Reformation period in America that the tradition of Christmas as we might recognize it today begins to really take form. Consequently at this point, there also emerges a dualistic counterpart to the Father Winter archetype, in fiendish partner Krampus. Borrowed from previously established Dutch and Old Germaninic folklore such as Black Pete or Belsnickel, Krampus is the horned, anthropomorphic (most often depicted as part goat, part man) spirit of Winter that comes in the dead of night to punish the wicked. Worth noting, the Krampus figure is often carrying a birch switch to achieve these ends. This regular motif becomes obviously transparent when one considers that birch trees are one of Amanita muscarias favorite growth substrates. Although the figure goes by a myriad of names and titles, his role in the Winter season is long established in the tradition of Eastern Europe and into Siberia. The figure Krampus and his role in the winter holidays exited from the mainstream celebration in America through the 20th century, and has only recently begun to make a resurgence in conventional consciousness. If one has ever had a ‘bad trip’ then one might recognize the archetypal experience Krampus offers.

Juxtaposed with Father Winter who was later replaced by Santa Klaus, the benevolent, gift giving sage begins to appear as more a concept rather than a physical being. Shamanic practices around the Arctic Circle encorporate a variety of archtypal spirit helpers, and the Claus - Krampus archetype is often found within those cultrues traditions and folklore. This is once again, not to suggest that Santa was a mushroom or even directly influenced by mushroom use. However, the evolution of the Santa character was undoubtedly tied to the same mystical folklore and iconography which was brought to colonial America with the German, Scandinavian and Slavic immigrants.

Finally, the common motif of mystical, elvish attendants which appear bearing ethereal gifts, merriment and communal interconnectivity during the most turbulent time of the year is a stark commonality also found in a transformative psychedelic experience. These gifts are to be found most often beneath the venerated World Trees, such as pine or fir; a tree Americans spend billions on each year in turn venerating as an altar to family, fortune and the New Year. Trinkets and precious ornaments hung from a sympathetic substitute for the World Tree, they are even delivered by magical, sometimes flying steed. This symbolism emerged most starkly in the early 20th century Coca Cola advertisements, but the association of such to the Amanita muscaria mushroom predates that campaign by at least a half a century in the form of vintage holiday cards shown here.

When one combines the folklore from the cultures around the Arctic circle in conjunction with the evolution and emergence of the Christmas holiday in America, the entheogenic influences of Amanita muscaria in the holiday become equally apparent.

References:

  1. Ott, Jonathon, “Pharmocatheon.” Occidental, CA, Jonathan Ott Books, pg323-324

  2. Ibid, pg323-358

  3. Wasson RG. Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968

  4. Witsen, Nicholaas. Noord en Oost Tartarye, 1785.

  5. Wasson RG. Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968

  6. BBC Documentary, Magic Mushrooms & Reindeer. Wierd Nature. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkCS9ePWuLU. Accessed 11/15/2017.

  7. Ott, Jonathon, “Pharmocatheon.” Occidental, CA, Jonathan Ott Books, pg323-358

  8. Ibid.

  9. Ibid. pg324-325

  10. Wasson, R.,Hofmann, A., Ruck, C.P., Smith, H. The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries. North Atlantic Books, 2008.

  11. Letcher, Andy. Shroom, A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom. Faber and Faber, 2006.

  12. Ibid. p4, 139, 147.

  13. Greg. Taking the P*ss: Did Shamans Really Drink Reindeer Urine? Daily Grail artcile. [online] Available at: https://www.dailygrail.com/2012/09/taking-the-pss-did-shamans-really-drink-reindeer-urine/ Accessed 11/15/2017.

  14. Letcher, Andy. Taking the Piss: Reindeer and Fly Agaric. 2011. [online] Available at: http://andy-letcher.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/taking-piss-reindeers-and-fly-agaric.html Accessed 11/15/2017.

  15. Ibid.

  16. Sturluson, Snorri. Egil's Saga. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976. p.60-68

  17. Laing, Samuel. The Heimskringla or the Sagas of the Norse Kings. London, 1889.: John. C. Nimo. p. 276

  18. Wasson RG. Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968, pg 341

  19. Aurora, David. All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms. Ten Speed Press, 1991.

  20. Wheeler, J., Rosenthal, J. St. Nicholas A Closer Look at Christmas. Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2005. Chapter 8

 

Additional Information:

Learn to properly identify your mushrooms!

  • Aurora, David. All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms. Ten Speed Press, 1991.

  • National Audubon Society. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (National Audubon Society Field Guides). Chanticleer Press ed edition, 1981.

For educational purposes only, and without advocating nor condemning, here are the approximate dosages for oral ingestion of dried Amanita muscaria specimen. Thank you to Erowid.org for providing this information. Please do your homework before conducting any alchemical experiments.

(Dried) Amanita muscaria – Oral Dosages

Light : 1 - 5 g (1 medium cap)

Common : 5 - 10 g (1 - 3 medium caps)

Heroic : 10 - 30 g (2 - 6 medium caps)

Snapshots of White Supremacy in Mormonism

In Heaven, Whites Only:

Snapshots of White Supremacy in Mormonism

by : Cody Noconi, (Ed.) Amanda Noconi

The actual history of the Mormon church is stranger than fiction. The actual history of its founder, Joseph Smith Junior, is perhaps beyond adequate description; certainly beyond the scope of this paper. The present-day incarnations of the Mormon movement go to great lengths at times, in order to assure that this history is not made common knowledge, or even circulated within the organization itself. The following multi-part series is a smash cut of real Mormon history and theology, which even the LDS missionaries knocking on your door are likely to be unaware of.

The Mormon faith believes in continued revelation, wherein god can change his mind on a given topic so to speak, and instruct later generations differently than in previous ones. Unless a given set of revelations are corrected or clarified by the current ‘prophet’, or leader of the church, then one must assume that the previous revelations are canonized doctrine. Although current church leadership has attempted to white wash its wholly unsavory relationship to racism and white supremacist ideology, there are still a series of unresolved issues that desperately need to be addressed by the Mormon hierarchy. At the very least, parishioners within the organization need to call for a badly needed update or clarification to standing church doctrine and philosophy.

The following article, will cite only canonized Mormon scripture, and first-hand statements made by the church’s hierarchy. This is not an attempt to slander Mormonism. It is a snapshot of factually and historically based dogma, which much of the Mormon church is either willfully ignorant of, or which frantically grasps at weak rationalizations for it’s existence. In the current political and racial climate of the United States, it is more important than ever that this history and doctrine be brought more openly into the public forum so that can be fairly analyzed for it’s philosophical and ethical shortcomings. To hide and censor such history is unethical and does a great disservice to the spiritual advancement of the world.

 

In Mormonism, Melanin Content is a Hereditary Sign of Ancestral Wickedness

One section of current Mormon dogma which has yet to be revised, regards inherently racist doctrine which considers darker skin to be a caste like, divinely ordained form of segregation. For the vast majority of Mormon history, the church did not allow people of color, primarily African decent, to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances, which are the most important ceremonies in the faith. The unique exceptions to this being those of Australia and the Pacific Islands, which I discuss later. Justification for such practices came from an old Christian tradition that was used to justify slavery. That being, that god had marked Cain and his seed with a black skin for killing his brother Abel. This curse had been carried on through the Biblical flood with the wife of Ham, one of Noah's sons. This continuation of Abel’s curse was Ham's celestial punishment for the incident in which Ham had the gall to laugh at his naked, unconscious drunk of a father. 1 To quickly reiterate, early Christians believed that their god had a strange penchant for cursing ‘wicked’ individuals with black skin and the subsequent children that followed. A series of dogmatic events which shows up in currently published Mormon scripture.

For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the bareness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.2

A divine curse of high melanin content is repeated nearly a dozen times throughout Mormon scripture,3 and is featured as an actual foundation to the central narrative of the Book of Mormon. In this text, most Native American tribes are split into two main groups, Nephites and Lamanites; essentially righteous white Indians and the wicked dark skinned ones, “...he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.”4

The Mormon god is not such a bad guy though, for he even removes said curse when his servants prove pious enough “...their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites.”5 In case one has any residual misconceptions regarding the spirit of this language, consider the following: “...their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.”6 Said passage was edited out in 1981 when ‘white’ was changed to ‘pure’, conveniently brushing under the rug a rather distasteful and bigoted history. Apologists will attempt to excuse this edit as a reference to spiritual purity, however this illusion is easily shattered with some careful reading. For example, “...the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins.” 7

In Mormon theology there appears a long standing arrangement with god in the pre-Columbian Americas, wherein an individuals melanin content is based directly upon their current piety. That is to say that at any point, righteous individuals who fall from grace, would apparently turn from light colored skin tones into darker ones very quickly. For example, “...after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.”8 This sentiment of white supremacy was not just recorded in scripture. At one point in church history, Joseph received ‘revelation’ that the Mormons were to preach among the tribes of the Native Americans. In this divinely ordained proposal, the Mormon god decreed, “...it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just...”9

Although the church policy change in 1978 allowed for those of African decent to finally hold the priesthood and participate in temple ceremonies, this racist doctrine has never been adequately addressed or revisited. The Mormon church has done a great deal to quietly edit these sections out of it’s history and forget that it ever happened in the first place.

 

Mormonism, Slavery, and Heavenly Servants for Eternity

Joseph Smith was an average sort of 19th century racist that believed segregation was progressive thinking. In an 1845 publication, Smith was posthumously quoted as saying, “Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species...”10 Smith did allow ordination of the Mormon priesthood to at least three black men on record. However, these were likely performed as personal favors or oversights, and were by no means a normal practice at any point in the church’s history until the end of the 1970’s. Mormon apologists go out of their way at times to point out that much of the persecution the early Mormons experienced, came from Missouri slave owners who felt politically threatened by large populations of them moving into the Missouri area so quickly. Those same apologists will make the claim that said anxiety stemmed from Smith being an outspoken advocate of the abolitionist movement. Unfortunately those claims are historically unfounded.

Joseph Smith went far out of his way at times to excuse the heinous practice of slavery and protect his own skin. In a letter published in a church periodical, Smith affirmed, “I do not believe that the people of the North have any more right to say that the South shall not hold slaves, than the South have to say the North shall.... the first mention we have of slavery is found in the Holy Bible.... And so far from that prediction being averse to the mind of God, it [slavery] remains as a lasting monument of the decree of Jehovah, to the shame and confusion of all who have cried out against the South, in consequence of their holding the sons of Ham in servitude."11 The only time Joe seems to have publicly reversed this opinion, came in February of 1844, when he ran for U.S. President on an anti-slavery platform. This was a rather late stage conversion to abolitionism, as it was just months before his death. It is therefore wholly inaccurate to label Joseph an abolitionist.

After Smith’s death in 1844 and the power schism that ensued, Brigham Young took control of the main faction of Mormonism, becoming it’s new President of the church. With the second generation of Mormonism, Brigham’s racism took the faiths already deplorable doctrine to new depths. Brigham not only published several articles defending slavery,12 but approved the trade of slaves in early Utah. Brigham and the Mormons under his command, even accepted slaves as an appropriate form of tithing or offering to the church.13 The level of Young’s disdain for those of African decent, can only be truly understood when one reads the mans own words:

You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, un-comely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race – that they should be the 'servant of servants,' and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree. How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam's children are brought up to that favorable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion.14

To quickly clarify the statement above; people of darker skin colors will eventually have their ancestral curse removed after Judgment Day, and will thus find themselves white in heaven. That merits reiteration. Mormon heaven is an Aryan paradise. Even if it is not widely circulated or discussed, this dogma has never been clarified or renounced, so once more, it is current LDS doctrine! The evidence of Brigham’s racism and draconian dictatorship over the early Mormon church are beyond the scope of this work. In regards to matters of race, Young’s influence had a major impact on the LDS church which led to horridly exclusive and bigoted policies, some of which which lasted well into the 1970’s. Below are just a few examples of Mormon dogmatic folk beliefs that arise during and after Brigham Young’s time:

  1. Those of African decent were being punished in this life because in the 'pre-mortal' existence, theirs were the souls which were 'fence-sitters' during the war in heaven, refusing to take a side.
    There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits. 15
  2. While some individuals of African decent were permitted to join the church, they were denied access to the religions most sacred ceremonies. Most notably, the temple ordinances and the family sealings, which are used to ensure worthy families can spend the afterlife together. One woman, Jane Elizabeth Manning, was a faithful and lifelong member of the LDS church who crossed the plains and passed away in Salt Lake City in 1908. 16 She petitioned the church leadership many times with the desire to be sealed to her family for all of time and eternity. For no reason other than her skin color, she was denied repeatedly during her lifetime. Instead, as a consolation prize for her lifelong devotion to the church, she was sealed posthumously to Joseph and his family; not as a family member but instead as Smith’s servant in heaven. Jane Elizabeth Manning obviously did not give her consent for the leaderships concession, which once again, didn’t take place during her lifetime and has never been corrected or apologized for. To reiterate, Joseph Smith currently has a slave in Mormon heaven…and at some undisclosed date in the distant future, approximately just after Judgement Day, she too will at long last get to be ‘delightsome and white’. Surviving well into the 20th century, Mormon Apostle Mark E. Peterson went one step further with this concept of heavenly slaves when he stated, “If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get a celestial resurrection. He will get a place in celestial glory.” 17 In a religious cosmology consisting of several degrees of heaven, the celestial kingdom is the highest achievement in the Mormon afterlife. According to LDS Apostle Mark E. Peterson, those of African decent can only attain this level of heaven as an eternal slave or servant. Peterson was never an acting prophet or president of the Mormon faith, but such statements coming from the lips of church hierarchy illustrates the prevalence of these dogmatic beliefs. As these have never been clarified or apologized for by a higher ranking church official, one is left to assume that this too is church dogma, if a generally undiscussed one.
  3. Intermarriage between different ‘racial groups’ was strictly forbidden. In a private journal entry dated well into the 20th century, fourth President of the LDS church Wilford Woodruff wrote, “...if any man mingle his seed with the seed of Cain the only way he could get rid of it or have Salvation would be to come forward and have his head cut off and spill his blood upon the ground - it would also take the life of his children.” 18 From LDS First Presidency member George Albert Smith. In a letter to Virgil H Sponberg, a critic of the anti-black ban dated May 5, 1947: “...contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and white races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient patriarchs until now.... there is a growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this area, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine.” 19 Clearly still a sensitive topic to church officials in 2015, a Mormon Sunday school teacher was recently dismissed from his position for openly speaking about the church’s history regarding race. After being asked by his students, why his Nigerian wife would join a church with such racism in it’s foundational doctrine, the gentleman looked up the sanctioned church publications on the topic.20 He was subsequently fired from his teaching position for presenting that officially sanctioned material.21

As mentioned earlier, the native inhabitants of the Pacific Islands and Australia were somehow exempt from many of these restrictions and racist beliefs. The Mormon reasoning for this is rather confusing, as allegedly those of African decent (the seed of Cain) were cursed for their political stance during the pre-mortal existence and war in heaven. But indigenous descendants from the Pacific Islands and Australia (seed of Lehi), were simply cursed with the melanin, pigment swapping prevalent in the Book of Mormon in order to keep them in line. No need to get ones panties in a bunch though, as this curse will be lifted at Judgment Day and the afterlife will be as white as Steve Bannon’s most treasured fantasy!

It is utterly impossible to ignore the blatant racism embedded into Mormon doctrine and ideology. Despite the church’s many edits and attempts to cover up this unsavory history, the culture and principles of white supremacy still insidiously pervade the Mormon religion to this day. The only way these mistakes can begin to be remedied, assuming that it matters to a hierarchical pyramid of rich white men at all, is for the church to finally air it’s historical dirty laundry and offer up some kind of an apology.

 

The Policy Changes – Ethics or Just Good Business?

The much belated change in church doctrine, policies and the subsequent edits to church materials were not initiated until 1978.22 No apology was ever issued by the church for it’s behavior in the past. The hierarchy simply decreed a new revelation from god, and that was it. There are a number of quaint stories which have emerged in the LDS church regarding this shift towards basic human equality. They refer to various ways the ‘spirit of the lord’ spontaneously dictated this epistemological shift in foundation doctrine and policy.23 Despite these unsubstantiated folk tales, when one takes into account the political and social events leading up to this ‘revelation’, then the whole event seems like good business sense rather than divinely ordained inspiration.

One of the LDS church’s considerable income streams stem from it’s flagship university, Brigham Young University, or BYU. In October of 1969, fourteen Wyoming Cowboys football players were kicked off the team by then coach Lloyd Eaton. The players were retired for threatening to wear black armbands in order to draw attention racist LDS doctrine and policy.24 This incident spiraled into a number of colleges boycotting athletic games against BYU, including Stanford and San Jose State. Additionally, there was also a great deal of pressure mounting in the early 1970's from the Boy Scouts of America over the Mormons withholding leadership positions to both adults and children of African decent.25

Adding to this tension, in 1975, the LDS church announced that a temple was to be built in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The church dumped millions into the temple grounds and the various buildings located at the complex. Much of the population that helped finance and build the temple were themselves of mixed African decent, and thus would be for all intents and purposes, banned from the temple after it’s completion. Previously, the church had publicly stated that people could not enter the temple if they "having the least particle of negro blood.”26 The Brazilian population was such a cultural melting pot, that it would additionally prove impossible to verify this insane policy, and leaders were finding it difficult to explain themselves.

Furthermore, there is substantial circumstantial evidence to suggest that during a 1977 meeting with LDS church leaders, then President Jimmy Carter threatened to withhold federal tax exempt status from the church for it’s racist and discriminatory policies. The year prior in 1976, BYU had been placed in similar peril, by possibly having Federal Student Loans withheld for the same reasons.27 This was a potential loss of millions in yearly, tax-free income. Retroactively, the Mormon church was in a position to lose billions of dollars.

The Mormon hierarchy had been unapologetically dragging their collective feet on the matter of race for well over a century at this point. Even a casual observer should find it suspicious that the Mormon god decided to reverse a deplorable and institutionalized caste system for slavery which had been in place since the proposed birth of creation, only when the LDS church was in danger of going bankrupt. In order to better illustrate this very business like approach to the subject, the following timeline has been provided in large part, courtesy of MormonThink.com:

  • March 11, 1977: At 12:03 pm President Carter met with Spencer W. Kimball, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Representative Gunn McKay (D-Utah), and Representative Jim Santini (D-Nevada) for approximately 20 minutes in the White House.28

  • June 1977: Church President Spencer W. Kimball asks three church officials to write memos about the implications of a possible lifting of restrictions.29

  • March 1978: At a joint meeting of the church hierarchy, the leadership decided that any change in church policy should be presented as revelation. Spencer W. Kimball decides later that month to go ahead with the changes, and is advised by his councelors to wait for the full support of the church’s main leadership.30

  • June 1978: Kimball initiates the drafting of an official declaration of the changes to church doctrine and policy. The statement is later presented to the larger body of the church’s leadership, and the press is informed.31

  • October 30, 1978: Sao Paulo Brazil temple is dedicated by Spencer W Kimball.32

And that was it. Nearly a century and a half of institutional oppression, bigotry and intolerance, was to be white-washed away with one press release and a supposed story regarding a ‘revelation from god’. After reviewing the previous timeline, take into account one last quote from Spencer W. Kimball regarding said ‘revelation’. “I offered the final prayer and I told the Lord if it wasn't right, if He didn't want this change to come in the Church that I would be true to it all the rest of my life, and I'd fight the world against it if that's what He wanted.” 33 Brushing right past what seems to be Kimball’s sincere desire to be a crusader for human inequality, if this is the standard by which we are to judge divine revelation, than can we not collectively decide to raise the bar a bit higher?

Understand that the world is not likely to ever hear an apology uttered from the lips of Mormon authorities for it’s unsavory history and inherently white supremacist ideology. Mormon leadership does not have a fabulous track record for being socially progressive or standing on the right side of history, and does not generally make a habit of openly addressing it’s mistakes. Unfortunately, that is not likely to change unless the Mormon hierarchy is openly and respectfully opposed for presenting such a farcical and white washed excuse for it’s history and doctrine. As this paper has clearly outlined, despite heavy edits to church policy and scripture in 1978, there are still a good number of unacknowledged issues regarding institutionalized oppression through race and white supremacist philosophy still present in the Mormon religion. The only way the faith will be held accountable, and made to stop deifying their hate-mongering patriarchs, is for the world to stop excusing and ignoring the fact that this problem that still exists.

 

References:

  1. King James Version (1611). The Holy Bible, Genesis 9:18-29

  2. Pearl of Great Price, Book of Moses 7:8 [online] Available at: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp?lang=eng [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  3. MormonThink.com Article, Blacks and the Priesthood. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm#doctrine [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  4. The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5: 21

  5. Ibid, 3 Nephi 2:15

  6. Ibid, 2 Nephi 30: 6

  7. Ibid, Jacob 3: 5

  8. Ibid, 1 Nephi 12:23

  9. Smith, Joseph Jr., 1831 revelation, recorded in a letter from W.W. Phelps to Brigham Young, dated August 12, 1861. Found at MormonThink.com – Quotes, Native Americans [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/QUOTES/native.htm [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  10. Smith, Joseph Jr., 1845, History of the Church, v. 5, pp. 21-218

  11. Smith, Joseph Jr., Letter to Oliver Cowdery as found in the Messenger and Advocate, Vol. II, No. 7, April 1836.

  12. See: Millennial Star, Vol. 25, pp 787; also published in Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, page 250

  13. MormonThink.com Article, Blacks and the Priesthood. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm#doctrine [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  14. Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses, v. 7, pp. 290-291

  15. Smith, Joseph Fielding. Doctrines of Salvation, pp. 65-66

  16. MormonThink.com Article, Race and the Priesthood - Response to LDS.org. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/essays-race-priesthood.htm [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  17. FairMormon.org Article, Mark E. Peterson claims that Blacks become servants in heaven. [online] Available at: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Mormonism_and_racial_issues/Mark_E._Petersen_claims_that_Blacks_become_servants_in_heaven [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  18. MormonThink.com Article, Blacks and the Priesthood. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm#eventsleadingto1978 [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  19. Quoted in Lester E. Bush, Mormonism's Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview, p. 42. Found at MormonThink.com – Quotes, Black Intermarriage [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/QUOTES/blackintermarriage.htm [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  20. LDS.org Article, Race and the Priesthood. [online] Available at: https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  21. The Salt Lake Tribune Article, This Mormon Sunday school teacher was dismissed for using church's own race essay in lesson. [online] Available at: http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=2475803&itype=CMSID [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  22. Statement of The First Presidency on the Negro Question, July 17 1947, quoted in Mormonism and the Negro, pp.46-7. Found at MormonThink.com, Race and the Priesthood - Response to LDS.org. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/essays-race-priesthood.htm [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  23. Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on the Priesthood" in BYU Studies v47 n8 2008, pp. 128, 133. Found at MormonThink.com, Blacks and the Priesthood. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm#eventsleadingto1978 [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  24. The Salt Lake Tribune Article, BYU Football: Remembering the Black 14 Protest. [online] Available at: http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/byucougars/ci_13728556 [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  25. MormonThink.com Article, Blacks and the Priesthood. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm#eventsleadingto1978 [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  26. Apostle Mark E. Peterson, "Race Problems – As They Affect the Church," Address given at the Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, delivered at BYU, August 27, 1954. Found at MormonThink.com, Blacks and the Priesthood. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm#eventsleadingto1978 [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  27. MormonThink.com Article, Blacks and the Priesthood. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm#eventsleadingto1978 [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  28. FAIRmormon.org, Did President Jimmy Carter threaten the church’s taxe-exempt status because of their policy on blacks and the Priesthood? [online] Available at: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Did_President_Jimmy_Carter_threaten_the_Church%27s_tax-exempt_status_because_of_their_policy_on_blacks_and_the_priesthood%3F [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  29. MormonThink.com Article , Blacks and the Priesthood. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm#eventsleadingto1978 [Accessed Oct 25th 2017]

  30. Ibid.

  31. Ibid.

  32. Ibid.

  33. Deseret News, Church Section, January 6, 1979, p. 4

Mormon Cosmology: Our Hollow Earth, Jews in Space, and Alien Gods

Mormon Cosmology:

Our Hollow Earth, Jews in Space, and Alien Gods

by : Cody Noconi, (Ed.) Amanda Noconi

The actual history of the Mormon church is stranger than fiction. The actual history of its founder, Joseph Smith Junior, is perhaps beyond adequate description; certainly beyond the scope of this paper. The present-day incarnations of the Mormon movement go to great lengths at times, in order to assure that this history is not made common knowledge, or even circulated within the organization itself. The following multi-part series is a smash cut of real Mormon history and theology, which even the LDS missionaries knocking on your door are likely to be unaware of.

The Mormon faith believes in continued revelation, wherein god can change his mind on a given topic, so to speak, and instruct later generations differently than in previous ones. For example, early Mormons were originally instructed simply, “hot drinks are not for the body, or belly.” 1 It was not until some years later, that this direction was redefined as coffee and tea, which lead to Mormons famous abstinence from such substances. 2 Unless a given set of revelations are corrected or clarified by the current ‘prophet’, or leader of the church, then one must assume that the previous revelations are canonized doctrine. Such is the case with the little known or discussed Mormon belief in a hollow earth, Jews in space, 3 and alien gods.

 

A Hollow Earth and Lost Tribes of Israel

There are numerous first hand accounts from early Mormons, which explicitly reference Joseph Smith, the founder and first ‘prophet’ of the church, preaching that the earth was hollow, and that some of the Lost Tribes of Israel had inhabited the earth’s hollowed core. Benjamin Johnson, an early member of some authority among the Mormon church who at one point acted as a private secretary to Joseph Smith Jr., quoted Smith with the following: “you remember the old caldron or potash kettle you used to boil maple sap in for sugar, don't you? …they are in the north pole in a concave just the shape of that kettle. And John the Revelator is with them, preparing them for their return.” 4

Oliver B. Huntington, another prominent early Mormon, reaffirmed this belief when he said, “I have heard Joseph say that ‘John was among the Ten Tribes beyond the North Pole.” 5 On another occasion, Joseph even, “...described the shape of the earth at the poles as being a round elongation and drew a diagram of it.” 6 Oliver did not offer up said diagram for publication, but he repeatedly parrots second hand testaments of Mormon officials describing the earth as being hollowed out at the poles.

The concept of a hollow earth with some type of a habitable center is a common trope among early cultures around the globe. However, it was not until the famous physicist Edmond Halley first put forward the hypothesis in the late 17th century, that the idea really took hold in an academic sense among the Western world. 7 How this relates to Joseph Smith Junior and his understanding of planetology, is that a particular version of this hollow earth idea was widely popularized in his time by one John Cleves Symmes Junior. A version which clearly influenced Jo Smith.

John Cleves Symmes was an American Army officer and academic, who was the first to postulate that openings to the center of the earth could be found through large openings at it’s polar regions. In April of 1818, Symmes published Circular No 1. in which he boldly proclaimed, “I declare the earth is hollow, and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentrick spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees; I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.” 8 This document was republished and widely circulated around the area Joseph Smith and his family resided during his early adult life. Although he did not officially publish a book on this topic during his lifetime, Circular No. 1 was certainly recirculated, and Symmes himself regularly lectured around the country regarding his hypothesis. Even if he did not personally read Symmes material or attend a lecture, Joseph Smith was certainly influenced by Symmes’ work nonetheless.

If one requires more tangible proof that this belief was considered church doctrine, then one should look no further than the church’s own publications, the Articles of Faith and Doctrine and Covenants. “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel.” 9 Coupled with, “… the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.” 10

Also take into account the striking language found in a patriarchal blessing given to Joseph, by his friend and co-founder of the Mormon church, Oliver Cowdery. “[Joseph Smith] will go forth toward the north, and by the power of his word shall the deep begin to give way: and the ice melt before the Sun. By the keys of the kingdom shall he lead Israel into the land of Zion, while the house of Jacob shouts in the dance and in the song.” 11 Fairly stark and unambiguous language, that clearly illustrates the Mormons theological reimagining of Symmes hollow earth hypothesis.

Although it is not currently circulated or widely known by the majority of Mormons today, this doctrine has not since been readdressed or reclarified, and therefore we are only left to assume that this is still canonized belief by the church leaders.

 

Jews in Space and Mormon Moon-Folk

In what appears to be a dogmatic offshoot or misinterpretation of the hollow earth belief, is the idea that this hollow was created when a portion of the earth was removed by god. There were apparently more lost Tribespeople of Israel inhabiting this terrestrial chunk, which was now lost somewhere in space. It is currently unclear whether or not this particular bit of folklore was official revelation, or just Smith’s intimate musings, however it certainly interesting to take note of.

“I heard Joseph Smith preach baptism for the dead…. I heard him say, ‘the Ten Tribes were not on this globe, but a portion of this earth had cleaved off with them and went flying into space, and when the time comes when the “earth reels to and from like a drunken man and the stars from heaven fall,” it would join on again.'” 12

“The Prophet Joseph [Smith] once in my hearing advanced his opinion that the Ten Tribes were separated from the Earth; or a portion of the Earth was by a miracle broken off, and that the Ten Tribes were taken away with it, and that in the latter days it would be restored to the Earth or be let down in the Polar regions. Whether the Prophet founded his opinion upon revelation or whether it was a matter of mere speculation with him, I am not able to say.” 13

Perhaps related, or at least tangential to his belief in an Israelite colony in space, is Joseph Smith’s conviction that the moon, sun and stars were inhabited as well. “‘Inhabitants of the Moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the Earth, being about 6 feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker Style & are quite general in Style, or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; ...generally, near a thousand years.'” 14

The Patriarch of the church even seemed confident that through either the power of god or science, that within that same generation of the early church, Mormon missionaries would actually be preaching their gospel off planet! “In my Patriarchal blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and – to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes.” 15 Decades before Jules Verne and the commonly acknowledged birth of science fiction, Joseph Smith Junior must at least be credited with a wonderfully active imagination.

These beliefs seem to have survived at least into the days of the main church’s second leader and namesake of the Mormon college BYU, Brigham Young. 16 Young waxed on topic at some length regarding this topic:

“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?... When you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain.” 17

In other words, the only conceivable purpose for a planet would be for god to inhabit that planet with sentient beings which then require His salvation. If there is any confusion as to whether or not this was indeed considered doctrine and not just ignorant conjecture, Brigham even doubled down on statements such as that when he said, “I have never preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture.” 18 Once more, unless clarified by current Mormon leaders, then the beliefs discussed thus far should be referred to exactly as Brigham suggested; Mormon scripture.

It should come as no great shock that this was a common belief at the time given that the Mormon’s canonized Book of Abraham, explicitly refers to a celestial body Kolob, as nearest the throne of God. 19 Mormons today generally consider it to be the literal residing place of their god. In addition, Mormonism also preaches a plurality of gods; an idea that through spiritual perfection, heterosexual human couples can themselves become gods, each couple managing their own planetary, Genesis style creation in turn. “Mankind are here because they are the offspring of parents who were first brought here from another planet, and power was given them to propagate their species, and they were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth.” 20 An infinite process, which has been going on for untold eons. 21 A sort of interstellar, Manifest Destiny meets Divine Panspermia, so to say.

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.... It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know... that he was once a man like us.... Here, then, is eternal life – to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves... the same as all Gods have done before you...” 22

Despite what many Mormons today would preach, and what they themselves likely believe, the faith is not monotheistic. This belief in an infinitely expanding, factory-line intergalactic god nursery is what would be more accurately categorized as monolatrism; the devotion to a single god, while neither acknowledging or denying the existence of other, sometimes greater divine beings.

Fans of Battlestar Galctica may already know that the show’s creator, Glen Larson was himself LDS, and that he obviously encoded Mormon symbolism and theology into the show’s narrative. The twelve lost ‘colonies’ that record their history in Egyptian-like hieroglyphics, the ‘gods’ were once humans that somehow perfected or advanced themselves to a god-like status, and all of whom originated from a planet Kobol. The parallels are simply too many to lay out here, 23 but by this time BSG fan or not, one should be able to appreciate that Mormon archetypes are certainly far out enough to have inspired one of the most successful science fiction shows of all time.

 

References:

  1. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants 89:9
  2. [online] Available at: https://www.lds.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-student-manual/section-81-89/section-89-the-word-of-wisdom?lang=eng {Accessed Oct 21st 2017]
  3. History of the World, Part I, Mel Brooks. Universal Studios, 1981. Film
  4. Johnson, Benjamin My Life's Review, 1947, p. 93
  5. Huntington, Oliver B. Journal, under January 13, 1881; see Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, p. 528, footnote 100
  6. Huntington, Oliver B. The Inhabitants of the Moon, The Young Women's Journal, 1892, v. 3, p. 264
  7. Halley, Edmond, An Account of the cause of the Change of the Variation of the Magnetic Needle; with an Hypothesis of the Structure of the Internal Parts of the Earth, Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society of London, No. 195, 1692, pp 563–578
  8. Symmes, John Cleve. Symmes' Circular No. 1. St Louis, 1818
  9. Articles of Faith, #10, see History of the Church, v. 4, pp. 535-541
  10. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants 110:11
  11. Patriarchal Blessing from Oliver Cowdery to Prophet Joseph Smith, in Oliver Cowdery, “A Patriarchal blessing given by Oliver Cowdery to the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland,” September 22, 1835, reprinted in Collier, ed., Unpublished Revelations, 1979, 2nd edition, 1981, v. 1, p. 76
  12. Smith, Bathsheba W. Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Juvenile Instructor, June 1, 1892, v. 27, p. 34
  13. Apostle Orson Pratt, Letter Box of Orson Pratt, LDS Church Historian's Office, letter to John C. Hall, December 13, 1875; see Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, p. 529, footnote 101
  14. Smith, Joseph Jr., in Journal of O.B. Huntington, Book 14, p. 166
  15. Huntington, Oliver B. The Inhabitants of the Moon, The Young Women's Journal, 1892. v. 3, pp. 263-264.
  16. “President Young said he heard Joseph Smith say that the Ten Tribes of Israel were on a Portion of Land separated from this Earth.” -Prophet Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff's Journal, September 8, 1867, reprinted in Susan Staker, ed., Waiting for World's End, The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, 1993, p. 291
  17. Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 271
  18. Ibid, pp. 95
  19. The Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham 3:2-3
  20. Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses, v. 7, p. 285
  21. “Worlds without number I have created.” -Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:33
  22. Smith, Joseph Jr., King Follett Discourse, Journal of Discourses, v. 6, pp. 3-4 Also: “The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like himself.” -Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses, v. 3, p. 93. Also: “In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it.” -Smith, Joseph Jr., History of the Church, v. 6, pp. 307, 308
  23. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/glossary/battlestargalactica.htm {Accessed Oct 21st 2017]
 

Additional Resources:

  1. MormonThink.com [online] Available at: http://mormonthink.com [Accessed 10 21st 2017]
  2. Wiki – John Cleves Symmes Jr. - [online] Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cleves_Symmes_Jr. [Accessed 10 21st 2017]
  3. OliverCowdery.com [online] Available at: http://olivercowdery.com/texts/1818symm.htm#item1 [Accessed 10 21st 2017]
  4. Wiki - Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV series0 – [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battlestar_Galactica_(2004_TV_series) [Accessed 10 21st 2017]