The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross
Cover of the first edition
|Author||John M. Allegro|
|Subject||Language, Fertility cults, Christianity, Ancient Near East|
|Publisher||Hodder and Stoughton Ltd|
|Media type||print (hardback)|
|Pages||253 (third edition)|
The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (subtitled "A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity Within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East") is a 1970 book about the linguistics of early Christianity and fertility cults in the Ancient Near East. It was written by John Marco Allegro (1923–1988).
The book relates the development of language to the development of myths, religions, and cultic practices in world cultures. Allegro believed he could prove, through etymology, that the roots of Christianity, as of many other religions, lay in fertility cults, and that cult practices, such as ingesting visionary plants (or "psychedelics") to perceive the mind of God, persisted into the early Christian era, and to some unspecified extent into the 13th century with reoccurrences in the 18th century and mid-20th century, as he interprets the Plaincourault chapel's fresco to be an accurate depiction of the ritual ingestion of Amanita muscaria as the Eucharist. Allegro argued that Jesus never existed and was a mythological creation of early Christians under the influence of psychoactive mushroom extracts such as psilocybin.
His claims have often been subject to ridicule and scorn due to Allegro's unconventional theory. As Time magazine put it in an article headed "Jesus as mushroom",
To some biblical scholars in Britain, the new book looked like the psychedelic ravings of a hippie cultist. To others, it was merely an outlandish hoax. One described it as reading "like a Semitic philologist's erotic nightmare."
The book has been described as "notorious" and as "one of the strangest books ever published on the subject of religion and pharmacology". There was a media frenzy when it was published at the dawn of the 1970s. This caused the publisher to apologize for issuing it and forced Allegro's resignation from his university position. Judith Anne Brown suggested that the book was "difficult to read and difficult to summarize, because he follows clues that criss-cross different cultures and lead into many-layered webs of association." Mark Hall writes that Allegro suggested the scrolls all but proved that an historical Jesus never existed. Philip Jenkins writes that Allegro was an eccentric scholar who relied on texts that did not exist in quite the form he was citing them, and calls the Sacred Mushroom and the Cross "possibly the single most ludicrous book on Jesus scholarship by a qualified academic."
References in Literature
An elliptical reference to Allegro's theories is made in Philip K. Dick's final 1982 novel, "The Transmigration of Timothy Archer." In that book, Bishop Archer (based on Phil's real-life friend, Bishop James Pike) talks about exciting research being done with the Dead Sea Scrolls, and how it involved them eating some kind of mushroom. Archer, just like his real-life counterpart Pike, later dies in the desert, having gotten lost while attempting to find Qumran and do his own first-hand research.
Recent studies of Allegro's work have given new supporting linguistic evidence and led to calls for his theories to be re-evaluated by the mainstream. In November 2009 The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross was reprinted in a 40th anniversary edition with 30-page addendum by Prof. Carl A. P. Ruck of Boston University. A far more articulate exposition of Allegro's insights into early Christianity and his discoveries studying the Dead Sea Scrolls was published in his 1979 book The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth.
The work of Allegro also gained recognition and consideration by such late proponents of experiential psychedelia through pharmacological interaction as Terrence McKenna, who cited Allegro's claims of certain psychoactive fungi analogizing the Eucharist, spoken in a live lecture in the 1990s.
- Flint, Peter and VanderKam, James (2005). The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance For Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 324–. ISBN 978-0-567-08468-2.
- Allegro, John M. and Irvin, J R (2009). The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross: A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity Within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East. Gnostic Media Research & Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9825562-7-6.
- "Religion: Jesus as Mushroom", Time, 8 June 1970
- Taylor, Joan E. (2012). The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea. Oxford University Press. pp. 305–. ISBN 978-0-19-955448-5.
- Brown, Judith Anne (2005). John Marco Allegro: The Maverick Of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 291–. ISBN 978-0-8028-2849-1.
- Hall, Mark. "Foreword," in Allegro, John M. The Dead Sea Scrolls & the Christian Myth. Prometheus 1992, first published 1979, p. ix.
- Jenkins, Philip (2002). "Hidden Gospels. Oxford University Press, p. 180, ISBN 0195156315.
- Hoffman, Michael (2006) "Wasson and Allegro on the Tree of Knowledge as Amanita". Journal of Higher Criticism.
- John A. Rush Ph.D. (October 28, 2008). Failed God: Fractured Myth in a Fragile World. Frog Books. ISBN 978-1-58394-274-1. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- Allegro, John M. (2009) The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, 40th anniversary edition, Gnostic Media, ISBN 978-0-9825562-7-6
- John C. King, A Christian View of The Mushroom Myth (Hodder & Stoughton, 1970) ISBN 978-0340125977