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The Mushroom in Christian Art: The Identity of Jesus in the Development of Christianity Paperback – Jan 11 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books; Pap/DVD edition (Jan. 11 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556439601
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556439605
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 703 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #553,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“A picture is worth a thousand words. In this enlightening book, and on the well-illustrated DVD, John Rush identifies the real Jesus and argues convincingly for the prevalence of the historical, religious use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Christianity.”
—Jan Irvin, author of The Holy Mushroom.
“Going beyond the identification of putative fungal shapes in the religious art of Europe, John Rush has provided an eloquent and sophisticated context for their significance, a kind of grammar of symbolic forms, lavishly illustrated, opening up an essential topic of dialogue for anyone interested in understanding the creative imagination of this vast and intriguing period of history.”
—Carl Ruck, professor of Classics at Boston University and author of Sacred Mushrooms of the Goddess: Secrets of Eleusis

The Mushroom in Christian Art is a valuable addition to the growing corpus on the question of whether hallucinogens played a central role in Christianity and, as such, is well worth the read.”
The Psychedelic Press UK

About the Author

John A. Rush, PhD, ND, is a professor of anthropology at Sierra College in Rocklin, California. His research has ranged from religious symbolism in Europe to monuments and Mayan astronomy in Central America. He is also the author of Failed God, Spiritual Tattoo, and The Twelve Gates.

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Juan Santamaria on Dec 9 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting book, but clearly the author 'sees' mushrooms everywhere, and sometimes in unusual locations: kind of like seeing faces in the clouds.
Some of the images are a real stretch.
To suggest that all instances of divine revelation in christianity are fungal in origin is an overstatement.
Notably, many saints who experienced visions of, and meetings with divine agents (such as Julian of Norwich, the genius Hildegard of Bingen (that is mentioned in the book), Bernadette of Lourdes, Joan of Arc) likely suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy (although O. Sacks suggested that Hildegard of Bingen suffered from migraine, I think this is unlikely). TL epilepsy can produce intense feelings of religiosity, oneness, ecstatic states, visions, bright lights, etc.
This is not to downplay the use of chemicals (soma, mushrooms, ayahuasca/DMT, mescal, etc.) to attain spiritual insights and/or to contact the 'other (I believe inner) world', they are very clearly instrumental (to transport the user to a different reality), and there may well have been use of these in very early christianity, eg. before it became a state religion?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 13 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Review of The Mushroom in Christian Art June 14 2011
By may bruce - Published on
Format: Paperback
Rush's book is one of the most revealing and creative works I have
read on the identity of Jesus. Although some of the images
presented may not be mushrooms, there are so many obvious mushrooms
that they lead to very serious questions: Why are the mushrooms in
the art and why have the art historians neglected to mention this
motif? Rush takes a bold and controversial step in his interpretation
of the mushroom, but his discussion of the Stations of the Cross, as
originally related to finding, processing, and consumption of the
holy mushroom, does seem plausible, certainly more plausible then
that of the story proffered as historical fact by the Catholic Church.
Was Jesus really a mushroom, the path to God, and not a living,
breathing human being?
At first this seemed ridiculous, but after all the information is
presented, I believe Rush is correct. I highly recommend this work
to anyone who is serious about understanding Christian art and the
origins of Christianity,
this will be a very difficult read for the true believer.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The Catholics are always in denial over the true message of Jesus Feb. 20 2011
By Christopher John Hobby - Published on
Format: Paperback
As an artist, and knowledgeable in Christian icons, I must say this is one of the most creative interpretations of Christian art I have ever come across. A few of the mushroom motifs are a bit questionable but the existence of the mushroom in Christian art is undeniable. He also makes an outstanding case for the identity of Jesus; this will most certainly be a difficult read for the true believer. I can also understand why Psillytom wrote his review, for the Catholic Church, out of political and economic necessity, would have to trash this work and Dr. Rush along with it. Rush, however, appears to subscribe to the primary messages of Jesus (he does not come across as an atheist), that is, human decency, know thyself, seek knowledge, and personal responsibility. And aren't these the important themes anyway? It really doesn't matter if Jesus was a real person or a mushroom, just be a decent person - and you don't need a priest or church to accomplish this. The other important point is that it is the artists who have kept the messages of human decency, know thyself, and personal responsibility alive - not the Catholic Church. This is a must read for serious scholars in Christian art as well as those seeking the truth.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Quackery July 3 2014
By Mrs. Plankton - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a book that was "suggested" reading for a class Prof. Rush taught. I thought it would be an interesting read at the very least. All the books I bought of his are unsupported, personal theories. The positive accolades for the book seem like they are written by friends of the author's. I would expect other religious study professors to be writing those, but he likely couldn't find any to write positive things about it. Some of his theories have been researched and largely dismissed by his peers in religious or anthropology studies.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Useful book, probably an essential addition to the corpus June 7 2014
By Mark - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rush is a professor that is herein providing his syllabus to us in the form of a book. He is not a very good writer of books. He is extremely repetitive, using what I call the "Hydra Method" to substantiate what are sometimes untenable positions by coming at the issue from multiple directions again and again. The summary part of his scholarship is often rudimentary and one wonders how he became a professor. Over and over, I kept picturing him closing his eyes and waxing poetic, but his poetry falls flat.

Essentially you can fast-forward and speed-read his book, flipping through pages full of drivel at a hyper accelerated rate. I wanted to give his book 1 star, but as I sped through it, I kept finding I had to stop at some salient point of research that Rush offers up. The reader will come to realize that he has a certain expertise, which in part is in teasing out mushroom motifs from passages of the Bible. Now Rush had 3 stars, because this information is scattered through dozens of other books by other authors and none of them are focusing solely on the Bible like Rush is. As the reader digests the entirety of the book, they realize that it cannot be read without viewing the DVD which is attached onto the back-cover. Here is what Rush does best: he has methodically traveled the world snapping pictures of very old tapestries, stained glass windows, frescos, tomb and catacomb art, psalters and many other sources. He has literally gathered a thousand pictures which tell a very interesting story about Judaism in general and Christianity in particular: THEY USED DRUGS. More to the point, all through the Christian art are seemingly countless depictions of psilocybin "magic" mushrooms and in particular the tell-tale red-cap of the Amanita mushroom.

Now Rush is the consummate professor. You are sitting in his class, having endured his preachification, and now he turns on his projector and takes you into another world. You are inundated with pictures, slide after slide of Jesus with mushrooms, Mary with mushrooms, angels with mushrooms, Adam and Eve with mushrooms. By the end, you understand that Christianity was a mushroom religion. PERIOD. This is why Paul spoke of the Eucharist and the Agape feast in terms of partaking in a "Mystery" with a special sacrament. This is why over time, Church officials made the Agape feast forbidden, because early Christians were reportedly "wandering" around the Church in a stoned-out haze getting into everything. This is why Paul tells Christians to partake of the sacramental part of the Agape feast in the privacy of their own homes, but to continue coming together to partake in the communal meals.

While Rush includes 252 images in his DVD (or is it a CD? idk), he mentions many other images in his book which he doesn't seem to have had permission to reproduce. Many other authors have a handful of images they use in their books, but Rush far exceeds them. He has more images of the "mushroom tree" as art-historians call it than all other authors combined. I can't imagine anybody ever catching up to him. Through is perseverance, Rush has made himself an essential invitee to the round-table on Myco-Mythology. You simply cannot have the conversation without him anymore. I think that over time he will become a better author and I hope that he edits "The Mushroom in Christian Art" to continue refining what seems to be his Opus. Many authors have done this with their own Opus, and Rush would be doing us a service in situ. I can't help but wonder if his editor at North Atlantic Books and his agent (surely he has one) didn't do him a disservice by letting this book go to print in such a haphazard way. Nonetheless I give the book 4 stars simply for his collection of images alone. Invaluable!
12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
my only tattoo is a mushroom July 26 2011
By J. Szimhart - Published on
Format: Paperback
Yes, I admit it--my only tattoo is a small amanita on my shoulder, but it has nothing to do with the thesis of this book that I purchased through amazon because the topic fascinates me. My interest in the Amanita muscaria began in the late 1960s along with things shaman, but it got more serious after some research. As a young artist in the early 70s I painted a few yellow-phase Amanitas `en plein air' in oil above the Delaware Water Gap and then I ingested a small one. I got a pleasant buzz with some of the psychedelic bells and whistles described in the literature. A short few months later a friend of mine and I ate several each and we both got sick with some bells and whistles--the hours long nausea and blurred vision was just as described in the literature when one eats them raw. I could not stomach a raw mushroom of any kind for over a year. Decades later I wrote a long essay that I titled something like "Bolond Gomba: Santa Claus, Jesus, and Amanita Muscaria." Bolond Gomba is Hungarian for the red Amanita or any gomba (mushroom) that makes you bolond or "crazy." I traced the shamanic influences on the Santa Claus legend and speculated how that interprets Christianity, but it was speculation.

John A. Rush writes like someone familiar to me, someone who is a product of the Sixties movements but moreso as a true believer in the modern myths about the Amanita. Rush views the popular white-flecked, red-capped, fairy tale mushroom as the primal drug and deity called Soma in the Rig Veda and by extension the "fruit" of the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" in the Genesis story of Jewish tradition. He goes much further in finding indications of Amanita (and entheogens in general) in nearly every transformative tradition on the planet. Now, as I recall in my research, it is true that nearly 70% of all ancient religions and cults used some kind of psychotropic substance in their rituals and initiations. The Amanitas however were notably employed by tribes on the Eurasian steppe and among reindeer herders. Evidence for widespread use is lacking to support Rush's enthusiasm. No one knows what was used to make Soma, for example, despite R. Wasson's formidable study in his book Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality that focuses on the red-capped Amanita. But is this mushroom responsible for the Jesus experience?

I do not think so. Throughout the book Rush seems to ignore the obvious limitations to entheogen use and abuse as a vehicle for sustaining communion with transcendence, limitations that ancient cultures did not ignore. One glaring example is in Hindu traditions that evolved early on, perhaps three thousand years ago, to supplant chemically induced ecstasy (Soma) with various forms of yoga and meditation as more effective, conscious means to "yoke" with the deity or sacred consciousness.

But Rush concentrates on the Christian tradition with his notion, which is more a fundamentalist belief: Jesus was not a person, rather "Jesus" was an experience of Amanita later disguised in Gospels as a person to--well, 1. To keep the experience secret from the hoi polloi who might somehow screw it up, and 2. To keep from being found out by Roman and later Church authorities who allegedly frowned upon mushroom cults. Only the inner sanctum, the high priests were trained and enlightened enough to properly ingest and interpret the mushroom experience. Rush goes on to suggest and assert (he does both frequently) that there were "many" Christianities based on the mushroom cult and these included Gnostics as well as Essenes and the John the Baptist movement.

This book probably should get no stars because it should never have been published--it is a poorly formulated thesis that ironically undermines itself by the evidence provided. Other authors (e.g., J. Allegro, 1970) pushed the mushroom source of Christian tradition but their efforts amounted to scholarly nonsense, not evidence. I tried but did not get through the entire file of illustrations on the included DVD. It soon became clear that Rush "reads" or reads mushrooms and entheogens into icons and religious art that are not intended or there. As I mentioned above, I have been an artist and have made at least a portion of my living through the arts since the late 1960s. Rush's approach to the art referenced violates the evidence--he tortures any detail to find a mushroom. It could be in a strange fold in a garment or a fly that he asserts refers to Fly Agaric, another name for the Amanita.

But where does Rush get his authoritative attitude? And why bother when the façade is so easy to dismantle? I think he takes his cue from Joseph Campbell the pop-mythologist, for one. Campbell has long ago been discredited in interpreting basic cultural uses of myth--he was more a literary scholar who did almost no primary research of indigenous myths. Rush pushes the "follow your bliss" Campbellism many steps further into a kind of neo-Gnosticism based on his personal experience of art and mushrooms. Gnostics tended to position themselves among the elite few who could "know" the Mysteries after initiation--they were the self-proclaimed pneumatics. Others who might grasp the Mysteries after significant training were designated as psychics. The vast majority of mankind to some ancient Gnostic cults was too dense to experience the truth in any form. These were the hylics or mud people with no potential for salvation.

Rush takes potshots at theistic religion throughout the text. He takes issue with clerics, rabbis and priests who hand down tradition rather than encouraging "individual spirituality." On page 270 he writes: As Joseph Campbell stated many years ago, the Bible and Koran are "guide books to schizophrenia." Now schizophrenia is well-known to me--I've worked in a mental hospital over twelve years. If schizophrenia indicates a split from testable reality due to a dysfunction in the brain, then Campbell is sorely off track with his unfortunate, poorly worded suggestion. On the other hand, if one were to take Rush's ideas about Amanita to heart and stomach, schizophrenia may be what one steps into on the "other side." Rush endearingly calls this stepping in and out of two worlds, the "hokey-pokey."

Rush's personal experience with shrooms seems to have imbedded a certainty in his mind that proto-Christians ingested Amanitas. Rush reminds me of a zealous Christian who finds the face of Jesus in clouds, fried eggs, Walmart receipts and water stains. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it fails to qualify as scholarship to my way of thinking. The real reason for this book has less to do with Christian art and Jesus than with exploring a host of transformative substances named by Rush throughout his narrative--the reader will find that the author is an avid entheogenist who overvalues a wrongheaded thesis.