When I read about eating bittersweet scrolls followed by seeing visions, in Ezekiel and Revelation, it was clear that Christianity included an essential entheogen tradition. However, it was unclear which entheogens might be allegorized in those scriptures. Heinrich presents a fine and sufficient candidate.
He also presents a brilliant hypothesis that the story of the Exodus is based around ergot poisoning of the yeast supply.
To better reveal what an innovative coverage and approach the book provides, it would've benefitted from a detailed table of contents, more section subheads, and clearer chapter titles.
Chapters and their coverage of Amanita encoding:
A Brief Explanation of an Unusual Book -- defining speculative history approach and encoding of visionary plants in myth-religion
Beating around the Burning Bush -- drug use in religions ("& myth") (short)
The Soma Drinkers -- Vedic Aryans
The Fly Agaric -- effects of Amanita
Curious Evidence -- Soma, Allegro
The Dwarf Sun-God -- Vishnu, Krishna
The Red-Eyed Howler -- Rudra/Himalayas, Shiva, Hanuman, Tantra
The Secrets of Eden -- Story of Garden of Eden
The Prophets of Ancient Israel -- Abraham, Moses, ergot exodus, Elijah, Elisha, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jonah
Living Water and the Bread of Life: The Story of Jesus -- Jesus, Paul, Revelation
The Knowers of God -- Gnostics
The Mysterious Grail -- Holy Grail
Elixir: The Secret Stone of Alchemy -- Alchemy
An Artistic Conspiracy? -- Renaissance art (short)
Heaven and Hell -- author trip reports
Last Word -- summary of reasonableness of entheogen encoding in religions/groups discussed
Legend of Miskwedo -- American Indian
I commend how Clark Heinrich's book is structured to trace the presence of entheogens, particularly Amanita, through history, with Alchemy serving to represent the Renaissance period and Western Esotericism.
This is an improved second edition of the excellent book "Strange Fruit". The original title was Strange Fruit: Alchemy and Religion: The Hidden Truth: Alchemy, Religion and Magical Foods: A Speculative History.
"A speculative history" is important: Heinrich is tracing the Amanita through Western history of myth-religion, and approach that is needed more, as we fill in the presence of visionary plants in all eras/areas/groups/religions/systems of gnosis & forms of the perennial philosophy.
The pair of separate terms "religion and alchemy" obscures what his "speculative history" approach implies: there isn't in fact "religions" over here and "alchemy" over there as something set apart; neither is the "myth vs. religion" distinction helpful. The book actually contains a more full-fledged history, rather than just "religion" and "alchemy" -- Western Esotericism is covered not only by Alchemy, but also by the Holy Grail.
Some say Heinrich makes the error of seeing Amanita everywhere. On the contrary, entheogen scholarship only errs in failing to see visionary plants everywhere, wherever the perennial philosophy is present, whether called "philosophy", "gnosis", "religion", "myth", "magic", or "Western Esotericism".
Further research is needed, such as in Entheos journal, to fill in the remaining areas left after Heinrich's book, so that we at last recognize and come to see visionary plants everywhere -- in all these traditions or currents.
The book's "speculative history" approach implies coverage of finding visionary plants everywhere and finding that this "everywhere" is really just one single "place": manifestations of the perennial philosophy, or gnosis, which is universal.
The book tends to write in a voice which assumes the existence of a single individual who was the kernal for the Jesus figure, but Heinrich also points out that we have no evidence justifying a conclusion that such an individual existed. He portrays Jesus both as hierophant administering Amanita and Jesus as Amanita. He provides a fair commentary on John Allegro's contributions to recognizing Amanita in Christianity.
The book tends, like most entheogen scholarship, to treat the visionary plants themselves as the entirety of what is revealed, when in fact the gnosis itself, the principles of the perennial philosophy, are certainly the other half and perhaps ultimately the main half of what is revealed -- though in practice, revealing the visionary plants is tantamount to revealing the perennial philosophy.
Heinrich is innovative but not alone; this kind of entheogen scholarship has become a burgeoning approach and school of thought -- an increasingly standardized and established, productive research paradigm. Chris Bennett's book Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible makes a case for cannabis and other visionary plants in the Bible. Dan Merkur's book Mystery of Manna contributes additional arguments to the case for ergot in the Old Testament.
This is a model of a fine book. The prose is clear, artistic, and masterful. The photos are stunning and perfectly support his case, showing the shape-shifting Amanita in its various lifecycle stages, explaining how each stage is allegorized in Hindu, Christian, and alchemical traditions. A must-have for entheogen scholars.