This book is one of the most fascinating history books I've read in quite a long time. The central premise of the book is that psychedelics (authors call them entheogens) were used by early religions (including early Christianity) but then suddenly got wiped out as a practice. Authors travel the world searching for evidence of entheogens in the early religions and find what they were looking for!
Initially, the authors retrace the steps taken by Robert Gordon Wasson — one of the most prominent entheogen researchers that popularized their use of them way before the US war on drugs. Interestingly, Wasson proves that virtually all religions used entheogens — but Christianity! Wasson outright stated that Christianity had not used entheogens and dismissed any evidence presented to him.
The authors of this book find a tiny piece of evidence that while working as a banker, Wasson served the Vatican — which they claim to be the reason for the "Wasson paradox." See, it is not in the best interest of religious groups to water down their beliefs to a "pagan" ritual. However, I must note that the evidence comes from a third party close to Wasson and feels more like gossip than something that can solve the "Wasson paradox."
Reading "The Psychedelic Gospels" is like reading a genuine version of "The Da Vinci Code" but set in the real world. Even though Dan Browns's evidence was relatively weak, in the case of the authors, the proofs are undisputable. Seeing actual psychedelic mushrooms in so many ancient art pieces changes how one thinks about religion. I mean, now I understand why people suddenly started believing in divine order — it wasn't because people are biased, but because there was little they could do after entheogens made them more susceptible to believe.
You might think that increased gullibility when taking entheogens is bad, but I'd argue against that. See, it, for some reason, feels like people started believing in higher power in a good way after going through the early religious ceremonies, like being a part of something larger, loving their neighbours, not waging wars. These notions are not lost in the modern gospels — but feel more like ideas today rather than solid beliefs.
Like, you know, "don't kill" is one of the commandments — but do people follow this? No, not at all. Suddenly, killing "for the right purpose" is acceptable when, for instance, a Christian country wages war. Now imagine if "don't kill" wasn't just an idea, a suggestion — but an actual hard-wired belief shared by the whole religious group provided by entheogenic experience? Would people kill, then? I find it hard to believe.
Overall, this book opened up the pandora box of entheogenic religions for me — starting with the "horney" pagan god that merged into Santa (and then Satan, lol) — and continuing into Greek, Egyptian and Middle Eastern use of psychedelics to "unite" people around religious ideas.
I'd recommend this book to anyone, especially if you have had a psychedelic experience (keep in mind it's still illegal to use most entheogens in most countries) — however, be ready for a bitter-sweet taste after you finish it. On the one hand, you feel connected to all these early religions and their experiences. On the other hand, it is unfortunate that we lost the knowledge of entheogenic rituals somewhere along the way.