Gnostic texts are filled with encounters of strange other worldly beings, journeys to visionary heavenly realms, and encounters with the presence and spirit of the divine. In Gnostic visions, author and Gnostic scholar Luke A. Myers presents evidence demonstrating how Gnostic visions were created and the connection these visions have to naturally occurring visionary compounds that are still in existence today.
The culmination of more than ten years of research, Gnostic Visions advances the understanding of classical ethnobotany, Gnosticism, and the genesis of early Christian history. In this book the author discusses the prehistoric foundations of early human religion as well as the visionary religious traditions of the classical Greeks and Egyptians. Using these as a foundation, the book presents new and never before seen research explaining how Gnostic visions were created and what types of compounds were used by these ancient people to create them. Gnostic Visions presents evidence directly linking visionary Ayahuasca analogs with the creation of Gnostic and Hermetic visionary experiences. Gnostic Visions also describes the decline of Gnosticism, other visionary practices used in the Dark Ages and gives a brief tour of the visionary plants of the new world.
In Gnostic visions, Myers tells of his personal experience with the divine and includes some of his own reflections of the importance of mankind’s relationship to the natural world. He communicates that altered states of consciousness have been responsible for many of the most profound mystical religious experiences in human history.
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Gnostic VisionsUncovering the Greatest Secret of the Ancient World
By Luke A. Myers
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Luke A. Myers
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKeys to the Spirit World and the Birth of Religion
And the Lord spoke to them, now listen to me! Even with the Prophets, I the Lord communicate by visions and dreams. Numbers 12:6
In the very beginning of the Torah, as well as in the Bible, one of the very first stories you read after the creation of the world is the story about the transformation and subsequent exoduses of Adam and Eve from the Primordial Garden of Eden, the Garden of Paradise. Many people who have read this age old story never seem to see how it directly relates to what we know today as the history of early human evolution. Many Bible teachers today talk about this age-old legend only as literal evidence for their claim to the start of mankind's original eternal sin and subsequent fall from primordial perfection and divine grace, as if God was still holding a grudge against mankind for eating this fruit, and still cursing mankind after all of these many years. If this is to be taken literally, in this way, then I would really not want to be any part of such a harsh and wrathful God. But if we look at the story as something else, maybe it may open up more possibilities. Maybe this age old legend really was passed down from generation to generation long ago and made its way into the history of the Jewish people, holding a glimpse of truth into one of the greatest mysteries of our own most ancient past:
But God said, "You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die." But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die, For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like god, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. Genesis, 3:3
Perhaps the story of Adam and Eve is not about a primordial never-ending curse on mankind for eating the mythical fruit of knowledge. Instead it may actually be about the transformation of primordial mankind from a primitive animal state into the first truly human humans. Perhaps this story of Adam and Eve is not about sin or an eternal curse on mankind as some have suggested, but is instead about the primordial transformation of human consciousness. The story of Adam and Eve shows how the human mind that we know today came about as a result of eating a mind-altering fruit or plant by the first two humans. It is also the first place in Western civilization that we find a prevalent and important theological and cultural legend that implies a clear and direct association between the acquisition of knowledge and the use of a mind-altering plant.
In the story of Adam and Eve, the tree of knowledge was a plant that induced an experience that resulted in mankind's primordial animal mind being forever changed and transformed into something much greater: something truly more human, a mind that can know right from wrong and for the first time, be fully self-aware, self-reflective, and free from the binds of pure animal instinct, a mind truly human.
One of the first people to propose the entheogenic theory of human evolution outside the biblical story of Adam and Eve was the late philosophical ethnobotanist Terence McKenna. McKenna proposed that some early hominids, being omnivorous, would have discovered and ate psychedelic plants and fungus in their daily foraging. In doing so, these plants would have made distinct temporary changes to their everyday consciousness. These plants would have sharpened or heightened the hominids perception, allowing them to better "find" and "sense" predators, even finding better food sources, as well as gain a distinct edge in competition for mates. This plant-based increase in awareness could have also added in the development of higher cognitive functions over time, much better than their other non-psychedelic plant-eating neighbors. This could have given certain groups or individuals a distinct advantage over other proto-humans, allowing for a superior but natural evolutionary edge on their competition, making them more mentally advanced and more suitable to survive.
In studying animal behavior, researchers have found that many animals demonstrate the clear desire to seek out intoxication. Some of these include cats to catnip, birds to intoxicating nectars, reindeer and caribou to Fly Agric mushrooms, elephants to fermented fruits, even cows to intoxicating grasses. There are also countless cases in which the psychoactive or narcotic properties of certain plants have been directly discovered by humans through the observation of animal behavior. But for a long time, there was no hard evidence indicating early primates ever utilized psychoactive plants for their effects or in any of their daily foragings. Because of this, there was very little evidence to support this particular theory of early human evolution at the time. Then a discovery was made while studying animal and primate behavior in a tropical forest of Africa that finally shed light on this ancient theory.
In the forest of Gabon and the Congo in Africa, the Mitsogho shamans, or Nganga as they are called by the locals, reported to animal behavior researchers and various European ethnobotanists exploring the region that male Mandrills were known to use the psychoactive plant Iboga to become intoxicated. Mandrills are closely related to baboons and can be found in the tropical rainforests of West Africa, Southern Nigeria, South Cameroon, Gabon, and the Congo. Mandrills are known to live in wide-spread communities, adhering to a rigid hierarchical social structure. At the top of the social ladder are the Alpha males to whom other powerful males submit; these in turn dominate yet weaker males. When a male Mandrill must engage in combat with another, either to establish a claim to a female or to climb a rung of the hierarchical ladder, he does not begin to fight without forethought. It has been found that many Mandrills will first find and dig up an Iboga bush, eating its psychedelic root; next, they will wait for its effects to hit in full force (which may take from 1-2 hours) and only then does he approach and attack the other male he wants to engage in battle. This peculiar animal behavior is the first of its kind demonstrated among primates, something that clearly demonstrates a high level of premeditation and awareness in the mind of the animal. It also demonstrates some of the first documented reports of psychedelic plant use among certain primate groups, and the use of these substances by these animals for these unique and particular social purposes. These findings stand not only as supporting evidence for the entheogenic theory of human evolution, but also demonstrate the possibility that this age-old western legend of Adam and Eve could actually have had its place in fact, and could, in some fashion, have once really taken place.
If the change in consciousness from animal to modern human ever took place, as at one time it clearly must have done, what was the event that facilitated this change? What started this alteration in consciousness and heightened increased awareness of self that modern humans have over all the other animals on this planet? If the consumption of mind altering plants helped to contribute this change in human evolution and awareness, then the story of Adam and Eve would be a legend that is based on a real primordial event. If such an event ever took place, it seems clear that early humans would have had to deal with the deep-seated anxiety at their newly-perceived separation from their environment. Adam and Eve would have had a sudden sense of their own mortality, and clear awareness of their inevitable death. The down of human consciousness could have been interpreted as a fall from grace to early humans because animal consciousness is more instinctual and more imbedded in its own nature, not burdened by self awareness and the self-conscious weight of human morality.
After this change occurred, the first humans would have found themselves in a world without the innocent, no longer free of anxiety, guilt, and remorse. The first humans were the first to feel the heavy weight of morality. They were now responsible for their own actions. Maybe this is why the tree of knowledge became known as "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." The first humans saw this as a tree that gave knowledge, a never-ending knowledge and understanding between right and wrong, good and evil, a tree that in some way also separated them from their more primordial animal past and gave them their newfound awareness of their now naked animal bodies.
This newfound change in early humans could have been seen as a fall from grace because of the fall from the grace of their past instincts and ignorance and rise into what we know today as being truly human. So what may have once seemed like a fall from grace really opened their eyes and the doors of the great creative reasoning and insight that is so distinct to the human condition.
This early protohuman behavior could have even later developed into the vocation of the first shamans, healers, or priests; the very same individuals that modern anthropologists have identified with as being the earliest spiritual practitioners and healers on the planet. Remarkably, when we go on to study Shamanism, one of the most unique and central aspects known to unify the worldwide shamanic traditions is the fundamental belief that the alteration of consciousness is essential for accessing and contacting spiritual realities. The system of methodologies found in shamanism for contacting spiritual realities is also held to be the oldest of spiritual practices in the world. The belief in a spirit world or in the existence of a spiritual level of reality that is unseen by the normal human eye is held as the most fundamental component of all major world religions. But the ideas, myths, and symbols used to construct the idea of a spirit world as they are seen in any given major world religion, have their origins in these much older and much more ancient roots. As a matter of fact, the foundations for the belief in a spirit world or spiritual dimension of reality can all find their origins in these earlier and much more ancient shamanic roots and practices.
The Symbolic Revolution
The birth of human language, writing, and religion are known to have started with a prehistoric movement that is characterized today as the Symbolic Revolution. The Symbolic Revolution characterizes the first creation of human symbols and the attachment of purpose and meaning to these symbols, both visual and otherwise. The development of symbolism is known to have been one of the greatest advancements in early human development and evolution. In studying the first defining elements of human existence on this planet, we are led to examine the earliest depictions of mankind. In what are known as the first defining elements of human art, religion, and the belief in supernatural realms, (elements that are all found within the earliest cave paintings of humanity) is a unique phenomenon that mysteriously emerges some time around 40,000 years ago. Before about 40,000 years ago, other than a very few and widely scattered isolated examples, there is nothing in the archeological record left by our ancestors that we would instantly recognize as modern human behavior. After this period in time it is clear that creatures exactly like us had arrived and began to spread across the globe. The first and most noted universal phenomena associated with humanity and the early rise of modern human behavior is the notable and first defining evidence for the belief in supernatural realms, supernatural spirit beings, and the first direct evidence for the birth of religion.
The clearest possible illustration of this is found in cave paintings dating from the prehistoric periods found all around the world. In southwest Europe, some of the most ancient and sophisticated representations of prehistoric religious art can be found. The oldest cave art so far discovered in the world suddenly appears between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago, where it then endures until approximately 12,000 years ago. This is the art of the great painted caves such as Chauvet, Lascaux, Pech Merle, and Altamira. The caves are rightly famous for their realistic images of Ice Age mammals. Much less known is the fact that numerous supernatural beings, often half human, half animal, are also depicted, very reminiscent of patterns found in shamanism, items or beings known as shape shifters a practice known to utilize altered states of consciousness in which the shaman enters a state of trance and experiences visions, supernatural beings, and temporary mental transformations.
For many years, these mysterious items were hotly debated within the academic community and the source of their meaning and inspiration were equally mysterious. Then in an ingenious explanation put forward by an international group of anthropologists and archeologists regarding the bizarre appearance of these cave paintings and the beings found within them, was put forward an idea that was finally able to explain their existence. The essence of their argument was that cave art expresses mankind's first and oldest notions of death and other realms of existence, notions that are now largely believed to have taken shape in altered states of consciousness most likely brought on by the consumption of psychoactive plants. Although not to the liking of some scholars, this has been the most widely accepted theory of cave art since the mid-1990s. Because of this remarkable fact, it is almost an embarrassment that none of the experts currently advocating this theory have ever actually consumed any psychoactive plants themselves; nor do they have any first-hand idea of what an altered state of consciousness is like, or any desire to experience one. This in my view has limited the modern academic understanding of this phenomenon and its various manifestations around the world. While it is a great academic insight, I truly believe that to fully understand and comprehend the complexity of this phenomenon and its relationship and importance to early human history, one must extend this inquiry into the realms of direct first hand experience and knowledge.
Before modern human behavior, no one ancestor in human lineage had ever made use of any form of symbolism before and needless to say no other animal species had ever done so before either. The switching on of humanity's symbol making capacity that took place sometime between 100,000 and 40,000 years ago was an event that not only changed everything in human history, but it was also closely intertwined with humanity's first inquiries into spiritual and supernatural realms. So if altered states of consciousness did help facilitate the switching on of early humanity's symbol-making capacity and our first inquiries into the supernatural as is supported by cave art research, then the relationship between early mankind's evolution and the botanical world is much more closely connected then what has been previously thought.
According to Professor David Lewis Williams, the first leading proponent of this theory of cave art, "such ideas are not part of the normal, predictable current of everyday life but instead arise from the universal human neurological capacity to enter altered states of consciousness." Many anthropologists are convinced that as far back as the Upper Paleolithic, our ancestors placed a high value on hallucinogenic and visionary experiences and made use of psychoactive plants to induce them. In addition, it is well known that rhythmic drumming, dancing, fasting, self mutilation, and sleep deprivation, are also known to induce visionary and hallucinatory experiences.
Supported by David Whitley, one of the leading North American rock-art specialists, Jean Clottes, the world renowned expert on the French prehistoric cave paintings, and Lewis Williams and a growing number of other scholars from many different countries around the world, are beginning to take the view that the first notions of the existence of supernatural realms, beings, and the first religious ideas about them, the first art representing them, and the first mythologies concerning them, were all derived from the visionary experiences of prehistoric shamans. One of the first academic investigators to propose this extraordinary theory of prehistoric cave art was David Lewis Williams. Williams first began to develop his "neuropsychological model" of cave art and the origins of religion in the early 1980s, and has been testing and defending it virtually non stop since 1988, when he and his co-researcher Thomas Downson officially put it before their peers in the scholarly journal Current Anthropology.
Excerpted from Gnostic Visions by Luke A. Myers Copyright © 2011 by Luke A. Myers. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Part I: Keys to the Spirit World and Classical Visions....................1
Ch 1 Keys to the Spirit World and the Birth of Religion....................3
Ch 2 Visions and the Hellenistic Mysteries....................22
Ch 3 Mysteries of Pagan Philosophy....................45
Ch 4 The Mysteries of Egypt....................64
Part II: Identifying Gnostic Visions....................79
Ch 5 Gnostic Rituals....................81
Ch 6 Biochemical Foundations....................107
Ch 7 Zoroaster and Peganum Harmala....................127
Ch 8 Ayahuasca Analogs in Antiquity....................153
Ch 9 Identifying the Gnostic Sacrament....................181
Ch 10 Early Christian History & the fall of Gnosticism....................205
Part III: Other Visions and a New World....................223
Ch 11 Mysteries of Dark Age Magic....................225
Ch 12 Shamanism and the New World....................240
Ch 13 Modern Gnosis & The Greatest Secret of the Ancient world....................264