Rekindling the Entheogenic Light
by Terence McKenna
Written as a Foreword to The Road to Eleusis by R. Gordon Wasson,
Albert Hofmann and Carl A. P. Ruck, but not used.
1998 marks the Twentieth Anniversary of the first publication of The Road to Eleusis. Twenty years is long enough for a child or an idea to reach the threshold of maturity. The ideas which the authors — the banker, the chemist and the classicist — brought forth have been largely unchallenged and ignored by specialists in the culture of ancient and Classical Greece. The situation seems to fulfill the rule of thumb that when ideas are controversial they are discussed, when they are revolutionary, they are ignored.
And without contest the ideas put forth by this unlikely threesome are revolutionary indeed. But why? Of what possible import could the methods and materials of a dead mystery cult hold for this world of the third millennium? The answer is simply this: that how we understand and explain to ourselves what transpired at Eleusis determines in large measure our spiritual values and our relationship to the dark uncharted vastness of the entheogenically illuminated mind. The extinction of the cult at Eleusis was a small part of the tumult and turmoil that gripped the Ancient World as its syncretic and celebratory polytheism was harried and hunted to extinction by hate-crazed mobs acting in the name of their Prince of Peace. Let us not pass over the fact that Aleric the Visigoth, the destroyer of Eleusis and much else of the Ancient World, was a thoroughly Christian as he was barbarian.
Often in my mind’s eye, I have visited that evil day when the dark smoke of rape and pillage defiled the blue of the Attic sky, and the ominous standard of the crow, insignia of this barbarian chieftain, fluttered and snapped in the sullied air, a mute witness to history shaping atrocity. It was a day of unthinkable acts; the Telesterion breached, the priesthood shattered, the sacred lineage terminated by murder and diaspora. If there are truly pivotal moments in human history, then this surely was one of them. For as the authors of The Road to Eleusis make clear, the day before that day of rampage was the last sane moment that Western man was to know for nearly 1500 years. The destruction of Eleusis cut the umbilical cord of the developing Western mind, severed its connection to the great mysteries of the earth mother/Great Goddess and the still more ancient cults of Crete with its connections further south and deeper into time, to the bedrock of the African genesis of consciousness and ecstasy in our newly evolved species.
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