The Apples of Apollo:
Pagan and Christian Mysteries of the Eucharist
Carl A.P. Ruck, Blaise Daniel Staples, & Clark Heinrich
Paperback - 288 pages, 2000. Carolina Academic Press; ISBN: 089089924X

A Review by José Alfredo González Celdrán

Forbidden Knowledge Review:

It seems inevitable, unfortunately, that the arrival of a revolutionary scholarly theory must be accompanied by the rejection of it on the part of the scientific community which is more interested in maintaining its own monopoly on the status quo of its ideas than in opening itself up to reevaluations and new discoveries that would further enhance our knowledge of its field. Galileo learned this when he was threatened with excommunication by the Holy and Apostolic Church of Rome unless he refuted a truth which was revealed to him by his own God, but was not in accordance with the views of the representatives of that very same God on earth. Darwin suffered the gibes of his colleagues and the bastions of the establishment when he theorized and concluded that man and the ape were something more than "first cousins." Einstein produced his revolutionarily novel theory of relativity in a notoriously brief number of years and it got for him only indifference and the rejection of it by his fellow physicists who sat as judges when he had the audacity to propound it. Time concedes the oblivion of evils, according to the Greeks, but it also draws back the veil of truth. Whether or not anyone is opposed to it, we now know today that the earth rotates on its axis, that the life species have not remained immutable since the moment of creation, and that despite what our senses may tell us, the coordinates of our lives are eternally relative.

As we cross the threshold into the twenty-first century, it is no longer reasonable to expect free thought to be encumbered by the shackles that it encountered in the past in order to take hold: it is to be hoped that every new theory be considered on its own merits and not met by a wall of prejudices constructed from previous comparisons. For this reason, we are confident that a work of investigation whose contents must leave the reader anything but indifferent to its proposals will not be forced to fight against such a bulwark. With The Apples of Apollo: Pagan and Christian Mysteries of the Eucharist (Durham, NC, Carolina Academic Press, 2001, 272 pages, 46 illustrations, ISBN 0-89089-924-X,, Carl A.P. Ruck, Blaise Daniel Staples and Clark Heinrich have investigated the great myth of human civilization; using the tools of comparative analysis, much as a team of archaeologists would excavate the remains of a buried site, they have exposed a hidden truth, mending step by step, argument by argument the scaffolding of what is probably one of the most ancient archetypes of humanity: the discovery of a god that grows beneath the trees, whose "seeds" are sown into the earth by the wind and nourished by the clouds and their rains, a god whose nature is to stand erect upon one leg and shine amongst the grasses and plants of the woodlands, a pure white stipe crowned by the intense redness of its white-speckled capital. Ruck, Staples and Heinrich have raked Antiquity searching for the presence of the sacred mushroom, Amanita muscaria, in the genesis and development of diverse myths by following a chain that binds together such seemingly unrelated figures as Perseus the Gorgon-slayer, the Essenes returned to the world at Qumran and the most notable thaumaturges of our own era.

Whoever approaches these pages must accept the challenge of drinking new wine from an old wineskin, and then he will not only discover a novel viewpoint on archaic themes, but also a whole new method of interpretation, fruitful in its essence and fruitful in its form. There are already no possible doubts about the role that a small mushroom shaped like a "horn," Claviceps purpurea, played as the basic ingredient of the sacred drink of Eleusis, the kykeon, and the fact of its constituting the agency whereby the faithful, who came from all over the Greek world to gather at Eleusis to celebrate the mysteries, experienced the mystical vision. A spiritual pilgrimage made in much the same way that the faithful of Islam have a duty to make their pilgrimage to Mecca, or the faithful walk the road to Santiago de Campostela. Nor can there be any doubt about the true identity of Soma, the god who materializes in India as Amanita muscaria and pours itself forth over its worshippers like a golden rain of beatitude, just as the rain of gold that Zeus sprinkled upon the Greek Danaë so that she might conceive the divine Perseus, the gatherer of mushrooms.

However, there are still many people who doubt the presence of the sacred mushroom within the structures of our mythological complexes, whether these mythologies are Greek, Hindu, Jewish or those of any of the various other world cultures. In the process of intellectual dialogue, the most obsolete and unproductive response will always be that of an automatic negative response, the unthinking rejection; wisdom obliges us to examine an idea with reason and objectivity. From there a discussion of this idea may follow. But this same wisdom disappears when we strike at the pillars of Faith. Without any question of a doubt, the most controversial chapter of The Apples of Apollo is Chapter Five, Jesus, the Drug Man, in essence the pivotal point of the entire work. In this chapter the reader will be confronted with a Christ linked to the use of entheogens, a Christ who is the dispenser of "enlightenment" through the mushroom, a Christ, in short, who commits an assault upon the essence of the Christianity that comes after him. This later Christianity seeks to approach God through Faith, a blind acceptance of indemonstrable truths, instead of through the direct experience of God.

It may be that the reader will not be able to divest himself of the inevitable prejudices in which we have all been indoctrinated and will succumb to the temptation to reject the proposals and evidence presented here before even examining it, but this would be an inexcusable error: the authors have worked in accordance with the strictest standards of scholarship and offer in support of their re-examination of their subject an impressive array of data from every source available and innumerable textual citations from the primary material. This documentation, presented as footnotes on the page in conjunction with their case, allows the reader to refer to the original expression of particular points while simultaneously considering the new interpretations being given. Thus, the reader himself is given the capability of judging as he progresses through the argument the true meaning of the materia prima, according to his own particular world view.

The Apples of Apollo also confirms that the character of early Christianity as a mystery religion cannot be understood as being merely marginal to the other mystery religions of the ancient world. Moreover, if all of these other mystery religions resorted to the experience of God via an entheogen as the means through which the initiate came to know God himself, can it seem reasonable to us that Christ would seek to convince his fellow Jews of his divinity through nothing more than demanding from them an act of Faith?

When I was a child, the parish priest used to tell us in catechism classes that the Jews were evil for not accepting the -- according to him -- manifest divinity of Christ; but in reality, if Christ were to return again to the world proclaiming himself to be the Son of God, who among us would take him seriously? Who would ever believe it? For Christ, it would be necessary to perform some act of magic, or demonstrate a telepathic ability, or, more simply, be allowed to prove to us by demonstration the actual existence of God. The Christian mystics subjected themselves to horrendous sufferings (fasting to near starvation, isolation akin to sensory deprivation for years on end, self-torture, and so on) all in order to obtain the experience of God; the Whirling Dervishes seek to enter a state of altered consciousness in their dancing; the same goal is sought by the yogis in India and through the controlled breathing execises of the Zen masters. The drive is universal: to somehow perceive divinity. Consider the hashish of the Sufis or the peyote of the Huicholes. The institution of the eucharist now consists literally in the ingestion of a substance that alters consciousness, albeit a weak one -- wine. But more disturbing than the inefficacy of the wine as a key to divine revelation, is that the Church finds the idea of eating god preferible to eating the plant of God, which is, by definition, also that very same God, like the bush which burned in the Sinai with an incombustible fire before Moses. The secret of those flames is but one of many revealed within these pages.

So let's escape from prejudice. Let's abandon the fear of reconsidering our dogmas from a new perspective. Let us feel once again the fascination of the unknown, recover the distinctly human aspiration for the quest, even at the risk of the pain it might cause us. Let us dare . . . Let's open the pages of The Apples of Apollo, journey through them, discover their proposals and who knows: it could be that, after all, the truth lies therein.

José Alfredo González Celdrán
Murcia, Spain, 2001