The Road to Eleusis
Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries
Publication Date: November 25, 2008
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The secretive Mysteries conducted at Eleusis in Greece for nearly two millennia have long puzzled scholars with strange accounts of initiates experiencing otherworldly journeys. In this groundbreaking work, three experts—a mycologist, a chemist, and a historian—argue persuasively that the sacred potion given to participants in the course of the ritual contained a psychoactive entheogen. The authors then expand the discussion to show that natural psychedelic agents have been used in spiritual rituals across history and cultures. Although controversial when first published in 1978, the book’s hypothesis has become more widely accepted in recent years, as knowledge of ethnobotany has deepened. The authors have played critical roles in the modern rediscovery of entheogens, and The Road to Eleusis presents an authoritative exposition of their views. The book’s themes of the universality of experiential religion, the suppression of that knowledge by exploitative forces, and the use of psychedelics to reconcile the human and natural worlds make it a fascinating and timely read. This 30th anniversary edition includes an appreciative preface by religious scholar Huston Smith and an updated exploration of the chemical evidence by Peter Webster.
R. Gordon Wasson (1898—1986) was a pioneer investigator of sacred indigenous mushroom rituals in Mexico in the 1950s. Albert Hofmann, the famed chemist who discovered the curious properties of LSD in 1943, recently celebrated his 100th birthday in Switzerland. Carl A. P. Ruck, an expert on ancient Greek ethnobotany, lives in Massachusetts.
“[Gordon Wasson has] made the specialty of mycology something of universal importance and one of the pillars of anthropology and the history of religions.”
—Octavio Paz, Nobel Prize-winning poet and author
“The Road to Eleusis grew out of a three-way collaboration of scholar-scientists sparked by R. Gordon Wasson’s insight into the true nature of an ancient religious ritual, the Eleusinian Mysteries. In collaboration with the world-renowned chemist, Albert Hofmann, and Carl Ruck, a Classical scholar specializing in the ethnobotany of ancient Greece, they give solid foundation to what Wasson deduced as the essence of the Mysteries. The three authors present their findings and their evidence, drawing the specialties of their three fields together in fascinatingly persuasive form.
“The content of those Mysteries is, together with the identity of India’s sacred soma plant, one of the two best kept secrets in history, and this book is the most successful attempt I know to unlock it. Triangulating the resources of an eminent Classics scholar, the most creative mycologist of our time, and the discoverer of LSD, [The Road to Eleusis] is a historical tour de force while being more than that. For by direct implication it raises contemporary questions which our cultural establishment has thus far deemed too hot to face.”
—Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religions
“The book’s themes of the universality of experiential religion, the suppression of that knowledge by exploitative forces, and the use of psychedelics to reconcile the human and natural worlds make it a fascinating and timely read.”