Department for the Study of Religions, Masaryk University

Entheogens in the Study of Ancient Greek Religion: A Case of the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Delphic Oracle

Altered states of consciousness, either spontaneous or elicited by psychotropic substances, are known from many contemporary and historical religious traditions. Although the author of this presentation does not deny the merit of the study of these phenomena, he wants to demonstrate that, sometimes, the search for the entheogenic nature of particular religious practices can bring very doubtful or utterly misleading results. This conclusion will be supported by two case studies concerning two important religious institutions of Ancient Greece: the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Delphic Oracle of Apollo. In both of these instances, some scholars proposed explanations of Eleusinian and Delphic religious practices involving voluntary or involuntary use of psychotropic substances. In this paper, the arguments challenging the validity of these theories will be presented.

Aleš Chalupa