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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Allegro's Mushroom -- book excerpt

From my work in progress:

My husband Philip K. Dick became obsessed with John M. Allegro’s book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, which was first published in 1970, then disappeared amid a storm of controversy and was finally reissued in 2009, more than 20 years after Allegro’s death at age 65 in 1988. The thesis of Allegro’s book is that Christianity had its origin in a cult of mushroom eaters who told the fictional story of Jesus to disguise their recipes for vision-inducing drugs. He goes on to assert that early Christianity was simply one of many fertility cults.

Allegro was part of the original team that worked on the Dead Sea scrolls, until his refusal to fall in line with the orthodox interpretation of the scrolls led the team leader to publicly attack his work and eventually replace him. Any scholar who disagreed with the official “truth” was ridiculed or ignored by the small team of scholars (usually numbering half a dozen) who jealously guarded their treasure. For example, the team agreed that the scrolls had been written, and then hidden in caves, by a small Jewish sect known as Essenes, even though more recent scholarship tends to support the idea that the scrolls belonged to observant Jews. The scrolls might even have been secretly removed from Jerusalem shortly before the Romans captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple (Golb, pages 143 and 145-146).

Since only a handful of scholars had access to the scrolls, and they refused to allow other scholars to see them – or even to look at photographs of them – the orthodox interpretation faced few serious challenges until the Huntington Library began making microfilm copies of the scrolls available to all qualified scholars in 1991.

Norman Golb asserts that Allegro wrote The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross as a reaction to, and revenge for, being pushed out of the scrolls team (page 126, footnote). It certainly does attack Christianity, as Golb noted, and the primary members of the team were Catholic priests.

When Allegro published his book in 1970, he was immediately attacked by traditional scholars – not only the Dead Sea scrolls team – for his startling thesis that Christianity had its origins in a fertility cult that used hallucinogenic mushrooms. However, more recent scholarship and a number of primary texts and images from early Christianity tend to support Allegro’s theory about Amanita muscaria. However, his book contains errors and wild speculations that make it easy to find fault with his thesis. He seems to find what he is looking for, regardless of whether it actually exists.

The Amanita muscaria is a mushroom with white spots on the bright red cap, sitting atop a white stem. Numerous scholars have pointed out its resemblance to the red-and-white costume worn by Santa Claus. Like most red fruits, this mushroom is poisonous. It also causes hallucinations, plus wild frenzy followed by lethargy. It is also a purge, causing severe diarrhea. Allegro speculated that fertility cults used this mushroom to produce enthusiasm, in the sense of being filled with the divine spirit. He further speculated that Jesus Christ was simply a symbolic character who personified the mushroom. This proposition, of course, ignores the biblical prohibition against sorcery, which at the time meant pharmacy, the use of psychoactive drugs. Yet Allegro insists upon finding secret codes in the Bible that boil down to recipes for hallucinogenic potions.

I am going to be very tough on Allegro’s thesis, but The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross does have a great deal of value as an exploration of ancient religious ideas. I simply cannot agree that every snake is a penis and every womb is the volva (immature mushroom), or that a mushroom is a hermaphroditic creature consisting of a penis to be worshipped as God the Father while penetrating its own womb.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Walgreens helps you with the Express Scripts program problem

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Walgreens for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

The rising costs of medical care affect us all.  In particular, the cost of prescription drugs can make it difficult for us to pay for our health care needs.  Walgreens has always been a great place to get quality prescriptions at an affordable price.  So I'm glad to see that they are taking steps to help people who are suffering from the problems with Express Scripts.  

Despite their best efforts, Walgreens was unable to negotiate a mutually beneficial contract with the Express Scripts provider network, after a year of negotiations.  As a result, the contract expired on December 31, 2011, and Walgreens is no longer part of Express Scripts’ pharmacy provider network as of Jan. 1, 2012. This includes all Walgreens pharmacies nationwide and Duane Reade pharmacies in the New York City area.  Express Scripts have put America in the middle, while pharmacy profits remain flat and Express Scripts profits increase.  As a middleman type of operation, Express Scripts does not provide the services of a pharmacist, while skimming off the profits that should go to the pharmacies, 

Walgreens and Express Script

Only patients with certain prescription insurance plans managed by Express Scripts are impacted. It is best to check with your local Walgreens pharmacist to find out for sure if you’re impacted. Patients also can check the back of their prescription insurance card – if it has Express Scripts’ name there, then they may be affected. If it doesn’t say Express Scripts, then they are not affected.
In particular, the military and employers are suffering because Express Scripts requires them to go through pharmacies in the Express Scripts plan.  Those who have depended upon Walgreens over the years often have no choice but to resort to the Express Scripts mail-order [plan, which can be expensive and time-consuming.  
Patients covered by the Express Scripts program are being forced to change pharmacists and, in many cases to drive long distances to fill their prescriptions.  They are gaining no benefits in terms of their costs going down, and they are experiencing a lot of hassle.  It is pain with no gain.  This was unnecessary, and Walgreens is taking steps to help all those customers who have been affected by the situation. 
Walgreens is offering meaningful help to those affected by the situation.  Among the steps Walgreens is taking to minimize the disruption is offering a special discount on annual membership for its Prescription Savings Club. An individual can join during a special January promotion for only $5, or $10 for a family membership, and receive savings on more than 8,000 brand name and all generic medications. More than 400 generics are available with a three-month supply for less than $1 a week. Regular annual membership is $20 for an individual and $35 for a family.
What a great deal!  Sign me up! 

Visit Sponsor's Site

Thursday, January 12, 2012

and all I got was this lousy post card

Well, it's actually a letter, but the sentiment is the same.

I never saw a penny of the consultant fee that Jason Koornick promised me for my participation in his PKD biopic, even though the movie has been out for ten years.

That money could pay my bills for two or three months, but when I ask Jason about it, he ignores me.

So all I got was this lousy letter:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Magic mushrooms? John Allegro's book examined

My next book will be an exploration of John Allegro's book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, a work that fascinated my husband.

Allegro, a member of the Dead Sea scrolls team, developed a shocking thesis about early Christianity. He asserted that it was just one of many fertility cults, and that the early Christians achieved visionary experiences by eating a poisonous mushroom.

Watch for my book and Allegro's book, coming soon.


Friday, January 6, 2012

The Postmistress - book review

I read Sarah Blake's novel The Postmistress because it was this month's selection for the local book club.

I have mixed feelings about it, since the story is so important but the author is somewhat lacking in skill to tell it. Here's the beginning of my review:

Sarah Blake used a wealth of actual and imaginary history to craft a tale about ordinary people living through the horrors of Nazi Germany’s march across Europe, the London Blitzkrieg and the pogrom against European Jews. Based partly on research and mostly on imagination, she takes us into the lives of a menagerie – and there lies the problem. She gives us too many main characters, none of whom is the postmistress of the novel’s title. The story of Iris James, Postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts, turns out to be peripheral to the central story. Moreover, so many stories are told that the central story gets lost in the tangle of smaller stories.

Please follow the link and read my full review. It will increase the pittance that Epinions pays me.