Mind Meld 126 | Psychedelic Mystery Traditions with Thomas Hatsis

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Thomas Hatsis is an author, lecturer, and historian with expertise in  psychedelia and religion. His latest book, Psychedelic Mystery Traditions is out now.


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Ever since I first encountered the phrase “mystery school,” the topic has been a persistent curiosity of mine. How could it not be?

Nutshelling the topic without doing tremendous violence to it isn’t easy, but I’ll give it a go– mystery traditions are initiatory rituals in which the people of antiquity dove headfirst into the fractal ocean of the indescribable, the unspeakable, the self-annihilating and the enlightening. An experience from which the participant was forever spiritually reoriented, stained with the almighty mystery of existence.   

This is a topic that will always, appropriately, be shrouded in mystery to a certain extent. For example, the most well known mystery school, the temple of Eleusis (which stood just outside of Athens), was destroyed way back in 396 AD. So due to sheer clock time alone there’s a lot we just don’t know.

That isn’t going to stop me from rambling about it though. In fact I’ve blabbed a bit about the subject of mystery schools before with some knowledgeable guests.

Our partner on this one, Thomas Hatsis, takes it to a whole new level though. He’s studied this subject from all angles. He’s scoured the historical sources, the contemporary books and, perhaps most importantly, he’s subjected himself to all manner of mind-altering potions. Possibly the very sort that were actually used in mystery traditions. Including a whole bunch of substances I’ve never even heard of.

So to put it plainly, Tom is a rare trifecta of rhetorical, historical and anecdotal tastiness!

Musings in this mind meld include –

  • The historic use of altered states and psychedelic substances from pre-history to now

  • Psychedelic cave paintings

  • Do what know what people used during mystery rituals?

  • Did Christians use psychoactive plants?

  • What compounds were actually used in mystery traditions?
  • More obscure psychoactive plants like Mandrake, Henbane, Scopolamine and Darnel

  • Something profound happens when you consider the natural world to be sacred

  • How Tom went from agnostic to sure there’s something beyond the pale



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