“Gnostic” Is an Open Question: An Interview with Elaine Pagels

Jump to Section

Jump to Section

The following is excerpted from Voices of Gnosticism, a selection of interviews with scholars of Gnosticism available from Bardic Press.

Elaine Pagels is author of The Gnostic Gospels, The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, The Origin of Satan, and Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. She is Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University.

The writings of Elaine Pagels are possibly the most substantial contribution to the advancement of modern Gnostic studies. Her seminal book, the award-winning bestseller The Gnostic Gospels, awoke a global interest in Gnosticism across the entire spectrum. The Gnostic Gospels, named one of the top 100 books of the twentieth century by the Modern Library, is widely considered an essential reference companion or at least primer to any involvement with the Nag Hammadi library. Beyond Belief, another very popular work, is regarded as one of the most affecting and sagacious efforts concerning the Gospel of Thomas (as well as the esoteric frequencies of the Gospel of John). And in between, Pagels’ other publications have extracted early, alternative Christianity out of the halls of academia and into mainstream awareness.

Ironically, our interview on Gnosticism was not about Gnosticism, or actually could have never been about Gnosticism, by default. Like Karen King, Michael Williams, Ismo Dunderberg and other scholars, Pagels has evolved into a doubting Thomas when it comes to accepting there was ever an ancient, religious movement known as Gnosticism. Unlike Marvin Meyer and Birger Pearson, she views these terms as needlessly problematic, at best, and ultimately intellectually constraining at worst. Pagels stressed this issue throughout much of our discussion for the basic reason the terms “Gnosticism” and “Gnostic” hijack an individual’s ability to fully retrieve the bounty found in the formative stages of Christianity. In essence, these terms are a sort of light pollution that has dazzled scholarly and religious minds but obfuscated an almost endless constellation of elemental Christian sects, each emanating from the same theological Big Bang but with their own unique and educational illumination.

Pagels perhaps went further than other academics in stating that even accepting Gnostic subdivisions such as Valentinianism and Sethianism was potentially falling into the mental quicksand of leaning too much on expedient but generalizing labels. Doing this inevitably creates a myopic projection into the Nag Hammadi library itself, conceivably aborting the possibility of taking accurate snapshots of youthful Christianity. Furthermore, within these accepted Gnostic categories, there exist so many contradictions in history, dogma and even praxis that it makes them all but cumbersome. Pagels believes the most sapient approach is to discard all conventional Gnostic groupings and place them under the Christianity rubric. Without these constraints, apocryphal and canonical texts, the Church Father writings, and historical evidence are beheld together in a more harmonious manner that can induce a deeper midwifing of the tenets of Jesus Christ.

Although as erudite as any scholar today, perhaps it is Pagels’ wisdom to keep matters simple when necessary that has made her the pre-eminent popularizer of ancient heresies. Although “Gnosticism” and “Gnostic” may be obstructive, Gnosis itself is far from it. Like Pagels stated in our interview, humanity’s reacquaintance with its “image of God” or “Divine Spark” is a critical and uplifting kernel motif that all of Christendom shares, past and present. After that, other layers of doctrine fall into place almost effortlessly (or at least Pagels has made them seem effortless). Certainly worth mentioning is her almost childlike, humble wonder of a subject she has earnestly pursued for generations, as revealed by the mere fact Pagels was just as interested before and during the interview in my own perspectives on Gnosticism as she was in sharing her ideas.

Even when it came to the Gospel of Judas, Pagels once more had an intelligible yet judicious view of the Gnostic Judas. Instead of seeing Judas as a delegate of the despotic demiurge, as April DeConick posited, or an astral pontiff of the eternal realm, as Marvin Meyer proposed, Pagels placed him in the sensible middle, beyond extremes. Judas Iscariot in the Gospel of Judas essentially symbolizes humanity in general — constrained by fate yet endowed with certain transcendental choices, caught in a continual see-saw of rejecting and accepting the providence of the divine, able to fully accept or completely ignore the message of salvation from the living Christ, and simultaneously a flawed hero and enlightened villain in creation’s grand but rickety stage. The Gnostic Judas is each one of us, and Pagels’ unadorned yet astute observation opens this Sethian text to greater lessons, whether historical or inspirational.

Although her legacy was cemented decades ago, Pagels, as she mentioned, will continue to reward both the scholarly and religious provinces with further insights on the wonders of a small yet labyrinthine faith that became history’s dominant religion. Whether “Gnosticism” or “Gnostic” remain in culture’s lexicon seems to be of little concern to her in the end. What matters are those countless, individual stars of the constellation called Christianity representing the assorted theologies the primordial followers of Jesus of Nazareth left behind for civilization’s edification.


Miguel Conner: Professor Pagels, you’re considered one of the pioneers of the so-called Gnostic studies, beginning with your ground-breaking book The Gnostic Gospels. How did you get into the study of heretical Christianity and what has been the most rewarding thing about it?

Elaine Pagels: Well, those are great questions. First of all, I didn’t think of getting into the study of heretical Christianity — I thought of getting into the study of Christianity. I went to do that in graduate school, and I was absolutely astonished to find out that my professors had file cabinets full of gospels I’d never heard of. So I was looking for the earliest we could find about Jesus and what he really taught; and what I discovered at Harvard was that all these secret gospels had been discovered, and they’re early — we don’t know how early but certainly first, second, third century. And they were completely changing the field. It’s like suddenly we could see the other side of the moon. So I found that very exciting, it made the study of the beginning of Christianity a lot more dense, specific, complicated and interesting.


When I talk to scholars they always say, well, it seems like we’ve only just begun every time they put out a book or write a paper.

Well, personally that’s true because when people study the beginning of Christianity they’re really looking for the real thing — that’s what I was looking for. So there are very strong presuppositions that we bring with us. You said “so-called Gnostic Christianity.” That’s a good qualification because what do we mean by that? What do we think that means? I was told when I first read, say, the Gospel of Thomas that it was a Gnostic text. The people who said that knew what they meant. They said, well, it’s a Gnostic text, that means it’s got to be dualistic, it’s got to have philosophical speculation and weird mythology and a very dismal negative view of the world. And when people started to read it and they didn’t find philosophical speculation or bizarre mythology or dismally negative views of the world, they said, well, that shows us that Gnostics are sneaky. They don’t tell you what they mean. But they just read all of that into it. And if you read lots of articles, in fact you can read text books that are the most respected in the field, which I could name, but I’d better not, which say that you can’t understand the Gospel of Thomas if you don’t understand that it has weird mythology and bizarre stuff that isn’t in there, but you’ve got to know this before you can read it. I said to the person who wrote that, well, why don’t you just read it? And he said, well it doesn’t make any sense. And I said, well, what you’re saying doesn’t make any sense. So we have a very different understanding of that.


So they’re basically saying you have to have Gnosis before you understand the Gnostic gospels?

Well, they’re saying you have to understand the Gnostic myth. Now, that so-called Gnostic myth was, in a way, constructed by Hans Jonas out of his book The Gnostic Religion. It’s a brilliant book. I’m sure you’ve read it. I read it. It inspired me. It was wonderful. But you don’t always find that stuff in these texts. But people often find what they’re looking for. So what exactly is “Gnostic” is a real open question. What do we mean by that?


I’m sure that it must have been a meme that almost couldn’t be stopped. Because the Nag Hammadi library is out there, and suddenly you’re going, “Oh my God, this is the Gospel of Truth that Irenaeus quoted. This is the Secret Book of John that Irenaeus quoted. So therefore the whole thing is monolithic.”

Well, what that tells you is it’s second century. In 2005 somebody called me out of the blue and said, “I have a text I’d like you to edit.” “What’s that?” I asked. He said, “It’s the Gospel of Judas.” And I thought, “Hah, how does he know that there really was a Gospel of Judas?” Unless you read second-century weird texts like I do, you would never have a clue that there’d be a Gospel of Judas. In fact, I thought it might be Irenaeus’ irony to talk about that, because we never saw anything close to it, until it was discovered in 2006. But what you know then is that this wasn’t written in the eighteenth century, it was actually written early in the Christian movement.


Right now there’s a discussion on the relevance and expediency of the words “Gnostic” and “Gnosticism.” You have the brilliant argument in the Williams/King paradigm that states they should be discarded. On the other hand you have people like Marvin Meyer or Birger Pearson that believe that these terms are still useful pointers. Where exactly do you stand on this, Professor Pagels?

I guess that’s an interesting point, and it’s not an easy one. I mostly tend to agree with Michael Williams and Karen King that the term isn’t too useful because it brings with it associations that people then project onto whatever they’re reading. So I guess I prefer to put the labels aside, and say, “What are we talking about?” Because in some cases, the Gospel of Thomas particularly, it doesn’t have the characteristics Hans Jonas identified. It is, I think, a mystical text, and probably contains some very early sayings of Jesus.


And, on a side note, what is your dating of the Gospel of Thomas?

Well, Miguel, I just do a pretty conventional one. I was told initially that it was dated to 140 — well, it’s got to be heretical, so obviously it’s a late text, a generation later than anything else we have. Then other people said, well, you know, maybe this is an early version of Jesus traditions. And my teacher, Helmut Koester, suggested it was written in the year 50, which puts it 20 years earlier than anything in the New Testament. But I think that’s extreme. I think it’s probably about 90 or 100. We have fragments of it that come from the early second century, as we do of the Gospel of John and Matthew. So I think it’s probably early, but there’s no reason to put it that early. They wanted to say, “this is the original teachings of Jesus,” which is a tempting idea but you can’t prove it.


On the other hand you have also the writings of Paul that are circulating, and it seems that the Thomasine community had no idea about them.

Yeah, well there’s no evidence that they have any knowledge of Paul. That’s an interesting point.


So, would it be safe to say that under the Gnostic umbrella we can put the Valentinians, the Sethians and perhaps later on the Manichaeans?

I would think so, I would think so, but I’ve come to the conclusion that what we call Gnostic is a wide range of sources. In the collection that was found at Nag Hammadi you’ve got something like the Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth, which is a Hermetic text. It’s a meditation text, I’d say it’s a mystical text. You have Allogenes, which is another meditation text. It’s fascinating. It looks like it’s influenced by Buddhism. So would you call that Gnostic? I don’t know. It depends what you’re calling Gnostic.


Maybe it’s like John Turner says, Sethians who became very Neoplatonized and got away from Christianity. Like you say, it’s very hard to pinpoint, except for the real hardcore ones, like the Secret Book of John.

Yeah, I mean, do you have a definition of Gnostic? What definition do you use?


Well, I think we touched upon some of them. Going back again to Hans Jonas, obviously you have the myth of the false God, but that could put you into Marcionism, the false world, the myth of Sophia, or a fallen divine principle, the divine seed that lies within that can be awoken by an intermediary, world hating — you did mention that one, but that one is of course debatable. Am I missing something?

That’s the list you would use?

That would be close to a list I would use, yes.

Mainly people have developed those kinds of characteristics from, as you say, the Apocryphon of John. And it fits pretty well there. It doesn’t fit a lot of other texts, and I just think that under that umbrella we have put a wide range of perspectives.


But, let’s say, Valentinus writing the Gospel of Truth, as Einar Thomassen says, not every time he sat down to write a gospel he was going to throw in all the cosmology and cosmogony and theogony.

Yes, you see, that’s because Einar Thomassen assumes that underneath the Gospel of Truth there is all that stuff. Maybe there is. Maybe Valentinus did have that kind of mythology, but if you read what we have from him, which is, as you know, very little, this beautiful little poem Summer Harvest. It’s a beautiful poem, and I don’t see any hint of that in there. Some people do, though. You can read it into it, but I don’t know if Valentinus knew all that stuff. I love the Valentinian material. I work on those most because it has a view of the world that is like Princeton today, which is just perfectly glorious-the sun coming through the leaves, the most brilliant colors. As the Gospel of Thomas said, the kingdom of God is inside you and outside you. And here you can see the beauty of it. It just happens to be one of those fabulous days here. So the Valentinians have that vision of the world and the divine energy that pervades it that I find also in the Gospel of Thomas. And I do find that somewhat different from the Sethian view.


And another point that I might have missed is I would classify — and a lot of scholars would as well — would classify Gnosticism as dualist. Not in the Zoroastrian sense of two Gods opposing each other like with the Manichaeans or Cathars, but dualist in the sense of the separation of spirit and matter. Where do you stand on this?

Well, that’s interesting. That’s an interesting point. I just find it really hard to generalize, because as I read the Gospel of John, it’s the same kind of thing. I mean, the Gospel of John talks about the light shining in the darkness of the world, a world lost in sin and darkness, and the presence of God isn’t visible in the world except when the Logos shines into it. Paul sometimes talks that way, too. So I think that certainly a strong distinction between spirit and flesh is present in a lot of Christian literature.


Yeah, but of course, the Gospel of John and the Pauline letters were definitely something that the Valentinians were definitely very fond of.

Yes, they were. They loved that stuff. There’s no reason not to think, as I would guess, that Valentinus was taught by a student of Paul, and then he felt he was a kind of disciple of Paul. Not Thomas. As you say, that tradition doesn’t show any knowledge of Paul, but Valentinus seems to be aware of that tradition.


And when somebody comes up to you, a student or another teacher, and says, “Well, Professor Pagels, does the pleroma or the All encompass matter and spirit? Or is the pleroma distinct from the kenoma?” Or is it like Ismo Dundenberg says, that’s almost impossible to answer because in Valentinianism there’s always different schools disagreeing with each other.

Well, I think that he has a good point there. I would tend to think of the pleroma in the way that Origen talks about the divine fullness of being, as quite different from the material world. That’s the usual understanding of it. I think Origen sees it that way too.


What about the notion that Gnosticism or what we call the Gnostics, could have been a pre-Christian Gnosticism? Or do you see Gnosticism as definitely coming out of the Christian matrix?

Good question. I thought that Edwin Yamauchi’s book was really clear, that there’s no evidence for pre-Christian Gnosticism. Before that, in the nineteenth century, people were treating it as having Persian or Zoroastrian or other influences-there’s a lot of different cultural influences in there in that mix, but I don’t see any evidence for what the fathers of the Christian churches called Gnosticism before the second century. There were influences, sure, but in a way I think that develops out of their meditation on and reflection on the teachings of Jesus. That’s what Ptolemy says. In the Letter to Ptolemy he says it’s all about the words of the savior, also about Genesis.


And, to be fair, in those days there was such a stew of ideas that it would be impossible to have any religion coming out of a vacuum.

Absolutely. Especially a religion as complex and widely dispersed as the early Christian movement. You see the images of Horus and Isis in the mother and the child, you see the images of the Great Mother in the pictures of the Virgin Mary that comes out of Asia Minor, what is now Turkey. And of course a great deal of influence from the Jewish bible-that’s the major influence. And Greek Gods and stories about virgin birth, and so forth. So it’s a huge cultural synthesis, what we call Christianity anyway. And Gnosticism too.


Yes, the evidence is still pretty sparse. No silver bullets or Rosetta stones yet.

No, that’s right. We might find some.


Egypt will give us more presents, perhaps.

And how did this fascinate you? How did you get so intrigued by this material?


It was honestly one of those “don’t touch it” things. I went to a Catholic college, St. Thomas in Houston, and we were taught by Basilian priests; one of the speeches we got from the priests in every class, whether it was Old Testament or New Testament classes, had to do with the Gnostics, for about five minutes at the beginning of the semester. They’re heretics, you know. So of course, that made me interested, but then life went on and I remained a Catholic but kind of shopped around for religions. But the Gnostics always stayed in the back of my mind and your book The Gnostic Gospels was actually the first one I ever read and my response was “Wow!” like you; there’s so much to Christianity that we don’t know, this rich tradition that goes on almost forever.

There is, and there’s a lot of dissidents that we never really knew about. A lot of arguments and discussions in the early Christian movement get completely wiped out in the history, and they become harmonised, and everybody’s happy and they all agree each other. But, for example, when you get the Gospel of Judas discovered, one of the things it’s opened up for me is what Tertullian writes in the second century-an African writer, from North Africa-and he says, well, some people think martyrdom isn’t a good thing. They think it’s cruel that God wants us to die. Jesus said, ‘If they pursue you in one town, flee to the next’. I mean, that’s in the gospel, so why should people die as martyrs if they can avoid it? And other people say, well, Jesus died for your sins so that you wouldn’t have to die. I mean, God doesn’t want you to die. Tertullian says, no, martyrdom’s good for you. It’s like exercise. A good bracing martyrdom in the arena makes you strong. And besides, God loves it and nothing is more beautiful to God than the death of his saints. And you think, “What kind of God would find the death of his saints a beautiful thing?” So what you find out is, some people were saying, “No, it’s not at all what God wants. It’s completely wrong.” And if it weren’t for the Gospel of Judas and a couple of other writings from Nag Hammadi, you wouldn’t have any evidence of texts that express a very different point of view on martyrdom.


Yeah, the Apocalypse of Peter is another one that is very anti-martyrdom. Anti-many Christian sects, it seems.

Exactly, and the Testimony of Truth is the same, and critical of the leaders and the bishops that are pushing people into martyrdom. So they did really knock out the dissidents pretty much, and burn their literature.


In popular culture there’s this romanticized vision of the Catholic Church hunting down Gnostics in the second and third centuries and destroying them. But we really don’t have any evidence. It’s more like they probably just faded away.

Well nothing like that. In fact I assumed when I first wrote that Irenaeus had said they were bad, and so they did just kind of fade away, but the fact is: where did we find these texts? We found them in Egypt in the fourth century-fourth century!-being read, we now think, in a monastery. So if they’re being read in a monastery in the fourth century, they didn’t fade away. People were reading this stuff intensely and with great interest, and they were only stamped out with huge difficulty by Athanasius at the end of the fourth century when he told them to get rid of these other books in his letter of 367. But Christians were reading this material intensely as devotional literature. We can now see that.


Going back to the Gospel of Judas, Professor Pagels, where do you stand on the interpretation of Judas? We have April DeConick’s Thirteenth Apostle that sees Judas as a sort of incarnation of the thirteenth aeon or stellar lord; and then you have the softer interpretation that sees Judas as a priestly hero, or as John Turner calls him, “a fool of fate.” Where do you stand on Judas?

Well, I think that April DeConick and John Turner’s view that Judas is a completely benighted sort of devil figure is a huge exaggeration. The text is more complicated than that. What it suggests to me-and I’ve written about it, actually-is that Judas is the representative of the human race, which cannot be saved in its natural state, the state in which we’re born as children of Adam. Just as the Gospel of John says, you must be born again. If you’re not born again, you just die. If you’re spiritually born then you become a member of the heavenly race. It’s just like any Christian baptism. So the Gospel of Judas pictures Judas both as a representative of you the disciple-okay, you’re completely lost and hopeless. But if you’re baptized you become a member of the heavenly race. But what you get is scholars saying, either he’s the devil, which is hopeless and worthless and completely garbage, or he’s the best disciple of all. How do you get such contrary views? It’s because, I think, the Gospel of Judas is saying, before baptism, you, or any disciple, is hopeless and worthless, and bound to die and sinful. And after baptism you become a member of the divine race, and you become blessed. But it’s their kind of baptism, and it’s probably not the same.


How the Sethians viewed baptism, and how the Sethians saw apostolic Christianity and the old Jewish temple culture?

Yeah, exactly.


Here’s a question that I’m sure is very hard to answer. I’ve asked a few scholars without really getting an answer. We have the Valentinians and the Sethians. They seem to be very parallel, very similar. They have their differences. The Valentinians are more orthodox, they seem to be softer, whereas the Sethians are, you could say, the bad boys of that movement. Do you see them as having a common ancestor? A common theological ancestor? Or do you see them as cross breeding at some point? Or do we have any evidence?

Oh, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know. I kind of suspect that they’re reading the same texts, you know. They’re all reading the Hebrew Bible, they’re reading Genesis. The Sethians may not even be dealing with Jesus in the same way, though. I just don’t know. That’s a good question.


I’ve asked that question a lot. Maybe someone needs to write a book now. Do you see the Sethians as really like rebels who decided that they had had enough of the Jewish dispensation? Or as some scholars have said, they really saw themselves as elite or very kindly bodhisattvas who want to show people, no, this is a better way?

Well, you know, I guess I’ll leave that to the people who really work on those texts. I don’t work on them very much, so I don’t feel I’m the best person to speak about that.


And, Professor Pagels, could you give us maybe two or three stances that you’ve either made a 180 degree turn on, or perhaps highly modified concerning the so-called Gnostics since you started your research on them?

First of all, I just see a whole lot more variety in the texts than we originally assumed. Second, I’m not sure that I’d call them Gnostic. I’m not sure that we know what that means except for meaning what I designed it as meaning as having to do with a conviction about the divine that is within, and I think that’s consistent with a lot of these texts. So I guess I’ve really shifted on whether I think they’re Gnostic in some definable sense. Whatever that means, it’s gotten a lot more interesting and a lot more complicated.


But you still hold that there’s something called Gnosis as you write about that insight into yourself and into the divine?

Yes, of course. And the view that the divine light is hidden within us and we can find it, we don’t have to go through a church — that I think is common to these texts. I love that about them.


It seems that the Gnostics could be pretty dogmatic and structured and sacramental, at least some of them. The evidence points to some of them.

Some of them could. I’m not necessarily opposed to ritual and sacraments. I’m a viewer, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Actually, what Irenaeus says is some are using a lot of rituals, and others are saying it isn’t necessary to do that. And I think those two points are consistent with each other, or could be.


A lot of it is probably apocryphal, but some sources on the web say you were the source of saying that the Gnostics were more egalitarian or perhaps more feminist than other Christians. Do you still hold that view?

Well, there’s evidence that those groups that Irenaeus didn’t like were a lot more inclusive to women than others.


That’s the reading of the church fathers?

Yeah, of course, because they clamped down.


The old question is how much you can trust the church fathers. Don’t you have to put on a psychologist’s hat to understand them?

Well, you can probably understand anyone better with a psychologist’s hat.


That’s very true! Lastly, do you see anything exciting on the horizon for Gnostic studies? Anything coming up the well?

I’m having fun. I’m writing a book about the Book of Revelation and about Gnostic texts that are, if you like, books of revelation, and really wonderful ones-better than the one in the New Testament, I think.


Well, we certainly look forward to it. You don’t put books out very often, but when you do, wow, the ground shakes.

Well, thank you so much. It takes about ten years.


Wow! You’re almost as bad as Tolkien!

[Laughs] Yeah, well if I could end up like he did that would be great!


You already have a legacy, Professor Pagels, so don’t worry about it.

Well, that’s kind of you, thank you. I really enjoyed it, and I appreciate how knowledgeable you are.


Thank you, and you have yourself a good day.

Thank you, and you too.


Teaser image by Chris, courtesy of Creative Commons license.

Psychedelic Resources

A Foraging Trip: Where Do Magic Mushrooms Grow?
Eager to learn more about the origin of psilocybin species? Read this article to find out where magic mushrooms grow and more!

How to Make Shroom Tea: Best Recipe and Dosage
A step by step guide on how to brew shroom tea, and why entheogenic psilocybin tea is a preferred method for psychedelic connoisseurs.

R. Gordon Wasson: Author and Mushroom Expert
Learn about R. Gordon Wasson, the “legendary mushroom expert” and popular figure within the psychonaut community.

Shrooms vs Acid: Differences and Similarities Explained
Ever wondered what the differences are between shrooms vs acid, or if you can take both together? This guide explains what you need to know.

Quantum Mechanics, Reality, and Magic Mushrooms
Scientist and author Dr. Chris Becker takes an in-depth approach in understanding how we perceive reality through magic mushrooms and quantum mechanics.

Psilocybin Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to Psilocybin has everything you want to know about this psychedelic fungi from its uses to its legal status.

The Psilocybin Experience: What’s the Deal With Magic Mushrooms?
From microdoses to macrodoses, the psilocybin experience has been sought after both medicinally and recreationally for millennia.

Psilocybin and Magic Mushroom Resources
Curious to learn more about psilocybin? This guide is a comprehensive psilocybin resource containing books, therapeutic studies, and more.

Paul Stamets Profile: Mushroom Guru, Filmmaker, Nutritionist, Scientist
Learn about Paul Stamets, read his thoughts on psilocybin mircodosing, the future of psilocybin, and his recent film “Fantastic Fungi”.

Microdosing Psilocybin & Common Dosage Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivably, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing psilocybin.

Psilocybin Nasal Spray: Relief for Anxiety, PTSD, and Depression
Microdosing nasal spray with psilocybin, is that possible?! Oregan a start-up Silo Wellness believes so and has created this new option for PTSD treatment.

Mazatec Mushroom Usage: Notes on Approach, Setting and Species for Curious Psilonauts
A look at traditional Mazatec psilocybin mushroom usage, and a comparison to the cliniical therapeutic approach, with an examination of the Mazatec setting and species used in veladas.

María Sabina: The Mazatec Magic Mushroom Woman
Magic mushrooms are incredibly popular today. How they became introduced to into American culture isn’t usually a topic discussed while tripping on psilocybin fungi. We all may have María Sabina to thank for exposing the Western world to the healing properties of the psilocybin mushroom.

Guide to Magic Mushroom Strains
Are there different types of psilocybin? Read our guide to learn about the different magic mushroom strains and their individual effects.

Kilindi Iyi: Mycologist, Traveler, Teacher
Learn about traveler and mycologist Kilindi Iyi known in the psychedelic community for his research and exploration of psilocybin.

How to Store Shrooms: Best Practices
How do you store shrooms for optimal shelf life? Learn how and why the proper storage method is so important.

Shroom Chocolate Recipes: How to Make Magic Mushroom Chocolates
This recipe provides step by step directions on how you can make mushroom chocolates with the necessary ingredients. Read to learn more!

Why Do People Use Psilocybin? New Johns Hopkins Study
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicines has just published a new study on psychoactive effects of psilocybin. Read here to learn more.

How-To Lemon Tek: Ultimate Guide and Recipe
This master guide will teach you how to lemon tek, preventing the onset of negative effects after consuming psilocybin. Read to learn more!

How to Intensify a Mushroom Trip
Learn about techniques like Lemon tekking, or discover the right time to consume cannabis if you are looking to intensify a mushroom trip.

How to Grow Magic Mushrooms: Step-by-Step
This step-by-step guide will show you how to grow magic mushrooms at home. Read this guide before trying it on your own.

How to Dry Magic Mushrooms: Best Practices
Read to learn more about specifics for the best practices on how to dry magic mushrooms after harvesting season.

How to Buy Psilocybin Spores
Interested in psilocybin mushrooms? We’ll walk you through all you need to know to obtain mushroom spores. Nosh on this delish How To guide.

Hippie Flipping: When Shrooms and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Explore the mechanics of hippie flipping and how to safely experiment.

Having Sex on Shrooms: Good or Bad Idea?
Is having sex on shrooms a good idea or an accident waiting to happen? Find out in our guide to sex on magic mushrooms.

Gold Cap Shrooms Guide: Spores, Effects, Identification
Read this guide to learn more about the different characteristics of gold cap mushrooms, and how they differ from other psilocybin species.

Guide to Cooking with Magic Mushrooms
From cookies to smoothies and sandwiches, we cover various methods of cooking with magic mushrooms for the ultimate snack.

2020 Election: The Decriminalize Psilocybin Movement
Are you curious if mushrooms will follow in marijuana’s footsteps? Read to learn about how the U.S. is moving to decriminalize psilocybin.

Oregon’s Initiative to Legalize Mushrooms | Initiative Petition 34
Oregon continues to push ahead with their initiative to legalize Psilocybin in 2020. The measure received its official title and now needs signatures.

Canada Approves Psilocybin Treatment for Terminally-Ill Cancer Patients
Canada’s Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu approved the use of psilocybin to help ease anxiety and depression of four terminal cancer patients.

Mapping the DMT Experience
With only firsthand experiences to share, how can we fully map the DMT experience? Let’s explore what we know about this powerful psychedelic.

Guide to Machine Elves and Other DMT Entities
This guide discusses machine elves, clockwork elves, and other common DMT entities that people experience during a DMT trip.

Is the DMT Experience a Hallucination? 
What if the DMT realm was the real world, and our everyday lives were merely a game we had chosen to play?

How to Store DMT
Not sure how to store DMT? Read this piece to learn the best practices and elements of advice to keep your stuff fresh.

What Does 5-MeO-DMT Show Us About Consciousness?
How does our brain differentiate between what’s real and what’s not? Read to learn what can 5-MeO-DMT show us about consciousness.

How to Smoke DMT: Processes Explained
There are many ways to smoke DMT and we’ve outlined some of the best processes to consider before embarking on your journey.

How to Ground After DMT
Knowing what to expect from a DMT comedown can help you integrate the experience to gain as much value as possible from your journey.

How To Get DMT
What kind of plants contain DMT? Are there other ways to access this psychedelic? Read on to learn more about how to get DMT.

How DMT is Made: Everything You Need to Know
Ever wonder how to make DMT? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how DMT is made.

Having Sex on DMT: What You Need to Know
Have you ever wondered about sex on DMT? Learn how the God Molecule can influence your intimate experiences.

Does the Human Brain Make DMT? 
With scientific evidence showing us DMT in the brain, what can we conclude it is there for? Read on to learn more.

How to Use DMT Vape Pens
Read to learn all about DMT vape pens including: what to know when vaping, what to expect when purchasing a DMT cartridge, and vaping safely.

DMT Resources
This article is a comprehensive DMT resource providing extensive information from studies, books, documentaries, and more. Check it out!

Differentiating DMT and Near-Death Experiences
Some say there are similarities between a DMT trip and death. Read our guide on differentiating DMT and near-death experiences to find out.

DMT Research from 1956 to the Edge of Time
From a representative sample of a suitably psychedelic crowd, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who couldn’t tell you all about Albert Hofmann’s enchanted bicycle ride after swallowing what turned out to be a massive dose of LSD. Far fewer, however, could tell you much about the world’s first DMT trip.

The Ultimate Guide to DMT Pricing
Check out our ultimate guide on DMT pricing to learn what to expect when purchasing DMT for your first time.

DMT Milking | Reality Sandwich
Indigenous cultures have used 5-MeO-DMT for centuries. With the surge in demand for psychedelic toad milk, is DMT Milking harming the frogs?

Why Does DMT Pervade Nature?
With the presence of DMT in nature everywhere – including human brains – why does it continue to baffle science?

DMT Substance Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to DMT has everything you want to know about this powerful psychedelic referred to as “the spirit molecule”.

DMT for Depression: Paving the Way for New Medicine
We’ve been waiting for an effective depression treatment. Studies show DMT for depression works even for treatment resistant patients.

Beating Addiction with DMT
Psychedelics have been studied for their help overcoming addiction. Read how DMT is helping addicts beat their substance abuse issues.

DMT Extraction: Behind the Scientific Process
Take a look at DMT extraction and the scientific process involved. Learn all you need to know including procedures and safety.

Microdosing DMT & Common Dosages Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing DMT.

DMT Art: A Look Behind Visionary Creations
An entire genre of artwork is inspired by psychedelic trips with DMT. Read to learn about the entities and visions behind DMT art.

Changa vs. DMT: What You Need to Know
While similar (changa contains DMT), each drug has its own unique effect and feeling. Let’s compare and contrast changa vs DMT.

5-MeO-DMT Guide: Effects, Benefits, Safety, and Legality
5-Meo-DMT comes from the Sonora Desert toad. Here is everything you want to know about 5-Meo-DMT and how it compares to 4-AcO-DMT.

4-AcO-DMT Guide: Benefits, Effects, Safety, and Legality
This guide tells you everything about 4 AcO DMT & 5 MeO DMT, that belong to the tryptamine class, and are similar but slightly different to DMT.

How Much Does LSD Cost? When shopping around for that magical psychedelic substance, there can be many uncertainties when new to buying LSD. You may be wondering how much does LSD cost? In this article, we will discuss what to expect when purchasing LSD on the black market, what forms LSD is sold in, and the standard breakdown of buying LSD in quantity.   Navy Use of LSD on the Dark Web The dark web is increasingly popular for purchasing illegal substances. The US Navy has now noticed this trend with their staff. Read to learn more.   Having Sex on LSD: What You Need to Know Can you have sex on LSD? Read our guide to learn everything about sex on acid, from lowered inhibitions to LSD users quotes on sex while tripping.   A Drug That Switches off an LSD Trip A pharmaceutical company is developing an “off-switch” drug for an LSD trip, in the case that a bad trip can happen. Some would say there is no such thing.   Queen of Hearts: An Interview with Liz Elliot on Tim Leary and LSD The history of psychedelia, particularly the British experience, has been almost totally written by men. Of the women involved, especially those who were in the thick of it, little has been written either by or about them. A notable exception is Liz Elliot.   LSD Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety LSD, Lysergic acid diethylamide, or just acid is one of the most important psychedelics ever discovered. What did history teach us?   Microdosing LSD & Common Dosage Explained Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing LSD.   LSD Resources Curious to learn more about LSD? This guide includes comprehensive LSD resources containing books, studies and more.   LSD as a Spiritual Aid There is common consent that the evolution of mankind is paralleled by the increase and expansion of consciousness. From the described process of how consciousness originates and develops, it becomes evident that its growth depends on its faculty of perception. Therefore every means of improving this faculty should be used.   Legendary LSD Blotter Art: A Hidden Craftsmanship Have you ever heard of LSD blotter art? Explore the trippy world of LSD art and some of the top artists of LSD blotter art.   LSD and Exercise: Does it Work? LSD and exercise? Learn why high-performing athletes are taking hits of LSD to improve their overall potential.   Jan Bastiaans Treated Holocaust Survivors with LSD Dutch psychiatrist, Jan Bastiaans administered LSD-assisted therapy to survivors of the Holocaust. A true war hero and pioneer of psychedelic-therapy.   LSD and Spiritual Awakening I give thanks for LSD, which provided the opening that led me to India in 1971 and brought me to Neem Karoli Baba, known as Maharajji. Maharajji is described by the Indians as a “knower of hearts.”   How LSD is Made: Everything You Need to Know Ever wonder how to make LSD? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how LSD is made.   How to Store LSD: Best Practices Learn the best way to store LSD, including the proper temperature and conditions to maximize how long LSD lasts when stored.   Bicycle Day: The Discovery of LSD Every year on April 19th, psychonauts join forces to celebrate Bicycle Day. Learn about the famous day when Albert Hoffman first discovered the effects of LSD.   Cary Grant: A Hollywood Legend On LSD Cary Grant was a famous actor during the 1930’s-60’s But did you know Grant experimented with LSD? Read our guide to learn more.   Albert Hofmann: LSD — My Problem Child Learn about Albert Hofmann and his discovery of LSD, along with the story of Bicycle Day and why it marks a historic milestone.   Babies are High: What Does LSD Do To Your Brain What do LSD and babies have in common? Researchers at the Imperial College in London discover that an adult’s brain on LSD looks like a baby’s brain.   1P LSD: Effects, Benefits, Safety Explained 1P LSD is an analogue of LSD and homologue of ALD-25. Here is everything you want to know about 1P LSD and how it compares to LSD.   Francis Crick, DNA & LSD Type ‘Francis Crick LSD’ into Google, and the result will be 30,000 links. Many sites claim that Crick (one of the two men responsible for discovering the structure of DNA), was either under the influence of LSD at the time of his revelation or used the drug to help with his thought processes during his research. Is this true?   What Happens If You Overdose on LSD? A recent article presented three individuals who overdosed on LSD. Though the experience was unpleasant, the outcomes were remarkably positive.

The Ayahuasca Experience
Ayahuasca is both a medicine and a visionary aid. You can employ ayahuasca for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual repair, and you can engage with the power of ayahuasca for deeper insight and realization. If you consider attainment of knowledge in the broadest perspective, you can say that at all times, ayahuasca heals.


Trippy Talk: Meet Ayahuasca with Sitaramaya Sita and PlantTeachers
Sitaramaya Sita is a spiritual herbalist, pusangera, and plant wisdom practitioner formally trained in the Shipibo ayahuasca tradition.


The Therapeutic Value of Ayahuasca
My best description of the impact of ayahuasca is that it’s a rocket boost to psychospiritual growth and unfolding, my professional specialty during my thirty-five years of private practice.


Microdosing Ayahuasca: Common Dosage Explained
What is ayahuasca made of and what is considered a microdose? Explore insights with an experienced Peruvian brewmaster and learn more about this practice.


Ayahuasca Makes Neuron Babies in Your Brain
Researchers from Beckley/Sant Pau Research Program have shared the latest findings in their study on the effects of ayahuasca on neurogenesis.


The Fatimiya Sufi Order and Ayahuasca
In this interview, the founder of the Fatimiya Sufi Order,  N. Wahid Azal, discusses the history and uses of plant medicines in Islamic and pre-Islamic mystery schools.


Consideration Ayahuasca for Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Research indicates that ayahuasca mimics mechanisms of currently accepted treatments for PTSD. In order to understand the implications of ayahuasca treatment, we need to understand how PTSD develops.


Brainwaves on Ayahuasca: A Waking Dream State
In a study researchers shared discoveries showing ingredients found in Ayahuasca impact the brainwaves causing a “waking dream” state.


Cannabis and Ayahuasca: Mixing Entheogenic Plants
Cannabis and Ayahuasca: most people believe they shouldn’t be mixed. Read this personal experience peppered with thoughts from a pro cannabis Peruvian Shaman.


Ayahuasca Retreat 101: Everything You Need to Know to Brave the Brew
Ayahuasca has been known to be a powerful medicinal substance for millennia. However, until recently, it was only found in the jungle. Word of its deeply healing and cleansing properties has begun to spread across the world as many modern, Western individuals are seeking spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being. More ayahuasca retreat centers are emerging in the Amazon and worldwide to meet the demand.


Ayahuasca Helps with Grief
A new study published in psychopharmacology found that ayahuasca helped those suffering from the loss of a loved one up to a year after treatment.


Ayahuasca Benefits: Clinical Improvements for Six Months
Ayahuasca benefits can last six months according to studies. Read here to learn about the clinical improvements from drinking the brew.


Ayahuasca Culture: Indigenous, Western, And The Future
Ayahuasca has been use for generations in the Amazon. With the rise of retreats and the brew leaving the rainforest how is ayahuasca culture changing?


Ayahuasca Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
The Amazonian brew, Ayahuasca has a long history and wide use. Read our guide to learn all about the tea from its beginnings up to modern-day interest.


Ayahuasca and the Godhead: An Interview with Wahid Azal of the Fatimiya Sufi Order
Wahid Azal, a Sufi mystic of The Fatimiya Sufi Order and an Islamic scholar, talks about entheogens, Sufism, mythology, and metaphysics.


Ayahuasca and the Feminine: Women’s Roles, Healing, Retreats, and More
Ayahuasca is lovingly called “grandmother” or “mother” by many. Just how feminine is the brew? Read to learn all about women and ayahuasca.

What Is the Standard of Care for Ketamine Treatments?
Ketamine therapy is on the rise in light of its powerful results for treatment-resistant depression. But, what is the current standard of care for ketamine? Read to find out.

What Is Dissociation and How Does Ketamine Create It?
Dissociation can take on multiple forms. So, what is dissociation like and how does ketamine create it? Read to find out.

Having Sex on Ketamine: Getting Physical on a Dissociative
Curious about what it could feel like to have sex on a dissociate? Find out all the answers in our guide to sex on ketamine.

Special K: The Party Drug
Special K refers to Ketamine when used recreationally. Learn the trends as well as safety information around this substance.

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

Ketamine vs. Esketamine: 3 Important Differences Explained
Ketamine and esketamine are used to treat depression. But what’s the difference between them? Read to learn which one is right for you: ketamine vs. esketamine.

Guide to Ketamine Treatments: Understanding the New Approach
Ketamine is becoming more popular as more people are seeing its benefits. Is ketamine a fit? Read our guide for all you need to know about ketamine treatments.

Ketamine Treatment for Eating Disorders
Ketamine is becoming a promising treatment for various mental health conditions. Read to learn how individuals can use ketamine treatment for eating disorders.

Ketamine Resources, Studies, and Trusted Information
Curious to learn more about ketamine? This guide includes comprehensive ketamine resources containing books, studies and more.

Ketamine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to ketamine has everything you need to know about this “dissociative anesthetic” and how it is being studied for depression treatment.

Ketamine for Depression: A Mental Health Breakthrough
While antidepressants work for some, many others find no relief. Read to learn about the therapeutic uses of ketamine for depression.

Ketamine for Addiction: Treatments Offering Hope
New treatments are offering hope to individuals suffering from addiction diseases. Read to learn how ketamine for addiction is providing breakthrough results.

Microdosing Ketamine & Common Dosages Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing ketamine.

How to Ease a Ketamine Comedown
Knowing what to expect when you come down from ketamine can help integrate the experience to gain as much value as possible.

How to Store Ketamine: Best Practices
Learn the best ways how to store ketamine, including the proper temperature and conditions to maximize how long ketamine lasts when stored.

How To Buy Ketamine: Is There Legal Ketamine Online?
Learn exactly where it’s legal to buy ketamine, and if it’s possible to purchase legal ketamine on the internet.

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?
How long does ketamine stay in your system? Are there lasting effects on your body? Read to discover the answers!

How Ketamine is Made: Everything You Need to Know
Ever wonder how to make Ketamine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how Ketamine is made.

Colorado on Ketamine: First Responders Waiver Programs
Fallout continues after Elijah McClain. Despite opposing recommendations from some city council, Colorado State Health panel recommends the continued use of ketamine by medics for those demonstrating “excited delirium” or “extreme agitation”.

Types of Ketamine: Learn the Differences & Uses for Each
Learn about the different types of ketamine and what they are used for—and what type might be right for you. Read now to find out!

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

MDMA & Ecstasy Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to MDMA has everything you want to know about Ecstasy from how it was developed in 1912 to why it’s being studied today.

How To Get the Most out of Taking MDMA as a Couple
Taking MDMA as a couple can lead to exciting experiences. Read here to learn how to get the most of of this love drug in your relationship.

Common MDMA Dosage & Microdosing Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing MDMA.

Having Sex on MDMA: What You Need to Know
MDMA is known as the love drug… Read our guide to learn all about sex on MDMA and why it is beginning to makes its way into couple’s therapy.

How MDMA is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make MDMA? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how MDMA is made.

Hippie Flipping: When Shrooms and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Explore the mechanics of hippie flipping and how to safely experiment.

How Cocaine is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make cocaine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how cocaine is made.

A Christmas Sweater with Santa and Cocaine
This week, Walmart came under fire for a “Let it Snow” Christmas sweater depicting Santa with lines of cocaine. Columbia is not merry about it.

Ultimate Cocaine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
This guide covers what you need to know about Cocaine, including common effects and uses, legality, safety precautions and top trends today.

NEWS: An FDA-Approved Cocaine Nasal Spray
The FDA approved a cocaine nasal spray called Numbrino, which has raised suspicions that the pharmaceutical company, Lannett Company Inc., paid off the FDA..

The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Bioavailability
What is bioavailability and how can it affect the overall efficacy of a psychedelic substance? Read to learn more.

Cannabis Research Explains Sociability Behaviors
New research by Dr. Giovanni Marsicano shows social behavioral changes occur as a result of less energy available to the neurons. Read here to learn more.

The Cannabis Shaman
If recreational and medical use of marijuana is becoming accepted, can the spiritual use as well? Experiential journalist Rak Razam interviews Hamilton Souther, founder of the 420 Cannabis Shamanism movement…

Cannabis Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to Cannabis has everything you want to know about this popular substances that has psychedelic properties.

Cannabis and Ayahuasca: Mixing Entheogenic Plants
Cannabis and Ayahuasca: most people believe they shouldn’t be mixed. Read this personal experience peppered with thoughts from a procannabis Peruvian Shaman.

CBD-Rich Cannabis Versus Single-Molecule CBD
A ground-breaking study has documented the superior therapeutic properties of whole plant Cannabis extract as compared to synthetic cannabidiol (CBD), challenging the medical-industrial complex’s notion that “crude” botanical preparations are less effective than single-molecule compounds.

Cannabis Has Always Been a Medicine
Modern science has already confirmed the efficacy of cannabis for most uses described in the ancient medical texts, but prohibitionists still claim that medical cannabis is “just a ruse.”

Related Posts

Ready to explore the frontiers of consciousness?

Sign up for the Reality Bites newsletter and embark on a journey into the world of psychedelics, mindfulness, and transformation. It’s where the curious minds gather.

Become a conscious agent with us.

Featured Partner

Cosmic Melts

Cosmic Melts are the latest mushroom gummies we’ve been munching on. Choose from five fruity flavors, each gummy containing 350mg of Amanita muscaria.
Amanita muscaria offers a unique (and totally legal!) mushroom experience, and Cosmic Melts is an ideal entry point for the curious consumer.

Our Partners

We’re now streaming consciousness and medicine music all day, every day. Turn on, tune in, drop out.

Hear from the RS community in our new video series, spotlighting shared experiences and stories with plant medicines, psychedelics, consciousness, dreams, meditation, etc.

Welcome to Reality Sandwich. Please verify that you are over 18 years of age below.

Reality Sandwich uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By entering Reality Sandwich, you are agreeing to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.