A Brief Explanation
of an Unusual Book

from Clark Heinrich's
Strange Fruit

No one ascends into the heaven which ye seek, unless he who descends from the heaven which ye do not seek, enlighten him.
Dorn, Philosophia speculativa

History is never an accurate portrayal of what has gone before. Based as it is on the interpretation of whatever data might be available, even the best historical record fails at its task of reconstructing the past. Usually the more recent the past event the closer its reconstruction will be to reality, yet even events that happened only yesterday cannot be re-created perfectly in the present, even with the aid of television or motion pictures. The event is forever gone; what remains as memory is a different thing, however much it may resemble the past. And the more time that passes between an event and its retelling, the less the retelling is likely to resemble what actually happened, especially those events that transpired before the advent of the photographic plate and the audio recording device. Which is another way of saying that our knowledge of world history is sometimes little more than a patchwork of facts and assumptions made by consenting individuals.

All retellings of history that go beyond a mere listing of events, names and dates are speculative in nature, but it is religious history that often pushes the art of speculation over the line into fantasy, given the fact that many of the claims of religion are not only unprovable but incredible. History, especially religious history. has little objective reality.

The very nature of religious histories makes them especially vulnerable to interpretation, interpolation and, perhaps especially exaggeration. 'Selective memory' and 'invention' have long been the bywords of redactors everywhere whether political or religious, and it's a toss-up if we try to determine which category changes history the most to suit its purposes. We know now that what has come to be regarded as the 'truth' within a religious system is really a temporary consensus-reality based on centuries of interpretation and interpolation, and is not necessarily factual or accurate, all metaphysics aside. There is ample room for disputation and reinterpretation in every religion and spiritual system, regardless of the current consensus.

It is easy for religions to lose their focus. Rather than remaining, as they began, the means to an end, they often end up as the end itself. Emphasis switches almost imperceptibly from saving souls to saving and perpetuating the institution and its putative saviour, sometimes at any cost.

Suppose the leaders of such an institution discovered an embarrassing or damaging fact from their own history. They could reveal the truth and take the consequences, or simply destroy the evidence; which would they do? If, for example, it were known only by the Vatican that the body of Jesus had in reality been spirited away from its tomb and secretly buried, could anyone seriously entertain the notion that the information would be released? Not for a moment. With that foundation-block removed the entire structure of Christianity would collapse like a house of cards, the papacy included.

A given religion does whatever it can to protect and build on the status quo. Scholars working from within a religion - that is, believers - generally aren't looking for anything new in their research; they are seeking confirmation of the official positions. Those doing research from the outside of a system may criticize or reinterpret doctrine, dispute historicity or, as in the case of the Nag Hammadi texts and the Dead Sea scrolls, work with other scholars to translate and reveal to the world recently discovered documents. Those with an antipathy towards religion might seek to undermine or destroy the credibility of a religious institution, while others, regarding religion as a bothersome anachronism based in fantasy, might simply choose to view the whole field as irrelevant.

What is seldom done by scholars and researchers of any persuasion, however, is to look at religious writings for evidence of secret information that may be encoded within them. This is because there are very few to whom the idea even occurs, and because such secrets, should they exist, would be not only very difficult to detect but difficult or impossible to verify after so long a time. If today's religions and myths hold dark secrets from their respective beginnings they must have been entombed better than Jesus was.

Yet if such encoding were found to exist it could, depending on the content, force an immediate re-evaluation of everything concerned with the given religion or system of beliefs. It is clear today that some early religions did have secret teachings, even though their contents are not readily traceable in existing texts. We know, for example, that the teachings of Jesus are filled with references to his duplicitous method of teaching 'those who have not' (the general public) only by reciting obscure parables of slight spiritual value, whUe privately giving 'those who have' (his inner circle) secret teachings reserved for them alone. We know he did it but we don't know why. What would this breakaway cult have had to hide?

Considering what we know about drug use and group sexual activities in certain early religious cults, there may have been quite a bit to hide. I believe that a number of the writings that have come down to us from ancient religious movements do contain secret double entendres, the alternative meanings of which, quite intentionally, are not apparent in a casual reading of the text. Many of these writings contain curious sayings and references that have never been adequately explained or understood, seemingly designed to remain forever hidden unless the ruse be revealed and the passwords made known. I believe I have discovered some of the passwords.

The theme of religious symbolism has been worked to near exhaustion over the course of centuries, but I am speaking of a different kind of symbolism altogether, one that truly throws the two halves of the coin together, in the original sense of the word 'symbol', to reveal a secret message and allow entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the cult.

I have given new readings to some well-known spiritual stories as well as to a number of lesser-known and sometimes exceedingly bizarre tales, many of which deal with the use of magical foods and drinks. This is a subject usually given short shrift by scholars and exegetes, an apparent lack of interest I find rather odd given the strange and wonderful things that were said to have happened to the characters who did the eating and drinking.

Some of these stories have assumed the form of myth, while others are still actively promoted as being accurate and true accounts of real events, even to the point of touted inerrability. I know it is considered impolite, and sometimes dangerous, to look critically at religion, but not to do so is to help speed freedom of religion (which includes the freedom not to espouse any religion) on its way to becoming just another revised memory.

Often a religion will claim to own the only, or best, truth in the universe. In giving alternative readings for these various 'truths' I am not making any such claim for myself or this book, although I do believe that everything I am proposing is feasible, however unlikely it may seem at first. I happen to believe it may be true as well, but belief doesn't prove anything. It's simply belief. Even though my interpretations can't be proved they can be compared to the accepted or standard interpretations, and this is what I have done, making good use of Occam's Razor in the process.

Carving away at the complicated, irrational and unnatural explanations offered by theologians for the strange or 'miraculous' events recounted in the stories, I didn't stop until all that remained were simple, rational and natural explanations. Or so they seem to me; some people may feel otherwise. There is already too much religious 'truth' being rammed down people's throats for my taste; my ideas are suggestions, not demands.

I call the work a speculative history, though others, after reading it, may prefer to call it a historical fiction. Some will consider much of the material to be blasphemous, or shocking, or scandalous, or utterly ridiculous, but that is to be expected, even though most religious doctrine is less believable than what you are about to read. 'True religion' will stand the test of both blasphemy and scrutiny; if none of my speculations ring true they will quickly be forgotten.

More than anything else this is a book of correspondences, a book of parallels. The longer I researched my subject the more astonished I became at the parallels I was finding. After a while, speculating as to the meaning of these parallels became the natural thing to do, so this is also a book of speculations. Quantum physics speaks of possible parallel universes existing alongside the one we know; this book can be thought of as a parallel history. These things may have happened as I am presenting them or they may not have, but one thing is certain: I have discovered a definite pattern of related symbols in story after story, even stories from different traditions and different parts of the world. As disparate as these stories are they all have in common distinct correspondences to one and the same thing: the beautiful and intoxicating Amanita muscaria mushroom, commonly known in English as the fly agaric.

Already I have been accused of being a monomaniac who sees mushrooms everywhere and I understand why, but the truth is i don't see mushrooms everywhere; i just see them in some places where others haven't, and this book shares with the reader my eighteen years of mushroom-sightings. I don't expect that everyone will see what I see. In some stories and artworks it will be easy to find the hidden mushrooms; in others it will be more difficult. The key to my findings is the fly agaric itself and the knowledge of its appearance, life-cycle and effects, all of which will be described in some detail; the many original and unusual colour photographs of the mushroom included in the book will greatly help the reader in this regard.

I wanted to see how many locks the fly agaric key might fit and possibly open. and I was amazed at the number of times it appears to do both. This 'unlocking' of secrets will unfold throughout the book; I urge the reader not to form premature judgements. One speculation may seem right on the mark, while the next may appear to be nonsense; I freely admit that some assertions are more tenable than others. The continuity of the material will become apparent only when the whole work has been examined: the stories. the parallels, the photographs, the artworks.

The correspondences contained in the succeeding chapters are too numerous to assign to mere chance or an overactive imagination, although some will do just that. If it is simply a matter of imagination I invite anyone to take any other single plant (real, not imaginary), or anything else for that matter, and make it fit these stories and works of art as easily as the fly agaric does. The futility of the exercise should become apparent very quickly.

This book is the fruit of many years of research, fieldwork, intuitional reasoning and what I can only call revelation. I am not a scholar in the traditional sense, and the book does not pretend to be a model of high scholarship; I am, however, a poet and natural philosopher, well used to expressing myself without worrying overly much what others will think. As such I am free to speculate where many scholars and academics would not for fear of jeopardizing their reputations. ('But, after all,' writes Robert Graves, 'what is a scholar? One who may not break bounds under pain of expulsion from the academy of which he is a member.') Is this then a case of the fool rushing in where academics fear to tread? That is for the reader to decide.
Many years ago I decided that I could no longer allow any religion or person or government to make certain decisions for me, to determine what is best for me or what is true and what is not. Why should I, or any mature person, take another's word without question concerning the most important things in life? I don't think we should, and we certainly don't have to. Those who want a real education have to obtain it on their own, sometimes outside the officially sanctioned realms. This can be a lonely or even frightening undertaking, but I believe as the alchemists did that we should investigate nature and experiment when necessary, plumbing the depths of our nascent consciousness and comparing all the versions of reality that we can find or dream up, until ultimately we distil the truth in ourselves. We should seek out the available data, ask the right questions and make up our own minds. Or at least open them.

Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the all.
Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas

Good hunting.


This text was scanned from the book Strange Fruit
and put into HTML by Peter Meyer.
Published on Serendipity 2001-12-13 CE.
Thanks to Clark Heinrich for his excellent book.

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