Soma: The Sacred Mushroom
Soma is the name of an ancient sacred drink prepared from the juice of the Amanita muscaria mushroom. It was originally consumed over 3,500 years ago as a sacrament by high priests called Brahmins in ancient India, and allowed them to enter a higher state of consciousness and divine with God, or Brahma.
It was during these altered states of consciousness and heightened ability to perceive reality that the priests were able to compose the earliest of the Vedic texts — the Rigveda — one of the four Vedas that form the foundation of the world’s oldest extant religion: Hinduism.
For anyone who has experienced a psychedelic state before this probably won’t come as a surprise. The profound effect psychedelics can have on the mind is in many ways surreal and ineffable. Many people feel they are unable to fully communicate in words their experiences — limited by the boundaries of language.
Beyond this particular psychedelic, there are others that have also played and continue to play a pivotal role in some religions. The cactus Peyote, for example, is used ceremonially by Native American Indian tribes, and some South American tribes consume Ayahuasca, a brew made from the Psychotria viridis vine.
The ultimate purpose of using these psychedelics in a spiritual capacity is all the same: to enter one’s mind into a transcendental state of consciousness that is able to see past the veil of ordinary awareness and take a fleeting glimpse at the true nature of reality.
If you’re interested in learning more about the use and history of Soma, check out a book called Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality by R. Gordon Wasson (who was, interestingly enough, the vice president of J.P. Morgan before changing careers and getting into ethnomycology).