Psychedelic Drugs in Medieval Italy: The Gateway To God
“It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.” – Saint Francis of Assisi
On a recent holiday in Ischia, a charming island off the coast of Naples in Italy, I visited Castello Aragonese and found something that came as a surprise. It appears that some orders of Christian monks and nuns use mind altering drugs to achieve higher states of consciousness.
Before we get into my discovery in more detail, I want to briefly highlight how psychotic substances have been used since ancient times to cure mental and physical illnesses together with attaining spiritual goals.
During my Journey’s To Ancient Worlds in South America, it became evident our ancient ancestors were heavily into psychedelic drugs. Pipes, vessels like those used in chemistry, pots and metal spoons all appear to have served the purpose for making and taking hallucinogenic substances. They even carved images of hallucinogenic plants into sacred monuments.
Modern day shaman still use all manner of mind enhancing drugs and several are available to tourists for ceremonial healing purposes. But there’s a catch, psychedelics have become a part of culture tourism and finding authentic shamanic experiences in South America is difficult.
Whilst in Peru and Bolivia, I was fortunate enough to experience several well run ceremonies that involved the consumption of psychedelic ‘medicines’. But the potions concocted by the shaman of South America and Mexico are not like commercial drugs sold on streets all over the world, they are for medicinal purposes and should be used sensibly. Indeed, this type of experience is not for everyone either. The potions typically cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
The more potent concoctions can make you become lifeless and not in control of your body. The medicines used in modern ceremonies are not so potent and you have enough control to move around. One of the most popular medicines used in South America is ayahuasca, a medicine shamanic healer’s claim is the cure for all diseases.
When used under the right conditions by an experienced practitioner, psychedelics can have powerful effects on your physical and mental health. For the drug to work effectively, what you mostly need is INTENT.
I am telling you this to prepare you for what comes next. The example shows the use of psychedelics in modern times comes from the knowledge passed down over thousands of years since antiquity. And if this can happen in South America, it could have happened in Europe.
Aragon Castle, Ischia
Aragon Castle is a medieval fortress built on an outcrop looking down over the island. The scene is like something from a children’s fairy tale, with the King’s castle at the top of the hill watching over his subjects. But then the castle has been home to several kings, the first being Hiero I in 474BCE and its last inhabitants the family of Aragon which lends its name to the current structure.
However, when I visited, there was no evidence the castle had been occupied by Kings. The Aragon’s may have owned the property by law, but the property had clearly been handed over to the Catholic Church – the real Kings of Europe.
In the castle grounds are several churches, a cathedral, a nun’s cemetery, signs of sun worship, third eye symbolism and artwork that shares similarities with the ‘Union of Two Lands’ Hieroglyph in Egypt.
None of this symbolism is unusual for the Catholic Church. What did come as a surprise was evidence the Catholic inhabitants were taking some form of mind-altering substances. My first inclination of this came upon entering the nun’s cemetery underneath the Church of the Immacolata.
In the bowels of the church are two subterranean rooms, each of which features toilets, a total of eight in all, a sacred number that symbolises the process of attaining a higher level of consciousness.
The official literature calls these toilets “draining seats on which lifeless bodies were placed.” The story goes that the nuns would meditate among the dead bodies on a daily basis. It would seem there was a high death rate at Aragon Castle. Only there is no record this!
The purpose of this meditation exercise we are told was to teach the living that the body was merely a vessel and practically useless. The write up goes on to explain the nuns would “often fall victim to grievous diseases, in some cases deadly,” due to exposure to unhealthy environmental conditions.
If this was the case, the most rational question is why did they continue with this macabre practice? Do you really believe 18th Century nuns were prepared to risk catching life-threatening diseases? It is doubtful, to say the least!
In my view, the basement cellars were not used as a nun’s cemetery at all! I suspect this room was used for ceremonial purposes. I had seen similar scenarios under the temples of Latin America. Participants would come here to meditate under the influence of mind-altering drugs whereby they became lifeless and transcended to deeper levels of consciousness.
I know from experience that when you take the type of psychedelic substances used for spiritual healing purposes, it is typical to purge whereby you vomit and shit. Toilets come in useful for that, more so than for propping dead bodies on.
The Mystical Art Gallery
As I continued through the museum complex, I came to a gallery featuring some astonishing artwork – images that are clearly the result of hallucinogenic experiences.
The artwork is contributed by two of the islands contemporary artists, Clementina Petroni, and her late brother Michele who passed away in 2011.
One is of a castle and church playing music to wine bottles depicted as people partying.
Furthermore, the depictions of these paintings are potentially controversial for church-goers and, one would imagine, is not the type of artwork church authorities would want to be associated with in public.
Of course, a simple explanation for these permanent exhibitions may merely be to promote local artists. By my reckoning, the presence of this particular collection is a themed reflection representing the use of psychedelics within the castle grounds.
Isn’t it typical to use symbolic gestures to mark tradition?
I appreciate all this sounds like some sort of conspiracy theory and I am connecting scattered dots in an attempt to create a picture. But my conviction for this theory comes from my knowledge and experience of how spiritual devotees use mind-altering substances to help them transcend to a higher level of consciousness.
And it isn’t only South American shaman that use psychedelics, evidence of drug use has been found in many cultures all around the world. I, therefore, don’t think we should dismiss the possibility that Christian Orders were removed from such practices when there is evidence to suggest otherwise.
My suspicions were first raised when I saw the toilets. The artwork supported my intuition…
…and then I found the smoking gun, or rather, a smoking pipe – an entire cabinet full of them!
In another cabinet, there is a utensil that appears to be a medieval bong placed next to broken shards of ceramics featuring spirals, a symbol of creation, together with other ceramics in the museum feature winding serpents (kundalini energy) and a (Jacobs) ladder.
In hermetic symbolism, all three represent the power to create through finding the so-called God-Within, your higher consciousness. This is done by awakening the Kundalini energy, aligning your chakras and opening the third eye.
Monks on Crack
The Aragon Castle, we are told, was inhabited by nuns, although many monks, bishops and other men of the clergy inhabited the island also. Nuns are the female equivalent to monks. Both are prevalent in many religions today and lead a secluded life in search of spiritual perfection. Many live a devout lifestyle and isolate themselves from the world almost entirely to avoid being lured into temptation.
Their principal goal is to breakdown the ego and discovers the true-self through the practice of meditation. From my own experience of achieving this state of consciousness, I know it is not always possible through sober means.
The majority of people in our modern societies take drugs. Alcohol is the most common form of mind-altering substance that is accepted today, and monks are renowned for making copious amounts of beer and wine. There is a wine cellar and a millstone in the Castle of Aragon.
Monks call the process of transcendence, “making dead” – and under the influence of psychedelics their bodies would become “lifeless.” Whilst in this state they would sit on toilets as you would if you take an enema. Does this not sound like being under the influence of a heavy sedative?
There is also evidence to support early freemasons used DMT from the acacia tree. The Freemasons appear to have become a sect of secret societies stemming from the bloodlines of the Knights Templar, a band of European noblemen who protected pilgrims against attacking Muslims whilst making the journey to Jerusalem.
The Knights Templar were established in 1118 and officially called themselves the “Order of the Poor Knights of Christ.” They took a vow of poverty although managed to accrue huge wealth through banking owning land. Most of this property was handed over to the Order of the Knights Hospitallers who had served with the Knights Templar in Jerusalem treating the wounded. The Order would later become the Red Cross – a European “non-profit” (charity) organisation with 97 volunteers.
The Knights Templar were originally founded as a military order, but in 1128 were granted Spartan rules shared by the Cistercian Monks. The influence of the Templar grew and their monastic communities swept across Europe. You can find evidence of their power in the stonework of cathedrals, basilicas and churches.
The similarities between the Knights Templar draws similarities with the life of St. Francis of Assisi. The young Francis is said to have turned his back on a frivolous lifestyle, taken a vow of poverty, and created religious orders. He also retreated from the world and lived as a monk.
What intrigues me about all of this, is that the church of the Immacolata inside the Castello Aragonese in Ischia, is dedicated to St. Francis. Is this the connection that links the use of hallucinogens with medieval monasteries?
The St. Francis of Assisi Shocker
St. Francis of Assisi was homeless and lived in poverty. The official story tells us that this was a voluntary choice so that he could distance himself from the world. But rather than seeking isolation, he roamed outside the Vatican begging for money.
During this time, Francis founded several religious orders which were commissioned by the Vatican, after which St. Francis finally withdrew from the public eye. Now he had an income he didn’t need to go outside.
So what did St. Francis do behind the closed doors of the chapel? Was he taking mind-altering drugs to help transcend to a higher state of consciousness and find his God-Within?
According to biography.com “St. Francis of Assisi was renowned for drinking and partying in his youth…[and] began his life as a confirmed sinner. Francis wanted for nothing during his youth; he was spoiled, indulging himself with fine food, booze and women.”
We could give St. Francis the benefit of the doubt and say he became a changed man. Whilst detained as a war prisoner in a well-pit for a year, Francis is said to have had hallucinations and discovered God. By that, we can presume he discovered his God-Within.
The Epiphany of St. Francis
As the story goes, Francis became a monk and spent a lot of time in churches around Assisi. He then experienced an epiphany at the church of San Damiano, an ancient Greek physician – who would have had access to drugs.
There is no evidence to support Saint Damian used his position as a physician to gain access to mind-altering drugs, or whether he experimented with divination of any form. However, he was adopted by the Catholic Church as a martyr, which means he was killed by the authorities for telling people secrets they are not supposed to know about.
And that secret is how to achieve God-Consciousness.
So I will take a leap of faith and say, Damian probably knew the powerful effects drugs can have on the human mind. DMT helps to open the third eye chakra and enter into alternate dimensions through the crown chakra. This is how we attain the ultimate enlightenment.
There is also important information missing from the story of St. Francis. Did he discover a means of achieving a higher state of consciousness by using hallucinogens? He was the type of character that would have been interested in experimenting with psychotic substances.
Given my discovery in Ischia together with reports of the early masons using hallucinogens from the acacia, there is evidence to support that psychedelics have been used in monastic communities throughout medieval Europe. So did Francis discover his Christ-like powers through sober meditation, or did he continue with his wild ways and get high? At the time he was still in his early twenties and was often found preaching to animals. I’ll let you decide!
The St. Francis Connection with Medicine..?
St. Francis is revered by Catholics, and of all saints, the monks and nuns of Ischia could have adopted to follow, they chose St. Francis. And they appear to have been smoking something which most probably induced hallucinations and made them vomit.
And that is not the only connection we find of St. Francis and drugs. Chi Health in New York run a medical treatment centre dedicated to drug and alcohol abuse. It’s called the Saint Francis Medical Center.
St Francis Care in the UK is also a medical centre and treats patients for drug and alcohol abuse. Yet St. Francis is not associated with administering medicine. In actual fact, he is the patron saint of ecology, “a branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.”
Does that not sound like a study of how psychedelic drugs have an effect on the human body and mind and their perception of the world?
The use or recreational drugs is running amok in our society and drug abuse is rife. In modern times we consume manufactured drugs to escape the worries of the world, whereas religions since time immemorial, teach us to use natural substances provided by the planet and look on the inside.