Pharmakia, Plant Medicines, Addiction, Escapism, Ayahuasca, Shamanism & The Problem With The “Noble” Use of Drugs With Author Robert Orem.

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the use of plant medicines
Biohacking, Podcast, Spirituality

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You probably already know that I've become increasingly disillusioned with the use of plant medicines.

There were many, many factors that went into this change of perspective, which I wrote about in depth in a popular, somewhat controversial two-part article series, The Big Problem With “Plant Medicines”: (read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). Then, last month, I followed up with a podcast entirely devoted to the topic of plant medicine.

A key book I read that significantly informed my decisions on this topic was titled Pharmakia: The Biblical View of Drug Use, by Robert Orem. This is a book that I often mention these days when I'm discussing plant medicines (and in my opinion, if you're using or thinking about using plant medicines, this is a book you must read). Many people aren't even aware that the Bible refers to drug use (in fact, there are 37 distinct references to drugs in the Bible), but Robert's book is more than just a thorough investigation into what the Bible says about drugs. It is also a powerful, hope-filled message of hope, love, and freedom from addiction for drug users and addicts, or folks who feel like they are heavily attached to or dependent on plant medicines.

Robert, my guest on this podcast, is a Christian, former drug addict who researched the Bible’s references to drug use for many years. A teacher in jails, treatment centers, schools, and churches, he recently launched In Step Fellowships, a biblical recovery group for all types of addiction.

In today's podcast, Robert shares his personal history with plant medicines and drug addiction, what the word “Pharmakia” really means, his fascinating views on whether God created plant medicines for specific purposes, and much more. (And P.S., if you're as interested in this topic as I am, definitely listen to this upcoming Saturday's podcast, too.)

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-Robert Orem’s journey towards plant medicine…08:10

  • Pharmakia: The Biblical View of Drug Use by Robert Orem
  • The typical 1980s party boy looking to have a good time
  • Not even aware of the term “plant medicine” at that time
  • Also started weight training at the same time he started using pot
  • Hooked on euphoria and relaxation, creativity, and good times
  • Was still “functional” – better workouts, better creative writing sessions, etc.

-Did Robert ever get into ayahuasca and mind-expanding spiritual exploration?…12:03

  • Started smoking pot in junior high school, was smoking daily in senior high, hit the gym every day, took cocaine, mushrooms, and some pharmaceuticals, but drug of choice was marijuana
  • Everything changed during his freshman year of college while doing pharmaceuticals
  • Had an experience that shamans refer to as “being thought” – the mind is taken over, and you receive a vision or a level of understanding that is supernatural
  • Moment when he saw his future and saw everything in his life falling apart, had his first of many panic attacks
  • Went downhill from there – left college, broke up with a girlfriend, started living in a van, mental health issues
  • Spent 8 years trying to stop, but nothing worked
  • Tried 12 Steps
  • Was introduced to shamanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, meditation, etc., and started reading philosophical books, Zen books, and spiritual books
  • It never occurred to him to crack open a Bible or call out to Jesus; was not an option he considered
  • Relapsed, then became a Christian and saw God working in a powerful way, accepted Jesus Christ

-The link between drug use and spirituality and the dangers of it…21:14

  • The use of psilocybin and spiritual experience – Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences
    having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance
  • Drugs shift you into a state similar to the state of spiritual enlightenment – similar to prayer and meditation
    • Many atheists become aware of God and the spiritual world after psilocybin or DMT use
    • For some, the potential of these compounds may mean the salvation of humankind
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Timothy Leary
  • The idea of using drugs as a crutch to allow someone to be spiritual is dangerous
    • Creates spiritual laziness by relying on pills to get to God
    • Opens people up to other spiritual entities that could possess them
    • Some come back with triggered schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or feeling of being possessed
  • What the Scriptures say:
    • 1/3 of all the angels rebelled against God and followed Satan and became demons
    • God condemns the use of drugs
  • Robert’s experiences with drug use after becoming a Christian
  • How meditation removes the complete desire to try drugs to get spiritual experiences

What is pharmakia? Is it the use of drugs specifically for divination?…35:15

  • It’s important not to expand the definition of the term to the areas the Scripture does not address
  • It's also important not to restrict the definition of the term to eliminate practices that the Scripture addresses
  • Pharmakia: The Biblical View of Drug Use by Robert Orem
  • Pharmakeia A Hidden Assassin by Dr. Ana Mendez Ferrell
  • Pharmakia refers to any substance that people use to enter an altered state of consciousness, apart from legitimate medical need
  • Pharmakia in the Bible is associated with idol worship and the practice of witchcraft
  • So-called “journeying” is the same as shamanic flight or astral projections
    • An intentional out-of-body experience, in which either the witch or the shaman projects their spiritual body into the spiritual realm
    • It is achieved by using drugs
    • While in the spiritual realm, they have their encounters with whatever gods they're seeking to encounter

-White magic shamans claim they can go into battles with demons or dark spirits through the powers of Jesus and God. Is that also pharmakia?…40:23

  • Three Greek words associated with drug use
    • Pharmakia – witchcraft or idolatry that includes the use of drugs
    • Pharmakos – the person who's practicing pharmakia
    • Epano – the high one, refers to people using drugs, in magic or not
  • Exodus 22: 18 – a verse from the Old Testament that clarifies pharmakia
    • Moses, speaking on behalf of God, says: You shall not permit a sorceress to live
    • Sorceress, in Greek being pharmakos, here used in female form, refers to a witch using drugs to perform magic
  • The use of drugs for spiritual purposes is condemned and listed along with bestiality and idolatry
  • The Old Testament story of Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron (Leviticus 10:1)
    • They offered unauthorized fire before God, and fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them
    • The Lord said to Aaron: You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die.
  • They entered into God's presence under the influence, and they made a mistake, and it cost them their lives

-Oils and incense used by Holy priests are a psychedelic mix and an exception to pharmakeia?…56:19

  • Another reference to pharmakos is in Malachi 3
    • A prophecy of what Jesus would do to the priests of Israel when he returns
    • In verse 5; So I and will come to put you on trial, I will be quick to testify against the sorcerers (pharmakos)
  • Revelation 21:8 – what Jesus thinks about using drugs
    • “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexual and the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts (pharmakos in Greek, drugs, specifically), the idolaters and all liars, they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur, this is the second death”

-The grandfathers of plant medicine and their resentment of Christianity…01:03:33

  • Aleister Crowley was an occult magician and referred to himself as the great beast; a pharmakos who intentionally wanted to contact demons
  • Aldous Huxley first wrote The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell and described his use of mescaline
    • Met Crowley 20 years before that when Crowley was into mescaline, but rarely mentioned
    • Magick in Theory and Practice by Aleister Crowley
    • Timothy Leary mentions in his autobiography, Flashbacks, that Huxley told him that the opposition to what they were doing was the Bible
  • Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley knew that one of the primary impediments to the spread of drugs is the Bible
    • The only way to true immortality, true happiness, and salvation is a belief in Jesus Christ, which allows us to have union with God
    • Drugs are a perfect way to temporarily make us think we don't need that
  • It’s a new religion with false spiritual experiences
  • All Satan has to do is convince us that there is another way to come to God apart from Jesus Christ, and he's got us deceived
  • The how is through Jesus Christ
  • The who is those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ

-Did the church have a great deal of influence from the use of entheogens?…01:13:44

  • The Immortality Key by Brian Muraresku
  • The book changed Robert's view of how the ancient Greeks and Romans used wine to worship Dionysus and Bacchus
    • They probably had hallucinogens such as ergot added to the wine
  • Convinced Robert that pharmakia in the context of pagan idolatry was much more common, not only in ancient Greece but maybe even in Israel
  • Robert thinks Brian didn’t prove his main thesis, that hallucinogen use was common among the first Christians
    • Did it ever happen? Did the early Christians really use ergot?
    • Did it happen frequently?
    • If it did happen frequently, was it orthodox practice?
  • During his crucifixion, Jesus refused the wine that contained some sort of narcotic he was offered
  • Apostle Paul talks about the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons

-And much more…

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Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Robert Orem:

– Podcasts:

Other Resources:

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Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for Robert Orem or me? Leave your comments below, and one of us will reply!

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One thought on “Pharmakia, Plant Medicines, Addiction, Escapism, Ayahuasca, Shamanism & The Problem With The “Noble” Use of Drugs With Author Robert Orem.

  1. Beverley Becker says:

    Hey Ben! I read the book when you mentioned it on your Plant Medicine Podcast Part 1 and 2 and I have connected with Robert and ordered 20 books to use as a ministry tool in my Saturday morning Furry Faith group (I have a husky therapy dog and I teach about God) at an Addiction Rehab Center and we are currently reading the book in my ladies Beach Bible study. Kudos to you! I loved this podcast and love how real and honest you are! I have been a Christian for a very long time and went down the plant medicine road…thinking it was ok and just got caught up in the world’s “trendy” views. Thanks for always being a bright light and shining Jesus from a biohacker, husband and dad’s point of view! I sent all three of these podcasts to my five kids (ages 18-28) who have struggled with addiction. Praying His peace and joy for you and your family! Have a great time in Sarasota! I lived in Bradenton for years and learned to swim in the gulf on Anna Maria Island. I live in Boca now. God bless you and Robert!

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