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

Affiliate Disclosure

Transcripts

From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/pharmakia-robert-orem/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:00:54] Podcast Sponsors

[00:05:22] Episode Intro

[00:08:10] Robert's journey towards plant medicine

[00:21:14] The link between drug use and spirituality and the dangers of it

[00:32:45] How meditation removes complete desire to try drugs to get spiritual experiences

[00:34:31] What is pharmakeia? Is it the use of drugs specifically for divination?

[00:40:22] White Magic shamans claim that they go into the battles with demons or dark spirits by the powers of Jesus and God. Is that also pharmakia?

[00:43:57] Podcast Sponsors

[00:50:27] The Use Of Drugs For Spiritual Purposes

[00:56:19] Oils and incense used by Holy priests are a psychedelic mix and an exception to pharmakeia?

[01:03:33] The grandfathers of plant medicine, and their resentment towards Christianity?

[01:13:43] Did the church had a great deal of influence from the use of entheogens?

[01:27:52] Closing the Podcast

[01:29:16] Elements of Vitality

[01:32:54] End of Podcast

Ben: My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.

Robert: Whatever spiritual experience you're having when you're high is going to be intense. The problem is it's a deception. And, the genuine experience that the deception is an imitation of is the experience of rebirth and renewal and spiritual life through faith in the genuine God, which comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Ben: Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.

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Alright, folks. Well, you may have heard me talking quite a bit lately about this concept of plant medicines and how I am increasingly disillusioned with their use and the wild popularity of them for a variety of reasons. One of the books that I read as I researched this whole concept of the pros and the cons of plant medicine, it's called “Pharmakia.” “Pharmakia” refers to a word that I'd actually seen a lot pop up in the Bible, but it wasn't until I actually read a book about what it truly means that I had a real light bulb moment about why it actually appears in the word of God as something that we should be careful with. And, if you're listening and you're not a Christian, you don't believe in the Bible, I would encourage you to actually listen to this episode anyways with the author of this “Pharmakia” book just because it's chock full of a lot of information, I think anybody who's thinking about plant medicine or is involved with plant medicine or working with a shaman or anything like that should know. Because there's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that you should know about. 

And, my guest on the show today, Robert Orem, he not only has a background in the use of a lot of these compounds, but he also has a very, very unique perspective as somebody who has kind of like me become disillusioned with them and has really made a lot of sense out of why they might not be all that they're cracked up to be or at least come with a great deal of caution required in a giant yellow warning flag on them.

So, Robert has taught in jails, treatment centers, schools, and churches primarily in the realm of addiction and drug use, and has a personal history with plant medicines and drug addiction, and has also studied up quite a bit on what the word “pharmakia” really means and some fascinating views on why these type of drugs might exist in the first place in terms of the plant uses on the planet Earth and a whole lot more. So, Robert, thanks so much for coming on the show, man. I'm super excited to unpack this with you.

Robert:  I am super excited to be on your show. I've been looking forward to it for a long time.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. And, your book, I just randomly came across, it was kind of flying under the radar and you and I have been talking behind the scenes about maybe turning into an audiobook or something. So, some more folks can listen in who are more of the podcast audio types, so if you guys haven't read the book, you can go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/Pharmakia, P-H-A-R-M-A-K-I-A. That's where the shownotes for the show are going to be. And also, I'll link to the book over there. And eventually, if we wind up doing an audiobook version of it, you'll be the first to know if you're listening in here.

But, Robert, tell me about your history with the use of plant medicines and drugs and what got you interested in all this in the first place.

Robert:  I was just a typical 1980s party boy. There was nothing spiritual about my drug use at all. I ended up having some spiritual experiences, but they weren't what I was looking for. I was just looking to have a good time. Back then, we didn't even use the term plant medicines, but I did sort of have an aversion to regularly using any drugs that weren't natural. So, I tried everything except for crack cocaine, but pot was my drug of choice. I was a classic wake-and-bake stoner. I did a lot of mushrooms and I did a lot of hashish. Like I said, I didn't want to get into doing things like cocaine or methamphetamine on a regular basis, I just didn't like the fact that they weren't natural.

I probably should mention since this is the Ben Greenfield podcast that about the same time that I first started smoking pot, I started weight training also. I was about 17. And, I fell in love with working out at the same time.

Ben:  That's interesting. I actually run it. I even interviewed a guy who's more like the endurance ultra-running community who actually uses cannabis quite a bit for long runs for that pain-killing euphoric effect. And, I do know people who will go hit the gym on it. I think, even popular podcasters like Joe Rogan have talked about taking THC before they go crush it on the kettlebells or on the jiu-jitsu mats.

Robert:  Right. I did that all the time. It was one of my favorite things to do. I would go for three, four-hour bike rides up in the Marin Headlands above San Francisco or I would just go to the weight room. So, working out was one of the few good habits that I've had my whole life, but —

Ben:  You'll fit in with our crowd.

Robert:  Yeah. Yeah, there's definitely a lot of things that I enjoyed about smoking pot and getting high. I mean, I didn't get hooked on the bad experiences that came later, I got hooked on the euphoria and the relaxation and the creativity and the good times. And, when that's all I was having, I couldn't see any reason not to be doing them all the time. I mean, why wouldn't I? If I was still functional and I could have a better workout or a better bike ride or a better creative writing session, why wouldn't I smoke a joint or hit a few bowls?

Ben:  Right. Yeah. I guess, there's the pain-numbing effect that a lot of people get addicted to opioids will depend upon, but there's also a little bit of escapism involved as well. I think there's a little bit of a disconnection from self, a disconnection from maybe the pain that might help you grow as a person, and really I think for the same reason that a lot of people wind up doing heftier doses of plant medicines in a journeying based experience, I think that and I know we'll get a chance to delve into this quite a bit, it's also just a noble excuse to tweak the brain chemistry and fall into a state of mind in which you can forget all your worries and forget all your pains and just escape for a little while. 

And, I don't necessarily think that's healthy. And, obviously it comes with a great deal of potential risk based on something I've talked about in the podcast and you talk about in your book the ability of many of these, particularly plant-based compounds, to open one up to some spiritual worlds and other dimensions that can be a little bit dangerous to be surfing around in, which I know sounds kind of woo. 

But, because a lot of people go to ayahuasca in Amazon or Peru or whatever or people journey with magic mushrooms, et cetera, did you ever do a lot of this mind expansion spiritual exploration like a light blocking mask with music and laying back with some type of 5-HT agonist surge around your bloodstream? Or, were you just smoking pot and hitting the gym?

Robert:  Pretty much smoking pot and hitting the gym until I had my first “real spiritual experience” when I was high. When I first used, I was a junior in high school. But, when I first got high, I've been drinking for a few years. when I first started smoking pot, I was a junior. My senior year, I was smoking pot every day. I was also doing cocaine and mushrooms and some pharmaceuticals like on the weekends. I never had any bad trips. I never had any problems in school. I didn't have any problems in my relationships at all. In fact, my life was going great. And then, all of a sudden, on one night, everything changed. It was during my freshman year of college and I had been doing some pharmaceuticals and I was getting high with a couple of my friends. We were just watching TV and I described this experience in detail on a video testimony that I made recently. It's going to be available at RobertOrem.com.

Ben:  Okay.

Robert:  You can just look for part one of the testimony, but basically, I had an experience what I later learned shamans refer to as “being taught.”

Ben:  Being taught.

Robert:  Yes.

Ben:  Okay.

Robert:  Where the mind is taken over and you receive a vision or a level of understanding that is simply supernatural. And, at the time, we were just watching TV talking. And, when this moment came on to me, it was my girlfriend, myself, and our best friend were sitting in our living room watching the last episode of “M*A*S*H,” which some of your audience may remember that show, and all of a sudden, I looked over to our friend and he was talking and I could suddenly see everything about his personality. I understood all his anxieties and his concerns. I could see how the influence of his parents was causing him lots of confusion and strife. And, I could just see this guy like an open book. 

And then, I looked the other direction and I saw through my apartment wall into the next apartment, I saw the girl who lived next door to us sitting on the couch and I could see her anxiety. She was in sales, so I could see her anxiety about money, how it was affecting her. I'm not exaggerating this at all. I looked at the television set. I didn't just see the program “M*A*S*H,” I saw the actors on the stage under the lights with the directors. I saw the waves being transmitted to the television. We had antennas back then on our TVs. And, I saw just the function of the television set, and I looked at my girlfriend at the time and I said, “Something's happening, I'm wise, I'm wise.” And, of course, they're listening to me they're thinking, “Okay, right, whatever, you're just stumped.”

My best friend left and I'm just there with my girlfriend, and this continued to happen. And, I all of a sudden looked at myself and I had this moment where I was able to see my future and I saw everything falling apart in my life that was going absolutely great at the time. And, at that moment, I had a panic attack and that ended up being my first of many panic attacks. But, looking back on that experience, I can understand in light of pharmakia and in light of everything I've studied since then, I can understand that at that moment, I had a spirit enter me and it was a spirit of fear, it was a demon who basically took control of me and destroyed my life. And, he gave me a prophetic vision of what was going to happen. And, that experience is very similar to accounts that I later read about of shamans when they first come into contact, when they first encounter the spirits that are going to become their guides, their primary guides.

My spirit guide, the first spirit that I was exposed to was a spirit of fear. And, of course, at that time, I had no idea that there was anything spiritual going on, I just knew that I had had a panic attack and pot was starting to cause me some serious problems. Sure enough, my life started to fall apart. I flunked out of college. My girlfriend and I broke up. I ended up living in my van down by the beach for a while. I was starting to have mental health issues. And, I just decided, “Okay, I got to do whatever I can do to get off the pot, I got to stop using this pot” because I understood that was really the main part of the problem. And, I spent eight years trying everything that I could possibly find to stop using and get control of myself again but nothing worked.

And, one of the things that I tried was 12 steps and Alcoholics Anonymous. I don't know if you're familiar with them at all.

Ben:  Yeah, I'm pretty familiar. Yeah.

Robert:  It's a very “spiritual program.” They have a saying that says “There's no spiritual angle, it's a spiritual program.” So, I was living in San Francisco at the time and I went into AA. And, as I was involved in that program for about a year and a half, I started becoming “spiritual.” The New Age was very popular back then. I got introduced to Shamanism and Hinduism and Zen Buddhism and that type of meditation. And, I started reading books, philosophical books, and Zen books, and spiritual books. And so, my first introduction to anything spiritual at all was in that context where I was actually sober for the first time in years.

Ben:  You weren't a Christian at that point?

Robert:  No.

Ben:  Okay.

Robert:  No. I had not been raised Christian. In all the things that I tried to stop using, it never occurred to me to crack open a Bible or call out to Jesus, it just wasn't even an option that I considered. It's basically the way I was raised. But then, I ended up relapsing out of 12 steps and it was a very interesting time and I think some of your audience will relate to this. I was very shocked to find that when I went back to smoking pot after I had been introduced to all these spiritual practices and principles and theories that I actually felt closer to God as I understood him at the time, it wasn't the god of the Bible, it was still my higher power. And, I felt more spiritual when I was using.

So, at that point in my history, my using became closer to what you're describing where people are trying to use drugs as a “entheogen” or where they're trying to have an encounter with Divine Light or whatever name they want to put on it. 

And, that was how I use drugs up until the point where I got introduced to Jesus Christ, God. And then, God basically spoke to me one night about it and set me free of the desire for it. But, at that point, I had given up trying to quit smoking. And, I had this spiritual rationalization for what I was doing. I became a Christian. I accepted Jesus Christ. I had an intensely positive spiritual experience that I describe on these videos that are on my RobertOrem.com website. And, as soon as I came to faith in Jesus Christ, he started to clean up all these other areas that drug addicts typically struggle with cussing and use of pornography and drunkenness and fits of rage, and sexual relationships.

So, my first year as a Christian, God was working in a powerful way to make me more like Jesus. But, I still believed that drug use was a spiritually positive thing.

Ben:  Yeah.

And, by the way, if I could interrupt real quick regarding the link between drug use and spirituality. I mean, a lot of people and this is common in some of the psilocybin studies that have been done in places like Johns Hopkins will report that the use of psilocybin, for example, was the most spiritual experience that they've ever had in their life. And, many religions traditionally have relied upon things like psilocybin and cannabis and other entheogens, et cetera, because it seems that not to get too chemically about this, there's this link between the dopaminergic response, the triggering of these 5-HTA receptors, another receptor called NAAG and kind of what goes on in the prefrontal cortex when it comes to many of these drugs that kind of shift you into this same type of spiritually receptive state that you might experience during meditation and prayer and worship and music. It's kind of like pressing down the gas pedal on full speed to shift you into this state of what may describe of as spiritual enlightenment or something like that, which I think is a lot of the background behind the attractiveness of a lot of these compounds that people are using now to “find God” or expand their mind or to tackle trauma or to meditate or worship or anything like that simply because there's something about these that shift you into this deeply spiritually responsive and open and receptive state. 

It's why many folks who I know who have been previous atheists, for example, will go on some kind of a plant medicine journey with psilocybin or ayahuasca or DMT. And, when they finish that, they're no longer atheists, like they come out the other side saying, “Well, I've seen God, I know there's a higher power. I know God exists. I know there's a deep spiritual world that I never really understood or became involved with.” And, many people will hear that and be like, “Oh, well, that's amazing. This could be the salvation of humankind, the ability to be able to use this type of compounds.” And, maybe later on, we'll get a chance to unpack the story behind folks like Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley and how they actually tackled this type of potential of some of these compounds.

But, what's interesting is that, and I don't know if you'd agree with me, I would imagine having read your book that you might, the idea of using drugs as a crutch, for example, to allow someone to be spiritual, I think, is actually pretty dangerous because all of a sudden, we're sending a message to billions and billions of people that the way to find God involves some kind of secret hidden access to these compounds that would shift one state or the ability to be able to meet with a sham or the ability to be able to travel to Peru, for example.

And, in my opinion, what folks are experiencing in that state is not only a deeply spiritual experience but a kind of like a knowing or an experience of God or the spiritual world without a true knowing in terms of that being woven into one's life and it winds up in many cases I think being a deal where people in order to have a spiritual experience begin to rely upon the neurochemical shifts that occur in response to drug use. And, I think there's a lot a danger there because it takes people away from the so-called hard work of chopping wood and carrying water, and praying and devotion, and meditation, fasting, instead you just pop some pills and fast track your way to God.

So, A, it produces a little bit of a spiritual laziness, and B, it also, and this is kind of important when it comes back to what you said about the feeling is that you have like a demon or spiritual possession, it opens people up to this whole spiritual world where, yeah, you might experience God or Jesus or Christ consciousness or whatever you want to describe as that but you're also in this whole other dimension where there's a lot of other spiritual entities that could take advantage of you, that could possess you, that could influence you. And, for every nine people I know have had a deeply positive experience with many of these entheogens from cannabis to psilocybin to DMT and beyond, there's one person who kind of gets messed up who comes back with triggered schizophrenia or bipolar or just is super weird and feels as though they're never the same from that point on. And, some even feel as though they've been possessed by something.

And, that's where I think a lot of the danger lies is A, a production of spiritual laziness and it depends on drugs for a spiritual experience. And then, B, the potential to actually get possessed by some of these entities that you're engaging with as you kind of cross over into this portal that's dangerous to cross over into and goes back to that whole concept of the reason it's actually warned against in the Bible is the fact that there's a lot of dangers once we're entering that portal because we're messing with spiritual entities that have existed for thousands of years that really know how to use human beings as puppets.

I know that's a lot to digest, but I think those are important things to think about.

Robert:  Yeah, absolutely. That's pretty much the context of my experience although we're discussing it now with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, I didn't understand any of this. And yeah, you're absolutely right, the altered state of consciousness that the drugs produce enable us to perceive a spiritual realm that is very real. But, according to the scripture, there's two very important things you have to bear in mind is A, the Bible is clear that one-third of all the angels rebelled against God and followed Satan and became demons. And so, there are demons in that spiritual realm. And then, the second important part to understand is God has condemned the use of drugs, period, full stop. It's not like the way he treats alcohol where alcohol use in moderation is acceptable, it's not a sin, drunkenness is the sin when you're talking about alcohol. God doesn't make that sort of graduated estimation of the use of drugs, it's there is no acceptable use of drugs. And so, I can understand what happened to me now because it's completely consistent with what you just described and when you interpret it biblically but at the time I didn't know.

And, to your point about relying on the drug, that's exactly — I won't spend any more time on, I'll just tell you real quickly, it's kind of the highlight of the part two of my personal testimony that's on RobertOrem.com. But, I had been counseled by my assistant pastor at the time about my continuing drug use. I'm a Christian and I told him flat out, I said, “Look, I use pot. I'm an addict first. I tried everything there is to get off of it. I can't get off of it,” I said. And, I used pot for I was convinced at the time that it was bringing me closer to God. And, one night when I was reading my Bible probably high because I was high all the time, God spoke to me and he has only spoken to me a couple of times in the way that he spoke to me that night. He only said a couple of sentences. He said, “You're a slave to marijuana and it's not my will that you would be a slave to anything.” And, I was just listening. I mean, I didn't hear voices, I heard in my spirit, I heard God's voice, and I knew who it was because I had come into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. And, the next thing he said is, “You think you need marijuana in order to draw close to me but you don't.” He said, “You've made it an idol” period. And, that was all he said to me.

But, the amazing thing was from that moment, my desire for marijuana was gone. I mean I just accepted the truth of what I've been told. I wasn't going to argue with God about either of these things. And, just from that moment, God set me free from my desire for marijuana. So, it was my freedom for my desire, my slavery to drugs was simply part of the process of sanctification that all Christians go through. When you enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, he accepts you right where you are. It doesn't matter. You can be like I was using porn, getting drunk, getting it far. I got suicidal issues. I'm smoking pot every day. God doesn't care, “Come to my Son as you are.” And then, once I got into a relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit started just walking me out of those sins. And, my drug use was just another one of those sins. But then, later, He led me to start doing all this research. And, it really enabled me to put a fine point on my understanding of the spiritual nature of what had been going on for all those years and why I had suffered the things I'd suffered.

You mentioned one out of nine people who end up having mental health issues or whatever. My experience is really closer to about half and half. I mean, I would say half of my stoner buddy friends that I knew who were more like me and that it just devastated us emotionally and mentally and spiritually.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. And, granted I think that cannabis is unique and that it's very easy to just be a functional day-to-day pot smoker. And, while cannabis has been used by shamanic and pagan cultures for some pretty deep entheogenic experiences, it's pretty easy to use recreationally and not necessarily in the same way that a lot of people would use intentionally like save up for one or two months and prepare via a diet to do something like a deep psilocybin or ayahuasca experience. I think cannabis is a little bit different. I do know people who don't touch cannabis or marijuana and who will do something like journey with psilocybin once or twice a year or go to a DMT experience once a year on certain times like whatever, their birthday, their rite of passage, their wedding now, whatever. And so, I think that there's this ceremonial aspect of things that needs to be taken into consideration as well because I know there's a lot of people who just aren't daily users but they'll occasionally go on these deep journeys, which I don't think have as much of a problem from an addictive potential but more of the potential that you're entering into this spiritual world in which your soul is ripped wide open and you're actually at a very high and quite dangerous potential to be influenced by other entities.

But, that being said, I want to backpedal for just a second and ask you a couple of clarifying questions. And, before I do, I do want to highlight something that you mentioned, and that is that once you start a daily spiritual walk, for example, waking up in the morning and doing meditation and specifically a Christ-based meditation or something where you're communing with God, prayer, scripture reading, devotions, et cetera, it actually is weird and almost magical how much the need later on in the day let's say like at the end of the day to hit a vape pen or the desire to do a psilocybin experience at the end of the week or something like that just goes away because your soul spiritually fulfilled. 

I have to highlight the importance for those of you listening in of what Robert said because I have found that when I am very intentional and very mindful of my morning spiritual experience in a full sober state because let's face, very few of us roll out of bed at 5:00 a.m. and think about going to take mushrooms before we go to our devotions. There's this complete removal of a desire to even mess around with these drugs for a deep spiritual experience. It's kind of odd that it happens so quickly once you devote yourself to that daily chopping wood, carrying water practice of a morning devotional or an evening devotional prayer scripture reading meditation type of routine. I've found that to be incredibly helpful for myself as a guy who is surrounded by people who are using these plant medicines and who have rampant access to them. It's almost like being in a sober state, communing with God becomes far more attractive and removes this desire to use a lot of these medicines. So, I want to highlight the importance of that.

But, I also want to ask you Robert. You said something a little while ago that I need you to clarify. You said that the Bible flat out condemns drugs. And yet, it's my understanding that this Greek word “pharmakia,” as a noun, refers to the use of drugs in occult magic like in sorcery or to divine with the spiritual world or to journey, for example, into a different spiritual dimension. 

And, the reason I think that's important to bring up and I love for you to clarify with this a little bit is because if we say the Bible flat out condemns the use of drugs, then I think we enter into a scenario where it's very difficult to say, “Well, what about a pharmaceutical? What about cocoa? What about even like microdosing for sensory enhancement with something like LSD or psilocybin or something like that?” So, is it the flat-out condemning the use of anything that shifts one state? Because I think that the slippery slope there is that we wind up just condemning everything including potentially like kale versus is it the use of drugs specifically for the purpose of divination, of entering into a different spiritual dimension. Because it's my impression, and I could be wrong here, that what we're not supposed to be doing, what we need to be very careful with is taking a high dose of an entheogen that shifts us into this portal in which we're interacting with the spiritual world and exposing ourselves to not just God or Jesus but angels, demons, spirits, entities, you name it.

Robert:  I think you hit on an important aspect of understanding what the Bible actually teaches about that. And, when I was researching for pharmakia, it's important not to expand the definition of the term into areas that the scripture doesn't address. And, it's also important not to restrict the definition of the term to eliminate practices that the scripture does address.

So, for example, there are books out there where some people have tried to argue that the Bible's references to pharmakia mean that even medicinal drugs are verboten and you shouldn't even be taking what I refer to as legitimate medicine.

Ben:  There is a book called “Pharmakeia.” It's spelled differently than your book. It's spelled P-H-A-R-M-A-K-E-I-A. It's called “Pharmakeia: A Hidden Assassin.” And, I read that book after I read yours and that author actually says, “Yo, any drug, period, is pure evil and sorcery.” And, I don't agree with that, but go ahead. What were you going to say?

Robert:  Yeah. So, I don't agree with that either. I mean, in my book when I was defining drug, it kind of defined the boundaries of the definition of pharmakia also. And so, in my book, I said, “Any substance that people use to enter an altered state of consciousness apart from legitimate medical need.”

Ben:  Okay.

Robert:  Now, I put a fudge word in there, “legitimate medical need.” You can decide for yourself what a legitimate medical need is.

Ben:  Yeah.

Robert:  But, the Greek word pharmakia was used in different ways in the Greek language also, but there's only one way that it's used in the scripture. It's in the sense of sorcery. Sorcery is an Old English word for witchcraft. But basically, the two contexts that pharmakia appears in in the Bible is in the practice of idol worship and in the practice of witchcraft. And so, anything that falls within the boundaries of those two spiritual practices, either worship of what the Bible would say are false gods or the practice of any type of witchcraft, that's sort of your boundaries for pharmakia.

So, what people are talking about now is journeying is, to my mind, that's just witchcraft with a sort of a shamanistic twist. Journeying out of body is the same phenomenon as shamanic flight, unless I'm not understanding correctly, which is the same thing that witches do when they perform astral projection or astral travel.

Ben:  Can you describe what astral projection and shamanic flight are?

Robert:  Okay. So, it's an out-of-body experience. Basically, it's an intentional out-of-body experience in which either the witch or the shaman projects their spirit body, which is a replica, a double of the physical body into the spiritual realm that we've been talking about drugs allow you to enter and interact with the spiritual realm. And so, a witch or a shaman will often use drugs in order to separate their spirit body from their physical body so that they can enter into the spiritual realm. And, while they're in the spiritual realm, that's when they have their encounters with whatever gods they're seeking to encounter. 

A medieval witch would have often times been intentionally seeking to encounter demons. Shamans typically are seeking to commune with their gods, which are typically animistic or naturalistic gods like the god of rain, god of wind, or a jaguar spirit, or whatever. But, even shamans commonly encounter demons. Shamans know that demons are real.

Ben:  Oh, yeah. I don't I don't know a single shaman, by the way, who doesn't claim the ability to be able to go into another realm and battle against evil spirits that might be projected by other shamans or shift their spirit into a different portal or a different dimension. But, interestingly and maybe we can talk about this later on, many of them like these so-called white magic shamans will say, “Okay, I'm going with the powers of Jesus and God to power to battle these other demons or dark spirits that are in a different space.” And, that might seem all noble and stuff, but it kind of falls under the same category as pharmakia, doesn't it?

Robert:  It is pharmakia. And, I think it makes more sense, it'll probably make more sense to your listeners if I just give you just two of the verses that are in the scripture that refer to pharmacos. There's actually three Greek words. There's “pharmakia,” which like you said is a noun. It's actually an adjective, but it's used as a noun. And, it's used to specify witchcraft or idolatry that includes the use of drugs. Okay. So, there's lots of different kinds of witchcraft and there's lots of different forms of idolatry, but pharmakia refer specifically to witchcraft and idolatry that includes drug use. The second word is “pharmacos.” Pharmacos is a noun and it refers to the person who's practicing pharmakia. So, a pharmacos practices pharmakia, that's easy. And then, there's a third word, “epano,” which is a generic term, which it's funny my limited Greek understanding, I think a good translation of epano is the high ones. But, it is a generic word for witchcraft that can refer to people who are using drugs in their magic or not. It depends ends on the context.

But anyway, so let me just give you two versus one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament. And, that'll help your audience sort of understand the level of sort of trepidation and concern that I have and that you now have about these processes. So, in the book of Exodus in Chapter 22, Moses has just given Israel the law, The Ten Commandments, and he's going through and adding a few loose laws, just additional commands to them. And, in Exodus 22:18, Moses speaking on behalf of Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament says, “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” Now, that word sorceress is pharmacos in the Greek. So, it refers specifically to it's in its feminine form in the Greek, but it refers specifically to a female witch who is using drugs to perform magic. Alright, and the next verse, he says, “Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.” And, the next verse he said, “He who sacrifices to any God except to the Lord shall be utterly destroyed.”

So, you've got the use of drugs in a spiritual context, drug use for spiritual purposes condemned as a capital offense and it's listed along with bestiality and idolatry. And, if you know your Bible at all, God is not down with bestiality or idolatry. Okay. It was a capital offense.

Ben:  Alright, this is cool, but you want to pay attention because it's coming up right around the corner on Friday, December 2nd. You're going to get a chance to join me and some really powerful healing physicians down in Sarasota, Florida. This is a live event. It goes from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I'll be there, my friend, and a brilliant former podcast guest, The Doctor Strange of Medicine, Dr. John Lieurance is going to be there, HBOT USA, Dr. Jason and Melissa Sonners are going to be there with their Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Brian Richards of SaunaSpace, Harry Paul, one of John's friends who I recently met who's also an amazing healer for an event that's super unique. It's all based around the elements: earth, fire, air, and water, with a ton of treatments and technologies and modalities, and very unique biohacks that you're going to get exposed to during the entire event.

Basically, what I mean by that is when it comes to air, you're going to learn about hyperbaric oxygen, and ozone, and air filtration, everything you need to know to upgrade your air. When it comes to earth, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, earthing, grounding, a host of other ways that you can use the power of the planet to enhance your health, your sleep, your recovery, your muscle gain, your fat loss, a lot more water. You'll learn about proper water filtration, how to upgrade your water, hydrogenated water, structured water, basically soup to nuts, everything you need to know about water and how to apply it in your home and your office and your life. And then, finally fire, is a fun one. Lots of cryotherapy, a little bit of ice too, breathwork, inner fire practices, a ton of stuff when it comes to introducing the element of fire into your life.

So, this event is super unique. John and I have been working on it behind the scenes and it has come together amazingly. There's even a VIP experience. If you sign up for the VIP experience, you could come two days early or stay a few days after the event, and basically, you will get all the medical protocols customized by Dr. John and his staff if you claim one of those 10 VIP spots. That'll include IV methylene blue, laser treatments, John's really unique bliss release, which is basically an endonasal adjustment, which is essentially a chiropractic adjustment through your nose for your entire skull, which if you've had TBI or concussion or allergies or things like that in the past, it totally reboots that entire system. There's going to also be ozone treatments, Myers' IV cocktails, exosome treatments, IV laser, access to a CVAC machine. And, John's entire facility is going to be at your beck and call if you got one of the VIP tickets.

And then, we're also probably going to have a little bit of a party later on in the evening after this event. The whole thing is going to be a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming full-on cutting-edge of biohacking experience. And, I'm just now letting the world know about it so spots are going to fill up pretty fast. Space is limited, but if you want to get in now, here's how. You go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/Elements-Event. That's BenGreenfieldLife.com/Elements-Event. It's in Sarasota, Florida. Again, it's all-day Friday, December 2nd. I would come in early and stay after. If you just want to try out all the crazy modalities there. I don't know how fast those VIP tickets are going to sell out, but either way, this thing is going to be absolutely amazing. I just can't wait, like I'm pinching myself, can't wait to be on the plane to head down there and do this. So, check it out, BenGreenfieldLife/Elements-Event. And, I'll see you there, I hope.

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Do you think that's because there's so much potential? So, it's hard for alcohol to be an entheogen. It's hard to actually journey with alcohol. Typically, you're just slobbering drunk by the time you consume enough alcohol to do so. I mean, there's some examples where people use alcohol and ceremonies but it's pretty hard to OD on alcohol to the point where you're journeying and still be loose enough to really get anything out of it. 

And so, you described earlier how there's a differentiation between drugs and alcohol and you think the reason for that is because the drugs, particularly drugs that allow them to journey that would be traditionally used for divination all the way down to the, you talk about this in your book, like the ergo, the precursor to LSD that early witches would smear in their broomsticks and apply rectally or vaginally to be able to enter into these other dimensions. Stuff like that is actually putting you at a very, very deep spiritual risk because again, you're entering into this other dimension that our modern-day scientific rational materialistic logical culture would like to deny exists, but just because we do not exist doesn't mean that we can get rid of it and kiss it all goodbye. 

And again, this returns back to people who never believed in God doing a plant medicine ceremony coming out the other end saying, “Oh, hey, there is a God.” There's this spiritual portal that we pass into that can be deeply scarring spiritually and/or shift our dependency on the pure simple blissful experience of seeking God in a full-on sober state to needing drugs to seek God while simultaneously putting ourselves at the risk for possession and interaction with these spiritual entities who may not have our best interests in mind.

Robert:  Right. You have to come to grips with the fact that God is not going to allow people to come into communion with him, A, apart from Jesus Christ, and B, with the use of drugs. There are several reasons for this prohibition, and it's a really good question, it's a tough question to answer without laying down enough of a Biblical worldview to answer it intelligently. I go through everything very methodically in the book that's why it's 400 odd pages. 

Ben:  Yeah, it's super thorough.

Robert:  Yeah. When I make statements here that may sound crazy, I've given the proof text for them in the book. We have to remember that God is Holy and God has always been the one who determines how we are going to approach him. And, it's not up to us to determine how we're going to approach him. 

And, one of the best stories for sort of pondering this whole question of can we use drugs to enter into God's presence is the Old Testament story of Nadab and Abihu. Nadab and Abihu were sons of Aaron who was the high priest and he worked along with Moses. And, when the Israelites were wandering through the desert, they had built the Tabernacles and they had begun the priestly service. And, one day, Aaron's sons offered what the Bible referring to as Strange Fire to God. And, they were immediately incinerated.

And, in Leviticus, if you go to Leviticus 10, verse 1, I'll read a couple of verses out of the NIV. Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their sensors, put fire in them, and added incense. And, they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord contrary to his command. So, fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them. And, they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when He said, ‘Among those who approached me, I will be proved or shown holy. In the sight of all the people, I will be honored.'” 

And then, a few verses later, it says, 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.” This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. And so, most people think that Nadab and Abihu had been drinking when they went in to do their priestly duties and they think that that caused them to basically screw up the proper ritual of worship by not using fire from the altar to burn their incense. And, I think that's probably the best explanation of what was going on there, but the point is they entered into God's presence under the influence and they made a mistake and it cost them their lives. And, God said if a priest comes buzzed on wine into the Tabernacle, he's going to die.

So, do you think that he's going to welcome people who are high on drugs into his holy presence now that he's in heaven? I don't think so. And again, once you understand what God has said about the use of drugs, there's really no question about the fact that he hates that practice. And, the reason I believe he hates the practice is because like you were saying that it's not just that you have the potential to encounter evil spirits and demons who want to destroy you, it's that you are sooner or later that is what you're going to do.

Ben:  I have a question about that, by the way, about this whole holy of holy thing with the Levites. And, I wrote an article about this at one point about these blends of oil and incense that the Levite priest would burn and apply to their bodies in the holy of holies. And, they're pretty potentially consciousness-altering mixes like nearly psychedelic mixes, like myrrh and calamus and cassia and frankincense. 

As a matter of fact, there was actually this company, it was called a Victorie, spelt an IE in Port Angeles Washington that bottles these things up and makes the same recipe that they used for the oil in the incense. And, I ordered it and tried it. I burnt it in my sauna the same way that they would have in the holy of holies and applied the oil to my neck that I got high as a kite. 

And so, I've always kind of wondered in the back of my mind, well, did God have a certain use for those compounds in the holy of holies that was restricted to the Levite priest that shifted them into this state where they were able to divine with God but were yet in this protected holy of holy space where they wouldn't have been exposed to demons and entities? And, was that an exception to pharmakia or have you ever thought about that much at all or come across that?

Robert:  Well, first off, there's a prohibition against anyone using that specific incense in any context other than, you know.

Ben:  Yeah. And, by the way, I didn't know that at the time, I was just like, “Huh, this is interesting, I'm going to try this out” just because I was cowboying around with stuff that really, I think I should have had a lot more caution with. But nonetheless, that was what I experienced.

Robert:  So, I would question if it's really an authentic reproduction because I don't know that we know the exact ratios and the exact chemicals, but let's go to the scripture, and let's get a scriptural view of what God says about priestly service. We've read about Nadab and Abihu. There's another reference to pharmacos specifically in the Old Testament in Malachi in Chapter 3. And, this is a prophecy of what Jesus is going to do to the priests of Israel when he returns. Okay. So, I'll read just a couple two verses from Malachi 3 out of the NIV. It says, “Jesus will sit as a refiner and as a purifier of silver. He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” So, just as a comment, when you refine precious metals you do so by fire. Alright, so it looks like it's another picture similar to Nadab and Abihu where he's going to destroy the sinning priests via fire. Then, the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord as in the days gone by as in former years.

And then, in Verse 5, it says, “So I,” and that's Jesus, “will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against the sorcerers,” and that's pharmacos. So, that's not just people practicing any kind of witchcraft, that's people practicing witchcraft with drugs specifically. And, he says, “The adulterers and the perjurers against those who defraud laborers of their wages against those who oppress the widows and the fatherless and those who deprive foreigners of justice and do not fear me.” So, you've got another instance where Jesus is going to, not in other instance, but an instance where Jesus is going to deal with the Levites when he returns. And, he's going to basically do the same thing that God did with Nadab and Abihu, he's going to refine or burn away the sinning priests. And, those sinning priests includes the ones who are using drugs. You've got scripture that actually addresses these things.

And again, not to hammer away too hard, but I just want to read to you a verse from Jesus that refers to people who use drugs. Alright, it's actually the most terrifying verse in the whole Bible in my opinion. It's found in Revelation 21:8. And, in this passage, Jesus is speaking, he's talking to John. And, in Verse 6, he says, “It is done.” We're at the very end of the Bible where at the beginning of the new heavens and earth, we're at the end of all things in the judgment. And, Jesus says, “It is done. I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give water without cost from the spring of the Water of Life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this and I will be their God and they will be my children.” That's a wonderful verse. It's a picture of the free gift of eternal life with God for the faithful.

But, in Verse 8, he says, “But, the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexual and the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts,” and that's pharmacos in the Greek, that's drugs specifically, “the idolaters and all liars, they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” So, we Christians, we have to come to terms with what God says about drug use. We can't escape it if we're going to have intellectual honesty about God's word. And, don't get me wrong, I'm reading these verses but I'm not judging anybody. Jesus is judge, not Robert Orem, I was doing all these things. I thought the same way that many people probably in your listening audience think about drugs.

Ben:  I did too, Robert. For me, I had deeply positive experiences that I think were despite my opinion now that based on my new understanding of the Bible, now that I understand that, I think that it was a sin for me to be experimenting with all these drugs in the fashion that I was, namely for the purpose of journeying and entering into other portals and dimensions. And, I've said, yeah, taking a microdose of psilocybin for a creative writing day or for a hunt or a hike or something for increased sensory perception, I don't necessarily consider that to be pharmakia, nor do I consider snorting a little bit of oxytocin before a date night with your wife to be an issue for enhanced touch perception or something like that or better sex. And, I even think that there might be some use cases for end-of-life therapy or trauma or some of those things that could technically be considered legitimate medical uses. But, for this idea of just spiritual enlightenment and these mind-expanding journeys using plant medicines, just the fact that they come with these dangers that I think God knew about has painted them in a whole new light for me.

And, I would be really remiss not to ask you about the emergence of these, specifically in America because I think that's really problematic and this shocked me in your book actually where you get into this discussion between Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley. I realize this is a little bit of a pivot from where we're at right now, but I have to talk about this while I have you on the show because I'm curious. Because these guys despite them being the grandfathers of plant medicine in the U.S. or whatever, they seem to have something really out against Christianity and the Bible. And, when you look at the history of plant medicines and you realize that the people who really made it popular in the U.S. almost had an agenda, it's a little bit concerning. Can you get into that a little bit?

Robert:  Yeah. Aleister Crowley was an occult magician who referred to himself as the great beast 666. A lot of people know his name. He's the most famous and infamous cult magician there's ever been. And, he was, just so you know, Aleister Crowley was a pharmacos. He first started using cocaine, then he went to mescaline, and eventually he turned to heroin. And, he used those drugs not only to journey to perform astral projection, but he intentionally wanted to contact demons. And, he intentionally wanted them to come to dwell within him because as an occult magician, he understood that the indwelling demons were the source of his magic or alcohol power. So, that's Crowley.

What's interesting is Aldous Huxley first wrote “The Doors of Perception,” and gosh, I think 55, I forget. And, he said in that book that he had tried mescaline for the first time and he wrote “The Doors of Perception.” And, “The Doors of Perception” is essentially just a description of what was supposed to be Huxley's first mescaline trip. But, it turns out that Huxley had actually met Aleister Crowley 20 years prior on a trip to Berlin. And, it was right after Crowley had published his famous manual on occult magic called “Magick in Theory and Practice.” And, it was when Crowley was very much into using mescaline and turning everybody else that he could possibly get to try it on to mescaline themselves. 

Well, none of Huxley's biographies refer to this meeting. It's hard to find. It's only referred to in Aleister Crowley's personal journal. And, that's hard to find. But, in any case, Huxley knew and understood what I am talking about and he learned it supposedly from Aleister Crowley. Huxley knew that the Bible speaks against the use of drugs, period, but especially for any kind of spiritual purpose.

And, it blew my mind because I didn't start down this rabbit trail until I was reading an excerpt from Timothy Leary's autobiography. Hopefully, your audience knows who Timothy Leary is. When Timothy Leary first got started in promoting drug use and began the hippie movement of the '60s, he first consulted with Aldous Huxley. And, there is a transcript of a conversation between Huxley and Leary in Leary's autobiography that's called “Flashbacks.” And, Leary quotes Huxley as telling him that the opposition to what they were doing was the Bible. And, that just blew my mind because, okay, this is no conspiracy theory, this is in Leary's book.

Ben:  I read that quote by the way, the excerpt from Timothy Leary's autobiography and it reminded me of a billion discussions I hear every day. Like these two guys get together, they say, “Well, let's take drugs and ask our expanded brains a question,” which we see all the time like, “Hey, I'm going to go journey or I'm going to head off with some of my other executives in my company, we're going to take some psilocybin, walk on the beach. We're going to figure out some new ideas for our company.” We don't know we're in this state where we're going to be exposed to also demons and entities, et cetera, we're just going to go mind expand. Yet, we know that God's both big G, God, and little g, gods, speak to people through plants. 

So, there's some danger there already whether it's ergo or psilocybin or ayahuasca or whatever. And then, once they start talking, they start discussing this Philosopher's Stone, like this powerful knowledge that's been passed on by scholar and mystics and artists. And again, you hear a lot of people talk about that these days, the akashic record. I'm going to tap into universal consciousness, et cetera, et cetera. And then, one of them says that society needs this information, we got to somehow get this out into the world and out of the hands of the intelligent rich. And, that kind of comes down to almost this third wave of plant medicine, hey, get this in the hands of many people because it'll create kumbaya and love, love, love, and we're going to hold hands and dance around the campfire. And so, they go around to that. And, at the very end, they basically say that the brain drugs, the mass-produced brain drugs are going to bring about vast changes in society, and all they need to do is spread the word. And then, at the very end of that quote, I think it's Aldous says this to Timothy, he says, “The obstacle of this whole evolution is the Bible.”

And, Robert I think the reason for that is because, like the '60s is a perfect example, but I think we're seeing a resurgence of that now, when people take a heroic dose of psilocybin or they go on a plant medicine journey or they go to ayahuasca or whatever, a lot of times they come back with this notion that seems really noble. Basically, like, “Hey, we all got to love each other. We should all come together and hold hands. We can all change this world if we all engage in this shift of consciousness together.” 

But, the one thing that nobody talks about coming out of that experience is, “And, hey, by the way, we're broken humans, falling creatures, sinful creatures, and there's no way that we can pull any of this off without God and without relying upon the salvation that was extended to us by the death of Jesus on the cross.” In other words, us humans can do this all on our own holding hands and using drugs and we could save the planet. And, I think that's another reason that God expressly forbade pharmakia because all of a sudden, it removes God from the equation because we think we can do it all on our own plus drugs, middle finger to God, we don't need you anymore because we figured out a way to expand our consciousness without you. 

But, as everything from the holocaust to modern-day terrorism to the recent power play during the pandemic and beyond shows human beings left to their own capabilities despite us thinking we're all going to do the best thing and help each other out tend to really bring the world to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly once we put our faith in something other than something absolute morality or God or the acceptance that we are broken creatures in need of salvation.

And, that's why I think that maybe Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley knew that one of the primary impediments to the spread of drugs was going to be the Bible because the Bible not only says, A you shouldn't be using these things for salvation, but B, as you mentioned very early in our discussion, Robert, the only way to true immortality and true happiness and true salvation is a belief in Jesus Christ that allows us to have union with God. And so, drugs are a perfect way to temporarily make us think we don't need that, yeah?

Robert:  Right, exactly. It's a new religion. And, in this new religion, you can have spiritual experiences. Again, with a Biblical worldview, you have to understand that this Angel-Satan that deliberately rebelled against God and has been involved in deceiving and destroying mankind since then, he is going to create false religions and false spiritual experiences in order to continue to move us away from God and away from Jesus Christ, especially. And so, yeah, that's right back to your point about the concern about the idolatry sort of element in this whole picture. The Bible says there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. And, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. And, no one comes to the father except through me.” 

So, those are very exclusive claims about who gets to come to God and how. The how is through me. And so, the only who is those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. That's the heart of the gospel. And, all Satan has to do is convince us that there's another way that we can come to God apart from Jesus Christ and he's got you. He's got you deceived. And, you're eventually going to reap the fruits of it, but even if you don't end up having bad experiences, the devil has managed to keep you away from Jesus. And, in the end, that's the big deal.

Ben:  Yeah. What do you think though about this idea that the church, specifically the early church had a great deal of influence from the use of entheogens? There's that book called “The Immortality Key,” which is based on this idea that the Eucharist was not just wine but it was like spiked wine, and that people were actually in an altered state of consciousness in the early church. What are your thoughts on that whole book, and in theory put forth by Brian Muraresku in his book “The Immortality Key”?

Robert:  Right. Well, let me first say I read his book. Before I got his book, I listened to four hours of podcasts with Brian. He was on Joe Rogan and a couple other shows. And, he seems like a really smart not likable interesting guy.

Ben:  He is. He's a friend of mine. We've had dinner before and talked about this, but I want to hear your take on it.

Robert:  Well, his book did change my view of how the ancient Greeks and Romans used wine to worship Dionysus and Bacchus. Like you said, if you're going to try to drink enough alcohol in order to have a spiritual experience, it's probably not going to work because you're just stubborn.

Ben:  Not if it's just alcohol, yeah.

Robert:  Right. And, I had always assumed that they were simply drinking copious amounts of alcohol to have encounters with these, the god of wine. But now, I think they probably had hallucinogens such as ergot added to the wine, that's pharmakia but it's in a wine carrier. And, I think he convinced me that pharmakia in the context of pagan idolatry was much more common, not only in ancient Greece but maybe even in Israel than I understood in the past. 

But, having said that, I don't think Brian proved his main thesis that hallucinogen use was common among the first Christians. And, he even admitted it himself toward the end of the book. He said, “We didn't find the smoking gun.”

So, it's an entertaining read. There's things I learned from it, but the thing that got to me is, well, he didn't prove his thesis. So, why did it sell, I don't know, 7 million, 12 million copies, whatever it was? And, I think the reason people were so excited about his book is they want to believe that God is okay with this, they want to have some validation for what they're doing. But, if he was really going to prove his thesis, to my mind, there's three levels of proof that he kind of needs to pass through. The first one was what this book was about, did it happen ever? Did the early church ever use ergot or something else in the wine of communion? There's still no proof that that happened even once. But, like I said, given all his research, to me it seems possible. I actually wouldn't be too surprised if I learned later that somebody found that say, for example, the church in Corinth, which was a mess of a church they were involved in all kinds of occult and pagan things. I wouldn't be too surprised if somebody found evidence that there was one or two instances that the church in Corinth had defiled the Eucharist with ergot.

Ben:  I totally wouldn't be surprised if they were, but at the same time, the whole book of first and second Corinthians is Paul writing letters to the Corinthians telling them they were making big mistakes with these pagan feasts and some other sexual revelry. And so, the fact that they were doing it does not mean that that was right. And, in fact, it appears that one of the greatest Apostles of Christianity, Paul, if he did know this, was writing to the Corinthians telling them, “Yo, knock it off, this stuff is dangerous.”

Robert:  Yeah, you can't drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.

Ben:  Yeah, he says that the cup of the Lord and cup of demons with the cup of demons very, very likely being despite drug-infused wine being used during the Eucharist. So, maybe they were doing it, but that doesn't mean that they were the perfect examples of early-day Christians that we are supposed to emulate.

Robert:  Right, exactly. So, actually, Brian's work really, and he cites that verse, but Brian's work really just strengthens the argument against it because he even said in his book that there is a right way and a wrong way to do communion and that the church fathers all seem to be in agreement that adding any kind of drug is the wrong way. So, he didn't prove it, but people want to believe that it was part of it. The second level, if you were going to prove it, you'd have to show that it happened frequently. And, there's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that it happened frequently. He said we didn't find a smoking gun. If you want to say it was common practice, you would have to have a smoking machine gun of evidence to support that. And then, finally, which is what you already addressed, assuming you found widespread evidence of the use of ergot in the communion, you would then need to prove that it was sanctioned, that it was Orthodox practice. And, the Bible just clearly shows that it's not. And, like I said, Brian quotes that same verse in 1st Corinthians 10.

Ben:  Yeah. And, I mean, even if the wine was spiked back in those days or had a lot of these entheogens in it, I mean also, I realize like possibly a little bit of a stretch, but Jesus was offered that wine on the cross and refused to drink it and maybe that was for different reasons but it could have all also been because Jesus Christ himself knew this guy who had turned a whole bunch of water into wine at the wedding in Kana that the wine he was being offered on the cross actually was one of these hallucinogenic entheogenic substances. I realized that it's stretching and a total hypothesis, but basically, I think the long story short here is that let's just say that it's true that there were elements of entheogenic use in the early Christian church, that's kind of like saying nowadays, there's elements of adultery and inaccurate preaching and/or sinful worship in some churches in America and therefore that makes it right and it doesn't. I mean, church is full of people who are hypocrites and who are sinful just like any other element of society. Just because it's a practice in a church doesn't mean that we endorse it, right?

Robert:  Correct. I mean, you got to go back to the Bible. To your point about Jesus refusing the wine that was offered to him when he was being taken to be crucified, the Bible says it contained gall, which is believed to be sort of a narcotic, and he turned it down. So, Jesus refused to enter an altered state of consciousness even when he was in excruciating pain. 

But, I thought it was interesting, Brian's book kind of brought out the fact that wine was more or less a universal carrier for different kinds of medicine. And, that would be a good example of it, but he argued, he quoted 1st Corinthians 10, 20, and 21, and Paul like you said, Paul said, “The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God. And, I do not want you to be participants with demons.” And then, in verse 21, he said, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too. You cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons.” And so, that to me, if Brian is right and if that is what they were doing, that first addresses it perfectly. He's saying, “No, it's a cup of demons because it's a cup of pharmakia.”

Ben:  Yeah. In the book, you get into so much more. I had both my sons read it. It was kind of like their drug education, honestly, because you get into PCP and cannabis and ketamine and marijuana and you cover it all and you give a really great explanation. And so, I gave it to my sons just because I'd rather they learn about all these drugs in the comfort of their own home with dad, but I like the way you present it because you highlight how they work, the mechanisms of action, the dangers, and some of the things that even the Bible says about them. 

But, I think the most important thing about your book, and this is one of the reasons I would really love for people to read it is you give people hope, you basically say that really the only way to get that type of permanent shift in consciousness, an expansion of the spirit and attainment of becoming a new creation is so much simpler and so much easy and so much less habit forming and addictive than turning to plant medicines or to drugs. And, it's a very simple but a very explicit message. And, that is that you have this complete lifting of the burden off your back, this complete cleansing of your consciousness and conscience and this near removal of any type of desire to be dependent upon or rely on these medicines for a spiritual experience. Once you discover how easy and free and simple it is to have a deeply spiritual experience with God in a fully sober state on your knees in the morning — 

I can tell you what Robert, every single morning my sons and I are sitting cross-legged. I don't say this to brag or to act like I'm all holy praying in public whatever, my sons and I are sitting cross-legged on the living room floor and we have incense burning and we're playing soaking worship music and we're reading the Bible and we're praying and I'm crying and it's this deeply spiritual release. And, that's every single morning and there's no drugs involved. And then, we stand up and we go about our day. And, the entire day is magical and amazing because of that.

And, I wish more people could just experience that, especially people are considering going off and doing some type of plant medicine journey. I would challenge somebody listening in, just try it. Instead of doing some fasting and dieta and leading up to your super special trip to go see a shaman, maybe take that time instead and just spend 30 days in prayer and meditation and soul searching and journaling and reading passages of the Bible like Proverbs or 1st John or Romans or any of these other amazing passages of scripture. And then, take those, I don't know, usually it's like three or four days that you've dedicated to taking drugs and doing all your intention setting and journaling afterwards, instead go out in the forest or to a quiet place and fast and have some water and have your Bible and a journal without the drugs. And, I guarantee that you're probably going to have, not probably, I know you're going to have a better experience. 

But, here's the problem, Robert, 99% of people will hear that and they'll be like, “Wait, that doesn't sound like any fun, I don't get to do drugs, I don't get to shift my consciousness, I don't get to see special colors inside my head” even though trust me if you fasted for two days and you're deep in prayer with God, you will see a lot of special colors inside your head. Don't worry about that. but, it's one of those things where people just don't want to chop wood and carry water. But, if you're listening in, I would say, “Hey, you know what, just try it.” Before you go off and do plant medicine, try the other route, try the harder route, try the route that involves blood, sweat, and tears and hard work and fasting and going off by yourself. And, I wish more people would do that before they say, “Hey, I found God through plant medicines.” Because if they did that first, I'll bet they'd say, “Hey, I found God through prayer and fasting and engagement in the spiritual disciplines.” And, I think that's what people need a lot more than they need yet another trip to the Peru to the Amazon to do Ayahuasca.

Ben:  Right. And, if my thesis on pharmakia is true, then the experiences they're having are a deception. And, they are a convincing deception, A, because of the sensory effect of the drugs. And, people make the mistake of thinking, “Oh, well, if I'm having an intense experience, then it must be a genuine experience.” But, that's not necessarily the case. The drugs have got your sensory input on next level turned up to 11. So, whatever spiritual experience you're having when you're high is going to be intense. The problem is it's a deception. And, the genuine experience that the deception is an imitation of is the experience of rebirth and renewal and spiritual life through faith in the genuine God, which comes through faith in Jesus Christ. 

To your point, I mean, I have never felt I have lacked access to spiritual power or guidance since I came to faith in Jesus Christ. Ever have I had experiences that were as intense as some of the experiences I had on psilocybin. I've had a few, but again, that's not what determines whether or not they are authentic and genuine and can be trusted. And, genuine faith in the genuine God brings genuine renewal and genuine life. And, like you said, there is no substitute for it.

Ben:  Yeah, I agree. Well, we scratch the surface of your book and what's contained within it. I would really challenge people to go out and read it. We probably got some folks thinking and wanting to leave some comments and questions and feedback. And so, if you go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/Pharmakia, that's BenGreenfieldLife.com/P-H-A-R-M-A-K-I-A, BenGreenfiedLife.com/Pharmakia, you can leave your questions, you can leave your comments, you can leave your feedback. 

I'll link to Robert's website, RobertOrem.com as well as his book. He's doing a new series of videos. When I mention his book, I think you kind of saw a little bit of a resurgence of traffic to his website and he's starting to put out some really good content. And again, like I mentioned in the introduction, Robert and I are even talking behind the scenes about maybe me recording the audio version of his book if you want to listen to it. But, in the meantime, you've at least gotten a little taste of what's in there in today's show.

Robert, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show for writing this book. We could have talked for hours obviously, but I think we covered at least a little bit of what I wanted to cover. I hope we got some people thinking about the dangers of these medicines and some things that you should think about instead. And so, I'm super grateful for you, man. And, thank you for coming on the show.

Robert:  Likewise, brother.

Ben:  Alright, folks. I'm Ben Greenfield along with Robert Orem signing out from BenGreenfieldLife.com. Have an amazing week.

Alright, this is cool, but you want to pay attention because it's coming up right around the corner on Friday, December 2nd. You're going to get a chance to join me and some really powerful healing physicians down in Sarasota, Florida. This is a live event. It goes from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I'll be there, my friend, and a brilliant former podcast guest, The Doctor Strange of Medicine, Dr. John Lieurance is going to be there, HBOT USA, Dr. Jason and Melissa Sonners are going to be there with their Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Brian Richards of SaunaSpace, Harry Paul, one of John's friends who I recently met who's also an amazing healer for an event that's super unique. It's all based around the elements: earth, fire, air, and water, with a ton of treatments and technologies and modalities, and very unique biohacks that you're going to get exposed to during the entire event.

Basically, what I mean by that is when it comes to air, you're going to learn about hyperbaric oxygen, and ozone, and air filtration, everything you need to know to upgrade your air. When it comes to earth, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, earthing, grounding, a host of other ways that you can use the power of the planet to enhance your health, your sleep, your recovery, your muscle gain, your fat loss, a lot more water. You'll learn about proper water filtration, how to upgrade your water, hydrogenated water, structured water, basically soup to nuts, everything you need to know about water and how to apply it in your home and your office and your life. And then, finally fire, is a fun one. Lots of cryotherapy, a little bit of ice too, breathwork, inner fire practices, a ton of stuff when it comes to introducing the element of fire into your life.

So, this event is super unique. John and I have been working on it behind the scenes and it has come together amazingly. There's even a VIP experience. If you sign up for the VIP experience, you could come two days early or stay a few days after the event, and basically, you will get all the medical protocols customized by Dr. John and his staff if you claim one of those 10 VIP spots. That'll include IV methylene blue, laser treatments, John's really unique bliss release, which is basically an endonasal adjustment, which is essentially a chiropractic adjustment through your nose for your entire skull, which if you've had TBI or concussion or allergies or things like that in the past, it totally reboots that entire system. There's going to also be ozone treatments, Myers' IV cocktails, exosome treatments, IV laser, access to a CVAC machine. And, John's entire facility is going to be at your beck and call if you got one of the VIP tickets.

And then, we're also probably going to have a little bit of a party later on in the evening after this event. The whole thing is going to be a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming full-on cutting-edge of biohacking experience. And, I'm just now letting the world know about it so spots are going to fill up pretty fast. Space is limited, but if you want to get in now, here's how. You go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/Elements-Event. That's BenGreenfieldLife.com/Elements-Event. It's in Sarasota, Florida. Again, it's all-day Friday, December 2nd. I would come in early and stay after. If you just want to try out all the crazy modalities there. I don't know how fast those VIP tickets are going to sell out, but either way, this thing is going to be absolutely amazing. I just can't wait, like I'm pinching myself, can't wait to be on the plane to head down there and do this. So, check it out, BenGreenfieldLife/Elements-Event. And, I'll see you there, I hope.

More than ever these days, people like you and me need a fresh entertaining, well-informed, and often outside-the-box approach to discovering the health, and happiness, and hope that we all crave. So, I hope I've been able to do that for you on this episode today. And, if you liked it or if you love what I'm up to, then please leave me a review on your preferred podcast listening channel wherever that might be and just find the Ben Greenfield Life episode. Say something nice. Thanks so much. It means a lot.

 

 

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 wildly 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 and 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.

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 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

  • Victorie
  • 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…

Upcoming Events:

  • Elements Of Vitality with Dr. John Lieurance, Ben Greenfield & Friends: December 2, 2022, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM EST.

Dr. John Lieurance & Ben Greenfield offer a rare experience to explore the elements of Earth, Fire, Air, and Water with unique treatments, technologies, modalities, and biohacks to represent the healing powers of each element individually. Learn more here.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

– Robert Orem:

– Podcasts:

Other Resources:

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