History of religion

I used to have a large interest in the history of religion. This mostly came from reading Philip K. Dick who was influenced by Gnosticism and the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library and so I liked to read about early Christianity and its mythology. Then a while back the digital repository of academic papers JSTOR opened its august doors to the common peasantry, if ever so slightly. You could read I think five articles per month for free without being associated with an academic institution though this could easily be sidestepped by registering multiple accounts and at least back then they accepted mailinator addresses so it was a pretty easy thing to do.
I still have some of the ones I liked best saved and have recently been wanting to go back and re-read them so I thought I'd put up a page where I wrote short summations of them. I'll add links both to the original JSTOR articles but also to a more easily accessible pirated version on zlibrary when available.

Why Did Noah Send out a Raven?
R. W. L. Moberly

Ravens in the Bible are described as detestable in Leviticus and should not be eaten, most likely because they themselves eat carrion, and from Genesis they are usually thought of as that bird that Noah sent out to find land but failed in doing so before the dove was sent instead. Here Moberly points out that the raven's purpose is never explicitly stated in Genesis and therefore we should not assume it was to find land or that the raven failed at whatever it was supposed to do. He compares how the raven's movement is described in Gen 8:7 as going "forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up" to the way God's spirit is described in Gen 1:2 as "hovering over the waters" at the world's creation. The raven is then used to symbolically replicate God's action in creating the world.
Why though would Noah choose a raven to do so? Moberly admits that he doesn't have an answer and that raven's are in fact usually portrayed in a negative light in Jewish and Christian tradition, though he does point out that ravens are sent by God to feed Elijah in 1 Kings so there might have been some other tradition related to ravens that have been lost to time.
I'm not entirely convinced myself but I thought it was an interesting and well argued point which is typical of Moberly. Also ravens are interesting creatures and maybe deserves a reappraisal in this case.
Though they can make an awful racket they also display a significant intelligent, they mourn their dead and are able to use tools to solve problems which is more than what most people appear capable of.

Lion and Human in "Gospel of Thomas" Logion 7
Andrew Crislip

The Gospel of Thomas is an apocryphal gospel found in the Nag Hammadi library. It's a "sayings gospel" meaning it's made up of somewhat unrelated sayings attributed to Jesus. This essay deals with the seventh saying which is considered one of the more difficult ones and goes as follows:
Blessed is the lion that the human eats,
and the lion becomes human.
And cursed is the human that the lion eats,
and the lion will become human.

On the face of it it makes no sense, in both instances the lion becomes human no matter who eats whom. This has sometimes been attributed to scribal error and people have wanted to change the last line to "and the human will become lion", which would be the logical continuation.

The essay by Crislip isn't as interesting as what it quotes from which is another essay entitled "Lion Becomes Man: The Gnostic Leontomorphic Creator and the Platonic Tradition" by Howard M. Jackson. From the quotes given Jackson's argument is that this is an allegory for the soul taken from Plato's Republic. A clear translation isn't given but what I took from it was that it's a play on the positive and negative connotations we have about lions. Where on one hand it's a feral creature with no self control who in Christianity has negative association to people being thrown to the lions and torn apart for heresy but on the other hand we associate many positive things to lions like strength and bravery.
So when the lion eats the human it alludes to letting one's baser nature drag you along and the lion then manifest itself as human in the negative sense of the human becoming uncivilized and like an animal. Whereas the human eating the lion means taking control of one's savage nature, one's "id" if you will, and to quote from the Republic "make an ally of the lions nature". The lion then manifests as human in a positive sense. At least this is my own interpretation, you'd have to read it for the full Republic excerpt.

Crislip doesn't agree with Jackson and states that the soul in the Republic is described as tripartite with a human, a lion and a "many-headed beast" contending for it whereas in the Gospel of Thomas it's bipartite with just the human and lion. Which is true but the conflict is still clearly described as bipartite with the soul being controlled either by the human or the lion and beast as cohorts. So I could easily see some writer needing to condense the story down to pithy aphorism dropping the many-headed beast for brevity.
Anyway the interesting parts which are discussing Jackson ends on page 10 and after that Crislip discusses some other theories, first that the whole thing amounts to dietary advise about vegetarianism and then another theory about it being a standing concern about what happens at resurrection to people whose bodies had been eaten by wild animals. I'd have to go with Jackson especially considering the general Platonic influence on Gnosticism.

The Mark Of Cain - Revealed At Last?
R. W. L Moberly

The mark of Cain has been a source of endless speculation. The Bible makes not statement as to the graphical design of it just that "the LORD put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him".

Moberly puts forth the idea that the Bible in fact does tell us what the sign is and that the confusion has been caused precisely because people have assumed that it's a physical mark on Cain's body.
By going back to the original Hebrew he's noted that the word used is "for" and not "upon", as in it's a mark for Cain not upon his body. Something that marks him as being different and what marks him is his violence.
Moberly argues that the sentence immediately preceding the one about God putting a mark on Cain, "Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance" is itself the actual mark of Cain. A warning "which serves to prevent Cain from being killed".

Someone who's been killed obviously can't exact a "sevenfold vengeance" so Cain here represents a tribe of whom he's the progenitor. Also the "seven" in sevenfold shouldn't be taken literally. Instead seven here means "many", just like in English one might say that "I've tried it a hundred times" simply means that something has been attempted many times and no exactly one hundred. Lamech, a descendant of Cain, in Gen 4:24 further indicates that seven was used to mean many when he says:
If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times

The mark is then the fearsome reputation of the tribe of Cainites that would prevent people from killing one of their members.

There are several interesting sidetracks in this essay that makes it worth reading. Like how it's almost paradoxical that the sign would on one hand damn Cain and on the other it marks him as safe in God's protection. Here's a quote that was originally in German that I just ran through Google translate:
The sign, however, is the pledge for Cain and for all people who see Cain, the signal that the cursed and outcast may still remain under the grace and protection of God. Cursing man and accepting the damned sinners are always side by side. Here we look into the center of the Bible.

This then leads to the question of whether or not this is God giving the descendants of Cain the right to be murderous or if it's instead an acknowledgment of his pre-existing violence and that Cain therefore will come to no harm, as a response to Cains fears that as an outcast wanderer any who come upon him might kill him.

Cain then embodies over-reaction, at the rejection of his offering to God he responds by murdering Abel.
At the end there's a quote from Matt 18:21-22 where Jesus echoes these boasts of violence from Cain and Lamech but turn them around:
Then Peter came and said to Jesus, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?". Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."

The Origin in Ancient Incantatiory Voces Magicae of Some Names In The Sethian Gnostic System
Howard M. Jackson

There's a multitude of different deities in Gnostic texts that don't seem to have any common origin for their names. Some appear Greek, others Semitic and trying to find the root or meaning behind the names can sometimes approach pareidolia.

The meaning of the main Demiurge's name, Ialdabaoth is naturally of particular interest and there's been many theories. One Jackson mentions is "yld abaoth" by Scholem which translates to "Begetter of (S)abaoth" which is most likely the one you currently find on Wikipedia as the "most probable derivation" though the translation there is given as Lord of Chaos.
Jackson argues that this is not only incorrect but that Ialdabaoth and most other names are meaningless and simply taken from the Greek Magical Papyri - abbreviated PGM - essentially because they sounded cool. The PGM contains a lot of incantations, some approaching glossolalia with reams of made up names for deities that themselves don't mean anything. The paper quotes an F. C. Burkitt:
... the nomenclature does not suggest any real acquaintance with Semitic languages or Semitic alphabets, but only a superstitious veneration for Hebrew names found in the Greek versions of the Old Testament, eked out by scraps of ill-digested bits of Hebrew supplied (no doubt) by Jews.

So sort of like early weeaboos but for Hebrew culture instead of Japanese - heebaboos? - they made up Semitic sounding names to lend an aura of mystery and authenticity to their writings. The names then are mostly chosen for aesthetic effect to be used in chants. Another quote:

It comes as no surpize, then, to find Plotinus, in refuting Gnostics who, Prophyry tells us (Life of Plotinus 16), touted documents widely acknowledged to be identical with two of our Sethian ones, informing us that his Gnostics composed magic chants and claimed that their songs and noises and breathings and hissings exerted magical power upon the transcendental world (Enneads 2.9.14), a practice manifestly adopted from the hissings and mouth-poppings and whatnot with which the rituals of the magical papyri are replete.

In the paper everything is quoted in Greek but looking up the given indices in an English translation of PGM you can indeed find names very similar to Ialdabaoth. For example in PGM IV 1195 there's IALDAZAO which is give as the first of a string of names which is followed by "creator of the world, creator of the universe, lord, god of gods". So it's easy to see why Gnostics would think that was a good name to use for the main Demiurge.

The interesting take away from this then is that the people who wrote the Gnostic literature were not native speakers of Hebrew but that they were influence by Semitic religions. Howard state that they may have been Egyptians which makes sense considering Nag Hammadi is in Egypt but that the writings could as well have originated from the Near East or Roman world.

Moses and Monotheism
Sigmund Freud

Freud might not be known as an historian but this book that deals with the origin of Judanism and Monotheism is really fun. In it he argues that Moses was an Egyptian and not a Hebrew and that Moses did not create a new Religion but converted the Israelites to his own Egyptian religion.
Egyptian religion might seem very far from Judaism with its pantheon of different animalisitic gods but the first recorded case of monotheism in history was the short lived worship of Aten in ancient Egypt.
Atenism was started by the pharaoh Akhenaten - who has been called the first individual in human history - around 1300 B.C. but was discontinued and even forbidden after his death. Moses according to Freud was a high priest/prince of the Aten religion who rather than convert back to the old system chose to emigrate with Israelites whom he also tried to convert.

I'll summarize the salient points:
* Moses' name is the Egyptian word "mose" meaning child and not the Hebrew "Moshes". Mose was a common part of Egyptian names, usually appended after that of a deity so e.g. Ramesses = Ra-mose, Thutmosis = Thuth-mose.
* This point if furthered by the fact that he was given his name by an Egyptian princess and why would an Egyptian princess give the child a Hebrew name or even know Hebrew in the first place?
* Though there are a lot of legends of foundlings growing up to be great leaders in mythology, Moses' story runs in the opposite direction to most. In the majority of cases the child is of high bearing, say a prince and is found and raised by some low caste to later regain an elevated position commensurate with his birth. Freud's argument is that this was a literary device used to naturalize rulers who where originally foreign to the culture they ended up ruling. E.g. in the Mythological origin of Cyrus the Great he's the grandson of the King but was raised by a shepherds only to end up as King himself. This to Freud indicates that Cyrus was a foreign conqueror who by myth becomes the natural heir.
Contrast this to Moses who are born of a low status but raised by Egyptian royalty. His story is reversed but the common theme to all these what Freud terms "exposure stories" is that the actual origin of the person lies in the group that raises him, which for Moses is Egyptian royalty and the myth then undertakes to transform him into a Jew.
* Egyptians were the first to practice circumcision.
* Judaism is the only religion where its people are "chosen by God" as if God was some foreign entity whereas in most religions the God and its people belong inseparably together.
* The proscription in Judaism on depictions of God matches Atenisms impersonal depictions of God. Normally around this time Gods were anthropomorphized in some way but there's not a single personal representation of Aten found. Instead Aten is depicted as a sun disc from which rays ending in hands emanate.
* In Exodus 4 Moses himself states to the Lord that he's "never been eloquent" and is "slow of speech and tongue" and has to have Aaron talk to the Israelites for him. This has normally been interpreted as him having a speech impediment like a lisp but Freud would have it to mean that Moses was not a native speaker of Hebrew and needed to have someone translate for him.
This I'm not so convinced of since in Exodus 6 he doesn't want to talk directly to the Pharaoh since he speaks with "faltering lips" and again needs Aaron to address the Pharaoh for him. Now if Moses himself was an Egyptian he would of course have no problem communicating with the Pharaoh. Freud would have this too to be a distorted tradition of Moses not being able to communicate well because he didn't know Hebrew, but I dunno.

The book is split into three parts. The first one being concerned with proving that Moses was an Egyptian but from there Freud moves on to another theory which is that Moses was eventually killed by his own people. Freud appears to have taken it from a man named Sellin but the exact argument is never recounted in the book so the reader's left to wonder what it is. Instead Freud uses this assumption as a launching point for discussing psycho analytics. This is where I think the book loses focus. It gets particularly bad in the third part which was written years after the other two, where he starts discussing highly spurious theories taken from another guy called Robertson Smith about ancient man being being divided into small groups ruled by a single male who regularly killed his sons and who was eventually killed himself by his sons. This theory is then used to prove some sort of collective neurosis in mankind.
There's also discussions that assume genetic memory and there's a lot of musings on the nature of the Jewish people, understandable since it was written after Freud fled Vienna at the German invasion in 1938. All in all I find this third part to be very muddled.

The ideas are probably very out of date at this point but it's a nice historical view into the time it was written and it's worthwhile to read the first two parts even if like me you're ambivalent towards Freud. If you liked the psychology part of the second book you can try reading the third book. I'm tempted to look up these theories of Robertson Smith just for their novelty.

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross
John Allegro

This one will be familiar to anyone who reads Philip K. Dick as it is mentioned in The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and this is the reason I picked it up in the first place.
The book's main concern is proving that Christianity was a drug/sex cult focused on the fly agaric mushroom, often summarized as "Jesus was a mushroom" though that phrase is never used anywhere in the book.

The book has many problems, the biggest of which is that it commits the cardinal literary sin of being boring. It's entirely etymological in nature and so what it does over and over is it picks a word from some text say Old or New Testament, explains how that word means mushroom and/or penis in Sumerian, then points out several other uses or similar words in some completely unrelated texts. It then moves on to another word and points out occurrences of that in other texts.
We don't move through a single text like say a gospel and have it explained to us why there's a hidden subtext proving it revolves around drugs. Instead the book jumps from one word to the next and from one text to the next. This gets tedious in the extreme very quickly as there's no connective tissue and the reader is often left wondering what finding of a word meaning mushroom in a couple of Bible passages mean.

I wanted to create a bulleted list with the main arguments put forth in the book but I struggled to pick out any clearly demarcated arguments so just to give an idea of how the book reads I'll quote some choice passages that admittedly was picked somewhat for comedic effect:

If we are to make any enlightened guess at "primitive" man's ideas about god and the universe it would have to be on the reasonable assumption that they would be simple, and directly related to the world of his experience. He may have given the god numerous epithets describing his various functions and manifestations but there is no reason to doubt that the reality behind the names was envisaged as one, all-powerful deity, a life-giver, supreme creator. The etymological examination of the chief god-names that is now possible supports this view, pointing to a common theme of life-giving, fecundity. Thus the principal gods of the Greeks and Hebrews, Zeus and Yahweh (Jehovah), have names derived from Sumerian meaning "juice of fecundity", spermatozoa, "seed of life". The phrase is composed of two syllables, IA (ya, dialectally za), "juice", literally "strong water", and U, perhaps the most important phoneme in the whole of Near Eastern religion. It is found in the texts represented by a number of different cuneiform signs, but at the root of them all is the idea of "fertility". Thus one U means "copulate" or "mount", and "create"; another "rainstorm", as source of the heavenly sperm; another "vegetation", as the offspring of the god; whilst another U is the name of the storm-god himself. So, far from evincing a multiplicity of gods and conflicting theological notions, our earliest records lead us back to a single idea, even a single letter, "U". Behind Judaism and Christianity, and indeed all the Near Eastern fertility religions and their more sophisticated developments, there lies this single phoneme "U".

Quite simply, the reasoning of the early theologians seems to have been as follows: since rain makes the crops grow it must contain whithin it the seed of life. In human beings this is spermatozoa that is ejected from the penis at orgasm. Therefore it followed that rain is simply heavenly semen, the all-powerful creator, God.

The most forceful spurting of this "seed" is accompanied by thunder and the shrieking wind. This is the "voice" of God. Somewhere above the sky a mighty penis reaches an orgasm that shakes the heavens. The "lips" of the penis-tip, the glans, open, and the divine seed shoots forth and is borne by the wind to earth. As saliva can be seen mixed with breath during forceful human speech, so the "speaking" of the divine penis is accompanied by a powerful blast of wind, the holy, creative spirit, bearing the "spittle" of semen.

This "spittle" is the visible "speech" of God; it is his "Son" in the New Testament terms, the "Word" which “was with God, and was God, and was in the beginning with God; through whom all things were made, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life . . .“ (John 1:1—4). In the words of the Psalmists: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33:6); or, “when you send forth your breath they are created, and the face of the earth is restored” (Ps 104:30).

This idea of the creative Word of God came to have a profound philosophical and religious importance and was, and still is, the subject of much metaphysical debate. But originally it was not an abstract notion; you could see the “Word of God”, feel it as rain on your face, see it seeping into the furrows of mother earth, the “labia” of the womb of creation. Within burns an eternal fire which every now and then demonstrates its presence dramatically, by bursting to the surface in a volcano, or by heating spring water to boiling point where the earth’s crust is thinnest. It was this uterine heat which made generation possible, and which later theologians identified with the place and means of eternal punishment.

And another one of my favorite passages that coincidentally also has to do with penises:

The fertility aspect of divine and royal shepherding can be seen in another Sumerian word for “shepherd” which appears right across the ancient world in names and epithets. It is SIPA, literally, “stretched horn”, or “penis”. We may now recognize it in the biblical phrase Yahweh Sabaoth, from *SIPA-UD, penis of the storm. The Sumerian storm-god, Iskur, has a name with much the same meaning, “mighty penis”. Among the Semites he was known as Adad, “Mighty Father”, with the same general idea of the great fecundator of the skies. In the Old Testament, the name we know as Joseph means “Yahweh’s penis”, really just a shortened form of Yahweh Sabaoth. Over in Asia Minor, this Old Testament divine title appears in classical times as an old cultic cry to the Phrygian deity Sabazios, euoi saboi. The name of the god itself is composed of the same Sumerian SIPA to which has been added the element ZI, “erect”. This is just one example of how we can now span the whole area of our study and bring together apparently quite disparate religious cults simply through being able to decipher the names and epithets of the respective gods.

Similar phallic designations are given, as we now see, to many Sumerian, Greek, and Semitic gods, tribal ancestors and heroes. Hercules, that great ”club—bearer”, was named after the grossness of his sex organ, as was the Hebrew tribal ancestor Issachar. Perhaps the best known of the old Canaanite fertility gods, Baal, derives his name from a Sumerian verb AL, “bore”, which, combined with a preformative element BA, gave words for “drill” and “penis” and gave Latin and us our word “phallus”. In Semitic, ba'al, Baal, is not only the divine name but has also the general meaning of “lord, husband”. Hosea, the Old Testament prophet, makes a play on the general and cultic uses of the word when he has Yahweh say to Israel, “in that day you will call me ‘my man’ and you will no more call me ‘my baal’; I shall banish the name of baals from your mouth . . .“ (Hos 2:16 [Heb. 18]).

More than any other heavenly body, it was the sun which commanded most respect as the embodiment of god. It was the Creator, the fecundator of the earth. The ancients saw the glowing orb as the tip of the divine penis, rising to white heat as it approached its zenith, then turning to a deep red, characteristic of the fully distended glans penis, as it plunged into the earthly vagina. In the cultic centres this ritual was enacted imitatively by the entry of the priest into the god’s house.

The temple was designed with a large measure of uniformity over the whole of the Near East now recognizable as a microcosm of the womb. It was divided into three parts; the Porch, representing the lower end of the vagina up to the hymen, or Veil; the Hall, or vagina itself; and the inner sanctum, or Holy of Holies, the uterus. The priest, dressed as a penis, anointed with various saps and resins as representing the divine semen, enters through the doors of the Porch, the “labia” of the womb, past the Veil or “hymen” and so into the Hall.

On very special occasions, the priestly phallus penetrated into the uterus where the god himself dwelt and wrought his creative works. Even today the Christian ritual and architecture probably owes much to the ancient tradition, as the priest heads the processional through the body of the “womb”, to reach its climax before the altar.

The god was thought of as the “husband” of his land and people. This is a common figure in the Old Testament where Israel is featured as the “wife” of Yahweh, usually thus spoken of in passages accusing her of infidelity and seeking other “lovers”. The Church is also described as the “bride” of Christ (Rev 21:2 22:17). In both cases the god is the fructifying seed, the “Word” or Gospel, “good news”, whose fruitfulness depends upon the receptivity of the “womb” of his people’s minds and hearts.

Crystal clear? The book can border on stream of consciousness and in a weird kind of way reminded me of the writings of Francis E. Dec at times and although that can be fun it's very frustrating when it goes on for 250 pages and you can't pick out any clear strand of thought in the tangles.

Also did you notice the asterisk before the Sumerian word SIPA-UD above? This is another problem with the book which is that most of these Sumerian words he uses to prove his point appears to have been made up by the author. Sumerian words are created from smaller components that Allegro calls "word bricks". So for example when he discusses the word SILA being made up of SI and LA:

Sometimes two or more radical elements can be combined to form a new word-brick like SILA, "road junction", abbreviated sometimes to SIL. Clearly this word is a combination of SI, finger, and LA, "join together", the overall picture being that of Winston Churchill's "victory V" sign. We should express that supposed original form of two separate but, as yet, uncombined elements as *SILA with a perposited asterisk. This sign, here, and elsewhere, indicates a verbal group whose constituent parts are known to have existed in Sumeria but whose grouping or combination in that precise form does not actually appear in literature so far recovered.

What he's saying is that when a word appears with an asterisk there's no evidence for it existing in the Sumerian language but he's constructed it from smaller words that are known to exist. The book abound in these asterisks and though it's impossible for a layman to ascertain how likely any of these new words of his are it does cast the premise of the book into question when almost every word he uses to prove his point that something means mushroom or penis has an asterisk in front of it.
At least it's helpful that he marks these words as uncertain because another problem of the book is that even though most of his statements are made as though they are 100% certain it's never clear what is conjecture from his side and what is accepted as historical fact.

Allegro ascribes no value whatsoever to the actual stories and calls the New Testament a "cryptic document". His premise is that in order to avoid persecution this drug cult encrypted words for their sacred mushroom into the gospels and that the stories themselves are just chaff added to fool outsiders and had no meaning at all to early Christians. Particularly the way Romans are portrayed in a somewhat favorable light is done to placate the Rome who controlled Israel at that time:

Here, then, was the literary device to spread occult knowledge to the faithful. To tell the story of a rabbi called Jesus, and invest him with the power and names of the magic drug. To have him live before the terrible events that had disrupted their lives, to preach a love between men, extending even to the hated Romans. Thus reading such a tale, should it fall into Roman hands, even their mortal enemies might be deceived and not probe farther into the activities of the cells of the mystery cults within their territories.

Immediately after that paragraph Allegro admits that The ruse failed though he later backtracks a bit on that stating:

How far it succeeded in deceiving the authorities, Jewish and Roman, is doubtful.

Considering the Roman persecution that followed it would be doubtful indeed.
To me this is the weakest point of his argument that's never addressed. Namely if the only purpose is to again and again repeat the name of the mushroom in various forms then why encrypt it in a religious document at all? Surely some blander form of literature could be chosen that would be guaranteed not to offend anyone.
Beyond that the point of a text is to convey information, so if the stories themselves are worthless then one must ask just what the point of writing them were. What were the reader supposed to get out of reading them? They can't be used to convert anyone or even instruct neophytes since they contain no narrative, just mushroom names. The reader then had to be someone who was already in on the conspiracy but what would they get out of repeatedly reading a bunch of names of the mushroom that they must already be using as a drug?
It makes no sense to me and Allegro is not interested in discussing anything except the words in isolation so it remains a mystery to the reader just what practical purpose the texts actually served.
Additionally he doesn't just find drug references in the New Testament but in a vast array of other religious documents and these he also treats as if the stories held no meaning. Could this vast array of religious texts really all be ploys used just for transmitting the names of mushrooms?

Another thing that he's not interested in discussing is just who these cults were and when they existed. Judging from the title you'd think he'd focus on early Christians but Judaism, Roman polytheism and even Islam gets rolled in there when he later discusses the Arab Assassins. His definition of "early" Christianity isn't all that clear either. He obviously includes the gospels but often ends up talking about the Pauline letters which would imply that St. Paul was also a drug fiend. To my mind church was much larger and more established during St. Paul's time and it would seem unlikely that all these people were in on secret drug cult that later just disappeared.
I could only find a single paragraph where Allegro even tries to put all these drug cults into some sort of historical timeline:

Israelitism was based upon the cult of the sacred fungus, as its tribal names and mythologies now show. The extremes of some of its adherents bred their own internal and external opposition, and after the disastrous rebellions against the Assyrians and Babylonians of the eight and sixth centuries a period of reaction set in, and the past was forcibly expunged from Judaism under the reform movements of the sixth-fifth centuries. The mushroom cult went underground to reappear with even more disastrous results in the first and second centuries A.D. when the Zealots and their successors again challenged the might of Rome.
Christianity purged itself after the holocaust and drove its drug-takers into the desert as "heretics", and eventually so conformed to the will of the State that in the fourth century it became an integral part of the ruling establishment. By then its priests were raising wafers and sweet wine at the altar and trying to convince their followers that the host had miraculously become the flesh and juice of the god.

Roman polytheism's involvement is never explained but he definitely counts them as part of this cult when he discusses how the Vesta shrine's domed roof was a reference to a mushroom. Why the Romans would persecute Christians when they themselves were essentially the same drug cult is never explained. As stated he then links Islam to the same cult and links a 12th century fresco in the Plaincourault Chapel in France as depicting the tree in the garden of Eden as a mushroom:

The whole Eden story is mushroom-based mythology, not least in the identity of the "tree" as the sacred fungus, as we shall see. Even as late as thirteenth-century some recollection of the old tradition was known among Christians, to judge from a fresco painted on the wall of a ruined church in Plaincourault in France. There the Amanita muscaria is gloriously portrayed, entwined with a serpent, whilst Eve stands by holding her belly.

An interesting line of inquiry but one that is only mentioned in that brief paragraph, then dropped and it's right back to pointing out words meaning penis and by extension mushroom.
This is a 2000 year time span that the cult was able to survive and reappear during. How did they do that, who were they and where? These are things I would be interested in but there is no discussion of it.

In one complete throwaway line Allegro alleges that it's even survived into modern times:

Since certain of the species contain drugs with marked hallucinatory properties, it is not surprising that the mushroom should have become the center of a mystery cult in the Near East which persisted for thousands of years. There seems good evidence that from there it swept into India in the cult of the Soma some 3,500 years ago; it certainly flourished in Siberia until quite recent times, and is found even today in certain parts of South America.

Siberia? It's not clear if he means simply that using the mushroom as a drug has survived in Siberia and South America up till modern times or if he's talking about the actual cult. Anyway it doesn't matter since it's never brought up again.

I do own the book as a paperback but it's in storage so when I recently wanted to reread it I downloaded it as a pirated e-book and this epub contained an interesting added "foreword" by the pirate:

To the suppressors, Fuck you!

It then goes on to blames the Vatican and for some reason Anheuser Busch for the book being out of print which it isn't any more and I don't think has been for quite some time; I bought mine over 10 years ago new. Anyway you'd think that someone this dedicated to making the book available would take the time and properly format it instead of just running it once through an OCR software as has been done here, leaving glaring formatting issues. I suppose they were busy with other thing.
The foreword I think amply demonstrates the ardor that this book can inspire in certain groups. This is funny because Allegro himself doesn't seem to have any interest in drugs and doesn't have high opinions of the hippy culture that likely made up most of his readership back then. Like when he writes about the Arab assassins:

But it's difficult to believe that the "pot"-smokers of today, the weary dotards who wander listlessly round our cities and universities, are the spiritual successors of those drug-crazed enthusiasts who, regardless of their safety, stormed castles and stole as assassins into the strongholds of their enemies.

Already a controversial figure because of his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls this book did nothing to endear Allegro to the rest of the academic community. Perhaps that's why I can't find any academic criticism of it at all. Everyone seems to have just agreed that he was crazy and his ideas wrong prima facie. That is a real shame because occasionally he presents an argument that seems very convincing and I'm sure drug use was part of early religions just as it is among modern ones. It also comes off as a very angry book at times.

I cannot recommend the book, it's a jumbled mess of disconnected words being analyzed and an absolute slog to get through. There needs to be harder sciences like archaeology mixed in there instead of relying exclusively on etymology. Unless you're a linguist who knows the languages being discussed you won't get anything out of reading it.
If you're a die hard PKD fan and want to see what it's about then maybe read the first two chapters which both function as an introduction and contain most of the funny ramblings about penises. Or just watch this interview with Allegro by two Dutch weirdos as it goes over all the main arguments and there really isn't much more to it unfortunately.