It has been slow going as I've been reading The Sacred Mushroom & The Cross but I'm ready now to give my appraisal of the basic thesis. Which is to say, I don't have a clue. Let me recap.
John Allegro, the author, makes the argument that Christianity got its start as a subterfuge used by ancient Jews to hide their true religion from the Romans. He argues that they created an imaginary fertility cult based around the usage of the amanita muscaria, or "magic" mushroom. Then, by an ironic twist, the "fake" religion caught on and took on a life of its own. I think this quote does a good job of summing this up:
"The whole point of a mystery cult was that few people knew its secret doctrines. So far as possible, the initiates did not commit their special knowledge to writing. . . . When such special instruction was committed to writing, care would be taken that it should be read only by members of the sect. This could be done by using a special code or cypher, as in the case with certain of the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, discovery of such obviously coded material on a person would render him suspect to the authorities. Another way of passing information was to conceal the message, incantations, or special names within a document ostensibly concerned with a quite different subject.
"Plant mythology, known for thousands of years over the whole of the ancient world, provided the New Testament cryptographers their 'cover.' . . . Those most deceived appear to have been the sect who took over the name of "Christian" and who formed the basis of the Church, the history of which forms no part of the present study."
So I repeat: I don't have a clue. The information Allegro presents seems well researched but I have a couple problems with it.
First, he bases the whole book on the foundation that a new understanding of the Sumerian language or some other translation capability allows researchers to grasp meaning that was not previously possible. Unfortunately, the explanation he gives as to the nature of this new understanding is, at least in my opinion, insufficient. What he says is:
"The main factor that has made these new discoveries possible has been the realization that many of the most secret names of the mushroom go back to ancient Sumerian . . . For the first time it becomes possible to decipher the names of gods, mythological characters, classical dn biblical, and plant names."
Secondly, assuming this is all on the up and up, and there really is new information on which his thesis is based, there is no way that anyone who is not a serious scholar of ancient languages can judge his intrepretations. This stuff is so esoteric that there probably aren't 200 people in the world who have the knowledge to read what he says and challenge his hypothesis. The rest of us can only read what he says and say "That's an unusual and interesting argument but I don't have a clue about its validity."
Allegro makes the point that the book is written for the general public but perforce it was necessary to include a lot of technical data that would be outside the scope of the general reader. In my opinion, at least, he has failed to really reach the general reader. It may not be his fault. It may be that it is so esoteric that no one could cross that gap to really engage someone who doesn't have the background to evaluate what he's saying. But without the ability to evaluate the arugment, the only capability that remains is to plant the idea in the reader's mind and leave them thinking, again, "That's an unusual and interesting argument but I don't have a clue about its validity."
And that's where I leave it.