Letter to The Times published on 26 May 1970, criticising John Marco Allegro’s book The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross
Letter to The Times, dated 23 May, published 26 May 1970 – Transcript
A good deal of publicity has recently been given to a book (The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross) by Mr John Allegro, formerly a lecturer at Manchester University.
This is a work upon which scholars would not normally wish to comment. But the undersigned, specialists in a number of relevant disciplines and men of several faiths and none, feel it their duty to let it be known that the book is not based on any philological or other evidence which they can regard as scholarly. In their view this work is an essay in fantasy rather than philology.
- G R Driver, Emeritus Professor of Semitic Philology, Oxford University
- P R Ackroyd, Professor of Old Testament Studies, London University
- G W Anderson, Professor of Old Testament, Edinburgh University
- J N D Anderson, Professor of Oriental Laws, London University
- James Barr, Professor of Semitic Languages, Manchester University
- C F Beckingham, Professor of Islamic Studies, London University
- Henry Chadwick, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford University
- John Emerton, Regius Professor of Hebrew, Cambridge University
- O R Gurney, Professor of Assyriology, Oxford University
- E G Parrinder, Reader in Comparative Study of Religions, London University
- J B Segal, Professor of Semitic Languages, London University
- D Winton Thomas, Emeritus Professor of Hebrew, Cambridge University
- Edward Ullendorf, Professor of Ethiopian Studies, London University
- G Vermes, Reader in Jewish Studies, Oxford University
- D J Wiseman, Professor of Assyriology, London University
John Marco Allegro’s Reply, dated 26 May
It is difficult to judge what motives underlie the extraordinary letter you publish in your columns today, nor what scholarly purpose it is meant to accomplish. It condemns many years of intensive research in Near Eastern and classical studies with no more justification than that it seems to its learned signatories as “an essay in fantasy”.
My working is fully set out in the notes of The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, and I am quite prepared that the many important advances in our knowledge that the book offers should be measured against equally objective and scholarly criticism. Perhaps when these scholars have actually read and studied the book they will feel better able to offer the world a balanced judgement less clouded with emotion and more in accord with their responsibility to the centres of learning they adorn.
John M. Allegro