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If a plant told you to jump off a cliff … would you?

Casey Hardison | Essay | Thursday, November 27th, 2014

World Ayahuasca ConferenceRecently, I attended the 2014 World Ayahuasca Conference in Ibiza, Spain. It was an excellent conference for me, seeing old friends I had not seen since before prison, meeting new and exciting minds on the cutting edge of psychedelic science, and being present for Charlotte Walsh’s clarion call for Cognitive Liberty, the right to think for myself under the influence of whatever psychoactive I see fit. I think this position is more intellectually rigorous for its avoidance of exceptionalism or pharmacochauvanism. Rather than rely on special pleadings claiming how “my” allegedly ‘sacred’ use of “Mama Aya” deserves legal protection whilst “your” non-religious use of psychoactive drugs does not, Cognitive Liberty, as a concept, aims square in the heart of what Jacob Sullum said in Saying Yes, In Defense of Drug Use:

Seeking a medical or religious exemption from drug prohibition amounts to asserting that my use of this substance is important, that it deserves respect in a way that more frivolous uses do not … The urge to offer such excuses is based on the sense that drug use is morally suspect without an elaborate and serious sounding defense … Wine drinkers generally do not feel compelled to proclaim that their beverage was endorsed by God, that it relieves anxiety or reduces their risk of heart disease. They simply say, “I like a nice glass of wine.”

Saying this, I do not deny the anxieties relieved nor the genuine insights produced in moments of awe, reverence and inspiration under the influence of psychoactive drugs like ayahuasca. Having experienced these effects first hand, I can see why one would make appeals for such religious exemptions when pushed into a corner by the State or its agents.

Yet, here in the spiritual home of the Church of Prohibition, these justifications may become untenable as more and more disparate groups use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to seek exemptions from a variety of generally applicable laws. Using the RFRA, corporations can become a law unto themselves. This contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense: it asserts a private right to ignore laws generally applicable to everybody else.

According to the Supreme Court, the RFRA exempts:

  • the Native American and Uniao de Vegetal churches from provisions in the Controlled Substances Act
  • religious institutions from provisions in anti-discrimination laws
  • corporations, like Hobby Lobby, from the birth control provisions in the Affordable Care Act
  • religious congregations from laws prohibiting animal ‘sacrifice’
  • religious medical personnel from providing legal medical services to patients

The RFRA has become an excuse for superstition, sectarianism and bigotry. As it continues to gather public scorn, I predict the RFRA will collapse under it’s own folly.

lockedIn seeking exemptions under the RFRA, religious groups must present a belief system, complete with metaphysical or supernatural ideas, acceptable to the judges. This presents a fundamental conflict, I think that justifying my use of psychoactives to the State, especially by a claim to supernaturals, is unnecessary, counterproductive and suspect. In my opinion, it is way past time for the Cognitive Liberty social movement Ruiz-Sierra called for:

Cognitive liberty as a concept exposes the argument that the drug policy reform movement has conspicuously shied away from making: namely that drug prohibition is untenable because it infringes freedom of thought, the fundamental principle that underlies so many other constitutional guarantees.

In delivering the majority opinion in Palko v Connecticut (1937), US Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cordozo made it clear:

freedom of thought … is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom. With rare aberrations a pervasive recognition of that truth can be traced in our history, political and legal.

When one understands that Cognitive Liberty is antecedent to religion, one recognizes that these ‘sacred’ belief systems, these justifications, each start with thought. So it matters not what you believe, that you consent to alter your own mental functioning with drugs is enough for Cognitive Liberty to trump the absolute prohibitions of the Controlled Substances Act 1970 or other similar legislation.

*

At the Ayahuasca Conference, after listening to umpteen people tell me what “Mama Aya” had told them — she told me this, she told me that — I was struck by more than a few thoughts. Many of these tales were of the more mundane nature of what to eat, who to break up with, who to get together with, what career to pursue, how to handle some tricky inter-personal situation, and so on. But more than a few of these stories were of a fantastical nature, about how the spirit of ayahuasca had facilitated talking with long dead ancestors, how through ayahuasca they had gained access to a higher spiritual plane where they made contact with extra-dimensional beings who acted as guides or healers. I started to wonder if these people had pondered the role their imagination and cultural conditioning may have played in their visions. At times I was reminded of conversations with young children, who often struggle to distinguish between dreams and reality.

In Psychedelic Information Theory – Shamanism in the Age of Reason, James Kent writes:

[E]rroneous psychedelic information claiming species-level importance has negative cultural value and dilutes the overall information marketplace, making psychedelic information almost statistically worthless.

pit-coverAnd in case anyone was confused as to what Kent was aiming at, he included an explanatory note:

The psychedelic community produces a new guru every decade or so, and the cultural contributions of these gurus trends from pseudo-scientific to outright fantastical. It is often difficult to tell if the contributions of psychedelic celebrities outweigh the more nonsensical memes they propagate.

As I experience it, the greatest gift of psychedelics is their ability to free our minds by helping us see the shifting vibrational nature of things; they remove solidity, they remove certainty. So why do so many in the psychedelic community wind up with attachments to off-the-peg, cookie-cutter belief systems, complete with extra-dimensional beings, machine elves, aliens, crop circles, ufos … you get the idea?

In this time of global economic and ecological meltdown, we need great minds working on great thoughts. The last thing we need or want is people using these tools and ending up back in the superstitious world views that rationality escaped from in the enlightenment era.

*

Whilst in prison for disobeying laws based on superstitious ideas of drugs enslaving people or facilitating too much freedom from authority, I was busying myself with writing a book, yet to be properly published. In the process, I was digging into Stan Grof’s Basic Perinatal Matrices and musing about the Abrahamic Genesis myth being a covert description of the birth experience, thrusting each of us, alone and cold, into a meaningless world where we would eventually discover our mortality and terrorize ourselves with that awareness.

In the course of my studies, I stumbled into a phrase and a line of thinking that apparently got Otto Rank kicked out of Freud’s metaphorical garden: “separation anxiety,” from our mother’s womb, from a mystical union with the cosmos, from the human community. A lot of us reading this have taken an assortment of drugs to experience that mystical union and thus salve our very separation anxiety. Rank’s crime was to observe that our inability to cope with these anxieties was the source of our neuroses, not sex as Freud would have it. On this, Rank said:

Life is a ‘mere succession of separations’: beginning with birth, going through several weaning periods and the development of the individual personality, and finally culminating in death — which represents the final separation. At birth, the individual experiences the first shock of separation, which throughout his life he strives to overcome. In the process of adaptation, man persistently separates from his old self, or at least from those segments of his old self that are now outlived. Like a child who has outgrown a toy, he discards the old parts of himself for which he has no further use … The ego continually breaks away from its worn-out parts, which were of value in the past but have no value in the present. The neurotic [… appears] unable to accomplish this normal detachment process … Owing to fear and guilt generated in the assertion of his own autonomy, he is unable to free himself, and instead remains suspended upon some primitive level of his evolution.

Rank Psych of DiffUnlearning necessarily involves separation from one’s self-concept, as it has been culturally conditioned to conform to familial, group, and institutional allegiances. According to Rank, unlearning or breaking out of our shell from the inside is “a separation [that] is so hard, not only because it involves persons and ideas that one reveres, but because the victory is always, at bottom, and in some form, won over a part of one’s ego”.

Pondering this with a headful of medical and religious anthropology, I noted that birth, death, ostracism, scapegoating, loss of self-esteem or status, loss of love in a relationship, even loss of innocence are the general human separation anxieties in need of salvation. In an attempt to salve these anxieties, religions constellate rituals around these universal human experiences.

*

I am firmly of the opinion that the “ego-death” I experienced on psychedelics has helped prepare me for my uncertain but inevitable demise, my separation from the human community. Nevertheless, this has yet to shield me from an occasional terrifying thought: “oh shit, I’m another breath closer to death”. Though I accept that all beings on this planet will cease to exist as the sun envelopes the earth, I am not free from the unconscious and conscious influences my awareness of death has on me.

And so it was that after my release from prison, Charlotte and I decided to watch Flight from Death: a documentary, derived from Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize winning book The Denial of Death, reporting on the findings of psychologists studying Terror Management Theory (TMT). According to TMT, people suffer cognitive dissonance or anxiety when they are reminded of their mortality. (You may be feeling it now). TMT proposes a basic psychological conflict resulting from having a desire to live but realizing death is inevitable. This conflict produces terror, and is believed to be unique to human beings, as is the solution: culture.

FFD 220px-Ffdposter2TMT holds that cultures are symbolic systems that act to provide life with meaning and value that serve to manage the terror of death. The simplest examples of the cultural management of our death terror appear those that purport to offer literal immortality (e.g. belief in afterlife). Through terror management, individuals are motivated to seek consonant elements – symbols that make sense of mortality and death in satisfactory ways, such as boosting self-esteem, making humans important, and so on.

This is what I believe those who make up stories of the “sacredness” or “divinity” of psychedelics are doing. I know: for many years, I did so too. Rather than taking responsibility for attributing these qualities to the plants, many people assert that psychedelics, particularly ayahuasca, are some sacred intelligence in communion with us. Ultimately, this has us not be alone, adrift in a world of post-modern meaninglessness, and shifts the conversation to some other realm where we are an elite special group that will be safe in the coming apocalypse as we transform to a new level of consciousness.

*

I too struggled with my ayahuasca visions. I had one particularly long messianic journey whereby I was the “one” who could see the entire evolutionary script, past and future, and thus it was my responsibility to save humanity. I was interpreting my visions through some syncretic mixture of millenarianist apocalypse and Judeo-Christian non-sense spurned on by Jose Arguelles’s interpretations of the Mayan calendar conjunct Terence McKenna’s Time Wave Zero. If they would only listen to me …

intentionalI had failed to distinguish my imagination from reality. It took several months for me to separate what happened from what I made up about it, to see my cultural conditioning with its viral memes giving meaning to my visions and thus to me. But having experienced ego transcendence, where my niggling worries dropped away, a sense of bliss and energy flow enveloped me in a unio-mystical type experience. I equated the horrible ruthless love I felt with an unfathomable intelligence permeating all. As I picked up the pieces of my sacred tantraum, I stumbled back into a mortal body with discrete limitations: no-one was listening me as the savior my visions said I was. I had experienced an entheogenesis but the unfathomable intelligence had lied, I was not the all-powerful savior of the world, I had not become God!

Sam Harris recently wrote in his new book Waking Up: a guide to Spirituality Without Religion:

It is quite possible to lose one’s sense of being a separate self and to experience a kind of boundless, open awareness — to feel, in other words, at one with the cosmos. This says a lot about the possibilities of human consciousness, but it says nothing about the universe at large. And it sheds no light at all on the relationship between mind and matter. The fact that it is possible to love one’s neighbor as oneself should be a great finding for the field of psychology, but it lends absolutely no credence to the claim that Jesus was the son of God, or even that God exists. [Or, that I am he.] Nor does it suggest that the “energy” of love somehow pervades the cosmos. These are historical and metaphysical claims that personal experience cannot justify.

Psychedelics are exceptional for unleashing repressed biographical material and working through it, for a therapeutic catharsis, but why did I so want them to be portals to the supernatural? Because as a member of the entheogenea, a race of beings recognizing they’re divinity, I was one of the few who had seen the Holy; and, it gave my life meaning and purpose.

*

Ayahausca in contemporary psychedelic culture starts with a myth: the plant spirits told the shamans to mix them together. (N.B. our astonishment at tribal people working out a two plant combo. This masquerades as lionisation — jaguarisation? — of indigenous cultures. In a different light this can be seen as deeply patronizing … they’re humans, just like us, of course they can work complicated shit out!) I have a new version of this myth requiring no plant spirits doing the talking. It starts with an article I recently received from the “I Fucking Love Science” team about a jaguar caught on film under the influence of the ayahuasca vine Banisteriopsis caapi. If you have studied american shamanism you might recognize the jaguar as the most sacred animal in their cosmologies, it’s also their biggest predator. So imagine this retelling of the great ayahuasca myth:Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 3.20.37 PM

A shaman out on a hunt sees a jaguar apparently writhing in some trance on the ground. (Having visions of humans, I presume). Curious, he wonders what’s up. He gathers some of the leaves and makes a brew or simply just copies the jaguar and eats the leaves right there. He experiences a psychoactive effect, kills the jaguar, skins it, and wears it as he returns to the village having found a new psychoactive and conquered his tribe’s mortal enemy. As he shares his new wares with the tribe he decides to snort some DMT snuff he’d prepared earlier … ayahuasca is born, myth gets lost.

Everything I have written may be wrong. I have of course just made this new myth up. In the face of my mortality it is my tendency to make shit up, to search for certainty. When I was young, I wanted to see entities, I wanted certainty that they were there, that I was not alone, even if some of those entities were malevolent. In my search for certainty, I lost my ability to sit with the mystery of it all. Occasionally, in meditation or under the influence of exogenous psychedelics, I represence the mystery: in that ineffable wonder, I am free.

 

14 Comments »

  1. This is very thought-provoking and inspiring, thank you Casey for that most pertinent logos! What you say about the legality issue and reasons to defend a free and informed choice, supported by cosmology or not, I couldn’t agree more! However I have some aching buts regarding the value of the contents of visions, even if they result from cultural and anecdotal expectations: If we are granted visions of how reality is woven, such that we can see reasons and solutions others might not, even if we are far from divine as a result of our insight, I still think we are meant to share with the world the memes and other novel ideas that come to us. Just because we are unable to convey the complete scheme, because we are humans and not gods (although (over(?)-)ambitious and zealous humans have made praiseworthy attempts), it seems to me the ethical thing would still be to endeavor to convey as much as possible in as ingenious a way as comes to mind.

    Also we should inspire all who are receptive of such inspiration to seek a personally experienced conception of a workable cosmology. We are not gods just because we have conceived of a functional cosmology, we are simply less susceptible to anecdotal cosmologies. So if some wise geezer is able to tell a story (another cosmology) which resonates with the one I have arrived at through my own imagination/experience/deduction, only the story the geezer-bard tells fills and fits in stuff that I hadn’t thought of, or it is told better, then I am not lured into the web of anecdotal evidence, but stand free to expand my own version of what are ultimately attempts to tell the same story, so long as I have acquired a sufficient ability for critical thinking and applied it while arriving at my own working theory.

    This is the problem though, that for individuals to think in a sufficiently coherent manner as to actually apply ideas and purported meanings (words, concepts, theories, cosmologies…) to their own experience and thereby gain some useful understanding enabling them to contribute to the telling of the cosmic story in a valuable enough way for the rest of us to potentially grow upon hearing it, for this to happen individuals need to evolve and learn something about critical thinking which it is not commonplace for individuals to learn in general on this planet today. While many will tell a bad story, and while many more will follow, I still think it is important to share a “proverbial” trip-report with whomever will listen, and I think you are doing exactly that, and you are doing it well!

    In a sense all the woo is true if apotheosis is understood as something that can only manifest and be sustained in logos, i.e. in any sort of meaning-conveying pattern reproducing itself within the reality-process. The alleged divinity and immortality of some humans is fathomable in terms of the reverberations of whatever sort of meaningfulness they were able to morse into the moment that they were physically alive. We can make very little of it all if we like, and it will be of very little consequence if we do. If we do the opposite, imagination and myth will be part of the meaning-message, and the way to guard against worthless delusion imposed by uncritical anecdotal logos is to diligently construct one’s own working model of reality on the basis of own experience and elaborate it in concert with others who do the same, with that in mind that we are ultimately set on telling stories that pertain to the same cosmic epos.

    The problem of religion and cosmology boils down to a question of: should this whole improbable story be told at all, or should we resign into near-indifferent nihilist beings with our mind-mouths sown shut because most of us are liable to tell the story really bad and have a bad influence on the rest of us who are a lacy lot ready to accept whatever we are told? As tendentious and partial as I may sound, I really don’t know which is better. I just have a strong preference based on my hopes for reality’s potential. Personally I am torn between ranting away like I do here, or resigning into oblivion without ever really trying to contribute anything to our common logos at all. Both options seem exceedingly risky. But instead of deleting what I just wrote, I hope you or someone will let me know if I should have or if it was worthwhile somehow after all, in spite of how stilted it is. (What I mean to say seems just as stilted in my head as it turns out in words anyway, but I’d rather not not formulate my thoughts anywhere anymore.)

    Comment by Audun — November 28, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

  2. EXCELLENT and challenging article! I like the hard-core stance against this version of “my drug is better than your drug.” which is an easy thing to fall into (believing that your drug(s) of choice are superior for whatever reasons)…

    The psychedelic experience stands squarely on it’s own value, no need for further validation. What I believe would be a positive direction for our culture would be to create a framework for responsible adult use of psychedelics (and other psycho-actives). I’d personally love to see us increase our utility from these substances. By creating thriving centers of psychedelic inquiry in every major university – and these should also include psychedelic crisis centers for working through difficult experiences (this is an area in which our medical professionals just do not have the proper education in most cases.), we would gain a major foothold in our understanding of what it is to actually be human.

    Getting side-tracked by imagination can be powerful, but has to be recognized for what it is. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the “New Age-y” part of psychedelics, or really anything when it gets too far from a sense of evidence I believe to be valid.

    Anyway, nice work!

    Comment by Jeremy — November 29, 2014 @ 2:06 am

  3. Thank you Jeremy and Audun, your observations are most welcome.

    The stiltedness of attempting to discuss these memes lies in our language. Rather than a proverbial exegesis, our direct experience is pre-verbial. And then we overlay words. In the New Testament, John 1: “the word became flesh”. In the Hindu pantheon, like the Christian, there was already the word, there was already “aum”. Our realities are woven in semiotics, in pattern cognition, this is what our brains do. We make shit up using the very mechanisms genetically expressed to make our survival and eventual gene transfer more probable: in other words, for sex and eternal life. None of us alive here now have ever died, we are millions of years old.

    I had a confluence of events many a year ago pointing at “faith in declarations” made by the sufferer or healer, and one person can be both. We, or more pertinently I, make declarations throughout our day, most concerned with the past or the future. These purport to solve or ameliorate our anxieties: our psychological ills. I now think these anxieties start with our separation from our mother and our awareness of our awareness of our mortality. That was not a typo. It’s our meta-awareness that became the opening thread of the Abrahamic Genesis myth. Ponder this English version:

    “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

    The penalty of our conscious awareness was awareness of our mortality. Our response:

    “When the [human] saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, [the human] took some and ate it. [The human] also gave some to [a friend], who was [chilling nearby], and [they] ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

    In gaining wisdom and sewing fig leaves, culture was born (and along with it “toxic shame”). But note here in this particular myth, first codify sex roles. Then note that some wisdom is good for you (confers survival advantage and eudaimonia) but other wisdom you pay a penalty for. Here they kicked the humans out of the metaphorical garden: is this an allegory of the womb?

    This article was motivated by my own separation anxiety that our pharmacochauvinism and our claims to specialness continues to divide rather than unite us. I see Cognitive Liberty as a deeper underlying principle that seeks, nor creates, no separation. And I do understand that in disturbing the comfortable, apparent division is sown. It is my intention that this tearing of the temple veil will in time produce a more clarified and unified stand for human freedom. In the meantime, fiat lux! Cx

    Comment by Casey Hardison — November 29, 2014 @ 8:09 am

  4. Now what you wrote is thought provoking. This challenges some of my prejudices. In the peak of psychedelic experiences what knocks me back is the sweet certainty, then in retrospect that bitter question of significance. After the first 2 years of oscillation the worst is over. After 5 years I am thinking I have reached my own conclusion. “Lately it occurs to me, What a long strange trip it’s been”… You have made me question my beliefs. Honestly I have enjoyed your work on the outside.

    Inside the criminal justice system stole [9.27] years of your existence. You are just too too innocent. I’m glad you’re out.

    Could you interview Pickard in future columns? He has been in and out of prison multiple times. I wonder how the old guy is. Do you think he could help you out?

    Comment by Harry — November 29, 2014 @ 11:56 am

  5. “The last thing we need or want is people using these tools and ending up back in the superstitious world views that rationality escaped from in the enlightenment era.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong – do you believe that the ‘Enlightenment’ brought us into a rational world view!

    (it doesn’t look very rational to me, anyway)

    And:

    There are false visions, which hippies tend to share, and true ones, which initiates tend to keep quiet about.

    If they give you information that you can check (like where lost things are, what day your visitor is going to arrive, what technique to use to cure a disease), is might be supernatural, but it is a superstition?

    The ontology of entities is complex, untestable, and finally unimportant.
    But information is testable, and consistently correct predictions are as close as you get to ‘proof’ in science.

    Comment by Danny Nemu — December 2, 2014 @ 5:25 am

  6. Danny,

    The “Enlightenment project” brought us to a place where we can handle doubt and uncertainty using fresh observations and the rules of evidence. Sure, these rules evolve, like all else, but humankind as a whole appears less superstitious, i.e. less reliant on supernatural explanations. Though, that secularisation may be in decline. The majority of deeply intractable conflicts today are a result of arguments about who’s god is greater, right, etc.

    We in the West, as in you and I, would do well to remember what tolerance we do experience is a result of that enlightenment project. Do we want these gains reversed. Remember, in some cultures, our psychedelic visions are enough to get our heads chopped off. How’s that for Cognitive Liberty?

    As for distinctions between false and true visions, one of which only the “initiate” sees, this is yet another species of “I’m special and you are not”.

    I do not share in any way your desire to consider yourself an initiate into some mystical realm where you are special and other mere mortals are not. There was a time in my past when I too was wanting to feel like an Epoptes. What I have seen in the great fora of my mind is neither holy nor not. It simply was.

    As for the ontology of entities, we have no evidence outside of our visions. As for testable consistent predictions, finding lost keys is a bit parochial in contrast to tracing the ontology of our galaxy, our solar system, our planet, our fellow lifeforms. There is a distinction for rigorous results from well designed experiments; and, then there are anecdotes. We would all do well to remember the plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data. There’s a reason no one has claimed the JREF prize.

    Comment by Casey Hardison — December 8, 2014 @ 10:23 am

  7. Thank you Casey and other commenters! Casey’s message is undoubtedly a healthy and important one. It stands as a strong argument for advancing and maturing the relationship between our monkey-culture-realm and the psychedelic realm. It moves us toward greater clarity and thereby hopefully unity, as Casey points out. Among various obviously desirable goals, it should move us toward the vision of a better informed society with wisely facilitated sites for psychedelic exploration, as described in Jeremy’s comment. I’m gonna link to this article in the comments field at Psychedelic Salon in response to a suggestion that we all claim our psychedelic experimenting to be religious as way of defending its legality, an idea the fallacy of which is clearly pointed out by Casey’s argument.

    Comment by Audun — December 8, 2014 @ 8:25 am

  8. Greetings neighbor,

    I Loved reading this. Thank you for taking to time to write. It occurs for me that the feeling of sacredness associated with Aya comes from the process of ceremony and overall ritualistic usage. My experience is that I meet very few people who treat psychedelics (with exceptions such as peyote ceremony and of course others) as a sacrament and I am all for transitioning towards treating all of them as such. I think a case can be made for the importance of treating and viewing them as sacraments. My thoughts are that even if these compounds are not supernatural intelligences or “others” and are an amplified aspect of the mind or self, there is still value in honoring. Whether we are honoring a plant teacher, the higher self, the lizard brain, the Internet, or a stethoscope, if a gift was received, giving thanks seems appropriate. I hope we can all agree that psychedelics give us access to something we don’t always have access to, and therefore it seems important to give credit where credit is due. So in regards to when people say “la Madre” told me this, “The medicine” told me that, I hope it is not so much an attempt to absolve oneself of responsibility as sharing credit for an idea or motivation. In this way sharing that the insight came from “the medicine” actually becomes inclusive where as taking on the notion that I as a separate egoic entity am the lone generator for this idea seems to create separation. I too get frustrated when I hear people speak this way, and I also find myself speaking this way, especially after experiences. It seems that as I move through time away from an experience my language changes, as if my ego rebuilds itself and eventually wants to take credit. It is possible that in my 20s I experienced being so demonized by others for being all about me and failing to share credit that I now find it very difficult to claim anything as my own.

    I really appreciate your insights and thoughts about initiates, I don’t know what an epoptes is. I’m going look it up.

    I also love how you point out the benefit of unleashing biographical material for therapeutic catharsis, as for me this is the true value of these substances, and what I’ve learned from experience as well as from Stan Grof is that if we do not discover and work through our trauma we are caught in an unconscious effort to re-create the circumstances of it, or at the very least regenerate the intensity of it.

    With regard to the messiah complex and experience of being the one Savior archetype, I would have previously explained that as a sort of roadblock on the path of initiation, however I’m now wanting to find new language. Nonetheless I look at it as a sort of process we go through, a confrontation with our king or queen archetype that must be integrated. Lots to ponder here. Thanks again.

    Comment by Lance — January 2, 2015 @ 9:37 am

  9. I want to address one thing to the author. This is a message for the author of the post. It really does not matter if anyone else reads it or not.

    Myth. What you must consider, is why the original myth feels offensive. Maybe that word feels too strong. But the only reason for re-inventing the roots, the primal story, the myth, is that you feel uprooted. This is something to ponder, not to quick wittingly accept or reject.

    Because in attempting to re-contextualize the story of the plant, you are actually saying that it does not offer what you want. And it is true. No plant, no matter how awesome, can ultimately answer the call home felt in the heart of the Self.

    Your subtle way of rejecting the experience is by re-telling the story of aya. If the experience left you with what you wanted, then the original myth story would be enough. You could leave it alone. Here it is a matter of unfulfilled desire. Because it did not satisfy the desire, you are left to explain why it is not the door to the Gods. Because it is logical to know that the Truth would not lead you astray. At least we would hope so.

    That sacred door is your Self. I am not near to teach or something, just to playfully remind you that the door is not needed at all. Actually there is no door. No inside, nor outside.

    Beyond the beyond is inside, and the ultimate peace and place of rest is nearer than the breath itself. In the space in between the breaths, there you are, complete and in unity with all that is.

    There is one second of thought, and in that one moment the whole world exists. If you can step on fraction of a moment out of that thought, then you are free forever. And you are free forever. So enjoy.

    Enjoy the myths, for they are only fun stories. Enjoy the moments for they are sacred combinations of the elements that are for your play. Your mind is your playground. But it is only a sand illusion. you cannot drink it. The only thing that can be drank, the only honey, is the bliss of your own silence. Your own self. I really hope you can see this.

    Because if you can see through the show, even beyond the story of transcendence. And it seems like you have seen though that. Even transcendence is temporary. It can be rejected.

    So what is left. The abundance of you. Turn and face yourself. You are consciousness itself.

    Comment by LightGuardian — January 24, 2015 @ 9:53 pm

  10. LightGuardian,

    You wrote: my way of “rejecting the experience”. At heart, this phrase assumes a “the” experience to reject. I intended my not so subtle retelling of the ayahausca mythology to shine light on the subjectiveness of the story teller and his or her angst not some alleged rejection of ayahausca, the plant brew. What I’ve wanted out of my psychedelic experiences is salvation from my separation anxieties not superstitious simulacrum. For many years, the idea that ayahausca or other psychedelics = “door to Gods” salved my separation anxiety. I was not alone, I felt like I belonged to a special clan. As I relinquished the cookie cutter beliefs so common in the entheogen community, I rejected the superstitious idea that there are gods: other than me, of course. In short, I took my power back. I am responsible for the shit I make up. The more I accept my mortal finite self, the more I be here now! Cx

    Comment by Casey Hardison — March 10, 2015 @ 12:12 pm

  11. Animism and Reason are not in conflict. Reason can explain how brain chemistry mediates human psychology but can’t explain what force animates the brain. It can explain how protiens in the genome determine genetic expression but can’t explain what animates the code. Your condescending reference to how psychonauts traffic in the woo-woo word “energy” suggests you are trading one side of the reality coin for the other. Unfortunately it seems you have fallen for the antagonistic dualist worldview. That likely happened as a reaction to a corporeal realization of the futility of your own self importance in the face of material annihilation visa vis the spector of death, not as a response to the incorpreal realization you had via the shamanic ego death visa vis the entheogenic experience. You said the drugs “lied” to you. By your own rediscovered reason you should know plants can’t lie. Only you can. You say animist cosmology is used as a crutch to ameliorate the uncertainty of the afterlife. This is can be often true. But the cosmology of Reason is equally a crutch, used to ameliorate the uncertainty of life. When someone gets cancer its simply luck of the genetic lottery or mutated cells run amok, not ancestral karma from generations of poor diet and western lifestyle. You appear to going thru a traumatic counter reaction based off your inititial over exuberant behavior AFTER the entheogenic experience. If its personal responsibility you strive for, look to that place first. I’m sure your prophetic vision was deeply meaningful, and should find expression somewhere in the corporeal world but perhaps this expression happens allegorically if not literally.

    Comment by Gordana — January 25, 2015 @ 12:42 pm

  12. Wow Gordana,

    Did my “condescending” woo-woo words affect you?

    What “lied” was the unfathomable intelligence I am. That’s what lied. I lied to myself, probably still do, to fell better, to make up stories that salve my separation anxieties. We create belief systems of all sorts in an attempt to stave off uncertainty, the prime of which is death. I have reached an inflection point: that “reason” still faces many a “mystery” does not by any stretch of the imagination imply or impute that making spurious superstitious nonsense up is preferable to the use of fresh observations and the rules of evidence to handle doubt and uncertainty. Uncertainty is the root of mystery, every time one becomes more certain, a little bit of mystery dies. It appears that most humans want to make shit up in the face of their uncertainties, few appear comfortable with uncertainty, few want to live in the mystery. Damn mystery killers! Cx

    Comment by Casey Hardison — March 10, 2015 @ 12:34 pm

  13. Thank you Casey for this most thoughtful article which resonates on various levels for me… & also thanks to the various commenters for contributing their wisdom. I am percolating some thoughts that require more rumination before being committed to the digiverse, but in the meantime I offer below.

    I very much am attracted to ‘cognitive liberty’, & having read Kent’s P.I.T. book almost 10 years ago, was deeply impressed; however, it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi…yet balanced against Becker’s Flight From Death doco, as you have here, gives one a physical pivot point where Rank’s separation anxiety pushes the 2 poles of materialism to breaking…point.

    The point IS one has to break – ego loss – lose yourself, to find yourself, yes, but when we come back from ‘the void’ & try to give fancy, rational explanations…???

    My grasping at humility attempts ‘to understand’ are defeated by the infinite eternal that is The Paradox of Nothingness the ego quails before in these moments of mystery, so I agree wholeheartedly with your 10 March reply to Gordana, except to say that in my opinion the Great Well of Mystery never dies with an answer removing ‘uncertainty’, but becomes alchemically transmuted into another question, ad infinitum (hat tip here 1st to Jung, followed closely by McKenna).

    Does not materialism’s promise of ‘answers’ founder with Quantum Mechanics spin on the microcosmic ‘stuck needle’ point of the ‘uncertainty principle’, whilst conversely, the macrocosmic E=mc2 is ‘limited’ by the speed of light being also apparently wedded to matter till death do us party..??

    It is at points such as these that people, including myself, try to find ‘spiritual’ explanations as the material world is found wanting…wanting a better/different/coherent metaphor to explain the magical miracle that is the conscious existence we all share [degrees of at least anyway]!

    So many questions, so little time…& is late here in Aotearoa, so, finally for tonight…

    The VDO in below link, puts to music some of the emotional tone of what is rationally talked about here I feel…& with lots of jaguars as is appropriate for Ayahuasca it seems to me…

    http://sharepowered.com/watch-this-music-video-and-your-soul-will-come-alive-seriously/

    Comment by Simon — March 17, 2015 @ 4:36 am

  14. I am right there with you. x

    Comment by julia — March 7, 2017 @ 1:01 pm

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