Friday, September 28, 2012

Entheogens

“A DRUNK has been jailed after she stole a 100-seat ferry and smashed into boats, yelling, “I’m Jack Sparrow! I’m a pirate!”
Alison Whelan, 51, boarded the 45ft Dart Princess with a friend after a two-day bender, where she got drunk on Lambrini and ate poisonous deadly nightshade, which causes hallucinations.
She undid the mooring ropes in the early hours and drifted up a river on the tide, bashing into other boats “like a pinball machine”...”

You just can't make this stuff up. I hope she doesn't read my blog... That's... Close to home. All my worst nightmares in one media report.

I've written about entheogens, and poisons, over time because altered states are part and parcel of certain traditions of magick, whether or not people like hearing it. At the same time, these activities do not amount to re-enacting a scene from Pirates of the Carribean.

When I recently ended the post about some of the problems facing the medical community stemming from BigPharma, I choose Wade Davis's essay because one of the things he discusses is the ritual uses that other cultures maintain or maintained in the past or present when it came to treating the natural, flowering, psychoactive beauty of nature and working that within the context of their rituals. I consider that natural, beautiful, and harmonious.

This is at a sharp disconnect with the recreational use of the same plants, or the chemicals derived from them. In some cases, there is absolutely no problem with the recreational use of psychoactive substances.* I do not always choose to treat alcohol as a sacramental drug: in plenty of cases, I'm perfectly happy to drink with friends, or go out to have a few drinks. Nonetheless my feelings about alcohol drastically change when I'm using it in a ritually charged space. It is part of generative and degenerative nature: it's an access point, a sign-post, back to the various cults and religions that used it before. This doesn't matter whether we're discussing mead, whiskey, wine or any other form of alcohol.

Thinking about the fermenting process, and the early mead and wine cults which also worshiped the dead reminds me again of the regenerative and degenerative aspects of nature and how something we typically think of as being painful or terrible (death, degeneration, etc.) can end up inspiring an almost endless seeming array of cults and religious movement in which man saluted his ancestors as intoxication set upon him.

As a counter-point to a view I'm coming to: I've often seen it expressed that religion, and the source of religion, is to create social order. The argument goes that since certain drugs allow for the deconstruction of that order, and a new order to arise, and because when abused they can be dangerous, it therefore follows that suppression of entheogens is a natural course of action. I've seen people go so far as to cite Hinduism as the basis for this process of ideas.

The problem with this remains to be: Viktor Sarianidi (if you watch the entire three part set of that episode, it's wonderful. I can find other articles on his work if the desire is made known to me) is one of the few to have actually have archeological evidence of what Soma may have been. Mentioned in the RigVeda, Soma was also known as Haoma to the Zoroastrians. It is believed to be a mixture of Ephedra, Cannabis, and Poppy seeds or opium. One easily can imagine why an opiate, a psychedelic plant, and a stimulant might have inspired the writers of the Vedic texts!

It also shows just how different such treatment might be to the way our culture discusses the subject, and more importantly, uses and treats the plants. They are treated as no more than a distraction; a plaything. That nature produces, much less than spontaneously, these wonderful compounds is seen as nothing more than a mechanical mechanism. Meanwhile aspects of our shared religious history seem to treat the matter very differently.

My mind flutters back to Otto's Dionysus: Myth and Cult:
Folklore has given us much evidence for believing that the pleasure man takes in the fruits and flowers of the earth, the enjoyment he has in her intoxicating liquids – in fact, that gaiety, in general, can be linked with those moments when man salutes his dead...”
But this salute does not just entail his dead! Also his Gods, and the world around him! For the things which flower would not be if not for the insects which pollinate them, nor would they be without other aspects of the ecosystem that sustain them. Like humanity in general, there is a great chain linking each to each. Consider:

This treatment and approach to the world – to create poetry, art, religious and spiritual thought and foci – differs from the drug binge fueled stories of the west. We've reached the point of treating these aspects of nature as nothing more than mechanisms, things to be used to cure or kill, rather than recognizing the cycle.

I strongly suspect this is by and large a byproduct of the Industrial revolution. Do I wish to see it end? Absolutely. Right away. I grow tired of hearing stories about how meth ruins lives, or individuals went on a rampage because they treated the plants and drugs like nothing more than a pill you take to get away from reality and put them in their bodies simply to run away from the present.

I do not believe nature displays these properties just so one can have a good time, or simply to cure ills. Rather, it is a form of communication between the plant kingdom and the world we live in. We've just yet to see how and why this communication began, in my opinion.

In short, drugs can be abused. The plants and the compounds do get abused. Regularly. This abuse fuels the current way we look at them, and we fail to see where they entered our respective cultural narratives. But that doesn't mean they have to be, and running around like a loon rather than using them for contemplation, reflection, to break up every-day aspects of consciousness and see anew with new eyes: this is part of a long process.

You're not getting away from reality, anyway. Sober up, as many will know, and reality will return. You can't escape the world, nor it's pains. But you can celebrate the beauty and solemnity of it.

So raise a glass to your ancestors, and your precursors, and take a swig keeping in mind: in vino veritas. Even if you use intoxication to try and escape the truth, it will still remain where it always has been. Right beside you, staring you in the face, demanding your attention and telling you that there are things yet left that need to be fixed.

On the other hand? There's nothing wrong with having the occasional round of drinks with friends, reciting poetry, and dancing wildly.

After all: that's perfectly in line with tradition, isn't it? Just remember: it's part of a chain of things. Not something to denigrate and consider by itself, whether we're talking about marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco. None of these plants or chemicals exist in isolation. That's why we make sure to try and raise them when we fall in love with them, isn't it?***

* How you determine that seems to be cultural or based on toxicity, though. Alcohol is not terribly dangerous unless one is prone to violence or seriously abuses it over a long time.
** I'm pretty sure the Germans also had mead cults, but finding a specific citation of that fact was rather annoying. I just kept finding “anti-cult” websites.
** This comment doesn't include completely synthetic drugs, of course. They're an entirely different kettle of worms.

6 comments:

D. K. Manubious said...

Hi, there Mr. Faust.

Been reading your blog for about an hour or so a day for the past week.

Have been doing so for various synchronistic reasons and finding somewhat of a kindred spirit in your words.

Anyway, thought this might be a good post to start my commenting here.

Many years before starting to experiment with AOS sigilazation techniques (as I found they resonated with elements of my work in the mundane world) Entheogens and Psychedelics (in addition to some experiences with designer drugs)are something that dots my past from high school through college, and has come about a few times over the past few years since joining the "rate race".

Having experienced the murder of my grandfather (whom was my best friend at that tender age of twelve) in my youth, the already fractured sense of the "Christianity" I was raised with being at best, uncomfortable and at worst, a catalyst for horrible visions and manifestations of the possible hell my loved ones (or at least some of them) may be spending eternity in... I, one fateful day, began experimenting with marijuana...

Partly because of peer pressure and partly because of curiosity.

As someone who finds a subtle pride in the knowing that there is Native American blood in my veins (albeit a small amount) that first experience with marijuana in conjunction with my interest in art, music and tribal spirituality eventually lead to the use of Psychedelics and Entheogens (primarily as spiritual catalysts, but also at times as part of fun/debauchery.)

I resonate with your words considering these substances. At the time of most of my experiments I was struggling to find the God of Christianity of whom I had been raised with and had felt that seemed to be curiously devoid in the "religious" experiences found in the churches and youth get-a-ways revolving around said spiritual perspective.

(One of which in which I was forced along with another group of kids, most of them lapping up the drivel I was finding to be most harmful, to watch a film about a young christian who, because not sharing the word of god with a friend who was a depressed teenage stoner, would have to suffer with the knowledge that his friend after committing suicide, would be in hell for eternity and because of his failure to evangelize his friend, would also suffer over the course of his life knowing it was essentially his fault for his friends eternal torment...)

Yeah, cheeky stuff...

Anyway after discovering marijuana and moving into psychedelics I felt I have found a way to actually speak to or at least feel/experience God.

I will go on to say that I agree with your words about being careful about using substances such as these for fun/debauchery...

On a few occasions and one in particular, I do believe that do to failing in taking set and setting into account and pushing to "go-further" without really thinking about the consequences, one fateful afternoon I opened myself to a level where I believe that I came in contact with entitys of which since having studied the occult (I have about 7 years of intense study under my belt at this point)seemed to be some of the things I have heard you and others speak about (spirits associated with specific geographical sites, daemons and or demons who seemed to be attached to certain people and something which seemed similar to the seraphim in the book of Ezekiel.

Although at this point I would not take any of that most traumatic experience back I would agree that prudence when starting to experiment with these substances is most wise.

I could go on, as I really do look forward to interacting with you more through the comments of this blog but for know I will leave it at this as my introduction comment.

Cheers.

Rose Weaver said...

As I read this blog, I felt much like D.K. Manubious, especially when it comes to using Psychedelics and Entheogens. I've experimented with them in my youth, and again as an adult on one occasion.

Each time the effects were akin to a spiritual experience for me, never simply a pleasure ride.

While I also used Marijuana, it was more for debaucherous pleasure while I was young. (And if "debaucherous" is not a word, I have now made it so.) As an adult, however, I've used it as a medication to ease nausea and pain, as well as a way to assist with deepening understanding and shifting perspective of past traumas; providing additional insight, if you will.

There is great value in using these drugs, regardless of what "The Powers That Be" may say or want us to believe.

And your thoughts on using alcohol are also in line with mine these days. Although I no longer partake due to other medications I must take on a daily basis, I will still have a sip here and there within the context of my spiritual practice. There is something about acknowledging and saluting the dead, then offering what is left in my glass to them within the context of a ritual which creates an everlasting bond.

My ancestors want to work with me and keep doing so due to my reverence for them.

Very nice post.

Gordon said...

"I do not believe nature displays these properties just so one can have a good time, or simply to cure ills. Rather, it is a form of communication between the plant kingdom and the world we live in. We've just yet to see how and why this communication began, in my opinion."

One. Million. Percent. Agree. Especially that last sentence.

Jack Faust said...

Hey D.K.! Thanks for dropping by!

I feel for your response in many ways, and find myself nodding. For the record? My break with Christianity followed my friend/girlfriend committing suicide when I was younger. I try not to talk about it now, as much, because it was really painful. But it taught me a few really important lessons:
1. Even spiritual people can be douchebags.
2. Never trust a douchebag to be anything other than that.
3. God, and access to God, is not limited to those that claim to speak for him.

I still live by that mentality to this day. I'm very sorry to hear about your grandfather, but I'm glad that you grasped God, or the One, or the universe (however you want to ascribe the word!) from psychadelic compounds! It's actually somewhat rare to hear that, even for me. Although I do hear it occasionally.

Have you spent any time trying to work with what I call the 'daimons' of certain compounds and plants? What were your experiences? I'd love to hear them!

Rose: It has been my experience that ancestors love having a bit poured out for them too, as a libation. You can do more or less. I think the act is important in and of itself!

I say this as my current backyard becomes a sprawl of edible gardens and we're preparing to maybe turn the garage (one of my bases of operation) into a greenhouse at the far end. We've literally been over-run with fertility and plants as a house!

Actually! I have the same question I asked of DK for you: have you done much work with the spirits of plants, along with the ancestors? I may post very soon about the Classical links. VI sent me an amazing book the other day with an amazing amount of "life-daimons," so I'd love to gauge comments from other practitioners and maybe even quote folks!

Gordon: Always a pleasure to see you, bro! And thanks!

Rose Weaver said...

Hi Jack,

Unfortunately, no. I have not worked with plants and attempting to get to know their Spirits. I'm one who's known for my brown thumb.

I was once able to keep just about anything alive. I used to talk to my plants, but confess I didn't listen to what they had to say and teach. Now the opposite seems to be true; keeping them alive is a challenge, so now I fear attempting to plant and nurture what many feel are even the hardiest of herbs and plants. In addition, I have a cat who simply MUST get into everything. I've been worried about his health, so though I've been interested in trying my hand with herbs (the northern light in my home would work very well), I'm concerned about his well-being.

I've been reading much of what you, and others, post regarding various herbs and plants. My interest has grown. I'm still attempting to figure out a way to work with various plants in my home so I can talk with them again, and this time, listen.

Code for this comment: 13 Empolen

D.K. Manubious said...

Jack,

I have not intentionally tried to interact with the daimon/daemon of a plant.

I have had some experiences with Salvia Divinorum which I assume this happened to some extent, but I don't embark on such journeys anymore, while I always found the psychospiritual effects of Salvia interesting and adventuresome, the body/physical element of the experience was always most unpleasant, the last experience causing me to feel as if all my pores had expanded to the size of dinner plates...

Last year around this time I experimented with morning glory seeds on a few small scale experiments and I do feel as if the natural (seed sourced) LSA experience is that of an interaction with a spirit of said plant/plants.

While I do have some interest in these interactions with spirits I tend to use these substances more for personall insight and artistic/creative inspiration.

I have not used many such substances for about the past year and am currently refraining from marijuana use as well (I have been thinking about a run of small psilocybin mushroom experiments though).

This is partly due to the fact that I am trying to use ritual as a form of mind alteration.

It is only recently I have begun to experiment with the LBRP of which I employ my own take on the Discordian version from Condensed Chaos.

My purpose of entering into this kind of ritual work being focused on simply producing an altered state of consciousness to be leveraged as an inspiration for artistic purposes.

I am not really interested in invocation/evocation of spirits, as I find the multiple risks involved to much for me and generally feel no need to do so.

Although I do believe that I have created an Egregore in conjunction with the fans and the other members of a band I play with via a marketing ploy which revolves around a question that asks people what the band means to them.

Consequently I created an uncharged sigil based on AOS techniques which was made with the intent to allow people to project what our band means to them onto the symbol with the hope being that the symbol becomes synonymous with the band in the same way that the "steal your face" emblem has come to represent the grateful dead.

I have toyed with the idea of using the lesser key of solomon to invoke/evoke the egregore surrounding the band to get insight into what exactly we mean to our fan base, however I don't intend to really do this as I don't have much experience with the LKOS and can accomplish the same goal through musical means to some extent and to be honest, its more fun to interact with the egregore of the band from my current perspective.

Also at the end of the day, while I have removed all the bullshit elements of "Christianity" (namely any associations with the ultra-conservative, right wing, hell fire breed) I do still find peace with my own meditations of who/what Jesus really was/meant. I cannot deny that I view the crucifixion from a perspective combining elements of the anthrposophical viewpoint in combination with a amalgamation of viewpoints including conservative, progressive, humanist, secular, magickal, mundane and so on...

And see his work on the cross as a grand ritual which in some ways accomplished something beautiful.

What exactly that is bounces between paradigms in my mind, but at the end of the day I have been able to find love in the equation and seperate that from all the shit that has accumulated in/around "Christian" spirituality.

I suppose you might say I embody a Progressive Christian Theology with a Pagan/Hermetic Perspective...

Oi, sorry for the super long comment...

I just don't have many people I can talk to about these things to this extent, as all the folks in my life seem to embody extremes in perspective to one pole or another while I am an odd blend of things that are opposites or viewed as opposites from said people.

Cheers!