A Fool's Initiation
What Orpheus Learned From The Maenads
“Sooner or later, no one is exempt from ritual duty, just as no one is exempt from economic, legal, or political duty. Communal participation, obligation, the passage of the whole society through crises, collective and individual, directly or by proxy, are the hallmarks of 'the work of the gods' and sacred human work”
I've chosen to pen this essay because of a powerful conviction that began to take shape in my life two years ago, around the time that I began using psilocybin mushrooms regularly in a disciplined fashion. I hope that my story will provide inspiration and assistance to others who seek a deeper relationship with the mushroom. I am not a member of any organization, religion, or cult, and I don't follow any particular path. I would not describe myself as a religious person, or even a “spiritual” person. I am simply a curious young man with only a high-school diploma, driven by a desire for truth, wisdom, and love for the world and its inhabitants. No attempt was made to embellish this story; if anything, the bulk of detail has been left out due to constraints on my time and energy.
My story begins as so many others do; with a romance.
While sitting contentedly among smiling friends around the glow of a quiet cooking fire in my back yard, a mysterious and alluring woman clumsily emerged from the shadows to take a seat on a bench opposite the fire from me. She was tall and lanky, with an alien presence that made me suspect she must have traveled here from the future. She was French-Canadian, bilingual, and therefor two-minded. I immediately found her dual nature irresistible, how fantastic was this creature who burst on the scene out of nowhere, bearing stories and gifts from another world.
Her visit to the West coast of Canada was a reconnaissance mission; she was seeking accommodation and work in preparation for a move from Montreal. She had a notebook full of pretty lists written in perfectly elegant cursive. I told her that I knew of a lead on a job, so she tore a page from the book and penned her e-mail address on an old grocery list covered in beautiful black ink, words like pois chiches, aubergine, lait d'amande, and her favorite, chocolat. This was the first of many grocery lists she would share with me.
Naturally, Laura was spoken for. Her boyfriend of seven years was slated to make the trip to the coast once she had found a suitable nest for them to live in. He was an older fellow, fifteen years my senior. How could I compete? I was a just a skinny effeminate geek with nothing but charm on my side. I was determined to find a way to win her favor. I used every method in my repertoire to prove my affections, not limited to ridiculous meandering hand-written letters, many pebbles tossed at her window at all hours, and charismatic tours of all the wonders of this new world she was exploring for the first time. As always I was gentlemanly and polite, I wouldn't dare disrupt her relationship... oh no, that wasn't my style. However, the universe had big plans for us.
On one occasion she sent me a letter accompanied by a single playing card. The card was a King of Spades from a biblical-themed deck that depicted the king as none other than King David, the world's most notorious adulterer and murderer of Bathsheba's husband Uriah. She insisted that she didn't know of any hidden meaning in the card, and I believed her. However, I suspected that the universe was having a good laugh, and might have even been prodding me along.
Sure enough, it wasn't long before love claimed victory over us. Laura became sullen and moony-eyed in my absence and to my surprise she lost all interest in the old man. At last, we were free to consummate the relationship. It was early spring. Together we traversed the entire rainbow of carnal ecstasies, I didn't know that such pleasure was even possible. We became like children, rolling happily in our own filth and freely desecrating everything desecratable. Like green eggs and ham, we had sex in libraries, museums, churches, on boats, in parks, under giant Christmas trees, in video game arcades, in front of children, it didn't matter, our love had it's own endemic dimensions and metaphysics. We escaped from the material plane, the standard governing strictures of reality released us for a time and the spirits cheered us on as we fucked again and again. We were the pinnacle of human achievement. How could the universe possibly improve on such perfection? This question still perplexes me.
However, much like an ice-cream cone that is blissful just until it melts and splatters onto the pavement, our romance was destined to melt into an unwieldy sticky slime, slipping between our fingers as we tried in vain to contain it. Laura was accepted for a year-long teaching contract in Japan. This was her calling, her dream, she would go and that was that.
It was too much to bear. I was so high on her drug that the very notion of her absence sent me into an maniacal spiral of the purest form of misery. What kind of insidious evil would inspire such a cruel theft of our happiness, which the gods had so recently granted us. I became utterly pathetic, a festering mound of tears, snot, hormones and longing for maternal embrace. Laura caught a plane for Japan a week after the call and I was left alone to stew in my own miserable pestilence. In the absence of affection, my melancholy led me directly to the icy tit of alcohol. Night after night I drank myself unconscious. Double vodka soda became my crystal ball. I would swirl it with my straw and stare into its shimmery depths, but no future presented, only more and more whirlpools of alcohol, and eventually the oblivion of blackout sleep.
As “luck” would have it, I received a sizable chunk of cash from Prime Minister Stephen Harper shortly after Laura departed, so I decided to pull myself up by my bootstraps, study the Kana and sell all of my belongings in preparation to follow after her. My flight landed in Tokyo in mid-December. Of course it was a happy reunion, our first few weeks together in this alien world were exciting and novel, but sadly the mood would soon turn sour. I quickly began to feel that I had made a big mistake by making the trip to Japan, where I had no purpose, no goal, no sense of personal autonomy. After four months of misery and frustration, I decided that if we had any hope of salvaging the relationship, I would have to return home. It was another miserable separation.
Before my departure, we agreed that a year apart was too long a wait to be completely faithful to one another. I was a selfish and horny little shit and couldn't bear the thought of going without sex for so long. Laura was a nymphomaniac and agreed that a year without sex would be an ordeal. Of course this was not exactly a fair scenario, as she would hardly have any opportunities for a fling while working long hours in place where even verbal communication was a feat.
The First Maenad
Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before I caved to the withdrawal from love and hooked up with another woman, a very beautiful and seductive tall blonde called Alisha, who was in many respects the total opposite of Laura. Although Laura was four years my senior, she had a kind of childlike innocence and wonder that I adored. She was a mass of contradictions, simultaneously an utter fool and an absolute genius, an idiot savant. Her naivety was endlessly frustrating, but she was very loyal and had more character than any other woman I've ever encountered. Alisha on the other hand was vain, manipulative, and perpetually unhappy. I was attracted to Alisha's flirtatiousness and promiscuity, something about her misery was exciting to me. She was jaded and nihilistic, her dark sense of humor was very refreshing in contrast with with Laura, who was sometimes irritatingly sunny and optimistic.
I was very honest and upfront with Alisha about my relationship with Laura. I maintained an open dialogue with her, and made it clear that upon Laura's return, we would be reunited. I was not looking for anything serious. Despite my honesty and good intentions, my actions had consequences that would later prove to be painful for all three of us. It wasn't long before Alisha became very attached to me. I always endeavor to be kind, gentle and communicative in relationships, and naturally women take comfort in this. I've learned that what the vast majority of people really want from relationships is a sense of security, support and understanding. In the past I've always tried to provide these things for my partners, which indicates to them that I am an ideal mate. Safety and security are necessary to provide a nurturing environment for raising a family. Unfortunately because of the way our culture operates nowadays, it is very difficult to sustain these conditions. As housing pricing rise and job security dwindles, widespread dysphoria continues to pollute our thinking and behavior, and social cohesion becomes increasingly difficult to maintain.
When I realized that breaking Alisha's heart was inevitable, I knew that I had to act responsibly and end the relationship to avoid perpetuating the hurt. I was committed to Laura in the long term, and she would return home soon. I established a boundary with Alisha and let her know that I was very sorry for having created this situation. Initially she was understanding and grateful for my honesty, but quickly things turned sour and she became very hostile toward me. She took it upon herself to launch a smear campaign against me, claiming that I had sexually abused her. She also attempted to seduce my best friend in a very transparent effort to make me jealous. I was unshaken by this plot, but I took her accusations very seriously. All of our sexual encounters were completely consensual, where I had gone wrong was in simply initiating the relationship in the first place. I admit that sexual activity in the absence of commitment is a kind of abuse, but because of her hurt and unmet expectations, she embellished the scenario to seek vengeance upon me, which is understandable. I stood my ground because I knew that her accusations were not true, and I believe that a false accusation of sexual misconduct is a very serious matter that discredits the suffering of legitimate victims of abuse. I apologized to Alisha and expressed my true remorse for having brought heartbreak upon her, but I would not take her accusations lightly. Thankfully she recognized the seriousness of the situation and forgave me. We parted amicably and still remain friends to this day.
Upon Laura's return, I wasn't I wasn't able to celebrate with the entirety of my soul. I had given my love away to someone else, a love that should have been reserved for Laura alone. I confessed my guilt to her immediately, in hopes that my candor would help to remedy the mistake I had made. Laura was very hurt of course, but she respected my honesty and recalled our agreement that we would be permitted to see other people while we were separated. Laura had been completely faithful to me, which made me all the more ashamed of how I had behaved. It certainly was not a level playing field, she had few if any opportunities to be disloyal while she was living in Japan.
The damage I had created proved to have persistent and irreversible consequences for our relationship. Unsurprisingly, Laura became suspicious and distrustful of me. She began to fear abandonment and demanded constant attention and affection. If ever I gave an indication that I desired independence or solitude, she would become despondent and melancholic. This response only reinforced my desire for independence, and thus a feedback loop was created and the relationship began to weaken. At this time I was very busy and the demands of my work schedule coupled with her emotional needs proved to be too much for me to handle.
To my surprise, around this time Laura took a keen interest in mushrooms. She and her sister went on a guided foray led by Paul Kroeger in Vancouver, and she brought back a book of mushroom history and a beautiful fresh cauliflower mushroom, with which she cooked up a lovely soup for the two of us. Before this I had only a little knowledge of fungi, and I had even detested them as a child. I possessed a copy of David Aurora's classic field guide (which my father had passed down to me) and had read it several times, but never ventured out to pick wild mushrooms. I had tried psilocybin mushrooms a few times, but due to an early bad experience I was very fearful of them. Part of me became a little bit envious of Laura's newfound curiosity.
The days went by and our relationship continued to suffer. One day in early spring, while working on an art project and listening to YouTube, the song I was listening to ended and I heard the most peculiar voice. I knew I had heard it somewhere before, but where? Ah! Of course! I knew this voice from Coast to Coast with Art Bell, which I had listened to religiously while on long drives with my parents. I recalled being entranced by this bizarre nasal drawl, which of course belonged to none other than Terence McKenna. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Machine elves? Bejeweled self-dribbling basketballs of pure light? The transcendent object at the end of time? What the hell was this guy getting on about? It was rain for a very fertile imagination. I was not a complete stranger to otherworldly experiences. I loved drugs, particularly LSD; my favorite pastime was laying in bed high on just about anything I could get my hands on. Still, what Terence described was on a completely different order of magnitude. I had to see it for myself.
A mere few days later I went to visit some friends in a nearby town. We stayed up late chatting and getting pleasantly inebriated, and again, as “luck” would have it, a female friend asked if anyone would like to try some quality mushroom chocolates which had been gifted to her by an acquaintance living on one of the gulf islands. I couldn't contain my excitement. Nearly everyone declined the offer and opted to go to sleep instead. I and one other male friend accepted the chocolates enthusiastically. They were wrapped beautifully in little gold foils with a sticker depicting a strange Catholic icon. I didn't understand what it was at the time, but I now know that it was none other than Los Santo Nino de Atocha, the icon venerated in the syncretic Mazatec/Catholic mushroom tradition, the very same icon that sat on Maria Sabina's altar. We each ate one very delicious chocolate and made our way outside to admire the dazzling night-lit city skyline.
By the time the mushrooms took effect, we had planted ourselves in a little park overlooking the city, which was separated from us by a river and an industrial railway station. Shortly after our arrival, a very long freight-train came into the station, screeching and squealing like a thousand demons flying about in an ecstatic cacophony. Perched and swaying gently on a swing, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply while allowing this nourishing sonic euphoria to cascade throughout my body. I had never heard anything so beautiful in my life. Images of mischievous little faces danced around my inner vision in unison with the sound generated by the wheels on the train. I became absorbed in a state of total sensory homogeneity and melted completely into my surroundings. Later that evening while laying in bed, incredible scenes passed in front of me; alien insectoid vegetable worlds of fabulous intricacy, the contents of my memory exploded, condensed and fractalized across great mosaic vistas of imagination. I couldn't believe that this was all just a small morsel of mushroom chocolate away.
This experience left a very deep impression on me. I had to try mushrooms again, but this time I wanted to do it alone and in darkness, just like Terence McKenna advised. I sought out some wild-picked Psilocybe Cyanescens mushrooms from a good friend of mine who is a skilled and knowledgeable forager. He didn't measure them out, but simply gave me a solid handful and told me to eat them all. I enthusiastically accepted his advice, and that same day I took them home, took a deep breath and downed them in one big filthy mouthful. I lay down in my bed, put in my earplugs and donned my eye-mask. What followed was of course a truly life-changing experience. At first I was terribly afraid, my body became completely paralyzed with an icy chill, but this would soon pass. Thankfully the mushroom was gentle with me on this first voyage, it gave me a very positive impression that helped me to overcome the terrifying trip I had experienced in my early twenties.
I began to sense that the outside world was vanishing altogether. Before downing the mushrooms I could hear the voices of neighborhood children playing and cars passing by. After falling under their spell, the voices went silent, and the noise of vehicles seemed a hundred miles off in the distance. Before me once again opened expansive visions of the same insectoid dimension I had witnessed when I ate the chocolate. At one point an enormous praying mantis appeared towering before me, seemingly crafted out of what resembled the contents of an encyclopedia. The manifold facets and armored plates of its exoskeleton were made of pure disparate information, a rather diabolical yet staggeringly beautiful impossibility.
As the intensity of the visions began to subside, my thoughts turned to my childhood, my history and my relationships with friends and family. I was shown how and why many of my behaviors were hurtful to others, and also that much of my own hurt and frustration was inflicted by my parents, my grandparents, and my culture at large. I saw myself as the pinnacle of biological history, all of my habits and characteristics were the culmination of every event which had preceded that moment. This would mark the beginning of my increased capacity for self-reflexivity. I was left feeling that I had a very important task to accomplish... something was calling me to become greater, to take responsibility for my life and participate in the project of reality.
Orpheus' Backward Glance
Soon after this experience, I received a clear signal that I had to abandon all ties to other substances. I was a heavy drinker and smoker (tobacco and cannabis), the death-drive was very strong in me. I've recently come to interpret this drive as the call to initiation, the call to the underworld, the continuation of the same call that emerged in my early teens when I started using every kind of inebriating substance I could lay my hands on. This kind of substance abuse it seems, is the unconscious desire to decompose, to dissolve back into the earth. When the mushroom came into my life, it made it very clear that we had deeper work to do together, and in order for this to be possible I had to keep my temple clear of other harmful gods. Cannabis, tobacco and alcohol became false idols; to this day if I touch any of them I receive a harsh reprimand in the form of terrible malaise and an awful feeling of toxicity throughout my body.
Additionally, I felt the call to free myself of my attachment to Laura, which was a very difficult pill to swallow. I was still in love with her, but the call to initiation is a trial that must be endured alone. The difficulty we experienced throughout our partnership was a product of my inherited traits. I had to cure myself of the evils of my past, without confronting this shadow of myself I could not possibly be a dependable mate for her. My drive toward death, which manifested itself through addictions, promiscuity and overwork, really was a longing for the underworld, I had to plunge deep into my psyche in order to understand the shadowy forces that motivated my behavior.
Soon after parting ways with L, the mushroom began to work on me more intensely. Deep revelations began to unfold, gently at first, and I started to dip my toes into the archetypal dimension. Another woman was sent my way, and naturally I was powerless to resist her. She wore tattoos; one depicted an eight pointed star, and another a winged siren. She had a very troubled history of violence and family instability, and thus our relationship quickly took on a counselor-patient dichotomy. I had unwittingly opened up a fissure through which her suffering attempted to orchestrate its escape. We bonded over intense mushroom sessions, naive to the fact that we were entering into a transference that had dangerous implications for both of us. A vacuum opened up inside of me, and all of her grief attempted to occupy this void. I was forced to take upon myself the pain of not only her suffering, but the suffering of all woman kind. She released a ferocious and terrifying demon into my soul, which was weak and completely unprepared for this battle.
I decided to consult with the mushroom again to gain insights into how I should proceed with this predicament. As I came back to myself I received clear instruction that if I was to escape unscathed from this situation I must end the relationship as soon as possible. I met with her that day and explained as gently as I could that despite my best intentions, I did not have the strength to carry her suffering any longer. It was better for me to admit defeat then and there than to prolong the inevitable and exacerbate her wounds, which were open and vulnerable to re-injury. She was very upset by this, and quickly elevated to a state of violent aggression. I attempted to mitigate her anger by responding with patience and compassion, but it was no use. I was left with no option but to leave and cut off all contact with her. Again, as “luck” would have it, I managed to safely extricate myself. I was beginning to see a pattern emerging in my struggle to find companionship, though I would not come to fully integrate this knowledge until later.
Wed to the Mushroom
Having now severed all romantic ties, I was free to pursue a deeper, less inhibited relationship with the mushroom. In Maria Sabina, Her Life and Chants, Sabina says that in order to remain in good standing with the mushroom, one must avoid sexual contact for at least four days before and after using them. Maria Sabina herself did not practice with the mushroom during her two marriages, as she felt that her husband(s) “wouldn't understand it”. As I move through life and understand more deeply that the modern condition of relationships is kind of desecration of what was once a sacred bond, I am less and less inclined to seek after romance. I completely agree with Maria Sabina, that the mushroom seems to favor those who are chaste. Obviously this is not for everyone. I'm not necessarily chaste by choice, my financial situation is grim and the cost of living here doesn't exactly lend itself to healthy romantic bonds, therefor I don't seek after them anymore.
During my next consultation with the mushroom I was given a profoundly vivid vision of a futuristic city of immense complexity. Inhabiting this place were small humanoid creatures that seemed to resonate with a kind of purely symbolic language that was transmitted to me through the complete unification of my senses. I recognized these beings from somewhere, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I emerged from my trance. At the conclusion of the voyage I suddenly felt a very powerful urge to write. For about ten minutes my thoughts and my pen came under the control of an unseen force, something I had never experienced previously. I made no effort to resist this urge and proceeded to write quite frantically in my notebook. What emerged from the tip of my pen was a rather lengthy revelation containing very discreet instructions. I was told that my destiny would be made clear through the study of archetypes, and that I have a responsibility to commit ideas into language. Before this time I had very little understanding of archetypal symbols or myths. Additionally, I was provided with a short list of people I should speak to about what I experienced. Each of these individuals has provided invaluable insights to me, and I've even established a couple of lasting new friendships.
After the initial shock of this experience began to wane, I was reminded of the little people in my vision, and I recalled that these same figures were depicted in a favorite artwork of mine, a large fountain that serves as the centerpiece of the city I live in. As soon as I made this connection I became determined to decipher its meaning. The first panel depicts a ceremony taking place around a central totem. Children dance and play around this pole, and a child is perched on the top meditating, the pole seemingly stuck up the child's ass. The central obelisk shows the image of the great mother lifting her child in the air, and the child emanates with beams of holy light. Below her is another child emerging from her vulva, this one bears a resemblance to a frog, perhaps hinting at its amphibious nature, or its ability to traverse between worlds. The final and largest obelisk shows the archetypal hero or archangel stepping on a beast which he has slain with an enormous sword.
There were many deeper symbols embedded in the panels, but the basic theme is what is most important. The three panels depict three stages of maturation. The first is adolescence, innocence, freedom from the responsibilities of adulthood, and union with nature. The next panel indicates pregnancy, a kind of liminal stage in which something is being conceived, incubated, and eventually birthed. The final panel indicates maturity, the warrior archangel is perhaps the holy infant from the previous panel, now grown up and prepared to vanquish the beast, which is none other than the personification of history's evils---our fears.
About a year has passed since I experienced this first radical encounter with the mushroom. What has unfolded in my life in the months following has shattered my concept of what it means to be alive, what it means to be human, and what is this thing we call reality. Much of what I've learned has come through long periods of intense psychological suffering. Sometimes I look back and I wonder how I made it out alive; there have been many dark moments when I would have much preferred to be dead.
I experienced extended episodes ranging from euphoric delusions of grandeur, to extreme paranoid persecutory delusions. I was certain that I had either been selected as some kind of messianic bearer of the apocalypse, or I had become a target for assassination in a covert conspiracy. I started to suspect that my neighbors were spies; I built complex narratives around all of the people in my life and even suspected that some of my close friends were conspiring against me. On three separate occasions I gathered up all of my mushroom paraphernalia and threw it in the woods or in dumpsters because its presence in my home became too terrifying. For weeks on end I was unable to sleep, and violent demonic thoughts often infiltrated my psyche. I'm sure that much of the difficulty I experienced was cognitive dissonance, a result of having little or no frame of reference for what I was going through. There were very few people I could reliably discuss my experiences with, for obvious reasons. Now I can see that what I was experiencing was fear itself, fear without an object, an empty fear generated by unknowing.
As I continue to periodically eat mushrooms, significant changes in my perception of the world have begun to take shape. Highly specific synchronicities are commonplace, for example: the other day while sitting in a doctor's office, I thought to myself about how I would like to start to teach other people about what I've learned on my path with the mushroom. At that same moment I looked up at a bookshelf in front of me, and to my great shock the first spine that I laid eyes on was The Sword of Damocles, a story that I think of every time I consider taking on a leadership role.
Additionally, I am able perceive emotions in a way that I hadn't understood previously. I feel that I can understand people much more directly, read body language and draw meaningful conclusions about a person's thoughts using smaller and smaller samples of sensory data. I experience a deeper sympathy for the struggles of my peers, and my desire to listen and learn from others has increased dramatically. The world and its inhabitants have come to life, everything seems to be animated. All that I can perceive with my five senses is a possible transmission of meaningful data; a word, a touch, a dream, a billboard, the smell of a flower, numbers on an address sign, all inputs are vectors for gaining insight from the world around me, which is merely the composite image of my sensory apparatus. Additionally, a deeper capacity to recognize and interpret symbolic and mythical language has emerged as a kind of advanced mode of pattern recognition, and this ability continues to develop and refine as time passes.
The mushroom enables us to experience ourselves outside of ourselves. It could be likened to an ink-blot in water---a vessel of clear water may not be visible until it becomes differentiated or contrasted with color. The mushroom enables self-reflection, which is the source of consciousness. It permits us to bear witness to our own thoughts and emotions, and creates a feedback loop of self-reflexivity. A psychologist is one who studies patterns in emotions, thoughts and behaviors, and thus it could be said that they are highly self-reflective. A psychologist helps their client learn to recognize patterns in their own behavior, and once this has been achieved novel divergences from behavioral patterns may begin to emerge. This concept is easy to conceive of if you can imagine what happens when a video camera is pointed at the TV screen into which the captured image is sent. If the camera remains perfectly still, the image on the screen will simply create a infinite tunnel of boxes. But place something in front of the camera, or bump it slightly, and a spiral of feedback will emerge to create an endless series of fascinating images. This kind of self-reflexivity is explored in great detail in the work of Douglas Hofstadter, particularly his more user-friendly tome titled I Am a Strange Loop.
This effect can be personified by the trickster or holy fool archetype. Some examples of this archetype are Prometheus, Jesus, Lucifer (which simply means “light-bringer”), Neo from the Matrix, Kramer from Seinfeld---all characters who cause a disruption in the repetitive patterns of life. They burst in on the scene and to everyone's delight, they stir things up, inject novelty into the drama, and often save the day. In real life, these people are often leaders, inventors, or people who make significant discoveries, like our elders R. Gordon Wasson and Albert Hoffman.
Archetypes are simply forces of nature, represented graphically in stories and works of art. They are patterns that emerge on every level of magnification, from the movements of galaxies, to the DNA in our blood, to our emotions and desires, even stock-market data. The fool archetype could simply be boiled down to mutation---a mistake that allows for or necessitates adaptation to new environmental conditions. Terence McKenna's stoned ape hypothesis is a fine example: he suggests that a sudden environmental shift caused primates to adapt to a new diet and look for other sources of food, namely psilocybin mushrooms. The first ape to eat a mushroom and bring it back to the family would have seemed pretty foolish indeed! Whether or not Terence's hypothesis is completely accurate is beyond the point, it's almost certainly true that our primate ancestors were forced by some radical environmental change to migrate and adapt to new sources of nutrition, and since we quite literally are what we eat, our consciousness would have also changed dramatically---a mutation. Many modern theories suggest that this change was caused by a meteor strike, so one could say that the meteor itself was Promethean, Luciferian, or what have you. Despite that it caused a great disruption in the short-term, this accident may have culminated in the development of complex language, art and technology.
Initiation is nothing to be afraid of. Nowadays we cover it up with all kinds of euphemisms like “journey”, “adventure”, “trip”, and even “psychotic episode”. I believe that initiation is a highly civilized tradition, and should be the hallmark of a functional and cooperative culture. Ceremonial initiation is virtually ubiquitous in indigenous traditions. Initiations served as a systematic rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, characterized by a symbolic process of death and rebirth. Often young boys lived with the women of the tribe and helped them with household activities until they were ready to hunt, at which time they were subjected to a variety of ordeals and trials intended to help them develop courage and a sense of purpose and personal autonomy, probably the ultimate goal being the elimination of fear. Often these rituals would incorporate the use of hallucinogens in order to provide a more humane ordeal.
Now, this is mostly speculation on my part, but I suspect that initiations were implemented as way of adapting to more secure environmental conditions. As tools, shelter and hunting methods improved, the threat of attack from dangerous predators lessened, and the mechanism responsible for fear became mostly redundant. Initiation therefor served as an effective method of eliminating vestigial or latent fear that was merely a leftover from early man, an anachronistic protective device for enabling one to identify danger and escape from harm. As humans shifted from nomadism to hunting and gathering and developed more efficient technologies, they moved on to more refined social activities and would have benefited greatly from sharing their wealth and treating one another with dignity. Fear is the driving force behind anxiety, jealousy, possessiveness and greed. In times of great turmoil and danger, one's survival would depend on the ability to defend oneself, and in such circumstances these expressions of fear would actually serve a very important purpose for survival. As people developed communities, agriculture and technology, fear became nearly redundant, and ritual initiation surgically removed this erroneous “organ”.
I believe that initiation is an essential technology that can permanently alter one's biology. It could be likened to a kind of second puberty, or a neurological growth spurt. However, unlike puberty, which happens quite naturally without any external stimulus, initiation is a technology, it requires some sort of external stimulus to engage it. Sometimes it can be triggered naturally, through traumatic experiences or tragic loss, but what is absolutely necessary for initiation is the experience of an altered state of consciousness. Why? Recall what I said about self-reflexivity... in order to understand our behavior we must be able to experience ourselves outside of ourselves. I imagine that the experience of self-reflexivity is simply what it feels like when neurogenesis is taking place. It has been established in rat studies that psilocybin can trigger neurogenesis in the brain, and this comes as no surprise to one who who consumes psilocybin frequently. Today in our modern culture, probably the most effective and civilized way to achieve initiation is by way of hallucinogens.
I did not realize it until much later, but my hunger for drugs, sex, and money were all unconscious drives toward initiation—the death-drive. I was desperate, perpetually alienated from my family and peers, and unable to think efficiently. I was a workaholic, a slave to money caught in a perpetual hamster-wheel of bills and deadlines, alienated from my family and rarely experiencing healthy pleasures and meaningful interactions. I believe that we as individuals are not to blame for this problem. We live under powerful authoritative strictures that prohibit the use of the tools we need to initiate, and this poses serious problems. I suspect that the absence of integrated ceremonial male initiation is a cultural disease with far-reaching consequences upon the health of the world.
The structure of initiation is nearly identical to Freud's theory of transference. During therapy or psychoanalysis, the patient is lead to explore the parts of their unconscious which reawaken feelings of past suffering, feelings which in turn are projected toward the therapist. The therapist has the very delicate responsibility to receive the misplaced feelings of the patient with kindness and understanding. By transmuting this suffering into compassion, the spell is often broken, and the patient can then move on to enjoy a less fearful and inhibited existence.
During initiation, the initiate can experience great depths of suffering which extend far beyond their own personal life experiences. The journey to the underworld is a plunge into the depths of the collective memory of biological life, which can extend far into both past and future. During the ordeal, the initiate may be forced to encounter transgenerational suffering that has surfaced as anxiety and fear in their own life. Once the source of the anxiety has surfaced, the initiate is symbolically reborn and passed along to the women of the tribe to be comforted, and at this time the initiate may be paired with a mate. This positive reinforcement establishes familial bonds and helps to nullify hereditary fears.
Diet and Deity
The food that we eat is reality itself. Our bodies and brains are composed of the food that we put inside of ourselves. All action, all sensation, all experience is final result of what we swallow. Dietary modification is behavioral modification.
Plants and fungi are good food, it's very simple. It is absurd that a food should be made illegal. Drug prohibition is clearly a dietary regimen implemented by governments to control our bodies and minds. The word “diet” comes from the Greek “diaita”, which simply means “a way of life”. Interestingly, “dieta” is the word that that Amazonian ayahuasca shamans use to refer to their tradition. When one “diets”, one venerates the plant and enters into a relationship with it. This is actually very similar to the definition of “religion”, which means roughly, “to reconnect” or “a way of life in veneration to a deity”. I propose that the words “diet” and “deity” are cousins---cognates, and the oldest form of religion is something much more akin to gastronomy---derived from the Greek “gastḗr” (stomach), and “nómos” (laws that govern), which is to say, "the art or law of regulating the stomach". Also of interest is the fact that the word “diet” is also used by the Catholic Church to refer to a political assembly.
It is common in many spiritual traditions to refer to entheogens as “God's flesh”. I propose that this is due to the revelation that occurs under the influence of hallucinogens, the universal revelation of non-separateness or non-duality, which entails the we indeed are the manifestation of God in flesh, and therefore all food is God's flesh.
I believe that human beings, having evolved in symbiosis with plants and fungi, are presently in a state of withdrawal from essential exogenous (external, as apposed to endogenous---internal) neurotransmitters. This is obvious if you consider that in the absence of our plant and fungal symbionts, we have lost the capacity to think clearly and protect the earth, which is our primary duty. We are gardeners, protectors of seeds and spores, and the neurotransmitters that we share with our plant and fungal allies reinforce social cohesion, encourage the sharing of resources and ultimately support the proliferation of our species so that the garden can be maintained for generations to come.
The researcher Tony Wright has posited a hypothesis along the same lines as Terence McKenna, that a drastic and sudden change in environmental conditions caused our primate ancestors to quickly alter their diet and adapt to adverse living conditions. He suggests that primates used to thrive on a primarily fruit-based diet, which would have provided the brain and body with powerful hormones that may have been responsible for rapid increase in brain size. When we were forced to descend from the trees and survive in grasslands, our brains would have necessarily changed quite dramatically. The nutritional resources present in proximity to the local population is what that population is composed of. The people are made of the food that they pick, hunt, grow, and eat, this is an obvious truth. Tony suggests that humans are approaching the most difficult problems in the history of civilization with dysfunctional brains. If you'd like to know more about this hypothesis, I recommend listening to this two-part interview.
Is it Too Late to Save Eurydice?
I believe that the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is at its core, a kind of fractal resonance pattern generated by the more recent catastrophe that caused the Younger Dryas period, and in turn the Neolithic Revolution. We began to develop technology as a way of coping with the new stresses of rapid environmental changes and decreased food supply. In the cosmic romance of humanity and earth, we have long been involved by necessity in a long adulterous affair with technology. Technology is Eurydice's surrogate, the rebound relationship, the profane adultery, a complex forking path of compromises designed to hide ourselves from our fungal and botanical progenitors, the true Gods of this earth and our lifeline that stretches to the far reaches of the cosmos, which is our source. At one time in our history, communion with the Gods was indeed normal. The feeling of divine power guiding one's path was ordinary, magic was real, and the intimate connections we are now so deprived of were gifts of the gods. Sex was the ultimate and most sacred experience, the perfectly imperfect unity of the divided self reaching across the vast expanse of nothingness, to plant a seed that would open up the great cosmic portal and allow more life to flourish on our jewel called Earth.
What we here in the west are experiencing now is the true homecoming, the climax of the journey of the western mind. The millennial generation is a pack of feral children raised by cold lifeless technology and propaganda. Social media is the theatre of the Gods, the stage upon which all of our repressed emotions have been allowed free reign. The evils of history are having their last hurrah, dancing and parading in the funhouse mirrors of our computer screens, and the war-torn landscapes that we are seemingly powerless to heal. The internet itself is the ultimate manifestation of Persephone, the goddess of the underworld who has lead us deep into the heart of darkness. We are presently clawing our way out of this underworld, having received the gift of restored consciousness, now ready to share it with the rest of humanity.
I believe that the ultimate task of the millennial generation is to understand what motivates our actions. We are now required to know why we behave the way that we do. There is no more time to waste playing video games or scrolling through endless streams of bullshit on social media platforms. The time has come to leave the comfort of mother's breast and take on this responsibility, because we are the future, and the fate of the world is quite literally in our hands.
The millennial generation is heir to the sum total of history's mistakes. We are heirs to stolen land, depleted resources, a badly damaged and polluted environment, and broken ancestral lineages. We are headed toward economic depression and financial uncertainty. We were taught no myths, no stories to help us make sense of the world we live in. We have smartphones that listen, and doctors that do not. Our parents were jaded and obsessed with obtaining wealth, emotionally bankrupt and overworked. Young women today are angry, desperate for love and a hospitable environment for raising their children. Young men are entitled, bored, aimless, sexually repressed, uninitiated and unsympathetic toward the plight of women.
So what did Orpheus learn from the Maenads?
Every romantic relationship I've entered into has taken on the form of the transference. This was the same relationship that I had with my mother. I was my mother's counselor, a patient and comforting listener who absorbed the fury and emotional vacuity of my father, and her father, and on and on it goes. This pattern is ubiquitous in relationships today because women are attempting to reconcile generations of violence and abuse inflicted by the male dominators who have run the show for far too long, and men are ill-equipped to confront this powerful force with gentleness and understanding. The millennial generation is the archangel, we have the responsibility to honor the dignity of women and vanquish the fat greedy slobs who presently hold the reigns of power. This can only be accomplished by actively seeking to understand what motivates our actions, or we will continue to pour salt on the same wound again and again. We can no longer afford to behave unconsciously, to love unconsciously, we must learn to overcome our fears and interrupt our default drive toward apathy and stagnation.
Further reading: The Great Initiation---Richard Tarnas
Edited by DonShadow, 22 March 2018 - 01:50 AM.