Psychedelics and Shamanism

{rtf1macansicpg10000cocoartf824cocoasubrtf480 {fonttblf0fswissfcharset77 Helvetica;} {colortbl;red255green255blue255;} margl1440margr1440vieww9000viewh8400viewkind0 pardtx720tx1440tx2160tx2880tx3600tx4320tx5040tx5760tx6480tx7200tx7920tx8640qlqnaturalpardirnatural f0fs24 cf0 Hello friends, this weeks discourse on shamanism will be a continuation in unpacking shamanism Our goal in unpacking shamanism is to be able to distinguish between naive or superficial shamanism and mature shamanism

If you recall, last week we showed how Castaneda's writing on shamanism was fiction, and therefore we can dismiss it as naive shamanism And, one of his central premises was the consumption of psychoactive substances, and mostly psychedelics, for the purpose of having a religious experience, or shamanic experience, of the spiritual world, or spiritual domain We will mostly examine the work of two Anthropologists and one medical doctor; who researched shamanism and have arguably shown that shamanism certainly has a component of taking psychoactive substances to stimulate a religious experience And, I would actually call it a pseudo, or synthetic, religious experience; verses the kind of religious experience that a contemplative would have For instance let us examine Dr Andrew Weil's first book, the Natural Mind, where he showed most, if not all, cultures, historically and pre-historically, developed various psychoactive substances as part of their ritual behavior

And, as an anthropologist, I have to agree that most cultures, especially pre-western cultures, certainly developed herbal formulas for stimulating spiritual or religious experiences, and almost every society had some kind of fermentation process For instance the Classical period Greeks fermented grapes into wine, and most other Mediterranian cultures ferments grapes into wine, and they used wine consumption for their religious ceremonies, and if you read classical period Greek literature we find they believed drinking wine to the point of vomiting was good for our health So, then we go onto the southwestern Native American population of the USA, and we see various kinds of fermentation practices that they engaged in prior to European contact And, most notably we see fermentation of corn into alcohol, and fermentation of various fruit There were even wild grapes growing that they fermented into wine, and various cactus fruit were fermented into wine

In fact the O'odham people of the Sonoran desert of Southwestern USA and Northern Mexico, they annually collected the saguaro fruit in late June and early July and engaged in a three-day wine celebration, which was intended to bring on rain It was also a fertility ritual, in which people engaged in sex The idea was to get all of the women pregnant who were going to get pregnant all at the same time They were agrarians, so with their growth cycle it was actually useful to have all of the young people pregnant at the beginning of the summer so that they were available for the cultivation and harvest of the various foods that they were growing This meant during the winter, when there was not much work needed, then the women could be in the later part of their pregnancy at a time when there was little to do

They would then give birth in the early spring when the cactus was budding and there was an abundance again of food, so it was good planning of the elders of the O'odham to engage in that kind of ritual cycle that promoted a birth cycle that was consistent with their agrarian cycle And, we see that in almost every cutlure Now, the central premise of Castaneda is by consuming various psycho-active substances he is developing himself as a sorcerer or a mystic So by consuming more psychedelic substances, such as: peyote, psylocibin mushrooms and Jimson weed that he furthers himself as a sorcerer and he gets to a place where he can do fantastic things like fly through the air Early on in my pursuit of shamanism as a teenager I explored psychedelic experiences

It was those psychedelic experiences that stimulated my interest in religious experiences and the contemplative life In my experience of psychedelics in my youth the most frustrating thing for me was after the trip was over I was back to myself I did not find the psychedelic experience was a genuinely transformative experience I would agree that the psychedelic experience may stimulate a religious experience, because the religious experience does parallel a psychedelic experience The problem is the person who is taking psychedelics rarely comes to the experience with the maturity of the contemplative, unless that individual is already a contemplative, so they tend to come away from that experience without that experience penetrating deeply into their psyche, so that it becomes a truly transformative experience

In the 40 years of my research I met a number of individuals who defined themselves as shaman, who engaged in psychedelic consumption on a regular basis and led others in psychedelic experiences and yet most of those individuals never penetrated through their neuroses and their addictive behaviors Of those who did, in most cases they were also contemplatives, and if they were contemplatives, then they were generally not taking psychedelics on a habitual basis So, we can at this point then dispense with psychedelics, or the presence of drug stimulated pseudo spiritual experiences as an authentic or mature form of shamanism It would instead represent a superficial form of shamanism And, in fact I am going to propose a hypothesis here that the presence of drugs is inversely proportional to the authenticity of the shaman or mystics

So we can say the more drugs we see in an individual's life the less likely they are going to be a genuine mystic or shaman, therefore they are less likely to be engage in a contemplative life Thank-you friends and have a great week}


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