Thursday, August 23, 2018
More Spectacular and Immediately Satisfying
"The concerns raised by the use of psychedelic mushrooms were well stated by two Christian missionaries, Eunice Pike and Florence Cowan. They said, 'How can one effectively present the message of divine revelation to a people who already have, according to their beliefs, a means whereby anyone who desires may get messages directly from the supernatural world via a more spectacular and immediately satisfying way than Christianity has to offer?'
Quoted by Thomas Redlinger, 'Sacred Mushrooms Pentecost,' in Entheogens and the Future of Religion, ed. Robert Forte (San Francisco: Council on Spiritual Practices, 1997), 106."
-- The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Self-Fulfilling Enchantments vs. The Genuine Journey
In one quite vivid and interactive plant medicine experience, the spirit of San Pedro kept impressing on me what a magical place creation is. One might not even call it a place, rather an ongoing process of surprise, a joyful celebration where anything is possible and our energies and intentions are vital in its ever-changing yet in some ways ever-the-same expressions. It is a state of eruptive Being where what exists or doesn't exist is a flow of creative intention magnified through the lens of consciousness. A state where it's even possible for something to exist and not exist at the same time, such is the limitless possibilities incumbent upon infinite creative probabilities. Any idea, any emotion, any action or combination thereof can be explored in unfathomable depth.
With such capability comes enormous potential and responsibility. The magic of the creative impulse is not limited and so even the most twisted or counter-intuitive states can be explored, even made so deep as to get lost in. Love itself can be "dis-invented." By expressing love one in fact brings it out of potential and into existence. By loving, love is created in a real phenomenological sense, emerging from infinite latency. We may not know why we seem locked into certain rigid modes of expression on a planet spinning through a not-so-void void, but to a great extent we're limited more by perspective, assumptions, and ingrained patterns of behavior than any loosely-perceived law of existence.
The same seems especially true regarding all that's possible during a sacred plant medicine experience. These spaces, often celebrated as the wide-open doors of perception, may beckon with magical promise, unbounded potential, but not so much with self-definition. Magically enough, no one has to have a complete definition of where they're going in medicine space to benefit from it, even be transformed. Try to define the space too dogmatically, or at all, and we may in fact be seriously delimiting what's possible for us to experience while journeying. If self-fulfilling prophecies are possible as we go through our ordinary daily routines, imagine how much more susceptible one becomes in creating a presumptive or preloaded reality while in magic entheogenic transport. A great example of this was demonstrated during early research into psychedelics. Here's a quote from The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide by James Fadiman, PhD:
"The first phase [of research into the use of psychedelic chemicals], prior to the 1960s, typically identified these substances as psychotomimetic [relating to or denoting drugs that are capable of producing an effect on the mind similar to a psychotic state], and was based on a priori models of mental illness. Underestimating the effects that such preconceptions might have on the content and aftereffects of a subject's experience and almost totally unaware of the effects of expectations or the setting, researchers variously reported that psychedelic-induced states mimicked mental illness when given in a setting that provoked it. For instance, it illuminated Freudian theory when administered by a committed Freudian, evoked Jungian archetypes when administered by a longtime Jungian, substantiated the tenets of behavior therapy to a behaviorist by increasing suggestibility and modifiability, and demonstrated the soundness of the existential approach when given by someone who identified with that theory. As I wrote in my dissertation, 'What is puzzling ...is that all these investigators found that using psychedelics in their particular framework tended to validate that framework.'"
And another quote from the same book:
"LSD was remarkable in two ways. One, it was effective in micrograms (one-millionth of a gram doses). This made it one of the most potent substances ever discovered. Two, it seemed to have the effect of radically changing perception, awareness, and cognition but not in any predictable way. These results seemed to be dependent not only on the drug effects, but equally so on the situation of the subjects—what they'd been told about what they were going to experience under the drug and, even more interesting to science, the mind-set of the researcher, whether or not he or she had communicated a point of view to the subjects in any given study. In short, here was a substance whose effects depended in part on the mental expectations of both subject and researcher. Often people in the studies had experiences that appeared to be deeply therapeutic, blissful, and life changing, religious in content or mystical, but they also might have experiences that were profoundly disturbing, confusing, or terrifying. The aftereffects of the experience looked more like learning than simply the passage of a chemical through the brain and body."
And one more:
"Why did our drug research frighten the establishment so profoundly? Why does it still frighten them? Perhaps because we were able to step off (or were tossed off) the treadmill of daily stuff and saw the whole system of life-death-life. We had discovered that love is the fundamental energy of the universe, and we wouldn't shut up about it. What we found out was that the love is there, the forgiveness is there, and the understanding and compassion are there. But like water to a fish or air to a bird, it is there, all around us, and exists without any effort on our part. There is no need for the Father, the Son, the Buddha, the Saints, the Torah, the books, the bells, the candles, the priests, the rituals, or even the wisdom. It is just there—so pervasive and so unending that it is impossible to see as long as you are in the smaller world of people separated from one another. No wonder enlightenment is always a crime."
Basic quotes defining self-fulfilling prophecy apply:
"The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true. The specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning." -- Robert K. Merton
"A self-fulfilling prophecy is an assumption or prediction that, purely as a result of having been made, cause the expected or predicted event to occur and thus confirms its own 'accuracy.'" - Paul Watzlawick
All of this reminds me of the Dunning-Kruger Effect regarding perceived ability. Novices will often over-estimate their abilities since they don't know how little they know, how much more there is to learn. Whereas, experts will often under-estimate their abilities, have less confidence or think everyone has more ability than they do.
It appears the more you really learn about something, the more you begin to understand how entailed, rich, and deep it goes. This increasingly demonstrates there's so much more yet to learn. As one's circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it. As Einstein is credited as saying about our attempts to define and explain it all - ignorance grows faster than knowledge.
For this reason, after that day with San Pedro, I've always attempted to do as the spirit prescribed and "Let GO" of all expectations before a plant medicine experience. This letting go includes releasing oneself from all ideograms, logical constructs, and dogmas - whether deep-seated by tradition and upbringing or newly acquired from the latest "teacher" or self-elevated devotee of being "enlightened." It's like what they say of dying - you can't take any of it with you. In respect to medicine space, you can't take it with you and truly enter the full experience rather than someone's thought-form.
I always try to remember as a plant medicine ceremony begins what someone once said -- the unknown is the ultimate source of information. The more one thinks one knows paradoxically limits the range of what one experiences. It's like getting three wishes from the genie and pulling out fortune cookies instead of blank slips of paper one can write on. One's over-defined self-fulfilling enchantment might be filled with dazzle and layered explanations elaborate with concocted substance but the genuine journey, initiated as free of all of this as possible, never fails to extend much farther out, much deeper within, and so beyond anything one can imagine.