Cave and Cosmos – Michael Harner

Wondering whether I could achieve trance states using sound and breathing instead of psychedellic drugs, I ended up reading a copy of Cave and cosmos, a book by Michael Harner. Harner seems to have became somewhat famous for having written The Way of the Shaman, a book in which he apparently introduced a framework of techniques and practices which many shamanic traditions shared around the globe.

I can’t talk about the style or the content of Way of the Shaman, but I will tell you what I learned from Cave and Cosmos.

Traveling with the spirit.

The basis of this work is the belief in the reality of a spirit world, be it really spiritual or simply a mental space, the foundation of this book is the idea that using our imagination and external tools such as drugs or drumming, human beings can reach altered states of mind in which they can perceive, or see, to different degrees of precision, sounds, faces, other spiritual entities and have entire experiences altogether. So basically, that we can just imagine things and visit a neighboring plane of reality in which things exist independent of our subjective perception. A world of spirits, if you will.

In this world of spirits humans encounter entities that have their own ideas, their own plans and prejudices. In africa they are the spirit of the Tokoloshe, in siberia they are the spirits of the animals and mountains, in Vietnam you find them as the spirit of the ancestors of kings and queens. But all around the world, in all cultures and traditions, we see a very similar set of practices. We seem then forced to come to the conclusion that there is something, a certain knowledge and a certain reality that accompanies this knowledge, surrounding these spirits and inhabitants of the other world.

The world above, and the world below.

After laying the foundation for this spiritual traveling, we then have to analize what kind of places we are able to visit in these other worlds. Where are they, first of all? Above, and below. And right here, among us. An unknown number of worlds, of unknown size, inhabited by mostly unknown entities. How we start our imaginary travels determines where we go. If we go down a rabbit hole, or a hole in the trunk of a tree, we might end up in one of the many underworlds. Xibalba, Tartaros, the final destination is determined by our cultural expectations. Or we might decide to climb the highest tree in a familiar mountain, to find ourselves in the clouds, talking to enlightened buddhas, or any of the archangels, devas or residents of Olympus. Entities of the upper realms can heal, teach and give advice. Entities of the lower realms can destroy, curse or manipulate gross matter. But above and below are only two ways of looking at the world. We could also consider the existence of a middle world, or many middle worlds. Even if these worlds are real, it seems difficult to understand how are they organized or what rules they follow.

Getting there

Meditation is the main technique used by shamans, meditation understood as using your imagination. Imagination understood as that which you see with your eyes closed.

Using a drumbeat, or listening to a recording of a drumming session, you let your mind wander around. You visualize a place you want to go to, and then use symbols to estimulate the appearance of spirits that you want to talk to. If you want to talk to animal spirits, or to talk with “evil” (mind the quotes!) entities, you want to go “down”. Hell is down, the underworld is under, caves were always the gateways to the world of the deceased. If you climb a tree, or use the rainbow as a launching platform, you visit the high realms, high as much as they are the residence of those spirits who are related to peace, serenity, and wisdom.

Yggdrasill, the tree of life. The link between the underworld, the world of humans and the realm of the gods. The tree is a universal symbol for our world.

Conclusion

It seems that there is no need anymore for formal initiation into cults, religions or any secret societies in order to acquire the knowledge that the spirits have to teach. Buy a drum – no, just download an mp3 file for a drumming session, take a deep breath and lay down with your eyes closed and a firm intention to visit with your imagination the place where you will find the spirits you seek. It’s never been easier. Talk to the spirits. Today, yourself!

Quick read – Create your Personal Saga

Click image to visit the document page

Another quick read from academia.edu. This time, related to videogames and spirituality.

Summary (of what I understood, but not necessarily of what was written)

  • Spirituality has become a marketing strategy not only for gurus and astrologists but for videogame companies as well.
  • A videogame is a fantasy world. The promise of being someone else, at times a higher version of oneself, entices people to spend hour after hour sitting in front of a monitor staring at a virtual world.
  • Marketing campaigns aim to monetize escapism: people are weak, live boring lives, have boring jobs. In a videogame, they can be heros, warriors, powerful healers. It doesn’t matter that it is only a virtual scenario, the feeling is that it is real.
  • Most of these videogames are set in fantastic, ancient realms where magic and wizardry are still part of daily life. Knights in shiny armor, druids that shapeshift, evil wizards that haunt the mountains and forests. A few percentage are set in futuristic worlds, but it seems to be that most people still operate under the assumption that the old world was better and more magical and perhaps meaningful than our modern technological world.
  • New economies are based on experiences rather than products. You can’t just sell an item, you need to also give the user the experience of being the owner of such an item. You join a group of people who also own the item, you don’t operate in solitude.
  • Games also offer the user the option to play with spirituality without the need to believe in spirituality. The player doesn’t need to believe in the videogame gods to ask for their help or use their spells. It is magic, without tears.

The link, one more time:

https://www.academia.edu/12777231/Create_Your_Personal_Saga._The_Spiritualization_of_Online_Computer_Games_in_Advertising

Quick reads – In The Shadow of the Beast

I don’t really remember when did I register for an academia.edu account, but I must have agreed to receiving notifications constantly because I began receiving daily emails about papers and documents I might be interested on reading.

And you know what? They were right! Although they’re basically just spamming me, the website seems to host articles that genuinely pique my curiosity. “Oh, this looks like a cool read! I’ll try to remember reading this when I get back home.”

Of course, I never remembered once I made it home. I just wanted to smoke weed and forget I had to use my brain. Until yesterday, when I had enough time to spare and I decided to sit down and actually read one of these papers. I chose this one:

Link: https://www.academia.edu/40558824/In_the_Shadow_of_the_Beast_The_Impact_of_Aleister_Crowley_on_New_Religious_Movements_and_Contemporary_Culture?email_work_card=view-paper

Summary

  • Crowley was a more influential figure than people actually credit him as being.

And…that’s it? Really the article goes into detail about Crowley’s life, his books, his friends, and his crazy antics, but I think the conclusion of this paper is that Crowley has played a very significant role in the development on new religious movements like Wicca or Ritual Magic (he is claimed to have been one of the most, if not the most, influential member of the O.T.O). Hell, even the spelling of magic as magick is apparently Crowley’s doing. I know how important the O.T.O. was in the development of modern occultism, along with Crowley’s own society, the A.A. I am by no means an expert in esoteric affairs, but those two are big names in the universe of modern spiritual movements – not so religious perhaps, as many of these occult societies are reactionary and establish themselves as contrary to organized mainstream religions from which ironically they inherit a lot of their mythology and modus operandi.

Crowley came into our world amidst an increasing interest in sexuality, a reaction (there goes that word again) against victorian norms and ideas of what was pure and clean. Generally after a period of darkness or occulting, history prefers to move in the opposite direction. Force people to keep their body a secret, and you can rest assured that the next movement is going to be precisely about being as revealing and naughty as possible. Drugs, sex, rock and roll…Crowley had it all.

I don’t want to write unnecessary words as I’m not a writer, so I will keep this summary short. This document doesn’t introduce much new material regarding Crowley’s life, but it is a good compilation of facts and trivia about the beast. I would certainly recommend it to people who are interested in ritual magic and western esotericism, specially if they also want to learn where these ideas came from, and what kind of person was Aleister Crowley.

Ultimately though, don’t forget this is all about practicing.

The invisible college

What a Group of Scientists Has Discovered about UFO Influence on the Human Race 

When I first read Jung’s Flying Saucers – A modern myth of things seen in the skies, I didn’t quite get it. Maybe it’s because this was the last book Jung ever published, which means he had a whole life behind him to write about. Maybe I’m just slow. But I came back to that book at least three or four more times, because the main idea was quite intriguing: UFOs were perhaps not visitors from space, but they were related more to our own minds than to extra-terrestrial beings. It would explain their law-breaking movement patterns, it would explain the fact that some of them contain little grey creatures with big eyes that hurt people, while others are piloted by blonde tall european-looking humanoids which come to preach the need for peace and universal love. I never understood why the reports were so diverse. If there was only one UFO race, how come they looked so different? I looked around me on earth and I found only skin-deep differences between human races. If more than one gallactic race had advanced to the point of faster-than-light travel, it was extremely unlikely that any other race had also developed at the same time. If we as humans continue this rate of technological advancement, I am sure in less than 10,000 years we will be traveling to distant stars. Ok, let’s make it 100,000 years. I’m pretty sure in 100,000 years we will have the means to visit other galaxies. Or, we simply won’t be here.

You know what? I just did some basic wikipedia reading and it turns out we started our ape adventure around 20 million years ago. That’s when the Hominids began to develop into a separate group apart from the other monkeys. So it has taken us 20 million years to arrive here! What an incredibly long period of time, at least from my limited understanding. I remember a book I had when I was a kid, a hard-cover with a lot of illustrations from all animal species in the history of life on earth, from small worms and frogs, to

But I’m digressing. I wanted to say, when I first read Jung’s book, I didn’t get all the details but the main conception began to develop in my head. Aliens were not space visitors, and they had more in common with for example the virgin Mary sightings or even the many entities that people like E.A. Koetting claims to be in contact with. Do you know Koetting? He’s quite an interesting occultist. Give it a try.

So if UFOs are not space visitors, what exactl are they? From Jung’s book I remember talk about circles, symbols and archetypes. About absurdity, and high strangeness. Half the time, people say the aliens are good. The other half, they see the aliens are evil. Some of them claim to have been taken to Ganimedes, or to Mars, or even just around the corner, to the dark side of the moon. “They have bases all over the moon!” we were told on many an occasion. “On 2012 you shall see them!” But it never happened. They never revealed themselves, and the experiences kept being just as absurd.

What if, then, the absurd was just part of the whole thing? What if they were not trying to hurt us, not trying to save us, but simply trying to confuse us? In this book, The Invisible College, the idea is presented that the phenomenon of UFO sightings is a system of control, a way of changing our mind, but unlike other forms of control. We are not talking about change taking place across the span of a few generations. We are talking about change that is planned and prepared for in advance, perhaps thousands or tens of thousands of years before it actually begins to manifest.

Let me first talk about the contents of this book. Beginning with the introductory point of the UFO experience as a psychic component, the volume presents many witness reports describing the disparate type of details reported by people who claim to have seen UFOs (from just lights in the sky to full-blown abduction stories with all kind of cavity searches). This disparity of reports can be caused, it argues, by a psychological/psychic component. The high level of absurdity found in some reports makes them seem more like dreams or hallucinations than actual encounters with intelligence, developed rationales. In cases such as the sightings of Fatima or Lourdes, people were told to behave in many strange ways, some being told to eat grass, or to wash their faces on springs that were not real. And I remember also the strange reports from the The Mothman Prophecies, where people claimed to have been visited by odd-looking tall men who talked and behaved completely out-of-place, using old archaic words and overly trying to fit-in, as if they were not really humans but had rehearsed how to be human and were just trying to pass for natives of this earth.

If this is then a Psychic phenomenon, science can’t do much to help us reveal its origins and purpose. In fact, science is only going to get in the way. If the objective of the UFO experience is really to confuse us, we are only going to be able to gather contradictory data, reports that are incomplete, that get destroyed, that defy all logic and are considered ridiculous by most people. The truth hides itself behind the absurd and the unbelievable. Perhaps because it seeks to create a sort of trance in humans, a state of mind unlike any other, a state of high-influentiability that allowed the thing to plant deeper roots into our mind. Isn’t it under hypnotic trance when people are the most easily influentiable? Every time I say “chicken” you will start clucking like a chicken. And the suggestion is planted, the patient is awaken, and no sooner he hears a chicken sound he starts clucking like one. So, perhaps it’s this line between our ego, our “I know” and the world of the strange, the place where the ufo experience has encountered a suitable ground to develop.

To develop, what exactly?

〜 to be continued

Work in progress: Myth and Reality

But, what is myth? Not just fiction, myth explains the origin of an idea or a physical element. Where do chickens come from. Why does the sun rise in the morning. Where do people go when they die. They explain the creation of a reality. The people that appear in myths are usually supernatural. Because only from the outside world can this one come into being. Or at least, it is of utmost importance because it took place in a very distant far time, a time which is before time.

It proves itself truthful because of the reality we experience. The myth about the origin of the swan’s black beak is true because well, look at the swan! What color is its beak? Where did black color come from? Pigments in bone? What are bird’s beaks made of? *pauses to check wikipedia* Oh, it’s a bone structure covered in hard keratinized epidermis. So a bone with skin. I see. Also, swans don’t have black beaks. It’s their faces that are black. Hell, I fed swans for two months when I was in Scotland and I already forgot about the swans!

Myths explain why you do things. Why do you have to arrange your house in this or that way. Why you don’t plant tomatos during july. Just an example. But why? Because of myth. And myth is so valuable as part of your culture, that you believe in it.

Myths are not fables: the fable of the fox and the grape vine is not real, and it is clearly so. Animals don’t speak, and foxes probably don’t eat grapes. Do they? wikipedia…yes, they do. But they are not very healthy for them apparently.

In some cultures, myths are kept away from the ears of the profane. Fables can be told to children and women. Myths, however, are kept for the religious castes. Today, our myths are called history, but our histories share much with the myths. They explain why we are here, why we do what we do, and we believe in them regardless of the evidence to believe in them (sometimes, familiarity replaces evidence. We believe the earth is round because entities familiar to us also affirm this).

In some cultures , myth is not just knowledge, but rather it gives the knower the power over the thing or creature that the myth is about. The myth of the creation of fire grants the power to start a fire. Hunters who know the mythical origin of the animal they are hunting are expected to be more successful than others who don’t. The people that know the legend about the origin of a healing herb are the only ones that can use to heal.

Magic and prestige of origins

Myths resemble cosmogonies on a smaller scale. They detail the change in the world, which happened in a time and a place that was not ours. Change consequence of each we have what we have today. Since they have a similar origin storyline, sometimes they begin detailing the cosmogony that surrounds the story. How was the universe created, how was the earth created, the animals, the humans, and all the way down to actual kings and families that inhabit the earth. It’s not infrequent to have long genealogies included as the opening.

First Bardo: The period of ego-loss

Chikhai Bardo

Recognize the supreme light. In this point the person is dissolved into nothingness, the void is achieved. If one is prepared to let go of all attachments, one can recognize the change that is about to take place. Those who are ready can be in this state for a long time, those who aren’t shuffle through the state in a blink. Earth sinks into water. Water sinks into fire. Fire sinks into air. One though, one idea of ego will take you away from this state, back into rebirth. You might feel the kundalini energy and try to control it. Don’t. Let it flow. Sink back into unawareness. Feel, but not as one isolated part, feel as if you were all parts. Move, but not against other parts. Move as one, infinite, complete.

How to consecrate a book

I share here these notes of mine that I don’t remember now if I got from listening a podcast or watching a youtube video, but I’m doing some housekeeping and the notebook has to be thrown away. I think they are useful and I want to keep them and share them for other people.

Books are repositories of ideas. Maybe they are even alive! Who knows. I have heard of people mentioning that certain books have spirits that you can actually invoke and chat with. For example I remember reading somebody online claiming that the spirit that inhabited the New Avatar Power books had told them that the power it contained was no longer usable, and that it was no longer as effective as it was 20 or 30 years ago. If attention is power, perhaps when the books are known the most, that is when their spells are the most effective, or their knowledge is the most wise.

Here is what my notes say about preparing to read a book. Again, not my original ideas.

  1. Have the author’s name and author’s title printed each on one page, with no other text apart from the names. Stare at them for a little while. What do you think the person looks like? What is his character? Read the author’s name out loud and imagine what they put in the book. What does the title tell you about the content?
  2. Peruse the table of content carefully and slowly. Go from the top to bottom. Absorb the headlines and the basic structure of the book. How do you want to feel at the end?
  3. Feel like the knowledge is food. You have seen the table of contents, now you need to feel hungry for the words. Gaze at the title again, imagine it shining like a sigil. Trace it in the air.
  4. Visualize yourself sitting (or standing, or lying down) reading the book and absorbing the hidden meanings, what hides between the lines. Absorb the concepts from beyond that which is clear. See beyond sight.
  5. Take this visualization into a sphere, make it clear in your third eye, see yourself turning the last page of the book. It is done!
  6. Now you can start reading!

There’s one last part that I don’t understand but I include here in case somebody does.

7. Fold page. Put it out of your view. Consecrate with your blood.

I’m wondering which page do you fold? The title? Why? Put what out of view, the whole book? Consecrate with your blood I guess just means adding a bit of blood maybe to the cover or something I would do would be smear blood over the side of the book, like when you close the book, paint the sides with a colored marker, and then open it again to find a nice colored square around each page. Like that, but blood.

Happy reading!

True Hallucinations – Terence McKenna

If you are interested in mushrooms and micology, specially in magical mushrooms, you will quickly learn about Terence McKenna and his trippy adventures. There is a myriad of youtube videos available of his talks, and me, having sat through hours and hours of his these audio lectures, started to consider that I needed to actually read some of his written works. I decided to start with True Hallucinations, perhaps his most well-known work to this date (and possibly forever since he is already dead). This here is my short summary and accompanying thoughts.

What is True Hallucinations? Well, as it turns out, when he was a young lad Terence McKenna traveled to a location in Colombia (of all countries!) called La Chorrera. A chorro is a stream of water and in Colombia, at least until a few years ago, the gross of the laypeople would enjoy occasional Paseos de olla, a pot hike, a hikking/cooking adventure that involved carrying a big pot and lots of food to a nearby river or stream, taking a swim and then cooking chicken soup. Sancocho is the name of our most popular chicken soup. Boy I miss those hikes! This tradition I believe (or rather, I came to conclude) was inherited from similar events that the indigenous people would organize to commemorate special events or to kickstart the hunting season. One thing I remember particularly from these hikes was how well defined the gender roles were. Men would usually take their bicycles and bike to the destination (taking a longer or steeper route, because well, they were men and needed to make things more difficult) while women would take the children and the cooking supplies and just walk or drive, when there were enough cars for everybody. The two groups would eventually come to meet at the chosen destination; the men would smoke and take a swim, the children would play, and the women would prepare the food and cook. Anecdotically, in one of these trips a biker had an accident and injured his leg, which was bleeding when he arrived to the river side. He was crying when they brought him, and I remember a woman looking at us, eyes opened like saucers, surprised that this man was crying. “He’s crying!” she said. As if men were not supposed to cry. Coming to think of it, my mother always complained about these women. She said they were boring and just knew how to gossip.

Anyway, McKenna and four of his friends (including his brother Dennis) decide to visit the Colombian deep jungle to find this hallucinogen substance used by the Witoto, but when they end up finding lots of cubensis mushrooms (note that this was in the 70s, when not a lot of species were classified) they decided that the psychedelic experience brought about by this fungi was well worth exploring and dropping the Witoto quest altogether.

Out of the group of 5, two people eventually end up finding the experience not so enjoyable and they sort of split and not much is told about these two participants and their experiences (it would seem they just didn’t really take part of the mushroom consumption). The remaining 3 (Terence, his brother Dennis and Terence’s lover Ev) continue eating the cubensis mushrooms, with Dennis being the one let’s say more mentally touched by the experience. So much in fact that Terence himself seems to have been worried at the time that his brother had lost his mind during his foray into the unknown.

So, what can learn from these wild adventurers? First, according to McKenna’s report on the message transmitted by it, the mushroom is an intergalactic, or extra-terrestrial, or extra-dimensional, entity older than the planet is old itself, massive in size and in strangeness. The mushroom entity propagates its own existence disseminating spores into deep space, traveling enormous distances to find suitable host planets with animals and life. Although it is not specifically mentioned in this book, McKenna’s theory of “stoned apes” attributes the evolution of the human brain and the human mind to the consumption of psychedelic mushrooms. The mental states that the mushrooms induces on the subject, he theorizes, could account for deep-thinking and self-reflective ideas that would have helped little monkeys get an evolutionary boost in the race for survival. Does it make sense? Possibly. With the resurgence of psychedelics and specially of microdosing, we see people claiming that the constant ingestion of small amounts of mushrooms helps them achieve mental ludicity and feel more creatively inspired. MRI scans show that under the action of psylocibin, parts of the brain which are normally disconnected start to speak to each other (see link [2]). So, is it plausible to think that some wild monkeys eating mushrooms, hallucinating and learning new brain behaviour, ended up becoming the human species that we are today? It certainly is plausible. Probable? that’s a different matter.

Image source

Now, about the nature of the mushroom entity. McKenna says that the entity revealed itself as spreading through time and space using spores and communicating to creatures who eat the mushrooms and were epistemologically prepared to understand the message. This is not much different from what Carlos Castaneda already claimed in his The teachings of Don Juan. In this book, he claims that the spirit of the mescaline molecule, which is called mescalito, communicates and shows itself to a disconcerted (and quite out of his mind) Castaneda. The Datura plant is also referred to as having a spirit inside, which is of a more femenine nature and quite difficult to tame, or to work with. Datura is known as hierba del diablo, the devil’s weed, and it is famous for taking its user to a very difficult hallucinogenic mindspace. Next to these two characters, the spirit of the mushrooms seems quite noble and amiable.

Another thing that McKenna explores in this book is his theory of Timewave Zero. As far as I understand, he argues that the universe fluctuates between high novelty and low novelty periods, and the arrangement of these events he claims matches a fractal pattern that one can discover by analyzing the arrangement of the I Ching hexagrams. This is the most confusing part of the book, and I will need to read more on this timewave and actually get to use the software he designed for studying it. If the world indeed follows a pattern, it might be useful to know where in that pattern we are positioned at any given moment. It might even help you understand where you will be in the near future, even if it’s simply in terms of “there will be a great novelty wave on January the 1st”. Kinda like what you do with astrology. “Tonight you find venus in conjunction with mercury so you should buy a red dress.” Kinda.

Conclusion

True Hallucinations is a story of a man who went to the forest with a couple friends, took a lot of mushrooms and came up with strange ideas. The strange ideas are difficult to grasp from this book alone, and as far as trip reports go, McKenna’s stories are not particularly alluring. To me, a few ideas were novel: the idea of using sound to alter DNA, and the idea that the mushroom itself is a conduit to communicate with higher-level creatures which hide behind a veil of strangeness.

References

[1] Psychedelic microdosing https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190304100015.htm

[2] How Magic Mushrooms Change your Brain https://www.iflscience.com/brain/magic-mushroom-chemical-hyper-connects-brain/

Learn, learn and learn.

Don’t waste time doing things which don’t help you learn.

Friends and parties are fun but fun doesn’t make you wealthy. Focus on learning, focus on knowledge, learn more, read more, think only about the things that you can learn, the books you have been wanting to read for years, the many lessons that you are going to learn, the knowledge to acquire.

Other people are only gonna get in the way. They are only going to hinder you. Because they don’t want to evolve, they don’t want to learn, they will just try to make you waste your time. They just want to waste their time because they don’t know how valuable it is. You should be smarter than them. It might feel like a big sacrifice to make when you see them laughing and posting pictures of their happy times on Facebook, but remember always that those are shallow experiences devoid of any real meaning. Everybody is having shallow moments of happiness, it’s not a big accomplishment to have a lot of friends and party all the time. Being wise and knowing a lot of things is what you work towards.

Be wise, not wasteful.

Am I making the same mistake again?

Four or five years ago, I sold my bitcoin balance to move to Barcelona because I thought it was going to be a great experience. At the time, bitcoin was around $400 and having bought at $200 I felt I had made the deal of a lifetime. I could have now more than $50,000 worth of digital gold, but I made the decision to sell and use the money to live in a different place.

Now in 2019 I am forced to sell again part of my bitcoin balance in order to pay for the documents I need to live and work in Vietnam. And I ask myself. Am I not making the same mistake again? I did not want to sell my bitcoins before moving to Barcelona but I thought that it was going to be the time of my life. It wasn’t. I came to Vietnam with hopes and dreams and I found nothing special. I tell myself “I like Vietnam” but perhaps it is only because I don’t want to admit that, in fact, I don’t like it. You invest time into something and then you have to pretend it was a great idea.

Was Vietnam a great idea? I am starting to believe it wasn’t. I’m not getting paid well, I’m not making any progresses in my spiritual path, I haven’t found my sangha. For all it’s worth, I might as well just have stayed in Colombia. Well, except for the violence. I don’t like violence.

I can’t wait to go back to Spain.