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This page contains excerpts from the following, with links to the full articles:

1) Sylvapolitan Rising
2) On Indigenous Consciousness
3) How we Learn from Plants
4) Ayahuasca, Religion, and Nature
5) What is a Dieta?
6) The Human Flowering Song Cycle
7) From Cosmopolitan to Sylvapolitan
8) Imaginal Hygiene
9) Early Medicine Encounters
10) Ruminations on Cultural Appropriation and Ayahuasca Tourism

 

Sylvapolitan Rising

I am a student of culture, and have studied the whys and wherefores of the social beast thru academic degrees (MA and PhD in anthropology), travels to many lands, work among many peoples, and intimate relations with my own shifting ecology of identities in the worlds within and without.  Always there is the interplay between universal humanness and specific conditioning, between the common ‘software’ that runs our species, and the unique ‘operating systems’ that define cultural differences. 

If we choose to be pro-active about this situation, to be informed in choosing, or collaging, a cultural ‘operating system’, then it is important to be aware of the cultural dramas that keep us distracted from the larger planetary story (where we come from), and our uniquely human role in its positive progression (where we are - ultimately - going). 

We are aided in this by events where, either thru planning (e.g., Mardi Gras), or circumstance (e.g., natural disasters), people are given the opportunity to exercise their existence outside the norms of consensus reality.  Such events provide psychic space for social conditionings to drop away, and archetypal creative forces to rise in their place.  In this way they allow a kind of collective altered state of consciousness (ASC), and depending on the set and setting, can turn into a positive or negative experience, or ‘tryp’.   On a good tryp, the event allows the naturally altruistic character of humanity to reveal itself, and people can see that they can get along quite well with one another, even in chaotic situations.  A sort of invisible organizing intelligence takes over, the same one that allows schools of fish to turn in unison, flocks of birds to fly in formation, and herds of deer to collectively turn to the water hole, and people realize that they don’t really need authority figures, such as alpha males, to tell them what to do, and that bereft of the conditioning that tells them otherwise, people would much rather love and help each other than kill and cheat each other.  This is a surprise for many people, an awakening.  Read On...

 

On Indigenous Consciousness . . .

The Sylvan City
Equatorial rainforests ring this planet like a pearled chain of evolutionary heat.  Direct overhead solar radiation, unvarying climates, and high rainfall, create a hothouse environment crowded with life forms. The forests grow as stars in a galaxy of terrestrial creation, creating constellations of life that influence all earthly inhabitants. Within this verdant world, the fertility circuits hum with activity, giving voice to the inhabitants in many frequencies of sound, taste, smell, color, form, texture, and feeling.  Conversations run thru chemical signals networked in the matted roots and mycorrhizal fungi of the forest floor, the color patterns of frogs and butterflies, the heady fragrances of flowers and the rotting smells of dead animals, hum of insects, the chattering of birds, and songs of humans. 

These sensory dialogues are manifestations of deeper forces that maintain and evolve the balance of existence in the forest.  They are expressions of collective organizing intelligences, webs of energetic connections that allow the forest’s high population density, that facilitate traffic in sunlight, air, water, and soil, govern behaviors, and negotiate the boundaries of species domains.  The life of the forest is thereby ‘voiced’ into being, and carried on as a great multi-dimensional conversation.  This articulates the workings of a sylvan society, and in its largest sense, a culture of Nature. 

We can see the workings of this culture, variations of which extend over the entire planet, and beyond, in a number of ways.   For example, the mechanics of ecological relations can be understood thru the study of pollinators, niche construction, weather patterns, soil analysis, and in larger times frames, the rise and fall of mountain ranges, climate changes, co-evolution, and so on.  In this way it can be can be observed by materialist science.  That is, the paints that color the canvas of Nature can be isolated and named, the brush strokes mapped and compared.  Deeper into the Forest...

 

How We Learn From Plants

To Learn from Plants . . .
The premise for what follows is that plants have been actively engaged in guiding humanity since our emergence as species, and that we would do well to wake up to this fact and take advantage of it, as we need all the help we can get at this critical juncture in our collective story.  Follow the Spore...

 

Ayahuasca, Religion, and Nature

Ayahuasca is a word from the Quechua linguistic family of Andean-Equatorial South America. It means 'vine of the soul', and refers both to a large forest liana (Banisteriopsis caapi), and a strong decoction (tea) made from its woody parts, or with one or more other plant admixtures. The most usual addition to the brew are leaves from the shrub Psychotria viridis. These plants are endemic to the Amazon Basin, where they are part of a much larger plantas maestras or teacher-plant tradition native to that part of the world. Such plants - many of which have emetic, purgative, cathartic, dream-inducing and/or visionary effects, are used to facilitate states of consciousness that are believed to open into the worlds of spirit.

In the typical ayahuasca preparation, the molecular basis for this lies in the betacarboline complex (harmine, tetrahydroharmine, etc.) and the indole dimethyltryptamine (DMT). These are part of a structural group that includes neurotransmitters, molecules used to effect internal communication in the human body. The use of ayahuasca tends to deepen and expand these communications to include all manner of elemental, plant, animal, ancestor, and deity. These then appear less as an other, and more as participants in the metabolisms of yet larger bodies, such as regional ecosystems, or the earth itself.

Such organismic cosmologies are common to many indigenous peoples. These often suggest the existence of a reality a priori to material existence, one of mythic causality in which all beings are mutually transformative and exist as ontological equals, as 'persons'. Dialogues with such a world are effected through imaginal exchanges (dreams and visions), dance, prayer, song, and their attendant feeling states and sensory awareness. These describe the body's capacity to converse with what is presumed to be the affective life of the natural world. Ayahuasca allows access to this generous bandwidth of communication, and its repeated use cultivates familiarity with the ecology of souls that inhabit it.  Drink Fully...

 

What is a Dieta?

Dieta is a Spanish word that means – simply enough – diet.

However, when used in Amazonian herbalist traditions that deal with the more powerful and often reality-altering and visionary varieties of plants known as plantas maestras or teacher-plants, the word comes to mean much more than that. It then describes dietary and behavioral regimens that allow one to move most safely and effectively into working relationships with such plants. These relationships can bring about profound transformations, and the dietas are designed to best facilitate them.

The dietas originated as a plant-based practice for developing attunement to the currents of spirit that underlie the material world. Traditionally, this has been applied to such skills as hunting, divination, ancestral consultations, healing, leadership, and so on. The dietas are part of broader systems of human-plant relationships (food taboos, garden magic, and so on) that characterize many of the indigenous people of Amazonia. As the Amazon basin is populated by a high concentration of plants whose chemical behaviors are complex and ‘active’ enough to be used medicinally and sacramentally, and because humans have been interacting with them for 1000’s of years, the dieta tradition is well developed.  Take in the Rest...

 

The Human Flowering Song Cycle

What follows is a journey thru the Creation-body (our focal point in an organic universe of nested patterns of resonance), culminating in the experience of human flowering. I sometimes call it a meditation, in the Tibetan sense of the word, which means ‘union’. What are we unifying with? In the largest sense, our divine nature, and its play of awakening to itself thru the Creation song of this planet. More specifically we are unifying with the impulse to self-transform, the same urge that crystals, flowers, butterflies, and other such radiant beings had at one time surrendered to, and found themselves radically reborn as higher vibrational expressions of their former selves.  Flower Along...

 

From Cosmopolitan to Sylvapolitan

Modernity and its Discontents
Modernity is rooted in an assumed split between Nature and culture, and beneath that, between the spiritual (often assumed not to exist at all) and the material worlds. This rift first appeared eons back with the emergence of human self-reflective consciousness, but only within the last 500 years has it widened to a chasm. This latter period began when a great faction of the human collective decided to stop passing the ‘talking stick’ that circulates thru the tribes of creation, and simply . . . walked away with it. It coincides with the decline of the church, the rise of materialist science and mercantilism, and the popularization of the Faustian myth warning of the dangers of knowledge stripped of ethics, of taking power without responsibility for outcomes.

This chasm, a self-preserving, self-glorifying egoic contraction away from the other tribes of creation, has since normalized itself in human cultural forms. Examples include the tenacious medieval view that nature is a tempter, leading the devotional away from God, or the Reformation view of nature as a feminine force to be raped of her secrets by the minions of science, or the ‘Enlightenment’ understanding of Nature as great mechanism made by a divine craftsman who had long since departed from his handiwork.

In the last 200 years the industrial revolution has brought with it the perception of nature as a great toy chest to be ripped apart with impunity. Ideas sourced in Darwinian notions of evolution (though note here that Darwin often has as little in common with Darwinians as Jesus has with Christians), popularized the view that there is no guiding intelligence to nature, that it evolves by a series of blind accidents, and can therefore be tinkered with at will. The legacy of such attitudes has created a rapacious social machinery of domination and consumption. Wrought of scientific, industrial, military, government, and popular cultural forces, it carries the momentum of the centuries, and like a runaway train, is hurtling itself full speed into the 21st century. As a collective, we are all passengers.

The trajectory of this train is invisible to many people. They are often busy gazing out the window at the consumer wonderland on the billboards. Others flip thru magazines that tell how to get ahead in the modern (i.e., suicidal) economy. Many are simply satisfied to eat breadrolls and discuss sporting events with their neighbors. Their denial of where the train is heading cushions the ride, their unwillingness to hear those warning of a coming precipice allows them to sit undisturbed. Yet deep down, wired as we all are into the human (and planetary) collective, their remains a distant, yet persistent, foreboding.  Omward...



Imaginal Hygiene

‘Imagination lays the tracks for the reality train to follow.’ - Caroline W. Casey, Visionary Activist Astrologer

A few years ago I attended a talk given by RJ Stewart at the International Human and Fairy Relations Congress, an event held annually in the eastern Cascades of Washington. RJ is a Scottish seer, musician, and author dedicated to regenerating the magical core of Western earth-centered spiritual traditions. He was speaking of the breakdown in communications between the fairy kin-dom, and modern humanity, or more simply, why we can no longer easily see or communicate with fairies. He attributed this to the change in our imaginal ‘landscape’. The gist of the discussion, which I have heard echoed in other talks and conversations at the many congresses I have attended over the years, is that in previous eras the human imagination was much more attuned to the mythical dimensions of Nature, to the perennial stories and characters thru which Gaia dreams the world into existence. This archetypal homeland, shared by all the tribes of Creation, has provided a bandwidth of mutual intelligibility, a lingua franca, a commons of communication. A large faction of humanity has since left this commons, broken the agreement of respectful relationships, and left behind the ‘talking stick’, the heartfelt way to connect to others. We moderns have created our own imaginal space. It is a skull-enclosed kingdom that plays the movie of our egoic projections, and the ‘rush world’ we’ve created. We’ve got the electronic media buzzing and flashing thru our heads, broadcasting the normalcy of a busy busy hive mind in pursuit of purchased rewards in an advertised reality. We become saturated, overloaded, with these manipulated sounds and images, to the point where they block out and corrode access to the ancestral stratums of our humanity. Mas y mas

Early Medicine Encounters

The following is an account of three ceremonies that occurred within a few months of each other in the mid-1990’s.   They set the template of much to come . . . Up the ladder

 

 

 

Ruminations on Cultural Appropriation and Ayahuasca Tourism

Sit, be still, and listen,
because you're drunk
and we're at
the edge of the roof.
                                ~ Rumi

The idea that the earth is alive, aware, and on a teleological (purposeful) journey of evolution that we are not only inseparable from, but designed and destined to be co-creative with, is a crucial one in these times.  However, this ‘story,’ and the lineage of cosmologies, ceremonies, and life ways that attend it, lies for the most part on the indigenous/aboriginal side of the world’s cultural divide.

On the other side of the divide, we find various religious creeds of dominion over nature, scientific materialism, and the whole phalanx of ideologies of separation from nature, from spirit, that run the global industrial empire.  What then are those of us born and raised in the realm of an off-planet God, who, inconveniently, hunger for spiritual connection with the earth, to do?   We have little choice but to rediscover, recreate, remember, or otherwise find ways to access that which is deficient in our own culture.  When this is called ‘borrowing,’ or ‘appropriating,’ from other cultures rich in these traditions, it takes on a political, and largely negative connotation.  This results in efforts to communicate across the divide becoming suspect, even pathologicalized.  Examples include controversies within the ‘Earth First!’ community around their uses of Native American earth honoring ceremonies, young activists angry at figures such as Sunbear, and Wallace Black Elk, for bringing Native wisdoms to non-natives in the 70’s and 80’s, a tribal shaman of whom I am aware recently having been forced to leave his village for sharing ceremonial ways with outsiders, anthropologists protecting their intellectual investment in the status quo of a culture they study, and Westerners with a lot of guilt.  Down the stream . . .