Symbiotic Existential

Cosmology

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Chris King

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0  doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.32891.23846
Part 4 Animism & Apocalypse
Update 5-8-2021 3-2024

 

dhushara.com

 

Contents Summary - Contents in Full

 

Dedication

The Core

Symbiotic Existential Cosmology:

            Scientific OverviewDiscovery and Philosophy

Biocrisis, Resplendence and Planetary Reflowering

Psychedelics in the Brain and Mind, Therapy and Quantum ChangeThe Devil's Keyboard

Fractal, Panpsychic and Symbiotic Cosmologies, Cosmological Symbiosis

Quantum Reality and the Conscious Brain

The Cosmological Problem of Consciousness in the Quantum Universe

The Physical Viewpoint, The Neuroscience Perspective

The Evolutionary Landscape of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

Evolutionary Origins of Conscious Experience

Science, Religion and Gene Culture Co-evolution

Animistic, Eastern and Western Traditions and Entheogenic Use

Natty Dread and Planetary Redemption

Yeshua’s Tragic Mission, Revelation and Cosmic Annihilation

Ecocrisis, Sexual Reunion and the Entheogenic Traditions

Song cycleVideo 

Communique to the World To save the diversity of life from mass extinction

The Vision Quest to Discover Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

The Great I AM, Cosmic Consciousness, Conscious Life and the Core Model of Physics

The Evolution of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

Resplendence

A Moksha Epiphany

   Epilogue   

            References

 Appendix: Primal Foundations of Subjectivity, Varieties of Panpsychic Philosophy

 

 

Consciousness is eternal, life is immortal.

Incarnate existence is Paradise on the Cosmic equator

in space-time the living consummation of all worlds.

But mortally coiled! As transient as the winds of fate!

 

 

 

Symbiotic Existential Cosmology – Contents in Full

 

Dedication

The Core

A Scientific Overview

Biogenic

Panpsychic

Symbiotic

Discovery and Philosophy

The Existential Condition and the Physical Universe

Turning Copernicus Inside Out

Discovering Life, the Universe and Everything

The Central Enigma: What IS the Conscious Mind?, Glossary

Biocrisis and Resplendence: Planetary Reflowering

The Full Scope: Climate Crisis, Mass Extinction. Population and Nuclear Holocaust

Psychedelics in the Brain and Mind

Therapy and Quantum Change: The Results from Scientific Studies

The Devil's Keyboard

Biocosmology, Panpsychism and Symbiotic Cosmology

Fractal Biocosmology

Darwinian Cosmological Panpsychism

Cosmological Symbiosis

Symbiosis and its Cosmological Significance

Quantum Reality and the Conscious Brain

The Cosmological Problem of Consciousness, The Central Thesis, The Primal Axiom

The Physical Viewpoint, Quantum Transactions

The Neuroscience Perspective, Field Theories of Consciousness

Conscious Mind, Resonant Brain

Cartesian Theatres and Virtual Machines

Global Neuronal Workspace, Epiphenomenalism & Free Will

Consciousness and Surviving in the Wild

Consciousness as Integrated Information

Is Consciousness just Free Energy on Markov Landscapes?

Can Teleological Thermodynamics Solve the Hard Problem?, Quasi-particle Materialism

Panpsychism and its Critics

The Crack between Subjective Consciousness and Objective Brain Function

A Cosmological Comparison with ChalmersConscious Mind

Minimalist Physicalism and Scale Free Consciousness

Defence of the real world from the Case Against Reality

Consciousness and the Quantum: Putting it all Back Together

How the Mind and Brain Influence One Another

The Diverse States of Subjective Consciousness

Consciousness as a Quantum Climax

TOEs, Space-time, Timelessness and Conscious Agency

Psychedelics and the Fermi Paradox

The Evolutionary Landscape of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

Evolutionary Origins of Neuronal Excitability, Neurotransmitters, Brains and Conscious Experience

The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, Deep and dreaming sleep

The Evolving Human Genotype: Developmental Evolution and Viral Symbiosis

The Evolving Human Phenotype: Sexual and Brain Evolution, the Heritage of Sexual Love and Patriarchal Dominion

Gene Culture Coevolution

The Emergence of Language

Niche Construction, Habitat Destruction and the Anthropocene

Democratic Capitalism, Commerce and Company Law

Science, Religion and Gene-Culture Coevolution, The Spiritual Brain, Religion v Nature, Creationism

The Noosphere, Symbiosis and the Omega Point

Animism, Religion, Sacrament and Cosmology

Is Polyphasic Consciousness Necessary for Global Survival?

The Grim Ecological Reckoning of History

Anthropological Assumptions and Coexistential Realities

Shipibo: Split Creations and World Trees

Meso-American Animism and the Huichol

The Kami of Japanese Shinto

Maori Maatauranga

Pygmy Cultures and Animistic Forest Symbiosis

San Bushmen as Founding Animists

The Key to Our Future Buried in the Past

Entasis and Ecstasis: Complementarity between Shamanistic and Meditative Approaches to Illumination

Eastern Spiritual Cosmologies and Psychotropic Use

Psychedelic Agents in Indigenous American Cultures

Natty Dread and Planetary Redemption

The Scope of the Crisis

A Cross-Cultural Perspective

Forcing the Kingdom of God

The Messiah of Light and Dark

The Dionysian Heritage

The Women of Galilee and the Daughters of Jerusalem

Whom do Men say that I Am?

Descent into Hades and Harrowing Hell

Balaam the Lame: Talmudic Entries

Soma and Sangre: No Redemption without Blood

The False Dawn of the Prophesied Kingdom

Transcending the Bacchae: Revelation and Cosmic Annihilation

The Human Messianic Tradition

Ecocrisis, Sexual Reunion and the Tree of Life

Biocrisis and the Patriarchal Imperative

The Origins and Redemption of Religion in the Weltanshauung

A Millennial World Vigil for the Tree of Life

Redemption of Soma and Sangre in the Sap and the Dew

Maria Sabinas Holy Table and Gordon Wassons Pentecost

The Man in the Buckskin Suit

Santo Daime and the Union Vegetale

The Society of Friends and Non-sacramental Mystical Experience

The Vision Quest to Discover Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

The Three Faces of Cosmology

Taking the Planetary Pulse

Planetary Reflowering

Scepticism, Belief and Consciousness

Psychedelics The Edge of Chaos Climax of Consciousness

Discovering Cosmological Symbiosis

A Visionary Journey

The Great I AM, Cosmic Consciousness, Conscious Life and the Core Model of Physics

Evolution of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

Crisis and Resplendence

Communique on Preserving the Diversity of Life on Earth for our Survival as a Species

Affirmations: How to Reflower the Diversity of Life for our own Survival

Entheogenic Conclusion

A Moksha Epiphany

Epilogue

Symbiotic Existential Cosmology is Pandora's Pithos Reopened and Shekhinah's Sparks Returning

The Weltanshauung of Immortality

Paradoxical Asymmetric Complementarity, The Natural Face of Samadhi vs Male Spiritual Purity, Clarifying Cosmic Karma

Empiricism, the Scientific Method, Spirituality and the Subjective Pursuit of Knowledge

The Manifestation Test

References

Appendix Primal Foundations of Subjectivity, Varieties of Panpsychic Philosophy

 

 

2 Animism, Religion, Sacrament and Cosmology

 

The inclusion of agency in Symbiotic Existential Cosmology realises the intimate relationship between panpsychism and animism [51], which is based centrally on agency, as a manifestation of the widespread perspective held by ethnic cultures and in shamanism, of agency being a feature of all living and perhaps even non-living entities. Animism also holds the key to the Weltanshauung of Immortality that has sustained the human spiritual sense of meaning since our emergence as a cultural species. Animism is the belief that all things animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems etc. possess a distinct spiritual essence – as animated and alive – extending ultimately to the Gaia hypothesis [52] that living systems and the geosphere are in a self-sustaining feedback loop which could be disrupted by tipping points (Lovelock 1972, Lovelock & Margulis 1974). It thus aligns closely with panpsychism and is said to describe the most common, foundational thread of indigenous peoples' "spiritual" or "supernatural" perspectives, especially before organised religion. The Dictionary of the Social Sciences (Gould and Kolb 1965) sums it up as "the belief in the existence of a separable “soul-entity”, complementary to the physical and biological embodiment of a living individual or material organism.” Modern society still treats certain phenomena, from hurricanes to boats, which are often given a female figurehead as a historical protection against misfortune at sea and are generally given names as agents.

 

Several of these natural entities take the form of edge-of-chaos processes, such as wind, waterfalls and storms from turbulent mountain summits to the ocean, which from the point of view of symbiotic panpsychism are strong candidates for coherent subjectivity.

 

“In the earliest times, when both people and animals lived on earth, a person could become an animal if he wanted to, and an animal could become a human being. Sometimes they were people and sometimes animals and there was no difference. All spoke the same language. That was the time when words were like magic” – Nalungiaq, Netsilik woman storyteller (Rothenberg 1972: 45)

 

In addition to a span of cultures, from Amazonian to migratory African peoples who escaped slavery in India, I shall focus on two founding human peoples, the Pygmies of the Congo Basin Forests and the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert and surrounding more fertile regions, both of which have consistent cultures running back for tens to hundreds of millennia, originally comprising the main populations  of southern sub-Saharan Africa. Both of these cultures manifest both animism and gatherer-hunter symbiosis with the natural environment pivotal to humanity's survival over evolutionary time-scales. The San Bushmen have an extremely long-standing cultural and genetic history running back to the mitochondrial African Eve, over 150,000 years, with cultural evidence dating back over 100,000 years. Likewise pygmies have had a largely unchanging culture for  referred to by the Egyptians 4000 years ago as “the people of the trees”.

 

 

Animistic beliefs are also confluent with the use of entheogenic and psychotropic sacraments, as evidenced by the San Bushmens’ use of cannabis and experience of the trance dance and the cultivation the use of Tabernanthe iboga among the Biaka Pygmies and the use of ayahuasca by the Shipibo and peyote by the Huichol.

 

Fig 162: Distribution of African populations 8000 BC (Comrie et al. 2003)

 

Magical Consciousness, Animism and Human Psychic Unity

 

J D Lewis-Williams (2013) notes the enigmatic lines running through San rock art that have an unforeseen cosmological significance connecting the visionary worlds:

 

Across southern Africa from the Drakensberg in the east to the Cederberg in the west there are painted lines that meander through densely constructed panels, entering and leaving human and animal depictions, bifurcating and weaving in and out of the rock face. Sometimes these lines are fringed with white dots, sometimes they take other forms. ... But the northern ethnographies hold the explanation. The Kalahari San speak of threads of lightthat come down from the sky and take trancing shamans (n/omkxaosi) up to visit god and his vast herds of animals. Shamans, who are the only people who can see these threads,climb them as if they were ropes or walk along them as if they were paths. They also simply glide just above the threads.All these various manifestations are clearly depicted in the southern African rock art. Moreover, those lines that seem to penetrate the rock face (as do other images) lead to the spirit realm that was believed to lie behind the veil.

 

Fig 163: The painted line on San Rock art at Drakensberg seems accidental but has huge spiritual significance (Witelson et al. 2021).

 

Elaborating on his theme, he cites in three points, the need to understand the evolution of consciousness, including alternative states, as well as the evolution of intelligence in human societies:

 

First, the evolution of modern human behavior(a difficult concept) depended as much on the evolution of consciousness as on intelligence. By focusing on intelligence and ignoring consciousness researchers have missed a fundamental human characteristic— the ability to conceive of alternative realities. Second, all religions are founded on shifting consciousness and the alteration of consciousness by meditation, rhythmic movement, sensory deprivation, psychotropic substances, and many other means. Third, religion is not a peripheral “add-on.” It is intimately involved in social change.

In “Magical Consciousness: An Anthropological and Neurobiological Approach”, Susan Greenwood and Erik Goodwyn (2015) delineate the contrasting relationship between the neuroscientific implications of analytical thought for our understanding of consciousness and the deeper mythopoetic, analogical and creative existential views generated by the “magical thinking” of animism. Citing Lewis-Williams (2013) they note the contrast between these two modes:

 

More than 20,000 years ago, prehistoric humans in southern Africa painted lines on cave walls, bringing them to life with images of humans and animals. Neuropsychological studies of altered states of consciousness suggest that these marks might be indications or recordings of certain kinds of brain activity, but when asked for an explanation, some contemporary Kalahari San people explain them as threads of lightfrom the sky to take shamans … while in trance to visit god and his vast herd of animals. One explanation of the cave art is based on materialistic neurobiology, whereas the other relies on indigenous magicalmeanings, such as those studied by anthropologists. If each explanation for the prehistoric painted lines is seen as plausible, then we need some form of incorporating these very different interpretations. The issue is to find a basis for a common ground.

 

They see analogical thinking as inherently animistic in nature:

 

The practical application of analogical reason as opposed to logical reason) is inherent within the notion of participating in an interrelated, inspirited world best described as "animistic.- Animism is a relational psychic ontology found cross-culturally.  Magical thinking is predominantly animistic; indeed, magical consciousness could be said to be animist thinking in action. On a vernacular or everyday level, many societies can be said to operate within a generalised animist perspective, one that views positive and destructive powers pervading the universe, particularly focussed on specific places and things,' Animist perspectives most likely co-exist with the major religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — particularly in non-Western locations, Such animist world views rely on a relational magical ontology that denies categorising "the inner" (what we might call the psychological) and -the outer" (a social or cultural context) in any dualistic fashion. Animism is also gaining popularity as an advocacy for a certain relational, ecological worldview.

 

They suggest such analogical thinking has been the basis for a common sense of “psychic unity” across evolving human cultures: The nineteenth-century German ethnologist Adolf Bastian first coined the term psychic unityto express the conviction that all human beings shared the same basic mental framework; this indicated a species-wide similarity in mental reasoning capabilities. Indeed, mitochondrial DNA evidence suggests that for 200,000 years, all humans have essentially shared the same bloodline, and many scholars are beginning to concede the existence of a core human psyche”.

 

Greenwood & Goodwyn’s view from magical thinking presents a completely counterposed position to that of rational materialism, in relation to the hard problem of consciousness:

 

In magical thought, we begin with the non-material domain of spirits and/or minds, and matter becomes the odd thing that needs explanation! In an animistic perspective, spirits do not require understanding in terms of physical facts, and they are not felt to "derive" from physical, "naturalistic" (which usually means mechanical) laws. … On the contrary, within an animistic worldview, the exact opposite is true: the physical world is derived from the action of non-physical, consciously experiencing spirit beings; the world is full of spirits or minds pervading everything. Causality itself is different: things do not cause other things, but within an animistic orientation, spirits or minds cause things to happen through their intent. … From an animistic perspective, minds do not require explanation in terms of physical facts, and minds are not felt to "derive" from physical, "naturalistic" (which usually means mechanical) laws. On the contrary, under an animistic worldview, the exact opposite is true; the physical world is derived from the action of non-physical, consciously experiencing minds, and the world is full of minds pervading everything.

 

Animism also confirms a cosmological viewpoint accepting the veridical truth that the physical world is manifest through subjective consciousness, although it may be somewhat indiscriminate in attributing agency to entities which do not. Broadly speaking however in the natural world of the gatherer-hunter the “lion’s share” of intervening risks to survival or health are from active agents, whether human enemies, parasites, predators, or unstable natural phenomena such as storms and floods. It is only in technological society, where the majority of intervening events can often be mechanical that this begins to appear naive or silly. Even so, ships have been traditionally crowned by a female figurehead as a guardian of the waves and a favourite vehicle is often patted and treated as a living being:

 

This essentially animistic worldview looks at the minds responsible for the physical world, not only those minds mysteriously associated with other  humans and animals, but the minds behind other chaotic, self-motivated, and typically unpredictable phenomena, including the day-to-day events in one's life and the very motions of the universe itself. For animism, the world is full of non-physical minds that act according not to the mechanical laws of physical causation, but by the mental laws of motivation, intention,  desire, and emotion.

 

The animist point of view causes the hard problem of consciousness to evaporate:

 

Responding to the hard problem of consciousness, the animist and magical thinker would say there is no hard problem, because minds are not created by matter. Rather, minds are primary and explain the phenomena of the physical world, perhaps creating matter itself during the acts) of creation. To exclude the mind from the explanation because of an adherence to such axioms as the causal closure of the physical world (a popular axiom in physical science and philosophy that posits only efficient causation and denies final causation) is therefore to eliminate the mind from the equation as - causally irrelevant".

 

They also bring up a core issue that is ignored by analytical materialism. There are always two ways of looking at an intervening event such as a disease or accident, the contextual (physical or biological) causes and the exact specific train of coincidences that brought this idiosyncratic event onto being. This is also a fundamental characteristic of the quantum universe stemming from quantum uncertainty.  Covid is a perilous disease so we can try to vaccinate ourselves to address the contextual risks but this does not protect us from freak occurrences by being in the wrong place at the wrong time e.g. in an unanticipated  super-spreading event, so it is as relevant to ask what caused me to catch this now? For this reason anthropologists acknowledge that an animistic viewpoint has unique survival value because it does protect from unpredictable threats from intentional agents, even though it may result in overkill on attributing physical causes to conscious agency because everything is treated as alive:

 

The classic example of this dichotomy is in Evans-Pritchard's description of the Zande rationale for the granary collapse: the Zande knew full well that the granary collapse was "caused" by termites eroding the foundational structures. This physical explanation was, however (in converse to the Western philosophical viewpoint)" - causally irrelevant" to their inquiry, which was, "Which mind intended for the granary to collapse at just this moment?"  … The Zande might not care about universal gravitation or termite biology, they want to know who made the granary collapse at just the moment a friend was under it.

 

They arrive at  a compromise position proposing dual-aspect monism in almost identical form to symbiotic existential cosmology:

 

One solution is dual-aspect monism: that is, that the mind and matter are both properties of a single monistic substance that is not directly observable; when viewed under "objective" circumstances it looks like the brain, and when viewed -subjectively," it looks like the mind- From this view, the mind is not seen as deriving from matter, but is rather proposed to be another property of matter (or vice versa).

 

Is Polyphasic Consciousness Necessary for Global Survival?

 

In “Is Polyphasic Consciousness Necessary for Global Survival”, Tara Water Lumpkin (2001) invokes the urgent need to reinstate polyphasic consciousness, enlarging analytical reasoning responsible for its monoclonal destructiveness on human society, to the full breadth and depth of human conscious awareness and biodiversity as a whole:

 

To perceive is to become aware. Human perception is created by the interaction of human biology, the physical environment, an individuals personal development, and a persons culture (Lazlo and Krippner 1998:65). Perception is a complex, synergistic system, with numerous feedback loops, allowing for the generation of meaning and subsequent communication of that meaning. Perception evolves and changes as an individual, culture, or environment changes.

 

She makes clear that perceptual diversity is a long standing intrinsic part of human consciousness which is increasingly under risk:

 

A growing number of psychologists and anthropologists have become interested in the value of perceptual diversity, seeing the use of multiple perceptual processes as positive rather than pathological. Anthropologist Charles Laughlin has proposed that cultures are "monophasic" or "polyphasic" (1992). Polyphasic cultures value perceptual processes that use altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming, lucid dreaming, contemplation, ecstatic and trance states, as well as ordinary, waking consciousness (Walsh 1993:125). Roland Fischer presents a model of altered states of consciousness based on neurophysiology (1970a; 1970b). According to Fischer, states of consciousness are based along a continuum of arousal of the central nervous system. States of reduced central nervous system arousal (or hypoarousal) are represented by tranquil meditation or the Yogic state of samadhi. States of increased arousal (or hyperarousal) are represented by sensitivity, creativity, anxiety, ecstasy, and mystical rapture.

 

She notes, as a founding example, !Kung trance dancing, which we shall discuss in detail later with the San:

 

The Kalahari Kung in Botswana are an example of a polyphasic culture. Anthropologist and clinical psychologist Richard Katz lived with them in the 1970s and documented that one-third of all adult Kung routinely and without drugs altered their state of consciousness, thereby releasing healing energy to the entire community(1982:3). Katz defines states of consciousness as patterns of human experience, which include ways of acting, thinking, perceiving, and feeling.And he defines an altered state of consciousness as being radically different from the usual everyday patterns(1982:3). When the Kung were camped at a permanent watering hole, they conducted their communal, all-night healing dances as often as twice a week. If camped in the bush, the dances occurred only two to three times per month (1982:37). Katz noted that the healers had rich fantasy lives, which he pointed out were another type of altered state of consciousness. And, according to Katz, the Kung healing process demanded intuition and emotion rather than logic and rationalism, meaning such processes were valued in creating the Kung cultural, cognitive map (1982:236).

 

The risk to perceptual diversity and its alternative experiential states has dire consequences also for social, cultural, and cognitive survival and the survival of the diversity of life and the human species:

 

Perceptual diversity allows human beings to access knowledge through a variety of perceptual processes, rather than merely through everyday, waking reality. Many of these perceptual processes are transrational (meditation, trance, dreams, imagination) and are not considered by science (which is based primarily upon quantification, reductionism, and the experimental method) to be valid. In the past, perceptual diversity was valued by a majority of cultures. Now it is being devalued and replaced by the monophasic culture of developednations. Just as we are losing (1) biodiversity (or biocomplexity) in the environment and (2) cultural diversity among societies, we also are losing (3) perceptual diversity among human cognitive processes. All three losses of diversity (bio, cultural, and cognitive) are inter-related.

 

Loss of perceptual diversity disables the polyphasic map of existence that has enabled people throughout history to navigate their lives in a way conducive to their continued survival:

 

Individuals and cultures create cognitive maps to help them navigate the landscape of socio-cultural and physical environments (Lazlo and Krippner 1998:66). These cognitive maps are used by individuals and cultures to adapt and evolve. The cognitive map of developednations is one of specialization that disavows multiple perceptual processes, whereas the cognitive maps of most less developedcultures are more holistic, providing for a multitude of processes with which to access knowledge, including altered states of consciousness.

 

The ultimate fatal error is the loss of biodiversity:

 

When societies devalue and lose perceptual diversity, they lose varied ways of accessing knowledge. The loss of perceptual diversity homogenizes societies, reducing cultural diversity. And the loss of cognitive maps that use a variety of perceptual processes, including altered states of consciousness, results in navigation of physical environments based only upon monophasic consciousness. When humans interact with the environment using only monophasic consciousness (or the scientific method), the end result is that they reduce biodiversity and biocomplexity.

 

The Grim Ecological Reckoning of History

 

Ridley (1996) noted that Chief Seattle, leader of the Duwamish Indians, delivered a famous speech to the governor of Washington territory in 1854. The governor had offered to buy the chief's land on behalf of Franklin Pierce, president of the United States. Seattle replied in a long and shaming speech that is now among the most widely quoted texts in all environmental literature. It presages almost every thread in the philosophy of the modern conservation movement. The speech exists in various slightly different versions, one of the most moving being that which Albert Gore quoted in his book Earth in the Balance:

 

How can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us … Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people ... will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? what befalls the earth befalls all the sons of earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man does not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.'

 

However one cannot afford to be naive. Although Ridley highlights the evolution of trust as a core human virtue, The rape of mother  Earth and her living diversity has not just been committed by modern technological civilisation, nor by apocalyptic religions alone. Ridley (1996) again notes that history abounds with evidence that the limitations of technology or demand, rather than a culture of self-restraint is what kept tribal people from over-exploiting their environment. Methods of hunting have remained opportunistic, often taking easier prey such as females, sometimes specifically including pregnant ones and  seeking the richest hunting grounds.

 

Ridley notes many examples from the pre-Columbian Americas. The Mayan empire reduced the Yucatan peninsula to scrub and fatally wounded itself. Chaco Canyon was abandoned by the Anasazi before the Spaniards arrived when the extraction of pine timber for their 650 room settlement containing 200,000 huge pine beams removed all the pine trees requiring a 50 mile road  to drag pine logs to the increasingly eroded site. At Olsen-Chubbock the Colorado site of ancient bison massacres, where people regularly stampeded herd of a cliff the animals lay in such heaps that only the one on top were butchered and only the best joints were taken from them.

 

 

But the initial extinctions on the arrival of humans were even more telling:

 

Coincident with the first certain arrival of people in North America, 11,500 years ago seventy three percent of the large animal genera quickly died out. Gone were the giant bison, wild horse, short-faced bear, mammoth, mastodon, sabre-toothed cat, giant ground sloth and wild camel. By 8,000 years ago eighty percent of the large mammal genera in South America were also extinct – giant sloths, giant armadillos, giant guanaco, giant capybaras, anteater the size of horses.

 

Maoris sat down and ate their way through all twelve species of the giant Moa bird (the biggest weighting a quarter of a ton) before turning cannibal in desperation. At one Moa butchering site near Otago, at least 30,000 were killed in a short time – and on average a third of the meat was left to rot, only the best haunches being taken. Entire ovens with haunches still in them were left unopened, so abundant was the supply of meat. It was not just moas. Half of New Zealand’s land birds are extinct.

 

It took a little longer to wipe out Australia's large mammals. Yet soon after the arrival of the first people in Australia, possibly 60,000 years ago, a whole guild of large beasts vanished marsupial rhinos, giant diprodons, tree fellers, marsupial lions, five kinds of giant wombat, seven kinds of short faced kangaroos, eight kinds of giant kangaroo, and a 200 kilogram flightless bird.

 

By contrast he notes that Africa and Eurasia saw no such sudden bursts of extinctions of large mammals and that mammoth hunting persisted for 20,000 year in Eurasia, although extinction still occurred in the end. We shall also see that founding cultures of the Bushmen and Pygmies do practice an ecologically reverent non-exploitation of nature.

 

The Key to Our Future Buried in the Past: Philosophical thoughts on saving us from ourselves

 

Nilsen and Foster (2017) emphatically underscore the need for humanity to learn from our founding cultures ways to correct the planetary crisis human civilisation has set in motion to draw from our emergence in effective symbiosis with nature to enable our future survival. I will largely quote for their article in their own words because it is a brief account that is stunningly succinct and the literal key to our survival as a species:

 

An abundance of scientific data shows that in the last few millennia humans have placed life under severe stress and are expediting the sixth extinction event. It seems obvious then that the thrust of current research should focus on securing our future. Archaeology can be a key player in that regard. If human behaviour has brought us to this point, and if science is suggesting that we are at the end game, then we have answers to the why and when. What remains unanswered is the how. How do we alter human behaviour to achieve function and sustainability?  The archaeological record is important because it is a road map of our development, with signs of where we have been, what we have done, what has worked and what has not. If our early ancestors survived and thrived in Africa prior to the introduction of food production and socio-political systems, then it is reasonable to suggest that their recipe for life worked. Currently our species is barely surviving and certainly not thriving; our recipe for life has failed. Maybe a glance at the past can provide some sorely needed wisdom and guidance. We are not suggesting a return to the Stone Age but rather a return to the original human ethos as a way to secure our future.

 

In real time, humans first appeared about 200 000 years ago and the origins of food production occurred some 10 000 years ago. This means that humans lived in and connected with nature for at least 95 per cent of our time on earth. It is only for the last five per cent or so that we have been manipulating nature for our own short-term benefit, to the long-term detriment of life in general. It is hardly surprising then that most of us find comfort, peace and joy in nature as opposed to the discontent associated with the sights, sounds and smells of industry and modern life. Our deep- seated relationship with nature, and 95 per cent of our genetic coding and heritage, is part of the original human design gatherer-hunters are at the core of who and what we are.

 

We know of animals that use tools. Chimpanzees use fishingsticks to extract termites from a termite mound. Birds drop shellfish or tortoises onto rocks to open them up for eating. We have the ability to make novel associations between separate items or ideas to create what we call composite tools. The bulk of our technology today consists of composite tools. The second characteristic that separates us from other animals involves symbolic behaviour. We know that animals use symbols, but they only do so to protect themselves, their territory and their reproduction.Humans also use symbols for such reasons, but we take symbolic behaviour to a different level. We use it to express our position with respect to our understanding and perception of ourselves and the world we occupy. The start of symbolic behaviour was the first step towards creating the tools that led to our industrial life today. However, early humans used symbolism sparsely, whereas today we use it to such a degree that we have completely lost touch with what is real. … Since the start of food production and the development of complex society our mindset is that of ego: self-seeking and intent on the manipulation and domination of nature. We are driven to the infinite consumption of finite resources.  This situation is radically different from that which pertained in the prehistoric period. We can thus surmise that a major component of the human dilemma and a major cause of our failure to care for the environment results from our disconnection from it.

 

Prior to the origins of food production and before the advent of complex societies, the vast bulk of human societies based their belief systems in Animism. In this system, which is still practised today, a life force is attributed to everything that exists, including the elements, plants, insects, animals and earth itself. Everything is revered and considered critical to the chain of being. As a practitioners awareness expands, it is common to experience a profound lack of separation, where the entire known world is perceived as one sentient living form. This experience has been repeated across the ages. Most of the worlds great spiritual leaders report very similar experiences of oneness. This experience in many ways is much more real than normal wake- fulness as the psyches ability grows exponentially during heightened awareness. The so-called real world of everyday human existence often feels like an illusion in comparison with this expanded state. It follows that the behaviour of these early ancestors was guided by a reverence for and consciousness of all life, and that their very lives depended on a functional relationship with nature.

 

Central to Animism is the hunter-gatherer trance dance. It is not the prehistoric equivalent of todays trance parties in which people take recreational drugs and dance to loud music. Rather, through repetitive rhythmic dancing to clapping-singing-chanting-percussion around a fire, the trance dancers aim to reach an altered state of awareness, which they describe beautifully as the little death, the death of the ego. It is during these altered states that people have visions of entoptic phenomena and therianthropes beings or entities that are part human and part animal. ... A second unnatural element in rock art, but one that also occurs around the globe, is entoptic phenomena. These include cross-hatchings, zigzags, nested curves, spirals and other geometric shapes. Entoptic phenomena are images not observed by the eye, but are generated internally by the brain, usually during altered states.

 

Fig 193: Entopic phenomena at the Northern Cape

Nilsen and Foster (2017).

 

During trance states people achieve the overview or connectedness effect that reinforces the belief system founded in Animism.  Several South African Middle Stone Age sites dating to 100 000 or more years ago contribute to our understanding of our very deep human origins.

 

The variety of entoptic phenomena on ochre, ostrich egg shell and bone suggests that these people were involved in altered-state practices and were very likely associated with Animism. Looking at our origins reveals that our early ancestors had at least two ingredients in their recipe for success, namely a combination of cognition (intelligence) and symbolic behaviour (beliefs or spirituality).

 

So, what is the contemporary standing of our species? The status of society and its constructs are a perfect reflection of great intelligence in the absence of wisdom. The overall emphasis on the development of intelligence and efficiency, and the near absence of authentic spiritual development has resulted in a not- able and often crippling imbalance in the human psyche. The ingredient we have lost is the spiritual aspect of what makes us human. It is this spiritual bankruptcy, evidenced by fame, famine, fear, wars, abuse of everything and lack of reverence that has brought our species to its knees, that has robbed us of our humanness. After food production, the evolutionary tree of belief systems becomes top heavy and complex, with the emergence of thousands of different religions and denominations. Christianity alone boasts several thousand denominations. Mostly these religions view humans as the pinnacle of evolutionwho have the self-appointed right to dominate and control.

 

If Animism was the global belief system prior to food production and if we can push the beginnings of symbolic behaviour back to the emergence of humans, then at least 95 per cent of our genetic coding and heritage concerning belief systems relates to Animism. At our core we are all Animists, carrying remnants of a profoundly imprinted mindset and way of life based on a reverent and functional relationship with nature.

 

We are imprinted with the notion that we are separate from everything, including nature and each other, and that we are successful human beings if we can accumulate external wealth and power. We are thus imprinted to be part of an ego-based consumer society with only a secondary regard for nature, the environment and fellow human beings. Our resultant behaviour is causing the death of our oceans and the onset of the sixth mass extinction. Humans are the single most dangerous mammal on the planet, responsible for more human deaths than any other, yet, ironically, very fragile compared with many other smaller species. Some scientists predict human extinction within a few hundred years unless radical change occurs in human behaviour.

 

Fig 194: Animist altar, Bozo village, Mopti, Bandiagara, Mali, 1972 The Bozo are sometimes referred to as the "masters of the river”. Though they are predominantly Muslim, they preserve a number of animist traditions as well. Their animal totem is the bull, whose body represents the River Niger and whose horns represent the Bozo fishing pirogues.

 

All this relates to a tiny fraction five per cent or less, or less than one per cent if we include the hominin lineage of our time on earth. For the balance of our past we were imprinted with the notion of the interconnectivity of all things and reverence for life; it was these nature-based knowledge and belief systems that allowed our species to thrive. The inter-connectivity of all, the law of one, as taught by spiritual leaders since the dawn of time, is now supported by quantum physics, which states that at the foundation of it all there is only one thing, a singularity, a unified field of energy, one intelligence, one consciousness. Everything is connected.

 

The point is simply this: we stand at the tipping point: either we change our habits and tendencies, or our future is in serious doubt.

 

There is a critical message here for all of us. Not only are the San Bushmen one of or the oldest known human cultures, possibly shared with the tropical pygmy peoples of the Congo, representing the mitochondrial African Eve, but they have the archetype of how humanity can survive ecologically over hundreds of thousands of years including  some of the toughest most inclement environments. Given the combination of this with the ability to live with nature symbiotically, not intervening in it any any way, but to collect its surplus bounty ,while espousing a world view of integrated relationship with it over millennia, they hold our deepest and most insightful key to our own survival.

 

San Bushmen as Founding Animists

 

Foundational human cultural influences can be seen in the animistic, spiritual and religious beliefs of our oldest surviving culture of the San Bushmen, a founding human culture, in genetic, evolutionary and archaeological terms, whose historical presence goes back over 100,000 years and whose ancestor, the mitochondrial Eve is literally the mother of all living(Fielder & King 2017). Although over the course of the last two millennia, the San may have had contact with other religious influences, their cosmology of animistic trickster heroes and deities have a fresh natural quality, just as engaging as the Sabbatical creation.

 

Fig 188: San headman acting as the Eland in the San rite of menarche for a teenage girl, smoking dagga (cannabis) from a hole in the ground, cave drawing of the trance dance and a person supported while entering trance in the rite – Lonyana Rock Kwazulu-Natal. Figures dance around a seated figure healing another reclining person enveloped in a kaross, or short skin-cloak. (Rock Art Res. Inst., Univ. of the Witwatersrand, SA)

 

The San Bushmen, who represent one of our oldest and longest surviving foundational cultures likewise have an extensive history of animism.  Sources of such material can be found in  Laurens van der Post and Jane Taylor's (1986) Testament to the Bushmen, Johnson , Bannister and  Wannenburgh's (2000) The Bushmen (2000), Alan Barnards (2019) “Bushmen: Kalahari Hunter-Gatherers and Their Descendants” and Mathias Guenther's (2020) “Human-Animal Relationships in San and Hunter-Gatherer Cosmology”.

 

Guenther notes that the spirit realm, while preternatural (beyond what is normal or natural) in a number of ways, is also of this world, being located somewhere beyond the hunting ground and accessible, by different pathways, to humans, especially shamans. It may also be situated within the sky, rather than the veld, or somewhere in-between, in lower-sky regions, the spatial-ontological domain within which, preindustrial people tend to locate spirits as gods at eye-level – thereby rendering them ontologically ambiguous supernatural beings whose ancestry is neither unequivocally human nor divine.

 

Xam story teller /Hanǂkassos statement to Lucy Lloyd is as fundamental a postulate about human and animal ontology to San cosmology as is its reverse, Darwinian, counterpart to Western cosmology. Its clearest expression is found in the stories San tell about myth time, the First Order of Existence, whose denizens, for the most part, were therianthropes, that is, animals that were once people. As such, these people—the Early Race — contained in their being, their First Order humanness and elements of their Second Order animalness. Humans and animals from both myth and historical time are thus blended ontologically, explaining why, as we will see in the second section, we also find therianthropes, of a mythic, Early Race cast, in the Second Order of Existence.

 

These human animal transformations tally closely with the trickster hero /Kaggen or mantis – a human-insect-bird being – a little green thingthat looks like a long thin Locust, at times spreading its feathered wings and fly off, after a scrape or misadventure. Mantis’s sister then berates him for his dereliction of duty. Unlike Mantiss other sister, Blue Crane, the sister here featured is of indeterminate nature her springbok child suggests that she is, springbok-linked. Mantiss nephew, the Little Springbok, has human speech, as, at the beginning of the story, he is engaged in animated prattle with Mantis, in a tone different from the hectoring he always gets from his own grandson, a precocious Ichneumon Lad, whose mother is a Porcupine woman and whose fathers family are Meerkat and Lion People.

 

Fig 189: Therianthrope transforming from human to antelope (Guenther).

 

For the Bushmen of Lesotho, Mantis or, /Kaggen, the first being, made all things by ordering them to appear. He created the Sun, Moon, Stars, wind, mountains and animals. A quarrel began between /Kaggen and his wife Coti over a knife she made blunt by using it to sharpen her digging stick. As a result of his anger, she gives birth to an eland calf in the fields. /Kaggen leaves the calf in the bush while be goes away for three days to obtain arrow poison, his two sons find the calf and kill it for food. /Kaggen accuses his sons of 'spoiling' the eland. He instructs his sons to put the blood of the calf in a pot and churn it with a stick. The blood splatters and becomes snakes. They try again, and the blood that is spilled turns into hartebeest. /Kaggen is still not satisfied. He orders his wife to clean out the pot and to bring fresh blood from the paunch of the little eland. To this he adds fat from the heart, and when the blood spatters this time, each drop becomes an eland bull, and all the bulls surround /Kaggen and his sons and menace them with their horns. 'See how you have spoilt the elands,' says /Kaggen, and he chases them away. The next time the blood is churned it produces eland cows, in such numbers that the earth is covered with them. 'Now go and hunt them and try to kill one', says /Kaggen. 'That is now your work, for it was you who spoilt them.' But they fail, and so /Kaggen himself goes out and spears three bulls. Thereafter, with his blessing, his sons are also successful.

Some myths speak of regeneration. The mythical Mantis, in his human person as one of the 'early race', finds that his grandson has been killed by baboons, who are playing a ball game with the child's eye. Mantis joins in the game and, gaining possession of the eye, places it in a pond, where it once more becomes the complete child, the grandson whom the baboons had killed.

 

Richard Katz (1982) gives a detailed account of the !Kung San trance dance reported first hand during his field work. This provides both numinous consciousness expansion for the practitioner to enter the spirit worlds and is also a process strengthening the community:

 

For the !Kung, healing seeks to establish health and growth on physical, psychological, social, and spiritual levels: it invokes work on the individual, the group. and the surrounding environment and cosmos. Healing is a fundamental integrating and enhancing force far greater than curing or the application of medicine. The healing tradition supports the culture's emphasis on sharing and egalitarianism, its belief in the life of the spirit, and its strong community ties.

 

The central event in the healing tradition is the all-night dance. Four times in a month, on the average, the women sit around the fire. singing and rhythmically clapping as night falls, signalling the start of a healing dance. The men, sometimes joined by the women, dance around the singers; the entire village participates. As the dance intensifies. n/um, or energy, is activated in those who are healers. most of whom are among the dancing men. As n/um intensifies in the healers, they experience an enhanced consciousness called !kia during which they heal all those at the dance. The dance usually ends before the sun rises the next morning. Those who are at the dance confront the uncertainties and contradictions of their experience, attempting to resolve issues dividing the group, reaffirming the group's spiritual cohesion. They find it exciting, joyful, and powerful. "Being at a dance makes our hearts happy,' the !Kung say.,While experiencing !kia, one can heal. Those who have learned to !kia-heal are said to possess n/um. They are called n/um k"ausi "masters of nium" or simply "healers." N/um resides in the pit of the stomach and the base of the spine. As the healer dances, becoming warm and sweating profusely, the n/um heats up. becomes a vapor, and rises up the spine.When it reaches the base of the skull, !kia results.

 

Kinachau, an experienced healer, talks about the !kia experience:

 

You dance, dance, dance. Then n/um lifts you up in your belly and lifts you in your back, and then you start to shiver. [N/um] makes you tremble, it's hot. Your eyes are open but you don't look around; you hold your eyes still and look straight ahead. But when you get into !kia, you're looking around because you see every thing, because you see what's troubling everybody ... n/um enters every part of your body right to the tip of your feet and even your hair.

 

N/um is held in awe, considered very powerful and mysterious. It is this same n/um that the healer "puts into" people in attempting to cure them. Once heated up, n/um can both induce !kia and combat illness. …But it is only as one learns to control or regulate one's boiling n/um that one can apply it to healing. One then learns to twe, to "pull" or "pull out sickness." K"au Dwa, a powerful healer, describes how one can heal while experiencing !kia: "When you !kia, you see the things you must pull out, like the death things god has put into people ... you see people properly, just as they are ... your vision does not whirl.” !Kia intensifies emotions, be they fear, exhilaration, or seriousness. During !kia, lKung healers perform cures, and as part of their effort to heal, may handle and walk on fire, see the insides of peoples' bodies and scenes at great distances from their camp, or travel to god's home, activities never attempted in their ordinary state.

 

Fig 190: Left: A young San couple. Mitochondrial tree of humanity traces its oldest ancestor to an ancestral San female and shows evidence of the separation of San into two groups some 140,000 years ago for some 100,000 years, possibly by a long drought in the Kalahari. Remains from caves in the San area such as Blombos and the Border cave show cultural and spiritual use going back up to 100,000 years, painted stone fleck (73,000 years) representing the oldest human rock art ,shell ornaments and scored red ochre possibly for cosmetic use. Right: Fulton cave drawing 1000 BC celebrating the eland rite of menarche, Drakensberg Mountains. The young woman is held in great reverence (Fielder & King 2017). Inset An eland rite with the headman impersonating the eland bull follows the same pattern as in the cave drawing.

 

Toma Zho, a strong experienced healer, speaks of the feeling !kiam gives, that of becoming more essential, more oneself:

 

I want to have a dance soon so that I can really become myself again." A transcendent state of consciousness, !kia alters a Kung's sense of self, time, and space. Another experienced healer says: "When I pick up n/um, it explodes and throws me up in the air and I enter heaven and then fall down.

 

!Kia makes others feel they are "opening up" or "bursting open, like a ripe pod." Through !kia, a !Kung transcends ordinary life and can contact the realm of the gods and the spirits of dead ancestors. Sickness, incipient in everyone, is a process in which these spirits (the //gauwasi) try to carry people off into their own domain.

 

In addition to their trickster heroes and first person experience of the numinous in the trance dance, the Bushmen also, possibly influenced by interactions with other cultures, believe in the existence of two gods: a greater god manifesting the creative force and a lesser god invoking the malevolent forces of uncertainty and misfortune, each with a shadowy consort (Johnson et al 2000, van der Post 1986). They have many names, but the !Kung Bushmen most commonly call them ≠Gao!na and //Gauwa, while to the /Gwi they are N!odima and G//awama. The Bushmen do not see these as a good and bad god.

 

When a missionary inquired into a Bushman's ideas of good and bad he was told it was 'good' to sleep with another man's wife, but 'bad' if he slept with yours. Still lamenting the Bushman's ignorance of absolute morality, he later asked the man, whom meanwhile he had discovered 'was in the habit of smoking wild hemp', what he thought was the most wonderful thing he had seen. The reply he was given, that no one thing was more wonderful than any other and that all the animals were the same.

 

≠Gao!na, the !Kung Great God, using one of his seven divine names, created himself:

 

"I am Hishe. I am unknown, a stranger. No one can command me.

I am a bad thing. I follow my own path."

 

Then Gao!na created a Lesser God who lives in the western sky where the sun sets; and after this two wives for himself and for the Lesser God. Gao!na, tallest of the Bushmen, was in his earthly existence a great magician and trickster with supernatural powers, capable of assuming the form of an animal, a stone or anything else he wished, and who changed people into animals and brought the dead back to life. But as the Great God who lives beside a huge tree in the eastern sky, he is the source and custodian of all things. He created the earth with holes in it where water could collect and water, the sky and rain both the gentle 'female' rain and the fierce 'male' rain thunder and lightning, the sun, moon, stars and wind. He created all the plants that grow on the earth. He created the animals and painted their individual colours and markings, and gave them all names. Then came human beings, and he put life into them; and gave to them all the weapons and implements they now have, and he implanted in them the knowledge of how to take all these things for themselves. Thus their hunting and gathering way of life was ordained from the very beginning and Gao!na ordained that when they died they should become spirits, //Gerais, who would live in the sky with him and serve him. He set the pattern of life for all things, each in accordance with its own rules.

 

The !Kung pray to ≠Gao!na not as a remote being, but as intimately involved with their lives, sometimes calling him father. They pray for rain, for success in hunting, for healing both of physical and social ills. Only a really great medicine man might see ≠Gao!na face to face, but this is said to be very rare; much more frequently he may appear to anyone in a dream to encourage or advise. He does not reveal himself to ordinary humans, for so great is his power that, were he to come too close, he would destroy them unintentionally. But he nevertheless retains an interest in them. He is in no way concerned with their misdeeds, but is aware of them, and if they offend him he will deal with them appropriately.

 

Fig 191: ≠Gao!na is said to live in the sacred Tsodilo Hills whose sexual story is a legendary comment on !Kung sexual relations. A man had two wives, but he loved one wife more than the other, and this caused a big quarrel. The one he didn't love hit him on the head, causing a deep wound. Then she ran off into the desert. But the Great God, ≠Gao!na, decided that because there was no peace among them, he must turn them all into a stone. The man became the largest of the hills; the unloved wife became the smallest hill that stands alone; and the loved wife, with her children, became the cluster of hills in the middle. But they believe there are supernatural powers in the Hills because ≠Gao!na himself lives there. It was there that he created and kept his cattle, sheep, goats, and all sorts of different animals. The !Kung claim you can see footprints in the rocks..

 

But he is not a god of vengeance. When he deals harshly with someone, it is not an act of retribution but a demonstration of his power. This is the power of the unknown, the 'stranger', which explains why lightning strikes one man dead, and not the other standing beside him. The dead man, it is reasoned, must have offended ≠Gao!na by referring to him by one of his divine names, or perhaps he abused food. But he is not continually on the look-out for offenders. It is only when they happen to come to his attention that he demonstrates his power, and so sometimes people do offensive things and get away with it. Chiefly he acts for the benefit of mankind, for he supplies rain, food, children and poison for the arrows.

 

//Gauwa, the lesser god, who lives between two great trees in the western sky, also performs deeds that may be either beneficial or harmful to humans, but most are harmful. He is pictured as a very small Bushman, an incompetent who, even when well-intentioned, may bring misfortune by mistake. Although he is supposed to be subservient to Gao!na and to act at his behest, he also sometimes acts on his own initiative while travelling about in a whirlwind, causing sickness and death to those he touches in passing. The people say that at certain times they catch glimpses of //Gauwa among the shadows of the trees.

 

In “Nisa” (1981) Marjorie Shostak provides an engaging detailed portrait of a !Kung San woman, her sexual relationships with men and her trials of familial life. What emerges from this account is the life of a spirited woman who throughout struggles to maintain her autonomy of choice over her life in a nominally patriarchal society in which the headmen would like to assert a patriarchal imperative, but in which the society has remained remarkably free of the oppressive influences of civilisation succeeding the agricultural revolution which itself was discovered by female gatherers, thus having remarkable similarities to features of sexual relations Western society is only recently re-engaging. We cannot thus assume that history dictates the dominance of patriarchy.

 

Fig 192: Nisa

 

When the gods gave people sex, they gave us a wonderful thing.

Sex is food: just as people cannot survive without eating,

hunger for sex can cause people to die. !Kung saying - Nisa.

 

There is an obvious evolutionary rationale for animism in Gatherer-Hunter society, in that reality is formulated in relationships spanning family and kinship and coexistence with nature in both the gathering and hunting phases of securing nutrition and health. Hunting particularly as it is done by the San is a silent cooperative act of communal stealth by a band of hunters using expert arrow poisons. Central in successful hunting is adopting the persona of the hunted animal to identify with its habits and movements and temperament as closely as possible. Good hunting is critical to a man’s success as it is key to gaining sexual favours, and indeed 19th century Hottentot Bushmen were reported to have been forced to steal cattle to satisfy their women’s demands for meat as the colonists invaded their natural domains, reflecting the sex strike (Knight 1991, Power & Watts 1996) also evident, next, in the Sandawe:

 

"The Bushmen when they will not go out to steal cattle, are by the women deprived of intercourse sexual by them and from this mode of proceeding the men are often driven to steal in opposition to their better inclination. When they have possessed themselves by thieving a quantity of cattle, the women as long as they exist appear perfectly naked without the kind of covering they at other times employ.”

 

This power of identification with the animal is manifest in the eland dance in which a girl's menarche is celebrated as a pivotal spiritual event in which the headman taking the role of the eland leads the young warriors in a dance around the hut where the girl is secluded, so that they cannot set eyes on her for fear that it will disturb their hunting prowess. The gatherer-hunter existence is aimed at securing a diverse diet in a few enough hours of the day to enable social concourse, and non-disruption of the ecosystem, taking only what one needs from the environment in a way which sustains the abundance of nature, preserving the biosphere.

 

Because the Bushmen have historically existed in small bands, and cannot survive as individuals, they have an immediate sense of "morality" to deal with immediate threats to group unity, which applies particularly to sharing and stealing, but this in no way extends to any form of absolute "cosmic" morality. Two customs are especially important are meat-sharing and gift-giving. Mannerliness, the custom of talking out grievances, the customs of borrowing and lending and of not stealing simply function to prevent tension from building up dangerously between members of a group and help to bring about peaceful relationships.

 

If a !kung woman steals, we take hold of her, we give her to her mother and her father; and they all go away from their place. Her stolen thing, we take it, we run, we run to give to the other person the other person's thing. And we say to the other person: "My wife stole your thing which is here; your nice thing here, my wife stole. And I have given (back) my wife to her father and her mother. For, my wife stole the nice thing here." And the other person hears, and objects (saying): "No; kill thy wife." And, we hear, (and) object (saying): "No; I do not listen to you, and will not kill my wife; for, my wife has gone away, has gone to her father and her mother; and is far away; and has gone to her country; and I will not kill my wife." And the others cry, and we hear; and our hearts ache, and we go away; we say to the other people: "We go away; come, that I may kill my wife, kill my father-in-law, kill my mother-in-law, kill my ...

 

There is no 'government' to keep men in awe, no impersonal authority to decide who is right and who is wrong. Thus although their homicide rates have been much lower than warrior societies, men still will commit murder.  As one of the !Kung men in an argument about a marriage put it to his adversary, their dispute could be quickly settled with an arrow. Just one little [poisoned] arrow!

 

But this doesn't mean absolute morality either:

 

When a missionary inquired into a Bushman's ideas of good and bad he was told it was 'good' to sleep with another man's wife, but 'bad' if he slept with yours. Still lamenting the Bushman's ignorance of absolute morality, he later asked the man, whom meanwhile he had discovered 'was in the habit of smoking wild hemp', what he thought was the most wonderful thing he had seen. The reply he was given, that no one thing was more wonderful than any other and that all the animals were the same.

 

There is no suggestion that the carnivores are "bad" or "immoral" for eating the herbivores, or should lie down with the lamb and eat straw, as arises in Isaiah 11.

 

In the Gao!na creation account above, unlike the Vedic tale of Valmiki who created the Ramayana as penance for cursing a hunter who killed a bird, the hunting of animals is ordained from the very beginning by God as the gatherer-hunter way of life, so killing animals for food cannot be regarded as natural evil. The Gods are NOT moral arbiters. Gao!na the creator says he is a bad thing because he follows his own path and //Gauwa the god of misfortune is not evil. Neither do they control men's and women's lives through absolute morality or divine punishment.

 

Geunther notes that, despite the advent of the new anthropological climate, this largely bypassed studies on the San which remained confined to the older evolutionary analysis centred on material success in the modernist vision, rather than a “symbiotic” ontological world view:

 

Yet, the ontological turn, for all of its paradigm-shifting effects on the study of hunter-gatherers during the last and first decades of the previous and present centuries, all but by-passed the Kalahari, amongst whose hunting- gathering people ethnographers were wont to examine the human-animal relationship not in social, cosmological, mystical fashion but instrumentally and strategically, as a meat-on-the-hoof resource, cherished—more so than plant—for its high caloric yield and thus a key concern of the foraging mode of productionand its modus operandi, optimal foraging strategy”. The effect of all of this was to render this foraging group as the optimal forager, whose immediate-returnsubsistence economy was seen to afford people affluentlifeways.

 

He thus sets out to correct this hole in the anthropological account by invoking the relationship ontology:

 

I set out in this book to show that San worldview and lifeways are in fact also, at the ontological level, the way people conceive of, perceive and experience their interaction with animals, along with other beings of their (preter)natural world, pervaded with relationality and intersubjectivity (and have done so in the past, on the basis of ethnohistorical and archaeological evidence largely on southern San that will be marshalled). In filling this gap in our understanding of San ethnography and culture I will also fill the gap in ontological anthropology, which has excluded these southern hunting people from its neo-animistic purview. Apart from adding new insights to the relational ontology perspective in anthropology, this study, of Sanimism, also underscores the important insight that animism is not some monolithic schema or cosmologico-religious complex but something diverse and multiplex, structurally varied, ecologically and historically contingent. Indeed, as I will also argue, one such included in many and varied animisms of people and cultures of this world are Westerners.

 

The latter is given the widest scope phenomenologically for humans engaging with their expressive culture, ritual and hunting, as animal-beings and as being-animal. These two ontological concepts and experiences—and the process that links them, transformation—highlight the non-human beings that hold centre-stage in this study: animals. They are central also to this books theoretical framework, animism (the newversion), the core concept of which, “anima” (“soul), is semantically linked to “animal”. Animals are front and centre also in San myth and cosmology. Animal stories are generated through the hunt, which provides an inexhaustible supply of narrative to San story tellers, who, in retelling the hunt and the animals encountered, through exciting or dangerous hunting endeavours or because of uncanny, counter-intuitivebehaviour on the animals part rendering it beguiling and attention-demandingand transporting it into the realm of legend and myth.

 

This suggests as well that the hunting magicmodel for interpreting San rock art which the shamanism-based trance hypothesisrejects needs to be reconfigured”, in terms of an animism-based model focused on the hunter-animal prey relationship rather than one based on shamanism and focused on the healer-human patient relationship. Mikko Ijäs (2017) in his study of San rock art, suggests that shamanic trance healing ritual developed from the experience of altered states of consciousness brought on by persistence hunting –the hallucinatory hunting experience of transformation into an animal – which he deems the primal hunting technique of Palaeolithic and Holocene hunters.

 

Alan Barnard notes the long-standing unity of both the eland dance and the religion and spirituality of the otherwise diverse San groups:

 

Male initiation involved fasting, dancing and hunting magic, including tattooing. Initiates also had to avoid unmarried women. Female initiation, as among the Naro, involved an Eland Bull Dance. All these rituals, where they occur, are remarkably similar across the Kalahari. It would seem that whereas there may be great diversity in matters of use of the micro-environments that characterize Bushman lands, in matters of religious belief and practice there is a unity. This is borne out especially in a recent article by Mathias Guenther. He concentrates on hunting, but his main point is that in the context of a New Animism, elements of ritual, myth, rock art and mysticism blend. This is true of the /Xam, but it is also true for the Ju/hoansi. Lewis-Williams is also writing in this vein, in a way updating the Old Animism of the Bleek and Lloyd material to take in newer perspectivist ideas: instead of thinking like an outsider, learn to think more like a Bushman.

 

In his conclusion, Barnard focuses on the issues of religion and spirituality, both acknowledging the ancient foundational role of animism and the key role it may need to play in rescuing modern technological and religious society from the impending destruction of nature raising dire risk of our own demise:

 

The idea of the earliest theories of religion (by which I mean religion in the Middle Stone Age) has cropped up here and there throughout this book, but only in passing. We have left behind what is actually more interesting. This is the problem of human spirituality in general, a problem that surfaced in the very beginning of the book when I quoted a philosophical piece by Peter Nilssen and Craig Foster. They suggest that the earliest human societies had their roots in art, music, myth and symbolism and more specifically in animistic religion. If there were a global religion prior to 10,000 years ago, it was Animism. Or, as they put it: At our core, we are all Animists, carrying remnants of a profoundly imprinted mindset and way of life based on a reverent and functional relationship with nature(Nilssen and Foster 2017). The implication is that humanity should try to reconnect with this ancient and nature-friendly spiritual tradition.

 

Sandawe: Ancient  Animistic Cousins of the San Bushmen

 

The Sandawe people are a small group living in north central Tanzania. They are a remnant of the earlier inhabitants of the area, thought to have once covered all of eastern and southern Africa. Whereas most of the tribes in Tanzania are Bantu people, the Sandawe are San. They have lighter skin and are smaller, with knotty hair like that of the Bushmen, commonly referred to as peppercorn hair. They have the epicanthic fold of the eyelid common to the Bushmen and excessive wrinkling of the skin in old age. Some, women like the Bushmen, show signs of steatopygia, or accumulated fat in the buttocks and haunches. The Sandawe speak a click language that has parallels amongst the San languages.

 

The Sandawe practice an insular and deeply spiritual culture with an emphasis on animism. Caves in the hills were believed to harbour spirits and were respected and even feared. So as not to disturb these spirits, the caves were avoided, no animals were herded there, and no wood cut or twigs broken. Once a year the Sandawe would go to the caves to perform rituals of sacrifice in order to make sure the spirits would not be spiteful and interfere with the community's general well-being. People would go to the caves in the hills as a group shouting prayers to the spirits, assuring them that no one had come to disturb them, but had come to pay their respects. These prayers were shouted as loudly as possible, to make sure that the spirits could hear no matter where they were. The Sandawe beliefs also centred on a veneration of the moon, the stars, the seasons, and the mantis insect, connecting them to the trickster hero of the southern Bushmen. The moon is seen as a symbol of life and fertility; cool and beneficial, it brought rain, and it controlled the cycle of fertility in women. The mantis was divine messenger with a special reason for appearing and a medium was usually consulted to find the explanation. There was a god, Warongwe, who was so abstract, distant, and unrelated to the well-being of normal life that it was rarely prayed to or given sacrifices. 

 

 

Sandawe life is focused on a series of fertility rites. The dances of phek'umo are held after sunset, the only illumination allowed being the benign, 'cool' light of the moon. Linking the phekumo with the eland-bull dance of girls' puberty rites among the north-western Bushmen is the native claim that such dances were organied in the past by men who had daughters who had begun to menstruate. Menstruation as such is associated with the darkness of new moon; but the nocturnal dances get under way only as the moon approaches fullness at around the beginning of the moon's second quarter. The rock art appears to be influenced by Simbo, a trance dance in which the Sandawe communicate with the spirits by taking on the power of an animal (the lion).

 

The dance is begun by the women, who go round in circles (Ten Raa 1969 36):

 

They carry their arms high in a stance which is said to represent the horns of the moon, and at the same time also the horns of game animals and cattle. The women select their partners from among the opposing row of men by dancing in front of them with suggestive motions. The selected partners then come forward and begin to dance in the same manner as the women do, facing them all the time (Ten Raa 38). As the dance warms up, the movements become more and moreerotic; some of the women turn round and gather up their garments to expose their buttocks to the men (rather than to the newly menstruating girl as in the !Kung): Finally the men embrace the women while emitting hoarse grunts which sound like those of animals on heat. The men and women lift one another up in turn, embracing tightly and mimicking the act of fertilization; those who are not dancing shout encouragements at them ... What the women are in fact doing, writes Ten Raa is to re-enact the role of the moon in the basic creation myth, according to which the moon entices the sun into the sky for the first celestial copulation. The women are the moon; the men, the sun. The whole rite is held under the aegis of the moon, and has the explicit purpose of 'making the country fertile'.

 

Fig 192b: The lunar cycle and sex strike (Knight 1991, Power & Watts 1996) Menstruation is associated with the dark moon, and the lightening moon gives good evening hunting. Sexual withdrawal is followed by the hunt, capped by the full moon, meat feast and sexual favours.

 

In the Sandawe creation myth the moon appears as the original celestial body which was in the sky even before the sun made its first appearance. In the aboriginal paradise the earth was cool and fertile, and not hot and scorched by the sun as it now; the earth was benignly illuminated by the moon alone. A Sandawe has described this paradise in the following words: Long ago, in the time of origin, the earth was cool and there was no lack of rain, and the sun was not badly drying up the country. This statement implies, of course, that in the imagery of the Sandawe it was the appearance of the sun which disturbed this peaceful scene, bringing scorching he lack of rain, dust storms, drought, and famine in its wake. According to the creation myth the sun was not in the sky in those days but lived on earth as the Creator, or as the son of the Creator, whose name was Mathunda. This name is of Bantu origin a suggests fertility or the act of creation, cf. Swahili ma-tunda, 'fruits' and Kimbu ku-thunda, 'to create’.

 

Very long ago the sun, who was the son of Mathunda, lived in the north, in [the country of] Omi. In those olden days the earth was very beautiful and cool, and the ruler of the earth was the moon. When the son of Mathunda looked up and saw the moon, he loved her very much, and he followed her to the south, there where she lived in the sky. And he said: ' Her I shall marry'. When Mathunda saw her, the moon lived in the sky, and he climbed up, and he married her. And they lived at a large rock. And the moon, she gave birth to many children. When she had borne them, then Mathunda slaughtered a black cow, and the moon then made rain and the country became beautiful. And until now people make [rain] sacrifice When [the children] were going out she, the moon, said: 'You must follow my words, you must follow my way; and you too must go and bear many children.' And the children went and they built their homes, they went, and they followed the words (instructions) of the moon. And in their child-bearing, too, they follow the days of the moon until now.

 

Pygmy Cultures and Animistic Forest Symbiosis

 

The Mbuti and Biaka/Aka/Baka pygmies both practice forms of animism giving expression to a deeply symbiotic relationship with the forest in which they live. The Mbuti share significant ancient characteristics with the Bushmen and form the largest single group of pygmy hunters and gatherers in Africa (Sanday 1981 93). Around 2250 BC the Egyptian pharoah Nefitare referred to the Mbuti as 'the people of the trees' renowned for their singing and dancing. These records support the Mbuti remaining stably in this habitat for 4000 years. Because of fission into small isolated groups they have lost their original language and adopt those of neighbouring Bantu tribes, however the Biaka have retained their native language, diaka, as well as speaking the language of their Bantu neighbours. Neither group have formally defined sex roles. Sexual relations are extremely egalitarian and cooperative. Both groups practice net hunting which involves both sexes young and old promoting a non-violent  egalitarian culture.

 

According to Wilhelm Schmidt (1868–1954), an ordained priest and ethnologist interested in the origin of religion, the Pygmy peoples represented humanity in its childhood; they were a living equivalent of one of the earliest stages of human culture. Since early evidence seemed to indicate the existence of monotheistic belief in primitive societies, for years the Pygmies were studied by Catholic missionaries seeking to support the idea that monotheism (rather than animism or fetishism) was the earliest form of religion. The Jesuit missionary anthropologist Paul Schebesta (1887-1967) claimed the Mbuti believed that God, Muungu, a high deity, created the universe (that is, the forest) and all its creatures and forces. God then retired into the sky, ending his participation in earthly affairs. The first human, a culture hero named Tore, became god of the forest; he gave the Mbuti both fire and death and is seen as the source of game, honey, and protection. Likewise the Aka believe in bembe, the creator of all living things, but they believe also that bembe retired soon after creation.  Religion in the lives of tropical forest foragers has thus increasingly reflected borrowings from neighboring African groups and from colonial missionary influences.

 

Colin Turnbull (1965)  the major ethnographer of the Mbuti, disagrees with this theistic account of Mbuti cosmology. According to him, there is no creator god; instead, the Mbuti worship God as a living benevolent being personified by the forest. To them, God is the forest.

 

Tropical forest foragers believe in totemic spirits (sitana) - animals whose spirits and characteristics represent the group's unity. They also believe in a water animal, called nyama ya mai in Swahili, who is responsible for any serious water accidents. Tropical forest foragers also practice magical rituals called anjo to help control the weather and improve hunting.  Turnbull also diverges from Schebesta's account of the mediating forest spirits, for he views the Mbuti as a practical people who have a direct relationship with the forest as sacred being, so unlike their neighbours they are not centrally concerned with propitiating “magic” as an effect, but for the pygmies, it is not so much the act itself that counts, but the manner in which the act is performed and the thought that goes with it.

 

Fig 187: Mbuti (left) and Biaka Pygmies (right) including a man tending  Tabernanthe iboga for visionary experience.

 

Their habitat and their heaven is the Ituri Forest. The forest is their godhead, and different individuals address it as 'father', 'mother', 'lover', and/or 'friend'. They say that the forest is everything: the provider of food, shelter, warmth, clothing, and affection. Each person and animal is endowed with a spiritual power that "derives from a single source of power whose physical manifestation is the forest itself". Disembodied spirits deriving from this same source are also considered to be independent manifestations of the forest. The forest lives for the Mbuti. It is both natural and supernatural, something that is depended upon, respected, trusted, obeyed, and loved. The forest is a good provider. At all times of the year men and women can gather an abundant supply of mushrooms, roots, berries, nuts, herbs, fruits, and leafy vegetables. The forest also provides animal food.

 

Decision making is by common consent: Men and women have equal say because hunting and gathering are both important to the economy. The forest is the ultimate authority. It expresses its feelings through storms, falling trees, poor hunting all of which are taken as signs of its displeasure. But often the forest remains silent, and this is when the people must sound out its feelings through discussion. Diversity of opinion may be expressed, but prolonged disagreement is considered to be 'noise' and offensive to the forest.

 

The most important ritual ceremony is the molimo. It is held whenever hunting becomes unproductive or a special problem demands a solution. Explaining to Colin Turnbull the reason for the molimo ceremonies, held when the Mbuti feel that all is not well between themselves and the forest, upon which they depend for everything, an old Mbuti man said: "The forest is a father and mother to us and like a father or mother it gives us everything we need food, clothing, shelter, warmth . . . and affection". Normally everything goes well because the forest is good to its children, but when things go wrong there must be a reason. Things go wrong, the old man said, at night when the people are asleep, when no one is awake to protect humans from harm. At night army ants may invade the camp or leopards may come in and steal a hunting dog or even a child. The old man said that such things would not happen when people are awake. Thus, he reasoned, "When something big goes wrong, like illness or bad hunting or death, it must be because the forest is sleeping and not looking after its children." Because things go wrong when the forest is 'asleep,' the forest must be 'awakened' so that it looks after the interests of the people. The old man said: "We wake it up by singing to it, and we do this because we want it to awaken happy. Then everything will be well and good again. So when our world is going well then also we sing to the forest because we want to share our happiness. 

 

An old man told Colin Turnbull how all pygmies have different names for their god, but how they all know that it is really the same one:

 

Just what it is, of course, they don't know, and that is why the name really does not matter very much. 'How can we know?' he asked. 'We can't see him, perhaps only when we die will we know and then we can't tell anyone. So how can we say what he is like or what his name is? But he must be good to give us so many things. He must be of the forest. So when we sing, we sing to the forest.'

 

The most consistently mentioned divinity or spirit for the Aka is likewise that of dzengi, a forest spirit.  Aka male-female relations are extremely egalitarian by cross-cultural standards. Husband and wife are together on a regular basis to net hunt, collect caterpillars, termites, honey, fruit, and sometimes fish. On net hunting days husband and wife are within view of each other about half of the time. Aka fathers do more infant care giving than fathers in any known culture. The Aka are fiercely egalitarian and independent. No individual has the right to coerce or order another individual to perform an activity against his/her will. Even when parents give instructions to their children to collect water or firewood, there are no sanctions if they do not do so.

 

Anthropological Assumptions and Coexistential Realities

 

The idea of animism was developed by Edward Tylor (1871), defining it as "the general doctrine of souls and other spiritual beings in general", noting "an idea of pervading life and will in nature”.  Georg Ernst Stahl had developed the term animismus in 1708 as a biological theory that souls formed the vital principle and that the normal phenomena of life and the abnormal phenomena of disease could be traced to spiritual causes.

 

Bird-David (2000) notes that Tylor’s position was that “animists” understood the world childishly and erroneously, and under the influence of 19th-century evolutionism he read into this cognitive underdevelopment. Tylor argued that in the savage view every man had, in addition to his body, a ‘‘ghost-soul,’’ a ‘‘thin unsubstantial human image,’’ the ‘‘cause of life or thought in the individual it animates,’’ capable ‘‘of leaving the body far behind’’ and ‘‘continuing to exist and appear to men after the death of that body’’ Tylor suggested that modern religion had evolved in stages from animistic beliefs, through which early peoples had tried to explain the world to themselves, and these beliefs had survived into the present and (re)appeared universally among children and "primitive" people and in certain modern cults. In Tylors view, "it was as though primitive man, in an attempt to create science, had accidentally created religion instead, and had spent the rest of evolutionary time trying to rectify the error”.

 

19th-century anthropologists argued an evolutionist position, that "primitive society" was ordered by kinship and divided into exogamous descent groups related by a series of marriage exchanges. Their religion was animism, the belief that natural species and objects had souls. With the development of private property, the descent groups were displaced by the emergence of the territorial state. These rituals and beliefs eventually evolved over time into the vast array of "developed" religions and the more scientifically advanced a society became, the fewer members of that society believed in animism.  Modernism is characterised by a Cartesian subject-object dualism that divides the subjective from the objective, and culture from nature. In the modernist view, animism is the inverse of scientism, and hence is deemed inherently invalid.

 

Durkheim (1915) in a marginally less derogatory analysis suggested that "primitive peoples" regarded as kin and friends some entities that were animated by them, noting that "primitives" believed that the bonds between them and these natural entities were "like those which unite the members of a single family" : bonds of friendship, interdependence, and shared characteristics and fortunes arguing that they mistook the spiritual unity of the totemic force, which "really" existed, only for a bodily unity of flesh.  Anthropology textbooks continue to introduce animism as “the belief that inside ordinary visible, tangible bodies there is normally invisible, normally intangible being: the soul . . . each culture [having] its own distinctive animistic beings and its own specific elaboration of the soul concept” (Harris 1983, 186).

 

Stewart Guthrie (1993) describes animism as an evolutionary strategy to aid survival that both humans and other animal species view inanimate objects as potentially alive as a means of being constantly on guard against potential threats: 

 

Scanning the world for what most concerns us — living things and especially humans we find many apparent cases. Some of these prove illusory. When they do, we are animating (attributing life to the nonliving) or anthropomorphising (attributing human characteristics to the nonhuman)”, thus relegating animistic beliefs to “mistakes”..

 

Animism differs from pantheism, although they are sometimes confused. One of the main differences is that while animists believe everything to be spiritual in nature, they do not necessarily see the spiritual nature of everything in existence as being united, the way pantheists do. As a result, animism puts more emphasis on the uniqueness of each individual soul. In pantheism, everything shares the same spiritual essence, rather than having distinct spirits or souls.

 

Some postmodern anthropologists theorise that all societies continue to "animate" the world around them. characterised by humanity's "professional subcultures", as in the ability to treat the world as a detached entity within a delimited sphere of activity. Human beings continue to create personal relationships with elements of the aforementioned objective world, such as pets, cars, or teddy-bears, which are recognised as subjects.

 

In a review of Graham Harvey’s “Animism: Respecting the Living World” (2006), Wright (2010) outlines the key features of the “new animism” Harvey espouses:

 

The New Animismelaborated by Harvey and others proposes that humans participate in a subjective pan-spiritismthat involves all living and even—to the Western mind—non-living beings such as stones and the deceased. Furthermore, there is a kind of meta-communication that is possible among beings of different species. This meta-communication consists of different powers of subjectivity and mentality possessed by all species and even spirits of the dead. These powers make possible communication by humans with natural entities independent of human culture. This universal pan-spiritismis as natural as the distinct bodily forms of the different species that share in it. Thus, natureconsists of different bodily forms, but spirit(anima) is universal and homogeneous. All beings share in it, despite the differences in bodily forms; and no natural being is excluded from it, that is, no natural being is excluded from participation in the cultural domain with human beings. Spirit is the common denominator of all natural beings.

 

The new view of animism emerged from Irving Hallowell’s (1960) ethnography of the Ojibwa, in which personhood concepts and ecological perception have become two fruitful areas to reevaluate theories of animist practices and beliefs. The Ojibwa sense of personhood, which they attribute to some natural entities, animals, winds, stones, etc. takes the axiomatic split be- tween "human" and "nonhuman" as essential. The Ojibwa conceives of "person" as an overarching category within which "human person" "animal person", "wind person" etc., are subcategories. Echoing Evans- Pritchards account of Azande magic (1937), Hallowell argues that experience itself does not rule out Ojibwa animistic ideas. On the contrary, experience is consistent with their reading of things, given an animistic viewpoint. This reinforces the view that animism is a functional form of "symbiosis" between culture and nature, in which relationship, rather than individual identity becomes key to the success and survival of a people.

 

Fig 164: Obtossaway, An Ojibwa Chief (MInnesota c. 1903), Plains Ojibwe performing a snowshoe dance (George Catlin),

Ojibwe maiden (1920s colored photo of the Native American lady Of The Great Algonquian Stock).

 

Cultural ecologist and philosopher David Abram (1996) promotes an ethical and ecological understanding of animism grounded in the phenomenology of sensory experience. In the absence of intervening technologies, he suggests, sensory experience is inherently animistic in that it discloses a material field that is animate and self-organising from the beginning. He suggests that such a relational ontology is in close accord with our spontaneous perceptual experience; it would draw us back to our senses and to the primacy of the sensuous terrain, enjoining a more respectful and ethical relation to the more-than-human community of animals, plants, soils, mountains, waters, and weather-patterns that materially sustains us.

 

Nurit Bird-David explains that animism is a "relational epistemology" rather than a failure of primitive reasoning. That is, self-identity among animists is based on their relationships with others, rather than any distinctive features of the "self". Instead of focusing on the essentialised, modernist self (the "individual"), persons are viewed as bundles of social relationships ("dividuals"), some of which include "superpersons" (i.e. non-humans).

 

In her critically oriented comparison of the Melanesian and the Euro-American "person", Strathern (1988) argues that the irreducibility of the individual is a peculiarly modernist notion. It is not everywhere that the individual is regarded as "a single entity", "bounded and integrated, and set contrastingly against other such wholes and against a natural and social backgrounds". The Melanesian "person" is a composite of relationships, a microcosm homologous to society at large. This person objectifies relationships and makes them known. She calls it a "dividual", in contrast with the (Euro-American) “individual".

 

Bird-David’s work centres on the Nyaka of the Karnataka hills in India. These are a group who claim ancestry as slaves taken to India, who cannot recall their exact origins, and who immediately escaped and ran to the mountains, where they have since lived, regarded by surrounding people as siddi or “wise-ones”, who have an animistic belief in spirits dwelling in the mountain tops. She notes that their sense of personhood stems from relationships rather than individual identity:

 

Transcending idiosyncratic, processual, and multiple flows of meanings, the Nayaka sense of the person appears generally to engage not the modernist subject / object split or the objectivist concern with substances but the above-mentioned sense of kinship. The person is sensed as "one whom we share with". It is sensed as a relative and is normally objectified as kin, using a kinship term. Their composite personhood is constitutive of sharing relationships not only with fellow Nayaka but with members of other species in the vicinity. They make their personhood by producing and reproducing sharing relationships with surrounding beings, humans and others. They retain immediate engagement with the natural environment and hold devaru performances even when they make a living by different means such as casual labor. These relationships constitute the particular beings as devaru.

 


Fig 165: Nyaka enacting devaru

 

To summarize this point of the argument, the devaru objectify sharing relationships between Nayaka and other beings. A hill devaru, say, objectifies Nayaka relationships with the hill; it makes known the relation- ships between Nayaka and that hill. Nayaka maintain social relationships with other beings not because, as Tylor holds, they a priori consider them persons. As and when and because they engage in and maintain relationships with other beings, they constitute them as kinds of person: they make them "relatives" by sharing with them and thus make them persons. They do not regard them as persons and subsequently some of them as relatives, as Durkheim maintains. In one basic sense of this complex notion, devaru are relatives in the literal sense of being "that or whom one interrelates with" (not in the reduced modern English sense of humans connected with others by blood or affinity). They are superrelatives who both need and can help Nayaka in extraordinary ways.

 

“Wherever there are Nayaka, there are also devaru, for Nayaka want to have them and always find them”. (Karriyen)

 

The devaru are objectifications of these relationships and make them known. In another sense devaru are a constitutive part of Nayakas environment, born of the "affordances" of events in-the-world. Nayakas "attention" ecologically perceives mutually responsive changes in things in-the-world and at the same time in themselves. These relatednesses are devaru in-the- world, met by Nayaka as they act in, rather than think about, the world. Lastly, I argue that devaru performances — in which performers in trance "bring to life" devaru characters, with whom the participants socialize (talking, joking, arguing, singing, sharing or just demand-sharing, and asking for advice and help) — are social experiences which are nested within (not dichotomized from) social-economic practice. These performances are pivotal in both "educating the attention" to devaru in-the-world (Gibson 1979) and reproducing devaru as dividual persons.

 

The third part of her paper argues that hunter-gatherer animism constitutes a relational (not a failed) epistemology. This epistemology is about knowing the world by focusing primarily on relatednesses, from a related point of view, within the shifting horizons of the related viewer. The knowing grows from and is the knowers skills of maintaining relatedness with the known. This epistemology is regarded by Nayaka (and probably other indigenous peoples we call hunter-gatherers) as authoritative against other ways of knowing the world.

 

Shipibo: Split Creations and World Trees

 

An insight into the complex dynamic animistic cosmologies of the lowland Amazonian peoples can be gleaned from Peter Roe’s (1982) “The Cosmic Zygote: Cosmology in the Amazon Basin”. These are highly evolved cosmologies of the pre-Colombian era that are characterised by their extremes of creation and destruction, light and dark. They are not the simple hospitable symbiosis we shall see in the Pygmies of the Congo Basin. Because of the disruptive influences of colonial missionary activities, even in this relatively remote region since the arrival of Columbus, the original cosmology of the Shipibo has become fractured and is only revealed in scattered myths, so has had to be reconstructed by Roe from the broader sweep of beliefs of the surrounding lowland people as a whole.

 

Fig 166: The giant lupuna tree, now under threat of extinction due to deforestation and the lowland Amazonian cosmology of the cosmic zygote and world tree. Lower right: Permutations of the World Tree as Key Symbol: (a) Dragon Tree, (b) Fish woman, (c) Phallic World Tree with Woman Shaman Guardian, (d) First Woman and the Ambulatory Phallus, (e) Botanical Tree with the Dragon (Frog Variant) on the Inside, and (f) Woman Tree, Alias the Wooden Bride.

 

The cosmology has at its heart the World Tree which supports the sky, whose roots are deep in the underworld and its role is repeated at the cardinal points by other world pillars: At the cardinal and inter-cardinal points of the universe, there are world mountains that are believed to be gigantic petrified trees”. The world tree is a motif present in diverse religions and mythologies, from Indo-European, through Siberian, to Native American, represented as a colossal tree which supports the heavens, connecting the heavens, the terrestrial world, and, through its roots, the underworld. It may also be strongly connected to the motif of the tree of life, but it is the source of wisdom of the ages.  Specific world trees include égig érő fa in Hungarian mythology, Ağaç Ana in Turkic mythology, Andndayin Ca ̇ r in Armenian mythology, Modun in Mongol mythology, Yggdrasil in Norse mythology, Irminsul in Germanic mythology, the oak in Slavic, Finnish and Baltic, Iroko in Yoruba religion, Jianmu in Chinese mythology, and in Hindu mythology the Ashvattha (a Ficus religiosa).

 

South American cosmologies are dynamic in time, not static. The worlds depicted are members of only one cyclic variation, the current one. These worlds are the successors of previous imperfect worlds, destroyed long ago by flood or fire, just as in the Andean and Mexican systems. They were populated by doomed creatures and imperfect protohumans who were turned to stone. The base of these oscillations is a dyadic succession of a terrestrial flood ending the world followed by the extinction of life on the second world by celestial fire. In turn, the current world will also end in a way that repeats the initial emergence of mankind, devoured by monsters, by having the huge demons become houses to swallow their human inhabitants. This primal cosmic periodicity is linked to the yearly periodicity of the wet season-dry season. That, in turn, is linked to the monthly periodicity of womens physiological cycle: menstruation-receptivity. Last, all these levels are represented in the daily periodicity of the night-day cycle.

 

The symmetry of the worlds above and below the earth also complements other kinds of symmetries. For example, the souls or spirits of the dead are found both in the underworld(s) and in the sky world; or there may be two realms of darkness, one in the lowest underworld and one, paradoxically, in the highest heaven where the sun lives. Summarising this symmetry is the prevailing symmetry of good and evil. However many superimposed worlds there may be, good is always associated with the upper levels and increases as one goes higher, whereas evil is always linked with the lower realms and increases as one goes downward. In keeping with the dualism of Shipibo cosmology, there are two shamans, one specialising in good and the other in evil. Each are responsible for the contrasting worlds of golden yellow celestial sun, birds, and curing, and the black night of raw poisons, stinging insects, snakes and thorns, devouring anacondas, disease, and cold waters.

 

This relationship between good and evil differs from Monotheism where a moral regime stipulates a battle of good against evil as the ultimate enemy subject to dire punishments by God in the life hereafter. Here it is the good and bad, or light and dark aspects of reality as a whole, just as nature is a dynamic between symbiotic paradise and the tooth and claw of predation and disease, in the endless round of decomposition and regeneration.

 

By a complicated train of associations, the World Tree is usually associated with the devouring Dragon and its minor form, the frog, and then, via the powerful poisons certain species of tree frog possess, with fish poison. It is a tall, beautiful tree, 25 to 50 meters in height. Its crown is spreading and umbrella-like and forms its most characteristic feature. The tree occurs on the lower Río Santiago and Huallaga, and on the Middle Ucayali... Its sap is said to be very poisonous.

 


Fig 167: Shipibo textiles and ayahuasca shamans. Shipibo culture has become a popular psychedelic tourism destination.

 

The effects of the drug ayahuasca or nishi are accompanied by nausea and often vomiting after the first infusion of the pungent mud-coloured brew. Then a series of phosphors fill the peripheries of ones vision, floating in the blackness of the night. They are followed by a brilliant kaleidoscope of shifting, multi-colored geometric patterns that succeed themselves in a bewildering array, filing ones field of vision. Then, as the vision deepens, animal figures appear, large felines and large snakes taking pride of place. They can menace the novice celebrant, but the experienced shaman knows them well. At the same time there is a feeling of the dissolution of ones body, or of flying. It is at this stage that the shaman ascends to heaven escorted by flocks of radiant birds. If the good shaman uses nishi to cure his patients, the bad shaman uses toé prepared from a species of Datura to bewitch them. Whereas the good shaman consumes a cooked,and therefore cultured, hallucinogen, the evil shaman drinks a “raw” and bewitchingly natural toé brew.

 

The soul of the lupuna tree is an evil demon or joshin, which appears to the Indian narcotised by ayahuasca as an evil wizard smoking an enormous pipe. The sap of the tree  forms the mysterious poison which the wizard secretly sends against those whom he wants to harm.  Every particular tree and plant has its indwelling spirit, which forms the principle of its life and growth. When a tree is felled, this is regarded as an offence against its spirit. Every tree has what the Indians call its mother(and which he equates with soul”).

 

In the centre of the human world stands the maloca (communal house). Its central post is an axis mundi. Perhaps the best model for the human geography of the surface of the world-platter would be a series of concentric rings, beginning with that central house pillar; moving out to the walls of the hut itself; and then beyond, to the cleared plaza, a testament to the power of collective human labor to keep the ever-encroaching jungle at bay; then to the house garden and its familiar useful plants; and finally to the bordering lake, river, or stream, where the spirits begin; or in the opposite direction, toward the interior of the dark tropical forest where other spirits dwell.

 

Because the maloca is a central place, it is associated with the central part of the female body the belly. This anticipated my finding that the World Tree, which sits in the very centre of this central place, has a trunk (belly) pregnant with fish, just as the first mythical Fish Woman has. Thus the house pillar of the maloca is simultaneously a symbol of the World Tree out of which it is metaphorically carved. The Makiritare, for example, liken the central house post to the connection between heaven and earth, a centre that is filled with water.

 

Fig 168: “The Spirits or Mothers of the Plants” (Luna & Amaringo 1991) . A Shipibo ayahuasca session (lower left) in which the visions include the spirits of the plants and trees perceived as persons, snakes, and a group of bushes whose spirits are women in a conversation, forest animals and spiritual sages.

 

The House Pillar Tree is also a phallic entity via its masculine-associated long dance staff. This stick-rattle, like the World Tree it represents connects the three levels of the universe; yet it is solid not hollow. All of its attributes are masculine in contrast to the feminine, hollow attributes of the World Tree. The top of the staff is decorated with feathers of a male-associated bird, the hummingbird. It is related to the jaguar, in his yellow guise a quintessentially masculine animal, and to the sun, the masculine symbol par excellence. When the dance staff is plunged into the feminine earth, it becomes like a digging stick in its metaphorical restatement of the fertilising sexual act. Drops of semen flow down the stick to fertilise the earth. Later, up the stick crawl the result of fertilisation: human progeny. They come from the watery depths and flow upward just like the souls of the dead, which rise up the World Tree through its roots, which penetrate the underworld by a kind of capillary action.

 

In short, the maloca itself is a microcosm of sex that replicates the macrocosmic egg of which it is a part. Its central armature, the House Pillar Tree = Phallic Staff, copulates with the round shell of the roof that encloses it. Thus it is the beginning of life, the central shaft hard and solid, whereas the leafy exterior wall is soft and hollow. But at the end of life the central pillar turns into a hollow trunk. It rots, and water is found in its soft interior at the same time that, paradoxically, its solid branches above give new life through their dangling fruits. The Tukano symbolize this essentially ambiguous figure by seeing in their drug-induced hallucinations the house pillars covered with undulating snakes.

 

The World Tree as House Pillar Tree also has ties with that other connecting symbol, the mountain. Mountains are hollow like the World Tree; they have caves that communicate with the lower aqueous realms. The Kogi make this transitive association when they refer to a hut as a cave, and a cave as a womb. The Warao synthesize these two metaphors-hollow wooden tree and hollow stone mountain-when they refer to the gigantic central petrified wood tree trunk that helps hold up the world and that descends to the underworld. By its side there is an entrance to a cave that leads into the mountain. The rapidly opening and shutting doors of the cave stand for the devouring vagina-jaws of the dangerous subterranean serpent that lives within the mountain and swallows the unlucky souls of those who fail to clear the gate, reducing them to bones. This establishes a mountain = serpent equation congruent with both the World Tree = serpent association and the World Tree - mountain linkage.

 

The trunk of the World Tree emerges from the underworld and passes through the earth of living men. Its leafy crown pushes into the firmament, just as the forest giants of the triple-tiered tropical forest shoulder their way up through the highest canopy into the sun. There, in the celestial realm, as the Shipibo version has it, the branches of the World Tree are associated with fruits and birds. In addition to having all the alimentary plants such as plantains hanging from its branches, the food tree is also festooned with the hides of all animals and people who wait anxiously below for their coverings so they can assume their respective natures. Thus the Food Tree gives all life: vegetable, animal, and human. It is not only the source of provisions and living beings; it is also the source of the technological means to those provisions.  In the Shipibo myth this great tree plays a central role in creation as it mediates the forest giant, Niwëru that grew at the sacred site of Cumancayacocha. It is identified by them as being the location of the first Shipibo village. Again we see that the origin of the group is linked with the central place or origin of the universe.

 

When the sun first emerged, its rays hit the branches of the tree hanging heavy with fruit. The fruit dropped into the lake like rain. Fish, attracted to the surface by the sound of their splashing impact, began to eat the bobbing fruit. As the fish took bites out of them there emerged all the species of birds there are in the world. The leaves of the tree were later used by a woman shaman to prepare flight medicine that levitated the entire site off the ground and sent it flying off through the air to the accompaniment of drums and flutes until it eventually descended to earth again on a mountain downriver at Canshahuaya.

 

From bottom to top, the World Tree is a symbolic continuum incorporating both male and female aspects, life and death, in a single concrete object. The roots themselves are filth, strings of mucus, ridden with vermin, which penetrate beneath the earth and enter the pathogenic waters of the subaquatic underworld, it is interesting that there is a further connection between the World Tree and the Milky Way, which has equally pathogenic aspects, although it is a celestial phenomenon. The Mocovi and the Bororo believe the Milky Way to be the ashes of the Tree of the World after it had been burned down. If the worlds reverse themselves at nightfall, then so too do the parts of the World Tree; its branches become its roots, and its roots, branches. The verminous roots, therefore, now spread as branches against the dark orb of the night sky and there connect with the flowing river of sickness, the Milky Way, which is itself the leaking product of the World Trees upended trunk. The right side of the enormous petrified tree is covered with leaves while the left side is covered with the thorns so prevalent on Amazonian vegetation. This vertical division corresponds with the general lowland associations of left = negative and right = positive, which are then related to female and male, respectively.

 

Fig 169: Amazonian Minga movement protest at Cop26 November 2021.

 

The forest is a conscious ecosystem from which

they are ontologically inseparable ...

A ritual ecology is in place, one in which mans ritual

must conform to the relationship between

the species to maintain an ideal balance between

the beings that inhabit and constitute the forest. (Wastian 2016)

 

Meso-American Animism and the Huichol Kogi Guardians of the Great Mother of Nature, Life and the Universe

 

The contrast between the dark side of the night and the light side of the day, also has parallels with the Meso-American tonal and the nagual. In Nahuatl the word tonalli is used to refer both to a day and to the animal associated with that day. Where the tonal is the day spirit itself, the nagual is the witching familiar spirit of the day – the nighttime aspect of the tonalli. In rural Mexico, nagual is sometimes synonymous with brujo ("wizard") –  one who is able to shapeshift into an animal at night. The nagual trait is acquired at birth, along with other characteristics associated with a person's birth day. Nagualism is linked with pre-Columbian shamanistic practices through Pre-classic Olmec depictions, interpreted as human beings transforming themselves into animals. In Aztec mythology the god Tezcatlipoca was the protector of nagualism, because his tonal was the jaguar and he governed the distribution of wealth. In some indigenous communities the nagual is integrated into the religious hierarchy. The community knows who is a nagual, tolerating, fearing and respecting them. Nagualli are hired to remove curses cast by other nagualli. Carlos Castaneda (1968) defined the nagual as, "the teacher who becomes the gateway, the doorway, the intermediate between the world of the 'seeker' or apprentice, and the world of the spirit."

 

The Huichol or Wixárika living in the Sierra Madre Occidental range of Mexico traditionally use peyote (hikuri) cactus in religious rituals which accurately reflect pre-Columbian practices. These involve singing, weeping, and contact with ancestor spirits. They travel long distances by foot over 600 km in all from their homeland to Wirikuta the high desert with a mountain above beside the old silver mining town of El Catorce Real, where they go each year to collect peyote (Meyerhoff 1974, Furst 1972 136). The journey involves many ritual steps and many days of journey involving hardship. The confessing of marital infidelities is done without recrimination. The Huichol are polygamous and traditionally accept such revelations with a light heart. A knot is placed in a string for each occasion and then burned.

 

One of the greatest  Mara’akame discussed in the entheogens chapter was don Jose Matsuwa who at 1990 was the venerable age of 109.

 

"Might the sacred country be a kind of "Great Mother"? If so we would have at least one explanation for the emphasis on ridding oneself of all adult sexual experience before embarking on the journey, lest the whole enterprise come to naught and the offender go mad in Wirikuta. To 'enter' the great mother as an experienced adult would would be tantamount to incest. ... I want to emphasize that there is no overt equation of Wirikuta with a "Great Mother" in the Huichol peyote traditions, yet it is implied: one need only recall the emphasis on the embrace of the hummingbird-children by the Mother Goddess Niwetuka(me) as they finally reach the peyote country" (Furst 158).

 


Fig 170: Top-left: About to descend to the Encinos kaliwey. Lower-left: The first offerings are made at the sacred site Tatei Matynieri which the Mother Goddess of the Rain inhabits. Centre: Each pilgrim must publicly confess all of their previous romantic partners. Knots are then tied in a palm leaf for each name mentioned. Everyone then places their palm leaves into the fire as a symbol of letting go of the past. Huichols tell their dreams to "Grandfather fire”.  Right: Mara’akame (shaman – the one who knows how to dream) Don José Luis Ramirez (Uxamuire) with the first hunted peyote at Wirikuta (José Andrés Solórzano). The Peyote can open the Nierika or cosmic portal of Kauyumari or Elder Brother Deer, linking the underworld with Mother Earth, through which the gods came. Through it all life came into being. It unifies the spirit of all things and all worlds.

 

They cross steppes, including the "Cloud Gate" and "Where the Clouds Open". Crossing the 'dangerous passage' the gateway of the clouds they are blindfolded.  "From there one travels to the place called Vagina .. and from there directly to Tatei Matinieri - Where Our Mother Dwells." (Furst 162). They pass by the sacred springs of Tatéi Matiniéri ("Where Our Mother Lives"), the house of the eastern rain goddess. Also notable is the place where the penis hangs.

 

This pilgrimage takes place annually as a desire to return to where life originated and heal oneself, assuming the roles of gods along the trail. Upon arrival in the high desert of Wirikuta, the hunt begins and the first cactus that is found. With rising excitement the mara'akáme- spiritual leader rushes ahead and fires arrows to enclose the first peyote on all quarters and exclaims 'how sacred, how beautiful, the five-pointed deer!'. He then cuts the hikuri leaving some root to regrow new crowns and it is shared among everyone. Then they harvest enough peyote for the year (since they only make the trip one time every year). After the work is done, they eat enough peyote and have visions to be able to speak to the gods and ensure the regeneration of the souls of the people.  The return to Wirikuta the sacred mountain is seen as a return to paradise.

 

"One day it will be all as you have seen it there in Wirikuta.

The first people will come back.  The fields will be pure and crystalline.

The world will end and it will all be pure again".

 

The Peyote Hunt represents a historical and mystical return to the original Huichol homeland and way of life, and a symbolic re-creation of "original times" before the present separation occurred between man, gods, plants, and animals; between life and death, between the natural and supernatural; and between the sexes. On the Peyote Hunt, men become gods and at the most dramatic moment of the event, when the first peyote is "slain" and eaten, the important social distinctions of age, sex, ritual status, regional differences and family affiliations, are eliminated.  A state of unity and continuity, which epitomizes the Huichol view of "the good," is reached and this continuity is between man, nature, society, and the supe-rnatural. The "retrieval" of this unity is seen as perhaps the most important function of the ceremony, and of the entire symbol complex” (Meyerhoff 1970).  

 

The Nierika is the cosmic portal through which those observing the rituals and taking peyote can enter the spirit world:

 

Back in the first times after the sun [Tayaupa] had a dream of a new world he sent Kauyumari to find it. The Little Deer Spirit was informed by the sun where a great swirling tunnel of light existed, through which he was to pass. This is the nerika. He was led by Tatewari, Great Grandfather Fire, and quite a number of uricate. They travelled through the portal arriving in the world in which we now live. They created everything. So beautiful was the new world that even the sun travelled through to take his place in the sky. Because Kauyumari became too enamoured of the Huichol girls and disrupted the sacred rituals dedicated to the sun with jealousies, resulting in suffering and prompting the sun to free them from their misery, he caused rains to come and flood the entire world. Only one Huichol Watakame was saved, being warned by Nakawe Great Grandmother Growth that he should gather seeds, build a canoe and prepare himself. The world repopulated quickly after Watakame was given a wife, but he found that his offspring had no memory of the neríka and did not have the psychic powers of their forebears. From this time on only those who were willing to suffer the rigours of self-sacrifice would know nerika.

 

In their rituals they interact with the primal ancestor spirits of fire, deer, and other elements of the natural world. Their principal deities are the trinity of Corn, Blue Deer and Peyote, and the Eagle, all descended from the Sun God, "Tao Jreeku".  They believe that two opposed cosmic forces exist in the world: an igneous one represented by Tayaupá:

 

"Our Father" the Sun, and an aquatic one, represented by Nacawé, the Rain Goddess". "The eagle-stars, our Father's luminous creatures, hurl themselves into the lagoons and ... Nacawé's water serpents ... rise into the skies to shape the clouds". In their creation, the Sun made earthly beings with his saliva, which appeared as red foam on the surface of the ocean's waves.""New things are born from "hearts" or essences, which the Huichol see in the red sea foam that flowed from Our Father the Sun ... . The Sun itself has a "heart" that is its forerunner. It adopts the shape of a bird, the tau kúkai. The bird came out of the underworld and placed a cross on the ocean. Father Sun was born, climbed up the cross, in this way killing the world's darkness with his blows”.

 

The Huichol shamans say we are perdido, lost [53]. They say we are bringing doom and destruction to Yurianaka, Mother Earth, and that Taupa, Father Sun, is coming closer to the earth to purify it. They are concerned for the future and for the life of their children. They are holding great ceremonies calling in shamans from many areas to try and "hold up the sun." But they know they cannot do it themselves, for they are not the ones soiling the collective nest. We are. We are the ones who have to wake up, who have to find our lives.

 

For the Huichols, this is the purpose of their sacred pilgrimage to the holy land of Wiricuta — to find their lives. This is what all their ceremonies involving the ritual use of the peyote help them to accomplish. For shamanic peoples such as the Huichols, the purpose in changing channels is not for escapism, to get lost in imaginary hallucinations that have no basis in reality. Their purpose is to get a more accurate reading of the nature of reality. They seek entrance through the nierika into the numinous universe underlying the limited, material world of the sensory--the "mysterious, ubiquitous, concentrated form of non-material energy . . . loose about the world and contained in a more or less condensed degree by all objects" (Bob Calahan in his introduction to Jaimie de Angulo's Coyote Man and Old Doctor Loon).

 

Why? To obtain information, healing, and power, which they can use here on this plane of existence to better their lives and the lives of their people. Entering into the depths of the mystery is not something to take lightly, for the mystery is all about power and power can manifest itself in many ways. Out of respect, the Wisdom Elders observe, listen, and commune with this power in all its manifestations. From this base of phenomenological data of mind in nature, nature in mind, they came to learn the order and structure of life's connectedness and that all things are dependent upon each other and thus related. Recognizing this, the norm of reciprocity in all interactions is raised to the status of sacred. Balanced reciprocity with all of creation is observed at all costs, for without this practice, the fragile web of life is irreversibly damaged, a fate that faces us today.

 

Kogi Guardians of the Great Mother of Nature, Life and the Universe

 


Fig 171: Top: A Kogi village, Each family has a man’s house and a second for the women and the children, who are conceived in the fields, the ancient ruins of Cuidad Perdido (Lost city) to which the believed to have been founded around 800 CE, about 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu. The Kogi call the city Teyuna and believe it was the heart of a network of villages inhabited by their forebears, the Tairona. Centre: A family working to maintain gardens. The Kogi are small scale farmer gardeners that live ecologically. Right, are men with their poporo’s – a gourd and stick as female and male complements, to hold lime used to activate the coca leaf, and to coat the poporo over decades, forming a life history of the man’s thoughts and deeds. The women do likewise with their weaving. Lower: A male reaching manhood is initiated by taking his coca leaf and lime, followed by four days and nights without sleep being inculcated into manhood in the large sacred men’s house.

 

The Kogi meaning “jaguar", form an intriguing example of a theocratic culture whose spirituality is a form of cosmology based on “Aluna" the Great Mother, who they believe is the force behind nature, supported by male guardians called Mamos and the ritual consumption of coca leaves, which they consume using traditional lime as an activator of the free base, whose ritual also comprises accumulating the expressed lime on a poporo – a female gourd with a male stick, which slowly accumulates a growing lime spool over a man’s lifetime. Unbalanced masculinity, without this image of both sexes working together would be dangerous. When two Kogi men meet, they use the customary greeting, which is to exchange handfuls of coca.

 

I watched, fascinated, as Izquierdo moistened a wooden stick with saliva and dipped it into a poporo (a gourd filled with lime from powdered seashells), a carry-over from pre-Columbian civilisation. Izquierdo extracted some lime, wiped it on a wad of coca leaves to enhance the coca’s stimulating effect, and stuffed the wad in his mouth. The thick limescale, the hard residue that builds by incremental degree with each wipe around the rim of the gourd, is a living library of every thought underlying every stroke of the stick. For the Arhuaco, an individual’s every thought or dream is literally recorded by the metaphorical action of poporeando (dipping into the poporo). “We write our thoughts with it. It’s a record of a man’s entire life,” Izquierdo said.

 

Mamos are ideally chosen by divination at birth and kept for nine years in a darkened house and cave, fed by their mother and taught by elder Mamos in sensory deprivation designed to induce a direct connection with the universe as a whole to teach the child to attune to "Aluna" – the inner reality of the world – before the boy enters the outside world. The mother, as well as Mamo's generally are required to eat white food as this is the colour of the Great Mother.

 

Mamo Bernadino, who comes from a long Mamo line, says Kogi recommend life expectancy as 90 and his father died at 102, His description to the novice reaching manhood is very consistent with the intense concentration induced by coca:

 

Ask for your poporo think about it, ask for your mind, for the spirit guardians to grant these. The guardian of the poporo guarded the stick. The guardian of the gourds. You mustn't give up using the poporo and eating the coca, now or in the future, otherwise you're not a man and can't be married.  It's a woman. Now that you can use it, you can take a wife, but you have to think carefully. When you are married and you take a woman, you have to look after her, you have to work for her. You mustn't ever hit her, or mistreat her. At night before you sleep, chew the leaf. Chew four times at least to help you think clearly. And think what you need to do the next day. What things need to be done and how you are going to do them. Think it through.

 

Kogi religion is defined in terms of the structure of the cosmic universe that exists in complementary expressions. The sun separates the universe into two hemispheres: the east/west, leading to a series of complements: male/female, heat/cold, light/dark, and right/left. Within each pair, one cannot survive without the other. In the case of good(right)/evil(left), the Kogi believe committing a sin once in a while serves as a justification for the existence of good. These natural opposites are a way to keep the society balanced or “in agreement” (yuluka). In Kogi cosmology, they have added three dimensions to the standard N/S/E/W: Zenith, Nadir and the Center. Mother Goddess, the creator of the universe and mankind, created the cosmic egg lying at the centre. The horizontal layers of the egg are divided into two sections of four worlds with mankind (the 5th layer) in the centre. The egg also represents the uterus of Mother Goddess and the Sierra Nevada. Because of this, the Kogi have built the structure of the ceremonial house as a replica of the cosmos.

 

In the beginning, there was blackness. Only the sea. In the beginning, there was no sun, no moon, no people. In the beginning there were no animals, no plants, only the sea. The sea was the mother. The mother was not people. She was not anything, nothing at all. She was when she was. Spirit. She was memory and possibility. She was the womb.

 

“The thoughts of our ancestors are embedded in every rock and other element in which humans have contact,” said Izquierdo, who holds to Arhuaco belief that we exist in a conscious universe where all material things have life and awareness.

 

The Kogi understand the Earth to be a living being, and see humanity as its "children." They say that our actions of exploitation, devastation, and plundering for resources is weakening "The Great Mother" and leading to our destruction. They have made repeated efforts to warn the world of their evidence for a coming disaster of special extinction and climate crisis leading to a BBC program and many documentaries on their warnings.

 

Humans need water – they have to have water to live. The Earth is the same. Now it is weak and diseased. The animals die, the trees dry up. When new diseases appear, there will be no cure or medicine for them and the reason is that younger brother is violating fundamental principles continually drilling, mining, extracting petrol, minerals, stripping away the world. This is destroying all order and damaging the world. Tell the younger brother open your eyes hear the mamas law and story how things really are. But now they are taking out the Mother's heart, they are digging up the ground and cutting out her liver, her guts. The Mother is being cut to pieces and stripped of everything. Form their first landing they have been doing this. They are cutting out her eyes and ears. So the Mother too is sad and she will end and the world ends if you do not stop digging and digging. The mama must look after younger brother and the elder brother and the animals and the plants and all that is natural. Because the mama has a duty to care for all kinds of creatures and all kinds of people.

 

When I was 20 years old the water in the basin was plentiful. At that time there was no bird disease, or anything like that. Also it rained a lot. There were many animals. With the balance of the water and the frog shaped crystals are the ones that make it rain. All these quartz left them organised to protect and balance the Earth. Now that I am 50 years old, I see this place is destroyed and in this desecration, they also took the quartz from the Sun, from the Ayú (Coca leaf) the quartz that protects the human being, the crystals of the water, quartz of the light, quartz that represents  the man and woman, quartz that was organised for food, and quartz for blood in the veins of the earth, all of this they took. By this attitude of man, the birds began to disappear, by removing the quartz that represents the pigs, now the animals begin to disappear. These materials our Mother left to protect all that exists, but everything was taken away many other kinds of frogs and other figures were also taken away. As a result of this there are diseases in man and nature. … Neither with the spiritual works that we do can we repair the damage you caused, that's why we want you to help us take care to stop hurting ur Mother any more. If you are really willing to support this work, I will be really grateful.

 

Kogi are descendants of the Tairona culture, an advanced civilisation which built many stone structures and pathways in the jungles and made many gold objects which they would hang from trees and around their necks. The Tairona were forced to move into the highlands when the Caribs invaded around 1000 CE.proved beneficial and strategic by the time the Spanish entered modern-day Colombia in the 15th century. This proved beneficial and strategic by the time the Spanish entered modern-day Colombia in the 15th century. The Kogi Mamos have remained isolated from the rest of the world since the Spanish Conquistadors, and this has resulted in an unbroken cultural tradition over the last 500 years preserving the key aspects of Tairona culture including its coca consumption.

 

Fig 172: A Kogi Mamo and Kogi dress. Kogi men and women alike have simple modes of dress. The women pick, card, and spin wool and cotton while men do the weaving of the cloth. Men cwear a tunic and pants tied with a string at the waist. Women have a single length of cloth wrapped around their bodies as a dress. The Kogi all wear only pure white clothing. They say that white represents the Great Mother and therefore the purity of nature.

 

Their homeland – the world’s highest coastal mountain range – comprises every distinct climatic ecosystem in Colombia, from coastal wetlands and equatorial rainforest to alpine tundra and 5,000m glacial peaks. Declared by Unesco in 1979 as a Biosphere Reserve of Man and Humanity, the mountain range was named as one of the most irreplaceable ecosystems on Earth (Le Saout et al. 2013). The Kogi practice agriculture using slash-and-burn farming methods. Each family tends farms at varying altitudes of the Sierra, producing different crops to satisfy the range of their needs. Five to more than fifty single-family houses make up a village. These houses are not permanently occupied as each family has multiple houses at different altitudes. The villages "are simply gathering places where neighbors come together periodically, perhaps twice a month, to exchange news, discuss community matters, perform some minor rituals, or to trade with visiting Creole peasants. They also raise cattle on the highlands. They live in villages, called Kuibolos. Men live in a separate hut from the women and children. Each Kuibolo contains a large temple hut – the "nuhue" where only men are allowed and where divination and concentration, discussions and decisions are made. Women are not allowed because the Kogi believe that women are more connected to the Great Mother and have no need of entering the temple. There are also women priests in the villages. The Kogi do not allow the mistreatment of women, and it is not uncommon to find marriages that were not arranged, but the Kogi also disapprove of breaking arranged marriages. For nine days and nights, after death they turn the body so that the soul wanders on a journey that ends in rebirth of that soul (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1990).

 

Fields, houses, and livestock are passed from mother to daughter as well as from father to son, which is bilateral inheritance of these items. There is also the normal parallel descent of personal items, including ritual objects which are male property and descend patrilineally. But certain rights, names or associations descend matrilineally. Generally speaking, the Kogi are an austere people with a limited and plain material culture, including a general lack of adornment. Some items (such as cloth bags) have lineage specific markings, but most items are crudely made and utilitarian. The lack of protein resources leaves the Kogi in a chronic state of malnutrition. Marriage is only to other Kogi; they do not intermarry with their Creole or Colombian neighbors. The Kogi have peaceful relationships with other societies. They trade with their Creole neighbors and occasionally visit and trade with Colombian villages and towns. Their traditions mention past warfare with the invading Spanish and other tribes, but very little lethal conflict since the Spanish conquest. No cases of in-group or out group homicides are recorded (Mahnke M Kogi survey).

 

The the 15,000 Kogi share a Tairona descent with he 27,000 Arhuacos who have the same white dress style and social traditions, with the Mamos and the coca poporo, among subtle differences such as smaller square houses, more colourful female attire. The mochila – popular ornate woven bags are the most representative item of the Arhuaco people. These organic and 100% natural cross-body bags are mainly worn by the men. The bags are only woven by Wati (Arhuaco women) who posses the energy and the wisdom to make a unique creation for their husbands. They also have a subtly different cosmology. They believe in a male creator or "father" – Kakü Serankua, who engendered the first gods and material living things, other "fathers" like the sun and the snowy peaks and other "mothers" like the earth and the moon. Nature and society as a unity are ruled by a single sacred law, immutable, pre-existent, primitive and survivor to everyone and everything. The material world can exist or cease to exist but this law is believed to continue without being altered. This universal law Kunsamü is represented by a boy, Mamo Niankua. This law of nature is an explanation of the origins of matter and its evolution, equilibrium, preservation and harmony, that constitutes the fundamental objectives and the reason being of the Mamo; the spiritual authority of the Arhuaco society. They specialise in certain knowledge areas such as philosophy, sacerdotalism, medicine and practical community or individual counsellors.

 

They likewise consider the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to be the heart of the world, and believe that the well-being of the rest of the world depends on it, but the Earth and its climate and species are being destroyed by younger brother. Anthropologist Felipe Cárdenas has been working with the Arhuacos and the Kogis for decades and remembers hearing these predictions as early as 1980, when he began studying their divination practices. "They have a repertoire of knowledge on how to read nature like a book, not only from an intellectual, rational way of knowing," Cárdenas said. "To them, nature is like a great text, a great library that is sending messages and transforming them into a wise man or woman".

 

The Way of the Ultimate Tao

 

Fig 173: The Dragon of Order amidst the swirling Chaos of the Abyss (Rawson and Legeza R440)

 

There was something complete and mysterious

Existing before heaven and earth,

Silent, invisible,

Unchanging, standing alone,

Unceasing, ever in motion.

Able to be the mother of the world.

I do not know its name.

Call it Tao. Lao Tsu.

 

Complementarity: The Tao of Physics, Nature and Gender

 

The foundation of the mind and of the universe is the Tao. It is forever a complementation, not a Decartesian duality, across which there is an indivisible gulf, but the intimate marriage of realities - It is the hieros gamos of nature itself.

 

From the beginning, both mind and universe exist as paradoxical complements, each discovering its own nature through its complement. From birth to death, all our experience of reality is through the magic warp and weft of the subjective conscious mind. It is the umbilicus of reality without which the physical universe would be an abyss without even a dream of existence.

 

Yet the physical universe is also fundamental to existence, for through it our manifold dreams of existence find one common ground of objectivity in which the entire historical process of incarnation can come to a meaningful account. We are physical. We bleed when cut and swoon when concussed. Yet the description of physical reality is no more and no less than a myth told about the stabilities and correspondences of our conscious experience.

 

The phenomena of the physical universe are themselves in a state of a paradox of relativity and quantum uncertainty in which the future and the past become lost in probabilities which can never be disentangled from their quantum superpositions until the reaper of experience casts our lot and the world becomes frozen into the history we see being made before our eyes.

 

For the universe is forever the Tao of Physics, the paradoxical interplay of wave and particle, and as natural processes gather into the macroscopic world of experience, chaos and order, as the weather, evolution and conscious thought alike attest. For order to attempt to rule over chaos is as futile as for the particle to try to rule over the wave. Any society which attempts to rule by order alone is doomed to catastrophe as the natural process transition becomes frozen into an apocalyptic revolution collapsing the old order.

 

In regard to nature, the imposition of order, by domination of nature, through belief that the rule of order of civilisation can continue until the evidence to the contrary is incontestable is suicidal. By this time many chaotic transitions have reached irreversible crisis and we become doomed by our own rigid lack of sensitivity and foresight. This the why we need inebriety of foresight, and the samadhi of contemplation as well as the rational scientific approach when dealing with the uncarved block of future possibilities.

 

The natural order requires complementation between the harmonious rule of order and a continuing respect for the fertility of chaos. Order needs to be at all times suppliant and responsive to fertile transition so that new order can emerge from the natural ferment of chaos.

 

The Tao is the path of nature. It is not only living with  nature but being  nature as individuals and in the societies we foster and the cultures we celebrate. The way of nature is also the way of life and death, of tooth and claw, but it is the role of immortal wisdom to understand nature in all her complements and to utilize her bounty in arriving at a just and harmonious existence, without imposing on her our own selfish designs. In doing so we are ‘future dreaming’ engaging in a vision quest of the evolutionary unfolding. The Tao stresses moving with the forces of nature in utilizing their own flow sustainably, not in dominion and domination.

 

The Way of the Valley

 

In the “Tao te Ching” (Feng & English 1972), Lao Tsu, or ‘old man’ provides a clear and organic example of Taoist subtlety in erasing personal history. The work was written only through a twist of fate, because as Lao Tsu was leaving for the wilderness for the last time, he was jailed by the gatekeeper until he wrote down his teachings for posterity. This ‘gatekeeper’ is himself said to be a great master Yin-hsi of the Kuan (i.e. Han-ku) Pass (Wilhelm 1931 6). It is said that when Lao Tsu walked, the birds and animals would accompany him. Lao Tsu and Confucius were contemporaries and it is said that Confucius met Lao Tsu to take advice from the ‘man of the wilderness’, whom he found an unnerving foil to his own ideas of social order.

 

Fig 174: "The dark has a light spot and the light has a dark spot - that's how they can relate to one another"
Complementation of male and female nature yin and yang in one another in the Tao (Joseph Campbell).

 

“In the Taoist perspective, even good and evil are not head-on opposites. The West has tended to dichotomize the two, but Taoists are less categorical. They buttress their reserve with the story of a farmer whose horse ran away. His neighbor commiserated, only to be told, “Who knows what's good or bad?” It was true, for the next day the horse returned, bringing with it a drove of wild horses it had befriended. The neighbor reappeared, this time with congratulations for the windfall. He received the same response: “Who knows what's good or bad?” Again this proved true, for the next day the farmer's son tried to mount one of the wild horses and fell, breaking his leg. More commiserations from the neighbor, which elicited the question, “Who knows what is good or bad?” And for a fourth time the farmer's point prevailed, for the following day soldiers came by commandeering for the army, and the son was exempted because of his injury.” Huston Smith, The World's Religions (Occhigrosso 1996 153)

 

The Chinese Tao, natural law, or way provides a cleavage of the totality into complementary creative and receptive principles. The Tao is a seamless web of unbroken movement and change filled with undulations, waves, patterns of ripples, vortices and temporary standing waves like a river. Every observer is an integral functioning part of this web which extends both into the past and into the future throughout space-time. It never stops, never turns back on itself, and none of its patterns of which we can take conceptual snapshots are real in the sense of being permanent, even for the briefest moment of time we can imagine. Like streaming clouds the objects and facts of our world are to the Taoist simply shapes and phases which last long enough in one general form for us to consider them as units. In a strong wind clouds change their shapes fast. In the slowest of the winds of Tao the mountains and rocks of the earth change their shapes very slowly - but continuously and certainly.

 

No binary, ideal or atomic concept has any independent reality or permanence in this unchanging river of change. No symbol can be separated from the organic context of the whole. Nothing which happens, no event or process ever repeats itself exactly. Nevertheless the Tao is unchanging like a convoluted eroded stone which stands beyond time. Men simply find it hard to observe the fact. All the separations which men claim to decipher in the web of Tao are useful fabrications, concepts being themselves ripples in the ‘mental’ part of the stream. Each human being himself is woven out of a complex system of totally mobile interactions with his environment. His body is in perpetual change, not by jumps from state to state; for his ageing does not correspond to minutes, hours and birthdays, but goes on all the time.

 

The twisted and eroded stone was a motif repeated tens of thousands of times in paintings and on ceramics, often combined with trees, flowers and birds. Its reference always is to this truth of Tao as a reality whose essence is never ceasing, perpetual, seamless process. In the face of this intuition, what can man do?

 

There is a relevant story told in the Chuang-tzu, one of the most revered Taoist books. One day Confucius and his pupils were walking by a turbulent river, which swept over rocks, rapids and waterfalls. They saw an old man swimming in the river, far upstream. He was playing in the raging water and went under. Confucius sent his pupils running downstream to try and save him. However, the old man beached safely on the bank, and stood up unharmed, the water streaming from his hair. The pupils brought him to Confucius, who asked him how on earth he had managed to survive in the torrent among the rocks. He answered, ‘Oh, I know how to go in with a descending vortex, and come out with an ascending one’ (Rawson and Legeza 1973).

 

In the Chuang Tzu Lao Tzu asks Confucius “What is the gist of your teaching?” “The gist of it is benevolence and righteousness.” “May I ask if they belong to the inborn nature of man?” asked Lao Tzu. “Of course,” said Confucius. “If the gentleman lacks benevolence, he will get nowhere; if he lacks righteousness, he cannot even stay alive. They are truly the inborn nature of man. What else could they be?” Lao Tzu said, “May I ask your definition of benevolence and righteousness?” Confucius said, “To be glad and joyful in mind; to embrace universal love and be without partisanship - this is the true form of benevolence and righteousness.” Lao Tzu said, “ ‘Universal love’  - that's a rather nebulous ideal, isn’t it? And to be without partisanship is already a kind of partisanship. Do you want to keep the world from losing its simplicity? Heaven and earth hold fast to their constant ways, the sun and moon to their brightness, the stars and planets to their ranks, the birds and beasts to their flocks, the trees and shrubs to their stands. You have only to go along with Virtue in your actions, to follow the Way in your journey, and already you will be there. Why these flags of benevolence and righteousness, so bravely upraised, as though you were beating a drum and searching for a lost child? Ah, you will bring confusion to the nature of man.”

 

The Tao, that web of time and change, is a network of vortices like a moving and dangerous torrent of water; and the ideal Taoist is he who has learned to use all his senses and faculties to intuit the shapes of the currents in the Tao, so as to harmonize himself with them completely. Works of art provide some of the means for bringing people into communion with the currents and vortices, giving them a deep sense of their presence, and of the ways in which the tangled skeins evolve.

 

Fig 175: The Jade Lady among the clouds - Yin as Chaos

 

Ts'ui Tzu-chung  (Rawson and Legeza 1973). One of the most important and complex female deities of Taoism is the Queen Mother of the West, who can confer immortality.

 

'Vast indeed is the ultimate Tao,

Spontaneously itself, apparently without acting,

End of all ages and beginning of all ages,

Existing before Earth and existing before Heaven,

Silently embracing the whole of time,

Continuing uninterrupted though all eons, ...

It is the ancestor of all doctrines,

The mystery beyond all mysteries' (Tao te Ching).

 

It is only in this sense of unbroken wholeness that the Tao is subdivided into natural complementary creative and receptive principles of yang and yin associated with male and female, day and night, heaven and earth etc. The power of the creative lies beyond the describable, and complements the world of form. The two together form the mysterious totality of existence. Central to the organic nature of the Tao is the inextricable dependence of each attribute on its complement, from which it draws its very identity.

 

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.

All can know good as good only because there is evil.

 

The Tao cannot be named, cannot be symbolised nor captured by rational thought or symbols:

 

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

The named is the mother of ten thousand things.

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.

Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.

These two spring from the same source but differ in name;

this appears as darkness.

Darkness within darkness.

The gate to all mystery.

 

The Tao is timeless and ancient, imperceptible and indefinable yet ever present:

 

From above it is not bright;

From below it is not dark:

An unbroken thread beyond description.

It returns to nothingness.

The form of the formless,

The image of the imageless,

It is called indefinable beyond imagination.

Stand before it and there is no beginning.

Follow it and there is no end.

Stay with the ancient Tao,

Move with the present.

 

Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao. Taoist philosophy is singularly relevant to the modern age because it teaches that nature should not be disrupted:

 

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?

I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred. You cannot improve it.

If you try and change it, you will ruin it.

If you try and hold it, you will lose it.

It also lies beyond simple rules of morality:

 

A brave and passionate man will kill or be killed.

A brave and calm man will always preserve life.

Of these two which is harmful?

Some things are not favoured by heaven.

Who knows why? Even the sage is unsure of this.

 

Lao tsu pictures the sage as wild and untamed but in contact with the natural maternal source:

 

People have purpose and usefulness

But I alone am ignorant and uncouth

I am different from all the others,

but I draw nourishment from the mother.

 

The opposites of male and female, light and dark etc. are not only interdependent, but it is essential for humanity to maintain a receptive relation to the creative Tao. This requires both the feminine receptiveness of the valley of the earth, and the primal pregnancy of the ‘uncarved block’, and also an attitude towards leadership and control which is humble and submissive and yields to transition rather than imposing order:

 

Know the strength of man, But keep a woman's care!

Be the stream of the universe, Ever true and unswerving,

Become as a little child once more.

Know the white, But keep the black! Be an example to the world!

Being an example to the world, Ever true and unwavering,

Return to the infinite. Know honour and humility.

Be the valley of the universe, Ever true and resourceful,

Return to the state of the uncarved block.

When the block is carved it becomes useful.

When the sage uses it he becomes the ruler.

Thus, “A great tailor cuts little” (Lao Tsu).

 

Thus man follows the feminine earth, rather than heaven and consequently the creative emerges from nature itself:

 

Man follows earth.

Earth follows heaven.

Heaven follows the tao.

Tao follows what is natural.

 

Despite being in yielding responsiveness to the natural order, the sage possesses the personal power of the shaman:

 

He who knows how to live can walk abroad Without fear of rhinoceros or tiger.

He will not be wounded in battle. For in him rhinoceroses can find no place to thrust their horn,

Tigers no place to use their claws, And weapons no place to pierce.

Why is this so? Because he has no place for death to enter.

 

Lao Tsu saw the machinery of the state as a structured force which ran against the verdant abundance of the Tao:

 

The more laws and restrictions there are, The poorer people become.

The sharper men's weapons, The more trouble in the land

 

 

Fig 176: Sexual union is central to Taoist thought. Sex roles give both genders the superior position. Despite the patriarchy,
ancient matriarchal identification with the land required conserving male energies to maintain relations with many wives

(Rawson and Legeza 1973).

 

The Tao also has an active sexual manifestation similar to Tantrism. The natural complementation of male and female sexual energies, ching, as manifestations of life force became elaborated into a technique of gathering vital energies through active love-making while withholding orgasm. This attitude arises from the pursuit of immortality, and origins in matriarchal land title-holding based on yin-earth identification, resulting in polygamy and the need to maintain many active relationships. The inner alchemy of Taoism is closely related to the practices of Tantric yoga, involving similar chakra centers based on sex, heart and mind, derived from Buddhist influences.

 

The I Ching oracle (Wilhelm 1960), or book of changes, is a primary example of a sexually paradoxical chance oracle, as it is based on applying uncertainty to the female and male principles of yin and yang. It shows both fundamental Taoist and Confucian influence which was again serendipitously created as a result of incarceration. According to the principles of the I Ching, consciousness, living organisms, and chance are a common manifestation of the cosmic creative principle. Thus the use of chance in throwing the oracle, far from being superstitious faith in the drop of a coin, links to consciousness. uncertainty and to life itself, as with the Urim and Thummim of Judaism, and the Tarot.

 

Yin and yang are firstly further divided into 8 yin-yang trigrams: heaven (the creative), wind (wood), water (the abyss), mountain (stillness), earth (the receptive), thunder (the arousing), fire (the clinging), the lake (joyful). The trigram transformations are then doubled to give 64 hexagrams, whose 64 x 64 = 4096 secondary transformations represent a set of archetypal dynamical situations. This set of 64 states have been carefully designed to give a generic set of conditions. Chance is used to generate a reading by throwing sticks or coins. The results of these two methods differ in the greater probabilities the coin oracle give to moving lines.

 

The origin of the trigrams is said to go back to Fu Hsi a legendary character from the period of hunting and fishing and the invention of cooking. They are thus of such antiquity that they antedate recorded history. The names of the trigrams do not occur anywhere else in Chinese language leading some to suggest they have a foreign origin although this may be simply due to their very ancient nature. King Wen, the progenitor of the Chou dynasty, elaborated the eight trigrams into a vastly larger system of transformations. King Wen is said to have added brief commentaries when he was imprisoned by the tyrant Chou Hsin. Wen was named king posthumously when his son Wu deposed the house of Shange and began the Chou dynasty which lasted 900 years. His son, the Duke of Chou, added the text of the moving lines. Confucius then studied and added to it in his senescence adding the Commentary on the Decision and less directly the Commentary on the Images.

 

Karen Armstrong (2022) in “Sacred Nature” notes:

 

The Dao is not the “creator” of the ten thousand things, looking down on them benignly from afar. Rather, Laozi explains, it is their “mother” and the two are inseparable. Indeed, we cannot know one without the other:

 

The world has a source: the world’s mother. Once you have the mother,
You know the children.

Once you know the children, Return to the mother.

 

Heaven-and-earth—the cosmos comprising our material world—and the ten thousand things are simply stages in the Dao’s own evolution. It is the extraordinary force that holds everything together, makes the world productive and keeps it in being. Every single thing that exists is what it is because it is animated by the creative activity of the Dao.

 

But the Dao is not an invasive, alien, controlling power. Rather, everything is the Dao. It is, therefore, the de (“nature”) of each creature; it is its identity, the force that makes it what it truly is. Thus every single “thing” in the world—animal, plant or mineral—embodies the One in its own unique way. What’s more, these “things” are not self- centred; each manifests itself in an environment where it interacts harmoniously with the de of all the other things in its vicinity—in rather the same way that each ingredient in a stew blends with and enhances the others.

 

Bonpo Tibetan Shamanism

 

The following summary is from John M Reynolds "Yungdrung Bön Ancient Tibetan Bonpo Shamanism.

 

The ancient Tibetan shamanism and animism, the pre-Buddhist spiritual and religious culture of Tibet, was known as Bon, and a practitioner of these shamanic techniques of ecstasy and ritual magic, the methods of working with energy, was known as a Bonpo. Bonpo is still the designation for a shaman in many tribal regions of the Himalayas. But increasingly, over the centuries, the ecstatic shaman has been replaced by the priestly Lama or ritual expert, and so later Bonpos in Central Tibet also came to fill a role more ritualistic than ecstatic.

 

 

Fig 177:  An old photo of Bön shamans

 

Originally the word Bonpo meant someone who invoked the gods and summoned the spirits.

 

The history of the development of Bon may be divided into three phases:

 

1. Primitive Bon more or less corresponds to the archaic shamanism and paganism of ancient Northern and Central Asia. This shamanism is still practiced in its original and unreformed version in remote areas of the Himalayas, as well as on the borders of Tibet and China.

2. Yungdrung Bon or Old Bon (bon rnying-ma) was the high religious culture of the ancient kingdom of Zhang-zhung which centered around Gangchen Tise or Mount Kailas in Western Tibet. This kingdom, which possessed its own culture and language and writing, maintained an independent existence long before the rise of civilization in Central Tibet in the seventh century with the coming of Indian Buddhism to that country.

3. New Bon (bon gsar-ma) was a deliberate and conscious amalgamation of the Bon of Zhang-zhung with the Buddhism of Indian origin, especially as this spiritual tradition was represented by the Nyingmapa school in Tibet.  In the reformed Bon, one finds a monastic system, philosophy colleges, and a scholastic tradition and curriculum fully comparable to that found in the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, especially the Nyingmapas. My Lama Yeshe Dorje with whom I took the Dharma vows was a Ningmapa exorcist and weather shaman. On the other side of the matter, many ancient Bonpo rituals and practices have been accepted into the Buddhist schools of Indian origin in Tibet and, in particular, as the cult of the Guardian spirits, the old pagan pre-Buddhist deities of Tibet who are now the protectors of the Dharma.


Fig 178: Lama dancing at Tikse monastery on our journey in 1976 illustrates the merging of Tibetan animism with Buddhism.

 

Furthermore, shamanism continues to be practiced in Tibet in its archaic form and such a practitioner is generally known as a Pawo (dpa'-bo) or Lhapa. This social function is clearly distinguished from that of the Lama or priest.

 

In general, the Pawo is characterized by spirit possession. After entering into an altered state of consciousness or trance induced through drumming and chanting, his or her consciousness principle known as the Namshe (rnam-shes) is projected out of the physical body through the aperture at the top of the skull into one of the three symbolic mirrors arranged on the shamanic altar. These three mirrors represent the gateways to the other worlds of the Lha (the celestial spirits), of the Tsen (the earth and mountain spirits), and of the Lu (the subterranean water spirits), respectively. These three types of spirit correspond to the three zones -- sky, earth, and underworld-- into which the world was divided in the ancient Bonpo shamanic cosmology.

 

The Kami of Japanese Shinto

 

Shinto is polytheistic and revolves around the kami, supernatural entities believed to inhabit all things. The link between the kami and the natural world has led to Shinto being considered animistic.

 

Although historians debate at what point it is suitable to refer to Shinto as a distinct religion, kami veneration has been traced back to Japan's Yayoi period (300 BC to AD 300). Buddhism entered Japan at the end of the Kofun period (AD 300 to 538) and spread rapidly. Religious syncretisation made kami worship and Buddhism functionally inseparable, a process called shinbutsu-shūgō. The kami came to be viewed as part of Buddhist cosmology and were increasingly depicted anthropomorphically. in Japan, it has long been considered acceptable to practice different religious traditions simultaneously. Japanese religion is therefore highly pluralistic. The earliest written tradition regarding kami worship was recorded in the 8th-century Kojiki and Nihon Shoki.

 

Kami (Japanese: , [kami]) (often taken to mean "gods", though the concept is more involved than that) are the spirits, phenomena or "holy powers" that are venerated in the religion of Shinto. They can be elements of the landscape, forces of nature, as well as beings and the qualities that these beings express; they can also be the spirits of venerated dead people. Many kami are considered the ancient ancestors of entire clans (some ancestors became kami upon their death if they were able to embody the values and virtues of kami in life). Traditionally, great or sensational leaders like the Emperor could be or became kami.

 

Fig 179: Amaterasu emerging from the cave, Ama-no-Iwato,

to which she once retreated (detail of woodblock print by Kunisada).

 

In Shinto, kami are not separate from nature, but are of nature, possessing positive and negative, and good and evil characteristics. They are manifestations of musubi (結び), the interconnecting energy of the universe, and are considered exemplary of what humanity should strive towards. Kami are believed to be "hidden" from this world, and inhabit a complementary existence that mirrors our own: shinkai (神界, "the world of the kami").To be in harmony with the awe-inspiring aspects of nature is to be conscious of kannagara no michi (随神の道 or 惟神の道, "the way of the kami”).

 

When Amaterasu the sun goddess sent her grandson to earth to rule, she gave him five rice grains, which had been grown in the fields of heaven (Takamagahara). This rice made it possible for him to transform the “wilderness". The kami are not necessarily considered omnipotent or omniscient and can have flawed personalities and are capable of ignoble acts. In the myths of Amaterasu, she could see the events of the human world, but had to use divination rituals to see the future.

 

There are considered to be three main variations of kami: Amatsukami (天津神, the heavenly deities), Kunitsukami (国津神, the gods of the earthly realm), and ya-o-yorozu no kami (八百万の神, countless kami). ("八百万" literally means eight million, but idiomatically it expresses "uncountably many" and "all-around"—like many East Asian cultures, the Japanese often use the number 8, representing the cardinal and ordinal directions, to symbolize ubiquity.)

 

Fig 180: Amaterasu’s cave Ama-no-Iwato

 

The word from Western philosophy that deals with the same concept is numinous, which has been variously taken to mean both a subjective sense of spiritual awe and any entity that evokes that sense, indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity.

 

Likewise, according to the Ainu of Hokkaido, spirits reside in all natural objects. Ainu regarded natural phenomena that are useful to human beings, including flora and fauna, as well as daily life necessities such as fire, water, living implements and forces beyond human control like the weather, as kamuy, and paid homage to them. Some kamuy are thought to cause diseases, earthquakes, thunder and other natural phenomena. In addition to these naturally occurring kamuy, man-made implements boats, hearth hooks, mortar and mallets are also believed to be kamuy. Some kamuy protect humans, so that they can live in safety. Others, such as fire, offer assistance beyond human ability and listen to humansappeals and wishes that have to be conveyed to other kamuy. The fish owl is viewed as a kamuy whose role is to watch villages, and it is highly considered by the Ainu people. Some kamuy of plants have the power to keep evil spirits away. The term is equivalent to kami in Shinto.

 

Maori Maatauranga

 

Fig 181: Left: Papa and Rangi were locked in tight embrace. Centre: Tane Mahuta the Kauri world tree of Aotearoa –  a tall Kauri - Agathis australis, up to 2000 years old.

Right: Tumakoha, the Arawa Tohunga – priest, mystic, bard and genealogist, was the highest tohunga of the old religion in the Arawa tribe surviving in modern times.

 

Thanks-giving to Tane – Guardian of the World Tree

 

At the beginning of time stood Te Kore,

the nothingness - Io.

Then there was Te Po the Great Night,

the Long Night the intensely Dark Night,

the Gloom-laden Night the Night to be Felt, the Night Unseen.

 

Then Rangi the sky, dwelt with Papa tu a nuku the Earth,

and was joined with her, and land was made.

But their numerous offspring lived in darkness,

 for their parents were not yet parted,

the sky lay upon the earth and no light came between them,

and the land was unfruitful, and the sea was all dark water.

 

The war god Tu matauenga said "let us kill them”,

but Tane mahuta, god and father of the forests

and all things that inhabit them answered

"No, not so. It is better to rend them apart,

and to let the Sky stand far above us

and the Earth lie below here.

 

Let the Sky become a stranger to us,

but let the Earth remain close to us as our nursing mother."

Over vast time, the Kauri pushed them apart.

With heavy groans and shrieks of pain,

the parents of the sons cried out

"Why did you do this crime,

why did you slay your parents' love?

 

For this section, I have chosen three short quotations to avoid misinterpreting the cultural translation. Maori history differs from many other ethnic cultures in that they have, despite colonial oppression, held their own. When Kawiti and Hone Heke in 1845 cut down the flagpole of British authority, reducing Kororareka the original colonial capital to smoking ruins. They later  retreated into the forest where they perfected developing the art of trench warfare,70 years before the First World War, holding the forces of the British Empire at Bay in a stalemate.

 

Fig 182: ne Heke with Te Ruki Kawiti and Hāriata Rongo (Alexander Turnbull Library, C-012-019)

 

Paul Moon (2013), commenting on criticism of Marama Muru-Lanning’s research on the Waikato river – He piko, he taniwha – as being unscientifically spiritual, notes the central place of animism in the Maori world view:

 

Animism is the belief that natural things and phenomena have a life force of their own. Māori would call this life force mauri. The pre-European Māori spiritual way of being was exactly, a belief that everything had a life force. Given that, our tīpuna (ancestors) practised animism every day of their lives. Christianity has not caused that belief to disappear among us; instead the two co-exist.

 

Fig 183: Taniwhaa Maori supernatural serpent. In the prehistoric age of early human occupation, nomadic Maori hunters created New Zealands earliest surviving artworks in caves and shelters as long ago as the fifteenth century or earlier. Then all of a sudden between 700 and 400 years ago, most of the east coast forests were destroyed in a series of huge, man made fires. The exact reason is heavily debated and will never be known. What is known is that the fires resulted in a razing of the habitat of many of the birds. A number of species including all the Moas became extinct. The areas formerly favoured for hunting and where many of the rock shelters occur, became barren and inhospitable (Narbey 2013).

 

Maori today are fully scientific about the preservation of their rivers, although treating them as living agents and have recently brought a class action suit against the NZ Government for allowing the farming sector to pollute them indiscriminately:

 

Fig 184: Polarities in the Maori cosmos have parallels with the Shipibo cosmos (Salmond 1978).

 

As a Nāti, I pay homage to Hikurangi, our ancestor mountain and to Waiapu our ancestor river. All (practising) Māori pay homage to a geographical feature as an ancestor. In paying homage to that ancestor we imbue it with a life force that goes beyond weather and geology. And although we understand how both those factors impact on that life force, in paying homage we assign a religious aspect to the geological feature that would otherwise not exist. However, Hohepa Kereopa qualifies that by saying mauri requires human intervention (Moon, 2003). That is without our reference to Hikurangi the mountain as an ancestor, or as in many other cultures speaking about a mountain as if it were alive, then the religious aspect is unlikely to be assigned. Lets look at this aspect of assigning life to natural phenomena in the light of storms and environmental issues. A whole whakapapa on the naming of storms has grown over the years. We understand storms because we experience their beauty and their fury. And although we might also understand the science behind their existence, we are also likely to assign their existence as penance for wrong done our lack of care of the environment for example. ... Having that connection to that mountain and river does not mean I will not take a scientific view. What it does mean is the scientific view I do take will be through the lens of being Māori.

 

Anne Salmond (1985) outlines Maori epistemology and the way Maori cosmology leads to an ongoing concept of knowledgable destiny in the pursuit of survival:

 

Maatauranga, or reliable knowledge, is a term in Maori almost synonymous with moohiotanga, knowledge acquired by familiarity and the exercise of intelligence. A particular form of maatauranga is waananga, ancestral knowledge which enabled its possessor to communicate directly with the ancestor-gods and to activate their power.  In this conception of the universe, men and women existed at a threshold or pae between sky and earth, life and death, light and dark, and exerted themselves to influence destiny. Just as Tane, the ancestor of humanity, forced earth and sky apart to create a world of light, growth, and life, so people worked through ritual to focus ancestral and essential power (mana atua), and to harness it for their survival: At moments when this power entered the phenomenal world it was said, Te ihi, te wehi me te wana!(essential force, fearful force, awesome power!). Wild and extraordinary phenomena were attributed to the interventions of such power, and so were termed atua; (god, supernatural being: anything strange and extraordinary). Tohu or omens, on the other hand, were predictive indicators of the workings of the phenomenal world, and tohunga (priests or knowledgeable experts) were the skilled interpreters of such signs. Waananga, or knowledge for activating ancestral power, included cosmological and ancestral histories—both expressed in a genealogical language of description since all matter proceeded from a common source; ritual practices; and karakia or formulae of power.5 This sort of knowledge was regarded as a family treasure (taonga).

 

The debate about the Maori world view Maatauranga and its relationship with the scientific world view continues to be hotly debated in 2021-2 (In defence of Science NZ Listener 2021 Jul 31 4, Aug 7 4, 18, 14 4-5, 28 6-7, 31 4-5, Sep 4 5-7, Dec 18 5, 2022 Jan 8 4, Mar 22 7, Apr 2 5), in the light of a decision resulting in both gaining a comparative status in the education system, attesting to the fact that in at least some parts of the world, theanimistic view of life and nature can stand alongside physicalmaterialism. The Maori party has recently petitioned that New Zealand be officially named  Aotearoa – the land of the long white cloud – althoughthis is already recognised as the country’s name in our dual language system, although it is actually the Maori name for the North Island, attesting to the resurgence of a more long-lasting  vision of cultural history than Western commercial materialism can lay claim to.

 

Fig 185: Screenshot from Ministry of Education website explaining changes to NCEA Mauri is a Maori term. The website contains a Glossary which defines mauri as "The vital essence, life force of everything: be it a physical object, living thing or ecosystem. In Chemistry and Biology, mauri refers to the health and life-sustaining capacity of the taiao, on biological, physical, and chemical levels."

 

James Cowan (1930), although an earlier colonial interpreter of Maori customs, spoke fluent Maori and has given an insightful historical view of Maori animism that carries with it the freshness of a first hand verbal account:

 

The Maori-Polynesian religion, broadly stated, consisted in a reverence for the personified powers of nature, and a worship or propitiation of the spirits of ancestors. A belief in the animation of all nature pervaded and influenced the whole life of the Maori, and equally strong was his faith in the divinity of his great Ariki forefathers, ancestors who had long passed to the Reinga-land, yet whose spirits still held dominion over their descendants and were powerful to bless or ban. The Maori invested the elements and forces of the cosmos with names and human attributes; these and his reverenced dead stood to him for deities. That universal primitive religion which takes the form of animism is nowhere to be found more copiously embodied in priestly karakia, or ritual, and sacred legend than among the New Zealanders and the islands of Polynesia; and nowhere are ancestral spirits so venerated, their names held so sacred that their repetition is in itself a prayer. So carefully are the genealogies preserved that their recitation forms a large portion of many a karakia; any mistake in the repetition destroys the efficacy of the prayer or formula, and is even fatal to the suppliant.

 

There is much that is sublime in the ancient cosmogonies. The Maori could conceive of uncountable aeons of Chaos and primeval Darkness (Po), gradually giving place to light until the Ao-māramai the World of Light was evolved. Ages upon ages of Nothing (Kore), as the old tohungas recited, preceded the gradual Dawn of Life and the coming into being of the Heavens and the Earth. Many tribal genealogies go back to the source of all things, to the time when the world was without form and void. The idea that seems most strongly to pervade the Maori mind, the conception that colours all his theories as to the origin of everything in nature, is the dual principle, the generative power of male and female, of the active and passive forces. Everything he endowed with sex, even the successive periods of Darkness and of Light, before man was. Light was to him the primal active generating force, operating upon Po, the Darkness, the passive, the receptacle for the mysterious Vivifier. 

 

It was Tane-mahuta who forced his parents apart by standing on his head and thrusting Rangi upwards with his feet. Tane's limbs were the trees; it was with these forest-pillars that he propped up the leaning sky, so that the Sky-Parent henceforth dwelt on high, dropping down his tears on Papa's face in the form of rain and dew. Tearsare a poetic euphemism for the procreating and fecundative powers of the Sky, the Clouds, the Rain, and the Sun. These potent influences Rangi showers upon his spouse the Earth, who in return brings forth abundantly of all plants and trees and foods, and who ever exhales her tokens of love or aroha in the form of mists and soft clouds. These vapours of aroha are night after night wafted on high to her Sky-Husband, her Tane, whose face and breast are so grandly adorned with myriads of stars. Papa (a term interchangeable, as word-students know, with the equally universal “mama”), is the all-nourishing, all begetting one, the great Mater Genetrix.

 

Beyond and above the personification of natural forces and objects, the Earth, the Ocean, the Wind, the Sun and Moon and Stars, there was the belief in a Great First Cause. This supreme being is Io, a name exceedingly sacred and not to be mentioned lightly. Io was really the God,says a Maori. The protection or shelter of Io (“Te Maru a Io”), is an expression in an ancient prayer. In a Ngati-Porou (Takitimu) cosmological recital, written for me by an old chief, Io is coupled with Hå as one of the two high deities. Hā, however, means the breath of life, the vivifying force. Io may be from the original iho, the core, the animating force of all things.

 

The was Io-matua, the meaning of which is, that he was the parent of all things; in the heavens or in the worlds. His second name was Io-mata-ngaro [Io-the-hidden-face], which name means that he is never seen by man. His third name is Io-mata-aho [Io-seen-in-a-flash], so called because he is never seen except as in a flash of light or lightning. A fourth name is Io-tikitiki-o-rangi [Io-exalted-of-heaven], called so because he dwells in the highest and last of the heavens. A fifth name is Io-nui [Io-the-great-god], because he is greater than all the other gods that are known as dwelling in the heavens or the earth.

 

Nature-worshipper as the Maori was, everything was personified—the trees, the streams, the rain and dew, the mist and sunshine. He had deep respect for the forest of tall timbers—the Vast and Holy Woods of Tané.” In the fogs that rose like fleecy wraiths from the rivers and the swamps were the Hau-Maringiringi, the dewy children of Rangi and Papa. These, too, were the divine offspring of the Sky-Father and Earth-Mother: Hau-nui and Tomairangi the dew; Tane-uarangi, the heavy rain; Hau-maroroto, rain in big drops; and the grateful warmth of midsummer days was the Tou-a-Rangi. Besides the great deities, the seven of Rangi and Papa, there were the innumerable lesser deities of the Maori pantheon, a vast company of atua, to whom invocations and propitiatory incantations were addressed; atua of earth and sky, of cultivation and food, of fishing and seafaring, of the forests and waters, and particularly of war. These were in general deified beings of mortal origin. Amongst a people whose great glory was in battle, deities of war held high place. Each tribe had its war-god, and each god had its kaupapa or medium.

 

However the Amazonian peoples, the Northern Ojibwa, the Maori and the trafficked Nayaka are highly evolved migratory ethnic groups, so it is pertinent when considering the ancient origins of animism to look back to our founding human cultures to see how animism figures in their societies and cultural practices.

 

The Khonds of India

 

Khonds (Kondha and Kandha ) are an indigenous Adivasi tribal community in India. Traditionally hunter-gatherers, they are divided into the hill-dwelling and plain-dwelling Khonds, but the Khonds themselves identify by their specific clans. Khonds usually hold large tracts of fertile land, but still practice hunting, gathering, and slash-and-burn agriculture in the forests as a symbol of their connection to, and as an assertion of their ownership of the forests wherein they dwell. They commonly practice clan exogamy. By custom, marriage must cross clan boundaries (incest taboo). Marriages are made outside the clan (yet still within the greater Khond population). Acquiring mate is often by negotiation. However, marriage by capture or elopement is also rarely practiced. Bride price is paid to the parents of the bride by the groom, which is a striking feature. It was traditionally paid in tiger pelts though now land or gold are usual.

 

Traditionally Khond religious beliefs were syncretic, combining totemism, animism, ancestor worship, shamanism and nature worship. British writers also note that the Khonds practiced human sacrifice. Traditional Khond religion involved the worship mountains, Rivers, Sun, Earth. Baredi is place of worship. Traditional Khond religion involved different rituals. Matiguru involved worship of earth before sowing seeds. Other rituals connected with land fertility were 'Guruba Puja', 'Turki Puja' and in some cases 'Meriah Puja (human sacrifice)' to appease Dharni (earth), goats and chicken. Pitabali Puja was performed by offering flowers, fruits, sandal paste, incense, ghee-lamps, ghee, sundried rice, turmeric, buffalo or a he-goat and fowl.

 

Human sacrifice has always been prevalent in India, especially in the worship of Kali, but Joseph Campbell (1962 160) gives a particularly graphic portrait of the Khonds:

 

"A vivid typical lesson is supplied, for example, by the Khonds ... who had victims known as meriah, set apart and often kept for years, who were offered to the Earth Goddess, Tara, to ensure good crops and immunity from disease. To be acceptable, such a figure had to have been either purchased or else born as the child of a meriah. The Khonds, according to report, occasionally sold their own children for this sacrifice, supposing that in death their souls would be singularly blessed. ... They were regarded as consecrated beings and treated with extreme affection and respect, and were available for sacrifice either on extraordinary occasions or at the periodic feasts, before the sowing; so that each family in the village might procure at least once a year a shred of flesh to plant in its field for the boosting of its crop"

 

"Ten or twelve days before the offering, the victim was dedicated, shorn of his hair, and anointed with oil, butter, and turmeric. A season of wild revelry and debauchery followed, at the end of which the meriah was conducted with music and dancing to the meriah grove, a little way from the village, a stand of mighty trees untouched by the axe. Tied there to a post and once more anointed with oil, butter, and turmeric, the victim was garlanded with flowers, while the crowd danced around him, chanting, to the earth: 'O Goddess, we offer to thee this sacrifice; give to us good seasons, crops, and health'; and to the victim: 'We bought thee ,with a price, we did not seize thee, and now, according to custom, we sacrifice thee: no sin rests upon us.' A great struggle to secure magical relics from the decorations of his person flowers or turmeric-or a drop of his spittle, ensued, and the orgy continued until about noon the following day, when the time came, at last, for the consummation of the rite" .

 

Fig 186: Khond women and  elders, a marriage ring, sacrifice post, and human sacrifice (1880).

 

"The victim was again anointed with oil ... and each person touched the anointed part, and wiped the oil on his own head. In some places they took the victim in procession round the village, from door to door, where some plucked hair from his head, and others begged for a drop of his spittle, with which they anointed their heads. As the victim might not be bound nor make any show of resistance, the bones of his arms and, if necessary, his legs were broken; but often this precaution was rendered unnecessary by stupefying him with opium. The mode of putting him to death varied in different places. One of the commonest modes seems to have been strangulation, or squeezing to death. The branch of a green tree was cleft several feet down the middle; the victim's neck (in other places, his chest) was inserted in the cleft, which the priest, aided by his assistants, strove with all his force to close. Then he wounded the victim slightly with his ax, whereupon the crowd rushed at the wretch and hewed the flesh from the bones, leaving the head and bowels untouched. Sometimes he was cut up alive. In Chinna Kimedy he was dragged along the fields, surrounded by the crowd, who, avoiding his head and intestines, hacked the flesh from his body with their knives till he died".

 

“Another very common mode of sacrifice in the same district was to fasten the victim to the proboscis of a wooden elephant, which revolved on a stout post, and, as it whirled round, the crowd cut the flesh from the victim while life remained. ... In one district the victim was put to death slowly by fire. A low stage was formed sloping on either side like a roof; upon it they laid the victim, his limbs wound round with cords to confine his struggles. Fires were then lighted and hot brands applied, to make him roll up and down the slopes of the stage as long as possible; for the more tears he shed the more abundant would be the supply of ram. Next day the body was cut to pieces. ... Each head of a house rolled his shred of flesh in leaves, and buried it in his favourite field, placing it in the earth behind his back without looking”.

 

The Khonds gave highest importance to the Earth goddess, who is held to be the creator and sustainer of the world. The gender of the deity changed to male and became Dharni Deota. His companion is Bhatbarsi Deota, the hunting god. To them once a year a buffalo was sacrificed. Before hunting they would worship the spirit of the hills and valleys they would hunt in lest they hide the animals the hunter wished to catch.

 

In Khond society, a breach of accepted religious conduct by any member of their society invited the wrath of spirits in the form of lack of rain fall, soaking of streams, destruction of forest produce, and other natural calamities. Hence, the customary laws, norms, taboos, and values were greatly adhered to and enforced with high to heavy punishments, depending upon the seriousness of the crimes committed. The practise of traditional religion has almost become extinct today.

  

Entasis and Ecstasis: Complementarity between Shamanistic and Meditative Approaches to Illumination

 

Stuart Sarbacker (2002) notes contrasting themes between the practices of shamanism as practised world-wide and particularly in the Americas and those of Eastern meditation and devotion – Mircea Eliade’s (1958) notion that the ultimate goal of shamanism is ecstasis, a type of visionary experience that involves the association of mythical beings and their realities, in contrast to entasis, the more abstract goal of release from conditioned reality that is characteristic of Indian forms of yoga, most notably Classical Yoga and Buddhism.

 

In two of his most famous works, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (1958) and Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1972), the Historian of Religions Mircea Eliade attempts to elucidate the distinctiveness of shamanic and yogic typologies of religious belief and practice. Through this process, Eliade notes at several points what he believes is a fundamental distinction between shamanic and yogic practice and experience that can be understood as the difference between enstasis and ecstasis, or enstasy and ecstasy, respectively "standing within" and "standing without." ... The controversial issue of determining the primary characteristics of shamanism is framed by the context of Eliade's emphasis on ecstasy as the definitive component of shamanism as opposed to possession and other phenomena. In the case of the study of meditation (dhydna) in the Hindu and Buddhist contexts, the terms enstasy, enstasis or enstatic have become an important part of the terminology of both Hindu Buddhist studies.

 

A number of other issues not found in Eliade's work ... further illuminate this relationship and demonstrate other important possibilities for the yoga – shamanism comparison. These include examples of initiatory types of phenomena associated with Buddhist meditation, the junction of enstatic and ecstatic modal in the development of meditation in Buddhist and Hindu yoga, and the possibility of viewing the yogic practitioner as a sort of psychopomp akin to the shaman. It will be demonstrated that the enstatic and ecstatic modalities can be better seen as being dynamically related rather than mutually exclusive, and that Eliade's distinction is useful but in need of further elaboration and specificity. Enstatic and ecstatic phenomena have an intimate relationship with what can be called numinous and cessative modalities or conceptions of religious practice and experience, demonstrating both continuity and distinction in the yoga-shamanism relationship. These dimensions have a deep connection in how they tie together psychological and social realities in the lives of religious practitioners, and relates both to questions of cosmology and divinity.

 

Eliade states that shamanism can be said to possess four primary elements. These include: an initiation in which the adept faces death, dismemberment, and possibly a descent into the underworld and an ascent into heaven; an ecstatic journey in which the shaman acts as healer or psychopomp; a "mastery of fire" in which the shaman proves himself capable of withstanding some type of ordeal; and an ability to change form, to "become invisible" and to demonstrate other magical powers (Eliade 1958:320). The primary factor among these, according to Eliade, is ecstasy, the ability to leave the body in order to journey to otherworldly realms,  and to master the world of spirits, ultimately qualifying the shaman as a "specialist in the sacred.” The essential and defining element of shamanism is ecstasy— the shaman is a specialist in the sacred, able to abandon his body and undertake cosmic journeys "in the spirit".

 

However Quirce Balma (2010) makes clear the mistaken doctrinal view of Eliade in discounting entheogenic shamanism as non-existent, irrelevant, or degenerate in relation to other forms of shamanism involving rhythm and trance states:

 

In the period in which Eliade dominated interpretation in the field of native anthropology, he flatly denied that entheogenic hallucinogens formed part of the culture of those peoples. For Eliade, native logic, free from both the alphabetic and rational logics of our society, liberated the unconscious to produce dreams and visions of a much more symbolic and animistic type, than what could be a simple hallucinatory state induced by a drug. For said author, the above does not correspond to a true human being, but to a human being affected by a pharmacological delusion.

 

Eliade was almost entirely in command of anthropology for decades. It was only when authors such as Campbell (1962) and Jung (1969) began to investigate the mythology and the possible use of pharmacological agents, such as in the ancient nations of Asia Minor, hashish and opium, among others, that it cracked slightly, but decisively, the fundamentalist and somewhat severe thesis of Eliade. The arrival of Wasson (1958) produced a profound disturbance in Eliade's thesis in the 1950s. Fully supported by botanical anthropologists such as Schultes (1963, 1977) and later by other authors such as Harner (1977) and McKenna (1988), Wasson began a series of investigations aimed at proving that the very basis of native and shamanic religions were plant-derived entheogenic psychopharmaceuticals. ... Many authors followed Wasson's path to go so far as to suggest that all current religions began at some point or another with a botanical methodology of entheogenic ingestion.

 

Of course, the exaggerations need to be given and proposed to establish the controversies, since we know that in Buddhism and Hinduism in China and India, marijuana was used (for the ceremonies of Lord Shiva in the temples) to ephedrine (in Ma Huan tea) and regular black tea (theophylline, which is a methylxanthine). The first to enter a trance state, the second and third to stay awake during the long hours of prayer, contemplation, chanting and meditation.

 

Fig 195: Ecstasis vs Entasis: Shamanic verdant immersive visionary chaos vs Samadhi's spiritual order renouncing conditioned reality. (Left) Pulsations. A group of vegetalistas has taken ayahuasca and through an icaro, Queen Pulsarium Coya they seek to diagnose patients by interpreting the pulse with hands connected to the brain. In the Amazon traditions, such a session may also seek to counteract sorcery by shamans of other tribes. In all cases, there is an intimate coupling between nature and the shamanic experience achieved through the entheogens (Luna & Amaringo 1991). (Right) A modern painting of Sukhavati, the pure land that's associated in Mahayana Buddhism with the buddha Amitabha, known in Japanese as Amida. As discussed below this is not nirvana but a land to seek a pure rebirth in that is closer to nirvana. The images evoke the contrast between immersion within nature and a pristine world of order and purity.

 

Sarbacker (2002) investigates the meditative quest of the Eastern traditions, attempting to draw a complementation out of the contrast between the immersive, ecstatic approaches of shamanism and renunciative, enstatic approaches of Eastern mysticism seeking to treat these as present in both approaches with different emphases:

 


The yogin, or yoga practitioner, as a specialist in the sacred is akin to the shaman as a religious ideal, an example of how religious ideas are concretely embodied. According to this interpretation, the yogin, like the shaman, is under stood to embody the truths of his or her tradition (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism etc.) and therefore exemplifies the living reality of its philosophy, mythology, and so on. Both the shaman and the yogin are understood in their respective traditions to have unique powers of perception and vision, and therefore they are understood to play a role as specialist in their religious community, perhaps even as mediators between the mundane (profane) and supramundane (sacred) worlds.

 

The notion of ascension is carried through several levels of investigation in Eliade's (1958 326-330) work. The climbing of the ceremonial ladder in the performance of Vedic ritual is said to represent the shamanic ascent of the heavens through the conquering of the "world tree," and serves as a starting point fo Eliade's analysis of ascension motifs.

 

We meet the same symbolism again in Brahmanic ritual; it too involves a ceremonial ascent to the world of the gods. For the sacrifice, we are told, "there is only one foundation, only one finale...even heaven." "The ship fair crossing is the sacrifice"; "every sacrifice is a ship bound heavenwards." The mechanism of the ritual is a durohana, a "difficult ascent," since it implies ascending the World Tree itself (Eliade 1972: 403).

 

In the development of samadhi, "contemplation" or "absorption," (Eliade's enstasis) and more generally, dhyatui, "meditation," in the Buddhist context, there is an understanding that meditators who have attained a significant degree of progress in meditation approximate the consciousness of gods in higher cosmological realms. These realms in Buddhism are those of the "form realm" and the "formless realm," which constitute two of the so-called "three realms" of Buddhism. The third realm is the "desire realm" in which there are successive levels of rebirth including those of deities, human beings, animals and hell-beings, among others. The former contain only deities, and they are considered to have cognitive powers superior in many respects to the deities of the desire realm. As a result of attaining high degrees of refinement of meditation in one's life, a practitioner of samatlia or "tranquility" meditation may be reborn after death in the realm equivalent to that meditative state [sukhavati]. There is certainly sense in which the realms build upon each other, in that the higher realms implies that the beings have a very refined state of consciousness. The higher rebirths within the desire realm and by extension in the higher abodes of the form and formless realms are also indicative of a high degree of religious merit. All of these states are considered to be part of samsara, and do not therefore constitute liberation any permanent heavenly abode. The "attainment of cessation," does not refer to a state of rebirth at all, but rather to the cessation of all mental and physical functions, in some cases identified with liberation, but not in locative or cosmological and psychological states, represents the soteriological (salvation, enlightenment) path of Buddhism.

 

The Patanjala Yoga tradition also embraces a series of levels of samadhi that lead to profound states of being, acting and knowing. The Classical Yoga tradition presents a typology of yogins based upon the attainment of different stages of samadhi — such as the prakrtilaya, "immersed in the phenomenal ground material reality," and the videha, "bodiless one" who has developed a significant degree of skill in samadhi but not complete liberation. In both cases, there is set of stages that encompass a notion of attainment through an ascension motif which is placed parallel to a notion of cessation, nirodba, which is seen to be the distinct culmination of the soteriological process.

 

This fact may well suggest two trends rather than just one, possibly even the coexistence of ecstatic and enstatic techniques, establishing a dynamic between the ascension and cessation.

 

This complementarity however has profound implications. While the enstatic path leads to cessation in a spiritual journey attempting to disengage from the confinements of a conditioned life in the round of birth and death, the ecstatic path leads to immersion in nature and a path of engagement with and protection of the diversity of life.

 

Just as the Mahayana or greater path seeks not just the personal enlightenment of Hinayana, but the enlightenment of all beings, so the shamanic animistic path augments the confines of pure spirituality which seeks only divine imaginary worlds, neglecting the urgency and essentiality of protecting the diversity of life immortal, in a greater Mahayantra, so that the very experience of illumination can ensue and evolve throughout our generations forever.
 

3 Eastern Spiritual Cosmologies and Psychotropic Use

 

This perspective fits closely with a long-standing cosmological position in Eastern philosophy, where mental states are envisaged as being ‘finer’ than gross physical states, also having an indivisible wholeness to their character, or that the cosmological foundation is itself undivided consciousness. The Upanishads date from 900 to 600 BC. The Brhadaranyaka and the Chandogya are the two earliest Upanishads. They are edited texts, some of whose sources are much older than others. The two texts are pre-Buddhist; they may be placed in the 7th to 6th centuries BCE, give or take a century or so. The fundamental concern of the Upanishads is the nature of reality (Purohit & Yeats 1937). They teach the identity of the individual soul (atman) with the universal essence soul (Brahman). In contrast with Buddhism, which believes that there is neither a soul nor self, Hindu philosophy (Hiriyanna 1932) has argued that qualities such as cognition and desire are inherent qualities which are not possessed by anything solely material, and therefore, by the process of elimination must belong to a non-material self, the atman, thus seeing one’s spiritual goal as moksha – liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. Śaṅkara held that the mind, body and world are all held to be appearances of the same unchanging eternal conscious entity called Brahman, the "creative principle which lies realised in the whole world”,  the “unchanging, permanent, highest reality” which is described as Satchitananda (Being, consciousness and bliss) [54].

 

Fig 196: (a) Vishnu dreams the universe through the navel lotus of Brahma, overlooked by Lakshmi, (b) Ritual cannabis use in ancient Israel, (c) Shiva sadhu smoking Ganga, (d) Tantric creation involves sexual complementarity of Shakti representing the body of the universe and Shiva representing mind, in which the unity of cosmic consciousness retreats into multiple conscious experiences of the physical world in the dance of Maya. This complementarity is shared by Taoist Yin/Yang.   To Shakti a Devotion

 

In the Tantric creation (Rawson 1973), Shiva and Shakti begin as a whole in intimate cosmic embrace, of subject and object, then retreating from this intimacy to become multiple conscious entities perceiving the physical world around them as dualities emerging from the complementary totality coming to recognise itself in individual consciousness only through moksha, due to their psychic and physical fragmentation in Maya. This is celebrated in maithuna the sacred sexual union, also in Buddhist Yab-Yum illustrated in Twelve-Armed Chakrasamvara and His Consort Vajravarahi and in the Kaula rite of Yamala (The couple):

 

“It is consciousness itself, the unifying emission and the stable abode – the absolute, the noble cosmic bliss

consisting of both Shiva and Shakti. It is the flowing font of both quiescence and emergence."

 

 The Receptive and Creative principles of Yin and Yang also reflect this in the Tao (Rawson and Legeza 1973):

 

There was something complete and mysterious existing before heaven and earth,

Silent, invisible, unchanging, standing alone, unceasing, ever in motion.

Able to be the mother of the world. I do not know its name. Call it Tao. (Lao Tsu).

 

Fig 197: Shri-Yantra has superimposed yoni-lingam motifs, Yoni (South India).

 

Because Symbiotic Existential Cosmology has turned out to be a direct realisation of both the Tantric creation and the Upanishadic creation of Brahman and atman, in retrospect I have added a synopsis of the principles of the founding cosmology of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as a counterpoint. Where the difference lies is that symbiotic cosmology is fully grounded in nature and the diversity of life as a cosmological phenomenon and is not based on mind alone. The cosmic mind is a manifestation of incarnate biodiversity.  To make this point clear after our vigil to Jerusalem I made a vigil to Varanasi to pay my respects to Kali as the complementary “ultimate reality” to Shiva’s cosmic mind, fully embodied in nature, fertility and the flow of time.

 

Tantra

 

The universe is real embodiment!

Consciousness is real experience!

Each are cosmological complements!

The one cannot exist without the other.

 

Neither reigns supreme, but together are conmplete.  

A prisoners’ dilemma invincibly united in reality.

Just like the yin and yang of our two sexes,

caught in asymmetric reproductive coexistence.

 

Brahman (Sanskrit: ब्रह्म) connotes the highest Universal Principle, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. In major schools of Hindu philosophy, it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. It is the pervasive, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. Brahman as a metaphysical concept refers to the single binding unity behind diversity in all that exists in the universe. In non-dual schools such as the Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is identical to the Atman, is everywhere and inside each living being, and there is connected spiritual oneness in all existence.  Ātman (Sanskrit: आत्मन्) refers to the (universal) Self or self-existent essence of human beings, as distinct from ego (Ahamkara), mind (Citta) and embodied existence (Prakṛti).

 

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad opens with a cosmological manifestation, echoed in every person’s realisation:

 

“I am He” – Aham Brahma Asmi (अहम् ब्रह्मास्मि) – "I am Brahman”.

 

The Brihadaranyaka is the biodiverse Upanishad of the living Universe. It is estimated to have been composed about 700 BCE, with some parts coming later. Brihadaranyaka literally means "great wilderness, or forest". It is credited to the ancient sage Yajnavalkya, considered as one of the earliest philosophers in recorded history and credited with the term Advaita (non-duality of Atman and Brahman). By comparison, Gautama Buddha’s birth dates from 563 or 480 BCE. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad portrays Yajnavalkya as having two wives, Maitreyi who challenges Yajnavalkya with philosophical questions as a scholarly partner and Katyayani who is silent. While Yajnavalkya and Katyayani lived in contented domesticity, Maitreyi studied metaphysics and engaged in theological dialogues with her husband, in addition to making her own self-inquiries of introspection.

 

Fig 198: Brihadaranyaka [55] Upanishad literally means the

"Upanishad of the great forests of the wilderness".

 

The first chapter asserts that there was nothing before the universe started, when Prajapati created from this nothing the universe, imbued it with Prana (life force) to preserve it in the form of cosmic inert matter and individual psychic energy. Prajapati (Sanskrit: प्रजापति), is the'lord of creation and protector’, later identified with the creator god Brahma, but also many different gods. In classical and medieval era literature, Prajapati is equated to the metaphysical concept called Brahman as Prajapati-Brahman, or alternatively Brahman is described as one who existed before Prajapati.

 

Cosmological Complementarity

Brihadaranyaka asserts that the world is more than matter and energy – it is constituted also of Atman or Brahman (Self, Consciousness, Invisible Principles and Reality) as well as Knowledge.

 

Mental States approaching the Mind at Large The second chapter propounds the theory of dreams, positing that human beings see dreams because the mind draws, in itself, the powers of sensory organs, which it releases in the waking state. It then asserts that this empirical fact about dreams suggests that human mind has the power to perceive the world as it is, as well as fabricate the world as it wants to perceive it. But mind as a means, is prone to flaws. The struggle humanity faces, is in our attempts to realise the "true reality behind perceived reality". That is Atman-Brahman, inherently and blissfully existent, yet inaccessible because it has no qualities, no characteristics, it is "neti, neti" (literally, "not this, not this”).

 

Love is Cosmic Reunion The fourth bramana of the second chapter notes all love is for the sake of the Self, and the Oneness one realises in the Self of the beloved. Knowledge of the Self, the Brahman is what makes one immortal, the connection immortal. All longing is the longing for the Self, because Self is the true, the immortal, the real and the infinite bliss.

 

Cosmological Symbiosis

The fifth then states that everything is connected, beings affect each other, organic beings affect inorganic nature, inorganic nature affects organic beings, one is the fruit of the other, everyone and everything is mutually inter-dependent, nourishing and nurturing each other, all because it came from one Brahman.

 

Immanent and Transcendent Self  The fourth brahmana of the third chapter asserts, "it is your Self which is inside all", all Selfs are one, immanent and transcendent.  

 

Panpsychic Cosmology  The seventh discusses how and why the Self interconnects and has the oneness through all organic beings, all inorganic nature, all of the universe.

 

Learn three cardinal virtues temperance, charity and compassion for all life.

तदेतत्त्रयँ शिक्षेद् दमं दानं दयामिति — Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, V.ii.3

 

The Self is thus real the universe is not empty  and it is not just matter, but filled with eternal conscious psyche.

 

Neti Neti (Sanskrit : नेति नेति) is a Sanskrit expression which means "not this, not that, or "neither this, nor that" (neti is sandhi from na iti "not so"). With its aid the subject negates identification with all things of this world, which is Anatman (Not-Self). The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad II iii 1-6, states there are two forms of Brahman, the material and the immaterial, the solid and the fluid, the Sat ‘being’ and tya, ‘that’ of Satya – which means true, denies the existence of everything other than Brahman.  The Self is thus real – the universe is not empty  and it is not just matter, but filled with eternal conscious psyche.

 

Some of this philosophical and religious perspective has been driven psycho-pharmaceutically, with the use of cannabis as a visionary agent central in the life of Shiva sadhus as Ganga, the sacred river of Indian spirituality, along with historical evidence for the Soma of the Aryans and ancient ritual uses of cannabis in Israel 700-900 BC (Benet 1975, Arie, Rosen & Namdar 2020), China (500 BC) and among the Scythians (Rudgley 1993), and of ancient opium use in the Near East and Mediterranean.

 

Indra (इन्द्र) is the king of the devas and Svarga (heaven) in Hinduism. He is associated with the sky, lightning, weather, thunder, storms, rains, river flows, and war. Indra's powers are similar to other Indo-European deities such as Norse Odin, Jupiter, Perun, Perkūnas, Zalmoxis, Taranis, Zeus, and Thor, part of the greater Proto-Indo-European mythology.

Indra drank copious soma.

 

In the Vedic tradition, sóma (Devanagari: सोम) is a ritual drink of importance among the early Vedic Indo-Aryans. The Rigveda mentions it, particularly in the Soma Mandala. Gita mentions the drink in chapter 9, the Soma Mandala. It is equivalent to the Iranian haoma. The texts describe the preparation of soma by means of extracting the juice from a plant, the identity of which is now unknown and debated among scholars. Both in the ancient religions of Historical Vedic religion and Zoroastrianism, the name of the drink and the plant are not exactly the same.

 

We have drunk the soma; we have become immortal; we have gone to the light; we have found the gods.

What can hostility do to us now, and what the malice of a mortal, o immortal one?

 

The Zoroastrian Frashokereti likewise notes the sacred drink parahaoma:

 

The righteous will partake of parahaoma, which will confer immortality. Thereafter, humankind will live without food,

without hunger or thirst, and without weapons (or possibility of bodily injury).

 

In this context, one also has to consider the Buddhist tradition. I have during my journeys taken Tibetan Buddhist initiations with both the 16th Karmapa, and with the Ningmapa exorcist Yeshe Dorje, who lived in a kerosine tin shack with a Tibetan wife and several children above McLeod Gang in 1976 and both predicted the rainfall for builders, exorcised mental disabilities and scurried the clouds accompanying the Dalai Lama in Dharmasala. Later he moved to the US, where I took this video of him doing a puja in Santa Fe.  Here is also a video I took of the milk baba of Pashupatinah in Kathmandu. All of these have since passed away. I do not follow any tradition. I reserve my path to be natural first person visionary experience, so that it is not beholden to any existing tradition.

 

I tend to see Buddhism as an outgrowth of the more ancient traditions embracing the principles of  the Upanishads, just as Christianity arose out of Judaism, and appreciate the verdant polytheism spanning all the persona from Krishna to Shiva and Kali, harking back to 2500 BC in Mohenjo Daro. I have deep engagement with Brahman as a manifestation of ultimate reality. I have concerns that Buddhism, notwithstanding the immediacy of satori, is too focussed on mind over physical nature and the feminine as Maya – natural fecund chaos and is thus too focussed on the negative – renunciation and the suppression of the ego, which is good meditative practice, but tends to leave a negative void world view of enlightenment rather that the positive value of existence in the living universe. However Tibetan Buddhism also has roots in Bön shamanism, highlighting its ancient syncretic nature, and is pervaded by Tantra, giving it numinous diversity.

 

Fig 198b: Centre The goddess of the sacred grove, an early Kālī manifestation, (L-R) Shiva as Pashupatinath the lord of the animals, the sacrifice.

Indus Valley 2500 BC (Campbell 1962 166-9). Shakti-Kālī expresses the temporal embodiment of cosmic

ultimate reality in nature that tends to be neglected by mind-sky Eastern mysticism. 

 

Common to the Eastern traditions, the emphasis on mind over nature means that both Buddhism and Hindu traditions, share the notion of reincarnation, as sentient conscious beings, which really began as a conceptual "consolation prize" for moksha being so difficult to achieve in this lifetime, without sacramental entheogens. Because all life is viewed only from the perspective of conscious sentience, this subjugates the natural diversity of living species to a mind only perspective, where rampant vermin killing rare species as preserved. This becomes an affront to the evolution of living diversity as intrinsic natural embodiment. I live in Aotearoa, where native species, such as the iconic kiwi, are excessively vulnerable to feral exotic predators. Buddhists, who do revere the sanctity of life, often find themselves unable to control predators and end up failing to protect living diversity, because they can't conceptualise the difference between a threatened species like the kiwi and an epidemic of rodents, stoats, and possums driving them to extinction. This is where the Bhagavad Gita of living nature has to say the diversity of life, that has taken billions of years to evolve, has to be respected and that the mind-only view of conscious existence is a false cosmology.

 

Karen Armstrong (2022) in “Sacred Nature” notes the emergence of Upanishadic Vedanta from the earlier more animistic pervasiveness of nature resulting in a transition from mythology to cosmology:

 

The rishis attributed their poetic power to the hallucinogenic plant soma, which enabled them to look beneath the surface of things and discover a deva in every single one, so nature was alive, imbued with the divine. They called the faculty they had cultivated dhi (“insight”); it gave them a knowledge (veda) that bore no relation to mundane awareness.  All these divine forces, the rishis concluded, were grounded in a mysterious omnipresent power, which they called Rta, one of the most important concepts in the Vedas, the ancient texts of Hinduism. Rta is best understood as “active, creative truth” or “the way things truly are.” Like qi and the Dao, Rta was not a god but a sacred, impersonal, animating force. It was impossible to describe or define Rta, but it could be experienced as the sublime whole, which flowed from itself expansively, bringing about the cosmos, humans and the gods themselves. The fact that for most of history people in different parts of the world developed such a remarkably similar conception of this sacred reality suggests that it may be an archetypal notion embedded in the human psyche. But after creating and organising the world, the devas did not return to heaven. They took up residence in the natural phenomena they had brought into being and dwelt forever within them. Thus every single bird, animal or flower embodied the divinity that had created it, and everything in the world had a sacred core. Instead of merely shining on things from afar, the devas remained embedded in the mundane, “entering into this world through their hidden nature.”

 

By about the sixth century BCE, however, the Aryans were redefining the ultimate reality; and they called it the Brahman. While Rta had been the eternal principle of being that informed and permeated the universe, the Brahman was the foundation of all reality, the “beingness” on which all things depended. This development was part of a new spirituality called Vedanta (“the end of the Vedas”), which sought to reveal the essential purpose of the ancient rites. Whereas the early rishis had depicted the gods poetically as different aspects of the one divine reality, the Vedantic priests now expressed this insight philosophically. The Brahman was the one and only sacred Atman (“Self”) of the entire universe. It pervaded everything and every person “right up to the tips of the fingernails.” It “lives in each and every being. Uniform, yet multiform, it appears like the [reflection of the single] moon in [the many ripples of] a pond.” The people of India would never lose this insight.

 

She however notes the emergence of ‘naturalness’ in Buddhism happened later:

 

So deeply was humanity’s religious impulse connected with the sacrality of nature that even a religious tradition such as Buddhism—which originally focused on the method of introspection by which humans could be liberated from sorrow—eventually turned to nature. When Mahayana Buddhism arrived in China, it insisted that the Buddhata— the “Buddha-Nature” or the potential to achieve Buddhahood and Enlightenment—was not confined to human beings but inherent in plants, rocks, trees and blades of grass. In the Dacheng qixin lun (“Awakening of Faith”), a sixth-century CE text, we learn that the Buddha- Nature is the essence of the entire cosmos, an “eternal, permanent, immutable, pure, and self-sufficient force that unites all beings, draws them into a coherent whole, and universally illumines the mind of man and enables him to cultivate his capacity for goodness (ren).”  … In Japan, Zen Buddhists believe that a single Buddha-Nature exists in the things of nature and that it is inseparable from the human self. The aim of Zen is to cultivate awareness of its existence, making it a reality within oneself.

 

Buddhist, Upanishadic and Biopsheric Sacramental paths to Illumination

 

To Anand Rangarajan, a follower of Tibetan Buddhism and a UF CISE information scientist, Paul Werbos a Quaker mystic and machine learning pioneer, and Deepak Chopra a well-known author practicing the Eastern Wisdom Tradition. I have found your conversations interesting and thought it could be helpful to add my perspective on the situation. I have a strong affection for Deepak's two positions (1) Everything is alive and (2) Consciousness is primary. However, like Paul, I accept (3) The universe is necessary. In fact I see the primary reality of consciousness and the necessary reality of the universe as complementary aspects of a cosmology which is neither monist nor dualist, but is the very Tantra of existence.

 

Fig 199: Yeshe Dorje.

 

I have experience with Tibetan Buddhism at the hands of Yeshe Dorje and Rangjung Rigpe Dorje the 16th Karmapa, as well as Chogyam Trungpa's writing, travels in Tibet and Japan and experience of the Vedantic tradition from periods wandering India as a sadhu. For me the true Buddhism is what you see watching the devotions of the pilgrims passing through the Jokhang and the little shrines that surround it and in Hinduism, people you meet like Krishna Das Vaishnaba, the Milk Baba of Pashupatinath, the wayside shrines and ochre-stained yoni-lingams being spontaneously prayed to by schoolgirls on their way to class. I hold strongly to the underlying Upanishadic traditions.

 

I first met Yeshe Dorje, the Ningmapa exorcist lama closer to the original Bon shamanic traditions, who cleared the weather for the Dalai Lama and people putting roofs on houses in McLeod Gang and cured mental afflictions in his kerosine tin shack with his wife and seven children. When I took Buddhist vows, he warned me not to take the teachings of the monastic Gelugpas too seriously. He named me Yeshe Tenzin after himself and the Dalai Lama Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso in 1976. Later we met again in Santa Fe in 1992, with an American partner, as I recall. You can find a critique discussion of both Buddhist and Vedic doctrines in the appendix.

 

Fig 200: Ram Krishna Das Vaishnaba the milk baba of Pashupatinath Kathmandu who consumed only milk for 40 years.

 

However my prime numinous and visionary focus for the last 50 years has been sacramental meditation evoked by sacred mushrooms, peyote and ayahuasca, so I want to explain to you how this perspective complements and provides insights into your favoured traditions. Somewhere I have an old Tricycle issue dealing with this from a Buddhist perspective entitled "Just Say Maybe, so this is still a process in progress.

 

When I take mushrooms, I go into retreat and adopt a form of Upanishadic meditation which alternates between mindfulness and mindlessness complete abandonment to the abyss, letting go of everything. This is almost an impossible task in the maelstrom of psychedelics but it is transfiguring and galvanising when it occurs. The Huichol have a name nierika for the cosmic portal peyote provides between ordinary reality and the spirit world, which is illustrated in yarn paintings as a richly illuminated cosmic orifice surrounded by all the illusory visions of tangential approach. There are several points that emerge.

 

The first, most devastating point is that this experience is not achieved in human conscious renunciation, or through lofty spiritual achievement and practice, but in the complete humility of natural psychic symbiosis with the biosphere. So, while I agree that mindfulness is the road to life, the sacramental approach is putting the sap and dew of nature right into the centre of the cyclone of moksha. Mindfulness can be mistaken for focused attention, but sacramental moksha is the revelation of interconnectedness of all conscious life and of all the diversity of life throughout the universe. This is humanity’s founding vision of animism that all religious traditions later captured and misused. So the consequences are that the religious traditions confuse the diversity of life and its utter sacredness in the unfolding of consciousness, with notions like animals as simply sentient beings that are a product of previous moral indiscretions, creating a mind-sky view, in which human spiritual attainment is supreme over nature. Sacramental meditation, by contrast, is a true first-person Tantra with no confounding doctrine. It is expressing the complete complementarity of the Shivaic cosmic mind and the embodiment of Shakti in nature and the universe as an inextricable prisoners' dilemma, evoking reality as we know it to be. No longer is the mind alone but reunited with nature, embedded in the immortality of life, with a primary cosmological responsibility to the diversity of life as a whole.

 

The second point is that all the distinctions you have raised, for example between mindfulness and the void of no-mind, or between gradual enlightenment, rather than the instantaneous flush of satori become meaningless. They are just parts of the overall vision quest. Mindfulness is essential to gather one's focus and equanimity and yes it is pro-life rather than denial, but then one has to relinquish the internal dialogue and the ego-consciousness that accompanies us, to completely give one's self back to the universe, or more aptly the cosmic mind at large, to gain release from the mortal coil. Then we have the satori! This has a lot of implications.  There is no distinction between the Brahman approach and the Zen or Bodhisattva approach. And there’s a warning! The broad sweep of Eastern philosophy is integrally an expression of the meditative practices that support each, coming to pervade Buddhist and Vedantic cosmology. To the extent that these techniques are restricted, the cosmologies become restricted and lose integrity, particularly when applied for coercive moral ends. In this the sacramental approach has a fertilising role to play. So any distinction that the Upanishads are too much about mind are simply a product of contesting disciplines. The reality is much simpler and more direct. I like the Upanishads because their description is a clear direct route to samadhi accepting the atman and Brahman as ultimate reality. Moreover sacramental samadhi adds a completely new dimension to the discourse, because it is bringing another kind of non-ordinary reality to the table, although one that has a lineage of equal antiquity to the Eastern or meditative traditions. This is thus a completion of the human mystical spiritual tradition and not a degenerate, incomplete, or imperfect path.

 

One can think of the entheogenic moksha epiphany occurring in a neutral state of ego dissipation and sensory withdrawal experiencing organismic moksha as the supermind at the interface of atman and Brahman – the mind at large.

 

At the centre of Aurobindo's metaphysical system is the supermind, an intermediary power between the unmanifested Brahman and the manifested world. Aurobindo claims that the supermind is not completely alien to us and can be realized within ourselves as it is always present within mind since the latter is in reality identical with the former and contains it as a potentiality within itself (Wikipedia Aurobindo 1990).

 

This was the central concept of Aurobindo's metaphysical system, which he claimed can be realised within ourselves, as it is always present, since the mind is in reality identical with the supermind and contains it as a potentiality within itself. In The Integral Yoga he declared that "By the supermind is meant the full Truth-Consciousness of the Divine Nature in which there can be no place for the principle of division and ignorance; it is always a full light and knowledge superior to all mental substance or mental movement."

 

The third and final point somewhat distinct from “pure” spiritual experiences is that entheogenic moksha is scintillating with abundance. There is no need to ask questions like “is this or that a construct”, or to try to deconstruct maya through realising all aspects of consciousness including the self are constructs and hence illusory. And it is not just a formless black void of nothing that is somehow construed to be the source of everything, but the light of illumination streaming out of the epiphany of being. Yes it is all in a sense an illusion but it is non-ordinary reality teaching us and it's test is not philosophical but the infinite compassion of the eternal mind at large for the mortal biological being experiencing moksha, so it has an immediate truth to it that is transformative of the mortal condition and the associated sensoria are veridical perception in numinous action. One doesn't have to be on the other side of the nierika for long, or often, to be transformed by it for the good and to use its teaching in formative and informative ways. Symbiotic Existential Cosmology is an example of this. Also one doesn't have to do 100,000 prostrations or daily pujas, so one can get on with the good work of redeeming the material world and the social world with love,  compassion and scientific insight.

 

Symbiotic Existential Cosmology is an empirical quantum cosmology complemented by the mind at large, and so has deep commonalities and yet fundamental differences from the mind primcy of the Eastern tradition. Aurobindo in his idea of soul evolution had a very similar view to the view of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology, in which the universe is capable of moving toward a point of consummating consciousness among its biota in our integration with biodiversity and exploring the abyss of conscious existence through meditation and entheogenic experience. Both visions share a sense of the cosmic mind coming alive through the participation of the conscious sentient beings within the universe.

 

Aurobindo notes the way in which the heights of the Eastern mystical experience have also, in a sense, left the spiritual corpus behind:

 

The refusal of life of the ascetics who concentrated on the transcendent divine beyond form; the revolt against gross matter, as the later, medieval, scholars would call it, which dominated Indian spirituality for quite some time—but was not emphasized in the ancient texts—has its place in the evolution of consciousness. Due to this, the psychology of heightening oneself has been worked out in great detail in the Indian tradition. Yet it is important to acknowledge that this is a realization at the summit of the consciousness while the outer nature remains untouched. Or, to say it in the terminology of Indian psychology, in order to realize the Purusha, Prakriti is left behind and uncared for. It is now time for a reconciliation of matter and spirit.

 

Aurobindo places the evolution of consciousness as occurring before the big bang and subsuming physical reality. Symbiotic Existential Cosmology remains open minded about this question.

 

In Aurobindo's view, this is followed by a process where pure consciousness involutes and conceals itself more and more by creating planes of consciousness of increased density, in order to create the density needed for physical manifestation, but the Will of the ultimate consciousness behind this evolutionary process is a gradual unveiling till it reaches a full manifestation of divine life in matter in the process of biological evolution.

 

what evolutionary Nature presses for, is an awakening to the knowledge of self, the discovery of self, the manifestation of the self and spirit within us and the release of its self-knowledge, its self-power, its native self-instrumentation. It is, besides, a step for which the whole of evolution has been a preparationIt is only upon earth that the psychic life begins, and it is just the process by which the Divine has awakened material life to the necessity of rejoining its divine origin. Without the psychic, Matter would never have awakened from its inconscience, it would never have aspired for the life of its origin, the spiritual life.

 

Symbiotic Existential Cosmology sees consciousness as complementary to the physical universe and thus doesn't invoke a functionally mentalistic process of involution of consciousness to explain matter, as they are asymmetrically symmetry-broken complements, each reflecting the other. It thus differs from soul evolution in that it is not just a return to soul, as if nature is just a supporting vessel. It invokes consciousness and the physical universe as a complementary Tao, or more specifically a fully Kaula Tantra rite of Yamala. Symbiotic Existential Cosmology avoids the problem of consciousness making the physical universe because it conceives of cosmic conscious as a state we approach asymptotically through opening the doors of perception, while primal subjectivity, like the universe, is vestigial at the cosmic origin, thus we don't have to try to explain the physical universe as derived from involutions of consciousness, which we know to be a primarily organismic climax in biological evolution.

 

 
Fig 201: Cosmos as coitus: (Left) The Cakrasaṃvara Tantra in consort with Vajravārāhī, (Right): Vajravārāhī dominant.

 

The universe is a sexual union between cosmic consciousness represented in Shiva, and Kali, as cosmological fecundity of the physical, manifest in time and evolution. In doing so it sets nature on the same level of sacredness as cosmic consciousness, not merely below or a precursor to it. There is not a higher spiritual realm, but a fully integrated phenomenon of emergent Paradise on the cosmic equator containing enlightened incarnate beings, not just disembodied spirits.

 

There is a caveat about pure conscious dominion over reality. As the conscious aspect becomes disengaged from its own incarnate embodiment in the biota, so it loses its sense of integration with life as a whole and its capacity to survive long term enough to reach climax. This changed perspective, elevating nature to the fully sacred, is a direct product of the entheogenic experience of integrated consciousness shared within the natural fabric by the interspecies relationship with the sacraments. Ignorant people will use mushrooms just for "kicks", but they contain this deep well of the conscious abyss which evokes a shamanistic rather than just higher and higher spiritually elite conscious realms.

 

Likewise the cosmology derives the key aspects of its comprehensive view by being true to the empirical science of observation of nature and uses this careful verified scientific empirical method to elucidate the whole view of the sacredness of nature, from the fractally emergent interactive mandala of the standard model evoking atoms molecules organelles and tissues, through subjective conscious intent implying panpsychism and animism to symbiosis being the key principle of the climax evolving biosphere. By being fully grounded in nature the intuitive presumptions of pure consciousness are found to be incomplete in just the same way the physically materialistic description of science is incomplete about mind and consciousness.

 

Spiritual paths, from Gnosticism to Tibetan Buddhism, tend to create very ornate spiritual realities, from the pleroma to realms of the Titans to Hungry Ghosts and even more ornate visualisations of spirit entities and the eventual downfall of the entire cosmological edifice, that become their own phantasmic cosmologies unbound to the sap and dew of life itself. See my later comments on Shiva-Shakti fertility and a critique of Nāgārjuna's philosophy of emptiness, denying inherent existence. 

 

The absolutely key issue is that humanity, whether by business as usual, or religious spiritual elitism, has so far failed the acid test of symbiotic respect for the biosphere that ensures the very evolution that Aurobindo is seeking to realise. This can happen only if the conscious biota retain integration with life as a whole over the full evolutionary times scale of Paradise on the cosmic equator.

 

Furthermore, Paradise is the whole shebang, incarnate, enlightened, consciously eternal and biologically immortal as one is to one, in our living diversity in wholeness, abundance and resplendence. That is the complete story of the fulfilment of the totality the conscious universe is here to become. So the picture is subtly different form the pure wisdom tradition.

 

Vinod Sehgal:  Do you think that Siddhi of materialization and other Siddhis as mentioned by Patanjali in Yog Darshan Sutras depend upon the scientific certification by scientists in their labs? Do you think that, by the provocation by scientists or any other persons, any Yogis shall come to the labs of scientists for examination of their Siddhis for their scientists and fulfill the doubts of skeptics? If you think so, you are highly mistaken and lack a total understanding in reading and knowing the mindset of such Yogis as possessing genuine Siddhis. Sage Patanjali has specifically forbidden in Yoga Sutras to not demonstrate any Siddhi, whether for scientific or non scientific purpose. There are high chances that any yogi who starts demonstrating Siddhis can loose all their Saadhnaa or spiritual development. There are high chances that any person playing with the fire of Siddhis may burn his own hands and fingers.

 

Chris King: I am on a vision quest. It is older than, and just as powerful as the Vedic tradition of the Upanishads, because it is unfettered by any limiting doctrine such as renunciation. I dont submit myself to scientific tests of my abilities or proofs of non-ordinary experiences, but neither do I make unverified claims to trivial siddhis such as materialisation. Rather than expressing beliefs, I work cleanly as a biocosmologist in both the scientific and visionary paradigms without conflict.

 

You are professing beliefs in the guise of established facts and providing no evidence of any kind scientific, or first person experiential affect . The fact that you have to refer back to Patanjali two thousand years ago (Purohit 1937) shows how doctrinal and non-existent the living evidence for actual siddhis or enlightenment has become.

 

In the Western tradition, Monotheism has been rightly accused of distorting the nature of nature to invoke a clockwork-like creation, in which humanity reigns supreme over nature, but is supplicant to God, in an eschatology that ends in the destruction of nature and supposedly divine eternal “moral” judgment. It took Copernicus to upset the flat Earth Monotheistic view of creation. In the scientific era this has involved denying evolution and the capacity of nature to evolve new life forms such as ourselves. Vedanta also tends to a similar heresy by regarding all organisms as purely sentient beings in a round of reincarnation used as an excuse for the difficulty of achieving enlightenment. This affirmative religious view is in frank collision with empirical science and is unacceptable in terms of the pursuit of truth.

 

The Upanishadic view has, in world cultural history, shown great hope of a more enlightened, informative approach, where the individual is encouraged to seek the Brahman that is the form of cosmic consciousness that transcends the individual atman. However it is an abuse of the Vedic tradition to use the same religious stratagems as Monotheism to claim siddhis like materialisation, which is claimed to be material, without either objective physical evidence, or even first person accounts that accumulate to any form of reliability. Your claims that it would be foolish for a yogi to demonstrate the natural truth of their claimed powers is a spoiler on any pretence of verifiability either subjective or objective. As long as this pretence goes on, the Upanishadic path remains a diminished religious belief having little or no natural significance unless and until the situation changes.

 

Again I would point out that while I do have and have had, siddhi-like prophetic experiences, none of them are worth a can of salted fish, unless I can help humanity come to terms of protecting the diversity of life on this planet, so it and the human species can continue to survive and discover ourselves in cosmological time.

 

The Upanishads were written around 700 BC and nothing has really changed since apart from the Shakti-Shiva notion of complementarity at the cosmic origin which is confluent with Symbiotic Existential Cosmology  This is a real life condemnation of the Upanishads perhaps the most promising vision quest tradition to have ever emerged in human history.

 

The key to science as the pursuit of the truth in the discovery of nature is the sceptical principle, that the onus is on the claimant of a theory or observation and not the respondent and it works for both objective empirical observation in science and by affirmed empirical subjective experience as complementary tests. In physical and biological science, it is based on a very low probability of a chance effect. The same is true in criminal law beyond reasonable doubt and in civil law under the balance of the probabilities. To reverse this sceptical principle and place the onus on the respondent is the affirmative/imperative route to religious doctrine and despotism, rather than the pursuit of truth.

 

The vision quest is a first person discovery journey into the deepest abyss of the conscious experience. It doesn't have to be performed in a laboratory using statistical methods. The subjective route is for people to make the journey into the abyss for themselves and return with grail insights to share with others setting out for themselves on this great journey. When psychonauts have similar or complementary experiences, these affirm the nature of non-ordinary reality by mutual first person agreement, setting up the process for all sentient beings to discover the core nature of the living conscious universe.

 

There is absolutely no possibility of getting anywhere on this journey while Vedantists continue to use only religious belief in Patanjali or Sai Baba or Maharishi as a basis for superficial levels of meditation and don't bring back in the fist person serious journeys into the unknown which reflower and refresh the tradition and above all result in the unfolding of life immortal, in symbiosis with the biosphere.

 

Ram Vimal: Yogananda’s and Kriyananda’s methods of materialization are not easy and I am not sure they will materialize thought. However, you are most welcome to try them, and let us know if you are successful!

 

Here is a first technique of Yogananda you may practice, using a room or an apple as an object for your visualization:

 

I can keep looking at this room and concentrating upon it until, when I close my eyes, I can still see the room exactly as it is. This is the first step in deep concentration, but most people havent the patience to practice it. I had the patience. As you continue to practice visualization you will find that your thoughts become materialized. The cosmic law will so arrange it that whatsoever you are thinking of will be produced in actuality, if you command it to be so. Suppose I am thinking of an apple, and the apple appears in my hand. That would be a demonstration of the highest power of concentration.

 

In order to realize that all the happenings of this world are dream experiences, we should learn how to visualize our thoughts-how to recharge them with the energy of concentration until they become visible manifestations. Proper visualization by the exercise of concentration and will power enables us to materialize thoughts, not only as dreams or visions in the mental realm, but also as experiences in the material realm. From the causal thought-forms, the astral bodys five instruments of life force [the 5 pranas] make visible the astral body of light and the physical body of gross matter. Dreams and visions are astral in essence, being composed of light and energy. As you continue to practice visualization you will find that your thoughts become materialized. The cosmic law will so arrange it that whatsoever you are thinking of will be produced in actuality, if you command it to be so.

 

Chris King: I like Yogananda’s (1950) autobiography, but his technique is claiming real world experience is just a form of dreaming reality, and with a supreme degree of focussed attention, we can make this physical reality. I dont accept this. It has profound consequences and arises from the notion that conscious experience makes matter.

 

Dreaming experience can conflate absolutely anything. I can have 360o vision, like Yogananda claimed, and see whole urban vistas and fly through landscapes. Frogs can turn into fish and cars we don't own can become crammed full of our possessions while we cant anywhere find the keys to drive them home. I can find myself in a huge withes mouth or become stranded in a dream world and search the sky trying to find my way back to Earth. Only in waking experiences do monkeys give birth to monkeys and sharks to sharks and that is what makes conscious life possible in the evolving natural universe. So conflating dreaming and waking reality collapses biology into the dreamtime and cosmology into allegory.

 

This is an error of Vedanta and it comes from the mistaken view that all life forms are just subjective sentient beings trapped in reincarnation. Thats not how cosmology works and its not how subjective conscious volition complements physical reality either. Thats precisely why SEC says consciousness is primary, but the universe is necessary!

 

Ram: If you want to use visualization not to materialize an object, but to make a project happen, or to obtain money, the technique and procedure is a different. You visualise not so much the details (of the apple, of the room, etc.), but you concentrate on the general result.

 

Chris: This quest is irresponsible and leads to karmic finesse. Why put so much effort into focussing one's thoughts on such menial quests, ignoring, the real existential crises of the future of life and its meaning, that do realise enlightenment? If we are focussing on not the money but the object of our quest e.g. an easier ride home, a plethora of future circumstances may be claimed to validate it.

 

BVK Sastry: Can you tell me your engagements and experiences with Yoga-Traditions of India Patanjali or  Tantra or others or the current teachingspracticespublic perception as seen are a terrible mix up

 

Chris King: I meditate by using two complementary processes: (1) Eyes open mindfulness concentrating to abandon all thoughts. (2) Annihilation with eyes closed or half open, breathing and glancing out of the corner of my eye to completely let go.

 

I generally do this only when tripping, to enter into the deep entheogenic state. That might be only very occasionally, say once a year, so I am in a kind of incipient meditative state the rest of the time, including periods of quiet abandonment and my psyche is kind of divided between a chaotic aspect listening to the winds blowing past the window and witnessing the everyday world of thought and planning.

I generally do this only when tripping, to enter into the deep entheogenic state. That might be only very occasionally, say once a year, so I am in a kind of incipient meditative state the rest of the time, including periods of quiet abandonment and my psyche is kind of divided between a chaotic “right brain” aspect listening to the winds blowing past the window connected to my left hand and witnessing the “left brain” everyday world of thought and planning, noting that I am left-handed!

 

Fig 202: Left-handed – right-brained consciousness.

 

Like a Shiva sadhu, I eat cannabis butter daily and swoon out into the mild trance this evokes and watch my dreams as much as possible, but I use psilocybe mushrooms as my entheogenic sacrament. They are my shamanistic ally and bring on my Brahmanic apotheosis, which is a kind of altered state where I meet my cosmic self and regain conscious integration with what you might call the spirit worldfor want of a better term, meeting the Totality in a kind of near death experience, where I could go to the other side (death) but return to ongoing life because Im not having a heart attack or a car accident and that is the covenant to complete the long journey of life. In this state I become intuitively conscious of a background experience which is like a telepathic awareness of all living beings throughout space-time as disincarnate entities in communion, but I don't try to take any of these experiences literally or believe in them religiously.

 

When Im tripping I am trying to simply do deep annihilation meditation to try to descend into the disembodied state that is visionary reality. I generally slide out of my ordinary consciousness into a kind of abstract synesthesic world of resonating sounds and abstract visions which can rapidly turn into visionary states the Huichol shamans describe as passing through the nierika portal to the spirit world of the ancestors. There is a way of listening to the whisperings of the sounds and patterns which causes one to go to the other side.

 

The experience of the journey there and back when it happens full on is sufficiently transformative to constitute a lifetime mystical experience which I can go for months of ordinary consciousness knowing that even when I am not experiencing it in this way, it is nevertheless the ground of my conscious being. I don't have to rate it as transcendent but it is and it is falling outside my incarnation into the reality at large that is the conscious awareness of all sentient beings.

 

I have been tripping all my life on a regular but occasional basis as my ally, advisor and informant complementing my scientific view of natural reality. Lots of times, realisation only happens partially but it is still formative on my being and brings me back to the source of all conscious existence.

 

Christianity is an avowedly sacramental religion but the Eucharist is cannibalistic soma and sangre, eating and drinking Christs flesh and blood, so its a dead sacrament waiting for biospheric fruition. The idea of a visionary sacrament is an anathema to Christians who are plagued by heresies, from the gnostics claiming Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers, to the European witches taking deadly nightshade, which explains why psychedelics have been regarded as diabolical heresies to the consumer capitalist status quo in the 20th century.

 

Vedanta is also historically and actually sacramental, from the Soma of the Aryans to the Ganga of the Sadhus, likewise waiting for the sacraments of the Americas that the Eastern tradition missed out on ecologically, although Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms have been associated with Brahman cattle in South East Asia.

 

Sacramental shamanism is older than any religion and I am of the opinion that evolution arrived at our sappy chemical brains and in parallel evolved psychoactive species out of a common cosmological process that gave rise to consciousness in single-celled eucaryotes, so that the confined world view of a dominant species like humanity that can get lost in egotistical grasping can reintegrate with cosmological conscious reality and live throughout our generations in symbiotic unity with the diversity of life in our biosphere..

 

So I have it in mind to fulfil the Western sacramental tradition of “Soma and Sangre” through rebirthing the biospheric sacraments, and to fulfil the Vedantic tradition through the Tantric marriage of the path of meditative renunciation as Shiva with the sappy life-engaging flow of the sacraments as Shakti, which is already incipient in the sadhus' use of cannabis as a meditative ally.

 

Ram Vimal: As I mentioned, SaS (self-as-subject) is not eternal because it eventually returns back to it source (dual-aspect substrate at unmanifested state) after many reincarnations/rebirths as per the principle of karma.

 

Chris: Both Vedanta and Buddhism postulate reincarnation of pure sentient conscious beings. But physical biology has all conscious organisms breeding true with only small mutational changes. You can't postulate reincarnation that allows a bad man to become a crocodile. How does he think? Will he ever regret his actions? Have you ever seen a regretful crocodile? That's the irony of crocodile tears speaking! What kind of mentality is it to be reincarnated as a flea?? If you then say humans reincarnate as humans do fleas do so as fleas? Why? What sense does this make of biology and cosmology? Why would the universe evolve to this end? You need to admit that reincarnation was invented because Samadhi never comes in the average lifetime. It’s a toxic consolation prize to the diversity of life!

 

John Kineman: It is interesting to see these strong assertions, Chris, when so much else that you write I agree with.

 

Chris: I think you are trying to make a mistaken defence of the Vedic tradition when your incarnate duty is to the immortal survival of life. I am here to protect your descendants and the diversity of life period.

 

John: Let’s take the idea of attributing moral meaning to reincarnation and the idea that there is “no cosmic morality”. This means that moral meanings are human inventions, aside from our otherwise naturalistic essence. But how do we invent something aside from our use of natural means, if that is what is claimed we are?? The logic creates an inverted pyramid resting on a non-existing point. It builds and builds in its denial of natural essence. In contrast, adopting the view that the foundation is a complex unity of material and spiritual (meaning “of spirit” vs matter) essence, we can see how forms of morality can emerge from that relation at many levels and in many forms.

 

Chris: This is a figurative argument but is in conflict with reality. There is no inverted pyramid. Moral meanings are NOT human inventions, they are emergent properties of intelligent animal sociobiology, exploited by religious systems to ensure cultural dominance. Richard Alexander (1987) wrote the Biology of Moral Systems contemplating human nuclear mutually assured destruction.  He is right.

 

This began on a tribal basis with totem deities and has continued ever since. Indra for example is a typical thunder god of war that is a second generation tribal deity. He is associated with the sky, lightning, weather, thunder, storms, rains, river flows, and war. Indra's myths and powers are similar to other Indo-European deities such as Jupiter, Perun, Perkūnas, Zalmoxis, Taranis, Zeus, and Thor, part of the greater Proto-Indo-European mythology.  My Indian name is Yogindra Baba named by the Santana hotel in Puri in 1976, the site of the Jaggernath juggernaut which devotees threw themselves under the wheels of. We could likewise explore the veracity of these beliefs.

 

I know we agree on many points and you know that my inspiration comes partly from the Upanishads, but reincarnation has no more validity than the day of judgment. This isn’t just about science vs religion, but the pursuit of true knowledge. I am here to defend the diversity of life sine qua non as a prima facie vision quest. We have to learn to be honest with ourselves if we want to survive as a species.

 

John: Why do you think moral beliefs are not natural and relative to the systems they pertain to? And why, if they are, would they not have a natural foundation?

 

Chris: Of course they do have a natural foundation, but they also have a relevant context and that is in encouraging intra-social cooperation and individual sacrifice to achieve inter-group domination and hence collective survival of the group against other similar and competing groups. Morality is NOT cosmologically ordained in the way Monotheistic and Vedic scriptures claim and we really need to respect that it is a limited concept based on competition. If we are going to ensure human survival in the closing circle of the biosphere, morality is inadequate, because it basically applies only to individual sacrifice and altruistic punishment to achieve group dominance. That won't save the biosphere or humanity because it is inadequate to get people to face the sanctity of life and is already being misused to promote religious and cultural dominance.

 

If I would coin a Buddhist analogy, the suffering of the ego is not about morality but about mortality, and it is not about reincarnation or moral karma. It is mortality itself that teaches us that the only thing that matters is the survival of our generations in a surviving biosphere for the simple reason that for mortal biological beings, we can't take it with us when we go. The only meaning in life is to give back to reflower abundance and accept the vagaries of fate.

 

John: Well, I’m very familiar with that view but learned that there is a stronger case for cooperation than competition in ecology and evolution. Competition turns out to be more epiphenomenon than cause. It can't exist unless cooperation is at the foundation. Lions aren't trying to compete with anything, or to survive, they're just trying to eat and cooperating with nature is the best way to do that.

 

Chris: That’s why existential cosmology is symbiotic!

 

Alex Hankey: If God is the Origin of Creation, and Dharma, Natural  Law, is all about Growth of Consciousness, then morality has a Primary Place in the Meaning of Things.

 

Chris: We can't predicate life and existence on God or the concept of divine creation. We have to deal with things as they are with no assumptions because it all comes down to us. What we have within us will save us if we bring it forth from ourselves. Life itself is the source and is the source of the growth of consciousness. Dharma and Natural Law are classical concepts in a non-classical universe. The true dharma is life immortal. Compassion transcends morality.

 

John: Sorry, that reads like the handbook for insanity. Im sure you mean 'for the purposes of science', but even so we can't lose site of origins.

 

Chris: It’s not about science John. It’s not about a description of reality. It’s simply dealing directly with existential reality. We are the sentient witness to the existence of the cosmos. We simply have to take responsibility for the fate of life in the universe. We can't reliably depend on the assumption of deity and creation by deity.

 

Chis said: Karma is not a moral law but the integration of entropy, quantum uncertainty and synchronicity if you will.

 

John: This is replacing fundamental existence with description; like going to a fine restaurant and eating the menu.

 

Chris: On the contrary it is going far far beyond morality. The mystical condition IS cosmological. The secrets of the totality are in the way nature manifests, not in cultural doctrines of dharma. I can't help but describe the undescribable to you in a simple transparent way. Sure it may sound to you like a description but its purpose is manifest. Spiritual reality is the universe becoming. It’s not a moral invention or creation. How else do you expect me to explain it to you? We know the way that can be told is merely a description.

 

Karma contains the siddhis and is our ultimate teacher. Life is rough justice, fulfilment is a luxury and there are no guarantees of a good outcome, but together we can produce overflowing abundance and express true love, sexual and spiritual, because the spiritual arises from the wonder of sexual procreation and the passage of the generations forever as long as Paradise last on the cosmic equator in space-time. This is a radically different weltanshauung. It really is the remedy, but that’s a hard saying!

 

Entheogens are intrinsic to the Yoga tradition:

 

Patanjali notes: The Siddhis are born of birth, drugs, mantras, penance or Samadhi. (IV-1) Powers are either revealed at birth, or acquired by medicinal herbs, or by repetition of sacred words, or through austerity, or through illumination. All know the healing qualities of herbs; only a few know that some of them have the qualities of awakening spiritual powers.

 

Ram: Can you please try performing the experiment I mentioned whenever you have dissociative OBE?

 

Chris: Patanjali's Aphorisms on Yoga, in my own Purohit Swami edition (1938) says of siddhis: These powers are obstacles to illumination. They have their value so far as this world is concerned but they obstruct the progress of the soul so far as its liberation is concerned. The power they give is an encumbrance, unless it is brought under control.

 

I am not prepared to exert control or distort the flow of karma from that which is freely manifest to my consciousness as the circumstances emerge. Demonstrating siddhis is a curse upon them. It is attempting to manipulate powers that arise adventitiously without warning and may not repeat and it is interfering in the natural process of unfolding reality. I have suffered plenty of karmic predicaments threatening my very survival to know and respect the risks.

 

Siddhi arise from karma. Karma is not simply a moral force, but much deeper, entwined in the quantum uncertainties of fate. It is not a moral law but the very foundation of conscious idiosyncrasy, in prescience, synchronicity and misfortune. We have no explanation for why one person escapes a disastrous fate and another gets a terminal illness when the one escaping may be a bad person and the one expiring may be a very good one.  It doesn't just come down to morality and we have no control over it except through our prescience and careful attention to the flow of life, as well as intelligently avoiding risks. You simply can’t afford to manipulate it for superficial effects, or other outcomes may result which are very harmful to you or others.

 

I have to try to balance three things, (1) astute ego to protect me and take on the world at large, (2) complete annihilation to merge with karma with no predilection, and (3) mortal compassion to protect all life because that is my covenant with Brahman-Ishvara – Om Nama Shivai.

 

John: Well said that "Spiritual reality is the universe becoming”.  This is were we find common ground. Maybe the corollary is that scientific reality is what became? Let me clarify that Im not really disagreeing, I’m pointing out that the sciences are forced into such epistemology, but we as experiential beings do not have to be and in fact cannot afford to be on a human level. So both views have to be understood.

 

Chris: Let me say back to you – thank you John! How to express this and turn it into a world reflowering in one day standing on one leg is a real challenge. What I am trying to do is go out to battle for life in the style of the Gita  I am singing the Song of God, between between Arjuna and Krishna. My chariot is the weltanshauung of immortality throughout our generations. The battle is worthy and just, even though treasured icons may pass away!

 

John: This raises a very fundamental question about epistemology and the foundations of science and belief. In the sciences, which have been my profession, we adhere to the idea that propositions must be tested against data, or at least inferred from theories that have been well-tested on other data.  In spiritual pursuits and religious practices one is attempting to overlook smoke-screens presented by the senses to see and experience a deeper reality through direct participation.  As science developed to its present state we came to realize that the observational reality cannot be complete.

 

This is not a direct answer – I don’t want to agree or disagree, but to point out that there are and it seems always will be things we don’t know about reality, and that may be the most important thing we can know about it. It is greater than us. That realization does not preclude “taking responsibility” - it requires it.

 

Chris: The entire purpose of conscious existence is to unfold the existential universe, so yes it is a journey into the unknown, but not the unknowable, so I see this statement as coming too close to the doctrine of human fallibility. So let’s look at the evidence you have presented.

 

John: Incompleteness proofs that say no description of reality can ever be fully accurate or fully meaningful.

 

Chris: Godel’s theorem is dealing only with axiomatic and model system descriptions. We know Laotsu said: “The way that can be told is not the countless way”.  But he didn’t say “The way that can be experienced is not the countless way.”

 

Godel’s first incompleteness theorem states that no consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by an effective procedure (i.e., an algorithm) is capable of proving all truths about the arithmetic of natural numbers. For any such consistent formal system, there will always be statements about natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system. [An example is whether there is a cardinal number between the rationals and the reals]. The second incompleteness theorem, an extension of the first, shows that the system cannot demonstrate its own consistency.

 

John: This to me indicates that the way forward from here is to work out the relation between these two ways of knowing reality. As we have seen even the idea of direct participatory knowing, personal experience, may have problems reaching ultimate reality.

 

Chris: The vision quest IS the countless way of direct experience and is not inconsistent or incomplete except that it is complemented by science.

 

John: It is claimed to be reachable but apparently [only] in very special cases (Moksha, Samadhi, ascension, etc.).

 

Chris: The special cases “prove” the rule.

 

John: Similarly in science there is the “epistemic cut”.

 

Howard Pattee has claimed that an epistemic cut separates the world from observers and therefore from organisms. The epistemic cut imputes a linguistic mode of operation to living systems. In Pattee’s words: Evolution requires the genotype-phenotype distinction, a primeval epistemic cut that separates energy-degenerate, rate-independent genetic symbols from the rate-dependent dynamics of construction that they control.

Chris: Howard Pattee is an engineer making symbolic claims about genetic systems. I see these claims as reducing how DNA molecules work as quantum systems to symbolism and they are inaccurate about regulatory non-coding DNA which is responsible for higher organism phenotypic evolution, so his distinction between genotype and phenotype is fallacious. I don't accept the epistemic cut any more than epistemic humility.

 

In the philosophy of science, epistemic humility refers to a posture of scientific observation rooted in the recognition that (a) knowledge of the world is always interpreted, structured, and filtered by the observer, and that, as such, (b) scientific pronouncements must be built on the recognition of observation's inability to grasp the world in itself.

 

But we need to do more than grasp it. We need above all to protect the world in itself, so the only epistemic humility I am prepared to accept is biospheric symbiosis, in humility to the diversity of life unfolding. This is not a scientific description, or proposition, but a dire necessity and central to the meaning of the vision quest.

 

What you are saying is that descriptions of reality are not reality. This is true and it is the reason why I apply the manifestation test to experiential empiricism. That is, experiential empiricism needs to be a manifest account of a conscious experience, not a description of a model of reality, which is an abstract objective outline of the concept of the experience. Most SBoC discussions are model theoretic or traditional Vedic.

 

Furthermore I see accepting full personal responsibility as a critical step for humanity to take if we are ever going to survive our own self-appointed maladaptions to nature. Fallibility is a pathetic fallacy of an excuse. There is one kind of responsibility when we recognise that the buck stops with us and all the descriptions we make, from deity to mechanism are just ways of abnegating full personal responsibility, that we cannot as mere humans address the central existential questions. But there are no other manifest experiencers in the universe outside life’s diversity.

 

John: But I think we can say that a “description of reality” must intrinsically be incomplete. Descriptions are by their design different from what they describe. Only when description itself is incorporated into the concept of reality can a description encompass all that exists, but in that case it creates an infinite regress, like a video camera pointed at the screen displaying the same camera’s view.

 

Chris: The description is incomplete, just like eating the menu you described. But the vision quest is not an infinite regress any more than the scent of a rose.

 

The only resource we can dependably rely on, even on a temporary basis is our direct experience. Outside that, it is all presumption and we can't afford limiting a priori assumptions like God is greater, or mechanism has it all sewn up so we cannot know ourselves or the world at large.

 

John: There are and it seems always will be things we don’t know about reality, and that may be the most important thing we can know about it. It is greater than us.

 

Chris: Is it greater? Or are we the essential ingredient at the very centre of the cyclone –  the key factor in whether meaning in the universe will survive?

 

The anthropocene has ended our gatherer-hunter childhood and the religious adolescence of our species. We are now at a make or break point for Fermi self-extinction and have to become mature adults and take full responsibility for our actions.  We have to take extreme care and show our true compassion, but not limit ourselves by claiming fallibility at the outset.

 

John: All excellent points. I’m prepared to accept that the goal can be reached by responsible experiential means. The only block that relational theory is that there is no syntactic path to the subjective or the whole. So it supports your thesis. By remarks about infinite regress refer to a theoretical vs participatory approach. I can't comment on the possibility of complete transcendence through personal performance. My gut says that is also a path of endless learning, but how would I know? It’s not analyzable like science is.

 

  

An Anthropology of the Soul or Spirit

 

In these examples, you will find a great diversity of views on one or many souls humans conceive and their immortality or otherwise. These differ entirely from the materialist scientific description of nature, in which human consciousness is a manifestation of  brain function, which ceases to exist on the death of the organism.

 

Many traditions, from Ancient Egypt, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity to Austronesian peoples, identify soul with breath. The identification with breath is organismic, because the breath is both voluntary and autonomic, indicating the interface between subjective conscious volition and natural biology.

 

As we have noted, animism the idea of souls and other spiritual beings pervading life and will in nature is a founding human belief in all natural features entities and phenomena having spirits or souls, that form the vital principle of life and that the normal phenomena of and the abnormal phenomena of disease could be traced to spiritual causes. Thus every human has, in addition to his body, a 'ghost-soul', an insubstantial human image, the cause of life or thought in the individual it animates, capable of leaving the body far behind’ and continuing to exist and appear to men after the death of that body. Animism differs from pantheism in that animism puts more emphasis on the uniqueness of each individual soul. In pantheism, everything shares the same spiritual essence, rather than having distinct spirits or souls. It also shows the source notion from which religious ideas of the eternal soul later evolved.

 

Anciently among the San bushmen we hear: ≠Gao!na, tallest of the Bushmen, was in his earthly existence a great magician and trickster with supernatural powers, capable of assuming the form of an animal, a stone or anything else he wished, and who changed people into animals and brought the dead back to life. But as the Great God who lives beside a huge tree in the eastern sky, he is the source and custodian of all things. Thus their hunting and gathering way of life was ordained from the very beginning and ≠Gao!na ordained that when they died they should become spirits, //Gerais, who would live in the sky with him and serve him.

 

By contrast, in Amazonian Shipibo cosmology, every tree and plant has its indwelling spirit, which forms the principle of its life and growth. When a tree is felled, this is regarded as an offence against its spirit. Every tree has what the Indians call its “mother” (and which he equates with “soul”). Human progeny come from the watery depths and flow upward like the souls of the dead, which rise up the World Tree through its roots, which penetrate the underworld. Several Inuit groups believe that a person has more than one type of soul. One is associated with respiration, the other can accompany the body as a shadow.

 

In Shamanism, soul dualism ("multiple souls" or "dualistic pluralism") is a common belief and is essential in the universal and central concept of "soul flight" ("soul journey", "out-of-body experience", "ecstasy", or "astral projection"). In some cases, there are a plethora of soul types with different functions, such as nature spirits of trees and rivers. It is the belief that humans have two or more souls, generally termed the "body soul" (or "life soul") and the "free soul". The former is linked to bodily functions and awareness when awake, while the latter sometimes called the Nagual , as opposed to the Tonal of the day, can freely wander during sleep or trance states.

 

Soul dualism and multiple souls are prominent in the traditional animistic beliefs of the Austronesian peoples, the Chinese people (hún and pò),the Tibetan people, most African peoples, most Native North Americans, ancient South Asian peoples, Northern Eurasian peoples, and in Ancient Egyptians (the ka and ba).

 

The Proto-Austronesian word for the "body soul" is *nawa ("breath", "life", or "vital spirit"). It is located somewhere in the in the liver or heart. The "free soul" is located in the head *qaNiCu ("ghost", "spirit [of the dead]"), which also apply to other non-human nature spirits. The "free soul" is also referred to in names that literally mean "twin" or "double". A virtuous person is said to be one whose souls are in harmony with each other, while an evil person is one whose souls are in conflict. The "free soul" is said to leave the body and journey to the spirit world during sleep, trance-like states, delirium, insanity, and death. Illnesses are regarded as a "soul loss". To heal the sick, one must "return" the "free soul" (which may have been stolen by an evil spirit or got lost in the spirit world) into the body.

 

Looking to major human cultures, notions of the soul or spirit, are also varied.

 

The ancient Egyptian ka (breath) was a "soul" that survived death but remained near the body, while the spiritual ba proceeded to the region of the dead.

 

The Chinese distinguished between a lower, sensitive soul, which disappears with death, and a rational principle, the hun, which survives the grave and is the object of ancestor worship. According to Chinese traditions, every person has two types of soul called hun and po ( and ), which are respectively yang and yin.

 

Taoism believes in ten souls, sanhunqipo (三魂七魄) "three hun and seven po". A living being that loses any of them is said to have mental illness or unconsciousness, while a dead soul may reincarnate to a disability, lower desire realms, or may even be unable to reincarnate.

 

Shinto distinguishes between the souls of living persons (tamashii) and those of dead persons (mitama), each of which may have different aspects or sub-souls.

 

The Monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity Islam and Zoroastrianism share a view of all humans possessing or being possessed by a soul which is the spirit of life's agency.

 

In Zoroastrianism the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to or chose to descend into "darkness"—will be reunited with Ahura Mazda in the Kshatra Vairya (meaning "best dominion"), being resurrected to immortality. In Middle Persian literature, the prominent belief was that at the end of time a savior-figure known as the Saoshyant would bring about the Frashokereti, while in the Gathic texts the term Saoshyant (meaning "one who brings benefit") referred to all believers of Mazdayasna but changed into a messianic concept in later writings.

 

The Hebrew terms נפשnefesh (literally "living being"), רוחruach (literally "wind"), נשמהneshamah (literally "breath"), חיהchayah (literally "life") and יחידהyechidah (literally "singularity") are used to describe the soul or spirit. The early Hebrews apparently had a concept of the soul but did not separate it from the body, although later Jewish writers developed the idea of the soul further. In older writings the dead go down to sheol.

 

"Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).

 

Soul or psyche is "to breathe", (Latin 'anima’). It comprises the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, free will, feeling, consciousness, qualia, memory, perception, thinking, etc. These are precisely what scientists call the conscious mind so it's already subject to scientific investigation.

 

The Christian view contains three different soul origins. The major theories put forward include soul creationism, traducianism, and pre-existence. According to soul creationism, God creates each individual soul directly, either at the moment of conception or some later time. According to traducianism, the soul comes from the parents by natural generation. According to the preexistence theory, the soul exists before the moment of conception.

 

The Kabbalah separates the soul into five elements, corresponding to the five worlds:[59]

a       Nefesh, related to natural instinct.

b       Ruach, related to intellect and the awareness of God.

c        Neshamah, related to emotion and morality.

d       Chayah, considered a part of God, as it were.

e       Yechidah. This aspect is essentially one with God.

 

The Platonic soul consists of three parts:

a       the logos, or logistikon (mind, nous, or reason)

b       the thymos, or thumetikon (emotion, spiritedness, or masculine)

c        the eros, or epithumetikon (appetitive, desire, or feminine)

 

Eastern religions encompassing Vedanta, including Buddhism share a concept of eternally reincarnated souls.

 

In Hinduism the atman (“breath,” or “soul”) is the universal, eternal self, of which each individual soul (jiva or jiva-atman) partakes. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad we are told that the Supreme Being is Pure Consciousness, in which subjects and objects merge together in a state of Universality. The Supreme Being knew only Itself as 'I-Am', inclusive of everything. This indicates that enlightenment arises from merging with the cosmic self after rounds of birth and death and raises a different prospect to Monotheism, where individual eternal souls are believed to continue to exist forever.

 

Buddhism denies the existence of the self and teaches merely that individual souls are caught in an endless round of reincarnation until they reach enlightenment essentially a void state outside Maya or illusion, although Buddhist realms include levels of conscious existence from Titans to hungry ghosts.

 

In Jainism, every living being, from plant or bacterium to human, has a soul and the concept forms the very basis of Jainism. According to Jainism, there is no beginning or end to the existence of soul. It is eternal in nature and changes its form until it attains liberation. The difference between the liberated and non-liberated souls is that the qualities and attributes are manifested completely in case of siddha (liberated soul) as they have overcome all the karmic bondages whereas in case of non-liberated souls they are partially exhibited. The soul lives its own life, not for the purpose of the body, but the body lives for the purpose of the soul.

 

In Brahma Kumaris, human souls are believed to be incorporeal and eternal. God is considered to be the Supreme Soul, with maximum degrees of spiritual qualities, such as peace, love and purity.

 

In Sikhism  "God is in the Soul and the Soul is in the God."

 

To William James (1902) author of "The Varieties of Religious Experience" at the beginning of the 20th century, the soul as such did not exist at all but was merely a collection of “psychic phenomena”. This is probably a well informed position given the huge scope of his research into religious beliefs. It also coincides with views of animism as the founding human belief system preceding doctrinal religion.  I have a real concern about the quest for individual eternal life because it leads towards a “crowded cosmos” of angels dancing on the head of a pin with no relationship to living existence and a distraction from the primacy of protecting and preserving the diversity of life as a dominant species.

 

Yeshua Ben David (Joshua Ben): The way I read it, is that many more people aspire to eternal life for the wrong reasons in a self centred way, while fewer people aspire to eternal life for the right reasons in an altruistic and wondrous way.

 

Cathy Reason: But why is it necessarily better to do something for altruistic reasons than to do something for self-centered reasons? Why is everyone else's well-being always valued more highly than one's own?

 

Chris King: Relaxing ego is not valuing others more.  It is an individual quest to avoid hungering that hurts oneself and life around us. More or less categorical reasoning is too black and white. If death is black and life is white, sentient existence has the many-splendid colours of living abundance. It is not balance, but survival at the edge of chaos.

 

Hal Cox: Is it something about dropping the ego? Or merging the ego with a larger Self? No ego, no suffering? This idea is passed to us by followers of Buddha, I guess, whose ideology seem to have ever increasing weight among the intellectuals in the West including notably famous atheists and other skeptics.

 

Chris: I reject Buddhism as a via negativa redeemed only by the Bodhisattva ideal. Love life! Don't hate the ego, heal it! It is our ally preserving life and our very vibrancy!

 

But there is more. Eternal religious cosmologies just make it harder to live in symbiosis with life as a whole. Monotheism leads to eternal life, eternal judgment and the Eschaton, in which life is discarded by God as a prop. Eastern reincarnation cosmologies do the same by imagining an endless round of birth and death leading to eternal suffering.

 

Biological and physical life is mortal. To live in the universe involves entropy and a negentropic balancing act. The subject fears ultimate annihilation and then invents the possibility of life after death. This amplifies the dilemma of ego, so that instead of merging with life as a whole, we seek an eternal pinnacle.

 

Hal: Perhaps enlightenment is not the goal, but only an occasional accident. The goal is to drop the ego.

 

Chris: This is where Eastern cosmologies fail, because, without biospheric sacraments enlightenment is rarer than life itself. Biospheric sacraments let the ego dissolve naturally, given loving support, inducing a form of cosmic consciousness which IS enlightenment. Thats just the way it is!

 

Hal: I was thinking you may consult with his assembly of experts on the anthropologies of perceptions in populations. Their insights are rare and not necessarily otherwise easily available for study. I do not know a serious anthropologist who has surveyed the population biology of psychical behaviors like NDE/OBE, but I do know of anthropologists in Mishlove’s broader community who have deeply invested in select populations of experiences. First person subjective versus third person objective evidence is debated in these groups with a widespread egoic assumption that only first person singular matters.  That’s an incomplete but not wrong assumption in itself.  A more complete investigation of subjective experience needs to encompass population behaviors at multiple scales, i.e. anthropologies of groups, tribes, societies, and cultures.  Is there any special weight for the evidence of a population’s experience in your analyses?

 

Chris: The approach of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology is not 1pp singular but 1pp affirmative. The subjective weighting is established by mutual affirmation between 1pp subjective empirical experiences, in a complementary manner to verified empirical observations in physical science. The scientific threshold is replication of an initial result i.e. two experiments agreeing, followed by more as it happens. This is complemented by statistical methods in each experimental process. Hence the subjective threshold is two experiencing individuals mutually agreeing on their experiences  but more is desirable, up to population levels. Experiments reporting subjective responses enables this to be done with valid statistical measures in the same way as scientific observational experiments. These two approaches can also be combined, with EEG and fMRI studies of individuals on psilocybin, complemented by subjective reports of their experiences  e.g. relief of depression or positive spiritual experiences, both subject to statistical analyses.

 

There are whole classes of fringe phenomena, including  synchronicity, forms of claimed Psi, prophetic experiences, claims of life after death via NDEs, which are actually living experiences of survivors as well as via mediums, and OBEs such as the case of Maria recounted by Groff (1988), from Grayson & Flynn (1984), in which a woman in short-term cardiac arrest saw a tennis shoe on the high ledge in the hospital that the doctor later discovered, and so on that I think need to be kept in a separate category from true/false. They may be fundamentally uncertain in the sense that they can be experienced adventitiously, but not in a fully verifiable way, because like non-IID quantum brain dynamics they are part of the Schrödinger cat phenomena of the universe – one person can experience them fortuitously but can't guarantee to repeat the good luck of premonition.  To me the worst thing we can do about prescience is to try to measure it in a classical or statistical way because that IS IID. The whole utility of synchronicity and prescience is that it is an omen that may never repeat.

 

Cultural belief systems are notoriously self-reinforcing. Christian doctrine has such a strong influence on its believers that it creates a form of totalitarian doctrinal disinformation, leading to creationism and belief in eternal life and eternal damnation. Vedanta does the same with subservient belief in yogic teachings as “science” and notions like reincarnation. But they’re not the only ones. Psychedelic warrior societies with high rates of male homicide are obsessed with casting evil spells using psychedelics. What are we supposed to conclude from that? Believers in Psi and life-after-death create similar expectations.

 

I have to balance my insight as an egotistical individual having a teaching to save us all biologically and physically, with the party lines of major religions professing all kinds of supernatural beliefs as well as hard core scientific materialists. I have to stand against the tide alone because I am carrying a unique personal insight which, in my own humble opinion when I face down these oceanic forces is essential to turn the tide. I keep looking at this legion, including the combined forces of Judaism  Christianity and Islam when I went to Jerusalem, until I can “see the whites of their eyes” and sum up the veracity of their predilections against my own insights.

 

So I am not prepared to go gentle into that anthropological, “good night”.

 

When the chips are down for life as a whole, you have to be able to decide to be a pure egotist, as Cathy said!

 


4 Psychedelic Agents in Indigenous American Cultures

 

However the prominent use of much more potently transformative psychedelic agents in human populations has evaded the mainstream of philosophical and religious practice because it has been focused on the Americas, where Psilocybe fungi were consumed as teonanactl  – “flesh of the gods” for spiritual and therapeutic purposes by the Mayans from 1000 BC, Lophophora cacti from 500 BC as peyote and species of Psychotria and Bannisteriopsis combined as yage, or ayahuasca, in the Amazon basin, with evidence also of the use of Trichocereus cacti by the Nazca (100-800 CE) and dimethyl-tryptamine containing snuffs (Schultes & Hofmann 1979, Williams et al. 2022).

 

For the contemporary spiritual entheogenic movements see: Redemption of the Soma and SangreMaria Sabina's Holy Table, The Man in the Buckskin Suit and Santo Daime and the Union Vegetale.

 


Fig 203: Traditionally used psychedelic species provide access to a first person visionary experience, deemed to be of genuine spiritual significance by researchers (Griffiths).  Top row Maria Sabina our benefactress, Gordon Wasson. Sacred mushrooms, containing psilocin. She also used Salvia divinorum on occasion. Mayan mushroom stone with grinding metate (1000 BC). Nine deities receive instructions from Quetzalcoatl on the origin and use of sacred mushrooms Codex Vindobonensis. Mixitec kingdom (Schultes and Hofmann 1979). Second row my roadman Tellus Goodmorning, deer with peyote in its mouth (500 BC Monte Alban), the Nierika, peyote’s portal to the spiritual realm and Don Jose Matsuwa and peyote, containing mescalin. Right and bottom row My curandero Snr. Trinico, chacruna and the vine of the soul, UDV and ayahuasca, containing dimethyl-tryptamine and harmine. While psychedelic “trips” are cyclonic experiences in themselves, that can challenge our conceptions of reality and need careful guidance, at the centre of the cyclone lies the compassionate redemption of a moksha epiphany that can both provide comfort to the terminally ill, restore faith in life of the depressed and reveal life-changing first-person insight and illumination into the roots of the spiritual quest into the cosmological nature of consciousness. Lower: The principal ingredients of sacred mushrooms, peyote, ayahuasca and salvia.

Sacred Mushrooms The story of the original Quetzalcoatl of the Nahuas who followed the Toltec but predated the Aztec in the valley of Mexico is told in by Dobkin de Rios (1984). They were "quite advanced in their cultural development. Their divinity , Quetzalcoatl was a man of wisdom who gave them a code of ethics and a love for art and science." Acquaintance with the drug plants goes back to 1000 BC with the Mayan mushroom stones and 300 BC with the Chicameras the Aztec ancestors and the Toltec. Quetzalcoatl is said to have passed knowledge of the mushroom to Piltzintecuhtli a god of hallucinatory plants, including mushrooms. Quetzalcoatl is the plumed serpent, the feathers signifying flight and divinity and the serpent is his organismic aspect entwined in the natural world. He is symbolic of Venus the “star” that separates the day and the night. The earliest known iconographic depiction of the deity appears on Stela 19 at the Olmec site of La Venta. Dated to around 900 BC, it depicts a serpent rising up behind a person probably engaged in a shamanic ritual.

 

Because at the time of the arrival of Columbus, these were used by the Aztecs, who were renowned for their sacrificial violence and were documented by conquistadores vehemently and violently opposed to pre-Colombian culture, historical descriptions of their use are shrouded in diabolical accounts.

Dobkin de Rios (1984) notes that the divinatory properties of sacred plants [including mushrooms, peyote, datura, morning glory and tobacco] were of paramount importance to the Aztecs. They believed that whoever ate these sacred plants would receive the power of second sight and prophecy. Thus, one could discover the identity of a thief, find stolen objects, or predict the outcome of a war or the attack of a hostile group.

 

"Sacred mushrooms played such an important part in Aztec life that Indian groups which owed tribute to the Aztec emperor paid it with inebriating mushrooms. One Spanish priest wrote that for the Aztecs, the sacred mushrooms were like the host in the Christian religion: through this bitter nourishment, 'they received their God in communion' The divine mushroom was taken during ritual ceremonies. Successful Aztec merchants sponsored night banquets. The Florentine Codex records that when the participants ate the mushrooms with honey, and they began to take effect, the Aztecs danced, wept, and saw hallucinations. Others entered their houses in a serious manner and sat nodding. Visions included prophecies of one's own death, battle scenes, or war captives that one would take in battle. Others reported visions that they would be rich. All that could possibly happen to a person could be seen under the effects of the mushrooms. After the effect wore off, people would consult among themselves and tell each other about their visions”.

 

Schultes and Hofmann (1979) note that early chroniclers such as Fransisco Hernandez, physician to the King of Spain, described several sacred mushroom species:

 

'Others when eaten cause madness that on occasion is lasting of which the symptom is a kind of uncontrolled laughter. Usually called teyhuintli , these are deep yellow, acrid of a not displeasing freshness. There are others again, which without inducing laughter bring before the eyes all kind of things such as wars and the likeness of demons. Yet others are not less desired by princes for their fiestas and banquets, of great price. With night-long vigils they are sought, awesome and terrifying.

 

Friar Sahagun, one of the earliest chroniclers, remarked of the Aztec mushroom eaters:  

 

'when they become excited by them start dancing, singing, weeping. Some do not want to sing but sit down and see themselves dying in a vision; others see themselves being eaten by a wild beast; others imagine they are capturing prisoners of war, that they are rich, that they possess many slaves, that they have committed adultery and were to have their heads crushed for the offence … and when the drunken state had passed, they talk over amongst themselves the visions they have seen.

 

Fig 204: Nine Preclassic mushroom stones found in a cache along with nine miniature metates at the highland Maya archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu. The contents of the cache were dated by Stephan de Borhegyi at 1000-500 BC. The tall jaguar mushroom stone on the left, also from Kaminaljuyu, was excavated separately.

 

Dobkin de Rios further notes:

 

during the coronation feast of Moctezuma in 1502, teonanacatl (the divine mushroom) was used to celebrate the event. War captives were slaughtered in great numbers to honour Moctezuma's accession to the throne. Their flesh was eaten, and a banquet was prepared after the victims' hearts were offered to the gods. After the sacrifice was over, everyone was bathed in human blood. Raw mushrooms were given to the guests, which one writer, Fray Duran, described as causing them to go out of their minds-in a worse state than if they had drunk a great quantity of wine. In his description, these men were so inebriated that many took their own lives. They had visions and revelations about the future, and Duran thought the devil was speaking to them in their madness. When the mushroom ceremony ended, the invited guests left. Moctezuma invited rival rulers to feasts which were held three times a year. One of these important feasts was called the Feast of Revelations, when the invited dignitaries and Moctezuma, or his representative, ate the wild mushrooms.  ... During the Aztec king Tizoc's enthronement feast, all those present ate wild mushrooms - the kind that made men lose their senses. After four days of feasting, the newly crowned Tizoc gave his guests rich gifts and sacrificed the Metztitlan victims”.

 

The repression of the sacred mushrooms by the conquistadors resulted in their disappearance from the annals of history, except for the troubling appearance of small mushroom stones dating from 1000 B.C. scattered about the much more ancient ruins of the Mayan civilisation. In 1935 the anthropologist Jean Bassett Johnson witnessed an all night mushroom ceremony at Huautla de Jimenez.

 

Maria Sabina This report was to lie idle until 1955 when Gordon and Valentina Wasson 'were invited to partake of the agape of the sacred mushrooms' in the hills of Oaxaca, among isolated peasant peoples who used them to divine the future and seek a cure of illness, after a long search and a previous unsuccessful season in the town:

 

Perhaps you will learn the names of a number of renowned curanderos, and your emissaries will even promise to deliver them to you, but then you wait and wait and they never come. You will brush past them in the market place, and they will know you but you will not know them. The judge in the town hall may be the very man you are seeking and you may pass the time of day with him yet never know that he is your curandero. Wasson (Weil et. al. 30).

 

The sacred mushroom is called by the Mazatec Indians 'the little flowers of the gods' or 'that which springs forth'. 'The little mushroom comes of itself we know not whence, like the wind that comes we know not whence or why.

 

Wasson was deeply struck by the spiritual power of the sacred mushroom, which he referred to as 'the divine mushroom of immortality’: 'Ecstasy! The mind harks back to the origin of that word. For the Greek ekstasis , meant flight of the soul from the body. Can a better word be found to describe the bemushroomed state? ... Your very soul is seized and shaken until it tingles, until you feel that you will never recover your equilibrium' (Furst 198). " ... geometric patterns, angular not circular in richest colours, such as night adorn textiles or carpets. Then the patterns grew into architectural structures with collonades and architraves, patios of regal splendour, the stone work all in brilliant colours, gold and onyx and ebony, all most harmoniously and ingeniously contrived, in richest magnificence extending beyond the reach of sight, in vistas measureless to man ... They seemed to belong... to the imaginary architecture described by the visionaries of the Bible" (Riedlinger 1996 30).

 

Shortly before his arrival she had had a vision while on the little saints , that non-Mazatec strangers would come to seek nti-si-tho , the little one who springs forth . She had shared her vision with Cayetano García the local sindico or justice who also partook, he agreed that the knowledge should be shared and brought Wasson to her. Her life was beset by many tragedies including a macabre vision she had shortly afterward on the little things , which foretold the murder of her son, possibly in vengeance for opening the knowledge of the mushroom. Her house and little shop were also burned (Estrada 71, 79). The CIA were also in Mexico in search of the mushroom. Within a few days, a Mexican botanist had phoned the CIA to confirm Wassons find and an agent was dispatched as a mole on Wasson's return trip. 

 

"The father of my-grandfather Pedro Feliciano, my grandfather Juan Feliciano, my father Santo Feliciano - were all shamans - they ate the teonanacatl , and had great visions of the world where everything is known... the mushroom was in my family as a parent, protector, a friend" -– Maria Sabina, who lived to the age of 91.

 

Maria Sabina took sacred mushrooms in abundance as a child. A few days after watching a wise man cure her uncle :

 

Maria Anna and I were taking care of our chickens in the woods so that they wouldn't become the victims of hawks or foxes. We were seated under a tree when suddenly I saw near me within reach of my hand several mushrooms. If I eat you, you and you" I said "I know that you will make me sing beautifully". I remembered my grandparents spoke of these mushrooms with great respect. After eating the mushrooms we felt dizzy as if we were drunk and I began to cry, but this dissiness passed and we became content. Later we felt good. It was a new hope in our life. In the days that followed, when we felt hungry we ate the mushrooms. And not only did we feel our stomachs full, but content in spirit as well. I felt that they spoke to me. After eating them I heard voices. Voices that came from another world. It was like the voice of a father who gives advice. Tears rolled down our cheeks abundantly as if we were crying for the poverty in which we lived.' She had a vision of her dead father coming to her. ‘I felt as if everything that surrounded me was god.

 

Maria Anna and I continued to eat the mushrooms. We ate lots many times, I don't remember how many. Sometimes grandfather and at other times my mother came to the woods and would gather us up from the ground on which we were sprawled or kneeling. "What have you done?" they asked. They picked us up bodily and carried us home. In their arms we continued laughing singing or crying. They never scolded us nor hit us for eating mushrooms. Because they knew it isn't good to scold a person who has eaten the little things , because it causes contrary emotions and it is possible that one might feel one was going crazy' (Estrada 39).

 

After the death of her first husband Maria Sabina performed a velada for Maria Anna, who was sick with an internal bleeding. After expressing the blood she had a vision of six or eight people who inspired her with respect - 'the Principal Ones of whom my ancestors spoke'. One of the Principal ones spoke to her and showed her the book of wisdom. She realised that she was reading her book. Afterwards she had the contents always in her memory, and became herself one of the Principal Ones who became her dear friends. After this vision, she had another vision of Chicon Nindo the lord of the mountains, a being surrounded by a halo, whose face was like a shadow. She realised that she had become his neighbour. She entered the house and had another vision of a vegetal being covered with leaves and stalks that fell from the sky with a great roar like a lightning bolt. "I realized that I was crying and that my tears were crystals that tinkled when they fell on the ground. I went on crying but I whistled and clapped, sounded and danced. I danced because I knew I was the great Clown woman and the Lord clown woman” (Estrada 49).


"Says.. woman who thunders am I,

woman who sounds am I.

Spiderwoman am I, says

hummingbird woman am I says

Eagle woman am I, says

important eagle woman am I.

Whirling woman of the whirlwind am I, says

woman of a sacred, enchanted place am I, says

Woman of the shooting stars am I." ...

I'm a birth woman, says

I'm a victorious woman, says

I'm a law woman, says

I'm a thought woman, says

I'm a life woman, says ...

"I am a spirit woman, says

I am a crying woman, says

I am Jesus Christ, says ...

I'm the heart of the virgin Mary."


(Mushroom Ceremony - Smithsonian Institute)

 

Maria Sabina notes (Schultes and Hofmann 1979):

 

'There is a world beyond ours, a world that is far away, nearby and invisible. And there is where God lives, where the dead live, the spirits and the saints, a world where everything has already happened and everything is known. That world talks. It has a language of its own. I report what it says. The sacred mushroom takes me by the hand and brings me to the world where everything is known. It is they, the sacred mushrooms that speak in a way I can understand. I ask them and they answer me. When I return from the trip that I have taken with them I tell what they have told me and what they have shown me'. 'The more you go inside the world of teonanacatl , the more things are seen. And you also see our past and our future, which are there together as a single thing already achieved, already happened . . . I saw stolen horses and buried cities, the existence of which was unknown, and they are going to be brought to light. Millions of things I saw and knew. I knew and saw God: an immense clock that ticks, the spheres that go slowly around, and inside the stars, the earth, the entire universe, the day and the night, the cry and the smile, the happiness and the pain. He who knows to the end the secret of teonanacatl – can even see that infinite clockwork'.

 

Traditionally the mushroom was taken not merely to see god, but to cure physical maladies (see section 2). The healing process could be severe and terrifying. At a velada [56] attended by Wasson, a young boy took the mushrooms to seek a cure. However Schultes and Hofmann comment:

 

"upon learning from Maria that the mushrooms prognosticate death, the boy falls to the ground in despair. He did in fact die a few days later of undiagnosed, but apparently natural causes. Maria Sabina described this somewhat differently: "But there was no remedy for the sick one. His death was near. After I saw Perfecto's appearance, I said to Aurelio 'This child is in a very grave condition'. ... I took the children  and began to work. That was how I learned that Perfecto had a frightened spirit. His spirit had been caught by a malevolent being. ... Weeks went by and someone informed me that Perfecto had died. They didn't take care of him like they should have. If they had done several vigils he would certainly have gotten well" (Estrada 72).

 

Fray Bernadino de Sahagun estimated from Indian chronology that peyote had been known to the Chichimeca and Toltec at least 1890 years before the arrival of the Europeans. Usage for as long as 3000 years is suggested from Tarahumara rock carvings and Peyote specimens found in Texas rock shelters. de Sahagan reports: "There is another herb like [opuntia]. It is called peiotl. It is found in the north country. Those who eat or drink it see visions, either frightful or laughable. This intoxication lasts two or three days and then ceases. It is a common food of the Chichimeca, for it sustains them and gives them courage to fight and not to feel hunger or thirst. And they say it protects them from all danger" (Schultes and Hofmann 132).

 

Fig 205: Two Chavin urns with jaguar beside mescalin containing San Pedro cacti (1200-600 BC), Aztec mural showing sacred mushroom deity (Magliabecciano Codex) as an apotheosis of a mushroom taker, a Chavin statue showing snuffing nasal discharge, Amazonian Yanomamo using a hallucinogenic snuffing pipe for Anadenanthera beans containing bufotenine, Nazca gourd showing nasal discharge from hallucinogenic snuffing , and a Nazca pottery (100-800 AD) showing San Pedro use.

 

Peyote The Huichol as discussed in the animism chapter (see also section 2) make a yearly pilgrimage, the peyote hunt, over 600km of rugged desert country. They refer to a portal to the spirit world, the nierika (fig 144) which can be negotiated by the devoted practitioner during the trance-like peyote experience:

 

There is a doorway within our minds that usually remains hidden and secret until the time of death.

The Huichol word for it is nierika – a cosmic portway or interface between so-called ordinary and non-ordinary realities.

It s a passageway and at the same time a barrier between the worlds(Halifax 242).

 

One of the most outstanding Huichol peyote shamans of modern times is don Jose Matsuwa (fig 144), who at 1990 was the venerable age of 109. Besides walking in the sacred journey to Wirikuta, 'don Jose spent many years living alone in the Huichol sierra learning directly from the ancient ones who reside there in the caves and mountains. In order to become a shaman in the Huichol tradition one must learn to dream consciously and lucidly, for after a healing has been performed, that night the shaman tries to dream about the patient and find out the reason for the illness. Each day the Huichols tell their dreams to "Grandfather fire". Dreams help to bring together the past, present and the future' (Halifax 249).

 

"The shaman's path is unending.

I am an old, old man and still a nunutsi (baby)

standing before the mystery of the world”

 

"I have pursued my apprenticeship for sixty-four years. During these years, many, many times I have gone into the mountains alone. Yes I have endured much suffering in my life. Yet to learn to see, to learn to hear, you must do this - go into the wilderness alone. For it is not I who can teach you the ways of the gods. Such things are learned only in solitude." - Don Jose Matsuwa (Halifax) 238).

 

Brant Secunda became his apprentice after walking from Ixtlan into the mountains:

 

On the third day of my journey, I became completely lost after walking down a deer trail. I became terrified and lay down to die, from sun exposure and dehydration. I then began to have vivid visions of colourful circles filled with deer and birds, but was suddenly awakened by Indians standing over me sprinkling water over me. They told me the shaman of their village had had a dream about me two days earlier and they had been sent out to rescue me' (Rainbow Network Aug 90 4).

 

"When the mara'akame passes through the nierika he moves just as the smoke moves; hidden currents carry him up and in all directions at once ... as if upon waves, flowing into and through other waves ... the urucate. As the mara'akame descends and passes through the nierika on the return, his memory of the urucate and their world fades; only a glimmer remains of the fantastic journey that he has made” (Halifax 242).

 

Psychedelic use also goes back centuries in South America. One of the most powerful traditions in shamanic use of sacred plants comes from a complex of plants containing various admixtures of methylated-tryptamines and beta-carbolines used as snuffs and hallucinogenic potions in the Amazon basin.  San Pedro use, which like peyote contains mescalin, is evident in the cactus found alongside a leopard in a vase in Chavin culture (1200-600 BC) and San Pedro and sculptures showing snuff use among Nazca (100-800 CE).

 

Fig 206: Diverse sacramental use of psychedelic entheogens over millennia in the Americas. Cueva del Chileno ritual bundle,pez highlands of southwestern Bolivia radio-carbon dated to approximately 1,000 C.E. consisting of: outer leather bag (A), expertly carved and decorated wooden snuffing tablets with anthropomorphic figurines (B and C), intricate anthropomorphic snuffing tube with two human hair braids attached to it (D), animal-skin pouch constructed of three fox snouts (L. culpaeus) stitched together (E), two camelid (L. glama) bone spatulas (F), two small pieces of dried plant material attached to wool and fibre strings (G), and a polychrome woven textile headband (H). Artifacts (E and G) were tested using LC-MS/MS analysis. LC-MS/MS results from the fox-snout pouch indicate the presence of cocaine, BZE, harmine, bufotenine, DMT, and peak potentially corresponding to psilocin (Miller et al. 2019).

 

Ayahuasca is a potently psychedelic admixture based on both dimethyl-tryptamine (DMT) and harmine. The bark of the vine of certain Banisteriopsis species is mashed and boiled with the leaves of plants such as certain Psychotria species. Sometimes some tropanes are also added. The principle is regarded as a major botanical discovery: the harmine acts as a mono-amine oxidase inhibitor, making it possible for the DMT to both enter the body through the stomach and to remain in action for some four hours. In combination, these substances produce a profound and sustained visionary state of a particularly tumultuous kind.

 

Michael Harner (1980) gives a striking description of his introduction to ayahuasca by the Conibo indians:

 

'Just a few minutes earlier I had been disappointed, sure that the ayahuasca was not going to have any effect on me. Now the sound of rushing water flooded my brain. My jaw began to feel numb ... Overhead the faint lines became brighter and gradually interlaced to form a canopy resembling a geometric mosaic of stained glass. I could see dim figures engaged in shadowy movements ... the moving scene resolved itself into a supernatural carnival of demons. In the centre was a gigantic grinning crocodilian head from whose cavernous jaws gushed a torrential flood of water'. The scene gradually transformed into sky and sea. He then saw two vessels which merged 'into a single vessel with a dragon-headed prow'. 'I heard a regular swishing sound and saw it was a giant galley. I became conscious too of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard in my life ... emanating from myriad voices on the galley. I could make out large numbers of people with the heads of blue jays'. 'At the same time some energy essence began to float from my chest up into the boat' as if to take his soul away.

 

Fig 207: Ayahuasca serves to form a meaningful social bond reinforcing the inner meaning of cultural values of the tribal relationships. It is thus valuable for young people and serves as a protection from the scourges of cocaine addiction. Note the death-like visage on the left (Psychedelic Science TV). Left & Right: Phosphene ornamentation on the Maloca Ritual yaje vessel (female) (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1978).

 

His body began to become numb as if his heart was going to stop. His brain became partitioned into an intellectual command level, the numb level and lower levels of the visions’.

 

'I was told that this new material was being presented to me because I was dying and therefore 'safe' to receive these revelations. First they showed me the planet earth as it was eons ago. Then appeared large creatures with pterodactyl-like wings which were fleeing from something out in space and showed me how they had created life on the planet in order to hide within the multitudinous forms. He then witnessed the unfolding of plant and animal speciation learning that the dragon-like creatures were inside all forms of life. These revelations alternated with visions of the floating galley which had almost taken my soul on board. With an unimaginable last effort, I barely managed to utter one word: "Medicine!" I saw them rushing around to make an antidote which eased my condition but did not prevent me from having many additional visions. Finally I slept. Rays of light were piercing the holes in the palm-thatched roof when I awoke. I was surprised to discover that I felt refreshed and peaceful (Harner 1980).

 

In South America, there are two widespread movements supporting the spiritual and therapeutic use of ayahuasca which have also initiated world-wide interest (see section 2), the Union Vegetale and Santo Daime, a syncretic movement combining Catholicism with indigenous beliefs centred on the use of ayahuasca for personal spiritual and religious insight. “Within traditional religious settings, often individuals are required to accept what the religious authorities tell them to accept. In new religious forms, in new spiritualities, such as Santo Daime, the individual is absolutely central to forming the religious beliefs that the individual holds.” (Dr Andrew Dawson)

 

I have travelled personally to the sources of the natural psychedelics, having been twice to the Amazon to take ayahuasca, having taken peyote, both with the Native American Church and on Wirikuta, the sacred mountain of the Huichol. I have spent much of my life in a psychic symbiosis with sacred plants and fungi, particularly sacred mushrooms and in the scientific discovery of Psilocybe aucklandii.

 

Michael Pollen, in “How to Change Your Mind (2018) has given an insightful current account of the state of psychedelic research and therapy, including several personal accounts of taking sacred mushrooms, ayahuasca, LSD and bufotenine, which give indicative first-time experiences of a novice under these agents.

 

 

Natty Dread and Planetary Redemption [57]

Christianity’s Apocalyptic Tragedy and the Immortal Tree of Life

For Elaine Pagels, in memory of Vibia Perpetua

Chris King 13-6-21

Contents

1.     The Scope of the Crisis

2.     An Across-the-Scriptures Perspective

3.    Forcing the Kingdom of God

4.     The Messiah of Light and Dark

5.     The Dionysian Heritage

6.     The Women of Galilee and the Daughters of Jerusalem

7.     Whom do Men say that I Am?

8.     Descent into Hades and Harrowing Hell

9.     Balaam the Lame: Talmudic Entries

10.   Soma and Sangre: No Redemption without Blood

11.   The False Dawn of the Prophesied Kingdom

12.   Transcending the Bacchae: Revelation and Cosmic Annihilation

13.   The Human Messianic Tradition

14.   Planetary Ecocrisis and Apocalyptic Resplendence

15.   Redemption of Soma and Sangre in the Sap and the Dew

 

Fig 208: Crucifixion, Mathias Grunwald

 

1.  The Scope of the Crisis

 

Christianity presents a unique threat to world futures by the misleading portrayal of Jesus as a miraculous supernatural "Son of God", in conflict both with any credible cosmological account of existence and not least with the core principles of Monotheism. The other monotheistic religions also have a scorched-Earth eschatology [58], amid violence, particularly to women (Schwartz 1996), in conflict with our primary cosmological responsibility as a sexual species to ensure the diversity of conscious life survives. The Christian canonical account undermines the capacity of humankind to fathom what kind of universe, or existential cosmos we are actually living in and threatens humanity's ability to survive and flourish in evolutionary time scales without lethal misadventure. It is a cargo cult illusion threatening ours and the living planet’s living future, through a direct conflict of belief with reality, promoted by miraculous fallacy.

 

Fig 209: Akkadian “Temptation seal”: The man, the woman, the tree of life and the serpent (2200 BCE).

 

When the priestly author wrote Genesis 1, claiming the ‘Elohim said "Let there be light and there was Light", creating heaven and Earth out of tohu va vohu, casting the plants as created before the Sun and Moon, and making humanity male and female in “our” likeness, we know that black holes and galaxies had been forming long before, and that neutrinos were flashing through the Earth unnoticed. We now know that all people alive and present at the time, were composed of quarks and leptons grouped in baryons, nuclei, atoms, molecules, organelles, cells and organs, with DNA, RNA and proteins coursing through their veins and permeating their tissues. That they/we were not created from clay or breath, but develop naturally from the fertilisation of egg and sperm. This is not materialism speaking, it is cosmology. Genesis is not the oldest book in the Torah, but is a more recent addition.

 

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree  yielding fruit after his kind,

whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. ... And the evening and the morning were the third day.

 

And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night:

he made the stars also. ... And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it:

and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

 

The word subdue is the Hebrew verb kavash meaning to place your foot on the neck of your conquered enemy signifying a submission of the enemy to his defeater. The words "have dominion" (from Latin dominium, from dominus ‘lord, master) are the Hebrew verb radah meaning to rule by going down and walking among the subjects as a benevolent leader.

 

We can accept the priestly Sabbatical Creation  as a beautiful allegory based on the understanding available at the time, even though the Yahwistic account in the Garden of Eden is a punitive curse on humanity as sexual beings, casting womankind in the role of the “devil’s gateway” enduring the pain of childbirth under the rule of her husband and depriving humanity of immortal  Paradise, to battle the thistles and thorns in human conflict with nature.

 

We know from Jeremiah’s claims of God’s anger and the resulting response of the people, that the religious practices of Jerusalem in the time of the Kings involved diverse forms of worship, including the Goddess by her various names –  Inanna/Ishtar, or Asherah the ancient consort of El, and the male god Tammuz/Dumuzi. But we also at once know the people were using Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a eucaryote yeast, to make their bread and wine, which a couple of billion years before had arisen from a pivotal symbiosis between an Asgard archaean and a proteobacterium, as we all have. Again this is not materialism, but nature speaking.

 

Jer 7:17 "Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?  The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger

 

Jer 44:17 “But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.”

 

Psalm 82’s confession of polytheism likewise shows this diversity:

 

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods ... I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High ... But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.

 

History in both the Old and New Testaments is perceived through a glass darkly, in Paul’s own words, distorted by the political bias and religious imperatives of the redactors.  The diversity of worship described in Jeremiah in the time of the Kings comes to us through the Yahwistic gloss of the exilic authors in Babylon, sharpened by Zoroastrian apocalyptic ideas, replacing the Hebrew notion of Sheol with a future purification by fire in the end of days, leading to the stark contrast of Heaven and Hell.  This originated from the time Cyrus allowed the Jews in exile to return to Israel, where they instituted a more fundamentalistic paradigm, ordering the men of Israel to forsake their gentile wives.

 

And Shechaniah … answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law” (Ezra 10:2).

 

Life in Israel up to this point had been culturally diverse. Free worship in the tabernacles from ancient times had been supplanted only a few years before the Babylonian annexation, by Jerusalem-centred worship, by the youthful Josiah. As Wikipedia puts it: “Between the 10th century BCE and the beginning of their exile in 586 BCE, polytheism was normal throughout Israel. It was only after the exile that worship of Yahweh alone became established, and possibly only as late as the time of the Maccabees (2nd century BCE) that monotheism became universal among the Jews”.

 

Likewise, we know Christian history is a distorted tale, firstly of the supplanting of the original following of Yeshua by born again Pauline revisionism under threat of the anathema maranatha despite Paul having no direct knowledge of the events, or the key character involved, and then by the orthodox victors who suppressed the Valentinian gnostics and many others, causing the Nag Hammadi texts to be buried in jars until the 20th century, just as later developments like the Nicene creed and the Trinity also constitute confabulations of Yeshua’s mission.

 

2.  A Cross-Cultural Perspective

 

To be fully understood, Yeshua's apocalyptic journey of redemption thus has to be seen in its context. Israel was in a state of flux, effectively ruled by the Romans, with the Sanhedrin Sadduces and the tetrarchs holding high office, Pharisees spread  through the smaller towns and more extreme sects such as the Essenes in desert retreats. By contrast, the Edomite Kingdom of Nabatea which emerged around 300 BCE, was in its cultural prime and was an autonomous state, reaping rich commercial gains as the artery through which trade coursed from the East to and from Europe via Gaza. Edom was a nominally Arab culture whose original female deities, al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat who continued to be worshipped in Mecca up to the time of Muhammad, along with Dhushara the Lord of Seir. Gen 32:3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

 

In the wake of Alexander cutting a military swathe across the Near East and the ensuing Seleucid empire, these deities were imbued with Greek personae as can be seen in the architectural forms  of Nabateaen deities, where the female deities took on Greek forms like Tyche and Dhushara became a Dionysian deity whose tragic mask had the power to confer immortal life.

 

Israel, Nabatea and surrounding lands all spoke the Aramaic language of Syria. This was the language of Yeshua in Galilee and this was the language of the Nabateans. Galilean Aramaic is noted in Peter’s exposure: “And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.” (Mark 14:11) Deuteronomy notes of Jacob "A wandering Aramaean was my father". The word Aram goes right back to the Mari texts of the twelfth century BCE. The whole area around Israel was in a state of inter-communication through commerce and a common language. The rulers of Nabatea and the Herodian dynasty closely intermarried.  There was a Jewish population scattered throughout and on all sides diverse beliefs. Nabatea held its own celebrations and religious festivals "on every high hill and under every green tree" as the Jewish curse against the nations goes.

 

Yeshua's mission was invoked when John the Baptist cursed Herodias, accusing Herod Antipas of taking the wife of his brother Herod II (Philip) in contradiction to Hebrew law. Lev 18:16 “Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness.” Josephus and Mark both recount aspects of this event. Herod asked Salome the daughter of Herodias to dance (the seven-veils descent [59]) in front of his generals at Macherus on the Nabatean border to their pleasure:

 

And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist (Mark 621-25).

 

But this was no ordinary occasion and it's about a lot more than the morality of divorce and was in fact exposing a mortal threat to Herod. It is likely that Herod's high captains were present because Herod had sent his previous wife the Nabatean princess royal  Phasaelis, daughter of Aretas IV, fleeing in fear of her life. Josephus notes:

 

About this time Aretas, the king of the Arabian city Petra, and Herod Antipas had a quarrel. Herod the tetrarch had married the daughter of Aretas [called Phasaelis], and had lived with her a great while. But when he was once at Rome, he lodged with Herod [Philip], who was his brother indeed, but not by the same mother (this Herod was the son of the high priest Simon's daughter). Here, he fell in love with Herodias, this other Herod's wife, who was the daughter of Aristobulus their brother, and the sister of Agrippa the Great. Antipas ventured to talk to her about a marriage between them; when she admitted, an agreement was made for her to change her habitation, and come to him as soon as he should return from Rome: one article of this marriage also was that he should divorce Aretas' daughter. So Antipas made this agreement and returned home again. But his wife had discovered the agreement he had made before he had been able to tell her about it. She asked him to send her to Machaerus, which is a place in the borders of the dominions of Aretas and Herod, without informing him of her intentions. So, Herod sent her thither, unaware that his wife had perceived something. Earlier, she had sent to Machaerus, and all things necessary for her journey were made already prepared for her by a general of Aretas' army. Consequently, she soon arrived in Arabia, under the conduct of several generals, who carried her from one to another successively. She met her father, and told him of Herod's intentions. So Aretas made this the first occasion of the enmity between him and Herod, who had also some quarrel with him about their limits near Gamala. So both sides raised armies, prepared for war, and sent their generals to fight.

 

Aretas, who figures as joint ruler with Queen Shaliqat on coinage, then invaded and defeated Herod with the military help of Herod's other brother Philip, attesting to the cooperation between the Herodian and Nabatean dynasties. The name Phasaelis was also the name of Phasael, Herod the Great's brother, himself born in the Hasmonean Kingdom to a Jewish aristocratic family of Edomite descent. What this goes to show is how interpenetrating the affairs of Israel and Nabatea actually were, despite their contrasting religious traditions and how Yeshua came to replace John when he was effectively sacrificed in the Inanna’s descent (Wolkenstein & Kramer 1987).

 

Note that, according to Mark’s account, Herod swore unto Salome "Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom," echoing the sacrificial ending of the Book of Esther [80]. In return, completing Inanna–Ishtar’s descent, Herodias, through Salome’s dance, demanded John's head on a plate, completing the sacrificial descent of Dumuzi-Tammuz.

 


Fig 210: (Left) Aretas IV and Queen Shaliqat jointly on the Nabatean coinage. (Right) Aubrey Beardsley for Oscar Wilde’s “Salome”.

 

Josephus again notes: When they joined battle, Herod's army was completely destroyed by the treachery of some fugitives, who, though they were from the tetrarchy of Philip, had joined Aretas' army. So Herod wrote about these affairs to the emperor Tiberius, who became very angry at the attempt made by Aretas, and wrote to Lucius Vitellius, the governor of Syria, to make war upon him, and either to take him alive and bring him to him in bonds, or to kill him and send him his head. This was the charge that Tiberius gave to the governor of Syria. 

 

However Tiberius then died and the order against Aretas was never carried out.

 

The apocalyptic mission is thus portrayed in the Christian gospels as having passed through sacrifice to John’s baptised successor Yeshua. Luke 7:19 “And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?”  Mark 6:16 But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead”. John makes this even more explicit: 3:28 “Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled”.

 

However it remains historically unclear whether the Baptist intended this succession, as he was beheaded.

 

Luke has John state emphatically the Yeshua is the Christ “And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.” But the winnowing fan is characteristic of Tammuz and Dionysus the dying gods of bread and wine who are combined in the two substances of the eucharist.

 

To understand his mission and how Yeshua envisaged it, we have to turn to sources of material documented long after the events, by followers with divergent eschatologies. None of these authors had direct experience of Yeshua’s presence or were present during his mission, so all accounts are hearsay and thus non-evidential. Despite Yeshua’s miracles forming a key part of his ministry in the gospels, modern biblical scholars are almost universal in their scepticism of these accounts, although they form the central contradiction of Christian beliefs.

 

One way of understanding these hearsay scriptural accounts is to combine (a) the three synoptic gospels, beginning from Mark (c 66-74 CE), with earlier dates largely discredited. It is complemented by the proposed Quelle sayings source, assigning John and Revelation to be later (90-100 CE), historically less reliable and in conflict with the synoptics, with (b) the Gospel of Thomas (c 60-120 CE), forming a counterpoint, underpinned by material from other Nag Hammadi texts, (c) the relevant Talmud entries and (d) the works of Flavius Josephus, excepting the Christian redactions concerning Yeshua (Wilson I 1996) Matthew and Luke/Acts are roughly contemporaneous and around half a century after Yeshua's death and well after the siege of Jerusalem. Most scholars believe Matthew was composed between AD 80 and 90. The most probable date for Luke's composition, along with Acts is around AD 80110. Revelation is commonly dated to about 95 AD. The fact that Acts is deeply embedded in the Pauline ‘heresy’ to convert Yeshua’s mission to a new gentile religion, their accounts of Yeshua have to be seen as highly coloured and thus of similar questionability to the Gnostic texts, with the exception of the Gospel of Thomas, which is a collection of source sayings, and particularly in terms of their retrospective apocalyptic emphasis in the light of the Fall of Jerusalem.

 

 
Fig 211: Time line of the gospels. The Pauline epistles are at least 20 years after Yeshua’s crucifixion, but before the Fall of Jerusalem. The four canonical gospels and Revelation are all after the Fall, consistent with their apocalyptic stance. The three synoptics have both commonalities and differences. Matthew and Luke are believed to have derived from Mark and the Q (quelle = other) source. The hypothesis of a Hebrew rather than Greek origin, deriving from Papias of Hierapolis, 125150 CE [60] has been largely discredited. This time line raises major uncertainties about the origin of Christianity and how much of what is in the synoptic gospels is Yesha's own world view rather than that of Pauline Christianity. Paul began his epistles in AD 49-50 17 years after Yeshua's death and Mark was written close to 70 AD, another 20 years later. The key question to ask is how much of the Hellenistic world view and events in the synoptics, which are essential to establishing the dying saviour role of Son of God did Yeshua conceive?

 

The dating of the Gospel of Thomas remains controversial. Broadly speaking, the early camp includes scholars of gnosticism such as Elaine Pagels (2003), Marvin Meyer (2005,7) and April DeConick (2006,7), while the late camp tends to include ordained priests such as John P. Meier and Joshua R. Porter, and professed evangelicals such as Bart D. Ehrman and Craig A. Evans. This highlights the political rather than historical basis of the late camp position.

 

Evidence for an early origin comes from a number of known parables, including Thomas 8, 9, 31, 57, 63, 64 and 65 where the Thomas version underlies the canonical versions. Thomas 17 modifies Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 2:9 (53–54 CE), echoing Isaiah 64:4. The episode in John about the doubting Thomas, with the former attempting to discredit the latter, in the passage about Thomas not fully recognising Yeshuas divinity, disclaims Thomas-13’s gnostic view in favour of his own, implying Thomas was in existence when John was compiled. In the same vein Thomas 13, criticising both Peter and Matthew's views of Yeshua, hints at an early stage, when the gospel writers were all vying in their points of view, before the authority of the canonical writers had become established. In Thomas 12, Yeshua refers to James the Just, consistent with Galatians 2:1-14, which most scholars date to 50-60 CE. Sayings 6, 14 and 104 also echo opposition to Jewish traditions, regarding circumcision and fasting agains consistent with Galatians. Although the gospel of Thomas states "These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down" where didymos means"twin" the Thomas sayings 55, 99 and 101 express clear opposition to a family tradition  of the desposyni, in contrast with later gnostic texts where the family tradition is emphasised in Thomas being Yeshua’s twin brother. Likewise the reference to James in Thomas 12 does not specify that James is the brother.

 

The late camp tend to interpret the sayings as mid-second century conflations of canonical gospel statements combined with some additional inauthentic or authentic older sayings. For example Thomas 5 "Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest." is claimed to echo Luke 8:17, and 10 "I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I am guarding it until it blazes." is claimed to echo Luke 12:49. This reading seems incorrect as the two slants have opposing implications and the Thomas passage is more consistent in its conception. Thomas 16, in which dissension is cast upon the earth is claimed to conflate Luke 12:51-2 and Matt 10:34-5. The difficulty here is that these Thomas sayings could be from an older text. Both these passages are assigned to be from Q. This claim is compounded by the claim that in the Oxyrhynchus Greek passages, 5 uses the language of Luke rather than Mark, but arguing from one passage believed to have been written down around 200 CE, this is not conclusive, especially given the lack of agreement about the original language in which Thomas was written (Coptic, Greek or Syriac). Other arguments centre around the supposed similarity to Syriac compilations of the canonical gospels and the lack of apocalyptic content in Thomas in favour of gnostic realisation tat the kingdom is in the mind, but the former is contested and the latter is self-fulfilling orthodox rationalisation, because Thomas’s view clearly differs from orthodox beliefs in the apocalyptic destiny of Christianity.

 

Elaine Pagels (2012) also notes the antagonism between John and Paul expressed by each in the Epistles and the Euangélion, with John adhering to more orthodox practices on food and sex and Paul becoming the catalyst for a new religion, usurping and violating Jewish practices.

 

The Nag Hammadi texts, although diverse and apocryphal accounts, most of which are historically much later, can be given some comparable weighting to the Pauline works, as both are derived by followers who did not actually meet Yeshua and were not present during his mission. This is the only unbiased way to give a investigative balance to the question of Yeshua's actual mission, as opposed to the Christian religious canon, on the basis that checking both sides, of the story, orthodox and gnostic, helps uncover the inconsistencies between them. This approach is again not materialistic, because the gnostic wing of the scripture is both the most spiritually diverse and fantastic and offsets the Pauline works as equally the product of an imaginative rewriting of Yeshua's mission in the eyes of the beholder.

 

It is clear that, whatever his strengths or weaknesses, Yeshua was a brilliant transformative innovator, with an unparalleled insight into the spiritual zeitgeist, a literal Einstein of the existential crisis of his time, who embraced the true meaning of apocalypse, to throw the covers of reality, by bridging the full scope of the extant traditions, both to redeem the lost sheep of Israel and to fulfil the expectations of the wider backdrop of fertility worship of the nations, leading to Christianity becoming a world religion through its popularity among the gentiles. That said, one can also fairly claim, unlike some docetic gnostic texts that, whatever else may have subsequently happened, Yeshua the man had human DNA and was composed of molecules and cells, consistent with the natural world as we have now discovered it to be, given that his mission took place only once he became around 30 years of age. Again this is not reductionism speaking, it is evidential realism.

 

3.  Forcing the Kingdom of God

 

The scope of Yeshua’s mission goes far beyond Essene ideas of the end of days and constitutes a forcible challenge to bring on the Kingdom of the Father, ostensibly in three days, through a sacrificial confrontation, in which the forces of dark and light are brought into violent conflict, in the persona of Yeshua as the baptised Son of God. The span of Yeshua’s mission thus becomes that of a messiah fomenting controversy and chaos focussed on the corruption of Jerusalem, leading to the tragic enactment of the Crucifixion.

 

This has been portrayed in the Christian account as a sacrificial act, in which God’s only begotten son has to die, so that humanity fatally flawed by being infected with the original sin of the serpent can live, provided they believe in him, but otherwise they will burn in hell fire as unredeemed sinners. But whence the origin of this peculiarly pagan sacrificial idea? Why does the God of Creation require his only begotten son to be killed? It is also completely unclear why attacking only certain factors of society deemed to be corrupt serves this purpose. To redeem the sins of the world would require taking on the entire burden of sin, both in the strong rulers and in the weak. Why does inducing a frenzied level of conflict against the authorities in the enactment of a tragedy leading to his own death serve the purpose of defeating sin as a whole? Why is this necessary, or even helpful cosmologically? Isn't it just manufacturing a osmic war to institute evil as the supreme enemy of God when no such enemy exists?

 

This conceives a universe entirely inconsistent with the universe as we now know it to be. If God created the universe as we now know it, "He" created the black holes, galaxies, and the four forces of nature and their underlying symmetries and symmetry-breakings necessary for the complexity of the universe to emerge. He also therefore created the physical circumstances in which life can evolve and become conscious. Social morality is not the driving force of the natural world, but a product of it, and climax diversity arises from adventitious mutation, a balance between predators and prey and parasites and hosts, amid a counterpoint between competition and cooperation, in which symbiosis in a dynamic at the edge of chaos has also been pivotal. Humanity could not come to exist unless these processes of complexification had been able to play out unhindered. Morality is not a prime motivating force, but a product of complex animal societies that arises naturally, because reduction of internal strife makes a species, or society, more resilient against external competition (Alexander 1987).

 

There is thus no way that, if a God, or "The" God, created the natural universe, that the appeal of Yeshua to create a religious suicide bomb to blow apart the presumptions of a corrupt and sinful generation, would abruptly, in three days, or in the same generation, bring on the Kingdom in Power, by annihilation of a physical universe of 13 billion years stable existence, necessary for conscious life to be able to emerge and evolve.

 

Not less, there is and can be no credibility to the notion, of purely diabolical proportions, that God the Father would send his pre-existent only begotten divine son into the world as a human being to curse the sins of a corrupt generation and in a preconceived cosmic war between good and evil would commit his Son to be sacrificed to forgive mankind for their sins, while at the same time returning in the same generation in a terminal Day of Judgment as an avenging Lord to judge all for their sins, destroy the natural universe and create a new Jerusalem in the sky with himself posing as the "Lamb of God" in its very centre. This by its very conception is the core of evil manifest in notions of divinity. There can be no credibility to any such ill conceived notion perpetuated for 2000 years on the cannibalistic notion of consuming the flesh and blood of the saviour or we have no life within us.

 

4.  The Messiah of Light and Dark

  

What is clear throughout the canonical gospels is that Yeshua’s mission, as conceived by the Evangelists, has two complementary and yet discordant themes, leading to inevitable catastrophe.

 

A. The light side provides the wisdom for which Yeshua is renowned, composed of astute sayings, particularly those which stress compassion. To fully understand the breadth and scope of these it is essential to also consider the contrapuntal sayings of the Gospel of Thomas, which are pivotal in gaining a true perspective.

 

A key example of the astute sayings is Yeshua’s golden rule, which is an inversion of Hillel’s earlier (110 BCE 10 CE) silver rule: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn”, which Yeshua inverted: Matt 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets”.

 

One can immediately see that Yeshua’s statement is derived from Hillel’s, complete with the the trailing “law and prophets” repeating Hillel’s “torah”. It is also notable that Hillel’s statement was prefigured 500 years before by Confucius: “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself”. This gets to the quick of the issue. Both Hillel and Confucius are stating an ethic of avoiding bad acts, respecting the autonomy of others, but Yeshua is going further, invoking active intervention ostensibly for the good.  While this may seem beneficial, there is a pitfall demonstrated throughout history. What if the other person or social group doesn’t want you to do to them what you would like them to do to you? If a large group of people want a conservative society of a certain kind for themselves, even for their own protection, does this mean it is reasonable for them to pass restrictive laws to enforce it on a diverse society, or is mutual tolerance of differences essential for humanity and for nature to flower? If I want you to have sex with me, is it reasonable for me to proactively have sex with you? The answer is no.

 

The Sermon on the Mount goes further than mere cooperation and invokes actively rewarding ones enemies twofold:

 

Matt 5:38 “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain … Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

 

The central question here is this: Are we invoking a paradigm of natural survival in perpetuity, or one in which all care is cast to the winds, because our rewards are in eternal life in Heaven and not on this Earth? Christians extol these passages as pivotal to Yeshua’s compassionate teachings, in contrast to the narrower, more punitive “eye for and eye” of Old Testament teachings, but they are unsustainable in the natural world of living survival.

 

These questions pivot around the prisoners’ dilemma of tragic temptation universal to the dilemma of cooperation and defection, and hence good and evil. Two prisoners are arrested for a crime. If they cooperate and remain silent they will receive a moderate sentence, but if one betrays the other the one cooperating with the prosecution may get off altogether and the other will go down severely. But this can lead to temptation and both defecting, so they both receive a long punitive sentence. This is the central question around which the ethics revolves and it is also illustrated in the tragedy of the commons (Hardin 1968), where winner-take-all gains tempt people to exploit the common resource before others do and the entire commons is destroyed, just as humanity is doing to the planet today.

 

Elementary evolutionary prisoners’ dilemma game theory (Fielder & King 2004 D) has established that both tit-for-tat – doing to others what they last did to you and win-stay lose-shift – switching between cooperation and defection depending on how the payoffs of the last round worked out, out-survive both systematic cooperation and systematic defection. However tit-for-tat strategies can lead to endless rounds of retaliation characteristic of clan hostilities. Marcus Frean (1994) established a middle ground between eye-for-an-eye and turn-the-other-cheek, called firm-but-fair. This is a form of tit-for-tat that turns the other cheek about a third of the time and leads to the firm-but-fair population reaching 98% of the whole, when each party can make their response asynchronously. Always cooperate is a suckers game, which can be invoked only when we have the out of a quick exit to Heaven, in fear of Hell, otherwise it is cumulative suicide. Social dynamics is a prisoners’ dilemma between cooperation and defection generalised into order and chaos, in which both sides have essential roles. Violent criminal defection is harmful, while movements opposing oppression by people in power are essential. Complex societies thus involve an equilibrium of cooperation and defection. Again, this is not materialism speaking, but the ethics of constructive diplomacy, to protect the whole for the future of all and the survival of human life and nature.

 

Fig 212: Prisoners’ dilemma of the patriarchs – patriarchal oppression inhibits independent  women but cooperating faithful wives and defecting whores can flourish overtly and covertly. Rarity is precious, preventing extinction. A single scarlet woman in a country of faithful wives can claim any man she pleases.  A single faithful maiden in a society of loose women may claim the king's hand in marriage.

 

The Sermon on the Mount also has a strong current of having no care for even moderate self protection of one’s own life. Matt 6:25 “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?”

 

Nor is there any thought for the future, nor the future of life: Matt 6:34 “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

 

The sayings on the mount are thus being made in a context where no thought needs to be given for survival because of the immanent Kingdom of God in Heaven and the much more dire consequences of being thrown into Hell.

 

These positive sayings are also mixed with destructive sayings: Matt 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell”.

 

This generosity does not apply to anything except the material:  Matt 7:6 “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

 

It is wonderful that Yeshua considers the lilies of the field, who “toil not” as plants, to be more beautiful than Solomon in all his glory, but the rains fall on good and bad people alike because that is how nature works. The fowls of the air are not fed by God’s grain. The hawks are also part of nature, as are the lion, and all carnivores. Climax life requires an interplay of cooperation and defection. Carnivores’ tooth and claw killings ensure the herbivores don’t become extinct by eating all the plants. Even parasitic diseases end up playing a role in the evolutionary process. Sexuality and  hence all complex life has arisen from a Red Queen race between parasites and hosts, in which the endless variations of  sexual individuals avoid a pandemic that would wipe out a non-sexual species. Hence individual mortality arises from sexuality and we could not have evolved as humans, or be alive without sexuality and hence the mortal coil.

 

Yeshua also intimates that any sexual feelings are against the law. Matt 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust [61] after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. In a sense anyone who looks on a woman with lust is committing adultery, but as long as they don’t act upon it without the consent of the other, that is an essential manifestation of the natural fertility of sexuality, through which all human beings on this planet have come to exist. Lust is natural and fertility incarnate. It is sexual exploitation that is an evil.

 

B. The dark side, all the more ominous because it would ultimately lead to Yeshua’s crucifixion, stands out as completely alien to the Hebrew prophetic tradition, claiming to perform nature miracles walking on water and calming the storms on Galilee, bringing people back from the dead, and other actions causing him to be typecast by the scribes as “Baal Zebul” the Lord of Flies, when he cured a man by mere sleight of hand, rather than the traditional methods of faith healing at the time. Yeshua’s response was incendiary, claiming that the scribes were cursing themselves because the devil can’t cast our devils.

 

Some “miracles” were outright grotesque: After exorcising the legion of spirits of a madman, Yeshua drives a helpless herd of pigs into the lake to drown: Luke 5:13 “And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea”.

 

The credibility of the miracles wanes in the presence of more familiar company of people rather than excited superstitious crowds seeking faith healing, as noted in Nazareth Mark 6:4:

 

A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.” Even the disciples did not have confidence in the miracles at least until the wind died on the lake: Mark 6:51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

 

Yeshua’s mission became a three year long enactment of a Dionysian tragedy, just as Dionysian theatre and the three tragedies for one comedy became the cathartic portal in which the lives of men and gods intertwined in ancient Greece, as it remains the nuclear core of all dramatic productions, movies and television series today.

 

One can have little doubt that controversy and confrontation was anything other than intentional on Yeshua’s part, in the light of his first sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth, where despite admitting his own affliction (possibly the lameness mentioned in the Talmud), his incendiary claims caused the people to seek to throw him off the cliffs.

 

Luke 4:23 And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the

Syrian. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way”.

 

Luke’s (80–100 CE) description can be taken in one of two ways. A sceptic would say this is a contrivance of the Christian forefathers, calculated to destine Yeshua’s mission as being at the outset to the Gentiles rather than Israel, where he will not be accepted and indeed betrayed by the Jews.  However, if we accept Luke’s account as genuine, then it is Yeshua saying he is opening mission to envelop the gentile religious paradigm from the outset in a clash of the cultures against the existing hierarchy in Israel. This duality extends throughout all the descriptions of Yeshua’s mission by all the gospels. Either Yeshua is being misrepresented as forming a bridge to the gentiles by the Christian forefathers to further the Christian interpretation of history as a gentile religion, or Yeshua was himself seeking to form an apocalyptic bridge transcending both the Hebrew religion of the Israelites and the fertility traditions of the nations, when Christianity did not yet exist.

 

Yeshua’s purported miracles fall into three types (a) Healing miracles involving (i) curing sickness, (ii) exorcisms of evil spirits or devils and (iii) three resurrections; (b) Procedural “miracles” in which loaves loaves and fishes are shared among a large congregation in much the manner of a communion wafer; and (c) nature miracles including water into wine, cursing the fig, driving swine to drown after an exorcism and calming and walking on the waters. Ranke-Heinmann (1992) notes Yeshua disdaining demands for the miraculous “unless you see signs and wonders, you will nor believe” (John 4.48). “Why dies this generation seek a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation” (Mark 8.22). She attributes their occurrence to ”a naive addiction to miracles on the part of the authors of the Gospels and their sources”, noting Elisha’s miracles in 2 Kings (4.34 & 6.18).

 

Spiritual healings were mainstream activities in an era where spiritual cures were sought given limited medical  knowledge. It’s thus not simply that crowds seek a faith healer because they heal many people but can be the reverse – they appear to heal many people because crowds gather round them seeking a cure. As Ranke-Heinmann puts it “Crowds didn’t stream towards Jesus because he healed many people; rather, because crowds streamed toward him, he healed many people”. The pool at Bethesda was famous for healing simply via troubled waters. John 5:4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.” The procedural “miracles” were not fundamentally miraculous but just anticipating the communion rite. However, the nature miracles both set Yeshua completely outside the framework of Hebrew religious principles and are systematically consistent with Dionysian traditions. 

 

Fig 213: The three signs of Christ's manifestation on the Epiphany.
Water to wine, the baptism and the Magi. 
Left: Missal of Odalricus - early 12th century (Lavin). Right:Roman Missal.

Lower: Dionysian festival of the Epiphany in Greece.

 

John begins with Yeshua’s first miracle at Cana, where his mother says “They have no wine. Yeshua says “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come”, but Mary tells the servants “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it” and Yeshua says “Fill the water pots with water.” When they take them to the governor, they are fresh wine. This miracle is likely to be an account derived from a lost earlier source listing miracles, as shortly after casually declaring the son of a nobleman near death to be healed, John notes “This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee”(Bultmann 1962 78).

 

This raises several issues. Why is Yeshua’s mother asking him to perform a miraculous feat over a trivial request for alcohol at a wedding? Doesn’t this indicate a family operation in miraculous cures? But the third issue is pivotal. Why is Mary inciting Yeshua to perform a miraculous feat known throughout the Near East as the signature of Dionysus as the god of wine and miraculous altered states?

 

The word Epiphany from the Greek and means "manifestation," "appearance," or "revelation." ... A festival of Dionysus' Advent was kept on this day in the Aegean and Anatolia. The Christian world has conflated three events, all to Jan 6th, the Magi, John’s baptism and Cana.

 

We keep this day holy in honour of three miracles:
this day a star led the wise men to the manger,
this day water was turned to wine at the marriage feast,
this day Christ chose to be baptised by John in the Jordan,
for our salvation, allelu-Yah (Magnificat antiphon)

 

In a rural area situated in Greece, in Eastern Macedonia, rituals take place at the Epiphany, that coincide with the Orthodox Christian holiday of the baptism of Christ. The locals see no contradiction between the pagan character of their customs and their Christian context, since these rituals are meant to be "a praise to a fertile and good year", a gesture which in turn "rests on the pillars of fruitfulness and productivity".  Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility and theatre, was worshipped in the region. A temple dedicated to Dionysus (4th and 3rd centuries BC) is located at the nearby village Kali Vrisi. The vineyards of Drama surround it on all sides. The regions Dionysian heritage is marked by the annual Twelve-Day (Dodekaimero) celebrations, which culminate every year between January 6 to 8 in the regions villages. Noisy parades are held to herald fertility, during which participants strike large bells to awaken Mother Earth. Lots of dancing to the sound of traditional tunes, played with the gaida (bagpipe) and daire (drum), takes place over three days and three nights at the villages of Monastiraki, Kali Vrysi, Petrousa, Pyrgi and Volakas.

 

Rudolf Bultmann (1962) puts it this way: “In fact the motif of the story, the transformation  the water into wine is a typical motif of the Dionysus legend, in which this miracle serves to highlight the god’s epiphany. And hence it is timed to coincide with the feast of Dionysus , from January 5th to 6th. In the ancient church, this affinity was still understood when … the 6th of January was taken to be the day that the marriage feast was celebrated at Cana”. The same Christian cooption of pagan festivals occurred with Easter (Ēostre) and Yuletide/Christmas (Odin, Mithras, Saturnalia), but with the Epiphany, Cana implicates Yeshua in the contrivance.

 

Uta Ranke-Heinman’s (1992) position is clear: “The 6th January became for Christians, the feast of the power revelation (epiphany) of their God, thereby displacing the feast of Dionysus’s epiphany. As Bultman says ‘No doubt the story has been borrowed from the pagan legends and transferred to Jesus’. On his feast day Dionysus made empty jars fill up with wine in his temple in Elis; and on the island of Andros, wine instead of water flowed from his spring or temple. Accordingly, the true miracle of the marriage feast at Cana would not be the transformation by Jesus of water in wine, but the transformation of Jesus into a sort of Christian wine god”. 

 

Yeshua’s relationship with his family and his friends became more troubled as his spell-binding approach to the mission evolved. “After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days” (John 2:12). “And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.” (Mark: 3:21). “There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him”, upon which he replied “whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:31).His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him” (John: 7:3). This is also an indirect swipe against James the Just, mentioned as the leader in Thomas:

 

‘The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that you will depart from us. Who is to be our leader?"  Jesus said to them,
"Wherever you are, you are to go to James the righteous, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being”.’
(Thom (12)

 

Metaphors of the winebibber pervade Yeshua’s mission.  Luke 7.33 “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children.Mark 2;18And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.”  John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

 

This enactment of his mission as a destined dramatic tragedy on a catastrophic collision course with the forces of darkness, perceived in both the devil and the Jerusalem authorities, religious and secular, ultimately culminated in a series of ritual events, from the necromancy of Lazarus in John, through the march of the palm king and turning the tables in the temple, resulting in Yehsua’s trial and crucifixion for both insurrection against the Romans and blasphemy against the Hebrew tradition, ostensibly set at nought (i.e. castrated) in the Saturnalia by the Roman guards, and later crucified on the Cross, echoing the Canaanite cry of the death god Mot to El:

 

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying,

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? – My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? “ (Matt 15:34)

 

This doesn’t mean that Yeshua was posing as Dionysus but that he was bringing together all the spiritual currents extant in the greater Israel and its neighbour nations, and adopted currents of Dionysian magical transformation and fertility worship notions of sacrifice of the sacred king, as well as the apocalyptic expectations of the Jewish eschatology in its Zoroastrian-inspired  end of days form. These then form a bridge to a new Heaven and a new Earth.

 

To imbue prophetic validity to Yeshua’s apocalyptic mission, Christian scriptures attempt to conflate these assumed events with passages from the prophets such as Zechariah, where the foolish shepherd  brings about an apocalyptic denouement replete with echoes of Judas’ betrayal:

 

“And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD” (Zech 11:13).

 

But the Christian accounts incorrectly attribute this to Jeremiah and Matthew is in double contradiction with Acts:

 

“Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.  And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value.  And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me” (Matt 27:3).

 

“Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood” (Acts 1:16-19).

 

Either these “prophecies” were part of a Dionysian enactment, with Jesus and Judas both complicit, or they are a contrived imputation by later writers, who did not have first hand experience of the mission.

 

5.  The Dionysian Heritage

 

Evidence from the Mycenaean period shows that Dionysus is one of Greece's oldest attested gods 1400 years before Yeshua. His attribute of "foreignness" as an arriving outsider-god may be inherent and essential to his cults, as he is a god of epiphany, sometimes called "the god that comes”. With the advent of viticulture in archaic Greece, Dionysus became a god of transformation, and eternal life. His cult involved bands of married women (thiasoi - adherents of a deity) periodically retreating to the mountain forests at night to hold an ecstatic revel rout, where through dances and other rituals they experienced the divinity of Dionysus and the release and liberation he afforded as liber, associated with the orgiastic and ecstatic frenzy of his worshipers, including the maenads  (“raving ones”) who were said to use nightshade to dilate their pupils to make them 'dolorous' from which nightshade’s name Belladonna (“beautiful lady”) comes. In Athens there was a procession on his feast day, when his image was paraded before the crowd, after which he performed a sacred marriage ritual with the kings wife.

 


Fig 214: Dionysian parallels: Simone Martini’s “Carrying the Cross” shows Mary Magdalene, her face smitten with streaks of blood following Jesus in despair. "The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me" Canticles (5:7). Suggested to be one of several secret codas by medieval artists to support the idea that Mary was Yeshua’s lover. The women of Galilee figure as the effective maenads of Yeshua, in supporting him out of their substance, in anointing hm for his burial and in watching from far off during the crucifixion and announcing his resurrection. Gospel accounts of Yeshua walking on water and rescuing Peter are prefigured in the story of Dionysus miraculously turning the pirates into dolphins when they jump into the ocean in fear of his miraculous manifestations. Inset: two Nabatean and Syrian tragic masks used to confer immortal life on the bearer prefiguring the apocalyptic notion that the death of the saviour is the key to immortal life.

 

Dionysus, who was the twice born and resurrected son of God Zeus by mortal Semele, was a horned child who was torn to pieces by Titans who lured him with toys, then boiled and ate him. Zeus then destroyed the Titans by thunderbolt as a result of their action against Dionysus and from the ashes humans were formed. However, Dionysus' grandmother Rhea managed to put some of his pieces back together and brought him back to life. He was said to perform a variety of miracles in connection with grapevines and wine, all to do with the gods seasonal epiphany at the time of his festival, evidencing the presence of his divinity. Epiphania means "appearance" in Greek and refers to the revelation of the Lord's power in his appearanceIn pagan antiquity, 6 January was the epiphany of Dionysus. Vase paintings depict wine flowing directly from grape clusters, presenting wine as a product of the divine. On the occasion of Dionysus’s festival called Thyria (“raging), when Dionysus was thought to be present there, priests under the watch of witnesses placed three empty basins in a building under seal. The next morning when the seal on the door was broken and people entered, the basins were full of wine. In EuripidesBacchae, a maenad struck the ground with her thyrsus, “and the god at that spot put forth a fountain of wine.

 

Dionysus, of all deities, stands as the manifestation of miraculous dread at a level unsurpassed by Yeshua’s miracles on Lake of Galilee. The magical metamorphoses of Dionysus are rendered on the Dionysus Cup from around 540-530 BCE by Exekias. A band of Tyrrhenian pirates sailing by the shore happens upon Dionysus and kidnaps him for ransom, believing him to be a wealthy prince binding him to the mast. To their surprise, the fetters fall away from his hands and feet. The ships helmsman cries out: Madmen! What god is this whom you have taken to bind? Do not lay hands on him, lest he grow angry and stir up dangerous winds and heavy squalls.His mates do not heed the warning and strange things are seen about them. Sweet, fragrant wine runs streaming throughout the piratesblack ship. Vines dripping with clusters of grapes spread across the tops of the sails, while dark ivy blooming with flowers and berries entwines the ships mast. Dionysus transforms into a dreadful lion and summons illusions of wild beasts, the leopard or panther, sacred to him, and lions, tigers, and bears. As the beasts lunge, the terrified pirates promptly jump overboard into the seas cold embrace, but the god enjoys the last laugh as the pirates transform into dolphins upon striking the waves. Only the helmsman, who enjoyed the change of heart, is spared to tell this tale of the wrath of Dionysus.

 

What is distinctly different about the Dionysian tale is that it is and has always been recognised as mythopoetic allegory, not a physical fact, while Yeshua’s alleged miracles and his promises of a return from the dead in power have been crafted by the Christian forefathers to be a claimed cosmological fact more real than the word around us. This is profoundly dangerous, because it lays a false cosmological claim in complete contradiction to every verified form of knowledge, to jam pack the persona of the Son of God into the portal of reality to make a claim of ultimate ascendency over nature on the part of the Son of Man become the Son of God under pain of eternal torment.

 

The Dionysian connection pervaded the Near East with the rise of Alexander and the ensuing Greek empires and became integral to Syria and Nabatea. Dhushara was an ancient Arabic deity originally represented by a simple stone block in a similar manner to the worship of a stone pillar at Bethel by Jacob , as a non iconic face of the abstract God, as Yahweh was. Gen 35:14:Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it”. However with the rise of Nabatean commerce and viticulture, Dhushara gained the persona of the Greek Dionysus, just as al-Uzza, al-lat and Manat gained the forms of Tyche, Atargatis and Aphrodite. Nabatean culture had shrines scattered far and wide across the fertile landscape.

 

Astral worship came to involve elaborate repasts on triclinia overseen by “the consecrated and inviolable possession of” Dhushara, in which concern for making detailed preparations for immortal life had a pivotal focus. Dhushara became the god with the tragic death mask conferring immortal life on the wearer: The Nabatean use of the tragic mask furnishes yet another example of their preoccupation with immortality and their intense desire to become identified with their divinity. The mask served as a portrait of the deathless God Dushara, Dusares Dionysos and its wearer became united with him through its use for life everlasting escaping thus the limitations of the mortal span” (Glueck 242) .

 

Given that these forms of worship extended across the East of the Jordan from Arabia in the South to Syria in the North, and the commercial currents running between East to West by sea, it is inescapable that these currents of deity would have been grist to the mill of religious and apocalyptic ferment.

 

6.  The Women of Galilee and the Daughters of Jerusalem

 

Yeshua’s mission is intimately bound up in the affairs of key women who ministered unto him out of their substance, effectively providing the financial funding for the mission: Luke 8:1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

 

The seven devils are the seven Galla of Inanna-Ishtar that pursued and ravaged Tammuz-Dumuzi, corresponding to the seven layers of hell when the goddess of heaven does her descent, so mentioning them specifically in the gospels casts Mary Magdalene as the sacrificial Queen of Heaven in the piece, preemptively anointing him for his burial after his sacrifice as a sacred king in the shadow of Dumuzi and Tammuz. This means that, as we converge on the crucifixion, there is a relentless parallel with John the Baptist’s death in Inanna’s Descent enacted by Salome at Macherus.

 

Rather than being anointed by a high priest, as was David and Solomon, Yeshua is anointed by a woman, either on his feet or head and in Mark and John ominously for his burial as a sacred king.

 


Fig 215: Piero della Francesca “The Baptism of Christ”,
Giovanni de Milano “Anointing”,  Piero della Francesca  “The Crucifixion”, Icon “The Holy Myrrh Bearing Women”,  Titian “Noli me Tangere”. The women play a pivotal role in Yeshua’s mission and are thus portrayed as witnesses and ritual participants in all the critical events, from the baptism, ministering unto him out of their substance, with Mary Magdalene, out of whom went the seven Galla of Inanna (above) anointing him for his burial, watching over his crucifixion and witnessing the risen Christ.

 

John’s account has Mary performing the task. John 12:3 “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him. Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?  This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this”.  This appears to link to Luke’s reference to Mary playing “that good part” in the Dionysian ritual: Luke 10:41 “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

 

In Mark, Yeshua is anointed on his head and the pharisees murmur against him because of the cost: Mark 14:3 “And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.  And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. ...  She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.

 

In Luke this woman is described as a “sinner”, interpreted as a prostitute and they murmur because she is a sinner: Luke 7:37 “And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment”.

 

This sinner has also been associated with Magdalen and with the woman caught in adultery: John 8:3 “And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery, saying to Yeshua “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act” to which he replied He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her, And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, and so Yeshua said “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?  She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee.

 

Yeshua’s very fanciful genealogy in Matthew, as King of the Jews, descends through five “fallen” women: (1) Tamar who covered her head with a veil as a prostitute to become impregnated by her father-in-law when he failed to honour betrothing her to a husband’s brother on the death of her husband according to Hebrew law. (2) Rahab, the prostitute who let the Israelite spies into Jericho. (3) Ruth who lay with Boaz at night and later became his wife. (4) Bathsheba who sired Solomon with David, although then married to Uriah, whom David later had killed and (5) mother Mary who was found with child out of wedlock and was partnered by Joseph: Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily(Matt 1:19).

All these women are perceived to be virtuous, but all have at face value sexually transgressed, despite the fact that Mary is claimed by the Christian account to be impregnated by God in the form of the Holy Ghost, just as Semele was impregnated by Zeus.

 

Likewise the parable of the foolish virgins, which is clearly apocryphal, as it appears only in Matthew, overlays an intensely sexual theme of the Bridegroom entering a marriage ceremony with multiple virgins, at least five of which he consorts with. This is of course an echo of the Jewish relationship of God with the bride Israel, expounded throughout the Old Testament in God’s jealousy and violent opposition to the whoring of the nations, taken to a pastoral climax with Rabbi Akiva’s adoption of the Song of Songs, one of the most fertile and haunting love songs ever committed to scripture, as the Holy of Holies, the inner temple sanctum, and which despite its myrrh on the locks enigmatically remains in the Christian bible as the same metaphor.

 

However the dark side of this parable is that it is used sacrificially. Luke 2:19 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days”, again echoing the Dionysian winebibber “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles..

 

Christianity thus waits endlessly for the messiah’s Second Coming, in contrast to the fertile quest of the Jews to go forth and multiply as a living species. It thus constitutes a hijacking of the fertility principle to enshrine Christianity as the cosmic portal of salvation.

 

The women also play a pivotal role in the tragic enactment of the Crucifixion, with the daughters of Jerusalem and the women of Galilee playing opposing parts as a contrapuntal dramatic chorus:

 

Luke 23:27 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck”.

 

Luke 23:48 And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things”.

 

Consistent with the Dionysian maenads and fertility traditions of the nations, the women are intimately involved, while the male disciples are scattered like sheep in Yeshua’s hour of need. The women of Galilee were pivotal and Magdalen prominently among them for pronouncing the risen Christ: And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment” (Luke 23:55).  Luke 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.”

 

7.  Whom do Men say that I Am?

 

The canonical gospels pivot on the critical assumption that Yeshua is Christ the Son of God who must die and rise again on the third day. Luke 9:20 “He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.”

 

Mark has the latter discussions in more detail which indicates that the entire mission was conceived as a confrontational assault on the division of dark and light in which the sacrifice would bring about the Resurrection in three days. When Peter rebukes Yeshua, his response is to call him Satan, confirming the war of dark and light – Matt 12:30 “if you are not with me, you are against me”, “Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”

 

Matt 16:13 “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

In his trial, Yeshua confirms he is the Christ and will return in power. Mark 14:61: “But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?  And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven”.

 

In complete contrast, in The Gospel of Thomas, which begins “Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death” Yeshua says he is NOT the disciples master, but they are drunk on his Dionysian spring:

 

Thom (13) Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like."  Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a righteous angel." Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher." Thomas said to him, "Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like."  Jesus said, "I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out.” Again a Dionysian metaphor, but also a veridical declaration of truth.

 

Likewise, the Kingdom, which the canonical gospels declare will come with apocalyptic cataclysm, is the natural world around us obscured by our own barriers to knowing and appreciating reality:

 

Thom (113) His disciples said to him, "When will the kingdom come?" Jesus said, "It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying 'here it is' or 'there it is'. Rather, the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it”.

 

Thom (51)  His disciples said to him, "When will the repose of the dead come about, and when will the new world come?"  He said to them, "What you look forward to has already come, but you do not recognize it.

 

The Kingdom is preceded and evoked by the natural condition in which we all become the sons of God:

 

Thom (3)  Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father.

 

Thom (20) The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us what the kingdom of heaven is like."  He said to them, "It is like a mustard seed. It is the smallest of all seeds. But when it falls on tilled soil, it produces a great plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky.”

 

The end of days is not an end but is as it was in the beginning.

 

Thom (18)  The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us how our end will be." Jesus said, "Have you discovered, then, the beginning, that you look for the end? For where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who will take his place in the beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death."

 

Nevertheless he reinforces that he is there to provoke conflict and conflagration:

 

Thom (16) Jesus said, "Men think, perhaps, that it is peace which I have come to cast upon the world. They do not know that it is          dissension which I have come to cast upon the earth: fire, sword, and war. For there will be five in a house: three will be against two, and two against three, the father against the son, and the son against the father. And they will stand solitary.”

 

Yet he will do this by instilling new vision:

 

Thom (17)  Jesus said, "I shall give you what no eye has seen and what no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has never occurred to the human mind."

 

Perceiving ultimate reality with the mind counterpoints Paul’s quote, which stresses loving God: ‘But, as it is written, What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him ‘(1 Corinthians 2:9).

 

This is again different from the Old Testament original From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him” (Isa 64:4), which emphasises Yahwistic monotheism, waiting in in faithful covenant.

 

The key to the kingdom is childlike innocence: Thom (46) Jesus said, "Among those born of women, from Adam until John the Baptist, there is no one so superior to John the Baptist that his eyes should not be lowered (before him). Yet I have said, whichever one of you comes to be a child will be acquainted with the kingdom and will become superior to John."  

 

Thom (37) expands hinting that unravelling the Edenic Fall brings back the immortality of the Tree of Life claimed in the opening passage: Jesus said, "When you disrobe without being ashamed and take up your garments and place them under your