I’ll start this Lammas-tide gathering of top mind-manifesting resources with the books. First up is Ayahuasca Shamanism: In the Amazon and Beyond a cutting-edge collection of ethnographic academic papers edited by Beatriz Caiuby Labate & Clancy Cavnar. This is a wonderful book that describes and analyses the ayahuasca culture in South America and internationally. Many of the essays focus on the interface between western ayahuasca or shamanic tourists and native users.
Here we see a subtle series of explorations; nothing as simple as native=good and western=bad, but a far more nuanced and well evidenced collection of observations about the meeting of these worlds, and the creation of a shared culture. What’s particularly cool about this book is that it overturns the simplistic view that all Amazonian tribes have used ayahuasca for n-thousand years for y-spiritual purposes. In fact for many of the tribal Amazon cultures ayahuasca has just arrived, being spread through social changes such as the rubber tapping boom of 1879 to 1912, and even as an unintended consequence of missionary activity. In some cases knowledge and use of ayahuasca has come to indigenous forest people via the cities, through the emerging religions of the Santo Daime Church, the União do Vegetal and others. It’s also the case that while some cultures use ayahuasca for ‘shamanic’ healing, there are also documented examples of societies that use it to get everyone fired up before going hunting, to war, and other cultures that pretty much think of it as a nice recreational buzz.
Even in context of what we may think is an agreed idea of shamanism (between indigenous and visiting cultures) there can be some amazing misunderstandings which, paradoxically, can lead to a newly emerging shared culture. A simple difference is that in an indigenous context a shaman will often try to sell their skills in removing curses, banishing bad spirits and providing magical protection. However western ayahuasca pilgrims (or tourists if you prefer) don’t want that freaky stuff, they want to meet spirit guides, to address a sense of ennui and perceived lack of wholeness; to explore who they are and what their lives mean. These very different perceptions of what ayahuasca shamanism can achieve get blended into a curious mash-up of intentions and cultural meanings that leaves both sides thinking they are understood by the other.
The next offering is Neurotransmissions: Essays on Psychedelics from Breaking Convention. This is a collection of texts derived from talks presented at the 2013 Breaking Convention conference. There’s a wonderful range of writing from the cutting edge of this field. My personal favourite is the long exploration of the ‘reality’ (whatever that means) of DMT entities, as well as a potted history of this fascinating material, provided by David Luke and Andrew R.Gallimore There’s a great download about MDMA therapy by Michael Mithoefer and one by yours truly; Stoned Temple Pilots – Set, Setting and Substance in Contemporary Entheogenic Spirituality, and much more.
In addition to this printed record of lectures past you can also now begin to catch up on any of the amazing presentations from Breaking Convention 2015 that you may have missed. These are starting to be posted here. First uploads include a Q&A with Russell Brand and Daniel Pinchbeck. I strongly recommend the talk by Rick Doblin of MAPS (to be added soon) where Rick provides a well considered strategic vision of how his organisation is working towards the end of prohibition and to create spaces where psychedelics can be used, not only for therapy, but more broadly.
This road-map to a brighter, psychedelic-positive future aims, eventually, towards establishing locations where people can go to experience a psychedelic initiation and, once they have completed this and demonstrated that they are trustworthy, be licensed to own and use psychedelic drugs. Such a model is very similar to that proposed by Timothy Leary in The Politics of Ecstasy all the way back in 1971. Thing is, this isn’t just a DMT-pipe dream. MAPS, along with other organisations, have the money, the nous, the allies and the vision, to make this possible. As Rick Doblin said in his talk; if you’re in the audience thinking that you’d love to work legally with psychedelics then today you actually have a very good chance of this happening.
Another forthcoming filmic release of a lecture is one by chaos mage Dave Lee, held in July at Treadwells in London. In this talk he provides a history of The Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros. Dave writes:
“People interested in watching a video of my recent talk at Treadwells on the History of the IOT shoud email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d also like to join in a discussion about the talk and IOT history, you can join me at 6pm (BST) on August 16th 2015, to watch the video then talk on Google Hangouts. (This will require your having a gmail address.)”
(I’m also doing a workshop at Treadwells on Saturday 26th September btw, details from Treadwells – JV.)
“This is very much a Chaos Magic altar – Baphomet has pride of place. To the left, you see Bast – we did some recent work around cats. The blue disc with a pencil through it is a Wheel of Wealth – anyone who is curious about that working, which is ongoing, is welcome to ask me via Facebook.
The big entity at the front is very special. Its name is Izawa, and it is an egregore entity, made by a group, to protect, sustain and nurture the psychedelic gnosis. As things are at present, it has its work cut out for it, but there are some hopeful signs in the offing. “
Our spirit of the psychedelic gnosis, Izawa, would certainly approve of our next item, the Ploom PAX Vaporizer.
I’d done extensive research on-line with a view to finding a suitable hand-held vaporiser for smoking mugwort, tobacco and, where it’s safe and legal to do so of course, cannabis. After only few days use I’m quite sold on this little baby. The unit itself charges from the mains (my only gripe being that a US to UK plug wasn’t supplied). Plug the device into the docking station and the X shaped light glows red as it absorbs power. Once ready to go herbal material may be loaded into the chamber (which uses a cunning magnetic closure). Set the temperature, wait for the illuminated X to change from purple to green, and then suck.
What happens next is, apparently, nothing; hardly any smoke (except on the highest of temperature settings and with the chamber quite full), it’s just like breathing in a straight forward lung-full of air. No coughing, no carbon monoxide, no particulates. But does it work? Certainly! Moreover the lack of the usual body load associated with using joints or pipes means that high provided by cannabis is much ‘lighter’, in some respects more intense but with less of a ‘drunk’ or ‘dopey’ feeling. One can taste the herb but there is very little smell as the material is vaporised. The battery life from one charge is pretty good and the build quality excellent. Add to this the fact that the machine is guaranteed for 10 years and you’ve got a real winner. There’s a nice show and tell video about this product here and purchases can be made from here. Highly recommended 😉 (British voters who may like to use this product with cannabis may wish to sign this rapidly growing petition to end cannabis prohibtion here.)
The final sheaf of goodness for this Lammas is totally free. This is the second offering in the Secular Sermons project by Leipzig based scientist Daniel Böttger.
In the First Sermon Daniel created a long poem that skilfully uses cosmology as a stimulus for the numinous imagination; crafting a text that has a religious sensibility but is explicitly grounded in the scientific reality that many of us inhabit. In this Second Sermon: The Games of Entropy Daniel takes us on another rhyming journey through the intimate space of the biological cell and that intricate complexity of chemical reactions that we call life. The poem elegantly presents what we know about these processes in well-phrased rhythmic text, and calls upon us meet these facts with an attitude of wonderment.
The Secular Sermons project is following a seven-fold model meaning we’ve still got another five amazing texts still to come, so as Böttger explains, this work is unlikely to be completed for several years.
There is a nicely typeset pdf of the first two poems at the website and the work is copyright free. Divested of any explicit religious iconography, this is a perfect holy book for those agnostic or atheists out there who appreciate the human capacity for awe, reverence and spirituality, but want to move beyond the superstitious aspects of conventional religion. Science be praised!