Great Questions, Great Answers

I have recently returned from the excellent Occult Conference at Glastonbury where I had the good fortune to be co-presenting with Andrew Phillip Smith (http://www.andrewphillipsmith.com/)  on “Gnosticism in Theory and Practice: Gnosticism as a path of spiritual Free-thinking”. In pursuit of an engaging format, Andrew and I decided that we would pose to each other a series of questions about this theme in the hope that we could provide some interesting and erudite responses. While I will leave the assessment of our success to the audience, one of the most intriguing questions that Andrew asked was whether I had encountered any interesting spiritual beings during my gnostic explorations.

While sadly time did not allow for us to explore this question together during our actual presentation, musing on it did trigger an interesting process of self-reflection and insight. In short my most memorable experiences to date have been with Holy Wisdom (Sophia) and with my future magical self.

I have already written on this blog about my work with Sophia and while I have engaged with a number of god-forms in my magical work, I have been struck by the depth of her impact on me. I had long been acquainted with the personification of Wisdom as female within Biblical literature, but by engaging with her magically via Gnostic myth, I felt as though I have been given a new lens through which to view with the female divine across a number of intersecting traditions. For me this has these have led me to deep waters of Bhakti (devotional) yoga that I have found profoundly helpful. I rarely feel comfortable talking about the deeply personal dimensions of my magical work in that I find language often struggles to capture nuance without risking cliché,  but I would encourage you, dear reader, to explore for yourself the connections between Wisdom and the divine feminine in whichever path you follow.

It is perhaps slightly comical that as a Gnostic explorer I continue to be shocked by the direct challenge that this work poses, but I guess we are all prone to forgetfulness. In exploring the process of my own waking up, I have been aware of my own spark of awareness being embodied by a figure dwelling at the threshold of my consciousness. I have already written about being haunted by my memory of the Jesus I had encountered during my Christian past but this unease has a different quality. Differing schools may seek to describe this as an etheric double or the daemonic aspect of the self, but my own encounter seemed quite strongly connected to my own future self. This sense of personified aspiration or what Assagioli would call the Super-Conscious self might be explored mythically via figures such as the androgynous Adam Kadmon from the Jewish tradition or Balder “the shining one” from Norse lore. Whatever figure we might connect to, perhaps more critical is that we draw inspiration from the sense of becoming or unfolding they represent.

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Bright God

For me this is the path of aspiration, guarded futurism and teleological endeavour. Magical work that has no aspiration or no real longing that it is seeking to fulfill is unlikely to sustain focus. Most of us who seek to follow an initiatory or magical path do so because we want more. We aspire to understand our past and who we are today so that we might maximize our being, and pull-in gnosis from our future magical selves.

Nema in her excellent Maat Magick locates such work in the figure of “N’Aton”, an androgynous future Self that holds within it both our individual and collective genius: “In N’Aton’s home line (i.e. the version of the future in which they are most fully realised), we’ve controlled our mutation into a species of double consciousness: the familiar one of individuality and the new telepathic connection amongst us that constitutes N’Aton” (Ma’at Magick pg. 65). Personally I love this perception of awakening as holding both individual and collective dimensions. Each of us will have our own unique challenge in either making more connections or establishing individual ego-strength, but N’Aton reminds us that both must be held in Ma’at’s balancing scales.

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Just Goddess

My own ongoing explorations of N’Aton as a concept/being feel fruitful in that such workings can provide rich illustration regarding what we aspire to be, and the challenges that might limit such becoming. Such work can be quite edgy and disorientating (time-travel often can be!) and I would recommend thorough grounding at the conclusion of your ritual working i.e. banish, eat and preferably have contact with others.

In conclusion I will provide a snapshot from a recent invocation to N’Aton that took place as part of a ritual exploring our hopes and longings from the future:

N’Aton:

Deep Self

Future Self

Quicksilver Messenger

Who dwells on the Threshold.

Genius!

Daemon!

Dark-Feather Wind-Dancer.

Holy Guardian Angel,

Speak to us and support us.

Pull us forward

Come dwell with us now!

SD

 

Crossing the Abyss

Some years ago I completed a probationership for Ordo Typhonis which consisted of keeping a  diary documenting magical work of my choice over a 9 month period. I chose my work to consist of making contact with my Holy Guardian Angel (HGA). It was interesting and very hard and also, to some extent, successful. I am not sure that I can claim to have had wonderful unmitigated success but certainly it seemed to be the case that I had some dialogue with the HGA with some very insightful and unexpected experiences. I discovered that some of the best visionary experiences happened during times when I had a very hot bath in a completely dark bathroom: raising the body temperature to fever levels seems to help a great deal. I had dialogues with the HGA superimposed over my body and also quite counter-intuitive experiences where the HGA seemed to appear as a devil-like figure that Jung might have called the Shadow. Other times it would be at work whilst I was doing monotonous tasks.

When I passed as Neophyte I adopted the magical name ‘Frater Ixomaxip’ which means ‘Let Her be known’ in Enochian. I used an Enochian ‘bornless ritual’ to contact the HGA. ‘Let Her be Known’ was my formula for ‘crossing the Abyss’, the Goddess in Binah on the Tree of Life becoming my lode-star: Babalon in effect ‘tempting’ me across the Abyss. On the 6th November (my birthday) 2015 our magical group performed a ritual to open Aethyr 6, ‘Maz’. In this context the Aethyr known as ‘The Urn’ became symbolic of the Abyss or sacred birth-canal. From that day on my life got turned upside down! On 7th November morning I could see a planetary alignment clearly in the sky, it felt like my heart was being pierced: Venus, Mars, Luna and Jupiter were aligned.

It seemed that I had a Jack Parsons moment as it appeared that Her avatar came into my life and opened Tiphereth (The Heart) for me opening the (6th) path of ‘The Lovers’ from Tiphereth to Binah. This person seemed to epitomise what Babalon stands for and I fell for her, which was a big mistake as she belongs to no-one! She had the qualities you would expect in her personality and appearance: charismatic, independent and flirtatious. As I got to know her and her complex character she revealed a deep love of animals and an almost pathological hatred for the human race: very much resonant with the Call of the 30 Aethyrs that I intone daily. She did not want to just drink the blood of saints, I think that she would have quite happily feasted on the rest of humanity as well, given the chance (or that is what she led me to believe anyway). Her radiant and lovely persona concealed a very troubled soul and I adored every aspect of it deeply: I could have kissed the ground she walked on.

Although she has no faith in magic now  (though she was a practitioner) she did randomly say: ‘I have come to set you free!’. I left my life and family behind and visited her in Thailand during her Asian travels: this was a big adventure for me and a massive upheaval! It also caused a lot of chaos at home-as you would expect! Would I be able to return to my old life? Would I even be able to open my front door when I got back?!

All this played out against the backdrop of other very serious problems in my life. Someone very close to me was suffering from depression and was making multiple suicide attempts and I was not getting the emotional support that I needed except from my special friend who seemed like a ray of sunlight in an otherwise dark existence. I was so deeply grateful and even happy coping  with anything that life was throwing at me.

Before leaving on my journey our group performed a ‘Babalon Working’ in March: around the time that Jack Parsons did his all those years ago, opening the 7th Aethyr Deo (note the numbers!), I designated this Aethyr as meaning ‘God is Love’ (Deus Caritas). This was the Aethyr that Jack called in order to conjure Babalon.

Numbers and dates lined up in uncanny fashion. I left for Thailand on 6th May and arrived on the 7th bearing in mind that our ritual took place on the 6th and 7th of November, 6 months from Samhain to Beltane: this was very significant. The path from Tiphereth to Binah is also the 6th path from the 6th Sephirah: without wanting to bore you too much. It was also the order that we opened the Aethyrs in.

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Chart of Hell

My life would never be the same again. A great many synchronicities occurred during this period and I went through an emotional rollercoaster ride. My family were actually amazingly supportive and patient. I chose to be honest and open about what I was doing against the advice of most people. This also caused me trouble but in the long-run it seemed to be the correct way to behave.

I would say that ‘crossing the abyss’ is like most other things in magic: the most natural process in the world with magic serving as a catalyst, the difference being that it is a volitional act in this case. Any major life-crisis where you are forced to give up the way you define yourself, any ego-shattering experience where you manage to re-assemble yourself and move forward, in one sense is an abyss-crossing. I would say it is a process of maturation with some special features that come from the magical perspective. The sense of subject/object dissolves: the trauma of the sense of self being shattered leaves you unable to purely identify with what you would normally call self, it is a defence mechanism: you expand the limits of your range. When you are ‘everything’ then ‘nothing can hurt you’ anymore.

In my particular case this experience centred around the thing that I feared and loathed the most, the thing that was the greatest enigma for me: love and romance. I assumed the lesson to be: ’love without attachment’ but the trauma around the last year or two was more fundamental than that and the lesson is still not complete: will it ever be? As long as you breathe there are lessons to be learnt.

ER

Magic about to Spring

Around this time of year, between Imbolc and the March Equinox, I begin the totes majix process of purification and cleansing, otherwise known as The Spring Cleaning. There is sufficient light to see that the windows of the house need a good wash, and the areas of the garden in need of repair after winter. Within me the spring rises up, my mood lifts and I spontaneously smile when I see the first snowdrops and daffodils emerge.

I’ve written before about the importance, in my view, of locating magic in the everyday and not only in explicitly ceremonial settings. This is the role of magic to ‘intensify the normal‘ as Austin Spare expressed it. Thus, as I potter about the garden, cutting some wood for the fire, sweeping the path, I allow my mind to mull over the projects that are coming up with the spring. I’m co-facilitating a workshop next month with David Luke and Nikki Wyrd in Snowdonia, Wales. This is the second Neuro-Magica retreat, where we use (to quote Uncle Al) ‘the method of science, (for) the aim of religion’. Informed by psychology and ethnography, using technologies derived from various spiritual traditions, we collaboratively create a space designed to generate insights and even peak experiences for our participants. That’s what we do.

Halfway up the stone steps, between the lower terrace and the enclosed grove of the second one, I find myself absent mindedly rotating a root between my finger and thumb. I’d unconsciously picked this up from the floor whilst sweeping, perhaps attracted by its alien gnarled shape. I am playing with this root, my hand above a ceramic planter in which a purple crocus valiantly pushes skywards. I take my attention to the Neuro-Magica project. I let my mind flow into the spaces that we intend to create. Mentally I step back and see how this project looks in terms of the some of the larger stuff that I (and the other two facilitators) are involved with (especially now that the psychedelic express train that is Breaking Convention 2017 is  filling up with speakers, artists, performers, films, installations, volunteers and ticket holders). I am aware of how the old root and the new shoot are emblematic of various processes connected with the projects and transformations I’m currently engaged in.

This example is not one of a planned ritual. Rather it is an instance of discovering the magical in the mundane; again of ‘intensifying the normal’. Ritual itself (to use my current favorite description) is ‘a series of inhabited metaphors’. I described it thus recently at a workshop I ran at The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. ‘What does that mean?’ asked one student, a perfectly good question, so I gave an example, something along the lines of this…

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In Boscastle, Cornwall.

“Today in this workshop we are working within the library of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. The library is a complex web of history, words, authors, collectors and many other stories. It is full of knowledge, and of truth, and of lies. For the purposes of today we are going to imagine that the library is an entity, a being, a person, a spirit. We do this because relating to other beings is what our brains are good at (see this article for more on spirits). In a moment we are going to leave the library and go outside for a short time. We will ask Judith as our host, and co-manager of the museum [who was also attending the course] to formally welcome us into the library. As we come back in, we each need to greet the library as though it were a person (perhaps aloud, perhaps mentally). By doing this we are inhabiting (i.e. doing stuff) within a metaphor (i.e. that the library is an intelligent spirit which we are looking to be on good terms with).”

(There’s a full report about this workshop on the Museum blog if you want to know more.)

Sometimes these metaphors are ones we know and create (perhaps in a ritual), sometimes there are ones that we stumble upon (me with the root and the shoot), and others are ones we only see once we have done the work. To provide an example of the latter: I am acting as mentor in magic to a friend in the USA, using a combination of Skype and email communication. This person, acting on the discussions we had, created a devotional ritual to a saint. The ritual was an original composition and, like any art, grew out of the interface between the raw media (in this case text about and images of the saint), and the artist/magician’s creative genius. Having used the ritual for a while my friend began to see things in the rite that hadn’t been obvious when it was first created. (This included some rather lovely links to the iconography of kundalini  yoga and Thelemic cosmology.) This isn’t surprising since plenty of artists create their work and only later, sometimes with the help of critics and commentators, become aware of (potentially) deeper levels of interpretation in their creation.

When we do magic we are working with these archetypal forces or perhaps ‘deep structures’ of the ‘unconscious’or, to use that lovely term from Paul Huson, the ‘Deep Mind’. Our praxis is the reflection and articulation of these deep structures of the Deep Mind. This is why human rituals, however elaborate their cultural costume, when undressed, all look pretty much the same.

Another instance of a deep structure can be found in an example I used in my Museum presentation (and, coincidentally that same weekend,  also used by Nikki Wyrd in her workshop at the fabulous Glastonbury Occult Conference). There are complex relationships between written and spoken words and sounds. In magic we often use sounds and words to do stuff, to change the universe. Occulture is full of vibrated words of power, hidden names of God, mantras and sacred letterforms. While the languages (spoken and written) may be as different as Mayan, Mandarin or Sumerian (the cultural costume) nevertheless they still share deep structures, such as that demonstrated by Bouba and Kiki.

The bouba/kiki effect is strongly suggestive of the idea that word sounds are non-arbitrary, and that there is a deep relationship between speech sounds and the visual shape of objects. (This effect was first observed by German-American psychologist Wolfgang Köhler in 1929.)

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How do these shapes sound?

Which shape is bouba and which is kiki? The vast majority of neurotypical people would say that bouba is the rounded shape, whereas kiki is spiky. When we talk about ‘high’ and ‘low’ notes or suggest that bouba is the rounded (soft, welcoming, perhaps feminine etc. etc.) we are articulating the common relationships between the psychic structures of our shared humanity. These deep structures are something magic taps into. Though they can perhaps never be precisely defined (within the conscious mind) through explorations, such as art or magical practice or scientific investigation, we can get a sense of them (we have a sense of ‘what is right’). These deep structures are our common heritage as humans (and indeed probably as mammals). Deep structures may also contain echoes of past patterns; from our families, our species and maybe beyond. To give an example of this consider the brilliantly poetic (and scientifically verifiable) example given by arch-mythographer Joseph Campell: Baby chicks from the moment they hatch know to fall silent and motionless at the sight or even the shadow of a hawk. Campbell observes: ‘Furthermore, even if all the hawks in the world were to vanish, their image would still sleep in the soul of the chick.’

As I pull the rotting leaves from the pond in the garden I am both doing a pragmatic job if I want to provide a useful environment for the amphibians and insects, and, if I pay attention, entering a metaphorical space. Turning such everyday actions into acts of magic is about being sensitive to the poetics pregnant in every moment of existence, and using our ability to notice these opportunities and align them with our desires.

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Pond edge

Desire is what makes magic magic. Our wish, our intention, our (True) Will is what drives the magician to seize these moments of power. For me desire is like the concept of motivation in Vajrayāna. It is something that emerges in and through us; desire happens within the network of relationships. Thus we ‘keep pure our highest idea’ (again to paraphrase Crowley). My desire to clean the pond serves as a practice in which I clear out the clogged winter detritus of my own psyche and in doing so conjure a place for animals and plants to flourish in my garden. A win-win set of mutually beneficial outcomes. I get what I want and so does everyone else. I come to recognize my own Buddha nature by striving for my own liberation in a context where my desire becomes part of the larger project for the liberation of all beings.

JV

 

 

Alice’s Adventures in Underground Culture

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Originally posted on the psychedelic museum:
February 2nd – February 4th at The Horse Hospital, London. Down the rabbit hole we went…and into the second exhibition by the Psychedelic Museum. Alice’s Adventures in Underground Culture brought together the fabulous art of John Coulthart, expertly printed onto blotter paper, and works from a number of other…

Witch on DMT – For Science!

DMT is an iconic substance; one of the central ingredients of the magical potion ayahuasca, fuel for the entrancing soliloquies of Terence McKenna and the beautiful art of Pablo Amaringo. This powerful psychedelic was also the one that the fabulous Nikki Wyrd was injected with at the winter solstice last year – for science!

Nikki was a participant in an experiment conducted at Imperial College, London. In due course I’m sure she will publish exactly what happened, but she can’t share much at the moment because the experiment is ongoing (and no one wants to mess up the data). Both physiological and psychological information was collected, as subjects had the chance to take this often highly visual psychedelic in a clinical setting. The aim is to understand more about how this substance operates, its potential to help us explore how the brain (and mind) works, and the mechanisms by which it exerts its possible therapeutic effects.

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Actual pics of Ms Wyrd as psychonaut to follow once the research is complete!

Now anyone who has been paying attention to the fact that substances such as DMT have regularly proved (for millennia) both philosophically useful (in terms of helping people explore consciousness) and healing (in various ‘traditional’ psychedelic cultures) may wonder why we need such research? There are several answers to this, including the strategic one; that increased licensed use of psychedelics may lead to a wider social acceptance that these are valuable, rather than dangerous, substances. Another reason is that detailed scientific studies (this year will see researchers injecting people with DMT whilst inside fMRI brain scanners) can help us measure and understand exactly what happens to DMT in the body.

Science helps us to learn real data, supportable facts, which sometime challenge our assumptions. For instance; in the case of DMT it now considered something of ‘fact’ that it is produced in the pineal gland. The notion that this most visionary of chemicals is made in the third-eye chakra is a pretty cool one. This idea may have originated as a conversational suggestion from Rupert Sheldrake, and appears as a conjecture in Rick Strassman’s seminal DMT The Spirit Molecule. It’s an idea that is not without merit and it has to be said that today, 20 years after Strassman’s work, there is still research to be done on the chemistry of the pineal (at least judging by a kitchen conversation between Ben Sessa and David Luke I was party to a couple of weeks ago). However even if the pineal gland does make DMT, it appears unlikely that it could be the main source of endogenous DMT. That honour, it seems, belongs not to the ajna chakra but instead to the lungs.

A chemical cascade involving the enzyme INMT, which is always present in the lungs, could produce DMT in amounts  sufficient to create significant alterations in consciousness. The location of DMT production in the lungs also points towards an answer for why we have DMT in our bodies (and the bodies of many, many other living things) in the first place. It could be, as per the mythology, that DMT is there in order to let us crash into a universe of elves in order to impressed by their dazzling non-Euclidian architecture. It could perhaps have been encoded into us by some ancient alien race from Sirius or wherever, or sharpening Occam’s razor, or it could be something much more pragmatic and important to our biology.

What DMT is for in the body is the subject of some fascinating research by the charming Dr Ede Frecska. If you watch his video (filmed at Breaking Convention in 2015) you will get to hear what, for my money, is one of the best opening lines of any presentation on psychedelics: “I have a dream to have DMT in an ampule for IV use in every operating room, every intensive care unit, and every emergency vehicle.”

It appears that DMT acts to stop cells dying, it slows damage caused by oxidative stress and that’s why it is one of the few substances which are actively transported across the blood-brain barrier in humans (the others are glucose and vitamin C). As Ede explains in his engaging lecture there is a clear (and testable) chemical pathway, focused around the lungs, for our bodies to make DMT and for it to be rapidly absorbed by the brain for its neuroprotective benefits.

This scientific insight has lots of fascinating consequences. It means, for example, that we have a clear physiological mechanism by which the body could be flooded by psychedelic DMT at birth, perhaps at death, and when the body is under oxidative stress. Knowing this perhaps adds an additional layer to our understanding of the power of breathwork. Ritual practices such as full immersion baptism and many other body technologies for changing awareness may also make use of our endogenous DMT, encouraging the lungs to allow this psychedelic to persist in the bloodstream from where it is actively gobbled up by the brain.

I wonder whether the subjective effects of DMT echo what is going on at a cellular level? I wonder whether all those fractals, faces and, for some, the deep sense of the reality of the experience, is something that serves to stimulate us when we are in trouble? Small amounts of exogenous DMT certainly increase attentiveness, so maybe the call to ‘sit up and pay attention’ in the DMT trance is a turned up version of a biologically rooted ‘hey! Pull yourself together!’. At higher levels of endogenous DMT, the creation of an internal landscape, of the type we might encounter in the exogenous DMT trance, could be a property that serves to keep the operating system of consciousness running (i.e. awareness of an apparently objective external world) while the hardware (the brain) is under stress. Maybe DMT space is what the brain does until it can reboot, a hyperdimensional screensaver before normal consciousness comes back online? It is also interesting that current research suggests that DMT may have a directly healing effect on the brain (probably through its effect on the sigma-1 receptor).

Whether the effect of DMT on subjective experience is something that has been evolutionarily selected for, or whether it’s just one of those wacky epiphenomena (or the work of hyper-dimensional aliens…), is open to question. What is perhaps more certain, given recent research, is that those visitations by Guardian Angels, ancestors and other imaginal beings in moments of physical crisis (such as near drowning) could be visions made accessible by the production of DMT in the body. (Note, this isn’t the same as saying these things are not ‘real’ – whatever that means, see my article on the subject).

Many wonderful scientific insights into psychedelic substances will be presented later this year at the mother of all psychedelic conferences Breaking Convention. The lastest scientific investigations, funded by groups such as MAPS, The Beckley Foundation, and others, will bring cutting edge information to the conference. Add to this a goodly assortment of psychonauts, independent researchers, historians, shamans and others, and you’ve got a powerful psychedelic potion indeed! I’m pleased to know that some of the scientific data I’ll be hearing about will have been gathered with the help of practising spiritual psychonauts such as Ms Wyrd (who, probably, as a result of many years spent in meditation, was able to remain perfectly still during her DMT assay, producing electroencephalogram readings that were, according to the researchers, ‘impeccable’).

Finally, I hope and indeed pray that we can, as psychedelics ask us to do, keep our minds open as science and magic meet in our renewed quest to understand how best to use these marvelous substances.

Ahoy!

JV

STOP PRESS! More science news; a few hours before releasing this blogpost, a paper revealing the crystal structure of the human 5-HT2B receptor bound to LSD was published. Yet another speck to add to our ever-growing pile of knowledge.

 

 

Surreal Christology (Part 3): The Trickster

Now I’ll be honest, part of problem with Tricksters is that the process of trying to define them can, in and of itself, be a bit tricky! The very nature of these liminal figures that push irreverently against what is polite, acceptable and knowable means that they tend to slip out of attempts at neat archetypal categorisation. As with my previous explorations of Queer theory and the way in which its blurry fluidity can be both liberating and infuriating, so attempts to corral figures as diverse as Hermes, Loki, Coyote and Eshu will meet with frustration.

Tricksters tend to be those figures who dwell on the outer-edges of ordered society and speak often difficult truths regarding that culture’s need to change and evolve. By inhabiting this prophetic, questioning role they are often seen as subversive agents of chaos seeking to destabilise the rule of law. While this may well be part of their role, like the heretic’s relationship with more orthodox beliefs, the relationship between the Trickster and those in authority is often far more symbiotic.

In many senses the depiction of Christ in both the canonical and Gnostic gospels can be seen as having a trickster-like role. Jesus spends time with sex workers and the drug dependent; he questions religious authority and seeks to challenge the servant/master paradigm of how we engage with the divine:

“The kingdom of God is within you” Gospel of Thomas saying 3

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends” John 15:15

Here we have Jesus as a prophet and reformer within the context of 1st century CE Palestine, challenging and questioning received orthodoxies. He asks his listeners to dig deeper, not as a rejection of historic teachings, but as a means of encountering a richer experience of truth:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” Matt. 5:17

The disruptive anarchy of the Trickster can become a powerful catalysing agent that shifts perception and allows social evolution. This is rarely as smooth or as bloodless as it sounds, especially when acting prophetically challenges the excesses of hierarchy and control. Arguably the tipping point for Jesus in the gospel narratives was less about declaring the incoming of God’s Kingdom and more about his denunciation of the misuse of religious power (Matt. 23). For the Trickster to speak truth to power is far from risk free and while Jesus’ death was at least partially triggered by his own messianic self-perception, we may want to  reduce such risks by being “as cunning as serpents” in determining how we deploy our insights.

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The Sacrament of the Last Supper, 1955, Salvador Dali

Part of the Trickster’s role within myth and culture more generally, seems to be about challenging our certainty about perception and what we think we know as real. For me this willingness to slip sideways into a blurrier, half-glimpsed reality is central to the work of both the magician and artist. To take the mantle of either of these roles is to imbibe the spirit of the Trickster and to work with the challenge that this can provide to both your sense of self and your relationships with those around you. To walk these paths skilfully usually entails profound degrees of work on the self at both a conscious and unconscious level.

For the Surrealists, the Trickster was often present in portraiture, with the artist’s depiction of self or others often reflecting the incoming of new insight. The weird process of alchemy at work in surreal art makes vivid the way in which we try to make sense of mystery both at a macrocosmic level and in relation to the differing aspects of ourselves. Our encounters with aspects of reality that are strange, bizarre or “dark” often shake us from automaton sleep-states. For the Gnostic explorer this is the still small voice of the Trickster that at once draws us in and disturbs us, causing us to question what we think we know so as to trigger new states of awakening. Unsurprisingly, Trickster gods like Eshu are the guardians of the crossroads and it is often at these junctures of choice and liminality that we benefit most from their less-lateral approach.

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Portrait of Max Ernst, 1939, Leonora Carrington

Whether via art, ritual theatre or an active engagement with our dreamscapes, those less-tidy, potentially disruptive aspects will demand that we give them space. To endlessly supress or ignore them is to invite an eventual tsunami of shadow material that inevitably leads to widespread persecution of others onto whom our fears get projected. For me, an acknowledgement of the Trickster and the creative power of misrule can be vital in fuelling and inspiring the changes we wish to see. While we must remain wary of the excesses of self-indulgence, embracing the Trickster can help us avoid the type of grim activism that loses sight of the happiness and peace that should hopefully accompany the freedom which we are pursuing.

SD

Dennis McKenna backs The Psychedelic Museum project

Some great news from the Psychedelic Museum project!

the psychedelic museum

Happy New Year!

We’re pleased and proud to announce that Dennis McKenna has generously agreed to become a Patron of the Psychedelic Museum! As I’m sure you probably know Dennis is a respected ethnopharmacologist, author, lecturer and all-round great guy. He is Assistant Professor at the Center for Spirituality & Healing at the University of Minnesota.

dennis-in-sa Dennis as Indiana Jones

Dennis writes:

‘The psychedelic museum is an important and timely venture, and one I’m very pleased to support. Giving people the chance to understand the depth of psychedelic history; from its ancient roots to its modern forms is essential both to help us celebrate the value of the psychedelic state and to find ways we can go beyond the story of prohibition. Encountering this history not only in writing but through cultural artifacts helps bring these stories to life. This is a grassroots project with many people contributing items…

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