|SHAMANIC MYSTICISM AND PSYCHEDELIC PLANTS||
FEBRUARY 1, 2014
Greetings Dear Friends
I almost feel guilty to say that - woohoo!! - I'm down here in sunny, warm Costa Rica - so happy to leave that harsh winter behind. Thanx to those who came to the 'Euphoria' event in Toronto, and our apologies for having to cancel the one in Guelph due to - can you guess? - weather and road conditions. We'll be offering more of those events in April and May.
I'm very excited that my book, Why Is Life?, is now available as an e-book, for only about $6. see details below.
In this next series of newsletters I will feature articles based on a section of my book, Why Is Life?' entitled 'Reality According to Ancient Mysticism'. This will provide a brief overview of several of the mystical traditions, which have so much to say about the nature of our reality and our journey through life. This month we'll take an introductory look at Shamanism and the use of psychotropic plants.
Something I'd like to tell you about - I'm involved with a group who are building an intentional community in Guelph - a place where we can live in an environment of shared values. If you are interested in such a thing and you'd like to know more about it, please feel free to contact me.
If you'd like to access past newsletters containing articles on the Big Shift, as well as articles on the Physics of Mysticism, Magic, the Power of Mantra and other topics, please visit the 'newsletter' page of my website:
N0 CHANT CLUB THIS MONTH - THE NEXT ONE WILL BE MAY 7.
GUELPH CHANT CLUB DATE CITY VENUE
WED., JAN. 15, 2014 Guelph, Unitarian Church
7:45 to 9:30 pm Ontaro
The Unitarian Church is on the corner of
Harris and York Streets in Guelph.
For more detailed directions, check out guelph-unitarians.com
SUGGESTED DONATION - $15
PART 6 - SHAMANIC MYSTICISM AND
by Dennis Gaumond
This is part 6 in our continued exploration of the world's mystical traditions. Needless to say, these traditions are very complex and even a lifetime of study and devotion would not familiarize one with all of the nuances and subtleties of Shamanism or any other tradition. These writings are meant only as a brief introduction or overview.
The most ancient form of mysticism, which is still alive and well in many forms amongst various indigenous cultures, is shamanic mysticism. Evidence of such practices have been found dating back to Neolithic times. The Aboriginal people of Australia have been partaking in mystical activities and rituals for 35,000 years. Taoism and Hinduism are thought to have derived from earlier shamanic knowledge and practices. Some branches of Buddhism incorporated shamanic ways, notably in Tibet where the shamanic religion of Bon was assimilated by Buddhism.
Most shamanic cultures are tribal and, in most cases, the entire tribe is involved in various mystical practices, led by one person in the tribe who has particularly highly developed skills. These leaders have a number of different names in the different cultures. In the case of native Australians, for example, they are called Karadji. The word 'shaman', now used to refer to any of these leaders, actually comes from Mongolian Siberia, where it was used to refer to someone who could easily access altered states of consciousness. Many of the mystical practices in the various cultures are for the purpose of achieving such altered states, usually the result of trances induced in a variety of ways. Dancing, chanting, drumming, exhaustion, star gazing, sky gazing, dreaming, sexual practices, ingesting psychotropic plants and other methods have been used to enter various levels or degrees of trance. Sometimes the entire tribe would enter deep trance together. During this time all the members of the tribe would clearly be able to see which one of them had the best control of their faculties while in an altered state. That person would become a chief or a shaman, guiding the actions of the tribe according to the higher wisdom gained in altered states.
Shamanic cultures highly value the knowledge gained from such mystical pursuits and usually, all tribal members are exposed to it in a wide variety of initiation ceremonies. These rituals often involve fear or suffering which the initiate must overcome. They were aware that access to higher wisdom was seriously hampered by fear. Reported descriptions of mystical experiences such as astral travelling, the entering of various underworlds, communication with spirits, etcetera, are very similar, whether they come from religious or shamanic traditions ranging all over the world. Most of them report fearsome entities or circumstances which bar the way to those who are afraid. It is considered very dangerous to enter certain mystical realms without being in control of ones fears. Tibetan Buddhists, for example, claim that these entities are the product of the initiates' own fearful thoughts, which must be overcome before further progress can be made.
Ultimately, initiates sought some form of unity with a 'great spirit', or universal entity. These forms of unity have many names. To many native Americans it is 'Wakan Tanka'; to native Australians it is 'Baime'. Belief in the concept of reincarnation is widespread amongst mystical traditions. Another common characteristic among shamanic cultures is a deep respect for ancestral spirits, from whom guidance is often sought. Communication with the creatures of the Devic realms, such as faeries and elves is also sought, as well as with spirits of animals and plants. It has been said that a good shaman had the ability to 'make a deal' with the spirit of a tribe's prey animals, thus ensuring the tribe's prosperity. At a spiritual level, both prey and predator are aware of the illusory nature of reality and of the role they play in the balance of nature. When prey was killed during the hunt it was common practice to apologize and thank the spirit of the animal. A good shaman also contributed to the prosperity of the tribe by being able to transcend time, and thus foretell the future.
Shamans from all traditions use herbs and other plants for many things, including healing, symbolic ceremonies, and the entering of altered states of consciousness. Psychedelic plants, including peyote cactus, hashish, various mushrooms, etc, have been used by mystics for thousands of years as a way of breaking down the barriers to altered states of reality. Such plants are considered to be sacred gifts from God. A drug known as 'fly agaric', which comes from the Amanita muscaria mushroom, has played a big part in the early Greek Mystery Schools, where it was often called 'nectar' or 'ambrosia'. Mycenae, which predates Greece, means 'city of the mushroom'. Indian mystics used fly agaric to make a hallucinogenic drink called 'soma'. In the hymns found in the Hindu Vedas, there are over 900 references to soma.
John Allegro, a well respected scholar and one of the few selected to work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, is a Bible expert and an adept in the deciphering and translating of ancient writing. He surprised the academic world by releasing a book in 1970 entitled, 'The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross'. He contends that the Amanita muscaria mushroom played a large role in the early cultures of the middle east going as far back as the Sumerian civilization of 4000 BC. More controversial than this, he claims that many Biblical stories allude to it and that Jesus and the early Christian movement were part of a mushroom cult. There are many depictions of this mushroom in ancient art and many references to it in ancient writings.
It seems to me that Allegro overstates his case, seeing allusions to the sacred mushroom everywhere. However, there's no doubt in my mind that psychotropic plants have played an important part in the history of human evolution. They have been used extensively by shamanic and mystical traditions in a sincere effort to find enlightenment. I feel compelled to say a few words about this, considering the sorry state of drug abuse in the world today. The mystical use of drugs was always done with the deepest respect and with the highest of motives. It was not intended for recreational use, for 'partying' or forms of escapism. These rituals were taken very seriously. They were often considered dangerous and were supervised by a learned shaman. As Don Juan points out in the Carlos Castaneda books, the 'power plants' were useful mainly as a way of glimpsing other realities and thus opening the mind to such possibilities. Continued use of them could be harmful, addictive and not conducive to the spiritual path. The ongoing pursuit of knowledge in Castaneda's apprenticeship had little to do with drugs.
In next month's newsletter we'll talk about the Egyptian and Greek Mystery Schools.
'WHY IS LIFE?'- NOW ONLY $6
My book, Why Is Life?, has been released as an e-book, available for approximately $6 or less, from a list of online bookstores:
Apple i-Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony Reader Store, Koby, Copia, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, eBookPie, eSentral, Scribd and PagePusher.
The book can be purchased at any of these outlets, searching with either the title or this ISBN number: 9781483515403
OR, just click on one of these links:
New to e-books?
Click this link for a wikipedia article about e-books:
If this is the first time you've bought an e-book, you may need to download an app - the most popular ones are from Amazon and are free to download. You can read an e-book on on your computer, laptop or an e-book device like a Kindle (Amazon) or an I-Book or I-Pad (Apple). For an article comparing them, click here:
To download a Kindle app for any reading device including Apple products, click here:
ABOUT 'WHY IS LIFE'
To read a variety of reviews of this book, click here and then, once in the website, click 'reviews':