Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

June 16, 2014

Shamanic Drumming

Filed under: magic — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 4:23 am

I find that laying back and listening to shamanic drumming affords me access to the imaginative world not unlike the freedom available through psychedelics or lucid dreaming. By taking shamanic flight, and afterward talking with a supportive partner about what I experienced, I was able to substantially reduce some post-traumatic stress-like symptoms associated with my experience of attending school.

Shamans are able to answer many kinds of questions, and to heal diseases with a strong mental or stress component.

It doesn’t take a lot of expensive materials or hours of training to embark on a shamanic trip. Of course, you are dealing with your psyche, and while that can be a garden of pleasure, things can also take a dire turn towards matters of life and death. Still, I think that most people would be better off to go ahead and risk an unguided shamanic flight, then to shuffle on as they are.

Here’s the technology: Repetitive drumming is key to perhaps 90% of the world’s shamanic practice. It bores your mind in a very specific way, which cuts out certain types of mentation and allows others to run unchecked. Shamanic Drumming.com will teach you the basics of entering shamanic trance and navigating the world it opens up… the website is not going to replace a live teacher but it will give you some clues to proceed upon. If you are inclined to explore, read about the shamanic paradigm and shamanic journeying. Invent a little ritual or imbibe some soft drugs to loosen yourself up.

Then lay back and listen to this track. Let us know what kind of experience you have!

April 9, 2013

Animist on Atheism

Animism is the belief that the world is full of spirits. Atheism is the rejection of belief in gods. These beliefs are not opposed according to their bare definitions, but I know of no atheists who really get excited about the spirit world.

Atheism in the West is heavily shaped by Christianity, or more precisely, by rejecting Christianity. An ultra-brief history of Christian thought could begin with the Gnostics, part of the cultish religious soup in and around the ancient Holy Land, who saw their world as a miserable material prison to be escaped through ecstatic travels. The medieval Church kept the idea of this world as a material prison, but dropped the possibility of escaping through ecstasy. It urged followers to believe in a spirit world that could not be seen, except by the dead and resurrected or a few chosen prophets. People had to listen to their priest and trust in received wisdom, or actually risk being tortured and burned as a heretic. Early moves towards skepticism included demanding to be allowed to read the Bible for oneself, cutting out a major priestly privilege!

Atheists (and Deists, their close intellectual cousins) said: “Enough of this crap! We won’t believe in the Invisible Man in the Sky who watches us all the time anymore! It’s very manipulative and we call ‘shenanigans’ upon thee!” So, freethinkers shifted their attention to the world of things they could find out for themselves — reason, history, and especially science. Any hint of the spirit world was regarded as the same sort of superstition as Churchly lies. The spiritual practices of “savages” were beneath contempt, of more interest to edgy bohemians than serious scientists or philosophers, and were not seriously looked at in the West for a few hundred more years.

So, in animism, the spirit world is present right here in nature. In mainstream Christianity, the spirit world has been ripped away from the present world and hidden behind a veil, as for the priests to communicate to the helpless peasants. And in atheism, the spirit world has been denied existence entirely.

The atheist denial of natural spirits is based on an error, the belief that the spirit world is basically a lie communicated to the people by priests. For most people over most of human time, the spirit world was much more directly accessible.

On an everyday level, people were trained to rely on their instinct or “see with the heart.” Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, describes it thus: “I spent much of my childhood in a third-world, rural environment where we had to be in tune with Mother Nature for our very survival… To be instinctual means to be clearheaded, open, and aware of the signals we are getting from other people, animals, and our environment all the time. It means understanding our natural selves and the natural world, and acknowledging our interdependence with that world.” (from “Be the Pack Leader.”)

To a little child, the world is a colorful place imbued with meaning. This tree is sinister, that one is welcoming, still another is powerful and proud. I believe that these impressions are devalued by the education process, until the student a) comes to see trees as collections of cells and organs described by a Latin binomial, of interest as a sort of ongoing biochemical reaction or b) loses interest and stays inside watching football. The animist myths of trees as plant teachers and homes for forest spirits express the more important truths. Ignoring the truth about trees causes us to build ugly places — perhaps best embodied by Tolkein’s Mordor. (By the way — plenty of atheists appreciate and protect the trees, and plenty of ugly-minded deforesters call themselves Christian.) I happen to believe that the most powerful human-tree bond is on a level we truly experience as magical — an exchange of ill-defined “energy.” On what evidence should anyone reject that magical level of bonding? To what end?

 

A giant tree surrounded by fences.

Really ancient trees still inspire reverence from people of all beliefs. Mary and Angus Hogg [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A stubbly, muddy field stretches everywhere in sight.

Do the opencast miners need a more advanced science to explain to them where they went wrong? by Texas Radio and The Big Beat [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Opening up our senses to the magical seems like a wise move, if Sauron is not to win.

Since the middle of last century, the West has exploded with information about ecstatic technologies that permit direct experience of the spiritual world, often in full Technicolor. Albert Hoffman discovered LSD-25 in 1938, and it was soon being used in psychiatry to accelerate insight, healing and development in therapeutic clients. This very nearly coincided with Richard Shultes’ first trips to Mexico to identify the shamans’ magical plants and fungi (psilocybe mushrooms, morning glories and solanaceous trumpet flowers.) Shultes sent Hofmann morning glory samples for analysis, and Hofmann discovered LSD analogs in the seeds. They realized that indigenous shamanism had a lot in common with the cutting edge of psychiatric practice. Psychedelic drugs are not for everyone, and they are the subject of a mostly secular but authoritarian backlash, but they are not the only technology of ecstasy. Mind science imported from Buddhist and yogic traditions was popularized throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. Music took on longer forms to allow the listeners to “get into it,” and incorporated trippy light shows. You don’t have to listen to your priest interpret Ezekiel’s vision of a wheel for you any longer: people can experience the other world for themselves, the paths are known.

In rejecting a phony or insanely corrupted spiritual tradition, many freethinkers found themselves cast to philosophies like materialism and positivism. Many Christians box up their religion except for Sundays and live in the same soulectomied world. These philosophies are insufficient — they do not feed the instinctual side of human nature. We find ourselves a bunch of neurotics living in ugly places. But there was never any reason to stop developing knowledge of the magical worlds of our childhood. Use your reasoning capacity, but remember where we all started from.

 

March 17, 2012

Sky Worship Part Two: Terrible Sacrifice

Filed under: magic, science, Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 4:51 pm

Sometimes I hear Christians, such as Alex Jones, criticizing Paganism because of its tradition of worshiping nature, even to the extreme of sacrificing humans. As if the history of Christianity  is anything to be unthinkingly proud of… Inquisitions, Crusades, blah, blah blah. We don’t sacrifice people anymore, and anyone who does so is way outside of neopagan norms!

Many people who believe in an ancient, magical worldview believe that you can harness the life force of a sacrificial victim to politely bribe a god. For instance, Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth had to sacrifice himself, like a lamb, to save people from sin and Hellfire. Caribbean Santeria practitioners sacrifice chickens and so on in prayer, reflecting the traditions of their Pagan African ancestors (although they are Christians). The animals’ death-blood is received by a heavenly saint who, hopefully, grants favors.

I don’t believe that sacrificing some random chicken’s life gets you any favor with the gods (or saints). I think that most of you readers are with me on this — if not, I can respect our interesting differences. A chicken has its own feeble consciousness, and how can you really possess or own that to sacrifice it? When members of Yakuza (aka “The Japanese Mafia”) really offend their boss, they atone by performing Yubitsume, chopping off the last segment of their little finger at the knuckle. Now that’s  a sacrifice.

Well, if I need all my digits, and I can’t bleed out a chicken for Gaia or cast a virgin into the volcano, how am I then to worship nature? I do  believe that it’s a spiritual discipline to respect nature, learn to go with it, and avoid trampling on it for shallow or short-term purposes. I think that this attitude is also in line with rational activity and Christian belief.

Christians believe that God gave the Earth to people to “steward,” which means “take care of.” Even if God gave us the Earth as a gift for our own use, He would be pretty pissed off to see how we’ve been abusing that gift. Imagine, for instance, the God had given you a book. Would you tear pages out for kindling and toilet paper, or would you treat it carefully? Oh? How then is it okay to blow great big motherfracking holes in the crust of God’s Earth, mow forests down, or fail to recycle your batteries? (aside: when Rick Santorum says that we are to “wisely husband the Earth’s resources,” it makes me imagine the Earth as a battered wife.)

What I’m saying is that the natural world is sacred, as goddess incarnate, or God’s creation, or more simply as something full of wonders that supports our lives. And, the only sacrifice that does the world any good is to be more aware of the things around you and to try to take care of them better.

And so at last I come to my point: Shining lights into the sky and blotting out the stars is really, really blasphemous. Anyone who believes that God, um, separated the sky from the Earth with a “firmament,” or that there are celestial gods up there, or that human beings have the birthright to look upwards with wonder, has got to be with me on this one. Remember the scene in Roots, when Kunte Kinte’s dad hoists the baby up to face the starry sky, and says “Behold! The only thing greater than yourself!”? That scene would be pretty lame in most parts of the world today. “Behold! Those two fuzzy lights peeping out from behind the pollution are the only things greater than yourself, I guess.”

So here is the sacrifice demanded by God, Astarte Queen of Heaven, and human decency alike: don’t shine your lights into the night sky! Myself, I have an obnoxious 200- or 400-watt yard light, which my mate feels keeps the dogs safe when they are playing in the yard at night (this since the street light on the corner burned out). The temporary solution: I make sure to turn it off before bed. When the blinky sucker soon burns out, I’m going up a ladder to tear out the Metal Halide bulb’s ballast, put in a giant “compact” fluorescent bulb (energy savings) and stick a reflector or hood on it so that no light is directed upwards or straight out at the neighbors. This assuming I continue to lose the argument over the value of lighting up the back yard in the first place.

Basically, there is no sacrifice in cleaning up our “light pollution.” If you eliminate unneeded lights, wire lights to motion detectors, or direct light downwards, you are saving energy, thus money. You just have to summon up the human energy to do it.

For more information, you can check out the Dark Sky Society (free membership!) and International Dark-Sky Association. Organizations like this really help when things have to go beyond individual action, for instance, to help campaign for a city government to respect anti-light pollution principles with their street lights and municipal buildings. Recently, the Headlands, on Lake Michigan near the Straights of Mackinaw, was declared a Dark Sky Park, and more and more localities are adopting dark-sky legislation. More laws? Well, we don’t have any special right to blot out each others’ sky, do we? In any case, the Dark Sky people can provide you with the practical information about reducing your own light pollution.

All right, I’m done preaching and telling everybody how to live their lives. For today. Imagine, though, if the sky over your suburban home looked like this!

Image of the night sky above Paranal on 21 July 2007, taken by ESO astronomer Yuri Beletsky. A wide band of stars and dust clouds, spanning more than 100 degrees on the sky, is seen. This is the Milky Way, the Galaxy we belong to. At the centre of the image, two bright objects are visible. The brightest is the planet Jupiter, while the other is the star Antares. Three of the four 8.2-m telescopes forming ESO's VLT are seen, with a laser beaming out from Yepun, Unit Telescope number 4. The laser points directly at the Galactic Centre. Also visible are three of the 1.8-m Auxiliary Telescopes used for interferometry. They show small light beams which are diodes located on the domes. The exposure time is 5 minutes and because the tracking was made on the stars, the telescopes are slightly blurred. This image is from Wikimedia Commons, for "share and share alike" use.

March 7, 2012

Sky Worship

Filed under: music, science — Tags: , , , , , , — paragardener @ 6:21 pm

Sometimes, from my Detroit home, I can see most of the stars of Orion or the Big Dipper. It probably helps, that vast areas of the city are depopulated or street lights don’t work. Goddess damn, I love this city.

How alienated you are from the sky is some gauge of how alienated you are from nature. For example, I sometimes watch a TV documentary about astronomy and/or old superstitions, and the question is asked, “Do the phases of the moon have an effect on human behavior?” To ask this question at all indicates some cluelessness. Go camping for a month and you will have a certain answer.

Not too long ago, Freelearner showed my on her i-Pad astronomy app how the full moon rises at sunset and sets at sunrise and the new moon rises and sets with the sun. Not only is the full moon bright, it’s out all night. On a clear night, there is light everywhere and campers can wander flashlight-less, stay up late and get into mayhem. On a new moon night, you’ve got only campfires and starlight to see by. People without electricity have to stay close to home. (The reason for the moon’s phases synching with its position on the day or night side of the Earth is really obvious once you see it. Get out two balls and a table lamp and figure it out — remember Earth turns once a day, the moon takes a month to travel around it, and watch those shadows…)

Singers, poets and other drama queens love talking about the stars. Enjoy some tunes about outer space.

Spaceman by 4 Non-Blondes — how did they know to write a personal theme song for me?

Moon in the Sky Called the Moon by B-52’s — a great live recording, but no video.

Big bonus points for referencing the Van Allen Belt in song!

See the Constellation by They Might Be Giants.

Crap, another morning wasted blogging. Time to go and slave under the accursed Day Star. May you come back as a guy made of dots and lines!

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