Sep 26, 2009

Dead or Alive - Part 2

Fuzzy Nuts

Diving a bit deeper into Salvia Divorum Magazine, Issue No. 1, I discovered that the various authors use the word "entheogen" in a somewhat broader sense than the strict dictionary definition:

a chemical substance, typically of plant origin, that is ingested to produce a nonordinary state of consciousness for religious or spiritual purposes.

The word is from Greek, literally 'becoming divine within' and though it was coined in the 1970's to mean the inebriants of shamans, it is used to mean ANY method, practiced or accidental, that causes a "nonordinary state of consciousness", AKA ego-death. The entheogen is seen as simply the catalyst of the Event, and that catalyst may or may not involve plants, chanting, rhythmic drumming, prayer, sex and even plain old emotional stress. So yes, Sally is a potential entheogen, but so is your overdrawn credit card.

SD No. 1 includes an excerpt from DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences (2001), by Rick Strassman. Strassman is a clinical psychologist who studied the controlled administering of DMT to subjects over a five year period. Among his many interesting findings, was that DMT is a naturally synthesized molecule, a chemical cousin to the neurotransmitter serotonin. It seems to be naturally generated during emotional stress - trauma.

Trauma induced bridge crossing

A ha!! Perhaps my own personal Jesus ego-death was the result of a glandular secretion of DMT, induced by emotional trauma? That's probably why we "hysterical/sensitive" types are always seeing crazy shit, because we get a bong hit of DMT every now and then, and boom! Aliens/angels appear! And I don't mean to belittle the experience, because I'm a believer, but what usually happens is that after the experience, it gets translated through the belief system of the visionary and/or, through those who wish to profit by the prophet.

According to Michael Hoffman, an entheogenic altered-state was fully integrated into ancient culture:

A common standard banqueting tradition with reclining at table while drinking ‘mixed wine’ ran across many seemingly disparate cultural practices (Smith 2003). ‘Mixed wine’ was the central, reliable means of accessing the intense mystic altered state throughout antiquity. Ancient ‘mixed wine’ specifically meant visionary-plant mixtures (Ruck 1978), such as Psilocybe mushroom wine. If Electric Kool-Aid in an Acid Test type of gathering were switched with ‘mixed wine’ in a Hellenistic symposium, neither party would notice much difference.

Considering the importance of initiation ritual in Masonic tradition, one wonders if this entheogenic tradition might survive even today, in the secret rituals of the Ivy League Fraternities. Stories of Skull & Bonesman pledge George W. Bush, masturbating in a casket come to mind. Ego-death, anyone? Thank you, sir, may I have another!?

In a way, ego-death is a lot like sex - Michael Hoffman, again:

Like the egoic cognitive structure, the transcendent mental model is an innate, pre-configured structure that is discovered and revealed, like the adolescent discovers the innate ability to climax. The ability to mystically climax is inbuilt, as is the mental model that is revealed, although the useful metaphors and systematic explanation that are necessary to retain the revealed mental structure must be a product of human effort.

In other words, the ability to orgasm (the "little death") is a "built in" feature of human consciousness, and so is the ability to ego-death (the "big death"). It's part of the plumbing. Like sex, ego-death is often misused and corrupted. And like sex, it is strictly forbidden/channeled by official religion, and also like sex, seems to be going on ALL THE TIME in the "catacombs".

Isn't it just... fascinating? (see Spock cock an eyebrow) A religious cult originally based on an entheogenic altered-state of ego-death has, over 2000 years, become the official outpost of ego-feeding paranoia! Anything and everything that might possibly lead to ego-death experience: rhythmic dancing, drugs, and most especially sex, is strictly Verboten. Actually, even THIS much splintered cult is showing signs of glacial movement - the more thoughtful are allowing homosexuality, which is basically... allowing sex for ecstasy's sake - G*d forbid! Is Dionysus taking back his church?


Christopher Knowles said...

This reminds me of the Maenad storyline on True Blood. And what say you, Michael- True Blood a gay allegory or just merely an outsider one? Or is there a difference? Or are nerds lower in the social heirarchy than gay folk?

Esperanto Grrl said...

The comparison between Freemasonry and college fraternities seems pretty damn apt from where I'm standing, considering that everything I can really verify about the Masons shows that they're basically a glorified college fraternity crossed with the Little Rascals' "He-Man Woman Haters Club."

Both frats and the Masons maintain "secrets" for the same reason: not because the secrets are valid in and of themselves but to create a distinction, meaningful to group belonging, between those that are in and those that are out.

All of the occult associations aside, I'm upset by the decreased importance of the Masons, because in the past people used to define themselves more by groups and group activities. The book "Bowling Alone" is really insightful reading. The title comes from an analysis of this social phenomenon. In the past, most people bowled as a part of bowling leagues, while today people bowl alone.

I wouldn't read too much into the similarities between initiation rituals. Like dance, music, and language, all human cultures that ever lived have them.

Michael said...

Christopher - not watching True Blood. I canna' stand the vampire cult, I even only watched Buffy for a season or two. But yea, gay and nerd can also = outsider, not much difference. I remember in the late 90's and the rise of Bill Gates that computer culture was heralded as the Revenge of the Nerds.

EG - Masonic and fraternal college initiation rituals are all a bit different, but all hew to the same core - much like a every Christian denomination is different, but you'll still recognize the proceedings as "church". I suspect that the origin of these rituals was an initiation into an entheogenic "ego-death". Which would be channeled into adoration of Caesar, the city-state, etc. Modern frat boy antics are weak imitations of all that... and no, they don't bring about an ego-death experience anymore, but when you look at the rituals in detail, you can see them as "breadcrumbs" - the pallid remainder of a very old and "sacred" tradition.

And a very misogynist, sexist one, to be sure. As a gay man, I have some interesting conflicts about all that. One the one hand, of course women should be allowed to join fraternal organizations or make their own or whatever, and on the other hand, hot homo sex depends on male only fraternal organizations! A leather bar is a "fraternal organization" - they even have initiations...

Esperanto Grrl said...

Interesting observation about Frats and Masons. I was always more inclined to the hard sciences personally, but one thing I always found interesting about the social sciences is how it measures what people DO, not what and why they say they do.

For instance, a social scientist would analyze the behavior of a Mason, and ignoring all explanations they'd personally give, they'd notice that the Mason generally goes to hang out with other men and leaves the wife behind, and the club refuses to allow any women in.

The obvious conclusion is that they go to the Lodge to get away from their families, especially their wives!

Anadæ Effro said...

Interestingly enough, albeit sad, the point Esperanto Grrl raised over bowling. long gone are the good old days of group interaction & camaraderie, eons old companions, being insidiously replaced more & more by the loner mindset. Damn. T'would seem that that IS the way our societies are moving. Mayhap the Grays really ARE ourselves from the far, distant Future, returning to save the human species from becoming what THEY have become … cerebrally overdeveloped, physically atrophied, personality-less, hive mind drones.

Also, as per Initiation into Secret Societies invoking a sense of Ego Death, as does the most life-changing Visionary Experience, witness this RTÉ TWO anchorman, Baz Ashmawy, "going undercover" to interview two of the biggest witches in Ireland, Gavin Bone & Janet Farrar, in this television newsmagazine segment viewable here. Thank you, Lady Madu of the groupOpus Aima Obsuræ, a Direct Action organisation of witches HQ'd in Missoula, Montana, for bringing this to my attention. Imagine how HIS ego must've died, bound & hoodwinked in his Initiation process, to be seen by millions the world over.

ALSO, interesting to note that both Free & Accepted Masonry & Wicca each refer to themselves as the Craft. Why, the heretofore Masonic women's auxiliary, the Order of the Eastern Star (though largely now co-ed, Esperanto Grrl, please take note) has as its emblem an inverted pentagram, which see, long associated with the Left Hand Path & Satanism.

The grandson of a Master Mason,
Anadæ Effro (•8-D}

Michael said...

Anadae - thanks for weighing in. I had a dream a few months ago where I finally became a member of "my" frat - whatever that fraternity might actually be, I haven't the foggiest. But it was a nice dream - we probably all went bowling.

I look back at my initiation into the brotherhood of Kappa Sigma, and I now I see the signs: the cloak and dagger, medieval towers, a midnight walk past a graveyard, and underneath a drawbridge... all highly symbolic of an experience of ego-death and rebirth. It makes me wonder... how old IS this tradition?

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