Higher Wisdom, III

Contents, Part III : Culture and Consciousness






Peter Furst

Antient Altered States



Michael Harner

Shamanic Path



Laura Huxley

Living and Loving




Peter T. Furst

Antient Altered States


pp. 152-3 ancient Meso-American psychedelic plants

p. 152

"There are two early dictionaries that give Maya names for ... mushrooms, ... the "mushroom of the underworld." ... the "mushroom that drives one crazy" is one of these".

p. 153

"The Witte Museum in San Antonio has a collection ... that was excavated from painted caves in the Trans-Pecos and the Big Bend areas. ... I sent these to the UCLA radiocarbon dating laboratory. And ... they tested-out as being from about 5000 BC!"

pp. 156-7 toad psychedelics

p. 156

"Robert Carneiro, who is at the American Museum of Natural History ... wrote a paper on hunting magic among ... the Amahuaca. ... their skin ... they rub tree frog poison into ..., and then they become unconscious and froth at the mouth. ... Then they have ... visions of birds, where they can understand the language of the birds. Or they have a vision of where a bunch of pigs {peccaries} are assembling, so that they can go out and hunt them."

"Michael McBride ... in Texas ... has been looking into ... when toad poison is combined with a fermenting mixture. He found that yeast is able to degrade ... the three main toxic

p. 157

compounds of toad poison -- while the "visionary" bufotenine is left unchanged. ... . ... from the early 1600s ... an Englsih priest named Thomas Gage ... reported that the Quiche` Maya ... threw toads into fermenting beer to "strengthen" it."

"Michael D. Coe found Bufo marinus skeletons at an Olmec site in Veracruz."



Michael Harner

The Shamanic Path


pp. 159-60 reviver of shamanic culture

p. 159

Michael "Harner's discription of his own initiatory ayahuasca experience in the Amazon jungle ... is described his book The Way of the Shaman ... . ...

In 1987, he left academia ..., and created the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. The foundation ... has an international membership, and ...

p. 160

has reintroduced shamanic practices to parts of the world where the tradition was lost or suppressed."

pp. 161-2 muraya & natema:

p. 161

"the Conibo had the muraya -- shamans who worked only with tobacco ... . ... You soak green tobacco leaves in cold water and drink the water ... . ... It heightens your perceptions ... . ... You're taking it to feed your spirit helpers, who love tobacco. It is also used to increase alertness, so that ... your spirit helpers will be alert and protect you."

p. 162

"natema:, which is the Shuar name for ayahuasca, might be taken for divinatory purposes by a shaman ... . However, he would take it just to get some idea of ... whether there were bad or good omens --- ... whether it was propitious."

pp. 162-3 the 3 worlds

p. 162

"there are three Worlds : the Upper, Middle, and Lower. The Upper and Lower, above and below us, are completely in nonordinary reality, and beyond pain and suffering. In contrast, the Middle World, in which we live, has both ordinary and nonordinary aspects. It is also the World in which pain and suffering can be found, occurring in both realities. ... The Shuar are very much involved with Middle World spirits. ... Middle World spirits have not transcended Middle World consciousness. So the Shuar shamans can have at their disposal

p. 163

spirits ... who have not emerged from the preoccupations of ordinary daily life. These can be spirits of any beings : animals, insects, or humans. Working with Middle World spirits is both dificult and dangerous, and this is the world in which the Shuar shamans are enmeshed. They do not work in the Upper World ... . They also only go a little distance toward the Lower World -- that is, only into the lakes and the rivers. ... .

... contrast that wth the Conibo. They also have shamanism, but don't have ... aggressive behavior, and they include much travel to the Upper and Lower Worlds in their shamanic journeys."

p. 176

"Carlos [Castan~eda] never got out of [describing in his books] the Lower World. You'll never find a reference to the Lower World or the Upper World in his books".

{Actually, (in his later books) Carlos Castan~eda did sometimes specify a different (at least a Lower) World.}

p. 163 divine spirit-beings

"I take the reality of spirits very seriously. In fact, their reality provides a parsimonious explanantion for otherwise inexplicable phenomena.

This parsimonious explanation was unfortunately thrown out by Western science in the so-called Age of Enlightenment. I think shamanism will eventually lead to a reevaluation of this antispirit belief."

{Actually, the occultists who who the founders of the Renaissance were Neo-Plataonists in metaphysics and in theology. Soon, however, their successors found that they had to conceal their true beliefs (by feigning adhaerence to atheism) in order to have opportunity to subvert the political institutions of the quasi-atheistically greed-motivated capitalists. The anti-spiritist sentiment promoted by capitalists will vanish whenever capitalism itself is abolished.}

"A spirit could be considered to be an animate essence that has intelligence and different degrees of power. It is most easily seen in complete darkness and much less frequently in bright light, and in an altered state of consciousness better than in an ordinary state. In fact, there's some question whether yiou can see it in an ordinary state of consciousness at all."

{I have quite often seen divine spirits close-up in the waking world during quite ordinary consciousness. During an "altered state of consciousness" (viz., dreaming), howbeit, fuller communications with deities may be feasible than during an "ordinary state of consciousness" (viz., waking).}

pp. 164-7 access to the spirit-worlds by means other than psychedelic drugs

p. 164

"when you experience other methods of access besides the plants, then you discover that it's bigger than plants -- that there's a whole other reality, and that there are different entrances into it. ... So I take the idea of another reality very seriously. I take very seriously the idea that death is not death, and life is not life. ...

p. 165

The Inuit shamans ... couldn't find any psychotropic plant use among them, and they were certainly having strong spiritual experiences. The evidence was ... that in perhaps 90 per cent of the world's shamanic cultures they use a ...

percussive sound to enter into altered states of consciousness, rather than significant psychedelics. ... So my path involves ... percussive sound or sonic driving. ...

{Listening to music by a spirit-medium is an invitation to a possessing-spirit to occupy that spirit-medium's body in order to be entertained by the music (and singing).}

p. 166

European shamanism had to give up the drum because of its noise, ... in the remote north, in the Arctie, ... among the Sami -- the Lapps -- ... [when Christian] missionaries finally arrived there. ... I've found the same thing in Inuit villages. They're not about to do shamanic drumming within hearing of other people, because they'll be singled out

p. 167

and reported to the Christian authorities. So the drum is really a liability is a situation of persecution."

p. 167 only deities can authorize human shamanhood

"there are spirit teachers, who are the real teachers. The spirit teachers may tell you, and do tell you, what you can do, but all the ordinary living human teachers are just expediters. The ultimate authorities are the spirits you work with, and they tell you what to do and what you can't do. ... . ... one is only a shaman when the spirits want that person to be a shaman."

p. 168 shamans function as intermediaries between deities and ordinary humans

"compassionate, healing spirits have a mission to try to communicate their existence to us ... . But they ... can't do with without the help of intermediaries, and shamans are especially strong intermediaries. And so, precisely because the spirits need help in this, they will teach you surprising things to encourage you to help them. But they are in one reality and we're in another reality, and the only way they can penetrate this reality, except in very rare circumstances, is with help from our side. ... When we {mortals} go into alliance with them, that's when healing miracles and miracles of knowledge can come through."

p. 169, 173 compassionate, & non-compassionate, varieties of spirits

p. 169

"Compassionate spirits ... are especially found in the Upper and Lower Worlds, and these spirits have compassion for suffering beings in general."

"You can encounter the spirits of the elements ... . They are very powerful {though the "elementals" are misdescribed as "weak" in the Epistle to the Galatians}, but they don't have compassion."

p. 173

"However, outside the Middle World, the shamanic state of consciousness gets you in touch with the teachings of the compassionate spirits. These are concerned with reducing pain and suffering, and do indeed make it more difficult for you to be unethical."

p. 169 indeterminate location of spiritual worlds

"The shaman is an empirircal pragmatist. The worlds are where ever the shaman sees them.

The idea that all this is happening inside us is, in contrast a theory."

{That the divine worlds are internal to one's body is a conventional description of Taoist cosmology.}

p. 170 divine spirits teach spiritual values which may be countre-culture (to anti-spirit cultures)

"Once the spirits get their hands on you, it doesn't matter what your original intention was -- whether you were going to follow the Buddhist path ... or whatever. Once you give the spirits an opportunity to teach you, they're going to give you what you need, not what you planned according to your culture's program."

"In my opinion, it's fine to do ordinary psychotherapies and chemical therapies and so on with people who are deemed to be psychotic or schizophrenic."

{Is that so? Conventional "Western" psychiatrists usually regard every traditional shaman as "psychotic or schizophrenic". Would the author (M.H.) like to see every shaman forcibly afflicted with mind-destroying and body-crippling psychiatric drugs?}

p. 171 traumatic soul-loss

"One typically gets possession illness when there has been significant soul loss through traumas, and

{Being possessed by a deity (spirit -- usually one's spirit-guide) is quite a different matter from having one's health (soul) abducted into a Netherworld-prison --so at least by the standards of Siberian shamanism.} {The usually significant "possession illness" is when a shaman-to-be is resisting being trained by the spirit-guide, a matter which is usually distinguished from routine "soul loss".}

loss of one's spiritual powers. ... if there are shamans around they can remedy soul loss.

{The expression "loss of one's spiritual powers" would apparently imply already being a shaman, and then losing the knack of shamanhood (which might happen through violation, even inadvertently, of some behavioural retrictions imposed by the spirit-guide, who hath thereupon deserted oneself due to this violation).}

p. 171 escape from metempsychosis

"Personally, I am not interested in reincarnating {into another material body on the material plane-of-existence}, because once you've been out "there," it's ineffable ecstasy and union. I feel that the material world is just a short pit stop. But we should do the best we can to help here, because ... this {the material plane-of-existence) is a reality of pain and suffering.

{What would be the author's response to the Mahayana deduction that if one's sojourn in the material plane can be so arranged as to be of benefit to other persons who are undergoing hardships there, that it would be commendable to elect to become perpetually redincarnated there in order to assist unfortunate humans who have become trapped int that plane?}

This is a Darwinian {social Darwinian, of capitalistic hostility of the hate-thy-neighbor type} reality."

p. 173 jokery by shamans

"you'll often find shamans engaged in joking and mildly outrageous behavior when their off duty".

{This is likewise true of Sahajiya and of Baul saints.}

p. 175 antipathy of ayahuasca to instrumental music

"with a strong dose of ayahuasca you don't even want to hear a dog barking or a child crying. It's too overwhelming. With ayahuasca your want to hear the {icaro} songs, which are great, and they can connect you very strongly to your spiritual allies. But they involve no drumminng."

{cf. the rule against instrumental music in the mediaeval European churches}



Laura Archera Huxley

More Recipes for Living and Loving


p. 179 books

"She is the author of several books, including :

This Timeless Moment,

You Are Not the Target, and

Between Heaven and Earth."

pp. 179, 185 providing guidance to others during their process of dying

p. 179

"In 1956 she married ... Aldous Huxley ... . In 1963, at his request she administered LSD during the final hours of his dying process."

p. 185

"the Tibetan Book of the Dead -- ... Aldous had guided his first wife as she died according to this book. There is also a beautiful description in Island [by Aldous -- p. 182] of how a husband guides his wife's death, with the same principles described."


Roger Walsh & Charles S. Grob (edd.) : Higher Wisdom : eminent elders explore the continuing impact of psychedelics. State U of NY Pr, Albany, 2005.