Nepenthe: “such as drinck, eternall happinesse do fynd” – Edmund Spenser
It has been a hectic week or two since I last published Turfing. This year has been nothing if not change. As I write, I look out my window over green hills, and incredible blue skies. Though out of the way, our new home has some wonderful benefits. I am not so keen on the commute, as I have found that at certain times it is mayhem. So used to not commuting, as in ever.
This edition covers The Poison Path/The Flowery Path in poetry, writing and song. I hope you enjoy it!
On The Menu:
Perfume Tree – Too Late, Too Early
Paul Devereux: Do Psychedelics Allow Interspecies Communication?
The Machine – Moons of Neptune
Interesting Link On What’s New…
Massive Mushrooms, Zombie Fungus
The Churning Of The Law(s)…
Perfume Tree – Too Late, Too Early
A Glass Of Ayahuasca
in my hotel room overlooking Desamparados’ Clanging Clock,
with the french balcony doors closed, and luminescent fixture out
“my room took on a near eastern aspect” that is I was reminded of Burroughs
with heart beating—and the blue wall of Polynesian Whorehouse, and
mirror framed in black as if in Black Bamboo-and wooden slated floor
and I in my bed, waiting, and slowly drifting away
but still thinking in my body till my body turned to passive wood
and my soul rocked back & forth preparing to slide out on eternal journey
backwards from my head in the dark
An hour, realizing the possible change in consciousness
that the Soul is independent of the body and its death
and that the Soul is not Me, it is the wholly other “whisper of consciousness”
from Above, Beyond, Afuera—
till I realize it existed in all its splendor in the Ideal or Imaginary
Toward which the me will travel when the body goes to the sands of Chancay
And at last, lying in bed covered my body with a splendid robe of
indian manycolors wool,
I gazed up at the grey gate of Heaven with a foreign eye
and yelled in my mind “Open up, for I am the Prince of eternity
come back to myself after a long journey in chaos,
open the Door of Heaven, My Soul, for I have come back to claim
my Ancient House
Let the Servants come forth to Welcome me and let Silent Harp make music
and bring my apparel of Rainbow and Star show me my shoes of Light and
my Pants of the Universe
Spread forth my meal of myriad lives, My Soul, and Show up thy
Face of Welcome
For I am the one who has dwelled in the secret Temple before,
and I have been man too long
And now I want to Hear Music of Joy beyond Death,
and now I am be who has waited to Welcome myself back Home
The great stranger is Home in his House of Joy.”
or words or thoughts or sensations & images to that effect.
Thus for an instant the Sensation of this Eternal House passed thru my hair
tho I couldn’t liberate my body from the bed to float away—
tho did glimpse the foot of the thought of the gate of Heaven—
Then opened my eyes and Saw the blast of light of the real universe
when I opened the window and looked at the clock on the R R Station
with its halfnaked man & woman with clubs, creators of time and chaos,
and down on the street where pastry venders sold their poor sugar
symbolic of Eternity, to Passerby-and great fat clanking beast of Trolley
with its dumb animal look and croaking screech on the tracks
Powered by electric life,, turned a corner of the Presidential Palace
where Bolivar 200 years ago in time planted a secret everlasting Fig-tree
and a fog from another life crept thru its own dimension
Past the cornice of the hotel and travelled downward in the street
To seek the river-had a bridge with little humans crossing, faraway
—and up in the hills the silver gleam of sunlight on the horizon thru thick fog
—and the Cerro San Christobal—with a cross atop and Casbah of poor
consciousness ratted on its hip—
and overall the vast blue flash & blast of open space
the Sky of Time, empty as a big blue dream
and as everlasting as the many eyes that lived to see it
Time is the God, is the Face of the God,
As in the monstrous image of the Ramondi Chavin Sculptured Stone Monument
A cat head many eyed sharp toothed god face long as Time,
with different eyes some upside down and 16 sets of faces
all have fangs—the structure of one consciousness
that waits upstairs to Devour man and all his universes
—turn the picture upside down—the top eyes see more than the human bottom rows
Indifferent, dopey, smiling, horrible, with Snakes & fangs—
The huge gentle creature of the Cosmic joke
that takes whatever form it can to Signify that it is the one that has come to its Home
where all are invited to Enter in Secret eternally
After they have been killed by the illusion of Impossible Death.
~ Allen Ginsberg
No Safe Place
Behind the white picket fence
on the sunny porch where I fed
my morning habits a fatherly voice
I grew up on antipsychotics
In the local bar comparing the ages
of psychedelic acoustics wondering
was the Invisible Temple always here
and have the routes changed a good-old
Freak says goodbye with hand games
to me a complete stranger declaring
You’re too smart for your own good
In the woods surrounded by the hum
of vegetable silence dialogue with Others
comes in nighttime motions topographies
delineated by fireflies and loons mumbled
messages from sleeping partners skry
There is no safe place for Magicians
and Shamans or Poets
under any phase of our Moon
The only Absolute
Change and Return
the gate to what
The crack of a ball
The moment before
you fell from the cliff
Not a care in the world a dog biting your heels
The Buddha eats strawberries
The Christ has a last meal
and nowhere and nothing will ever be the same.
When the moon is born in the east,
And the white rooftops drift asleep
Under the heaped-up light,
People leave their shops and march forth in groups
To meet the moon
Carrying bread, and a radio, to the mountaintops,
And their narcotics.
There they buy and sell fantasies
And die – as the moon comes to life.
What does that luminous disc
Do to my homeland?
The land of the prophets,
The land of the simple,
The chewers of tobacco, the dealers in drug?
What does the moon do to us,
That we squander our valor
And live only to beg from Heaven?
What has the heaven
For the lazy and the weak?
When the moon comes to life they are changed to
And shake the tombs of the saints,
Hoping to be granted some rice, some children…
They spread out their fine and elegant rugs,
And console themselves with an opium we call fate
In my land, the land of the simple
What weakness and decay
Lay hold of us, when the light streams forth!
Rugs, thousands of baskets,
Glasses of tea and children swarn over the hills.
In my land,
where the simple weep,
And live in the light they cannot perceive;
In my land,
Where people live without eyes,
And live in resignation,
As they always have,
Calling on the crescent moon:
” O Crescent Moon!
O suspended God of Marble!
O unbelievable object!
Always you have been for the east, for us,
A cluster of diamonds,
For the millions whose senses are numbed”
On those eastern nights when
The moon waxes full,
The east divests itself of all honor
The millions who go barefoot,
Who believe in four wives
And the day of judgment;
The millions who encounter bread
Only in their dreams;
Who spend the night in houses
Built of coughs;
Who have never set eyes on medicine;
Fall down like corpses beneath the light.
In my land,
where the stupid weep
And die weeping
Whenever the crescent moon appears
And their tears increase;
Whenever some wretched lute moves them…
or the song to “night”
In my land,
In the land of the simple,
where we slowly chew on our unending songs-
A form of consumption destroying the east-
Our east chewing on its history,
its lethargic dreams,
Its empty legends,
Our east that sees the sum of all heroism
In Picaresque Abu Zayd al Hilali.
~ Nizar Qabbani
Do Psychedelics Allow Interspecies Communication?
by Paul Devereux
Societies of the past have used the psychedelic experience to strengthen, renew and heal the spiritual underpinning of their social structures. The ever-deepening social unease that Western civilisation seems to be caught in is the real source of our ‘drug problem’: natural hallucinogens are not the problems in themselves, it is the context in which they are used that matters. If there were orderly and healthy structures and mechanisms for their use and the cultural absorption of the powerful experiences – and knowledge – we could separate these from the culture of crime that surrounds them now. In short, the problems are not in the psychoactive substances themselves, but in a society, which on the one hand wants to prohibit, mind-expansion altogether and on the other chooses to use mind-expanding substances in a literally mindless, hedonistic fashion.
Perhaps only a shock of some kind could break our society free from the patterns of thought and prejudices that lock it into this crisis. The desire for such a shock may be hidden within the widespread modern myth of extra-terrestrial intervention. In fact, we do not have to look to science fiction for a real otherworld contact: it already exists in the form of plant hallucinogens. If we see them in the context of a ‘problem’, it is only because they hold up a mirror in which we see our spiritual, social and mental condition reflected. And they hold that mirror up to us as one species to another just as surely as if they were from another planet. Indeed, that champion of the psychedelic state, the late Terence McKenna, argued that the ancestral spores of today’s hallucinogenic mushrooms may have originated on some other planet. (This is not as fringe an idea as it sounds, for even some ‘hard scientists’ – the late Francis Crick, co-discover of DNA, among them – have suggested that the germs of life may have had extra-terrestrial origins, brought to Earth by means of meteorites or comet dust.) The psilocybin family of hallucinogens, says McKenna, produces a “Logos-like phenomenon of an interior voice that seems to be almost a superhuman agency…an entity so far beyond the normal structure of the ego that if it is not an extraterrestrial it might as well be.”
Other ‘psychonauts’ have emerged from the altered mind states enabled by plant substances with similar impressions. For instance, New York journalist Daniel Pinchbeck wrote about his various initiations with plant hallucinogens in his Breaking Open the Head (2002). In one ayahuasca session with Amazonian Secoya Indians he found himself wandering in a visionary space where he encountered beings that “never stopped changing” their forms. “The shaman and the elders seemed to be inhabiting this space with me… They sang, their words unintelligible, to these creatures, interacting with them… I had no more doubts that the Secoya engaged in extradimensional exploration.” Or, again, two of the three molecular biologists brought to the Amazon to experience ayahuasca trances by anthropologist and writer, Jeremy Narby, felt that they had communicated with an “independent intelligence.” Narby himself feels that in their ayahuasca altered states shamans plumb the molecular level of nature and that, to put Narby’s idea crudely, ayahuasca – with its trade-mark visionary snakes – has the ability to communicate information concerning the double-helix coil of DNA (The Cosmic Serpent, 1998). Indeed, to allow contact with the “mind of nature.”
We have already noted that the idea that ontologically independent beings (‘spirits’) or intelligences are contactable through plant-induced trances is standard in most if not all shamanic tribal societies, but to posit such a thing in modern Western societies is viewed as tantamount to insanity, a nonsense notion to be dismissed out of hand. In other words, we can’t discuss it without forfeiting all credibility. This problem concerning the inability to explore certain ideas has been addressed by Oxford-based researcher, Andy Letcher. He uses Foucauldian discourse analysis to critique the models, the ‘discourses’ employed by the West in dealing with the content of altered mind states. These include pathological, prohibition, psychological, recreational, psychedelic, entheogenic discourses. Each has its own imposed boundaries; they are cognitive constructs. Letcher notes that some of these discourses or approaches to hallucinogenic substances ignore the subjective experience of the altered mind states involved, or else place it within an inner, psychological framework rather than it being a case of simply seeing more, of being in a wider frame of consciousness. He critiques even the entheogenic discourse as relying on a “God within” model, divine revelation that does not by any means occur in all altered states. However diverse they might be, all these discourses can be used within the norms of Western culture. Only one discourse crosses that “fundamental societal boundary,” what Letcher refers to as the animistic discourse – the belief that the taking of, say, hallucinogenic mushrooms occasions actual “encounters with discarnate spirit entities.” Because of the deep-rooted modern Western assumption that consciousness cannot occur in any other guise than human (the ultimate hubris of our species, perhaps) discussion of a conscious plant kingdom, or of that providing a portal through which contact with other, ontologically independent beings or intelligences can occur, is simply not possible within the mainstream culture. “It nevertheless remains a phenomenon in need of further scholarly research,” Letcher rightly insists.
It is a remarkable fact that plant hallucinogens are hallucinogenic precisely because they contain the same, or effectively the same, chemicals as are found in the human brain, and so act on us as if we were indeed engaged in an interspecies communication. “The chemical structure of the hallucinogenic principles of the mushrooms was determined…and it was found that these compounds were closely related chemically to substances occurring naturally in the brain which play a major role in the regulation of psychic functions,” Schultes and Hofmann have observed, for instance. This challenges the view held by many people that taking a plant hallucinogen is somehow ‘unnatural’. Certainly, mind-altering plants take the brain-mind to states that are not “normal” by the standards of our culture, but the ‘normal’ state of Western consciousness cannot claim to be the one-and-only ‘true’ state of consciousness. (Indeed, judging by the mess we manage to make of our societies and of the natural world around us it may even be an aberrant or pathological state of mind that we are culturally locked into.)
“If one were to reduce to its essentials the complex chemical process that occurs when an external psychoactive drug such as psilocybin reaches the brain, it would then be said that the drug, being structurally closely related to the naturally occurring indoles in the brain, appears to interact with the latter in such a way as to lock a nonordinary or inward-directed state of consciousness temporarily into place… There are obviously wide implications, biological-evolutionary as well as philosophical, in the discovery that precisely in the chemistry of consciousness we are kin to the plant kingdom,” writes Peter Furst.
These are probably the same kind of chemical changes that occur during the course of long and intensive spiritual exercises, but it takes a rare person to achieve sufficient expertise in such techniques to arrive at experiences that match those accessible through hallucinogen usage, which are certainly very ‘real’ in a subjective sense. It is a culturally-engineered cliché to dismiss such states as being somehow delusional. They are subjectively no more delusional than the experience of daily life. The human body is an open system, taking in material from the environment and expelling matter into it all the time, and we really shouldn’t think of taking in natural chemicals for visionary and mind-expanding functioning as any different, any less natural, than taking in gases from the air for their chemical benefits to the body, or chemicals and compounds in animal and vegetable matter to provide food, or fermented fruits and vegetable matter to provide delicious, refreshing or inebriating beverages, or vitamins to augment healthy functioning, or medicines when we are ill, or caffeinated teas and coffees when we want to be energised. “Ethnobotanists now realize that psychotropic plant species extend further than had been suspected, as though nature truly wanted the human species to get in touch with its floral neighbors,” Richard Gehr muses. “As plant species die off at a furious rate, the issue is no longer what they are trying to tell us, but whether we will get the message in time.”
That message may be to do with the need for us to change our minds, or, at least, to broaden our cognitive horizons. The plant kingdom could be urging us to allow the ability to ‘switch channels’ in consciousness terms to let them become a recognised and acceptable part of our emerging global culture. Hallucinogen-using ancient and traditional societies had and have exceptional sophistication when it comes to understanding and navigating alternate states of consciousness, whereas we are still quite primitive and inexperienced in this regard. The manual for using expanded consciousness is a textbook we have not read – or, more accurately, recalled. Not that simply widening our collective experience of consciousness will act like a magic wand and remove all problems and obstacles, but it would help us to make wiser, more whole-some decisions in coping with them. If Western civilisation is truly to advance, we surely must learn to operate within the multi-dimensional capacities of our minds, rather than using the police to conduct an indiscriminate war on the means of doing so. A workable balance has to be struck between protecting the well-being and the orderly functioning of society as a whole, and allowing the human brain-mind to explore its full potential. We are smart enough and complex enough and able enough to make it possible to do both. There are no excuses.
The Long Trip is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK
The Machine – Moons of Neptune
“For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men. This I have known ever since I stretched out my fingers to the abomination within that great gilded frame; stretched out my fingers and touched a cold and unyielding surface of polished glass.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, The Outsider