Sunday, 28 June 2009

Psychedelic, Mythology, and Madness (Part 1)

mu: I have decided to share what I have been speaking about at The Icarus Project in my blog:

Psychedelic, Mythology, and Madness:

I would like to explore this vast subject, and see where it goes--please feel free to join in: total freedom allowed

I was first introduced to psychedelics (LSD) when I was 15. In summary what the experiences with LSD did was revitalize my sense of the magic of nature which in the short (but very LONG years for a kid) years from being young--ie, up to about 8-9 I had ben really sensing the wonder and magic of nature. I loved fairy books, and when most kids were into the Jnet and John realism adventure book phases, I was still into fairy books, and then from 8-9--till 15 something had happened which had hardened me. Made me a little sadistic; not care about nature, I would throw litter, I started reading Pan Horror books, would not garden. Liked plants like the Venus Fly trap...............began to experience nature as some kind of dusty backdrop, and my real love was big city, and my dream mythical cities were LA and especially NYC! So at 13 on to 15, I WAS IN LOVE WITH HIGH RISES, CONCRETE, CARS, TRAFFIC, CROWDS, NEON, HEARING ABOUT HOW UNFEELINGS NEW YORKERS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE. FLYOVERS (NOT SURE WHAT AMERCIANS CALL THEM, BUT WHERE THE ROADS ARE ELEVEATED ABOVER OTHER ROADS)......

BUT, when I became 15, and was allowed to go to a big city, London to train in dance, and these Hippies turned me onto LSD, on the 'come downs' (after the climax of the psychedelic experience) we would walk around gardens, and go into parks~~~~~I suddenly saw and felt the magic of nature again. My eyes were opened!

I then went on this quest to find books/authors who could somehow integrate what I had been through. I went though a lot; Castenada; Aurobindo; Gurdjieff; Nietzsche; ...etc, but couldn't dig any of it, but one little book hit the spot for me, and I nearly read the whole of it in the shop I bought it in--Cloudhidden Whereabouts Unknown, by Alan Watts. A wonder of a book, where he explore polar-related reality: How you cannot have white without black (how can you even KNOW 'white' without knowing black---how could you read this text!), light without dark, pleasure without pain, life without death, and so on.........So I count this milestone of a book as the beginning of my spiritual journey

Not so long after I discovered the book The Myth of Mental Illness! What drew me to it was the cover which is a painting of a human shaped profile of a head but made completely out of sea life. I have searched the book to find the name of artist or painting but to no avail. But that also was a profund find that changed my life. Thank the Goddess I found that book!!!
[UPDATE--I found the picture!]

Guiseppe Arcimboldo ~ Water (1527_1593)

Next BIG book was my finding The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, by John M.Allegro--and this has a really magical story to the finding ...I walked past this shop in the city centre that sold all kinds of comics, and old books, soft porn, you name it, something was glinting, and I looked into the window and saw one of the books on a shelf there had this golden colour shining in the sun which drew me in, and thats how I found it---the cover of book is colour of psilocybin cubensis mushroom, hence the golden like shining in sun ;))

One of the things this book did for me was make me take mythology far seriously than I had done. Because he shows how it is composed as art, in layers, using all kinds of wordplay, and other literary devices, and how secrets are contained for the initiates--and the central mystery is the spiritual names of the psychedelics and experiences

And another book which totally turned me around (I found out that nearly ALL my books had male authors!) was Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor's The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, and Monica Sjoo's Return of the Dark/Light Mother or New Age Armegeddon? (this book is so very important, because she exposes in depth the so-called New Age falseness and pretence to care for nature etc, and compares that with authentic Goddess religion.

So all these books and more ( I thought I would leave it there for now) have had great effects on my understandings about reality, and my learning and exploration continues, and I dont think it ever stops.

I have recently been reading John Weir Perry's, Trials of a Visionary Mind (you can read a 'summary of it here ) and have also ordered it, and am very looking foreward to it. I had wanted to read this book for a long time. Just starting reading it has sparked an intense research project for me. A wanting to explore how POST-Jungians and feminists think and feel about madness

It was Seth Farby who fairly recently turned me onto Mad Pride (I have briefly explained about this in my intro at these forums)

But I also am wanting to also wonder about the psychedelic question in regard to madness.............I will leave it there for now, but Like I say, I really welcome any feedback....

will: I just interviewed Louis Sass, who wrote the book Madness And Modernism, for madness radio. the interview should be available next week. i'm really intrigued by his work, and he's a very clear and talented writer. you might really find him interesting:

Madness and Modernism-detailed contents

I have begun trying to understand Archetypal Psychology, ala James Hillman.
I had heard of him years back, but oh I don't know, at the time something may have put me off. What comes to mind is this for example--I am an artist, and I eventually chose to go abstract, and when at art school there was this amazing lecture given by this guy called Michael Tucker, and I bought his big book titled Dreaming with Open Eyes, all about the shamanic influences in art, including music---is a really great book. And I think author mentioned how Hillman considered abstract art to be 'broken images' because it didn't show people etc---and at that time that pissed me off lol
But in effect, I notice that I am not a purist abstract artist at all, and am rather a spontaneous artist who allows images to form from chaos---that is may favourite way of doing art anyhow

But from what I have read online about Archetypal Psychology, I feel I can relate to it. Here is a good definition I read last night:

“What really makes archetypal psychology different than Jungian analysis of individuals and culture? There are many levels to this answer, some of which are quite complex, but basically there is a shift in the attitude of the psyche being in us to us being in the psyche. Some would argue that Jung made this shift himself (When we are awake we say we had a dream, but when we are dreaming we know the dream has us). However, the archetypal school draws these elements out in a particular way that brings into question a wide variety of Jungian concepts, including the Self, the Heroic ego, representations, symbols and many other ideas"

Now, reading that reminded me of this very powerful thing I'd read in one of THE most beautiful books I have ever experienced (The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram):

“. Indeed, the ineffability of the air seems akin to the ineffability of awareness itself, and we should not be surprised that many indigenous peoples construe awareness, or "mind," not as a power that resides inside their heads, but rather as a quality that they themselves are inside of along with the other animals and the plants, the mountains and the clouds." Pages 226-227” The Spell of the Sensuous)

And from aforementioned link again, (continued):

" Corbin’s placing of archetypal realities in the middle zone of reality reveals the archetype as accessible to imagination first. First when it presents itself as image and so the whole procedure of archetypal psychology becomes imaginative, its tools rhetorical and poetic, its reasoning beyond logic and it goal other than social adaptation or traditional mental health. In terms of therapeutic work, the goal is to restore the person to imaginal realities long since repressed by the culture. That is, the aim is the development of a sense of soul as the middle ground of reality, and the method of therapy is the cultivation of imagination"

So what I thinks is being said there is that, what we have been used to/oppressed by--by culture, and cultures gatekeepers, the shrinks and behavioural psychologists, etc., is a coercive suppression of freedom of our imaginal depths, being. But what happens then is not that imagination suddenly--or gradually-- CAN EVER be suppressed, but that it imagines souless scenarios devoid of imagination--the 'Wasteland', and of course the so-called 'psychotic break' etc etc is when the suppressed freedom of imagination erupts like volcanoe in a natural process of self~healing.

Now remember, I am just speculating here. I am not sure this is exactly what Hillman is saying, but it is what I am imagining.......:)

chiaroscuro: [ you wrote]: " But what happens then is not that imagination suddenly--or gradually-- CAN EVER be suppressed, but that it imagines souless scenarios devoid of imagination--the 'Wasteland'"

This makes SO MUCH SENSE. Reeling.

Love the conception of mind in that Abrams quote too... and the middle zone stuff... this is all pretty great.

But what's a person to DO? Other than take psychedelics. How to bring the imagination out of that endless loop of imagining soullessness?

Great question, and I am exploring this too. years before this I have been exploring this, and many things I have heard from Hillman I have come to in my own ways.
From what I have read, I feel that Hillman is not an idealist. So he is not saying that if you are living in a souless environment that JUST imagining it otherwise will some how magically change it. He is activist also, and encourages that we get freakin angry and passionate about injustice and oppression etc
Surely this is what Mad Pride is all about. It is radical living/being and activism whereby we undermine the very pernicious manipulations of language to encage imposed on mad people by the pharma-psychiatric-governmental monolith by embracing the term 'mad' as benevolent and not de-graded as it is supposed to be via 'normative' peer pressure, etc

So in this respect we are liberating imagination. We are already doing this.
BUT....we also know that many of the 'Wasteland' scenarios we find ouselves in, and are forced to live in (and many people are actually homeless. That is a reality) is real, and this is imagined by the soul-dead mindset authorities, and also people who accept this as the 'real world'

There are many kids, for example, who don't know where vegetables and fruit comes from, they imagine they come from supermarkets (this is no lie!). This situation is so big here in UK that some councils are saying they are going to begin planting 'free' vegetables and fruit in the parks, and that this has only ever been done in ONE park.
Now when I read that I had very mixed emotions--one of joy that this may happen, but also one of utter contempt that this wasn't already freely done!! get me? It means that this barren scene with fruitless 'parks' all mown and so on has been imagined like that by the 'planners'. And people accept this. So the problem isn't JUST these suits in rooms deciding all this grim shit we have to live of corwded souless built up areas, and little parks fenced off etc etc, but people in general imagining this is IT. And thus having no vision, no outrage....

So I feel a big part of this deadness is that also being imagined us is the media circus, and of course our so-called 'education' from school etc, peer pressure, and the sense of having to survive that can make us feel crushed and helpeless. And this is the insanity

Madness surely is coming awake to it...But then the gatekepers quickly are there saying that no we are 'mad' in their negative meaning, and use language and drugs etc to confound us even more. And then we are in the wasteland with the litter and dog shit and lose all sense of imagination IF we don't start looking through it, continuously. Seeing ouselves as a dynamic living being, Alive with spirit
What do you think?

....Imagining soulessness is something Rene Descartes imagined, he imagined :

"I think: therefore I am"

And doing so he identified with his thinking capacity as distinct from his feeling organism in relation with living nature. And his ignoreant imaginings believed that animals were machines, and this idea furthere gave excuse--in a pseudo philosophical cum scientific way--to torture animals for the 'good of humanity' who were 'blessed' with this 'thinking' which was connected with the 'God of reason'----------So you can see all this imagining right here with this dude. And his effect still continues. Millions of animals are still captured and abused due to this souless imagining

dionysiandialect: hey, awesome. reminds me of how much Descartes still continues to affect us. it was because of him that people believe mathematics and numbers are the only legitimate form of objective truth, at least, he said as much and was taken seriously.

however, according to his own dream argument, he did not exist. if you are not thinking, his logic goes, your are not existing. who thinks when they dream?

Exactly, and actions speak louder than words. Like your tone of voice and body language give you away if you dont mean what you say. I want a book by R.D.Laing which goes into that in depth. Read this interesting thing recently:

(Page 7) – "The question of a genetic factor in the formation of the brain that produces a proclivity to psychosis is also part of this same issue of causation. Some current researchers hold to the idea that the effect of the gene currently under scrutiny is one that conveys and inclination towards extrasensitivity as opposed to pathology; if this is so, it would fit the psychological observations much better. The individuals most apt to undergo the episode we are examining are usually endowed with a highly sensitive makeup, so that in childhood they were inclined to perceive falseness, defensiveness, and hidden emotions, more than others. The perception of such characteristics is usually, of course, less than welcome in a family accustomed to denial. These sensitive individuals accordingly were made to feel in an awkward position because they perceived what others did not and hence they were made to feel odd or wrongheaded , resulting in a sense of being excluded from the oneness of the family circle and cast in the role of the family scapegoat. These and other points have been extensively pursued and documented very tellingly in the work of Laing and Esterton in Sanity, Madness and the Family."

So there is the ridiculous Descartes and his followers , animal and people and children torturers, thinking that they are thinkers and that means they 'are', and all the time arenn't even aware what their bodies are doin!! Or tone of voice, and certainly not actions, because they have cut themselves OFF from their bodies, other people, other species, and nature.

And we get born into the legacy of this insanity-all-round, and when we protest in diverse ways, including natural self-healing madness, are deemed by that mindset--basing itself, it thinks, on 'mathematics', as being 'mentally ill', 'dis-ordered'

That mindset treats everything in same way. I was reading yesterday about difference between permaculture, and the prevailing agriculture that looks at plants as products and anything that threatens their product, and monoculture, as the enemy that needs exterminating...

If you're not familiar with Paul Levy's work I'd really check it out:


By Paul Levy

In 1981 I spontaneously went into such an ecstatic state that I was hospitalized by what I call the “anti-bliss patrol.” The authorities had become alerted because I was simply unable to restrain my enthusiasm at the “good news” that was beginning to reveal itself to me about the nature of reality. Stepping out of my usual way of trying to control my experience, during that next year I was thrown in mental hospitals a number of times and (mis)diagnosed as having manic-depressive (bi-polar) illness. I was told that I had a chemical imbalance and would have to go on medication and learn to live with my “illness” for the rest of my life. Little did the doctors realize that although my experience looked like a typical nervous breakdown, I had actually gotten “drafted” into a deeper psycho-spiritual process of an entirely different order – a spiritual awakening/shamanic initiation - that was blowing my mind as it was simultaneously revealing it.

My inner process had spilled outside of my skull and just like a dream was synchronistically expressing itself through events in the seemingly outer world. Finding myself in a meaning-filled, meaningful, and enchanted universe, the world had become animated by spirit, as if it was a living oracle, a continually unfolding revelation that was speaking symbolically. It became glaringly apparent to me that there was an intimate correlation and synchronistic correspondence between what was going on in the internal landscape of my psyche and the seemingly outer world. The boundary between inner and outer was dissolving. It was as if something deep inside of me was expressing itself through the medium of the outside world, and was able to extend itself into the outside world and configure events so as to in-form and give shape to itself.

According to consensus reality, I was “certifiable,” and I was in full agreement, in that I had certifiably stepped out of my self-entrancing, self-limiting, and self-binding conceptual, cognitive mind into a much more expansive “space.” As if snapping out of a trance, I found myself not out of my mind, in the sense that I was crazy, but rather, inside of my mind, which was now discovered to be everywhere, in that I was beginning to realize that I was dreaming.

My parents bought into the psychiatrist’s diagnosis that their only child had a mental illness, as in my parents’ world doctors were genuine authority figures who knew what they were talking about. In the words of the late psychiatrist R. D. Laing, “Attempts to wake before our time are often punished, especially by those who love us most. Because they, bless them, are asleep. They think anyone who wakes up, or who, still asleep, realizes that what is taken to be real is a ‘dream’ is going crazy.” Tragically, with the support and blessing of the psychiatric community, both of my parents passed away convinced their son was crazy.

When we begin to spiritually awaken, our personality structure and sense of who we are can melt down and dis-integrate, as our inner “constitution” is being rewritten. This process can convincingly appear to others as if we are having a nervous breakdown or a psychotic break.

Stepping out of my normal, conditioned, repressed and domesticated self as if breaking out of a prison, I felt on the cutting edge of the big bang itself. It was as if I was becoming attuned to and a receptive vehicle for a deeper, more authentic, less self-conscious and much more unfettered, creative and ecstatic part of myself to freely in-form my experience and give shape to itself. My experience was so mind-blowing that I had trouble “keeping it together,” particularly because previous to the hospitalizations I wasn’t in a safe container but was unrestrained, out in a world that did not understand the value of such experiences. My situation was actually quite dangerous, as during the beginning stages of my awakening I was not able to mediate and channel the transpersonal energies that were activated within me in a way that was acceptable to the culture at large.

The dissolution and breakdown of the old structures of the psyche can become a breakthrough, however, depending on how it is contained and related to by the surrounding community and unfolded. The dis-integration can be the beginning of a coming together at a more coherent, and unified level of consciousness.

Our species and its civilization are currently in the throes of a collective (nervous) breakdown. If what we, as a species, are doing to ourselves (destroying the biosphere, the very life-support system of the planet, to use one example) isn’t collective madness, then what in the world is? Our underlying institutionalized and incorporated structures that are helping to keep us asleep are breaking down and coming apart. Just as with an individual’s psyche, only writ large en masse on the world stage, we are going through a collective shamanic initiation process, a genuine “death/rebirth” experience. The false, illusory separate self, which experiences ourselves as alien from one another is “dying” as the fundamental framework by which we relate to each other and the world, as we incarnate and give “birth” to a truer sense of who we are, realizing our deep interconnection and interdependence with each other and all living beings."

mu: That is a great link Will, I have also listened to the interview he has given with Redice productions, inspired from read ing your link!
Most of what he says completely gells with what I am exploring----He mentions Jung, but I am surprised he doesn't seem to mention post-Jungian ideas from james Hillman, and feminists--I would like to contact him

Reservations I have: Well he seems to separate 'spiritual emergence' from 'nervous breakdown'. I am not comfortable with that. It creates a kind of caste system where some people considers kosher religious visionaries are deemed higher than others who --for ewhatever reason--cannot cope with this mechanistic 'dream' and 'breaksdown in a diverse range of ways. For me that is ALL spiritual. And it is NOT that 'spiritual emergency' "mimics" 'real mental illness'.

Also he seems to suggest 'all of humanity' are undergoing a collective potential transformation' without acknowledging that indigenous peoples were/are already understand what he means and were/are persecuated by the mechanistic mindset. Ie., it is the 'warrior/patriarchal/mechanistic' mindset that is waking up to its own nightmare it has created over the centuries, and will have to face what it has down to people who were understanding the interrelatedness of all species, animals, people, and the land! And that the land has ALWAYS been sacred. So it is not the universe which is 'waking' up, but as I say, that mindset that got lost, and became blind to the sacred.

Also finally, Paul's emphasis on Bush Jr, as being the embodiment of evil (plus collective evil for the people who support him) without acknowledging the complete sham which is the political circus itself which is geared for the pormotion of egotistical criminality and corruption. That is its modus operandi. If we imagine it is JUST Bush, then what about Clinton, and the ones before, and the Founding Fathers and their role in slavery, and the American Holocaust, against Native American tribes?

But thanks so much, a lot of what he says is incredibly powerful and very important!

I absolutely agree with you 100%. This is a recurring criticism I have had of the "spiritual emergence" crowd (and one of the reasons I ended up flunking out of California Institute of Integral Studies counseling program, but that's a different story). I have talked with Paul about this quite a lot and he is also in complete agreement. I think the wording of this article is unfortunate as it mis-represents where his thinking is today. I encourage you to contact him with your thoughts, as I think he needs to be more vigilant about not endorsing the "really crazy" versus "spiritual" split. In practice that just comes down to money -- the spiritual people are the ones with money, the "really crazy" ones are the poor folks.

This is of course not to endorse any behavior or experience that is negative or destructive/fearful/harm based, or to somehow say that everything is positive and you have to just go with it. Quite the opposite -- it means that when encountering trauma, fear, suicidality, paranoia -- all the things we associate with 'not spiritual' kinds of madness -- the best way to engage with that is to treat it as being potentially spiritual if worked with and approached with openness, curiousity, compassion, and all the other qualities we use in spiritual practice. Anything pathologizing, disorder-oriented etc just risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, alienating the other, putting them down, dehumanizing them, and all the rest of the mental health oppression we see.

Paul has also looked behind the "Bush-focus" that you address here. He was not an Obama supporter for the same reason I wasn't - the power issues are beyond the personality of the president and the campaign machinery. Read some of Paul's more recent work and I think you'll see a very radical perspective on how power and politics operate behind the scenes of the media spectacle.

If possible, Will, I would VERY much like to hear your story--about your experiences at the California Institute of Integral Studies counselling programme as this is a central interest of mine--This splitting up of 'spiritual emergencies' from 'mental illnesses'. Which as you say directly is the splitting up of the usually middle classes and uppers from the poor, and thus carrying on a very damaging abusive caste system that is even more perncious--if that were possible. But more hypocritical, and blind. So we need to challenge this strongly.
I read this article recently which is very eye-opening , Carl Jung and Schizophrenia:'Jungian Social Neglect,'by Robert Couteau

"My conversations with these analysts revealed a consistent (and odd) response to the idea of working with schizophrenics. For example, I “learned” that (to paraphrase their remarks) “Jungian psychology is not for everyone. It requires a certain amount of sophistication, which state hospital patients [poor and “ethnic” people] tend not to have. Analysis is not an appropriate treatment for schizophrenia. Schizophrenics don’t have the proper ego-structure to benefit from Jungian analysis.” There was also a general belief that schizophrenics are “unemployable” (not a good investment?), “low functioning” (uninteresting?), and always on the “verge of psychosis” (presenting dangerous counter-transference problems?)."

Ie., Same attitude entirely!

You know, I am so glad you are pointing this all out here. I see this as so important because it cuts through the crap. Because--for example, say you believe you have had a spiritual emergence, or know about them etc and yet still promote and contribute to an abusive caste system where the 'mentally ill', 'poor',and the 'ethnics', and women, and children, etc just keep getting the same old abuse...what's changed?! Nothing. There's just been yet a new category made is all, as is the case in the DSM I believe with 'spiritual problems'?

I talked with Seth Farby about this and Seth told me that a huge influence on this splitting up the 'sheep' from the 'goats' is Ken Wilber's influence on the Transpersonal Psychology Movement. For as you know he has this myth of his he calls the "pre/trans fallacy" where he assumes that 'oceanic states of consciousness' which he likens to 'nature mysticism', and various forms of 'schizophrenic' experiences, and so on is 'prepersonal/womb-like' whilst his preference for Eastern forms of mysticism which he deems superior is 'transpersonal'. And there he is as middle class white guru lording it up...At the top of his imagined hierarchy.

There also is an existing power structure behind the scenes of the left right act of politics.
I really am going to read more of what Paul is saying, and would love to get in touch with him!

I like how Paul Levy said that 'diabolic' was the opposite of 'symbolic'---I did a little search and found this:

Anger, madness, and the daimonic

"...when properly interpreted, the symbol of the devil holds truly a coincidentia oppositorium - a coincidence of opposites. This highly significant fact is contained in the etymology of our English term "devil", which as [Rollo] May explains:

'Comes from the Greek word diabolos; "diabolic" is the term in contemporary English. Diabolos, interestingly enough, literally means "to tear apart" (dia-bollein). Now it is fascinating to note that this diabolic is the antonym of "symbolic."...There lie in these words tremendous implications with respect to an ontology of good and evil. The symbolic is that which draws together, ties, integrates the individual in himself and with his group; the diabolic, in contrast, is that which disintegrates and tears apart. Both of these are present in the daemonic. [my emphasis]'

Reading that reminded me of what I have read about the so-called shamanic initiation where symbolically the individual chosen ==by the spirits--to be shaman is visited by demons and/or ancestors and is symbolically 'torn to bits' and then reconstituted usually with an extra portion added to her or his body, often of quartz crystal

And look at this also: Where John Weir Perry is explaining the visionary sequences of so-called 'actute psychotic episodes'

In Trials of a Visionary Mind
page 5:"...The first is an experience of dying or of having already died which symbolizes a disolution of the acustomed self.
The second element closely related to the first, is a vision of the death of the world. These "world-destruction fantasies" involve the disolution of the person's world-image, which symbolizes the accustomed culture or subculture by which the psyche has organized its experience of the world.
Studies of rapid culture change show that the visionary experiences of prophets frequently contain images of the world disintergrating and being reabsorbed into chaos, which then allows a regeneration to occur. In these accounts, it is clear that what is being transformed is the image of the culture. We also see this process in the acute episode; one suffers the collapse of one's accustomed cultural models. One's basic security and long-held value system, as well as one's view of the world, are shaken up and disassembled, preparing the way for their reconstruction. Meanwhile the psyche remains in a state of inchoate potential. The process, however, is autonomous and moves naturally into the reintegrative phase..."

It is clear that disintegration and reintegration as a dynamic reality of both 'inner' (psychological) and 'outer' (the natural cyclical world/nature) is natural living process.
But in not understanding this, and/or suppressing this we create hellish scenarios where the disintegrational reintegrational processes cannot be fulfilled, and thus replacing this alive dynamic process with rigidity, and deadness.

In patriarchal Christian mythology this has been the creation of an anthropomorphized 'Devil' and 'Hell' which are not part of a dynamic which is a whole process of disintegration, reintegration, disintegration....and so on. But of rigid categories that never change, mutate, live

In Eastern belief systems there is the implication that disintegration is inevitable while we are 'here', but one should choose to eventually transcend it and seek all-the-time-bliss. A similar one-sided hope ignoreing the polar-related part of process! This mindset--which includes the present myth of scientism--is like the observation of a dance, and it will insist that some of the movements of the dance they have frozen in their video measuring device do not relate to the other moves they have also frozen on another device. Therefore not even aware of the dance itself...