Photos, Artwork, & Musings on Life, Spirit, Entheogens, Time, & Travel

Latest

Ancient Songs & Green Magic – Link

This is a sticky post. Please scroll down for current posts!  Thanks.

ASGM-COVER1

A main feature of this blog is the journal report I made of my initial experiences with Ayahuasca in 2006. This sticky post is here so you don’t miss my five-part series of essays called “Ancient Songs and Green Magic” covering my entire experience in the Peruvian Amazon.  If you are curious about how a traditional, authentic Ayahuasca ceremony happened to someone who had never experienced it or anything like it before, I will take you with me through an entire arc of experiences from a lesson of sheer terror to a wondrous encounter and love from Mother Ayahuasca herself, plus life-changing after effects that still resonate now. Begin the journey HERE or click the ceremonial image below. I welcome your comments.  –– Scroll down for current posts.

Ayahuasca and the Return of the Hero

“A prophet is not without honor except in his own country. . .”
Mark 6:4

An observation about reintegration and sharing one’s non-ordinary experiences for good or for ill.

VISIONARY UNIVERSE

Anyone who has worked authentically with Ayahuasca, gaining sight and knowledge, healing and wisdom, is partaking in the mythic Hero’s Journey. He or she is a legitimate explorer–one who travels to dangerous places, passing barrier guardians, personally encountering the divine Spirit or Spirits, and willingly undergoing tests and challenges that are often terrifying and that threaten survival. When the exploration ends, we who have so ventured return to our mundane world once again, full and overflowing with what has been taken in and we are electrically charged with it. It is a boon for ourselves (this is why we took on the challenge). We wish it to be one for our friends, our family, our tribe: those who did not and would not ever cross the border we crossed; those who would or could not face the challenges and return with the great wealth.

SQ-RioMeandersOne of the most challenging parts of the Hero’s Journey then, is the return: the reintegration into the “normal” everyday world and trying to fulfill our role as conveyors of the treasures we found and the discoveries we made during our dangerous endeavor. It does not always work, this re-entry into our old world and it can redound to our discomfiture in our relationships with others. Joseph Campbell put it this way:

“[Prior to the Hero’s return from] the mystic realm into the land of common day. Whether rescued from without, driven from within, or gently carried along by the guiding divinities, he has yet to re-enter with his boon the long-forgotten atmosphere where men who are fractions imagine themselves to be complete. He has yet to confront society with his ego-shattering, life-redeeming elixir, and take the return blow of reasonable queries, hard resentment, and good people at a loss to comprehend. . . .

. . . As dreams that were momentous by night may seem simply silly in the light of day, so the poet and prophet can discover themselves playing the idiot before a jury of sober eyes.

. . . How to render back into light-world language the speech-defying pronouncements of the dark? How represent on a two-dimensional surface a three-dimensional form, or in a three-dimensional image a multi-dimensional meaning? How translate into terms of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ revelations that shatter into meaninglessness every attempt to define the pairs of opposites? How communicate to people who insist on the exclusive evidence of their senses the message of the all-generating void?”

This, Campbell says, is “the hero’s ultimate difficult task.”
–Joseph Campbell “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” (New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1949–Second Edition, 1968), pp 216-218.

SQ-OldCanoeAfter my first, most powerful and transformative foray into the realms of the Other, I naively presented my journey’s logs and observations to those who are close to me. The reaction was something like that one described by Campbell–the semantic and ontological challenges the very same as he outlined. Sometimes, I wonder if I should have done it, for he also wrote of the hero who might be tempted to “commit the whole community to the devil and retire again into the heavenly rock-dwelling, close the door, and make it fast. But if (an obstruction to his retreat has been placed), then the work of representing eternity in time, and perceiving in time eternity, cannot be avoided.”
[ibid, p. 218]

And, so I continue to share what I have experienced. I do so in diverse ways, including (especially) in this blog.

 

 

SQ-Cloudscape4

 

 

.

Sacred Land ~ Sacred Journey

SacredEarthDrum[DREAMSCOPE-blend]

 

[Click any image to enlarge to full size]

I will be soon returning to the wondrous landscapes of the Four Corners region here in the US, especially to the sacred, sculpted redlands of southeastern Utah. I’ve been drawn to this amazing land since the mid 1970s, and I return here as often as I can. The great National Parks of Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef (not to mention Zion and Bryce Canyon further west) are the heart of this unique topography. It is a place of great beauty, danger, adventures, and an almost visceral spirituality.

The part of this country that is in Navajo hands, such as Monument Valley, is and always has been utterly sacred to them. All of it feels sacred to me. There are many special places I like to go in this high desert, but there is one private spot I picked many years ago that I reserve for my own meditation and shamanic journeying.

I’ve posted the original photo of myself in this spot before, but recently I was experimenting with the new Deep Dream code from Google. They use it to search, organize, and perform image recognition on their vast image databanks. It can also be used to create strange, visionary alterations to existing images, such as mine. I used several Deep Dream “filters” to create multiple versions of this photograph, then I chose parts of each to make the final combination.

I like this kind of processing when used artistically. It is, obviously, best suited for visionary or psychedelic style images like this one.

I’ll post much more (traditional) photography (like the one below) of these special landscapes upon my return in August.

 

Needles1-border

 

 

.

A World Without Work

Atlantic-article615A lengthy but very interesting article in the Atlantic, titled “A World Without Work,” by Derek Thompson, gives a wide view and interesting analysis of work in our challenging and changing times and some ideas for a “post-work” society that are emerging even now.

I, like so many others, am a part of this new process, having been unceremoniously expelled from a corporate “career” job after a quarter-century of working for it, thus being forced to adapt and create new modes of being that are, in most ways, superior to the older paradigm.

A couple of quotes:

“I see three overlapping possibilities as formal employment opportunities decline. Some. . .will devote their freedom to simple leisure; some will seek to build productive communities outside the workplace; and others will fight, passionately and in many cases fruitlessly, to reclaim their productivity by piecing together jobs in an informal economy. These are futures of consumption, communal creativity, and contingency. In any combination, it is almost certain that the country would have to embrace a radical new role for government.”

. . . .

“Decades from now, perhaps the 20th century will strike future historians as an aberration, with its religious devotion to overwork in a time of prosperity, its attenuations of family in service to job opportunity, its conflation of income with self-worth. The post-work society . . . reflects the forgotten norms of the mid-19th century—the artisan middle class, the primacy of local communities, and the unfamiliarity with widespread joblessness.”

 

.

DMT study: Survival Role & Life Extension

DMTstudy1

Thanks, once again, to Graham Hancock for the lead to this new study on the effects and the likely vital role the chemical DMT plays in human survival.

DMT is one of the ingredients in Ayahuasca and is a powerful vision producing chemical in humans. It has been speculated to have a seminal role in the bringing of consciousness into and then out of the human body at birth and death, leading Dr. Rick Strassman and others to call it the “Spirit Molecule.”

This new DMT study suggests a survival role for DMT and explores how it may extend life and revivability during the trauma of clinical brain death by flooding from the lungs into the brain to fight the damage from loss of oxygen.

It has been understood by many for some time that DMT is endogenous in humans, but most have thought that it originates within the brain itself in the pineal gland. This is the first time I have heard of it being sourced in the lungs, which actually makes a lot of sense if we understand the role it seems to be playing. Also, the concept of DMT connecting with the serotonin receptors in the brain may need some rethinking since serotonin itself is not hallucinogenic.

This Indiegogo  campaign is to raise funds for basic research in this very restricted and expensive area of scientific inquiry.

I am always fascinated with new scientific data that works to bridge the gap between our reductionist physical world concepts and the so-called metaphysical or other-dimensional concepts and experiences we can have under the influence of entheogens or spirit medicines like Ayahuasca and DMT itself. If spiritual experiences are “real” and not just brain fiction, there must be a “real” connection in physics, biology, and chemistry. Claiming today that such rational links do not exist and then asserting that all such experiences are, therefore, fiction is a bit like someone from the early 1800s, before James Clerk Maxwell showed that electromagnetic waves could propagate through open space, saying that humans could not possibly talk long distances by “magic” vibrations through the air. The science for it existed even then. It was just unknown to the speaker. Or, as Arthur C. Clarke famously put it:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

DMTstudy2

 

.

Podcast: Maestro Don Howard Lawler Explains Ayahuasca

resetme-podcast

 

Excellent video podcast with Amber Lyon of reset.me, in an engaging and fascinating interview with my dear friend and shaman maestro of the Amazon, don Howard Lawler, aka. Choque Chinchay. This is a wonderfully long in-depth discussion about Ayahuasca–what it is and isn’t and how it is properly (and improperly) approached and worked with in its native Amazon setting. Howard is a superb teacher as well as shaman and it is always a blessing to listen to his knowledge and wisdom about the great teacher plants, especially Ayahuasca. This was shot on location at the SpiritQuest Sanctuary in the Upper Amazon where I’ve twice been fortunate to travel and to engage with the great plant teachers under the care and compassion of don Howard and don Rober.

I’ve spent many hours listening to don Howard, asking my questions and having in-depth discussions about the medicine. When you listen to him, you are hearing long and deep experience from one of the most authentic of the Amazon’s medicine men, and probably the best communicator in English for and about Ayahuasca. Enjoy.

 

.

Consciousness Doesn’t Compute

Human-Geometry-Alex-GreyThanks to my friend, Graham Hancock, for this link to a very interesting article about a South Korean physicist, Daegene Song, who is working with the concepts of consciousness and artificial intelligence. First, I should say that this man’s views are controversial and have been challenged, but then, that kind of goes with this territory.

I have long thought that there is a fundamental difference between our organic forms that seem to produce and exhibit what we perceive as consciousness and strictly reductionist machine analogues, i.e.: computers, that are programmed to attempt to re-create it. I personally do not believe that any AI (artificial intelligence) attempts based on current understandings and technology will ever be successful in recreating a fully conscious “being” like us, all the science fiction tropes and movies aside.

I recently saw the film “Ex Machina,” for instance, and as well done as it was, the leap of faith from robot to “person” is palpable and remains firmly entrenched in fantasy. Nothing wrong with that, per se, of course. I write such material myself, but I have at least postulated a mixture of physical bodies/brains with that “something else” that comes from another dimension that I’ve labeled the “Spirit Dimension” in my fiction. We humans may be “bi-modal” without being able to describe or define the dark energy and matter that makes us truly conscious and therefore human. Now, this scientist has done some research that he says proves that consciousness cannot be possible by reductionist mechanical systems alone, because the math prevents it!

From the article:

“If consciousness cannot be represented in the same way all other physical systems are represented, it may not be something that arises out of a physical system like the brain,” said Song. “The brain and consciousness are linked together, but the brain does not produce consciousness. Consciousness is something altogether different and separate. The math doesn’t lie.”  (emphasis mine)

I cannot assess the math itself, but this is the first time I’ve encountered someone in that field who is saying something specifically like this, and I find it fascinating and intriguing, especially in light of the “spiritual” work I and others have personally done with actual bi-modal systems such as Ayahuasca.

A lot of folks will disagree and many believe a truly self-aware AI is just around the corner. I think that if that happens, it will still be unexplainable and unreducible in standard reductionist terms, having gathered something of that other dimension, that unknown dark essence that makes us “conscious”.

What do you think?

.

[ Artwork from Alex Grey.  “Human Geometry”   www.alexgrey.com ]

Harmine in Ayahuasca May Help Reverse Diabetes

Aya-Harmine

Photos ©2015 David P. Crews, CrewsCreative

Through a link from Graham Hancock, here is an interesting article about the medical benefits of Ayahuasca. There have been anecdotal references and rumors about physical cures and benefits of working with Ayahuasca for a long time, but this is a Nature Medicine study that points to one of the vine’s key ingredients as being potentially beneficial in the fight against diabetes.

Some quotes from the article:

“Psychoactive Plant May Hold Key to Reversing Diabetes”

“A chemical found in ayahuasca has the potential to regenerate pancreas cells that have been lost to diabetes.”

“Harmine occurs naturally in a number of plants around the world. It’s one of the ingredients in the psychoactive mixture ayahuasca, which is used by some indigenous people for religious purposes.”

I look forward to more research in this important area. I believe there is a largely untapped resource of powerful natural medicines to be found in our psychoactive plant allies. It is time to do away with the draconian and senseless laws that prohibit researchers from working with these plants.

Much can be done by targeting specific ills such as diabetes with an allopathic medical approach, but I think some of the benefits of working with the spirit plants like Ayahuasca come more subtly from ingesting the specific combination of natural whole plant molecules (and, in a larger view, connecting to the spirit of the plant) and may not express in the same way or be as beneficial when the isolated chemicals (like harmine) are tested individually.

 

.

Costa Rica Waterfalls


COSTARICAWTRFALLS_thumb
Today, I’m presenting a virtual getaway, especially for anyone stuck in this year’s snowy winter. I’m pleased to offer you my short (7 min.) nature film I shot in November on location in the beautiful country of Costa Rica.

I love waterfalls, and Costa Rica has many lovely ones, both small and very large. All are situated in rain forest settings that invoke images of a lost, green, wild world.

This film also features my original symphonic music score. Be sure to go full screen and volume up.

I hope you enjoy “Costa Rica Waterfalls”!

 

jungle strip horizontal

.

Mariners We Are

MarinersWeAre-ColeManhood-frame

My posting frequency on this blog has slowed recently due to my becoming deeply involved in writing my first novel. The book, an epic science-fiction/fantasy series, is approaching completion and I will update this blog as I can, but I thought that for now I’d post some recent thoughts in the forms of a poem and a digital image or two.

————–

Often, I find myself simultaneously holding different visions of my humanity. On one hand, I sense the melancholy (which is not the same as sadness or hopelessness) of our situation here in this physical reality. It is the conundrum of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s metaphor of the Stairs that I’ve spoken of several times in these pages. Upon those stairs, we awake and know not whence we came, nor where we are bound. It is an authentic and enduring melancholy for every person–a melancholy borne of that mystery.

On the other hand, I feel a strong imperative to constantly and consciously create real happiness and fulfillment for myself within the time I exist upon those mysterious stairs. I do so by being a creator and I live that role right now. This is the only way to be in this life that brings me (or, I will maintain, anyone else) true joy. It is what Casteneda called a “Path with Heart,” and it brings unexpected delights and challenges to us, while each of us also remains involuntarily bound to that mysterious river of time that leads us to an unknown destination.

Those two visions emerged into two different creations recently, and I thought I’d share them here while I may be away from more regular blog posts for a while.

The Melancholy observation is represented by a poem that is my take on Emerson’s Stairs. It came fully formed out of sleep and the spirit realm of dream last night. The accompanying image (above) is my digital art alteration or enhancement of a detail from one of my favorite painters, Thomas Cole. (It’s from his four panel “Voyage of Life” series from 1842.) His paintings include some directly religious elements, but I believe the idea of guidance from “outside” of ourselves is possible in many shapes and forms that cannot be empirically measured. We are, in any case, on the boat and in motion to an unseen destination.

The Creative/happiness/joy/challenge observation is an original saying and a digital artwork rendered on a moonrise photograph I took along the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica a few months ago.

May we all continue to look, wonder, and choose to make our time upon the waters of life worthwhile by creating joy.

starband

 

 

Mariners

We are,

Passing through

Unknown lands

In fragile boats

Clad with skin.

 

We make no stops–

Frail vessels that

Set no anchor.

The wind blows

Without cease.

Our measured course

Fades in mists

Ahead.

 

[David P. Crews, 2015]

 

[Click any image for full size.]

PASSIONtoSEEK

 

.

A Tribal Shaman’s View of Us

I believe it is a valuable exercise and privilege to be allowed to see ourselves from a completely different perspective – one from the “outside.” For Westerners, our civilization and culture dominates our worldview so thoroughly that it is difficult to find such an “exterior” assessment of our own ways. Here is one – one that is authentic. This article from The Guardian features some of the observations of Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, one of the most influential tribal leaders in Brazil and an Amazonian shaman. As article author John Vidal says,

“In the past 25 years, he has travelled widely to represent indigenous peoples in meetings and, having lived in both societies, he has a unique viewpoint of western culture. With the help of an anthropologist, Bruce Albert, who interviewed him over several years, he has written his autobiography. It is not just an insight into what a Yanomami leader really thinks, but a devastating critique of how the west lives, showing the gulf between primordial forest and modern city world views.”

DaviKopenawaYanomami

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/dec/30/western-living-yanomami-shaman-brazil

A few choice excerpts from that autobiography (from the article):

On western wealth –

“Their cities are full of big houses and innumerable possessions but their elders never give them to anyone. If they were really great men, should they not tell themselves that it would be wise to distribute them all before they make so many more?”

On shopping –

Their thoughts are constantly attached to their merchandise. . . .They do not seem concerned that they are making us all perish with the epidemic of fumes that escape from all these things. They do not think that they are spoiling the earth and the sky, and that they will never be able to recreate new ones.

On western cities –

Their cities are beautiful to see, but the bustle of their inhabitants is frightening. People there live piled up one on top of another and squeezed side by side, as frenzied as wasps in the nest. . . . I can never think calmly in the city. . . .Whenever I stay there too long I become restless and cannot dream.

On the environment –

When they speak about the forest, white people often use the word “environment”. What they refer to in this way is what remains of everything they have destroyed so far. I don’t like this word. The Earth cannot be split apart as if the forest were just a leftover part.

 

To my thinking, agreement or disagreement with this shaman’s specific views would be beside the point. What is important is listening to him and others like him – finding perspective and truth in the refreshingly honest view of ourselves and our culture spoken by those who live in another, nature-based society. Especially so, as their worlds are being so impacted by ours, whether they wish it or not.

The autobiography is:

“The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman” by Davi Kopenawa and
Bruce Albert, published by Harvard University Press.

.

%d bloggers like this: