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

Photos and Artwork

Ayahuasca–Rain Passage: An Inner Journey Soundscape

A Soundscape by David P. Crews

1. Arcana
2. Entering (8:15)
3. Rain and Visions (19:30)
4. Emerging (54:40)
5. Awakening (1:03:40)

[Total run time:  1:17:00]

Ayahuasca–Rain Passage is a visionary sound experience by award-winning musician David Crews, centered on a recording made on his second venture into the Peruvian Upper Amazon to work with the most renowned and respected whole-plant spirit medicine in the world, called ayahuasca–the Vine of the Soul. A jungle rainstorm arrived to guide the ayahuasca ceremony with the energy of Yacumama, the Water Spirit of the rivers and forest, bringing power and depth to the intense visions received from Madre Ayahuasca herself.

About the Music:
“This is a minimalist and immersive ambient soundscape. I designed this to be a deliberately slow and long work to suggest to the listener the mental and spiritual space one enters when working with ayahuasca in traditional ancient nighttime ceremony (which normally lasts from four to six hours). It is based on a 24 bit digital recording, made on location, of the natural sounds environment at SpiritQuest Sanctuary on the Rio Momón, a tributary of the Amazon. It includes the evening chorus of animals and insects, a large tropical downpour, and the post-rain night chorus. This is blended with the spirit songs of the shaman and my original deep electronic music ambient elements.

“Ayahuasca is best encountered when one is surrounded by and embedded into the vast living being that is the Amazon forest. My intention was to make a long-form piece centered on that rainstorm that, while containing creative electronic musical elements, remains an experiential ambient work. Great care has been taken to blend and guide the slowly evolving moods. In ayahuasca, each participant’s specific visions are unique, so I have presented a kind of impressionistic portrayal of the vision experience, very much centered in the entraining of the mind by the rhythms and white noise of the traditional songs, the leaf rattles, and the rain. At 1 hour, 17 minutes in length, this contiguous piece is best listened to in one sitting, when one is ready for an immersive meditational and transforming experience. It also works well as a low-volume truly ambient environment.

“The icaros (spirit songs) heard in this work were also recorded on location, during actual ceremony. They are the songs of don Rober Jarama, the highly esteemed banco ayahuascuero shaman associated with SpiritQuest. I have worked with don Rober over a seven-year period. He is completely authentic and simply amazing in his dedication to traditional mestizo and tribal shamanism in the Amazon. You will hear him whistle his opening Arcana to place spiritual protection on the participants, and also some of his sung icaros that help guide the ceremony throughout the night. Also prominent are the rhythmic sounds of the schacapa, a dry-leaf rattle that helps entrain the mind as the visions progress.

“The musical elements were created with LogicPro X on a Macintosh system and include timbres created in Alchemy, Air Xpand!2, ESX-24, EWQL Symphony samples, and other instruments and modules. Performance, production, and mastering completed at JaguarFeather Studios, Austin, Texas.

“My thanks and love to maestros don Rober Jarama and don Howard Lawler, and the staff and friends of SpiritQuest in Peru.

“I hope you find this journey into the incomparable vision space of ayahuasca to be useful, sublime, and amazing. Blessings and Light!”

-David P. Crews
June, 2016

 

 


Will Clergy Want to Experience the Mystical?

Author’s Note: Life has been extremely busy and changing for me lately. I apologize to you who are following me that I have not posted in quite a while. This may continue for a time, but I will occasionally post items that I find interesting. I hope that you will enjoy them, also.

 

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Here is an intriguing article
from a Christian site that outlines the plans for a kind of new “Good Friday Experiment” with psilocybin (magic mushrooms) offered to long-time meditators and also to traditional active clergy members.

“Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins, is leading the new research, which stems from findings that volunteers who’ve taken psilocybin in a wide variety of research settings often report profound mystical experiences.”

The goal is to see if the use of this entheogen will present to the participants a truly mystical experience–one of the same order as those achieved by practiced meditation masters (in particular).

For many orthodox, traditional clergy, however, accepting this offer would mean facing the first such mystical experience of their lives. It seems the study’s organizers are having difficulty recruiting the clergy members for reasons that can be interestingly speculated upon.

I have never been a member of an official clergy, but my own experiences in living and deep-studying Christianity through my first forty years and also in researching and writing a book on New Testament interpretation, lets me identify with a clergy man or woman who would be in a quite similar life situation when suddenly offered the chance to work with psilocybin. Before I decided to encounter Ayahuasca in the Amazon in 2006, I had never used any form of recreational drugs, not even tobacco or any form of alcohol. I still don’t use those particular chemical “allies” today. As one might expect, my initial encounters with Ayahuasca were raw and force-filled. They were the most intense and life-changing mystical or religious experience I could ever have imagined. The experience was not “fun.” It was fear-facing, awe inspiring, and love-power-energy filled. Like prophets of the Old Testament, I trembled and threw myself on the ground. I passed tests and followed a symbolic path to personally encounter and interact with a true Spirit Being. It was far more than and vastly better than anything I had expected, but exactly what I had hoped and worked for.

It seems that my attitude towards encountering the unknown is rare. In the case of this new Johns Hopkins experiment, the clergy have not responded to this opportunity to make such an encounter. Mike Young, one of the participant subjects in the original 1962 Harvard “Good Friday Experiment” speculates:

“It’s still the kind of thing clergy are scared to death to get close to,”  he said. “We’ve portrayed drugs as demonic for so many decades. … It’s still toxic.”

Citing a book titled: Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, by Bill Richards, a veteran psychedelic therapist who is working with the team at Johns Hopkins, a more profound reason is speculated for the reticence of clergy to engage in this study:

“Could it be that a factor is fear of encountering what the theologian Paul Tillich called ‘the really real God’? ‘Revelatory experiences may have been fine for Isaiah and St. Paul, but for me?’

Indeed.

It takes a great deal of courage and a proactive attitude of desiring truth at any cost to take on a personal expedition to meet, perhaps, God himself, or to find out that the idea of God one has in their mind is inaccurate–or is something Else altogether.

Ayahuasca and Psilocybin (and the other natural holistic spirit medicines) are not for everyone. Although often misused as such, they are definitely not for “recreation” as drugs. Rather, they are a technology for entering the unknown. They are like a cosmic icebreaker designed and capable to take the intrepid explorer on an extreme challenge to an alien land. It very well may be a challenge to their primal understanding of reality and of themselves. That is scary. No question about it.

“I would rather know a fearful truth
than to remain deceived by comforting falsehoods.”
(David Crews – 1990)

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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.

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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.

 

 

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Sacred Land ~ Sacred Journey

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[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.

 

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Harmine in Ayahuasca May Help Reverse Diabetes

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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.

 

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Costa Rica Waterfalls


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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”!

 

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Mariners We Are

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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.

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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.

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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.]

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“Big Bend – The Scale of Time” (film)

 

As a follow-up for the summer photography in my last post, I’m pleased to present a six minute film titled “Big Bend–The Scale of Time.” This is a short preview for my upcoming reflective landscape film about Big Bend National Park in Texas. I am in the process of re-shooting footage in high definition to entirely update and replace the imagery from an older film, while retaining the music track and eventually the incidental poetic script and narration elements. This HD film is hosted on Vimeo and is best seen full-screen.

The cinematography and photography in this short version all come from a brief three-day visit to the park in June, 2014. I plan to return at least twice in the coming months (for longer stays) and obtain much more footage to fill out the main feature. What imagery will I get on my next trip? In June, I didn’t expect to get caught in that dramatic lightning storm or see a cloudy, no-sunrise morning suddenly erupt into an amazing spotlit fan of golden light. Big Bend always surprises me with unexpected scenes of wild and gentle beauty that translate so very well into visual art.
I hope you enjoy my film.

A note about the music: This is my original composition and performance excerpted from the longer film. It won the Calypso Award from the Moondance International Film Festival in 2006, and also a prestigious Silver Telly Award in that same year.

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Big Bend National Park–Summer Photography

I have just returned from a short visit to the wonderful Big Bend National Park in southwestern Texas, USA. I’ve been traveling here off and on since the spring of 1962, taking photos and video, hiking and camping, and doing inner work and vision quests. With some extensive new photography equipment in hand including a Nikon D5300 and a computerized slider, I’m setting out to shoot new cinematography and photography of the park in multiple seasons. This is to remake an artistic film I created some years ago using standard definition video. Now, I can remake it in full HD with professional rigging for camera moves.

I’ll post more of the video elements later, but for now, here are some of the still photographs I made this week, accompanied by some script excerpts from the original film.

I hope you enjoy them!

I urge you to click through to the larger images for much higher quality!

MorningBigBend-borderTime

In Big Bend
The scale of time is different from
our time – the observers, ourselves – who come.

It is a different scale of time and of movement than
our time – our movement.

We are too fast to see it.
We cannot slow down.

Slow                 Down

EveningWindowView-borderWonder

There is an enchanted doorway –
a wonder and a sign.

A Temple of water
and air,

And walls of determination.

We briefly enter – and return again.

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There is nothing between this sand and that yonder star
but empty space and a thin breath of blistered air.

A Weight Bears Down.
Relentless.
We cannot escape.

Our branches grow tough – and dark.
Our water, our blood, our thoughts
Dwindle . . . down.

The white light sears our flesh into dust,
and there is no wind to blow it away.

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Stillness

The desert does not sleep.
It is an endless movement – the motion of survival.

We look and listen . . . and there is

Stillness

Silence

You can see it move if you are slow enough.
You can feel it, anyway,
if you are still enough.

Do not listen for it or watch for it.

Be Still

and Listen

and Watch

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This desert is young. This desert is old.
It depends on your speed, you see.

Some have come to change this land.
Some have changed it – some.

All who have come
Have Been Changed.

Some have gone now.
A fragrance lingers in secret places.
Their song echoes lightly on adobe and wood and stone.

The mesa shrugs, and it is gone.

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She is clothed in riches. Bejewelled in green and yellow and brown.
An extravagance on this plate of rock – standing up, tasting the water.

Big Bend is not barren.

LIFE is everywhere in this Desert –
this Living Land.

Raising faces – arms to the air,
feeling deeply down for the lifeblood –
a watery current within.
Knowing how to keep that – and to hold it.

A Treasure.

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The desert is a mirror.
The desert is a portal.

It reflects our souls back at us,
and then offers a Way
into another Realm.

We are opened up
and slowed down.

The soft voices of the Plants can be heard.
The wordless brotherhood of the Animals is known.
The marvel of the Eternal Moment can be felt
In our very ground.

Big Bend is a Heart Land.
A place of shifting Shapes.
It is a healer of the Spirit.

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Standing Up Country – Utah

 

A photography post for this hot summer’s day.
Here are some of my images from my last journey into an amazing landscape in southeastern Utah. Please click on any photo for a larger, better view.

I will be heading back into this area this fall to do some more photography and cinematography and I will look forward to sharing some of that with you then.

 

CheslerPark1-borderThis is Chesler Park, part of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. It’s a very special place I’ve repeatedly visited since 1975.

Here is a manifestly magical landscape where, as the ancients said, “There are more rocks standing up than lying down.”

Entering this land, we feel like we have stumbled into a giant, ancient, Atlantisian cityscape – thousands of massive buildings, scatter far over the rolling hills and loom profoundly next to our tiny forms. They are frozen in time as the wind and sun slowly melt the magnificent masonry into curious shapes. Long, inspiring parks of green and orange still echo the aesthetic design of a masterful and artistic urban planner. It is a scene that seems populated or that seems it should be – filled with milling crowds. When the black raven caws and the wind sighs around the rocks, however, we realize that it is too quiet for such crowds. There are few humans here. The rock pillars themselves form the sense of mass congregation.

Perhaps it is all mere sand and wind. Perhaps.

As we stand, dwarfed, by a reddened wall topped with curious minarets and colorful balanced spires, we may sense that this primordial cityscape was designed this very way by spirit beings or unknowable men and women of mystic vision, serving some need of the soul and heart that still resonates in us today. We feel the rocks ringing and singing their long songs, gazing ever into eternity.

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Spirit hand prints of the Ancestral Puebloans who passed this way some 500 to 900 years ago. With time so long and slow in this magical land, it seems that the red paint should still be wet to the touch.

You can hear Time pass by in a soft and curious breeze between the painted walls.

 

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