310: Gooey Ritual & Prickly Magick

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KMO and Olga welcome Pam Grossman of Phantasmaphile and the Observatory Gallery at Proteus Gowanus and Peter Bebergal, author of Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood to the C-Realm Podcast to discuss the intersection of magickal ritual, religious tradition, psychedelic exploration, and the thirst for gnosis. KMO summarizes arguments from Advanced Magick for Beginners by Alan Chapman, and Olga, acting as proxy for the regular C-Realm listeners likely to be bewildered by this conversation, asks for clarification at key moments.  This conversation continues in Psychonautica 084.

Music by Not Waving But Drowning.

Cover art painting by Arik Roper.

Both Pam Grossman and Peter Bebergal have recently appeared as guests on the Expanding Mind radio show/podcast with Erik Davis.

 

  • Blow_In

    Followed this conversation over to the DopeFiend. It’s kinda funny that a fairly harmless substance that provides fast temporary relief from compulsive cogitating has become the axis around which bohemian culture revolves. Cannabis would probably have remained an obscure substance used by few if the authoritarians hadn’t seized upon it.

    Alan Watts, I read The Way of Zen way back and went to see him talk in Kansas City with my boss, who was heavy into the occult. It was an underwhelming experience. Your last little snippet of him talking has him implying that the reason people don’t become instantly enlightened is because they are cowards. Mr. Watts was a dipsomaniac. It is easy to be brave when you are numb. I’ve heard this “No guts, no glory shtuff.” from alcoholics over and over and over again.

    Ego, I could never figure out what people where talking about when they used that term. One day, while compulsively cogitating, I replaced the word EGO with the word STORY and things made more sense to me. Some people may want to try it and see if it works for them.

    Also, your quest for a non drug way of expanding consciousness is a worthy pursuit. Success in that endeavor would really baffle and piss of authoritarian types. Ya, I know, one should feel compassion for them, but I’m not enlightened. and pissing them off appeals to me.

  • http://twitter.com/magus_arts magus_arts

    Magickal practice is something that has fascinated me since I found my first new age book store when I was somewhere around 11.  Since then I’ve experimented with many types of practice from yoga and pranayama to personal and group ritual (and psychedelic use).  Magick has opened my eyes to a much richer experience of the universe.

    The main component of ritual is intention.  Daily ritual not only strengthens your will, but it also helps you realize when something isn’t worth intending.  Opening yourself up to the universe’s response to your work can be just as eye opening as ingesting entheogens.

    I hope you continue to share your delvings into magickal practice with the C-Realm audience.

  • James S

    A letter I wrote to KMO who suggested I post it.

    08-05-2012

    KMO,

    This is a
    pieced together collage of thoughts and experiences. It reflects my gradually integrating mind-space
    still in process. Because of the
    difficulty in putting together coherent thoughts to share I’m generally very
    reluctant to do it but I’m compelled to share and connect at this time.

    There’s a Terence Mckenna quote
    that I can’t find at the moment so I’ll paraphrase it—heavily. He said that it’s too early to know with any
    certainty what’s going on at this transformational time in history and we
    should stop trying to nail it down in a left-brained way. He said that instead of looking to cultural
    authorities like science academy folks we should focus on creating and sharing
    journals of personal experience. The
    records of explorers of consciousness. Captain’s
    logs. Personal narratives.

    Without
    judging it good, bad, right, or wrong we could all testify to the potent and
    welcome influence of Mckenna’s personal perspectives. He was not a scientist. He didn’t claim to be an authority. He was a fellow human explorer living the
    mystery with us and we found more value in his poetry than his claims to the
    truth.

    KMO, the specific information
    you’ve shared in your conversations with other thinkers has been very
    influential on me and countless others but may I suggest that the evolving
    mimetic space of the C-Realm is not the whole story. The evolution of your personal narrative is also
    important and influential.

    When I found the C-Realm in 2007 I
    was impressed by the content and by all the elements of your character that
    make you a skilled interviewer but what I was most impressed by was the fact
    that you were an ordinary person. Though
    we were different, I could relate to you and I found it helpful to have your
    example in my imagination.

    My wife was not listening to the
    podcast but I would talk about it frequently and include updates about your
    personal narrative. How are your
    chickens? Where are your travels taking
    you? Where are you in this process of
    adapting to the circumstances we seem to find ourselves in?

    In your story, as you initially
    began to digest the implications of peak oil your initial impulse was to move
    to the country and become self-sufficient.
    You took that path and it took a life of its own on that put pressure on
    your marriage, eventually leading to dissolution. During that time you created the
    C-Realm. Then you found your way to The
    Farm.

    I’m one of those listeners that tend
    to listen to the C-Realm in bulk sessions instead of following you week to
    week. I’d gotten to episode 299: Consciousness Café when I left off for
    several months. I got into listening to
    Alan Watts talks during that time. When
    I cued up the 10 podcasts you’d created in the interim and heard of your
    transition to New York and the transformation of your consciousness I was
    amazed. Another major shift.

    You said
    that it has seemed that your life has mirrored the culture at large in many
    ways—that when the economy was booming you were up and when it fell so did
    you. You said you’d decided that
    whatever was to happen would probably happen to you as well. That you were no longer trying to avoid it
    and that if that meant an earlier death than you might have had then so be it.

    In Episode 310 of the C-Realm you
    said something that was very meaningful to me.
    You responded to a comment made at the C-Realm website. Here a transcription of that exchange:

    Excerpt from the
    introduction to C-Realm 310: Gooey Ritual and Prickly Magic

    May 16, 2012

    KMO: When I spoke to
    Eric Davis last time for the C-Realm Podcast I got some response on the C-Realm
    website from a regular commenter who goes by the internet handle Blow-in. Blow-in posted a comment saying:

    There I
    stood sweaty and dirty. My knees were
    aching and hip starting to hurt. I was
    talking to the queen of the woo-woos whose house I was rehabbing. She was telling me how the universe loved her
    and was giving her the house she’d always wanted. My reply was, then the universe must hate me
    because it has me working for you. She
    had the real magic though—a successful husband and an inheritance—the ultimate
    symbolic magic of money. That’s why I
    was there. I needed some of that magic
    stuff to exchange for food and shelter.
    OK, that is not exactly true. The
    queen and her husband are my friends and I’m a compulsive maker of things so
    maybe the universe likes me as well. Or
    maybe the universe doesn’t care and can’t care because it has no brain to
    create that caring feeling.

    Science
    creates models that, when applied yields consistent results. Magic is a practice that yields inconsistent
    or non-existent results but re-enforces our feelings that we’re special.

    KMO: Well Blow-in,
    with your last paragraph there you have actually encapsulated a lot of my
    interest in this topic. You said science
    creates models whereas magic is a practice and I am interested in a daily
    practice of some kind which I consider to be an integral portion, an integral
    part of my larger psychedelic explorations.
    I think it’s important to have some daily rituals, some daily practice
    and I don’t know that science really provides that, at least it hasn’t in a
    very meaningful and accessible way for me.

    Magic, as
    you very correctly say, is a practice and I am interested in some sort of
    practice that will further my own explorations into the topic of consciousness,
    further my own psychedelic research, my own psychedelic voyaging, and hopefully
    without such a reliance on psychedelic compounds—chemicals and such. That is why I am interested in magic. Magic as a daily practice. Magic as something to integrate into my life.

    Then, you
    opened Psychonautica #84 with an excerpt from an Alan Watts talk which I’ve
    transcribed:

    Introduction to Psychonautica Podcast
    84: May 18, 2012

    An excerpt
    from: Alan Watts – LSD and Zen

    Now then, in these Asiatic
    traditions, it is well recognized that people who get the knowledge that you
    are it may very well run amuck.
    Therefore they always couple any method of gaining this, whether it is
    yoga, whether it is smoking something or drinking something or whatever is the
    method, they always couple it with a discipline.

    Now I know the word discipline
    isn’t very popular these days. I would
    like to have a new word for it because most people who teach disciplines don’t
    teach them very well. They teach it with
    a kind of violence as if a discipline is something that’s going to be extremely
    unpleasant and that you’re going to have to put up with but that’s not the real
    secret of discipline. I would prefer to
    use the word skill.

    It isn’t an unpleasant task to
    learn a skill if the teacher in the first place gets you fascinated with
    it. There is immense pleasure in learning
    how to do anything skillfully. To do
    carpentry, to cook, to write, to calculate—anything you want can be immensely
    pleasurable to learn the discipline and it is extremely necessary.

    Anybody can have ecstasy. Anybody, as a matter of fact, can become
    aware that he is one with the eternal ground of the universe. But since that’s what you are anyway, I’m
    going to ask, so what?

    When a hero goes on an adventure
    and he leaves his people and is going to a strange land, he can go away and
    just hide himself around the corner in an obscure house and then appear a year
    later and say I’ve been on a heroic journey and tell all sorts of tales. They say prove it. They expect him to bring back something. Something which nobody has seen before. Then they believe you’ve been on the
    journey.

    In the same way exactly, anybody
    who goes on a spiritual journey must bring something back. Because if you just say Oh man, it was a
    gas!—anyone can say that.

    If you have a radio you don’t only
    need an antenna, you also need a ground.
    So what happens in the world of mysticism, of psychedelic visions and so
    on, needs to be grounded. So then, there
    are always two directions in which such a discipline works. One, preparatory. In other words, those who taught disciplines
    for awakening in the Orient were always careful to screen those who applied and
    then after screening them to make them sensible so that they knew how to handle
    the ordinary game of human existence and play it by the ordinary human rules. In other words, that they had strength of
    character and were not the sort of people who would be wiped out because they
    had no strength of character by an overwhelming experience. Then they let them in.

    But there are certain disciplines
    such as Zen where you get into the essential secret very early on in the
    discipline and after that they are concerned with much more training in showing
    you how to use it—how to use the power, the vision that you’ve acquired.

    So it is with the current, shall we
    call it the LSD scene that is raging throughout the United States. It unfortunately lacks discipline and I’m not
    trying to say this in a kind of severe, authoritarian, paternalistic way but
    only that it would be so much more fun if it had it.

    Alright then. Allow me to share a sketch of my story.

    In my story I was in the phase of trying to become a self-sufficient
    homesteader in a panicked response to collapse narratives for about a year
    before I found the C-Realm. When I found
    it, I wasn’t looking for anything collapse related at all. I was looking for Terence Mckenna talks I
    hadn’t heard yet. I found the
    Psychedelic Salon through that search. I
    followed the link to the C-Realm from there.

    I had inherited some money and
    bought a house in the country. I’d
    talked my wife into bringing a friend with engineering skills into our new
    scene so we could begin to work together as a tribe. I was even able to stop working for a few
    years.

    I assumed that being able to
    dedicate myself full-time to preparation, I’d make remarkable progress but I
    found that becoming self-sufficient was much more difficult than I
    imagined. Every project seemed to take longer
    than I thought it would and this was agitating because I always felt I was
    under pressure because time was running out.
    It was harder than I thought to live with a third person that was
    working in exchange for room and board.
    I’d never managed anyone and I didn’t have the skills to do so. There were many factors which created a lot
    of stress in what could have been a fun time.

    My body had taken me on a path away
    from psychedelics. I had an old shoulder
    wound from High School that would flare up and hurt now and then, seeming to
    coincide with intense emotions. Over
    time it seemed to get worse and the last two times I’d tripped my shoulder had even
    become dis-located. That was too
    stressful to manage in a trip so I left them out of my life but I missed the
    catharsis they offered. I missed the
    insights they offered. I missed the
    feeling of connection they allowed.

    I felt that Psychedelics were off
    the menu but I felt the imminent need to experience what they allow. I still had a big chunk of money left so I
    bought a float tank. Through using the tank
    I became aware that my bodily tension was my immediate obstacle to accessing
    higher consciousness. I couldn’t get out of my body because my awareness was
    drawn into my body. Tension. Deep tension.
    Patterns of tension creating twists in the body. I explored them and was able to release some
    of it but could not let enough of it go in the tank.

    I read John Lilly’s (creator of the
    float tank) Center of the Cyclone.
    He said a physical practice like hatha yoga is absolutely essential for
    the explorer.

    I decided
    to find a yoga teacher. I found a
    teacher in the Iyengar tradition.. It’s
    changed my life. It meets my needs so
    well I’m still amazed that it exists.

    When we
    made our move to the country I made it for the reasons I’ve said but we also
    saw ourselves as spiritual seekers.
    Connecting and receiving guidance was expected. We felt we couldn’t do it in the city. Couldn’t do it there. We had to defer our connection until we could
    be surrounded by trees with no one around.

    This is the
    last few paragraphs I read earlier today from Neil Kramer’s The Unfoldment:

    Continued deferment
    of the organic unfoldment of one’s spirit eventually results in a significant
    diminishment of self-esteem. The void
    sucks it out of people. Buried deep with
    the subterranean caverns of the psyche, a little voice repeats, “You are not
    following your true path.” This is the
    most terrifying murmur conceivable. To
    drown out these fearful tones, a persistent and sizeable over-riding pain is
    required. And that is exactly what
    people create, albeit subconsciously, by maintaining a highly dysfunctional
    element in their lives. It usually takes
    the form of a relationship, but it can take other forms too, such as a
    particular environment, ongoing manipulating dramas, magnetized ill-fortune, or
    a psycho-somatically induced disorder.

    With the
    dysfunction in place, all the resentment, anger and pain that have been
    accumulated from years of spiritual renouncement can be channeled into the
    object of dysfunction—the bitch, the bastard, the chaos, the pointlessness, the
    sickness, the soulless job, the evil empire.
    This distorted logic gives license for heedless self-indulgence.

    This is
    perhaps the most insidious avoidance technique, and it can have ruinous
    consequences. As Nietzsche observed, “He
    who despises himself nevertheless esteems himself as self-despiser.” This gives a further insight into the
    mechanics of this ritual self-harming.

    Well, it’s something I can relate
    to. I thought I was on a spiritual
    path. I was. But I was anxiously worried about my own
    survival first. When I get that squared away I’ll deeply connect. I want to listen but first I have to feel
    very safe. Someday soon I hope. And someday never comes.

    For me, I had to get truly desperate
    to reach out for help. Fortunately, I
    found someone that understood what it’s like to be trapped in a disturbed mind
    because she’d been there. Fortunately,
    she had worked her way out of that using the ancient science of yoga as she
    would say. I might call them shamanic
    tools. There’s that often quoted line
    from Arthur C. Clarke that says, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is
    indistinguishable from magic.” To me, my
    yoga practice is that too.

    So, I was really interested to hear
    you say “I am interested in some sort of
    practice that will further my own explorations into the topic of consciousness,
    further my own psychedelic research, my own psychedelic voyaging, and hopefully
    without such a reliance on psychedelic compounds—chemicals and such. That is why I am interested in magic. Magic as a daily practice. Magic as something to integrate into my
    life.”

    That resonates with me and I imagine
    it resonates with many others who have enough life experience to find that “the
    only way out is in.”

    The peak shrink is right. Most of the preparation to be done is
    psychological. How to get that work
    done?

    With that said I’m making the
    suggestion that you interview my yoga teacher.
    She’s very experienced and articulate.
    She said she’d be happy to do it.
    Also, if you’re interested, I just did a workshop with her teacher who
    described himself as a psychedelic apologist.
    He’s one of the people like Ram Dass who developed a disciplined
    meditative practice in response to the ecstatic energies unleashed in
    psychedelic states. He also teaches
    drama. Perhaps you could do a short
    interview with both of them.

    I’m sure you could come up with
    much more insightful questions than me and I hesitate to even suggest any but I
    will prattle off what comes to my mind:

    What are our options for creating a
    daily practice? Why do it? How important is it to get the body
    involved? Why does being upside down
    affect consciousness? Is there something
    about balancing the effects of gravity that balances our consciousness? What’s
    the relationship between suddenly changing the body’s chemistry with a plant
    and slowly changing it by doing yoga? Can
    a person go too fast on their spiritual path?
    What does Alan mean when he says a person needs strength of character to
    not be wiped out by an overwhelming experience?
    What’s it mean to be grounded? What
    are the risks of teleporting into a higher dimension without a tradition,
    without a community of support?

    I listened to Psychonautica 54 and
    55 where Baba Rampuri speaks of the oral tradition. Knowledge must be passed on in person. I do find it invaluable to be in the presence
    of someone that’s been there (ego possession) and found a way out. They model consciousness being channeled by
    the higher self. It’ seen, it’s felt. There’s something in that that’s
    transformative. What’s going on there?

    Do your own thinkin’ on it and if
    you want I’ll put you in touch with one or both of them.

    Oh, as an aside our family did
    experiment with creating a sigil (also based on hearing the C-Realm). My wife, daughter and myself painted a glyph
    on a dead tree overlooking our garden that had in it, “feed the hungry”. I guess we should have been more specific
    because within days a deer came on successive nights and ate everything. It worked!
    Doesn’t it seem like magic often has a sense of humor?

    Well KMO, that’s my attempt to
    communicate. Thank you for all you do to
    raise consciousness. I know there must
    be so many others out there that have been profoundly affected but haven’t
    expressed that. Perhaps like me, they
    will sometime soon find themselves in a place where that’s possible.

    Hope it’s going great in New York,

    James S

  • James S

    Sorry about the way that the text got formatted on my comment. Don’t know why it did that.