Friday, July 19, 2013

The juice of life

I'm reading The Cosmic Serpent, by Jeremy Narby. He is an anthropologist who spent time in Peru ingesting serious hallucinogenic plant concoctions with the people who practice shamanism there. The book was published at the end of the last millennium. I've heard about it but felt no need to read it because I figured most of it would be devoted to trying to prove shamanism is real. I already know it's real, oh man do I ever.

Still, it's hot out - unbearably hot today and tomorrow, they say - and I have an easy weekend because the front sidewalk is being replaced at the chateau, making access to and from the house a little bit tricky. I have a lot of clients who are not exactly nimble on their feet due to many different reasons. I don't want them to have to traverse the rocky path that will soon be replaced by a beautiful new flagstone sidewalk, hence I kept my work schedule very light.

I'll have some time on my hands, so why not read about the Peruvian shamans? I've read about Balinese shamans, in David Abram's great Spell of the Sensuous. I loved all the Carlos Castaneda books, once upon a time. Recently I read The Reindeer People: Living with animals and spirits in Siberia, by Piers Vitebsky. Most fascinating to me was the book Riding Windhorses, by Sarangerel Odigan, may her spirit fly high. That book was about Mongolian shamanism. Please imagine my jaw dropping and my eyebrows rising when I read that one ... because ... the cosmology of Mongolian shamanism matches the cosmology of the Reyaverse to an almost alarming degree.

I've said it before - that I feel sad about how impoverished my society is, having stripped itself of the mystical as much as possible. I think that's why people become hoarders, to try to fill the empty internal space where wonder, mystery and spirituality is meant to reside.

Without spirit, medicine becomes nothing more than mechanics. We are not machines. We are complicated! I'm not surprised that what we think of as health care is so flawed and dehumanizing. How could it not be? It has no soul.

We reduce relationships to psychology, turning away from the spiritual/karmic aspects that are always a part of family, friendship and marriage. Relationships are not flat, they do not wholly reflect the way we grew up. There is something juicy in relationships that can not be described through psychology.

Those who do not believe in an ensouled world find it easy to think fracking is a good idea, or strip mining, or clear cutting. Disregarding the spirit makes us small and twisted, weak and greedy. It's not good for us, for sure.

We believe in money. We believe in safety. We think there's a clear cut "reality" that can be explained rationally. This is an impoverished, deflated, uninteresting, two dimensional world, y'all. It surely is.

This is what I'm thinking about, reading this book. I want to say, "Jeremy - of course the plants have spirits - souls. Of course those souls are willing to teach us." I want to tell him he has spirit guides and voices in the shower and the wisdom of the ancestors just waiting for him to listen, to open to them. He's Swiss. I would ask the Alps to teach me, if I were he. I would ask the Soul of Snow to enlighten me. Operators are standing by!

I am a shaman. I don't need proof.

We're so stingy about opening our minds and hearts. What is the danger we imagine? It's tragic.

But I'm enjoying the book nevertheless.

Just for the record, I would never ingest tobacco or ayahuasca. No way! I've had my hallucinogenic experiences, way back when. Jeremy doesn't think LSD is a real hallucinogen. Ahem! I beg to differ!

Go ahead and deny the mystery of the world if you like. Does it make you feel safe? Does it make you feel sane? I hope so!



ellen abbott said...

I love this post.

Joanna said...

Oh yes, we are so impoverished when our god is money and security.

Reya Mellicker said...

We surely are.

Thanks, Ellen.

Anonymous said...

Not being a shaman myself (at least, not yet), and reading Narby's book when it first came out, I was awestruck. Having spent a fair bit of time drawing meiosis and mitosis while keeping one eye at the microscope, I found the Peruvian pictures breathtaking. So glad you're enjoying the book. So jealous that you already knew so much of what it teaches. So grateful for how much it opened my eyes.