The Voice of the Devil
All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors:
- That Man has two real existing principles, Viz: a Body & a Soul.
- That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
- That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True:
- Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of the Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
- Energy is the only life and is from the Body, and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
- Energy is Eternal Delight.
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
A split exists in us all, and we nurse it.
We have inexplicably driven a cruel wedge between the complimentary principles of creation, and pitted them against each other in a looped war of self-defeatism. Where once existed dancing opposites, constantly interweaving, combining, parting, and mutating into each other, there arose a rigid divisiveness, and a blindness to the unity which lies below. Only this shared bedrock of unity can prevent the ecstasy of perpetually parting and entwining opposites from degenerating into an ugly conflict with existence.
We may wander around the dreary, smog-choked streets of our cities, longing in the depths of our dejection for a miracle, but we are blind to the fact that our alienation and apparent corruption is itself due to the most astounding miracle of all. A miraculous mistake. How can a creature such as ourselves have evolved, where the most acute and complex apprehensions of the world become so drastically distanced from, often opposed to, the matrix of creation out of which they grew? Why have we become such a paradox, alienated from that which it should be impossible to be alienated from, our very being? How can it be that out of the rhythmic flowing dialectics of nature an animal arises bearing a vision of reality as a jagged, struggling conflict between two opposing principles, ending with the ultimate victory of one over the other?
II. The Big Lie
While our alienations and separations reach deeper than any specific set of cultural conditions, we can have a more concrete look at our situation by seeing it in terms of the prevailing myth-structure of the West—Christianity.
Any thorough investigation of this tentatively homogeneous religious structure reveals much more complexity around the issue of duality than we find in everyday ‘common’ Christianity (i.e. the beliefs and assumptions buried deep by the length of Christianity’s dominance). The popular Christian cosmology sees God, the Old Bloke With A Beard In The Sky, supreme deity and benevolent / punishing Father Figure, forever fending off the wily evils of The Devil, Satan, the red-skinned, feral monster lurking Down Below. Humans get bashed about severely between these two, but are still expected to realize that they are vile sinners, whose only hope for ‘salvation’ (i.e. being safe) is to confess this fact in as pitiful manner as possible and pledge allegiance to Jesus, God’s son and earthly manifestation, who suffered horribly a long time ago for your sake.
This may be seen as ‘everyday’ Christianity—although, if we take a look around, we can see that it isn’t everyday at all. The Christian cosmos’ hold over the collective consciousness has gradually fragmented over the twentieth century; but it still lies buried, just below the surface, invisibly influencing social relations and supposedly secular morality. For most, this cosmos only arises in consciousness with clarity when there’s not much hope left—in extreme situations like facing certain death (witness how big a hit Christ is on death row in the USA). Real everyday Christianity is no religion at all; it is a turgid lack of awareness and self-direction. It is the odd turn of phrase, unexamined moral assumptions, guilt-relieving ‘charity’ and occasional church on Sunday.
At the moment we seem far from anything like a ‘concrete’ view of our situation—all we have is an abstract, simplistic cosmology. And it is precisely this lack of concrete reality which exposes the split, and reveals the wound. All but isolated pockets of Christianity demonstrate a profound lack of connection to the physical world; to the body, to the Earth. We are conditioned into feeling ourselves as alien to the Earth, as outsiders to life. Most forms of relating to biological reality are demonized by Christianity in the most devastating way: all demons are coagulated into the Devil, and all matter is placed under his dominion. The fact that it is standard Church dogma that God made the world and it is good seems to be irrelevant. It’s all mouth and no trousers: for all the promising talk of eating Jesus’ flesh and blood, Christianity does not feel at home with the body.
It is at about this point in investigations that any frail homogeneity Christianity possesses begins to shatter, splintering into confused fragments and contradictory doctrines. It is beyond my theology to pick apart the various strands of Christian doctrine and expose the exact locations of these contradictions; all I can hope to do in the face of this deluge is detail my confusion. Even so, I suspect that no amount of theology could delineate all dimensions of this mess: the confusion itself, like all seemingly interminable messes, is probably due to the constant process of self-deception used to avoid facing a Big Lie. The Lie in this case: We are not of this world.
In the popular, generalized and barely unconscious Christianity described above, we have a fundamentalist dualism: the absolute opposition of two mutually exclusive principles. “Ladies and gentleman! In the blue corner, on the side of righteous truth, we have: God & Son, light, the spirit, men, asceticism and life! [polite applause] And over there in the red corner, on the side of evil, deceit and nastiness, we have: Satan and all his little wizards, darkness, the flesh, women, beasts, indulgence, sensuality and death! [boo! hiss! etcetera!] The fight will be ugly, and Satan will use all the underhand tricks in the book to have his evil way. But for those who can be bothered to stick around until the Last Days, we will surely see an eternal victory… May the good side win!”
Ridiculous and cartoonish, yes; but such dualistic metaphysical assumptions infest our culture. We may be tempted, with a sigh of relief, to lay the blame for dualism at the door labelled ‘Christianity’ and forget about the whole business.
Until, that is, we encounter Gnosticism, an early form of Christianity hounded and persecuted in the Church’s infancy for the heresy of dualism. Gnostics did not view this world as good, as the creation of a good God. They view it as evil and corrupt, and therefore the creation of an evil God, a false God. Spirit is seen as encased in matter like an angel in an iron cage. It seems strange at first that such an alienated vision could flourish in a system of belief also found guilty of the utterly admirable heresy of refusing outside authority (i.e. the church’s hierarchy). Then one quickly remembers that alienation is an obvious side-effect of challenging your society’s status quo. The Gnostics saw all worldly authority as being inherently corrupt, and found in this their grounds for refusing it, turning inwards to the authority of personal experience, gnosis—thus actually becoming more faithful followers of that guy who reputedly said, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “The kingdom of heaven is within.”
Much stranger, it seems to me, is that such a system of belief could form the one of roots of the Western tradition of sex-magical practices, filtering through Catharism and the Knights Templar. Perhaps the Gnostics were just the honest Christians of their time. Most Christians saw the world as the creation of their good Father in the sky, but their ascetic and generally anti-sex behaviour contradicted this. The Gnostics came out in the open and declared this world of matter and carnality as an evil creation in which we are trapped, and maybe this honesty allowed them to form a direct relationship with the world, free to an extent of the confusions implied in the ideas of an omnipotent good God and an inexplicable Fall from grace.
One may still perceive the remnants of this paradoxical mixture of alienated dualism and relatedness to the flesh in the modern heresy of occultism (although visions of matter as something ‘unclean’ are now quite rare). “The body, as born into this world is a sacred object and the essential spiritual implement of the Higher Self in the work of evolution. Like any tool, it is the prerogative of the craftsperson to modify, fine-tune and alter the tool to meet the needs of the project at hand.”1 The shift from Gnosticism to the above brand of occultism is like changing your rusty, unreliable Skoda with doors that are jammed for a sleek, open-topped Porsche, and taking a course in mechanics. The ride may be less stressful, but a more radical shift in consciousness is needed if we are to escape the boxed-in separateness of being drivers, and realise that we are interrelated organisms.
The curious correspondences between ancient heresies and modern popular Christianity become clear when we reach the origins of Protestantism in Martin Luther. “The Devil is the lord of the world,” said Luther, “Let him who does not know this, try it. I have had some experiences of it: but no one will believe me until he experiences it too.” Again we find the co-existence of a diabolic view of the world—mundus est diablo—with the emphasis on personal experience and the rejection of hierarchical authority. Luther’s refusal of the papacy rested on the same grounds on which I have presumed the Gnostics’ rejection of orthodoxy lay: that this world is evil, and so all worldly power is corrupt. Well, Luther never got into sex magic, but he did challenge the authority of the Pope, which has to be commended. However, he bequeathed to us yet another legitimization of our mysterious alienation from the world, our revulsion at our bodies.
As I have said before, the edifice of dogma and doctrine lumped together as ‘Christianity’ may well be a vast web of self-deception and industrious lying, all bound together by the fervent desire, born of terror, to avoid facing the Big Lie; that we are not of this world. So before we thrash around too much in this web, entangle ourselves and lose sight of anything resembling reality, let us withdraw for a moment and state the obvious esoterica:
ALL IS ONE
Got that? The infinite universe, our solar system, the Earth, you and your friends, your brain, heart and spine, down to the last sub-atomic wavicle; all are part of a tremendously connected web of interweaving events and processes. All Are One. Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s true. But then I suppose truth should remain close friends with interest—otherwise we may become bored with reality, and seek diversion in games like… pretending we’re aliens to the Earth, injected into the world, or trying to convince ourselves that death isn’t a real.
The popularization of Eastern mysticism has, among other things, done a great disservice to attempts to evolve a firmly grounded holistic spirituality in the West. What seems to have happened is that the many systems, such as Buddhism and Taoism, whose most basic cosmology is contained in the above three words, have been absorbed—but many of the assumptions and blind-spots of Western religion and culture are left unquestioned.
Luther’s view of the world as the dominion of the Devil may well have been an accurate reflection of the many hideous social realities of his time. Today, however, the vast ‘achievements’ of capitalism (the rise of which Luther saw as proof of Satan’s power here2) have allowed enormous sections of the population a measure of material luxury. We have used our superior ability to manipulate matter to try and smooth over our culture’s view of the world as corrupt. We want to avoid the Devil; we pacify and smother disease with our allopathic medicine, deny death with cryogenics and self-induced myopia, avoid filth and waste with a system that dumps our garbage on someone else’s doorstep—usually Mother Earth’s.3 Those with the spare time to drop their culture’s dominant religion and sit around pondering religions from around the world— obviously mostly from the leisured classes—can very easily forget about this process of collective denial. They can happily believe that ‘All Is One’; all the problems of the world, poverty, torture, disease and despair, all can be happily absorbed into the soft mental cocoon created by luxury… and forgotten. All Is One, and All Is Lovely. It is this view, I think, with all its offensive niceties, which has made the idea of the fundamental unity of existence an ineffectual cliché.
We need to revitalize holism by integrating the darker portions of reality. We need to remember that integration is a project that cannot afford to avoid anything. And it is ironic that we may find some of the most lucid philosophical attempts to redress the balance by going back to one of the original popularizers of Eastern mysticism, Alan Watts. In The Wisdom of Insecurity he suggests that we must realize that those things we usually feel to be ‘alien’ and ‘horrifying’ in nature—”the clammy foreign-feeling world of the ocean’s depths, the wastes of ice, the reptiles of the swamp, the spiders and scorpions, the deserts of lifeless planets”—are also part of ourselves. “Our feelings about the crawling world of the wasps’ nest and the snake pit are feelings about hidden aspects of our own bodies and brains, and all of their potentialities for unfamiliar creeps and shivers, for unsightly diseases, and unimaginable pains.” If one truly real-izes this unity with all of our environment, feels it as a living fact of existence, one is usually jolted out of any weary dismissal of the All Is One doctrine brought about by the warm coddling of popular spirituality.
Of course, as with any attempt to redress the balances in our profoundly unbalanced culture, many overshoot the mark and become obsessed with the darker shades of reality. One may argue that this is a natural result of our cultural emphasis on security, inoffensiveness and being ‘good’, which leads to a taboo around ‘darkness’, and hence a tendency to fetishize it. One may also argue that for society as a whole to gain balance, it is necessary for some individuals to initially bear the burden of bringing the dark to light; or that overshooting the mark is necessary, in a dialectical swing between extremes as we move forwards in history.
Whatever; we need to realize that if we desire to experience this world to the full, we cannot shun any aspect of our lives or our world. Much ‘spiritual’ philosophy and practice is burdened, in the hangover of Christianity’s drunken dominion of world-hating, with the idea that there is some sort of wonderful hassle-free place or state of being beyond this world where happiness is untainted by despair, peace undisturbed by violence. We need to see that we cannot embrace holism and cling desperately to that which we experience as ‘pleasurable’.
Did you ever say Yes to one joy? O my friends, then you said Yes to all woe as well. All things are chained and entwined together, all things are in love;
if you wanted one moment twice, if you ever said: ‘You please me, happiness, instant, moment!’ then you wanted everything to return!
you wanted everything anew, everything eternal, everything chained, entwined together, everything in love, oh that is how you loved the world,
you everlasting men, loved it eternally and for all time; and you say even to woe: ‘Go, but return!’ For all joy wants—eternity!
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
I have often felt that every pristine moment of joy in my life justifies all suffering before it, for if anything had been different, I would not be experiencing that joy. Conversely, however, every moment of razor-sharp pain and dejection pulls the rug out from under the feet of all my memories of happiness. Then there are the transcendent moments of over-view, where all this tumultuous weighing-up is resolved into a chaotic love for the process of it all.
But this monumentous embrace, this world-affirming acceptance, it will mean nothing if woe and joy are diffused into a swampy mess. Intrinsic to acceptance of reality is acceptance of paradox. The phrase ‘unity in diversity’ has become something of a slogan in liberal social activism, and the slogan’s over-use should not blind us to its profundity. Any diligent student of Eastern spirituality will have penetrated beyond the populist conception of the mystic’s ‘union with the world’ as a hazy dissolution of all oppositions and distinctions; rather, it entails a positive affirmation of differences within the holistic process of the world. The unity of the Taoist yin-yang symbol does not dissolve the complementary difference between these two entwining energies.
Buddhism, too, recognizes the reality of division. Here is the jijimuge doctrine of the Kegon School of Japanese Buddhism: “All things are one and have no life apart from it; the One is all things and is incomplete without the least of them. Yet the parts are parts within the whole, not merged in it; they are interfused with Reality while retaining the full identity of the part, and the One is no less One for the fact that it is a million-million parts.”4
Dualism is not overcome by its abolition, but through its acceptance and transcendence. The paradox is that all ‘things’ are at the same time themselves and part of an indivisible continuum. Likewise, different as they may be, dark and light, pain and pleasure, may not be separated. If we wish to experience more of one, we must embrace more of the other. As Nietzsche has written in his scathing condemnation of the bourgeois Christian compulsion to reduce suffering: “How little you know of human happiness, you comfortable and benevolent people, for happiness and unhappiness are sisters and even twins that either grow up together or, as in your case, remain small together.”5
IV. Being a Body
Let us return now to that most basic of dualisms, the root of the ‘split’ in our being: the flesh and the spirit, the dominion of ‘Satan’ and the domain of ‘God’, or Christ.
We humans are creatures whose nervous systems have evolved into wondrous structures, crowned by a brain, the size and complexity of which is the result of an unprecedented spurt of growth still mysterious to science. Indeed, as Terence McKenna has pointed out, “there is, so far as we know, nothing more advanced than what is sitting behind your eyes.”.6 The brain consists of an estimated 10 billion brain cells, each of which may be related to 25,000 others, making the number of possible neural associations larger than the number of atoms in the universe. Perhaps, then, we may forgive ourselves for our tendency to be a little ‘stuck in the head’. A little harder to leave be, though, is the tendency to tear the activities of this organ (and the rest of the body) away from their origins, to wrestle thought and the ‘higher’ functions away from their connection to physiology.
We exist in a cultural climate where to believe that ‘mind’ and ‘spirit’ cannot be set apart from our flesh (however complex) means automatically taking sides with ‘materialism’, ‘reductionism’, and other such dead and unmagickal views of the world. Looking beyond knee-jerk reactions to certain formations of ink on paper, we may begin to see that ‘materialism’, as is commonly understood, is merely one of many forms of reductionism. Reductionism, which is often seen as a sin unique to ‘materialists’, stores its magical explaining-away powers in language, in words like ‘just’, ‘nothing but’, and ‘merely’. Whether the ‘real and only cause’ posited is political, social, material, psychological or spiritual, reductionism removes dynamism and wonder by sweeping all phenomena under a single word-carpet.
Beyond its role in rational, conceptual discourse, reductionism is essentially an attitude to the world. It is born of a certain weariness, and a shrinking-away from parts of reality. The mechanically-minded scientist may dismiss certain ‘religious’ experiences as ‘nothing but’ the result of ‘aberrations’ in the chemical configuration of the brain—a dismissal which is an exercise in cynical narrow-mindedness, showing that the scientist in question hasn’t actually experienced the full force and mystery of those chemical configurations. If these were experienced, the scientist would then no longer be able to use the phrase ‘nothing but’ in such a dismissive way. She or he would see those chemical configurations as the truly marvellous things that they are.
Then, in another example of over-shooting in redressing the balance, some may declare that it is only the ‘spiritual’ realm which exists, mysteriously generating this cumbersome illusion we call matter. Granted, most spiritual reductionists possess a greater appreciation of sensations of wonder and mystery than their materialist counterparts, but their position often leads to a perpetuation of the flesh-hate and impractical other-worldliness of Christianity.
All reductionism uses linguistic categories to forget that reality is nothing other than our experience of the world, which embraces all phenomena, however we may want to label them. This is not a retreat to subjective isolation—do you not experience other people, other creatures, the Earth and sky, the stars and the vast oceans? A true sensitivity to what we actually experience, before we can explain away with language, reveals a flowing interconnection between your ‘self’ and everything you come into contact with.
By seeing that we are organisms, emerging from and not into this world, by feeling ourselves as bodies, not minds driving bodies, we can began to reverse our alienation from ourselves and the world. Some have proposed terms like ‘bodymind’ to express the indivisibility of our dual being. I suggest, with a little caution, that we consciously overshoot the mark as an exercise in balance. See emotions in terms of the streams of energy that enliven our viscera when we experience them; see thoughts as experiences accompanying the dense activity of the neural network; see spirit as an as yet unmeasurable force existing in mysterious sub-atomic processes.
If we accept the terms ‘body’ and ‘spirit’ as designating different perceptual categories of our total unity of being, we may say that body is a form of spirit or that spirit is a form of body. We shall come to the qualities of these differing realms of perception later, but for now I propose that we use the word ‘body’ to encompass each of our experiencing selves. In the context of scientific materialism, emphasis on ‘spirit’ may serve balance well. However, in the context of the burgeoning soul-centric New Age, it is the body that demands attention and emphasis. “The awakened, enlightened man says: I am body entirely, and nothing beside; and soul is only a word for something in the body.” (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra) “What is soul? I don’t know. Soul is… rusty ankles and ashy kneecaps.” (Funkadelic) To think, feel, and live through the consequences of seeing oneself as a body and nothing else is an exercise that, like embracing the darker portions of reality, cannot fail to revitalize spiritual paths still infected with the vestiges of the Christian virus.
First, being a body means that death is real. There is no more potent antidote to the Christian illusion of a nice place to hang out with you dead friends and relatives after you die than a good, long meditation on being a body that will cease to exist one day. If you really want to go for it, try the Tantric method of meditating on death and transience in a cemetery at midnight. The whole question of ‘life after death’ is muddied by fear of the unknown. We quite simply don’t know. Death is a mystery; as is life, if we are honest. Some may feel it is best to assume there is nothing after death, and use that as a goad to action while we are alive.7 But perhaps this is just more motivation through fear (this time, not of eternal torture, but of nothingness). Some, like Colin Wilson, have seen in evidence from ‘near-death experiences’ conclusive proof of life after death. “I don’t think that there’s any possible doubt about it,” he says, an amazing statement from such a rigorous thinker.8 Both positions avoid the obviously scary fact that, while it may be fun to guess, in the end we do not know.
The advocates of cryogenic preservation of our hardware (most notably Robert Anton Wilson), while obviously motivated by a true zest for life, don’t seem to have realized how closely their attempts to ‘defeat death’ align them with Christianity. Talk of abolishing death, like Christianity, alienates us from our present situation, and is demeaning to nature. I do not doubt that, given enough time free from planetary catastrophe, technology may advance sufficiently to endow the pattern of energy called Bob Wilson with something approaching immortality. I do not think, however, that death is the demonic adversary to be ‘defeated’ that we have been conditioned to see it as. Death is necessary to life, for otherwise we simply wouldn’t know what life is.
I think of David Cronenberg’s early experimental film Crimes of the Future, in which he depicts a world where women have died out due to a cosmetics disaster. “Men have to absorb the femaleness that is gone from the planet. It can’t just cease to exist because women aren’t around. It starts to bring out their own femaleness more, because that duality and balance is necessary.”9 Even if we lived forever, we would still have to die.
Naturally, an exercise in re-visioning ourselves as bodies involves a deeper look at what the body actually is. It is not the particular cells, molecules, and atoms that at any instant constitute our physical being. Seven years from now, all the particles that make up your body will be somewhere else, having migrated through constant ecosystematic renewal into the biosphere, possibly into deep space. What is left to define our being is its pattern and process.
And when we begin to think in these terms, we must inevitably realize that our bodies exist only in relation to the multitude of event-processes surrounding us; everything inter-penetrates, each action is a reaction and each reaction an action. No body is an island. All sensations, sights, sounds, tastes and smells must be included in what we define as our true body, along with the rushing pleasures and aching pains felt within; and thus ‘body’ becomes synonymous with that all-embracing category, experience—that is, reality. If we were to slip once more into seeing ourselves as separate from the world, we may be tempted to say that our body is the interface between our selves and the world, perhaps a standing wave-form emerging from the interference pattern produced by our interaction with the environment. But the idea of the body being ‘ours’ can only serve to reinvoke the abstracted ‘soul’, the ghost in the machine. Concepts of possession may only be salvaged if we see everything as belonging to itself.
Such are the convolutions we are forced into by trying to understand the world with language. I suggest that you leave these words for a while, and allow all these concepts to dissolve by just becoming aware of all your internal and external sensations, all the tingles and aches in your flesh, all the sounds and patterns of light around you, concentrating on everything you are experiencing right HERE, right NOW.
V. Sensuous Satan
The previous little exercise is the basis of all meditation, and through it one may catch a glimpse of that nonverbal arena where sensuality and spirituality merge into something approaching unfettered experience. It is the Satanic heresy of accepting this world we experience, for there is no other world… until it is experienced. It is Blake’s apocalypse, wherein the apprehension of the world as “infinite and holy . . . will come to pass as an improvement of sensual enjoyment.”10; it is Thoreau’s claim that “We need pray for no higher heaven than the pure senses can furnish, a purely sensuous life. Our present senses are but rudiments of what they are destined to become.”
And, turning to modern science, where matter and energy have replaced flesh and spirit, we find that Thoreau’s claim that our present senses are drastically limited (through conditioning) is borne out:
Our tactile perception of the gravitational effects of mass (e.g. a grain of sand falling onto the skin) requires a stimulus of at least 0.1 gram, say about 1020 ergs; the kinaesthetic sense (e.g. lifting a weight) is coarser still. On the other hand, the eye in rod-vision is sensitive to less than 5 quanta of radiant energy, about 10-10 ergs or rather less. In detecting energy therefore man’s perceptual apparatus is 1030 times more sensitive than it is in detecting mass. Had the perception of mass been as delicate as the perception of energy, the identity of the two would have seemed self-evident instead of paradoxical. When seeing light we should at the same time have felt the pressure or impact of the photons, and mass and energy would from the outset have been regarded as merely two different ways of perceiving the same thing…
Sir Cyril Burt in The Roots of Coincidence by Arthur Koestler
This ‘thing’ is the universe, the sum totality of all that exists. It is often seen as some form of ultimate organism, but this cannot be: “Where should it expand? On what should it feed? How could it grow and multiply?”11 It has also been envisioned as a vast machine, but this also proves false, when we see that machines are constructed, which presupposes something outside which constructs. Annoyingly enough, reality just is. And all we ever know of reality, our experience, exists in terms of the incredibly complex folds and twists in the space-time continuum we call our bodies.
I believe that a true consciousness of the body is identical with the mystics’ awareness of the eternal present, the undefinable moment called ‘now’ that we exist in all the time, which only seems illusory to the linguistics and analysis. The past and the future only exist as abstract cognitive processes, and it is always our obsession with the past and anxiety about the future that distance us from the felt presence of immediate experience, to steal McKenna’s phrase.
Of course, all our memories and future projections themselves exist only in the present moment, and as such should be accepted along with everything else as valid aspects of reality. The supposedly abstract nature of memory and forethought is no longer so abstract when we realize that all such cognitive activity is accompanied by the frenetic electrochemical activity of myriad neurons in the here-and-now of the brain, which are usually, in turn, accompanied by bodily sensations… a memory of a lover evokes a tingle in the groin… excitement about an upcoming journey sends rushes of anticipation down the spine…
If we can then value and accept out own immediate experience of the world, value and accept our bodies, we may make Nietzsche’s leap into the Yea-sayer’s love for the world, and love of our bodies. Obviously, if we value our bodies, and truly value the experiences that they consist of, we refuse to submit to any outside authority that may try to convince us we are ‘wrong’ or ‘insane’. We no longer believe what parents, politicians, scientists or ‘experts’ tell us is and is not possible or permissible in the world. It’s all there for you; the world is your guru.
We must still be wary and destroy that in us which has been planted there by those who mean to control us, but only through the monumentous act of total self-acceptance, love of the body, may we move toward a whole-hearted affirmation of existence. A rejoicing in the ever-divided, ever-united nature of creation implied in the jijimuge doctrine. Accepting suffering and death because we accept and love pleasure and life: all is necessary in nature, and thus in ourselves as organisms.
This is redemption.
The highest plateau of human development is awareness of the flesh!
Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible
Any argument that seeing ourselves as only bodies removes the mystery, the spirit, from life falls flat on the ground if we can just take away the reductionist attitude hiding behind that little word ‘only’. This attitude betrays a denigration of the body, a refusal to accept that electrochemical events can produce utterly astounding experiences—or rather, that they are indivisible from, and are part of such experiences. The ‘only’ disappears as we embrace experience of ‘spiritual’ reality in our use of the word ‘body’. This is the true body. Yet the jijimuge doctrine, affirming dualism and unity, obviously requires that we recognize the division of flesh and spirit at the same time as knowing that these are united in one body of experience. Let us look at each of the realms of perception in turn.
When one thinks of ‘flesh’ or ‘body’, one may see a mish-mash of body images culled from visual media, mirrors and lovers. Perhaps one thinks of animal flesh, meat; or, if one is infused with a particularly strong taboo against carnality, the very word ‘flesh’ may conjure a mire of sordid sexual images, to be quickly suppressed. Our distance from our own experience of ourselves is such that relatively few people would primarily associate, not with mental imagery, but with internal feeling.
These sensations are called ‘proprioceptions’: stimuli produced and perceived within an organism. While external material perceptions are equally part of our body of experience, the heightening and deepening of our proprioceptions seems to be a prime key in unlocking true body-consciousness. Actually, this process eventually reveals the underlying unity of the internal/external, subject/object dualism. Anyone who has endeavoured to intensify the internal feelings of their body cannot have failed to notice an accompanying intensification of external perception.
Exercise: Here is a very useful meditative practice picked up from Christopher S. Hyatt’s powerful exercise regime detailed in his Undoing Yourself. It is best practised immediately following some form of physical exertion, whether it be a simple work-out, weight-training or possibly hyper-ventilation—anything which gets your body racing with energy. Lie down flat, with eyes closed, motionless, for 5-10 minutes. Concentrate on your body’s internal sensations. As an aid to this, it is helpful to vocalize any proprioceptions, e.g. “Muscle tremor in right calf”, “Tingling in left arm”, “Ache in lower back”, etc. This helps focus, and ensures that no sensations are just ignored. Do it every day.
The most effective form of this meditation is the experience of sensory deprivation—accomplished most totally in a floatation tank (or, of course, in sleep). Sound and light are excluded, and skin surface sensations are melted away by immersion or near-immersion in water maintained at body temperature. Extensive use of float tanks leads to experiences which seem to be waking dreams, and can lead into the realm of what are commonly known as out-of-body experiences.
Out-of-body experiences seem to be the classic refutation of purely bodily existence, but if we see that what is happening in float tanks is a radical heightening of proprioceptions, we may begin to strike at the heart of the unity of flesh and spirit. Many assume that if all sensory input is excluded, nothing ‘material’ is left to be perceived. In fact, it intensifies our most immediate material experiences, as consciousness descends deeper and deeper into the body’s proprioceptions… and eventually ‘switches channels’; alters perception. What were internal bodily feelings become external scenes. ‘Out-of-body’ experiences, then, may be more elegantly modelled as into-the-body experiences.
We find confirmation for this model in Freudian dream theory: “The womb into which the sleeper withdraws is at the same time his own body. The dreamer sinks into himself . . . in dreams the whole landscape is made out of the dreamer’s body.”12 Following this, we encounter the dreambody theory of Arnold Mindell’s Process Oriented Psychology. In Process therapy, one works simultaneously with bodily symptoms and dream states, and both are seen as manifestations of the ‘dreambody’ (which signifies the same totality of experience we have come to see here in the word ‘body’). In his work as a therapist, Mindell has noted how bodily processes are precisely reflected in dreams; and just as Jungian therapists may ask their patients to focus on and amplify dream symbols to unearth their core meaning for the patient’s life, Process therapy requires that one also amplifies bodily symptoms. To the allopathic approach of dulling or removing painful symptoms with drugs and surgery (while often useful) is added the homeopathic approach—bodily sensations are seen as manifestations of urgent messages arising from the ‘unconscious’, and must be intensified to release meaning. The healing process is contained within the process of the illness itself. Often the patient is asked to switch channels as they amplify proprioceptions, from physical sensation to imaginative fantasy; the symbolism of the fantasy may then reveal the message of the physical symptom, usually a violent urge to change. Similarly, a dream may bring to light previously unconscious bodily processes, either as an immediate experience or through working with the dream content and switching channels the other way.
We are moving here, through into-the-body experiences and dreams, into the realm of spirit, which we may see as the realm of perception removed from what we normally consider ‘the real world’, ‘material’ or ‘objective’ reality. Spiritual reality encompasses dreams, visions, hallucinations, astral projection, shamanic journeying, psychedelic voyages… And on all frontiers of this arena of human experience we find support for the unification of flesh and spirit found in intensified proprioception and dreambody theory. “What we discover through the psychedelic experience is that in the body, in the body, there are Niagras of beauty, alien beauty, alien dimensions that are part of the Self, the richest part of life.” (McKenna, Alien Dreamtime lecture)
John C. Lilly, during intensive experimentation with the psychedelic anaesthetic ketamine in 1974, began to contact an alien intelligence network which he called SSI (for ‘Solid State Intelligence’). It was composed of computerlike, solid state lifeforms bent on dominating biological life. This network opposed the efforts of another he had encountered, which he called ECCO (‘Earth Coincidence Control Office’); ECCO worked to order the world. In a bizarre move, echoing Allen Ginsberg’s attempt on his first psilocybin trip to phone Kennedy and Kruschev and “settle all this about the Bomb once and for all”,13 Lilly went to Washington to warn politicians and the media of the impending ‘threat’ posed by SSI. He later ‘dismissed’ this period of confrontation with SSI as “just getting in touch with my bones and my teeth”, realizing that we ourselves are in fact partially ‘solid state’.
And if one suspects that these explorers have merely allowed their spiritual experiences to be infected with the materialism of the culture in which they live, one may be surprised to find equivalent philosophies among the Mazatec Indian shamans of Central America. Henry Munn, an anthropologist who lived with the Indians for a long time to learn the techniques and lore surrounding their use of psychedelic mushrooms, notes in his essay ‘The Mushrooms of Language’:
There is a very definite physiological quality about the mushroom experience which leads the Indians to say that by a kind of visceral introspection they teach one the workings of the organism: it is as if the system were projected before one into a vision of the heart, the liver, lungs, genitals, and stomach.14
The biopsychiatry of Wilhelm Reich reveals a similar perception. In his paper ‘The Schizophrenic Split’,16 Reich has detailed how the schizophrenic’s perception of malign outside ‘forces’ may be seen as dissociated projections of powerful internal sensations, which he calls plasmatic streamings. Such psychotic sublimation of biophysical energy is understood in psychoanalysis as yet another method of repression. Hallucinations, visual and aural, are seen as a way of avoiding bodily reality: “The audiovisual sphere is preferred by sublimation because it preserves distance.” (Norman O. Brown, Love’s Body)
However, if we are to learn from Nietzsche’s recognition that all dualities are twins which must “grow up together or . . . remain small together“, we must follow the shamans as well as the biotherapists, and move forward with a two-pronged exploration of our bodies. Intensifying sensual fleshy feeling and navigating that hyperspatial realm of surreal inner landscapes, vistas of dreamtime, and interactive entities. Gods, goddesses, elementals, angels, demons, allies… aliens.
Christ and Satan must be reconciled.
Robert de Grimston, Process Number Five
There are many accounts of Satan’s mythical evolution. Some refer to corruptions of the Judaic concept of an ‘adversary’; some relate the figure of Satan to evil deities from other religions, such as the Egyptian Set, or Ahriman of Zoroastrianism; some trace his lineage back to trickster figures such as Loki. None resolve the perverted Christian associations of the Devil with sex, death, flesh and nature… My own story of the origins of Satan begins with the origins of Jesus.
It is a mighty disillusionment for Christians, and a sudden view of a previously submerged pattern for the rest of us, to see that Jesus was not entirely a burst of original revelation into the religious history of humanity. Long before the followers of that wandering rabbi set about bastardizing his teachings and misinterpreting his death, humans evolved religious practices based around—what else?—their most basic perceptions of the natural environment. The sun rose, day dawned. The sun set, night began. After a while, it grew colder; trees and plants withered. Time passed, and warmth returned; vegetation regenerated miraculously in a glorious florescence. The first religious conceptions evolved from this fractal and ceaseless natural cycle. In the beginning, the divine and the mundane were one and the same, embodied in nature. And so, as cultures evolved, so too evolved various godforms which represented this churning round of death and rebirth, deities commonly known as dying-and-rising gods.
Jesus, when seen with eyes that look beyond theology and into archetypes, is yet another dying-and-rising god. His ‘death and resurrection’ was latched onto and distorted by world-haters vainly grasping at the hope of a life beyond this one. In fact, his death and resurrection derived, speaking mythically, from an archetype that had grown from the natural dialectics of this world.
However, starkly missing from the figure of the Christian Jesus is the juice of this world. Intimately bound as the older dying-and-rising gods were with the seething of the biosphere—life, death, sex and regeneration—their images and attributes naturally reflected these processes. But in Jesus, all vegetal vitality is lost or neglected. He seemed to have plenty of life, storming around the Temple upsetting the proto-banks, preaching angrily against corruption and hypocrisy—but these aspects are mostly played down in conventional Christianity. He died and returned, but the underlying cyclic process is smoothed over with his ethereal flight back to Daddy.
As for sex—this is obviously a mine of controversy. But Jesus never preached celibacy, and if he had practised it, this would have been such a drastic deviation from the Jewish tradition of marriage and procreation that it should have left some trace in writings about him. No—we are asked to believe that God came to Earth and refused to take part in the act He had devised to ensure the continuance of His beloved children.17 We are left with an emasculated shell of a god, a dying-and-rising god stripped of all connection to life as we know it.
When we look at the traditional associations of Satan with carnality, death and the Earth, we can see a pattern emerging. Simply put: Christianity has taken the dying-and-rising godform and split it in two. One half is an ethereal, goody-goody shell; the other a virile beast, dwelling beneath the ground we walk on and utterly evil; both at war with each other. Redemption in Christianity is a puny cop-out. Their god is a man stripped of what we feel guilty about, all sex and visceral energy thrown into a reviled scapegoat called Satan.
If the West is to begin to heal this split, we must re-fuse these elements, and rediscover the whole. And as we experience the flesh and spirit coming together in the true body, so we must experience the union of Satan and Christ in a living archetype, a true dying-and-rising god, embodying the life and death of biological existence. Let us experience…
Dionysus, the vegetation god…
The myths of the Greeks tell us that Dionysus was the only god of the Olympic pantheon to be of partly mortal parentage. Zeus, disguised as a mortal, bedded Semele, daughter of King Cadmus of Thebes. The jealous Hera advised Semele, who was already six months pregnant, to ask of her mysterious lover that he reveal his true form. Suspicion instilled, Semele did so, and on Zeus’ refusal, barred him from her sexual favours. Mightily miffed, Zeus appeared to Semele as thunder and lightning, and killed her. However, Hermes saved the unborn child from her womb, and sewed him into Zeus’ thigh, from which he was born three months later. Dionysus thus earned the cultic epithet ‘twice-born’.
But Hera had not finished with her jealousy. She ordered the Titans to seize the child and they tore him to shreds. As the pieces were boiled in a cauldron, Dionysus was rescued once more, this time by his grandmother Rhea, who reconstituted him, and he came back to life.
Such myths obviously derive from the motifs of the proto-religious traditions of shamanism: the shaman’s initiatic descent into the underworld often entails being ripped apart by spirits and reconstituted in a cauldron or furnace by some chthonic blacksmith. Dionysus’ death and resurrection, or rebirth, form the first of a series of resonances that repeatedly associate him, and at some level identify him, with the mythical Jesus. Indeed, John M. Allegro has traced the etymology of Jesus and Dionysus—words still sharing the same final three letters—back to a shared root-word in Sumerian. As we shall see, Dionysus may equally be identified with Satan. We shall explore Dionysus, and his split reflection in Jesus and Satan, for their many resonances, and eventually trace their mythical lineage back to a single primal source.
Dionysus and Jesus are both intimately associated with vines. Dionysus was credited with the introduction of vine cultivation, and the invention of wine. Jesus claimed to be the “true vine” (John 15,1), is notorious for his water-into-wine sorceries, and asked his disciples to remember him by drinking wine, his blood. Another link to vegetation, and thus the cycles of nature, is the mushroom. We shall return to this later; suffice it to say that both Dionysus and Jesus have been intimately linked by scholars to hallucinogenic fungi. Allegro persuasively argues that the whole Christ story is a fungal allegory. Until microscopes were invented, the regeneration of this plant, carried out as it is through the dispersion of tiny spores, remained a veritable mystery to humans. Mushrooms simply appeared, miraculously. In the words of R. Gordon Wasson’s guide in the Sierra Mazateca, “The little mushroom comes of itself, no one knows whence, like the wind that comes we know not whence nor why.” A virgin birth indeed. There was one widespread belief among the ancients regarding mushroom genesis: that they were born of lightning, as they invariably arose from the ground after rainstorms. We may note here that Dionysus was torn from his mother’s womb after Zeus destroyed her with lightning. Mushrooms, through their apparently mysterious nativity, were thus perfect symbols of the apparently miraculous regeneration of the biosphere after the cold death of winter.
Dionysus, the horned god…
Together with their associations with plant life, the dying-and-rising gods inevitably demonstrated their links with nature through displaying animalistic aspects. This animality apparently arose voraciously in some Dionysian rites in the hills of ancient Greece, his worshippers reportedly tearing animals (representing their god) limb from limb and eating them in ecstatic frenzy… a holy communion that contrasts in a revealing way with its reserved Christian counterpart.
A key iconic link between the old dying-and-rising gods and Christianity’s Satan is the image of horns. Dionysus was born horned, and crowned with serpents. In his mythical history, he appeared variously as a bull, a panther, and a lion, and has been variously worshipped as a bull, a stag, a ram and a goat. One of the titles of Dionysus was Melanaigis, ‘he of the black goatskin’. Close to Dionysus in his horned image, proximity to nature and wild reputation is Pan, goat-god of the Arcadian pastures. It is widely thought that it was from representations of Pan that medieval Christianity derived its image of Satan as a horned, cloven-hoofed beast.
Not only are we distanced from the life-and-death of vegetation by the religious underpinnings of our culture, we are split from our animal heritage, from our instincts for self-preservation and sexual vitality, from our origins in this world. Most nature religions and fertility cults seem to hold a horned god or goddess to be central, including the viciously persecuted witches of Europe. Christianity was obviously moved to identify the Devil with horned half-animal deities in its efforts to suppress witchcraft and paganism in particular, and ‘beastliness’ in general. In The God of the Witches Margaret Murray notes that during his reign from 668 to 690, Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, fulminated against anyone who “goes about as a stag or a bull, that is, making himself into a wild animal and dressing in the skin of a herd animal, and putting on the heads of beasts; those who in such wise transform themselves into the appearance of a wild animal, penance for three years because this is devilish.”
Dionysus, the intoxicated god…
The connection of Dionysus and Jesus with psychedelic fungi has already been noted. Allegro, in The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, voluminously documents the evidence for the New Testament being a coded guide to an ancient fertility cult centred around mushroom-fuelled mystery rites. Mushrooms obviously lend themselves to a host of sexual allusions, and it is on such natural resonances of form and process that ancient fertility cults based the sympathetic magic of their rituals. Here, the mushroom is Christ; as the sky-god shoots lightning and rain into Mother Earth, producing the revelatory natural drug, so God descends and immaculately fucks Mary, producing the redemptive revelation of God-made-flesh that is Jesus.18
Though Dionysus is popularly associated with wild revels induced by wine intoxication, Robert Graves has argued that the original Dionysian rites were only partially wine-inspired. He has insisted, through his combination of sound scholarship and poetic insight, that the worship of Dionysus once also involved the ingestion of the hallucinogenic fly-agaric mushroom, Amanita muscaria.
The psychedelic mushroom, the flesh of the gods and the food of the gods, is a living holistic symbol of the unity of spirit and matter. It seems no coincidence that this plant, whose ingestion activates a maelstrom of neural activity and experience of the divine that testifies to the indivisibility of body and soul, nature and mind, lies in the roots of Dionysus and Jesus. Christ’s position as a demonstration that God is also a man, that spirit is matter, has been systematically co-opted and disfigured by anti-life lunatics. Dionysus, at once vegetal, animal, human and divine, retains a wealth of vital significance which may still be fruitfully mined.
Dionysus, the god of masks…
As befits a psychedelic god, Dionysus was given to a bewildering series of mutations and transformations. Again echoing shamanism, with its traditions of shape-shifting, Dionysus variously appeared as a girl, a man, a woman, a lion, a bull, and a panther. He was also an occasional cross-dresser, and was the god of the theatre, masks and illusion. Use of psychedelics inevitably reveals the role-playing nature of identity, and the story of Dionysus shows that we may take advantage of this shifting quality of the masks we wear to the world. The metamorphic god persistently used his transformations to conquer foes and work his way out of difficult situations.
The first modern Dionysian prophet, Nietzsche, was not able to integrate his masks, and suffered through descent into ‘insanity’. Approaching his breakdown, he began signing letters with different names: Dionysus, Ferdinand de Lesseps, the Crucified… He may have escaped his plunge into an uncontrollable shifting, or loss, of identity, had he existed in a less rigidly Apollonian society; but he was too far ahead of his time. Nietzsche correctly prophesied a coming era of violent transition. His own life was evidence that Dionysus, god of this transition, must also be a god of madness— insanity being a violent disparity between individual and society, a situation obviously rife in times of great change.
Aleister Crowley, who identified Dionysus with Pan, Pan with the Devil, and the Devil with himself, was better able to ride the turbulence created by the contrast between his own temperament and the culture he existed in. Through his magickal disciplines, he was able to live out his various masks in a way Nietzsche could only dream of. “Crowley took his personal experience, magical and otherwise, and created his own enclave, beyond the boundaries of conventional morality. He deliberately sought extremes of experience, concealing, and at the same time, revealing himself through a series of colourful personalities.”19
Both Nietzsche and Crowley set themselves defiantly against the Christian Church and monotheism; both in some way identified themselves as anti-Christs; both believed they were heralding a time of violent change; both—Nietzsche through Dionysus and Crowley through Pan—sought to reawaken the old nature gods. Both also, in differing ways, experienced the revelation of the mask-wearing, no-self nature of identity, a revelation only now reaching fruition in the post-modern practices of chaos magic.20
Dionysus, the dancing god…
Like most frenzied ancient religious ceremonies, the rites of Dionysus involved dancing, an ecstatic abandonment of the codes of social order that are delineated in our normally reserved bodily movements. Dancing is a bodily gnosis, a release of powerful internal stimulants and a revelling in the physical excitement these stimulants inspire. Dancing (and its partner music) is also a celebration of the experience of the true body, our immediate experience felt in all its power, which is timeless because it knows no past or future. “…the present moment—the moment in which our entire lives are lived—has the greatest value to us when we approach it as we approach the present of music… The present moment is valued not because it serves as a means to an ultimate assumed gratification, but because it is an immediate source of joy in itself.”21 “The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance.”22
And now, with ‘dance culture’ being the widest label that can be used to express the tendencies of modern sub-cultures, we find a spontaneous rediscovery of Dionysian values. The involvement of psychedelic substances is too widely recognized to need comment, but we can also draw attention to the popularity of shifting one’s identity around, through increasing sexual experimentation and gender ambiguity, body modification, dress style and involvement in the myriad techniques of psychic mutation. The popularity of outdoor festivals, raves and parties has also engendered a growing enthusiasm for the natural environment; and the unprecedented rise in ecological activism testifies to this being more than a passive hedonistic interest.
Techno, a musical form that has now surpassed the confines of being a singular ‘genre’, is often reviled as an inhuman bastardization of musical form. But what it has actually done, as anyone who has participated in a good rave can tell you, is to exponentially evolve the physical hedonism of rock, and reconnect many people with the most human of experiences—being a body.
Lyrics, and thus conceptual thought, are reduced to blasts of disconnected sampling, or zeroed altogether. The music itself focuses on physiologically energizing, ultra-low, pulsing bass frequencies and spiralling, neuron-tickling melodies, designed to obliterate internal chatter and leave one adrift in strobing lights and rushing proprioceptions. As Genesis P-Orridge has remarked, regarding his own musical output in the late eighties explosion of acid house, “There’s not really anything to ‘say’. Maybe I’m a moron, but I just can’t think of anything to say to people at the moment. Except that there are ways to express yourself that are non-verbal.” Techno surges backwards to the percussive roots of ecstatic musical ceremonies, and forwards into a future of limitless, because unspoken, possibilities… all collapsed into a bewildering present of fleshy transcendence.
My own most profound experiences of the jijimuge doctrine have been at the end of superior raves. The night is over, and the strip lights are turned on to clear people out, revealing all resplendent in their sweat-drenched clothes and with wondrous expanded pupils. But the beats continue, no body wants to stop. And so it goes on, joyous dancing in the full glare of white light… and all bodies appear to me to be simultaneously connected, bound in a sweaty, writhing whole, and divided, each displaying their unique nature through disparate corporeal interpretations of the same thudding rhythms…
. . . and Jim kept saying over and over, kill the father, fuck the mother, and essentially it boils down to just this, kill the father means kill all of those things in yourself which are instilled in you and are not of yourself; they are not your own, they are alien concepts which are not yours, they must die, those are things that must die. The psychedelic revolution. Fuck the mother is very basic, and it means get back to the essence … mother-birth, real, very real, you can touch it, you can grab it, you can feel it, it’s nature, it’s real, it can’t lie to you … the end of alien concepts, the beginning of personal concepts. Get to reality, get to your own reality, get to your own in-touch-with-yourself situation…
Paul Rothchild on the Doors recording ‘The End’
If we delve further into the mysteries of Dionysus, we inevitably encounter vestiges of a powerful archaic reverence for the feminine. Dionysus himself was extremely effeminate, having been raised by nymphs on Mount Nysa. He was the god most favoured by women, who formed the greater part of his cultic following. And his rites, especially on the island of Myconos, were closely associated with the veneration of his mother…
Although Dionysus’ mother is usually given as the mortal Semele, other accounts tell us that his mother was the corn goddess Demeter, or her daughter Persephone. Also, Semele was often worshipped as divine in her own right; Apollodorus equated her with Ge, the Thracian form of Gaia. Speculation about Dionysus’ mother may then cease, if we take a broader view and realize that all candidates are Earth Goddesses. Similarly, Marija Gimbutas, in her archaeological survey of evidence for an archaic preponderance of Goddess worship in Europe, notes that “discussions about the origin of the Greek Dionysus—whether he came to Greece from Thrace, Crete or western Asian Minor—are pointless, since all these lands originally belonged to the same Mother Culture.”
And if we return to the perversions of medieval Christianity, we find Satan (a demonized remnant of pagan nature gods) intimately associated with women, sex, matter and, of course, the Earth. The Mouth of Hell was often graphically associated with female genitalia.23 The underworld of shamanic traditions and their derivatives, associated with the regenerative furnaces of nature’s womb and the buried dead, has been systematically transformed by Christianity into a place of terrible, eternal torture. This fact of cosmographic distortion bears ample witness to Christian terror at the idea of death and disastrous alienation from nature. Given the widespread association of the Earth and femininity, Stuart and Jane Farrar are justified in remarking that “it is almost surprising that Satan has not been characterized as female.” Despite this, Christianity pulled no punches in hating women as servants of the Lord of Darkness himself.
We should pause before going further to look at some revealing etymology. The word ‘matter’ derives from the Latin material, meaning wood, timber, or stuff, which in turn derives from mater, meaning mother. In the light of our previous attempts to earth our sense of being by stressing our material existence as bodies, this linguistic derivation hints that we are on the right track in reconciling spirit with matter through the vegetal Dionysian godform, and following his history back to Mother Earth. In our linguistic heritage, as in the roots of our culture (Gimbutas’ ‘Mother Culture’ of Old Europe), there is no split between this material world and the hyperspatial matrix (Latin, ‘womb’) of the divine Mother. I would also like to note the connotations of the word ‘matter’. It is listed in Roget’s Thesaurus as a synonym for excrement, pus and garbage, as well as its less defiled meanings. Bearing in mind the origin of the word ‘matter’, and Christianity’s replacement of a chthonic Goddess with a scatologized, flesh- and woman-ruling Devil, we can see here some of the linguistic roots of our culture’s notorious misogyny.
Dionysus, as well as being heralded by Nietzsche as the god of the violent transition period that is the twentieth century, has also been seen as part of another transition, in the historical era in which his rites were performed. In Food of the Gods, McKenna traces the ancient European Goddess culture back to the Tassili-n-Ajjer Plateau in the Sahara of around 12,000 BCE, and, via the Natufians of Palestine, through to the Neolithic city of Çatal Hüyük in central Anatolia (modern Turkey).24 Çatal Hüyük was destroyed by fire, leaving some traces of Goddess culture, mostly in the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. Indo-European invaders overtook the mainland of Asia Minor, and brought with them a predominance of war-oriented kingship-centred cultural ideals that destroyed or scattered remains of the archaic Goddess principle of harmonious partnership between humans and nature.
McKenna’s key argument is that the defining element of Goddess culture was the sacramental use of psychedelic mushrooms; and though by no means air-tight, his book provides enough evidence for this theory to justify his search for changing use of, and attitudes towards psychoactive plants as correlates of cultural shifts. He makes much of the differing cultural styles of mushroom-fuelled Goddess societies and mead-fuelled warrior societies, in specific relation to the behavioural impact of psilocybin and alcohol respectively. Well, anyone who has witnessed the change of chemical habits and general atmospheres in dance clubs in Britain over the past ten years will have no difficulty in seeing the logic and cohesion of McKenna’s argument.
It is interesting, then, that around Dionysus, a paradoxical mixture of warrior and effeminate cross-dresser, whose rites have been shown to be intimately bound to those of his Mother, we find so much debate about whether his worshippers’ sacrament was wine or mushrooms. Most scholars who are not too bound by cultural prejudice to even consider the historical use of psychedelics conclude that Dionysus’ rites involved both intoxicants.
Astoundingly, McKenna does not pick up on this symbolic psychoactive cross-over, but clearly recognizes the importance of the figure of Dionysus as a transitional one: “Is not Dionysus, in his androgyny, in his madness, in his personification of ecstatic intoxication, the image of the spiritual crises that overcame the Minoan Archaic ideal? A male god, but softened by the androgynous values of Gaian culture, a dying god, personifying the death agony of the symbiotic relationship to vegetation that male dominance, Christianity, and the phonetic alphabet would finally overthrow.” He perceives in the mystery cults of Dionysus, and in those of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis, “the last frail outposts in the west of a tradition of using psychoactive plants to dissolve personal boundaries…” We may also see them as the dying gasps of the Great Goddess, whose cultures across Neolithic Europe—embodying a peaceful, holistic way of life, in harmony with nature—were trampled under the feet of invading Indo-European warrior tribes and eventually forgotten under the patriarchal rule of Christianity.
Erotic Jesus lays with his Marys / Loves his Marys / Bits of puzzle, fitting each other…
Perry Farrell, ‘Three Days’
Returning now to the Dionysus / Mother Goddess path, we can follow this further and uncover what I previously hinted at as the “single primal source” of the dying-and-rising godform lineage.
The first human conception of divinity, of universal creativity and intelligence, was female. The first humans discerned no connection between the sex act and the arrival of babies, due to the length of time between conception and birth. Thus, women were seen as the sole creators of life, primitive society was matrifocal and matrilineal, and the original Creator was naturally conceived in feminine terms. This may account for the belief of many researchers that archaic Goddess cultures represented a veritable paradise of sexual freedom—if sex was not connected to birth, it was obviously related to purely as a bodily pleasure. Male Creator gods and patriarchy probably evolved as a jealous backlash once the part played by the male in conception was discovered, and sexual repression instigated as a means for men to control procreation.
The Mother Goddess, as depicted in Greek, Assyrian, Indian and Australian Aboriginal cosmology, was self-created, and She created all things. Cosmologies must inevitably account for duality, formed as they are by humans who exist only in relation to the male/female polarity, so in most myths the self-generated Mother gives birth to a Son, who becomes her Lover; thus begin the dual principles of creation. In matrifocal cultures, this Son/Lover consort of the Mother Goddess was, while necessary, subservient and secondary.
While there is no hard evidence for Dionysus ever being seen as a Motherlover, it seems reasonable to suspect that his close association with, and ancient subservience to his Goddess parent descended from this primal myth. McKenna notes Dionysus’ secondary nature in discussing the older, more Goddess-oriented Minoan cults, and we may mention that the poet Pindar called Pan the “dog of the Great Goddess.” Also significant is the fact that in many Catholic cultures, particularly where Christianity has attempted to supplant an older pagan faith, the cultic worship of the Mother Mary often puts Jesus in the shade.
The male consort was usually seen as the instrument of the Goddess in the seasonal rounds of the biosphere: it is through suffering his death and bringing about his resurrection that the Mother participates in the vegetal life of the Earth. Of course, She is also seen to be the Earth, showing that the dying-and-rising Son/Lover myth, seen in the pairings of Isis and Osiris, Ishtar and Tammuz, and possibly Gaia and Dionysus, is a sophisticated gloss on the archaic pre-eminence of the Goddess.
If we see the figure of Dionysus, historically, as a final vestige of the atrophying Goddess, what does his mythical rise in the late twentieth century represent? What is the significance of the “Dionysian witches’ brew in the upheavals of modern history—in the sexology of de Sade and the politics of Hitler”,25 and the subsequent rediscovery of a much older, less agonized Dionysian consciousness—in ecstatic dance ceremonies, psychedelic sacraments, the rise of feminism, and a rebirth of appreciation for the natural environment?
We could think poetically for a moment, and see import in Stanislav Grof’s research into the re-experiencing of birth during LSD therapy. He contrasts the oceanic bliss of foetal existence in the womb with the immense, volcanic ecstasy of the baby as it passes through the birth canal, and labels the rapture often felt during the reliving of this latter phase as “Dionysian”. He incidentally notes that this volcanic ecstasy “can be reached in aboriginal ceremonies that involve wild dancing and loud intoxicating music, or even in their modern counterparts…”26 In this tumultuous existential struggle, the motifs of birth, life, sex and death intertwine, Eros and Thanatos locked in a tumbling embrace…
May we see the later, darker rites of Dionysus as the birth pangs and death throes of a European culture experiencing final separation from its old Mother Goddess—a traumatic birth into mechanism, patriarchy, alienation from nature, disgust for our bodies, and sexual repression? May we also see the recent rise of Dionysus as another collective birth, back to our Mother roots? Where will we land?
Perhaps in McKenna’s vision of humanity as a tool of nature used to develop communication technologies—to the extent that the Earth, through us, finally becomes a self-reflexive organism. Perhaps we are going back to make our peace with the Earth after our rape and abuse of Her, before being born as Her space-exploring child. Either way, the Goddess looks set to loom large again in human culture.
The rise of interest in the Great Goddess, in Her history and Her presence, has brought cautions from some quarters, wary of just swapping monotheisms. I hope there is something more profound at work than this.
The dualities of spirit/male, matter/female can be seen in a new light if we realize that patriarchy, through Christianity and Science, has worked with both sides, but in a mode of barren alienation. ‘Spirit’ has become an abstracted realm used to enforce repressive dogma, cut off from the gnosis of personal experience found in dream exploration, meditation and interior psychedelic journeys. ‘Matter’ has, through rigidified subject/object dualism, grown to signify a dead, lumpen world ‘out there’ which we manipulate and battle against… severed from our bodily existence, internal sensations, and ultimate quantum union with the material processes of our environment. It is the attitude with which patriarchal monotheism faces reality that distinguishes it from the Goddess cultures which it replaced—or, more precisely, it is the fact that it faces reality, in a mode of confrontation rather than integrated union.
If a revival of the Great Goddess means a return to ourselves and a return to the Earth, through the immediate experience of spiritual reality and awareness of ourselves as flesh, I’m all for it. The psychological importance of the conception of the Goddess seems to be that She is truly all-encompassing, and embraces all gods, spirits, creatures and aliens; all death, life, joy and pain. She is not a jealous, abstract deity who pretends to be good and all-loving, then reveals a violent paranoia in trying to supplant all other gods and goddesses, creates an eternal opponent/scapegoat, and withdraws from the world into an impalpable, invitation-only fortress called Heaven.
The Goddess is within and all around us, and stands for immediate experience of being and unity-in-diversity, as opposed to fundamentalist dualism, alienation, ontological insecurity, and the vicious loops of denial and negation these insidious diseases entail.
Whatever you call it, deified or not, we are an inextricable part of existence. We are bodily organisms, we are ecosystems within ecosystems, we are alive. All existence demands of us is that we affirm it, that we experience it as fully and intensely as possible in whatever ecstasies and agonies that we pass through. The streets are crammed with zombies who only have TV reminders and occasional, unasked-for jolts of harsh reality to let them know they’re living. Their fear of future death is unconscious horror at their present death, for the present is the only reality. Every instant contains the constant fact of the death of their imaginations, the death-like paralysis of their bodies.
Do you know you’re alive? Have you given in to the weight of this crawling mortification, this grey denial of real life and real death? Much better, we feel, is a surrender to the vital energy we embody, and a ceaseless effort to see, affirm, and make use of its possibilities unfolding in every moment.
- Timothy O’Neill, ‘A Flame in the Holy Mountain’, in Fenris Wolf #3, edited by Carl Abrahamsson [back to text]
- See the chapter ‘The Protestant Era’ in Norman O. Brown’s Life Against Death for a fascinating psychoanalytical discussion of Luther, the Devil, scatology and capitalism. [back to text]
- Recommended reading on this topic: ‘In Praise Of Devil Worship’ by Ramsey Dukes and ‘Nature Of The Beast’ by D.M. Mitchell in The NOX Anthology: Dark Doctrines edited by Stephen Sennitt [back to text]
- Christmas Humphreys, Buddhism, p. 17 [back to text]
- Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Book 4, 338 [back to text]
- Terence McKenna, Alien Dreamtime lecture [back to text]
- See ‘You Could Be Dead Tomorrow‘ by John Eden in OV Magazine and Towards 2012 part I [back to text]
- From an interview in Mavericks of the Mind edited by David Jay Brown and Rebecca McClen Novick [back to text]
- David Cronenberg in Cronenberg on Cronenberg edited by Chris Rodley [back to text]
- Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell [back to text]
- Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Book 3, 109 [back to text]
- Brown, Love’s Body, ‘Nature’ [back to text]
- See Storming Heaven by Jay Stevens, p. 208 [back to text]
- This does not limit ‘spiritual’ experience to the overt confines of the physical form. Quantum mechanics demonstrates that when one reaches the deepest layers of material reality, a form of connection to apparently distant physical structures exists, possibly accounting for the magical feats of perception-at-a-distance reported in shamanic ‘soul-travel’. [back to text]
- Included as a chapter in Character Analysis. [back to text]
- Intensive use of powerful psychedelics may also lead one to merge these two worlds. From Dream Matrix Telemetry, McKenna’s rant on DMT: “I somehow shattered the membrane between myself and ordinary space. I carried the trip into the room with me… an elf hanging off each hand.” Here lurks the danger of psychotic breaks with consensus reality; but here also dances the possibility of a true alchemical wedding of spirit and matter, the real-ization of the surrealist project. Many other similar reports in psychedelic literature have made clear that the duality of these domains can be paradoxically preserved. Normal space and hyperspace may be experienced simultaneously, yet still perceived as distinct. [back to text]
- Read Wilhelm Reich’s The Murder of Christ for a vivid, if laboured, portrayal of Christ as a fully red-blooded male. [back to text]
- The reader is asked to ponder the fact that the Mexican mushroom-cultic name for their vegetal sacrament, teonanácatl, means ‘the flesh of the gods’ (they also believed that mushrooms were born of lightning). The Spanish invaders were understandably peeved at this, as it took a bit of wind out of their attempts to convert the natives to the ‘true’ religion of Christianity, with its rites of eating the flesh and blood of God’s material manifestation. Had the true psychedelic nature of the original Christian cult caught up with them? Despite the Spanish conquest, the native mushroom cults happily blended Christianity into their ceremonies, Christ being identified with the sacred fungi. See Munn’s ‘The Mushrooms of Language’. [back to text]
- Phil Hine, Condensed Chaos, p .16 [back to text]
- It is interesting that the largest magical organization based around the chaos approach, the Illuminates Of Thanateros, combine in their name Freud’s notorious battling dualities of Thanatos, the death instinct, and Eros, the life instinct. This hints at the yin-yang reintegration of polarities hoped for by Norman O. Brown in the final pages of Life Against Death. [back to text]
- Kathleen Marie Higgins, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra [back to text]
- Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity, p. 105 [back to text]
- See The Silbury Treasure by Michael Dames, p. 111. This book is also essential reading for those interested in Britain’s Great Goddess heritage. [back to text]
- The reader is directed to the following books for further research into these areas: Merlin Stone’s The Paradise Papers, Marija Gimbutas’ The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade and Çatal Hüyük: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia by James Mellaart (the principal archaeological investigator of the site). [back to text]
- Brown, Life Against Death, p. 176 [back to text]
- Stanislav Grof, The Holotropic Mind, p. 63 [back to text]
Recommended research material
- The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross by John M. Allegro. A dense work of etymology tracing the roots of Christianity back to Sumerian fertility cults, with particular focus on the possible central position of psychedelic mushrooms in mystery rites among early Christians. Valuable analysis of the sexual connotations of mushroom morphology, and of encrypted mushroom-related information in the New Testament. Allegro was one of the original Dead Sea Scrolls scholars.
- Life Against Death and Love’s Body by Norman O. Brown. Life Against Death is a rare thing: a classical scholar in the fifties grappling with the depths of Freudian psychoanalysis, and its implications for the meaning of human history and culture, with a refusal to settle for either nihilism or easy answers. Fascinating material on the psychological conceptions of time, language and sexuality, and their relationship to the human body. Although Brown fails to push far enough beyond Freud’s insidious misogyny, he has the courage to shatter much psychoanalytical orthodoxy, and ends with tentative moves towards the holism of Taoist philosophy and a call for a cultivation of a polymorphous, hermaphroditic sexuality. Love’s Body is the follow-up, with Brown’s academicism breaking down under the weight of his findings into a non-linear mine of aphoristic investigations. Together these works represent some of the finest eschatological writings of the twentieth century.
- Undoing Yourself by Christopher S. Hyatt. A highly potent synthesis of yoga, Reichian bodywork and zen. A crash course in proprioception.
- Dreambody by Arnold Mindell. The author details the relationship of his conception of the dreambody and his therapeutic work to mythology, fairy tales, and various religious conceptions of subtle energies.
- Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna. Bold speculations on the role of psychedelic plants in human evolution. with special focus on prehistoric shamanism and Goddess cultures, and their collapse in neolithic times. Also, convincing arguments against the previous identification of the Amanita muscaria mushroom as one of the key ancient psychedelics.
- The Invisible Landscape by Terence & Dennis McKenna. The background to what eventually becomes a radical new model of historical time provides important scientific and philosophical refutations of the mind/body split, as the authors attempt to “understand the mechanics of the mutual interrelatedness of mind and the organic matrix at formative submolecular junctures.” Plus one of the best brief discussions of shamanism, and its relationship to schizophrenia.
- Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche. If one can read around Nietzsche’s rabid hatred of femininity, this is an important work of poetic philosophy that transcends both materialism and abstract spirituality, prefiguring Norman O. Brown’s rediscovery of ‘body mysticism’. A profound, passionate statement against contempt for the world and hatred for nature.
- The Paradise Papers: The Suppression of Women’s Rites by Merlin Stone. One of many excellent feminist re-visions of history, detailing the violent transition from Goddess worship to patriarchal monotheism. Includes important analyses of the Old Testament and the roots of its destructive influence on the status of women.
- The Book, Nature, Man & Woman and The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. Watts is quite simply the most clear-headed and accessible philosopher dealing with the untenable premises of fundamentalist dualism, reductionist materialism, and all forms of the anti-nature religious impulse. He is particularly adept at teasing actual states of non-verbal perception out of the reader through the use of words. All works here are highly recommended.
- Ishtar Rising by Robert Anton Wilson. Excellent survey of the resurgence of reverence for the feminine in modern culture. There is a heavy focus on the breasts in Wilson’s analysis, whereas the cunt seems to be equally important in the symbolism of historical Goddess worship (as evidenced in Tantra and palaeolithic art); his editorship at Playboy magazine may explain and perhaps forgive this imbalance.
Other texts used
- The Fenris Wolf (issues 2 & 3) edited by Carl Abrahamsson
- The New Nietzsche edited David B. Allison
- The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln
- The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece by Philippe Borgeaud
- Apocalypse And/Or Metamorphosis by Norman O. Brown
- William Blake: Selected Poems edited by P. H. Butter
- The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra
- The Powers of Evil by Richard Cavendish
- The Holy Bible edited by The Christian Church
- The Gnostics by Tobias Churton
- Magick by Aleister Crowley
- The Silbury Treasure by Michael Dames
- Kantharos: Studies in Dionysiac and Kindred Cult by George W. Elderkin
- The Witches’ Goddess by Janet & Stewart Farrar
- The Golden Bough by J. G. Frazer
- The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas
- Food for Centaurs, The Greek Myths: 1 and The White Goddess by Robert Graves
- The Holotropic Mind by Stanislav Grof
- Nietzsche’s Zarathustra by Kathleen Marie Higgins
- Condensed Chaos by Phil Hine
- The Nietzsche Reader edited by R. J. Hollingdale
- Buddhism by Christmas Humphreys
- The Tree of Lies by Christopher S. Hyatt
- Metamorphosis in Greek Myth by Forbes Irving
- John Lilly, so far… by Francis Jeffrey & John C. Lilly
- Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist by Walter Kaufmann
- Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life by C. Kerenyi
- A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language by Ernest Klein
- The Roots of Coincidence by Arthur Koestler
- Nietzsche and Modern Times by Lawrence Lampert
- The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey
- The Tantric Way by Ajit Mookerjee & Madhu Khanna
- Info-Psychology by Timothy Leary
- The Dyadic Cyclone by John C. Lilly & Antonietta Lilly
- The Illusionist by Anita Mason
- The Archaic Revival, Psychedelics Before & After History (taped lecture), Alien Dreamtime (lecture with Spacetime Continuum) and Dream Matrix Telemetry (with Zuvuya) by Terence McKenna
- The God of the Witches by Margaret Murray
- ‘The Mushrooms of Language’ by Henry Munn (in Hallucinogens and Shamanism edited by Michael Harner)
- Beyond Good and Evil and The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche
- The Dionysiac Mysteries by Martin P. Nilsson
- Nietzsche: Disciple of Dionysus by Rose Pfeffer
- Character Analysis, The Murder of Christ by Wilhelm Reich
- Blissed Out by Simon Reynolds
- Cronenberg on Cronenberg edited by Chris Rodley
- The Making of a Counter Culture by Theodore Roszak
- Ecstasy and the Dance Culture by Nicholas Saunders
- The NOX Anthology: Dark Doctrines edited by Stephen Sennitt
- ‘Game of the Gods’ by Stephen Sennitt (in Rapid Eye 3 edited by Simon Dwyer)
- Plants of the Gods by Richard Evans Schultes & Albert Hoffman
- The Philosophy of the Body: Rejections of Cartesian Dualism edited by Stuart F. Spicker
- The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
- Storming Heaven by Jay Stevens
- The Doors: The Complete Illustrated Lyrics compiled by Danny Sugerman
- ‘The Individual as Man/World’ by Alan Watts (in The Psychedelic Reader edited by Gunter M. Weil, Ralph Metzner & Timothy Leary)
- World Mythology edited by Roy Willis