Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Archetypal Encounters

by Skald

"Now there is a view which we will be supporting in this series which says that the human brain is not so much an organ which facilitates perception of reality as it is a sort of filter acting as a sensory barrier blocking out an excess of reality. This idea originated with Henri Bergson who called the brain a cerebral reducing valve.

The sometimes bizarre experiences opened up by psychedelic drugs are not simply illusions created by chemicals interfering with the brain's accurate perception of reality. This is a very naive reading based on the Newtonian/Cartesian conception of what constitutes reality, a worldview increasing in question, both by modern physics and in consciousness research.

Psychedelic drugs open up what we could call other worlds, what Jung has called the collective unconscious, what Hillman has called the invisible world, what Sheldrake has called morphic resonances, what the Shaman of primal societies were well practised in mediating. The worlds that all the archetypal myths and legends are about."

--Stanley Richards

The above is a quote I found on Bruce Eisner's Excellent blog. Reading it, it suddenly hit me... just what the connection between psychedelic neo-shamanism and "deliberate travel" is all about. Its one of those "duh" moments.

In both cases we are talking about journeys of discovery. Travel... conscious travel... is an outward means that eventually forces us to encounter the internal-- our hopes, fears, strengths, weaknesses... our identity... our place in the world and the universe. Psychedelic meditaion is a direct internal means that eventually forces us to encounter the vast (infinite) universe and our relation to it (or our identity with it).

Aldous Huxley, in the Perennial Philosophy, identifies these two approaches as THE traditional archtypal means of spiritual discovery. There is the internal path, there is the external path.... and then there are those who try both simultaneously (a choice he claims is the best and also the most difficult).

I favor the dual path. It is necessary to explore our minds. Are there more important questions than "Who/What am I?", "What is my relationship to the universe?", "What is 'the universe' and what is the nature of existence?".......

At the same time, "it is easy to be a holy man on a mountain". In other words, permanent retreat from the external world is an escape... a denial of life. We must play with these questions in the context of the "real world". We must test them with experience. We must somehow learn to swallow the whole catastrophe.... swallow it, digest it, savor it.

Ralf Potts hinted at this in a recent post. He noted that "travel writing must confront the real world".... not airbrush it, not avoid it. Part of travel is confronting poverty. Its encountering beggars. Its witnessing ecological destruction. Its suffering. Its enduring hardship. Its tackling challenges. If you do none of that, you aren't travelling. You're on vacation.

The same is true of internal journeys. "Recreational users" are out for a "high" and a party. But serious inner journeys are often unnerving. They are confrontations with the bizaare, the inexplicable, the horrowing, the mysterious, and the awe inspiring. Leave the low-dose thrill seeking to frat boys. Hobopoets are after a much deeper encounter.

Both paths, the inner journey & the outer, follow the arc outlined by Joseph Campbell in "The Hero With A Thousand Faces"..... these are archtypal joureys... as old as humanity itself. On one hand, technology is radically altering the face of the planet.

But on the other, we are engaging the same journeys & the same questions that have danced with humanity since it first awakened.

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