The Serpent’s Promise, or: Drugs as Ritual Self-Sacrifice

How the Oldest Exchange of All May Have Been the Original Scam

Art by William Blake

I am reposting the article now because it seems more relevant than ever, and to do so I have first gone through it and excised those parts (including quotes by Carlos Castaneda, Terence McKenna, and Aleister Crowley) that no longer seem in line with my current understanding, while adding a little bit here and there to suggest areas previously unaddressed (such as MK-ULTRA).

Ideally, I would need to rework the whole piece to bring it up to date with my current perspective, but rather than do this I have simply cleaned it up and updated it slightly, most notably by adding more references to the ancestors–who I now see as the key to understanding this subject, as well as to everything else about ourselves.

The premise of my argument remains the same, however, and it is this: Consciousness-altering drugs, and most especially psychedelic substances, are a form of concentrated death.

Anyone who has smoked DMT knows why it has been called “white knuckle stuff.” One puff on a pipe and the experiencer is thrown—in the time it takes to inhale and exhale—into another world in which no familiar features remain. It is a world stranger and more outlandish than anything our wildest dreams or nightmares could ever conjure. It is also a world that’s inhabited and where—most disconcerting of all—the inhabitants are focusing their attention on us. The abyss gazes also. Smoking DMT is like being turned inside out: not only is a vast and previously unseen aspect of reality exposed to us, but, in that same instant, we are also exposed to it. There is no place to hide on a DMT trip, because the universe is fiercely and unfathomably alive, and it is right under our skins. Anyone who has smoked DMT once and knows what to expect will have to push his or her courage to the sticking place before volunteering to say “bye-bye to Kansas” again. The main consolation for the white-knuckled DMT-smoker is the knowledge that even the most intense trip only lasts from 5 to 15 minutes. What sort of courage would it require to smoke DMT knowing it was a one-way trip and that our consciousness was about to be cannonballed into the Imaginal realms forever? Who would be able to hold their pipe steady knowing that?

What follows in this article is not based on hard science or accepted facts about brain or body chemistry or about drugs, alcohol, and what are now popularly called “entheogens.” It is a mixture of personal experience, deductive reasoning, and something I can only describe as “received knowledge,” and the reader is advised to add a “maybe” or “it seems to me” to the end of every sentence to counteract the otherwise authoritative tone of the piece, necessary for clarity and succinctness. I first wrote this article in 2011 in a period of a few hours. As I remember it, the main thrust of my argument came to me while I was walking through a large, dry river bed in Guatemala. I was quite sober, having completely given up smoking marijuana by then, yet whatever the catalyst might have been, I remember how thoughts began to pour into my mind without any apparent source. They weren’t obviously distinct from my ordinary thoughts, except that they were more lucid than usual, and at the same time, quite novel to me. I believed at the time (or at least afterwards) that I was receiving information from “the spirits.” Now I would prefer to say it came from the ancestors.

When I say that consciousness-altering drugs, and most especially psychedelic substances, are a form of concentrated death, it is not meant to give a wholly negative spin to such substances. Death regenerates life and keeps things moving forward; without it, there is no evolution, no advance. Poetically speaking, death provides the beat of time to the dance floor of Eternity. That is why Chronos, the Lord of Time, is depicted as the Grim Reaper. Time is the catalyst of motion added to the “substance” of space. As “condensed death particles,” entheogens and other drugs attack the nervous system, targeting specifically the neurons, not only of the brain but of the entire body, within which more and more neurological systems are being discovered (such as in the heart and intestines). This “attack” by the psychotropic molecules on our neurons is not without intent, however; so far as I can intuit, the intent is to hijack the cells of our bodies and use them as vehicles to cross over from “death” into “life.” By “death” I refer to the inorganic realms, where the organic realms pertain to what we know of as “life.”

Shamanically speaking, to smoke DMT or ingest any other hallucinogen is to offer up our cells as a sacrifice to the spirits. By such sacrifice, we are allowing our consciousness to be possessed by mysterious and invisible agents of transformation. When we ingest a psychoactive substance, just as when we smoke tobacco or take a stuff drink, a number of our neurons are “destroyed,” which is to say, broken down to their basic constituents. In the moment of destruction, they become “food” for inorganic intelligences to gain temporary substance in our organic realm of existence, via our consciousness. There is a moment of overlap between the worlds of life and death, the temporal and the eternal.

As part of us “dies,” it is absorbed by the spirit-intelligences residing in the plant or chemical, intelligences which are seeking an experience of organic existence otherwise unavailable to them. (Since plants are organic life forms, it might be more accurate to say they are seeking a different, more sentient kind of organic experience.) In those brief moments or hours, while our neurons are being consumed by the drug, they are still connected to our conscious selves, to the nervous system and neural network. As a result, we get to consciously experience existence “on the other side,” through the eyes of the spirits or ancestors; at the same time, those spirits are able to experience life through our eyes. This form of ritual sacrifice is an ancient exchange, possibly the oldest one of all. It may even be what the parable of the fruit of good and evil is referring to: the knowledge of death.

In Ketamine: Dreams and Realities, Karl Jansen writes, “LSD and DMT bind to serotonin receptors and this is thought to push the start button for a cascade of events resulting in a psychedelic trip.”[1] To the extent that psychedelics bind to and thereby alter the receptor sites, the question arises: what does this alteration of the nervous system allow us to receive? The kind of energy that is received via the altered receptor sites, as well as the amount, would perhaps be determined not merely by what is being ingested (the chemicals in the plant), but also by the circumstances under which it taken and—perhaps most critically of all—the psychological make-up (and preparedness) of the person ingesting. Native Americans doing peyote or Peruvians shamans taking ayahuasca would then be an entirely different affair to Westerners aspiring to become master Magi or seeking congress with the divine, while having little clue what they are doing, and little or no relationship to the plant/chemical (and residing ancestral spirit) being ingested.

Spirits are inorganic intelligences (which may include what we call souls of the dead). Being inorganic and/or dead, they lack access to sentient physical form. At the same time, inorganic spirits (which may be ancestral fragments) apparently can live in organic matter, as elemental or “faery” beings are said to live in rocks and plants and the like. It may be that these spirits seek specifically to experience human existence, and that getting incarnate humans to ingest certain plants is one way for them to achieve this. Whatever the case, they appear to desire not just congress with but ingress into (and through) our consciousness, which they attain by accessing not only our neurons (as they are “hijacked” by the psychoactive chemicals) but the entire network which those neurons are linked up to. I estimate there are three layers of neural circuit-boards to a human being. The most superficial is that of the brain, which is then linked up to the larger network of the nervous system, including all the organs which store individual memories (the brain’s function being to access and “decode” these memories), memories which make up the life and identity of the individual, or total body. Lastly, beneath that, encompassing every atom of the body, there is the subatomic network of the DNA, which contains our genetic code and hence the memories of the entire species. These three levels (all of which can be found in the body) may also correspond with the physical body, the energy body (psyche?), and the soul (or Soul) which exists outside of spacetime, but this is just a guess.

Potentially, certain psychoactive plants and chemicals can “light up” the neural network of our brains and even our greater nervous systems. In extreme cases, such as shamanic initiation, they may even allow us access to a genetic level of consciousness, where ancestral memories and/or “past lives” are stored. This process is perhaps similar to splitting the atom to create a nuclear explosion: if our bodies (like the rest of physical reality) are holographic systems, each neuron, each molecule, contains the information of the whole network. (A blood sample will tell you something about the whole body.) When psychoactive molecules “invade” the molecules of our bodies, they crack them open and release the information stored inside, giving us momentary awareness of the whole network: “nuclear” vision. There’s an obvious side effect of this, however. Since accessing the information of the neural network requires hacking into the system, psychoactive substances cause inevitable damage in the process. As a result, the long-term effects are generally the opposite of the short-term ones. I believe that psychoactive substances cause “ruptures” in the neural pathways of the brain and the total body (possibly even in the DNA), as well as in the energy body or psyche. These ruptures then prevent a spontaneous activation of the system, further on down the line. They may give us a taste of enlightenment—our natural state of being—but the possibility of a lasting enlightenment later on is drastically reduced.  In this way, psychoactive substances, like gurus, and perhaps like occult knowledge in general, engender spiritual addiction. As with all addictions, we need ever more powerful doses to get “high.”

Gaia’s Secret Revenge?


There is a very clear parallel to be drawn here with the ecosystem, which of course is the source of most if not all psychoactive substances. If the trees and other plant life of the Earth form a sort of neural network for the planet (a scenario deftly illustrated in Alan Moore’s run of Swamp Thing comics), then decimating the rain forests and other forms of environmental damage would be affecting more than merely our oxygen supply. It would also be rapidly reducing the capacity of the Earth’s biosphere to function as intended, as an information system by which the planet (like the human body) can become fully self-aware (planetary consciousness). Ironically enough, it may be partly because of this system shut-down that there is such a collective pull towards a “psychedelic solution.” The irony, if this is an accurate description, is that the destruction of the ecosphere is not only a symptom but also a cause of our increased disconnect from Nature and from our bodies.  As we seek to experience our primal/cosmic natures via the psychoactive substances which the Earth (and modern science) provides, the imagined solution may only be compounding the problem. If so, it would be Gaia’s secret revenge, because if the (ab)use of psychoactive substances is decimating our own individual “biospheres” and preventing us from having full access to our natural faculties, this exactly mirrors the ways in which our disconnection from the environment has affected the Earth’s biosphere.

Although this is a potentially controversial point of view within the entheogen and alternate perceptions community, there is ample evidence to support it. On the one hand, we have a blockbuster such as Avatar, which advocates environmental activism and mind expansion through psychedelics, while at the same time feeding the military-industrial-entertainment complex that is slowly destroying the planet and keeping the collective mind numbed out on corporate crapola like Avatar. So far, the only explanation of this contradiction I’ve heard is that the movie is evidence of a planetary awakening! The countless contradictions within the film—to say nothing of its corporate crappiness—belie such an “explanation.” If a movie made by the Hollywood military-entertainment complex appears to vilify right-wing military forces as anti-environmental, while glorifying psychedelics and “back to roots” tribal values, you can be sure the film’s backers have their reasons.

On the other hand, we need look no further than two of the leading forces in the psychedelic revolution—Carlos Castaneda and Terrence McKenna—to glimpse the dark side of the entheogen experience. McKenna died of a brain tumor at age fifty-three, and Castaneda died of liver cancer, aged seventy-two. The brain and the liver are the two organs most obviously and indisputably affected by psychoactive substances. These visionary spokesmen’s deaths underscore their messages[2] and have served to counteract, at least to a degree, their influence regarding the presumed positive value of entheogens. Castaneda quotes don Juan Matus in one of the later books, admitting that power plants “do untold damage to the body,” and explaining that they were only necessary because of Castaneda’s extreme “stupidity.” A third body of evidence (probably the most persuasive) for the dubious benefits of entheogen-use would be the countless proponents and spokespersons who claim to have been transformed by power plants, whose rhetoric and behavior betrays an obvious lack of balance, coherence, or sobriety. (It would seem cruel to mention any names at this point.)[3]

It will no doubt be argued that, if used properly (shamanically), entheogens such as ayahuasca, ibogaine, and psilocybin can be used for healing, so how can they be said to harm the body? The answer is in just what “proper” or shamanic use entails, as well as what we understand by “healing.” The electromagnetic field or “aura” around the human body, which corresponds roughly with the neural networks I have been describing, is where all physical illnesses originate, so it is here that any shamanic healing via entheogens presumably occurs—if indeed it does occur. Such “soul-healing,” when effective, could conceivably make up for any damage being done to the body by entheogens, because by sealing up fractures or clearing out blockages in the energy body (the total psyche), by connecting to the ancestors (which is probably the original use of these substances), the body would be able to regenerate itself over time. Generally speaking, this does require a shaman—an experienced energetic healer—administering the entheogens, and even taking them in the patient’s stead. Performing energetic surgery upon our own psyches would obviously be a highly risky endeavor, not to say insane. At best, the chances are that we will use the entheogen-induced experience of heightened awareness to avoid areas of blockage—or to plough through them without necessary preparation—rather than heal and integrate them. This may not result in physical sickness (at least not right away), but it will likely lead to ego inflation, on the one hand, and dissociation and fragmentation (mild schizophrenia) on the other. Perhaps most commonly, it will lead to a combination of both.

The idea that psychedelics are a concentrated “death substance”—a form of holistic poison—does not contradict the idea that they can be used for healing, because this is true of all homeopathic remedies. Dosage is key: even a little bit too much and medicine becomes poison. With psychoactive substances, this relates not so much to the amount ingested but to the frequency of use, and, equally or perhaps more important, to the circumstances under which they are being used. In my own case, I began drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco regularly (about once a week) at around the age of fourteen or fifteen (my first “tipple” was around five or six). I smoked my first hashish and tobacco joint at age seventeen, and smoked it daily until about the age of twenty-five. After that I smoked it less and less frequently, and by my thirties I used it more or less as a hallucinogen. My marijuana use tapered off completely in my forties and I haven’t smoked in over five years. My use of hallucinogens spanned a little less than twenty years, from 1987 to 2004, and during that period I probably had around a hundred powerful experiences (quite a few of which were marijuana-induced). I would estimate, conservatively speaking, that less than two dozen of these were “necessary” (appropriate), and that perhaps still less were truly “shamanic,” by which I mean healing or transformative to my being. That would render somewhere between 75% and 90% of my use of psychoactive substances gratuitous and therefore deleterious to both my mental and physical health. Overall, I like to think that it evens out, that the 10-25% of shamanic experiences were sufficiently transforming to compensate for the damage I did to my nervous system by over-indulging. Nonetheless, if this is true, I still have to face the fact that I’d be more or less exactly where I am today if I had avoided psychoactive substances altogether. If I am honest, I am pretty sure that I would be considerably better off; but of course this is ultimately unknowable to me.

The bottom line is that I was using psychoactive substances, not simply to expand my consciousness, but to escape the confines of a contracted consciousness. What’s the difference? Perhaps nothing save that the latter is an honest description where the former is not. In other words, if I had been content within the parameters of my limited consciousness, I would not have been so eager to experiment with heightened states of awareness. So-called “consciousness expansion” becomes merely recreational once we have attained a certain level of consciousness, a level at which we have more than enough to integrate without stirring up still more elements of our unconscious. And integration entails coming back down to earth to see what’s going on in our mundane awareness, something that doesn’t happen if we keep shooting for ever-higher states of consciousness and ever more mind-expanding experiences, via entheogens. How much does expanding our consciousness enhance our day-to-day capacity to function in the world and relate to other people at an ordinary level? And how much are we simply increasing our ability to talk endlessly about abstract subjects and fly off into imaginary/imaginal realms, bringing back shiny trinkets (songs, poems, paintings, books) to show off how “evolved” our consciousness is to the world? Be honest now.

Enlightenment: What Is It?


“Proteins are intelligent beings. They have evolved to operate in the metabolic maelstrom of a turbulent cellular environment.”
—Christopher Miller, Nature magazine

During one of my more memorable encounters with salvia divinorum, I experienced myself as consciousness interacting with the molecules of my eyelids. These molecules were all individual beings which together made up a collective (my eyelids) characterized by a combination of fierce awareness, a mischievous sense of humor, and a powerful  and unmistakable expression of love and affection for me, or whatever remained of my self-consciousness at that time as I was swallowed up in this electric congress of molecules. I mention this as a counter perspective to one described above, in which, as the entheogens consume our neurons, the spirits (residing in the plant and/or the smoke of the plant) ride into our consciousness on a wave of “destruction.” An alternative way of seeing his—not necessarily at odds with the first—is that the spirits (being non-local, quantum beings, and probably ancestral ones too) also reside in the cells of our bodies. (In the above experience, my eyelids became my focus because I was trying to remember not to open my eyes once I had smoked.) When the entheogen hits our nervous system, these “spirits” are released (like nuclear energy from the atom) from that force which holds our bodies (and everything else) into a fixed form—the bondage of matter. Perhaps, as my molecules “died” under the influence of the salvia, their molecule-souls were flying free, dancing joyfully over to the other side and rejoining the ancestors, taking my consciousness (temporarily) along with them?

Atoms (and molecules, cells, neurons, and proteins) are entities. They carry an information load, which is essentially no different from the way that we, as larger atoms, carry the memories of our lives, making up our own “spin” or information load. And since our sense of identity comes primarily, even exclusively, from our personal set of memories, then an atom which carries its information load can be said, likewise, to have identity. This presents a whole new area of exploration beyond the scope of the present article, namely: to what degree does using psychoactive substances allow our consciousness to be possessed by foreign entities that are not “sympathetic” (in both the magical and the common sense of the word) with our bodies and psyches? The assumption is that, since psychoactive substances come from the Earth, they must be benevolent (i.e. compatible with our own evolution). This is a rash assumption, since there are plenty of species indigenous to the Earth that aren’t “on our side.” Plant spirits foster dependence, and how they interact with us may depend on how consciously and conscientiously we relate to them, just as it does with everything else in life. In a predatory environment, everything is food for something else, so why assume this applies any less to the realm of consciousness—or to our interaction with those “spirits” that reside in the psychoactive substances which we consume, eager to be possessed by God? It may even be that any kind of consciousness that is sourced in molecules besides those of our own bodies is foreign to us, and therefore potentially harmful; in short, that true individuation or awakening depends on accessing divine consciousness not outside of ourselves (in plants or gurus) but within.

Referring to the ancestral model, our connection to the ancestors in there in every cell of our body: we already are our ancestors, and it is only our fragmented state of consciousness that lets us forget this and imagine we are separate. So if psychoactive substances (like ibogaine) can sometimes help us to rediscover our greater ancestral being, it can only be by healing (or at least temporarily transcending) our fragmentation. The trap in this is, if a substance can give us temporary relief from our isolation and fragmentation, we are likely to confuse the substance with the state that’s being artificially revealed to us, and so become dependent on the substance itself. When we drink to remember our ancestors (a tradition common to most, if not all, cultures), as we imbibe the spirits of whiskey or gin, are we also letting the spirits of our alcohol-dependent forefathers and foremothers possess us? This is the very opposite of integration into the ancestral soul by becoming whole ourselves: it is perpetuation of psychic fragmentation.

I would like to turn now to the question of life after death: the idea of the continuation of individual consciousness after the death of the body. If we allow that there is at least some evidence to suggest this (mostly anecdotal, but still), the next question that arises (one common to all religions) is: how might our continued existence on the other side depend upon our actions and accomplishments while we are alive? This is not necessarily a moral question; more likely, if it has any meaning at all, it is a pragmatic one. It might depend, for example, as some metaphysical systems attest, upon an individual having a fully activated (linked-up) neural system at the moment of death, a system which can then serve as a vehicle for inorganic consciousness, once the flesh and blood vessel is no longer functional.Is This Why the Fruit Was Forbidden?

Suppose the life of the body is a means for undifferentiated consciousness (pure energy, before form) to experience itself as a separate entity, by entering into (or weaving into being) a “package” to contain it? Consciousness then would have the possibility of fully integrating itself into its package, so that, like clay inside a mold, when the form were destroyed the energy that in-formed it—having allowed itself also to be formed by it—would retain the unique shape—the individuality—which physical experience granted it. This idea is dramatically depicted, once again by Alan Moore, in the comic book Watchmen, when Jon Osterman is vaporized inside a nuclear vault and his consciousness miraculously manages to weave for itself a new physical form made of pure energy, using the memories of his former identity as a matrix. Alan Moore also came up with a whole new origin story for Swamp Thing which was basically the same model: Alex Holland undergoes an existential crisis when he realizes that he is not who—or what—he thought he was, but rather a plant intelligence that has inherited Holland’s memories.

If who we think we are is dependent on a coherent set of memories, who or what we continue to be upon death would depend on those memories retaining coherence, and not simply being copied, without their folders, to the larger hard drive of human consciousness. The file and the folder–the body and the soul–would somehow have to become one and the same.

Is This Why the Fruit Was Forbidden?


I am aware (as I rewrite this piece some five years after I first “channeled” it) that these are dangerous ideas, ideas that more frequently lead to the mental madness of literalization than to real or lasting psychological wholeness. In several of his later books, Castaneda describes the sorcerer’s primary task as recapitulating his or her entire life, including every thought and every dream ever dreamed, in order to creating a surrogate awareness which can then be offered up the “the Eagle” (the ruling force in the Universe) as food. In return for this offering, this perfect replica of every single component of his or her life, the sorcerer is allowed to keep his or her individual awareness (the Eagle’s gift). As a metaphor taken literally, this is about as much use as a manual for flying to the Sun using only wax and feathers. (Apparently it didn’t work too well for Castaneda.) Also relevant here are the documented “near-death experiences” (NDEs) in which individuals undergo a full “life review” and re-experience every moment of their existence up to the moment of (near) death. If we throw out the cultural baggage of these beliefs, it does appear that consciousness incarnates into a body in order to gather experience, and that this experience is then passed on, or back, to the source from which consciousness first emerged. At the same time, the degree to which that package of energy-consciousness is able to become fully embodied while it’s incarnate does appear to vary greatly, and this variance does seem to be the crux of why we are here. An unexamined life is not worth living. Why? Because it leads nowhere, like words and phrases on a page that do not connect together, like a finger without a hand, or a soul without an ancestral line.[4]

The lighting up of the neural networks (all three levels) within our bodies while we are alive, the alignment of soul, energy body, and physical body into one congruent whole, so far as I can ascertain, is what’s known in spiritual circles as “enlightenment.” It is our natural state as human beings. In existential terms, it entails integrating our individual consciousness, the ego or personal self, with our unconscious (the sum total of our life’s experiences, the memories of the body) and entering fully into “the Now,” bringing all of those past moments out of the past and into the present. Enlightenment entails living in an eternal present in which divine or transpersonal consciousness is also present, both through us and as us. When a person dies in such a fully “activated” state—with all the individual cells linked up to form a circuit—the entire network may then become a vehicle for Spirit—merging with the infinite while remaining self-aware within it. Alternatively, and perhaps more accurately, if this activation occurs in life, then the death of the body would no longer herald any significant change for the indwelling consciousness, since it would be already linked up to, and in continuous communion with, the ancestral realms beyond death.

Every moment is equally precious, because every moment of our lives is a link in the circuit-board of individuated consciousness. Without each of those links functioning (which depends upon all the moments of our lives being integrated into consciousness), the system cannot function as a system, but only as a collection of unconnected parts. At death, the individual’s totality either fails to light up or short-circuits and explodes in the first moment of “enlightenment.” The moments of our lives are like “temporal molecules” which together make up our fourth-dimensional “souls,” the “building” of which is necessary if we are to fuse with, and flow into, the spacetime continuum of eternity.


This speculative digression into metaphysics has been part of an attempt to understand the true purpose—and the very real dangers—of psychedelics and other drugs (including alcohol). It’s my opinion that the bottom line here is that, in the process of expanding consciousness, these substances impair memory and do “untold damage to the body” (especially the liver, which is what we are until we die: livers). I believe that when these psychoactive substances “hack into” and “hijack” the atoms, molecules, cells and neurons, they do so for their own ends. Plants are not only sentient, but also volitional. Why assume they have no other purpose besides serving us? It’s true that, whatever the plants’ agenda may be, by ingesting them we gain temporary access to the greater spectrum of molecular awareness which is our natural birthright. However, as every drug user or drinker knows, this enhanced vision is only temporary, while the changes caused to our neural networks, nervous system, and even our DNA, are longer-lasting, possibly even permanent (or at least, continuing beyond the death of the body).

Drugs and alcohol induce higher conscious artificially, with no preparation of the nervous system. If enlightenment is our natural state as humans, then these sorts of “aids” take us in the opposite direction. They blast us into an unnatural state that at the same time closely simulates the natural one, and hence offers the feeling of attaining “greater reality.” They also lead to the corresponding comedown and, generally speaking, the desire to recreate that state. They are forms of self-traumatization similar to those practiced by MK-ULTRA-like programs of abuse, designed to fragment the psyche and so harness the energy within it. They may create a veritable übermensch of astral capabilities, but it is only a fragment that is being empowered.

Every sperm is sacred, and every cell is vital of the functioning of the whole. What if those hijacked neurons, mutated receptors, or ruptured cells don’t mutate, but are simply burned up on the sacrificial altar of “expanded consciousness”? What if without them, our electromagnetic, ancestral fields wind up like a set of Christmas tree lights with missing bulbs: one fail, all fail? Every cell of our bodies stores information about our past, and every single moment of our lives is going to be called to the table on that day of reckoning. In simple terms, the gains of psychoactive substances are heavily taxed. Most experimenters, unaware of this fact, continue enjoying the gains with little or no clue as to the back-taxes that are building up. By the time they do realize it, there may be nothing left to do but declare bankruptcy.


[1] “Receptors are biological transducers that convert energy from both external and internal environments into electrical impulses. They may be massed together to form a sense organ, such as the eye or ear, or they may be scattered, as are those of the skin and viscera. Receptors are connected to the central nervous system by afferent nerve fibers. The region or area in the periphery from which a neuron within the central nervous system receives input is called its receptive field. Receptive fields are changing and not fixed entities.”
[2] Admittedly, Castaneda tried hard to disassociate himself from the psychedelic culture very early in his career.
[3] “Leary critics eventually point to his close connections during this time to international LSD-smuggling cartel, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, rumored to be a CIA front. The Brotherhood is controlled by Ronald Stark, who the Italian High Court later concludes has been CIA since 1960, and Brotherhood’s funds are channeled through Castle Bank in the Bahamas, a known CIA ‘proprietary.’ For two years Leary lives at Brotherhood headquarters in Laguna Beach, during which time Brotherhood corners the US market on LSD and distributes only one variety of the drug, “Orange Sunshine.” Stark reportedly knows a high- placed Tibetan close to the Dalai Lama and wants to provide enough LSD to dose all Chinese troops in Tibet. In the US, meanwhile, Stark provides enough Orange Sunshine to dose the hippie culture many times over. This is the ‘bad acid’ that Charles Manson’s followers took before murdering Sharon Tate and that the Hell’s Angels took before stabbing to death a black man during a Rolling Stones concert at Altamont. Because of this, William S. Burroughs, White Panther leader John Sinclair, and Ken Kesey eventually entertain the theory that Stark, Leary, and Orange Sunshine are all part of a CIA plot to discredit the radical left.”
[4] Taken too literally, these sorts of ideas contain within them the seeds of elitism (as does Castaneda’s work, for that matter, and any other spiritual, religious or occult doctrine I am aware of). Taken too literally, the idea that an unexamined life is without value is also fundamentally incorrect, because, at the end of the day, there are no individual lives, because everything belongs to God or Life Itself. I think Socrates was addressing the possibility that, without the essential element of awareness of each of our acts, there is no possibility of cohesion or unity to the countless moments which make up our lives. At the moment of death, those moments are then dissipated into infinity and return to undifferentiated energy, to be recycled as “fuel” in the ongoing movement of Spirit towards manifestation. This is probably the source of the popular idea of reincarnation, even though the idea of reincarnation conveniently ignores the fact that, once energy has returned to the undifferentiated state, it would not, by definition, retain any identity. In which case, the only thing that “reincarnates” is God/the Universe. The moments of an unexamined life remain part of the fabric of eternity, which is God’s body, and nothing is lost, much less “damned.” But the story which they were once a part of dissolves and is gone, as if never having existed—because as a narrative, it went nowhere in particular (or nowhere new).

35 thoughts on “The Serpent’s Promise, or: Drugs as Ritual Self-Sacrifice”

  1. Thanks mate really enjoyed that ….
    My only quibble is why one would want to retain self awareness for all eternity while embedded within the matrix of spirit .Wouldnt this be like being stuck on a flight in first class that lasts for eternity ?
    Simone de Beauvoir highlighted this very well in ” all men are mortal ” , the poor guy just ended up curled up in the foetal position begging for it to stop.
    Or perhaps you would end up , at best , as a sort of spiritual errand boy , being sent back to periscope depth to pass on great works of art and ideas to chosen ones such as Galileo and Shakespeare ? , giving rise to the legends of vampires ala ” only lovers left alive”.
    Me ? I’m with ” The Highwaymen ” , i will settle for simply being a single drop of rain , but i will remain .
    ( take care its a jungle out there )

  2. Synchronistically, I was just reading about the exact same concept of integrating one’s entire life experience as a step toward ultimate enlightenment. Trevor Ravenscroft discusses it in The Cup of Destiny, his analysis of Wolfram Von Eschenbach’s Grail romance Parzival. It’s in Chapter 7, Thou Art a Goose (I really am reading this book right now, just pulled it out of my bag to check). Ravenscroft calls it Time Reversal. He describes it as starting consciously reviewing every event of one’s day in backwards order and meditating upon the significance of each. From there one expands until an experience is reached of doing the same with one’s entire life. It seems like a way to make everything conscious and see the connections, thereby integrating all of one’s experience. In the chapter The Way of the Heart, he discusses the relationship between Parzival, Gawain and Feirifiz as that of spirit, soul and body, as you refer to the lighting up of the three neural networks.
    I tried the Time Reversal method the other night after I read about it, while lying in bed, and it gave me a headache, but I noticed that the next day I had some clarity about a few of last week’s experiences. It may start to happen spontaneously after one reaches a certain degree of development.
    And @Kutamun, the experience of uniting with the divine while living is called Samadhi and is supposed to be endless bliss. It’s the realization that all along we were God. The nervous system ramps up with the kundalini process and becomes capable of supporting that cosmic experience instead of being overwhelmed by it. I think our society shuts down that awareness because it threatens the power of others, so like Jasun says, it’s trying to make up for one’s cramped consciousness that drives a lot of our behavior, a remedial attempt to make up for lack of opportunity to develop as one should have been able to in the first place.
    And Jasun, I just read your brother’s book, and I am still integrating it, but it strikes me that he was an unconscious tantric, seeking enlightenment through very unorthodox means. I’ll comment more on that when I have something intelligible to say. The same Grail book talks about how a seeker after enlightenment has to “make his own apparel,” referring to the correct state of consciousness with which to approach spiritual things. Parzival has only the motley cloak of a fool which his mother gave him when he left home in an attempt to sabotage him in the world so he has to come home, so he must borrow a cloak from the Grail queen until he has his own. Your brother’s dandyism was so refined and so important to him that that made me think of him.

    • I got this book off Amazon that details the same process:
      “While studying Sanskrit in India, the author found parallels between the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and Pythagorean doctrine that seemed closer than mere coincidence. Based on geographic consonant transitions, it appears ‘Patanjali’ is a phonetic transition from ‘Pythagoras’. How this could occur is explained in the Historical Arguments section. Further arguments from major historical events led to the conclusion that stripped of the later Sanskrit notes and commentaries, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali represent a text from Pythagorean scriptures. The author presents his new translation of the Yoga Sutras in Lesson 5, after 4 preparatory exercises. It shows a way to the Pythagorean Silence. This Silence leads to a reward that can be gained within one’s current life, the recollection of Communion of the individual soul with the Universal Soul, It brings a wanted intensity of feeling and thought. This Pythagorean intensification of feeling and thought lit the genius that was Ancient Greece.”
      A archeologist friend from the UK says Ross is very legit. This book is a serious read.
      The process is very hard to follow though. Ross says it may have taken 3 years to perform properly.
      Grab this oddball book fast if you can. It’s a very obscure topic. Bonus info in the book is the real name of “Plato”. I literally found zero trying to research the name using the net last year. No idea how Ross came across this info.

      • Just reread your post.
        In the Pythagorean Silence, you are supposed to do the days recall but DONT meditate on each event. Just doing the recall itself is incredibly difficult.
        In time you are supposed to gain fluid recall of every minute of your previous day with no effort.
        I think this stuff is all right in line with the main blog post. Another piece of the puzzle for you gents.

  3. Was just reading a report of the fashions at the Melbourne Spring racing carnival Derby day and it emerges that ” Dandyism ” and Dandy attire are now considered hugely fashionable and have made a big comeback.
    Bloody Satan worshippers , theyre everywhere – pah .

  4. There is a strange book by Martin Amis called Time’s Arrow where a sort of higher self of a Nazi doctor from Auschwitz narrates the events of his life as experienced backwards. The only way the Holocaust be redeemed is by living it backwards so a race is created rather than destroyed. The German connection resonates with the Grail book of Wolfram, who was deeply esoteric. He was connected with Minnesingers, the German equivalent of troubadours, who seem to have secretly worshipped an Aphrodite like goddess figure called Minne. Wolfram has clear references to kundalini and chakras in his book. It’s entirely possible he was part of a tradition that could have included Pythagorean influences. The figure of Merlin in Arthurian mythos also supposedly lived backwards in time like magical Benjamin Button. Lots of odd goings on in Camelot and Montsalvat. Incidentally a commercial for the new Dr Strange film runs backwards chronologically with a mostly backmasked voiceover and that film is all about kundalini too.

  5. I also want to note that the Pythagorean / India influence goes both ways – the Pythagoreans practiced techniques identical to some tantric methods, notably vajroli mudra, the retention of semen in order to drive kundalini up the spine with the goal of samadhi.

    • Well…the Greeks ruled India for quite some time. They said that India didn’t even have written language when they got there.
      I’d really like to know who came up with all this stuff first on a proper timeline. Both sides claim to have invented this stuff.

      • My money is on India, the tantric practices derive from truly ancient shamanic rituals, but it’s a fascinating example of cultural cross pollination.
        What led you to that Pythagorean book?

    • “What led you to that Pythagorean book?”
      Oh boy, I barely remember (LOL).
      Was researching a ton of historical stuff with a UK archaeologist friend.
      Some of it led to unrelated things in India.
      The book he is writing deals with fraud and forgeries of early church documents.
      Actually, after looking into the situation heavily I don’t trust much of our history.
      Unless you have the original documents or books in your physical hands, you can’t really even begin to trust jack shit!

  6. Re my reference to Minne, the goddess figure in the Germanic tradition, in Parzival the character of Kundrie is unmistakably Kali, in the timeless dual goddess guise of a terrifying hag and a lovely woman. Ravens croft stresses the importance of learning star lore is interpreting Parzival, and it’s deeply important in Tantra, with various goddesses related to cycles of time representing lunar phases and stars. Also in Time’s Arrow, page 15 refers to the planet Venus, the star Sirius and the constellation the Plough, aka the Big Dipper. All of these are related to the Great Goddess.

  7. This is a rare case of an independent dialogue at this blog, meaning one I am not involved in. Part of the reason I’m not involved is that this part of the essay, the part relating to recapitulation, is probably the part I am least interested in. My own life experience ~ as someone who has tried compulsively to record every detail of my life, even waking up to record dreams and the like ~ has taken me further away from this approach, not closer to it. My sense is that a fully activated or “lit up” soul would be closer to a baby in terms of what knowledge, memory, or information it retained at any time, tho it might have non-volitional access to all that stuff. I suspect the desire to try and concretize every memory-moment is more to do with trying to reinforce the narrative of a self, a self that is essentially the sum of its memories and preferences. If so, that sort of self would still be excluding the memories that would undermine that narrative (especially of events that occurred before the narrated self emerged), while at the same time distorting the memories it does store by rewriting them to fit into the dominant narrative of ego (in this case, the spritualized ego of ubermensch).
    Sorry if that makes me the party pooper ~ even at my own party.

    • Paradoxically Ravenscroft maintains that the time reversal exercise brings one closer to the original state of innocent oneness with everything. He goes on at great length about it, quoting Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality, and Thonas Traherne’s reference to the Adamic state of man’s consciousness as “a naked simple pure Intelligence.” It may be as simple as the fact that owning one’s whole experience frees up tons of psychic energy, as one feels amazing upon releasing old trauma in therapy. But I think what they all may be getting at is that an exercise in which one reverses or suspends the flow of time in the space of consciousness has the potential to open up an experience of Eternity.

      • PS This may also be a case of “the chink in the armor,” a situation where the thing considered of the least significance is actually the mechanism for the greatest growth opportunity. In myths there is a motif where someone is perfectly armored save for one tiny missing plate so of course the arrow is divinely guided to that exact spot, symbolizing how enlightenment can come to a well defended consciousness through its one unguarded link.

    • ” I suspect the desire to try and concretize every memory-moment……”
      Yeah. It’s a crazy man’s quest. Incredibly hard to do.
      Why do these authors/Pythagoras/India shamans even bother trying?
      There is a rabbit hole here. I’m content to kick a rock down it from the surface.
      I’m thinkin there are snakes down there.

  8. Ok, I just figured out the meaning of the time reversal – it refers to the process of making the Philosopher’s Stone in alchemy, the development of the true divine self.
    From here:
    “The stone is first an old man, in the end a youth, because the albedo comes at the beginning and the rubedo at the end.”
    Like if you started youth with white hair and it eventually turned red with age. The time reversal process must help churn the currents of time perception in the psyche like the churning of the cosmic ocean in Tantra creates Amrita, the nectar that causes enlightenment.

    • There is all this stuff also:
      ““All knowledge is but remembrance”, said Plato who was a Pythagorean.”
      ” What then is hylozoics about? In his two books, Laurency presents a detailed and concrete world-picture and psychology. He says that he does not speculate on his own but systematizes ancient esoteric (hidden) knowledge. His basis is the Pythagorean secret school of knowledge (hylozoics), which was founded in Sicily 700 B.C. We know that this school exercised an enormous influence on the Greek culture at the time. The Ionian natural philosophers and, later, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle took strong impulses from its teachings. Platoism, which has been so important for Western culture, is actually an offshoot of the hylozoic school.
      The Pythagoreans kept their teachings secret to outsiders. However, since the end of the 19th century there has been a continuous process of publicizing formerly esoteric knowledge. Helena P. Blavatsky (1831–1891) and Alice A. Bailey (1880–1949) were particularly important in this work. It is interesting to see that both H.P.B. and A.A.B. expressly stated that they took a basically hylozoic view of reality. However, only Laurency publicized the very system. He did it, moreover, in a simple manner and with a clear terminology free from vague symbolism. He presents a straight message in modern terms and shows its applicability on human and social problems.”
      I guess they were trying to possibly trigger a dump of latent knowledge from past lives.
      You would become super intelligent? Is that the long and short of it?
      I’ve not studied the Plato/Pythagoras deal in depth.

  9. Nasrudin is sitting among a circle of disciples, when one of them asks him the relationship between things of this world and things of a different dimension.
    Nasrudin says: “You must understand allegory.”
    The disciple says: “Show me something practical – for instance an apple from Paradise.”
    Nasrudin picks up an apple and hands it to the man.
    “But this apple is bad on one side-surely a heavenly apple would be perfect.”
    “A celestial apple would be perfect,” says Nasrudin; “but as far as you are able to judge it, situated as we are in this abode of corruption, and with our present faculties, this is as near to a heavenly apple as you will ever get.”
    COMMENTARY: bad apples can be extremely sweet on their good side. Bad sweet potatos are also extremely sweet before they suddenly go bad.

  10. The Philosopher’s Stone would be the fruit of the tree of life? But everyone know David Radius Hudson found the Tree of Life buried alongside Hiram Abiff… so what’s the point? Knowing the rubedo can be real ionizing radiation?

  11. So apparently Karl Kellner found the Philosopher’s Stone, then found arabs and indians practicing sexual tantra that experienced the same effects from sex that Kellner would experience from the chemical philosopher’s stone.
    fleurdamour may be into something here, and I tend to think of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of good and evil more in terms of fire and the Sumerian ‘Me’. Sex, Drugs and the Philosopher Stone are more connected to the Tree of Life in my humble opinion.

  12. Reply to your question:
    It’s not too far-off that some DNA repairing technology could allow us to exist indefinitely, just look up Astragalus and TA-65. The politics of leaving indefinitely I will leave to you…
    I don’t doubt for one second that wild claim about people taking the Philosopher’s Stone as made public by David Radius Hudson don’t having a need to eat anymore. It just occurs to me as a possibility, that maybe that could happen. Again, I’ll leave the politics of warping spacetime by will to you…
    We are breaking beings. We are beings that break and we are constantly breaking down. We are not One with the Universe, except in the sense the Universe is breaking down too – and expanding.
    These bible legends do represent SOMETHING.
    Rosicrucians did wield TEMPORAL power.
    Some ADVANCED ANCIENT CIVILIZATION may have existed.
    The ARK OF THE COVENANT may have been some form of FTL communication.
    But basically this just sounds like bogus the Principia Discordia advertisement for the Illuminati!
    The final secret of the illuminati should have been some deep realization about the nature of light and quantum mechanics as they relate to some quantum theory of gravity or something.
    We don’t have that advanced Theory of Everything. If we had, then it probably would explain in scientific terms your hallucinations of non-local spirits.
    Please don’t make a fool of yourself by not taking personal responsibility for your writings, claiming you channeled them. You tuned in, but they are still your writings, you didn’t write this by automatic process, did you? They may be the results of your drug experimentations, but they are your writings and you have to accept personal responsibility for them.
    The personal I is a delusion, we are DNA-based life that is utterly dependant on our biosphere and society. That’s the dangerous, communist idea that you should have voiced. Instead, you insisted on spirits this, spirits that – major turn off. What if you we seeing a brain reconstruction of what memes look like? That’s more approachable.
    This dangerous, communist idea that the personal I is a delusion is at the root of your post. Is I a delusion? No. Is our civil society organized based on the concept of personal responsibility stemming from the individuality? Yes, somewhat, even personifying corporations.
    So the dangerous idea, this dangerous idea claiming we are somewhat robotical, predictable automatons, the dangerous MK-ULTRA experiments that can jolt someone with an implant to kill, the dangerous fragmenting of our reality of oneness epitomized by the Zen Master who had his finger cut when he falsely claimed he had realized it.

  13. Also, cigarretes are hardly power plants or entheogens and they still do shit for you body. The one thing they’re good at is preventing Alzheimer. But I think you focus too much on spirits from the plants when you should focus on brain chemistry. Are there ‘spirits’ in an alchemical sense in plants? Yes.
    But the net effect is more an artifact of evolution, or a consequence there of, it’s 99% brain chemistry and only 1% spirits. Is LSD ‘concentrated death’? Maybe, but that would just trigger some circuit in the brain that is usually activated by death, and this is normal brain chemistry, no need to invoke the supernatural – even though we know it’s there.

  14. I dont know much about brain chemistry & i don’t subscribe to the brain-ocentric viewpoint that everything can be reduced to what happens in the brain; not even remotely. Also what’s your beef with this dangerous communist idea of no I ~ that I shouldn’t be voicing it or that I should? It’s not at all clear from your comments.
    I agree that the notion of spirits is questionable, which is why I relate it to the reality of ancestors and of psychic fragmentation.

  15. Right, the brain-ocentric viewpoint… but then we don’t know about quantum physics and you use quantum physics concepts to describe spirits? Not that there’s anything too wrong with it. But I get your point.
    on spirits:
    on I:
    on brain and I:
    still on I:
    Yes, can’t you see the link? There’s a link right there between Leary, pop eastern mysticism, ego death and MK-ULTRA. Is sensational! They are trying to erode the base of our democratic society with scientific determinism mixed with metaphysics! But then I just sounded like a right-wing nut character right out of the Illuminatus! Trilogy.
    Please talk about ‘ego-death’! It’s a ruse! A ruse to rob our society of its ‘traditional’ (they were revolutionary, once) values of self-responsibility and individuality.
    But ironically, I don’t have a beef with your spirits! In fact, I believe the reality is somewhat closer to the stone tape theory and theories of water memory! But you have constructed a character (you) that talks about non-local spirits, and you have to realize the CSICOP is eventually coming after you. I’m kind of kidding, but can you see it coming?

  16. I think it’s definitely an inversion of values. but you might be right: the plants and biochemical compounds might be USING US. But that’s memetics.

  17. With marijuana I see that it discharges the input overload. So if you were highly stimulated due to your work for example, or research, then it helps to discharge that overload and be more productive.
    That’s average marijuana only, so we’re not talking about a blunt that gives you visions or anything, just good ole’ M.J.
    This is a little bit different from chronic use when you haven’t accumulated enough tension before you discharge with MJ.
    Think of the human nervous system as a capacitor and MJ as as an electric load that discharges the capacitor.
    So chronic use of marijuana is a bit of a chronic load, you’re constantly discharged. That’s why they call it yin.

  18. Ironically I can remember only one strong transformational – or integrational experience with MJ and that was while physically sick, so there you go,

  19. This article had my head spinning all day long. I never thought about hallucinogens to allow the spirit of plants become incarnated in us. So, that made me think about Gaia being under the influence of something that allows us to be conscious. And it is true, we are slowly killing Gaia! Is that possible? Are we using it for our own addictions? Is consciousness the cause of addictions? To possess consciousness at any cost, even having to kill for it. Are plants aware? I can’t sleep.

  20. I have this idea. I wonder if elightenment isn’t actually a good thing because you just become this individualized being beyond the natural program but now you’re stuck there. I mean like it’s like hacking the system and maybe you get to be a lord over worlds but that’s such a petty and measly thing compared to the source of all being. I mean it’s like imagine hacking a video game where you can travel through walls and do whatever you want, but you’re stuck in the video game forever. While us normal people, instead of spending all our lives trying to hack the game we simply lose the game and the video game turns off and we just go back to our real lives. Does anybody have any ideas on this? I’ve heard from this guy Steve Richards say something similar. He thinks buddhism and all religions are annunaki religions. What if annunaki are like these enlightened beings? They are rulers over worlds but they never go back to source. Just mere hackers of some stupid program universe.


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