Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
Flowers of Wiricuta: A Gringo's Journey to Shamanic Power.
Pinkson, Tom Soloway. (1995)
Mill Valley, CA: Wakan Press.
Description: Paperback, xiv + 288 pages.
Contents: Forward by Gerald G. Jampolsky, introduction, 12 chapters, appendix.
Excerpt(s): Flowers of Wiricuta is about this amazing process. It is about the "gardening wisdom" of indigenous people, who still follow the ancient Shamanic religion of their ancestors. It is also an adventure story about a Caucasian man from New York City and his initiation into the spirituality of the Americas.
This journey with Huichol shamans of Mexico and other "medicine teachers" from North and South America leads through a mystical doorway into realities far beyond the ordinary, guided by "wisdom elders" who know how to transform darkness, fear, suffering, and death-the shit of our lives-into fertilizer to nurture the blossoming process. (page xiii)
Later that night, with the shaman's blessing, I spoke to the [peyote] flower and told it of my plan: I will take you into my body. I will eat you as the blessed sacrament that you are and I will take you right down into the center of my heart. In that way I will truly take you home and carry you with me always. Then I slowly cut out the flower along with a piece of the flesh of the peyote. Reverently, I placed them in my mouth. I felt a gentle vibration flow down into my body. Later that night, after ingesting more hicouri, I felt the full impact of what had been set in motion.
When the medicine first started coming on, I saw hicouri plants floating through the air all around me. First it was just a few, then more, until finally they filled up the space around me and started entering my body. They headed straight into my heart and I watched in amazement as they collected there. Suddenly, during the digestion process, a small peyote flower, a tutu, appeared right in the center of my heart, exactly like the flower I had eaten earlier in the day. Then another flower appeared in my heart. Then another, and another, and another. Soon my heart was completely filled with flowers with no room left for even one more. But still they kept coming, overflowing from my heart into my chest cavity. The tutus kept blossoming. Soon my chest was filled, so the flowers began to move into the rest of my body. In a few moments, I was filled with the beautiful flowers from head to toe. Slowly and rhythmically, they circulated through me, like water through an empty container. Their beauty and fragrance was overwhelming. I entered a state of ecstasy, my spirit floating with the flowers. Deep down inside, I heard a voice speak softly but with authority: This is what it is like when you open your heart to the love that is within you. This is the true blossoming of the flowers. We are giving you this experience so you will know with all your senses what this beauty is like. Now it is up to you to do the gardening work that will enable your own tutus to blossom. Always remember, no matter what kind of situation you are presented with, there is always a way to create a response to it that will help the flowers to blossom.
I am writing this book now to help me remember. It is too important to forget. It is my life. ....
It is my firm belief that in order to go forward in this gardening work of healing our shattered relationships within ourselves, with others, and with the environment, we need to first go backward to the nature-based shamanic heritage that underlies all the world's religions and is humanity's oldest relationship to spirit. In this time of cultural crisis, we desperately need to rediscover what we have forgotten: our ancestors' sacred relationship with the awesome powers of creation. Within the past's rich storehouse, which is still intact today among tribal people such as the Huichols and other living shamanic peoples, there is important knowledge. We must not imitate the past, nor turn our backs on technology, nor play at being Indians, nor retreat into a romanticized fantasy of Rousseau's "noble savage" living in the pristine jungle. Instead, we must rediscover the working tools of an intuitive wisdom that knows the universe is alive, intelligent, and always transmitting information-to those who still remember how to listen-about how to live in harmony and balance with its constantly changing rhythms. In order to go forward in a way that ensures a future worth living in for the generations yet to come, we must first remember these old medicine ways and explore their relevance for today. (pages 6-8)
Gradually, I began to realize that psychedelics were tools, powerful tools yes, but used by the right hands in a responsible way, tools that could open doors to deeper, hidden parts of the mind. After a year's preparation of continued research, reflection, and facing my worst fears, I decided I was ready to take the plunge and face whatever was inside me. I found three trusted and experienced guides and on a sunny, spring Saturday at their house in Haight-Ashbury, I took a full dose of LSD.
My guides considered LSD to be a sacred substance, "like a communion wafer," they said. "It can help you see God." I had heard and read of people having spiritual experiences with psychedelics but I dismissed them all as "deranged hallucinations." It was the unconscious I was after. The spiritual approach was not something I believed in since I was an atheist. I thought religion was pabulum for the weak, those feeble dupes of authoritarian figures who couldn't face the realities of life. But I went along with my friends' approach and didn't say anything. At first, we sat together quietly in the living room. After a while, they began to speak: "I can feel it coming on," said one. "Yeah, it feels pretty strong," said another. I felt nothing. Paranoia set in. Maybe it's all a put-on. Or maybe my physiology is different from others and it doesn't work on me. Just then, I noticed the curtains billowing and got up to shut the window. A chill ran down my spine when I reached out to the window and found it already closed! Now I knew something was happening and that I wasn't in control of it. I remembered the words of a Beatles song repeated as instructions by my guides: "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream." So I released into the river of my consciousness, turned loose, and lay down on my back to watch the show.
In many ways, my life since then has been an attempt to integrate what I saw, what I heard, and what I experienced on what turned out to be a transcendent voyage. I had a full-blown spiritually transforming mystical experience. ....
But here was a new channel, one that I didn't even know was on the set! It was a channel of Gnostic, numinous knowledge, containing what psychologist Charles Tart of the University of California, Davis calls "state specific information." Tart postulates different channels of awareness, each containing different frequencies of energy available experientially only by tuning into the specific wavelength carrying the desired information.
.... Simultaneously, I saw that the essence of my being was something far beyond the conditioning of my ancestral roots. It was an energy force of light that was connected with an infinite cosmic light. I saw my soul and for the first time I understood the saying in the bible that we are made in God's image. Having rejected the existence of God and religion, I'd also rejected the notion that I was made in the anthropomorphic image of an old man with a beard on a throne atop a cloud looking down and judging us all. Yet here I was, "grokking" infinity (science fiction writer Robert Heinlein's term for total and complete comprehension). In my vision, I was grokking the deepest part of "I," the part that was transcendent of ego identity, of persona, of physical being, and was made of this same substance of infinite light.
As a child, I had often tried to comprehend infinity by looking up at the stars. I could never do it; I'd short circuit the system and give up. But now I was in infinity! I saw how my personality, physical body, and identification as Tom Pinkson comprised a limited, time/space container that held within it a substance of infinite potential. I also saw how I had limited myself through believing that the totality of my being consisted of the time/space container. Wow, I can't believe this was all I could say. Previous compartmentalization of time into past, present, and future dissolved. Being one with infinity, I realized that on the level of my essence, I was one with all that had been, all that was, and all that will be. There was no separation, no division-only blissful oneness. This was new territory for me and I released into it completely. I saw very clearly how alcohol produced the opposite effect than the one I was now experiencing, and in that moment, my relationship to alcohol changed. A beer or margarita now or then, but that was it. Who would want to take anything that dulls the magnificence of what I was now in? ....
.... When I came down from the acid trip, I was in a daze. It took me several days to come back to earth and then my burning desire was to try and understand everything that I had experienced. I also wanted to see if I could replicate the states I had been in without using LSD. My research turned in the direction of Eastern religion and philosophy. Both at school and in the smorgasbord of opportunities offered in the Bay Area in the last years of the '60s, I tried just about all that was going on. I read the Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu sacred scriptures, I studied the Tao Te Ching, Taosim, Buddhism, and Zen, I went to yoga and meditation classes and began a meditative practice that I still continue today. My whole life changed. Instead of trying to change the world from without, I was now trying to change my inner world. I wore flowers in my hair, which was growing longer and longer, and clothes that reflected the colors and feelings of my visions. I became a full-fledged Haight-Ashbury hippie with a pad two blocks away from all the action. Through it all, I was seeking communion with the numinous, the deeper part of who I really was. (pages 21-25)
Hearing the voice took me back in time to when I first learned about the presence of this deeper love that transcends romantic and personal love. It was revealed in the third morphogenetic field of information from my first visionary journey back in 1966. In this vision, I saw Christ on the cross, his body being impaled, his shudders at receiving the blow. Then my awareness went inside his body, feeling what he was feeling, and I wanted to kill the bastards who were inflicting the torture. But a voice from within Christ said, Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do. At that moment, I felt the presence of a kind of love that I didn't even know existed, welling up in Christ's heart and extending toward his abusers. They are asleep. To punish them will serve naught. They are hurting themselves and do not even know it. They are like unconscious children crying out for love. This vision was to come back to me in many forms in the ensuing years, but this was the first opening of the door.
I burst into tears for all the pain in the world, all the unconsciousness. I cried for myself, my family and friends, all of humanity, and all of life. In that instant, I realized that the rest of my life would be about doing my best to stay in connection with this love. I understood then why Christ symbolizes the healing power of love for millions of people around the world. Christ-consciousness is unconditional love, a spiritual energy force of infinite light, wisdom, and compassion. This is the greatest treasure of all, I affirmed. (page 47)
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