18 August 2005

What I learned in the Rockies (or “Fuck occultism”)

So I am back from my wee trip. At the last minute, we decided to head west to the Rocky Mountains rather than south to the Badlands. It was raining most of the trip, so we cut it down to two days rather than three.

After barbecuing, drinking, and hiking (not in that order), came Mark's birthday trip: I picked some psilocybin mushrooms from a friend on the way down, and they were some of the best I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

A few things of note took place while enjoying the mushrooms, namely my new interpretations of nature, the interesting conversation the spirit of the tree that was decimated by lightning had with me, the long time Mark and I spent rearranging coloured sticks and circles into new contexts, some questions I had for myself (and the coloured sticks later), and then the meditative experiences I had when we came down and were zipped up in our sleeping bags and tent as it rained away outside.

On the topic of nature, and reality in general, I had made some attempts to interact with the layers I could notice early on in my psilocybin experience. Later, I found myself interacting with so many different layers of context while in nature that I all was relative, everything was connected. Obviously, to put any of this into words really can't do it justice. And all of this may or may not have been by the articles on information architecture and sensate spaces, by Andrew Vande Moere (Centre of Design Computing & Cognition, University of Sydney), that I was reading on the way out of Edmonton. Essentially, what I came to observe is that everything is connected, that everything is alive, and it is only as alive as I observe it to be. Any context of life I settle on is just that: particular paradigm that I can enter and leave as easily as any room in any building.

On that note, I was venturing into the forest and came across a tree that had been struck by lightning at some point in the past. Its sap had boiled right out of it and it was blackened, the upper portion of it frayed and fallen down a small cliffside along the Bighorn River. The bark was alive with the same energy I could sense all over, as I have in the past during meditations, and although these mushrooms hadn't produced much visual psychedelia at all, a subtle aspect of the tree wouldn't stop moving and offered me a gift. Nothing material, but something to make up who I am. After some abstract communication between the tree and myself, it made it know than I should return back to camp, along a journey that would eventually change the course of my whole trip — which, in the form of language being used, was synonomous with time, moments, and my life, as well as the walk back to camp. I was very enthusiastic about my time with the tree, so I went back with Mark afterwards but we became more interested in the spider webs we came across in a dark mossy patch somewhere else. Whee!

For a good couple hours of the night, Mark, Jeremy, and I were rearranging these neon glowsticks into different patterns on the ground, in the dark. While Jeremy constructed boats and stick men, Mark and I managed to take it into a sort of Zen glow stick ceremony à la bonsai trees and tea ceremonies. We were fairly lucid, not "all fucked up" as many would presume. With every movement, the whole story the sticks were telling would shift. Out of possibly thousands of combinations we created, some working with more order, some with more chaos, we agreed upon about four or five as being perfectly designed constructs. By that, we had found perfect balance, colour combination, emotion, use of space, weighting, flow & direction, contrast, and not only all of that, but a perfect story that we could both really be at peace with. It was a state of mind that I am interested in re-experiencing now, as we joked that we would have no ieda how to recall any of the processes we were using to make this art the next day, nor could we ever explain it.

Unfortunately, at this point, we'd lost the camera in the tent somewhere (or more like, we hid it from ourselves in the tent so we wouldn't be running around with it in the rain all night). So there are no pictures of our few masterpieces, but I couldn't help but reference the sculptures of Constantin Brancusi (of which, his "Bird of Space" fetched US$27.4 million), Wassily Kandinsky's spiritual concepts in art, the I Ching hexagrams, shamanistic bone throwing, reading tea leaves, and Zen ceremonies. We had left ego behind and floated from one form to another — as expressed by our art that evening — from moment to moment. Such beauty, intuition, and empathy went into each movement of the coloured sticks that we were actively watching a story unfold as we wrote it. But it wasn't all us, depending on how the story would be unfolding and how we felt about it all, we'd allow more chaos in, and sometimes more order. No one was more preferable, it just changed the flow of the story and kept it alive.

After retiring to our sleeping bags, soaked, cold, but unbelievably conntent, Mark and Jeremy proceeded to fall asleep while I tried a light attempt at meditation. I arrived somewhere I've only ever seen in detail before but never had the pleasure of viewing from the point of view of a landscape: It's hard to explain, as though activation of the ājñā (third eye) over the course of the night tuned into a very definite plane upon which to view. I thought it may have been what heaven would look like, the realm of God, something processing countless amounts of information and data — beyond "data" — but with the flow and living expression of something full of energy, life, emotion, but more than all of these things. It was so much pure, and unbridled by any sort of humanistic contexts. Every point contained therein an infinite amount of other points, and they existed in these landscape as fractal nodes continuously turning in on themselves. Their edges defined them, like fractal barnacles sort of, and they would shimmer with every colour. What I interpreted as flowing rivers of matter, with more the movement of magma, but coloured white, green, and gold, would flow up near me, looking at me with millions of little golden eyes upon green skulled faces, upon the flow of this fractal barnacle structure that this realm had. I, too, could sense my entrance as an observer into this place, and that I was composed of the same sort of fractal material, as though matter could exist anywhere, but was tied here within a structure of infinite possibilities. Structure was maintained throughout by intent and will. Emotion was applicable to my interaction with the green skull-faced magma-river of barnacle fractals (that's a mouthful), but not of the egoistic sort that affects human beings so "personally," but more as a driving factor that tells a story of interaction and drives intention and will among this place. No offense could be taken in this place, only story, drive, and the dance of interaction among beings of energy. Which we all are.

I wish I could say it resembles an Alex Grey or HR Giger painting so everyone could know how I saw it, but it didn't. I've seen similar sorts of paintings of such things before, namely on the cover of an old edition of The Occult, by Colin Wilson, but it's long out of print.

Interestingly, I found the notion that this peculiar plane surrounded my and was an interface for my interaction with reality on many fundamental levels. But beyond its façade, the landscape between myself and the edge of the landscape was what made up my reality. Everything beyond was nonexistant, or at least not relative to this plane. (Keep in mind that my interpretation of dimension here is not akin to our understanding of everyday three dimensions.) I existed in this plane, and beyond it was simply infinite possibility, which became more "solidified" out of these fractal points as they began to make up a landscape for me to interact with my story upon. Even though, spatially in waking life, distance can easily be measured, here we are all alone but connected to any possibility that we can figure out.

And on that, I may be coming to be done with the occult. In my eyes, I see people chasing after knowledge without the experience, and that is hollow. It's like reading about sex without fucking. Like daydreaming about the good life without bruising a few knees and losing a few loved ones. I am sick of the trite and meaningless pursuit of the intangible, when, in fact, all people really need to do is learn how to just be. I will continue with my own workings, but I need no more texts or conversations about any of this. I have my own personal wisdoms built up over the past years, and no one can alter or change them now except for me.

We are all on our own journey, interacting with our own contexts and stories. I can only live by example and inspire those to enjoy their lives. I hope I can live up to these expectactions of myself, and if the tree was right, I am doing okay so far (my projection of God upon a tree?). Regardless, enough with theory. It's time to do.


Anonymous said...

You mentioned no more conversations, so this will probably only annoy: Oddly enough, I've had similar feelings after some powerful chemognosis this weekend; syrian rue with some unexpectedly strong psilocybin blindfolded and ear-plugged. I'm not big into trip reports myself, but the mushroom/rue matrix helped me to recover, through some mythic-interface, parts of myself to change--through action--in ways that have made me feel faint disgust by the idea of any occult practice. I'm not really lusting after any "knowledge", and I imagine I'll be fairly saited for some time to come.

One the other hand, I find that I still have various needs that certain practices help fulfill: "It is my will that someone pay for my dinner." But: "Chop wood, carry water." Did you read Rushkoff's Reality as Subversion?

Fell said...

I am not familiar with Syrian rue; I will have to look into it. I am also not familiar with Douglas Rushkoff, so he is one I’ll be looking into further, too.

It’s not that I am “done” with spirituality, but I am about to drop the whole occult context in favour of something new. When I look at other fields, other pursuits, I see people doing stuff. Outside of a small circle, I am beginning to develop a distaste for scholars. Too much theory, not enough practice. This is why I adore design, especially going over stuff by Andrew Vande Moere and Tom Carden, information architects, where they are really making practical headways into the manipulation and understanding of data and semiotics.

Many in the occult community perseveres and thrives off of their willingness to remain jaded to their own egos, in my humble opinion. And like any field, the wiser you become, the more you move beyond that field into something grander.

My good friend, Jason, dismissed the occult community years ago and I figured I’d give it a few more stabs to see what was going on. As far as I can tell, nothing productive.

It’s one thing to buy into a culture moulded around the concept of hidden knowledge, and another to actually get involved and make some progress in self-discovery and working towards achievement. I guess I just don’t see much more for the occult paradigm to offer. Once you work through 20 books (let alone the hundreds that my friends and I have) and got the theory down, it's time to move on.

I will still work with my magic, but I maintain my Chaos roots and temper it to my lifestyle and prerogatives. I’ve done and seen too much to bicker about details, it’s doesn’t serve anyone and what I am aware of, I can’t rightly put into words to share with others.

tim boucher said...

Well shit, I totally understand what you're saying here and have started feeling more and more the same way. A lot of the shit that I used to think was really important I now see is not as important as just going out and kicking ass and taking names. And that's what I'm trying to focus on now, while still being able to understand how to mine the fields of knowledge and subcultures that I've come to know and love that brought me here.

Fell said...

Yeah, I hear that. I don't mean to discourage anyone from pursuing any occult avenues, but it seems to have gotten so muddied with paranoia and conspiracy and false trials and tribulations. I want to try to refine my approach and utilise other systems to find a method that is just about the wisdom and experiences necessary to get there.

lvx23 said...

syrian rue and mushrooms - highly recommended. I've had some profound experiences. Good with L as well. The rue seems to ground the trip out while expanding it into a muchmore ancient space. Lot's of beings. Juts make sure you read the cross indications. Can be fatal.

Skull Skates! I had a skull skates shirt when I was 15. I didn't know they were still around. V. cool.

Practice and experience is always most important. Theory contextualizes practice but it should also give you the foundation to expand and evolve. There are plenty of armchair magicians (and armchair activists) but there are also a lot who do the work. I wouldn't be so quick to assume it's all just mental masterbation.

But psychedelic use can really make the rest of this magick wankery seem like, well, wankery. All the magick we study is really just explication of early shamanism. Venture into the dark places of the earth (VITRIOL) and find the light.

I guess it depends on what you want out of the occult community (if there is such a thing). I personally get a lot out of it, though these days it's more of a sounding board for my own evovling ontology. I also like to feel as if I'm contributing something to the dialog of the canon. Hopefully my experiences will translate into my presence in the community which will influence others to seek the experiences.

Let the paths evolve and grow and don't try to fit them into any particular occult mold. You can rename the occult to be something more amorphous but you don't need to abandon it altogether.

Fell said...

Hey lvx23,

I have a friend that brings in a lot of exotic plants, so I'll check it out with him for sure.

Skull Skates is still a strong brand in Western Canada, mostly on the "punk" crowd. I grew up with it so it's kind of a heritage thing amongst my friends and I. They're classic, though.

As for psilocybin, I found these two articles very interesting:

New Scientist, Wired