Pope Mike meets the Reverend Nemu!

Mike Brancatelli interviewed me for the Mikeadelic podcast, and we had an absolute ball, ranting at each other with anarchistic abandon. We talked about Daime, ayahuasca and racism in the academy, and a good deal of our chat was about anarchy and the politics of truth, including details about how “Scientism” resembles institutionalized religion.

By the end of our chat Mike had become a Pope.

Enjoy!

 

Party politics, party poopers

 

Well done Corbyn, but ooh, I wonder what Tony Blair has to say for himself…

On the morning after the election, as we face the poetically amusing prospect of a “May-DUP” coalition, I am disgusted to find myself laughing at losers. These include the right-wing press, whose unsuccessful campaigns of slander reveals their increasing obsolescence, the liberal media and journalists like Owen Jones eating their shitty words about Corbyn the distress of Theresa May and her moribund fellows. So many losers to laugh at!
I usually do my best to focus my attention on examples of love and success I find around me, but today I’m enjoying the humiliation of people I have never met and never will meet. What is going on?
Political philosopher Carl Schmitt notes that soldiers are not naturally accustomed to war: they spend most of their time getting on with normal life, only fighting occasionally and for the most part unwillingly. Politicians, on the other hand, scheme and fight from morning to night in their day jobs. War is a natural state of affairs for them, and the most extreme and pure expression of their craft is the murder and mutilation of human beings. As he puts it:
“only in real combat is revealed the most extreme consequence of the political grouping of friend and enemy. From this most extreme possibility, human life derives its specifically political tension.”
Schmitt was a complicated character (and a Nazi), but he knew a bit about politics.

As the state sends its dirty tendrils deeper and deeper into civil society and mental space, foreign policy becomes endless war and home affairs focuses on the enemies within our borders. I’m genuinely happy that Mr. Corbyn did so well, and with a campaign that was admirably unvitriolic in contrast to the belligerence of his enemies in parliament and the press. But my constituency is my own head, and that is a nuanced place which does not admit simple dichotomies of good and evil, beautiful and ugly, enemy and friend.

Well done Mr. Corbyn, and all the campaigners who got behind him. Now give me back my brain!

May Newsletter

This being the first twist in plenty of time, we have a little catching up to do.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Drugs in the Bible!

I’ve been giving talks about the holiest and headiest of plants and preparations, including at Trinity College, Dublin, and at Beyond Psychedelics in Prague.

The Third Wave podcast also did a fun interview with me on the subject.

And Psychedelic Press published several articles, including:

Review of DMT and the Soul of Prophesy

Dr. Strassman challenges the scientific consensus that angels and spirits are impressions created by the brain, proposing his ‘theoneurological’ model – where higher powers use our brains to communicate with us.

It’s a great book, and if he had gone further to challenge the assumptions of theology regarding drugs and the authority of those invisible powers, it would have been a truly fantastic book. Read it here.

Fortunately, that fantastic book does exist. I wrote it (in conjunction an invisible demoness), and it is…

…exploring the drug-addled and disobedient prophets of the Bible, as well as:

– the psychology of perception shifting between different languages.

– how neurodiversity, epilepsy and trans-cranial magnetic stimulation can trigger savantism and illuminate human potentials.

– muscular super-strength, angelic visitations and voices in life-threatening situations.

Buy this book (but not on Amazon where they are MEANIES)
The Blog of Baphomet review is here, other reviews here.

Review of Ayahuasca Reader

The launch party was fun.

My review went like this:“Meaning shifts as culture drifts, and the shaman walks between the worlds, talking between tongues, his language twisting-twisting (to use Narby’s translation of an Ashaninka term). With “alternative facts” in the “fake news”, we seem to be sliding into the slippy abyss of epistemology, and perhaps we could all benefit from learning how to tongue-twist.” <read the rest here>

I also made my first ever meme…
… and caused some trouble at the British Museum for their filthy oily sponsors.
Here’s a write-up from BP or not BP, watch out for the soon-to-be-released film of the cashmob, and get in touch if you’d like to join us for more actorvism.
Tell the others!
Share
Tweet
Forward
And let me know about podcasts and publications you’d like to see me on and in respectively.

DMT and the Soul of Prophecy – book review

In DMT and the Soul of Prophecy (2016), Dr. Strassman returns to lab notes taken during thousands of DMT trips he facilitated lle researching his first book, the groundbreaking eDMT: The Spirit Molecule.

This time, having left the Zen temple and returned to his Jewish roots, he makes a very good case that Old Testament (OT) accounts of interactions with spiritual entities are a better match for the phenomenology of the DMT experience than Buddhist descriptions of mystical union with something greater (pp. 22, 54). He also excludes Amazonian shamanism as a model for comparison, though here it is because of its “problematic” morals and culture, where “violent, often murderous, competition for power, prestige, money, and sex is commonplace” (p. 56-7). These are criticisms, however, that could equally be leveled at King Solomon himself or even Yahweh, save for the fact that He prefers milk and honey to money; and religions based on the Bible have not been entirely free of violence and power politics.

Regardless of the reason for his choice, having set his parameters Strassman makes a fascinating study at the juncture between OT theology and DMT psychopharmacology, detailing the physical, emotional and informational aspects of altered states as described and interpreted thousands of years ago in Jewish scripture and today in the lab.

The comparisons are compelling, with physical symptoms such as Daniel’s pounding heart, Jeremiah’s gastrointestinal crisis and Habakkuk’s trembling all echoed in the bodies of DMT subjects. DMT trips can occasion feelings of awe, reverence and reassurance similar to those described by the prophets (p. 131), and both subjects and prophets describe visions with the phenomenology of fire (p. 157, 167). On another plane entirely, Jacob wrestled with an entity who dislocated his leg, and one of Strassman’s subjects was pinned down and sodomized by crocodiles. Intelligent, sentient entities appear in both states, as chimeras or visions of hands, eyes and wings, unreal yet more real than real. Voices whisper words of inspiration, healing and guidance amidst glimpses of eternity, resurrection and the world to come (p. 193).

The similarities are many and the differences are revealing, including a certain gravity in the prophetic state, and moral and theological guidance that was rarely reported in his clinic.

Strassman’s ‘theoneurological’ model proposes that the prophetic and psychedelic states share features because the prophets were also under the influence of DMT, which was secreted naturally by their bodies as a result of fasts, meditations, certain postures and other devotional techniques (p. 260). Jacob had a special place he would visit that was conducive to the encounter, David advised contemplation and Moses sexual abstinence (p. 98 & 99), and many traditions today both psychedelic and otherwise make similar recommendations. For Daniel, three weeks of sadness provoked a vision (p. 98); elsewhere Strassman notes that levels of naturally occurring endogenous DMT and 5MEO-DMT in rats are increased by stress (p. 285).

DMT and the Soul of Prophesy is written with the clarity, organisation and intellectual rigor one would expect from a researcher of Strassman’s calibre, and his model is pioneering and extremely compelling. His assertion, however, that “there is little, if any, evidence in the text” that “Hebrew Bible personalities experienced prophecy by ingesting psychoactive plants or drugs” (p. 14) may throw out the baby with the bong-water. He does concede that the method of burning incense (i.e. in large quantities of finely ground resins in a small airtight chamber) “suggests an exogenous mind-altering agent” (p. 101), but he stops short of inquiring into the psychopharmacology of the ingredients listed in Exodus and the Talmud. As I explore in my book Neuro-Apocalypse, the most exalted plants in scripture are known to psychopharmacology as safe and pleasant psychoactives, and the Bible gives clear instructions on how to prepare and ingest them.

Myrrh and galbanum act at opioid receptors (like heroin). Frankincense, cinnamon and saffron contain GABA receptor agonists (like valium). The recipe for the holy massage oil blends together resins to form a complex synergetic mixture, containing eugenol (from which MDMA is manufactured), estragole (with its ‘electric LSD-like effects’), and various enzyme inhibitors to unlock the psychoactive potentials of other compounds present:

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed (massaged) him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of YHWH came upon David from that day forward. (1 Samuel 16:13)

Theoneurology, where “changes in brain function are the means by which God communicates with us”, challenges the assumptions of neurotheology, the popular materialistic model which assumes that “changes in brain function create the impression of such communication (p. 11)”. Strassman’s brilliant insight explains a great deal in terms of the phenomenology of extraordinary experience. It also brings fresh meaning into the scientific conversation on consciousness, where statistical significance has often been the only way to measure meaning.

His comment that “it is a top-down rather than a bottom-up model”, however, is problematic, because the prophets of Jewish scripture regularly challenge the voices and compulsions that drive them. Noah was condemned by the rabbis of the Holy Zohar for his failure in this respect, allowing the flood to happen without raising an objection. Moses, on the other hand, is praised as the greatest prophet of all, and he saved his tribe from annihilation by questioning Yahweh’s bloodlust; so “Yahweh repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people” (Exodus 32:14). Invisible powers drive our meat-suits, and sometimes they have evil intentions; but something specifically human steers them, in the pages of scripture and the folds of the brain. Prophets rise up against divine power where necessary. Sometimes they approach the Godhead bottom up, from their own volition:

“And Enoch walked with Elohim: and he was not; for Elohim took him.” (Genesis 5:24)

Strassman’s neurobiology is innovative, but his theology is strictly orthodox. He engages the letters, the legends and the laws of the Bible as a whole, as it was when compiled into something like its modern form in the 6th century BCE and standardized in the 7th century CE; but the oldest verses date back to the tenth century BCE or before. Modern textual criticism approaches the Bible as a mixture of texts rather than a single work, and even the Vatican has conceded that multiple authors may have written it. Its most ancient layers can, as Strassman notes, inform our own encounters with the other; indeed, they might be read as an instruction manual for the human psyche. Interspersed among them, however, and sometimes clause by clause, are verses of law, priestcraft and genealogy penned many centuries later in response to a series of shifts in the dynamics of power.

While there would have been little political reason for scribes to doctor the accounts of entities and their physical and emotional correlates, it is clear that the message of Moses was altered repeatedly. Yahweh’s concerns shifted radically in half a millennium, from the Iron Age commonwealth of the Judean hills to a centralized theocracy that extracted taxes from a wide territory and paid tribute to the empires at its borders.

Taking orthodox Jewish thought into an unorthodox sphere, Strassman writes a compelling and eye-opening investigation. The Bible, however, is said to have 70 faces for each possible interpretation of a given verse, and perhaps a bottom-up rather than a top-down perspective makes more sense for the current political landscape. Strassman’s conclusion, describing the Bible’s continuing influence on a list of powerful institutions, sounds a little sinister in the 21st century:

The verbal teachings of the Hebrew Bible’s God and His angels gave birth to and continue to sustain Western law, theology, ethics and morality, psychology, natural and social science, history, finance, and government. In contrast, a uniquely psychedelic influence on these foundations of Western civilization as yet is nowhere near as visible.

But the aeon is young, as yet, and there is cause for hope, as those foundations may prove to be brittle when the weight of other worlds is brought to bear upon them. As well as challenging the ethics of the deities, OT prophets railed at their monarchs and bemoaned the materialistic concerns of their fellows. Many psychonauts feel the same, and struggle against the systems of oppression they live under – for one thing, about 20% of people become involved in activism after taking psychedelics.[1] The characters in our oldest stories strived with and against the angels and the Godnames, and we can learn more from their stories, and from their psychoactives, than obedience.

Notes:

[1] Luke, D., & Yanakieva, S. (2016, June). The transpersonal psychedelic experience and change in ecological attitude and behaviour. Paper presented at the International Conference on Psychedelics Research, Stichting Open, Amsterdam, 3rd-5th June.

First published in the Psypress Journal, March 2017

Re-reading Ayahuasca

United by Pablo Amaringo (from Ayahuasca Reader)

“You are the shaman,” announced Terence McKenna at the beginning of a new phase of the archaic revival. With thousands of you-shamans going to Iquitos every year to get their feathers, it may be time to unpack that idea, and for that reason the new edition of the 15-year-old classic Ayahuasca Reader (AR) is extremely timely. As Jeremy Narby comments in the book, aya-tourists are bringing hard cash for access to indigenous knowledge, whereas earlier generations of visitors usually brought hard labour, and this is a welcome development, notwithstanding the impacts on Amazonian economies. Meanwhile, the ayahuasca vine continues to spread abroad from its indigenous roots, into diverse legal, social, ritual and moral spaces. All of these areas are explored in the book, often with exquisite writing.

Synergetic Press threw parties last November in London and New York for the book launch. The London proceedings were introduced by Dr David Luke, parapsychologist and resident raconteur at the Ecology Cosmos and Consciousness Salon, who took great care to distinguish between shamanism and non-shamanism in his breakdown of the scene. Jeremy Narby followed, describing his experience of fieldwork among the Ashaninka in the eighties, seeking to challenge the rationale of capitalism in the Amazon, where the logical thing to do is sell the timber and extract the minerals. His argument was that his hosts had uses for a large proportion of the plants around them, meaning that they were using the forest rationally. The conviction his subjects held, however, that it was the plants themselves that communicated their uses to the physicians of the forest, had struck the young Marxist as psychotic rather than rational, and so was the idea that this knowledge could be divined by drinking a powerful emetic roughly translated as “snake-vomit”.

…Read the rest on the Psypress website…

DMT and the Soul of Prophesy: a book review

In his third book, Dr. Strassman returns to lab notes taken during thousands of DMT trips he facilitated while researching his first, the groundbreaking DMT: The Spirit Molecule. This time, having left the Zen temple and returned to his Jewish roots, he makes a very good case that Old Testament (OT) accounts of interactions with spiritual entities are a better match for the phenomenology of the DMT experience than Buddhist descriptions of mystical union with something greater (pp. 22, 54). He also excludes Amazonian shamanism as a model for comparison, though here it is because of its “problematic” morals and culture, where “violent, often murderous, competition for power, prestige, money, and sex is commonplace” (p. 56-7). These are criticisms, however, that could equally be levelled at King Solomon himself or even Yahweh, save for the fact that He prefers milk and honey to money; and religions based on the Bible have not been entirely free of violence and power politics. Regardless of the reason for his choice, having set his parameters Strassman makes a fascinating study at the juncture between OT theology and DMT psychopharmacology, detailing the physical, emotional and informational aspects of altered states as described and interpreted thousands of years ago in Jewish scripture and today in the lab.

The comparisons are compelling, with physical symptoms such as Daniel’s pounding heart, Jeremiah’s gastrointestinal crisis and Habakkuk’s trembling all echoed in the bodies of DMT subjects. DMT trips can occasion feelings of awe, reverence and reassurance similar to those described by the prophets (p. 131), and both subjects and prophets describe visions with the phenomenology of fire (p. 157, 167). On another plane entirely, Jacob wrestled with an entity who dislocated his leg, and one of Strassman’s subjects was pinned down and sodomized by crocodiles. Intelligent, sentient entities appear in both states, as chimeras or visions of hands, eyes and wings, unreal yet more real than real. Voices whisper words of inspiration, healing and guidance amidst glimpses of eternity, resurrection and the world to come (p. 193). The similarities are many and the differences are revealing, including a certain gravity in the prophetic state, and moral and theological guidance that was rarely reported in his clinic…

…read the rest in the current Psychedelic Press Volume XX

We three kings of Orient are… drug runners. And not kings.

Wisemen from the East gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

We three kings of Orient are

Bearing gifts we traverse afar.

Field and fountain, moor and mountain,

Following yonder star.

Ah-ah…

Ah, but are they really kings at all? The star only became “star of royal beauty bright” in church lore during the medieval period and only in Europe, as political power eclipsed wisdom as witness to Christ. In the iconography of the Eastern churches they remain Magi, dressed in Persian robes rather than kingly garb. ‘Magi’ is the only Persian word in the Gospel of Matthew, and it refers to the Zoroastrian priestly class. It seems that in ancient Zoroastrian legend the three gifts were presented to newborns in rites of divination, as in Tibet where auspicious objects are shown to a child by lamas seeking a newly reincarnated avatar.[i] If the child chose the gold, it would foretell of political power. If frankincense, he was destined for a priestly life.

Frankincense to offer have I,

Incense owns a Deity nigh

Many deities have favoured frankincense over the centuries. Before Yahweh it was burned to Ba’al of the Canaanites, and before then in Egypt it was burned to Ra and Horus. A gift of kings, this extraordinary resin was expensive enough to justify a six month, 1,500 mile camel trek from Oman to Palestine across robber-infested deserts.[ii] That would be a lot of trouble to go to for a posh whiff, but then there is more to frankincense than its fragrance. As well as its medical applications for skin complaints, wounds and other conditions, the resin contains dehydroabietic acid, which works on GABA receptors.[iii] These are the most common receptors in the brain, found on 40% of neurons.

Frankincense is classed as a tranquilizer – as is Valium which also works on the GABA system. Valium has a certain appeal around Christmas time, as innocent Christians are exposed to their families, but frankincense appeals in a different way, for tranquilizers do more than merely make one tranquil. Such simplistic classifications can mask the complexity of the substances. Other interesting chemicals present include incensole acetate, with its potent actions on the TRPV3 ion channel. This channel is found on the skin, where it is involved in temperature sensation. It is also widely distributed in the brain, but its functions there remain a mystery.[iv]

According to legend, the child who passed over the gold and frankincense to select bitter myrrh would become a healer – a true child of the divine healer Zoroaster. As well as a wide range of actions on the immune, digestive and respiratory systems, myrrh does things to the brain.[v] Its terpenes are mu- and delta-opioid agonists, working on the same system as opium.[vi] It also contains eugenol, from which MDMA can be synthesized.[vii] Like MDMA, myrrh inhibits GABA receptors and increases both dopamine and fun times.[viii]

Christmas frankincense and Myrrh pot pourri: Creative Commons - Photo by Marc Roberts

Christmas frankincense and Myrrh pot pourri: Creative Commons – Photo by Marc Roberts

Myrrh, like frankincense, was commonly combined with wine. The mulled wine drunk at Christmas time usually contains nutmeg, cloves or cinnamon, all of which contain eugenol; why not treat Santa this year by massively increasing the dosage? Resins infused in wine have a certain class to them, though there is no pharmacological reason why you can’t snort the gifts of the Magi off a nightclub toilet. Jesus was offered myrrh in wine at his crucifixion, and in the Catholic church the medicine took on overwhelmingly morose connotations:[ix]

Myrrh is mine: Its bitter perfume

Breaths a life of gathering gloom.

Sorrow, sighing, bleeding, dying,

Sealed in a stone-cold tomb.

In other cultures, myrrh was not just for the dying but for the living and those living it up. Both the Romans and the Israelites knew it as an aphrodisiac:[x]

“I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love. (Proverbs 7)

The Song of Songs describes myrrh and frankincense growing together in a paradisiacal garden:

Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant/precious fruits; henna, with spikenard. Spikenard and saffron; cane and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and agarwood, with all the chief spices. (Song of Songs 4)

Eight of the nine plants listed have been identified, and all of them are edible. All but one are known to alter brain chemistry, classed as hypnotics, stimulants, seretonin-boosters and memory aids. There is also a good case to be made that the unidentified kaneh bosm that sounds like cannabis is indeed cannabis.[xi]

Exodus describes several recipes combining these plants for consumption. The holy anointing oil synergizes several allylbenzene compounds that are psychedelic but quickly metabolized, together with a range of enzyme inhibitors acting to unlock the psychoactive effects.[xii] It is called shemen ha-mishchah, where mashach means to wipe or paint, and thought to be the root of the word ‘massage’; it seems that it was a massage oil.[xiii] [xiv] A similar recipe compounded in Egypt was used as a massage oil for Pharaoh. [xv] In the Tabernacle the Israelite king was anointed, and it appears to have had quite a kick:

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed [or massaged] him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of Yahweh came upon David from that day forward. (1 Samuel 16:13)

Massaged with shemen ha-mishchah, the King of the Jews came to know Yahweh, and became ‘the anointed one’ or mashiyach. The English equivalent is messiah, though its meaning has changed completely.

The priests were also anointed “that they may minister unto Me [Yahweh] in the priest’s office”[xvi] For everyone else it was a mortal taboo.

If the experience of Yahweh can be induced by a psychoactive concoction, does that make the deity a by-product of psychopharmacology? Or does the pharmacology merely bring Him into focus, as my spectacles bring a friend’s face into focus? These questions, and many more, can be answered by mixing up the medicines and asking Him yourself – though He might wax wrath at the impertinence.

The power dynamics around power plants changed at the beginning of the Common Era, when another Messiah dubbed “King of the Jews” took the holy oil away from the elites and shared it with commoners:

The Chrism [the rite of anointing] is superior to baptism, for it is from the word “Chrism” that we have been called “Christians,” certainly not because of the word “baptism”. And it is because of the Chrism that “the Christ” has his name.[xvii]

Well I wish it could be Christmas every day…

Another recipe is an incense which contained at least ten psychoactive compounds, according to the Talmud. The Bible gives detailed instructions on how to smoke it (alone and by the handful, in a censor in a 4½m2 tightly-sealed chamber at the back of the Tabernacle, before talking to angels).[xviii] The Good Book is full of such preparations, and I’ve written another good book by the name of Neuro-Apocalypse, which describes them and much besides. My apocalypse is not just for Christmas, but it looks pretty hot in stockings the morning after a night of overindulgence.

Here‘s a review from the Blog of Baphomet, and here’s one on Amazon (but rather buy it here, or as an e-book here.


NOTES:

[i] In Xanadu: A Quest Dalrymple, W. (New York, 2012) chapter 4

[ii] Sacred Signs Guardini, R. (Branham, G. trans) (St. Louis: 1956) Section on incense

[iii] Identification of dehydroabietc acid from Boswellia thurifera resin as a positive GABAA receptor modulator Rueda, D. C. et al Fitoterapia Vol. 99, December 2014, pp. 28–34

[iv] Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain Moussaieff, A. et al August 2008 The FASEB Journal Vol. 22 no. 8 pp. 3024-3034

[v] Analgesic effects of myrrh Dolara, P. Nature 379, 29 (04 January 1996)

[vi] Characterisation of the action on central opioid receptors of furanoeudesma- 1,3-diene, a sesquiterpene extracted from myrrh Dolora, P. et al (1996) Phytotherapy Research, Vol. 10, pp. S81-S83, ISN:0951-418X

[vii] Comparative study on the effect of cinnamon and clove extracts and their main components on different types of ATPases Usta, J. et al. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2003 Jul;22(7) pp. 355-62

[viii] Modulation of methylenedioxymethamphetamine-induced striatal dopamine release by the interaction between serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid in the substantia nigra Yamamoto, B. K. et al J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1995 Jun;273(3): pp. 1063-70

[ix] Mark 15:23

[x] Fulgentius the Mythographer (Whitebread, L. G. trans.) (Ohio: 1971) p. 92

[xi] Neuro-apocalypse, by me

[xii] Exodus 30:22-25

[xiii] Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible Strong, J. (Nashville: 2009) Numbers 4886

[xiv] The American Heritage Dictionary Semitic Roots Appendix II Retrieved on 6 September 2015 from https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/semitic.html

[xv] The Seven Books of Paulus Aegineta Vol. 3 (Francis, A. trans) (London: 1847) p. 595

[xvi] Exodus 30:30

[xvii] The Gospel of Philip (Isenberg, W. W. trans.) Retrieved on 27 September 2015 from www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gop.html

[xviii] Exodus 25-28

2016 was nuts.
It is a good time to be writing apocalyptic books.

We three kings of Orient are… drug runners. And not kings