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  • Writer's pictureAnna Kultin

Immortality at the Cost of your Humanity

Psychedelics, a rediscovered source of fascination for searchers of spirituality. How do they intersect with black magic, paganism or pantheism; does their use spark a profound experience or just trigger an inner faculty? Why is the magic world of the writer and adept of shamanism, Carlos Castaneda, whose books are a doorway into the ancient world of a practicing sorcerer, using psychedelics as a tool to work with one’s consciousness is resurrected adain along with all new names and adapts.

The mysterious American writer Carlos Castaneda never planned a writing career and didn’t strike us as dreaming of being a New York Times bestselling author. He dropped off the radar of public life in 1973, probably acting upon one of the shamanic principles, that of erasing personal history. We are left with a heritage of his 12 books. It’s Castaenda’s attempt to summarize the teachings of a Mexican shaman and detail his own journey of training in shamanism. Time when he had his psychedelic “trips”.

The riding a wave of growing popularity is Ayahuasca, benignly referred to as a “plant medicine” so similar to Castaneda’s story. It is the door into the real spirituality, as many adapts proclaimed. The Internet community overflows with video-documented trips to remote areas of South America, Africa, or whatever site claims to offer “ceremonies” held by experienced shamans.

New spirituality is peeling away the last scales of “dogma” from our eyes, achieving the highest levels of freedom, dissolving the sharp ends of good and evil to the point where no one has a monopoly on Truth. We find ourselves at a terra incognita in our beliefs.

When you are inside Castaneda’s world, you’re charmed by the terminology, the humble curiosity of the narrator, and the intriguing mystery that the world is not only what you see but has deeper truths lurking just around the corner. Castaneda’s books are deeply respectful of nature, a respect often lacking in our modern world – this reminds you that nothing on the earth is forever. Castaneda’s writings detail how a Mexican shaman reveals a world where people and everything around them are energies.

It is ironic that people so enamored by “new age” effects of psychedelics don’t seem to realize that medicinal plants and their derivatives were always a part of the shamanistic tradition, from the shadows of pre-history. You can easily find traces of all sorts of naturally-sourced psychedelics: psychotropic drinks, substances that were chewed, plants that were smoked – in the ancient Greek world, among shamans in Siberia and Mexico, and aboriginals of Australia. There is no denying the fact that psychedelics were used long before any of them were discovered by famous figures in the 60’s. The “secret knowledge” hails from the dawn of humanity.

Despite differences in individual experiences with psychedelics, all participants recount a profound spiritual, religious experience, a taste of unexpected revelation. Many of them describe a contact with what they call aliens; many have a more difficult time classifying them, describing them variously as angels, demons, or vague elf-insect-reptile-like entities.

In the Magic world of Carlos Castaneda, when he partakes of mushrooms and other psychedelics under the tutelage of his teacher-shaman, he experiences interactions with different entities. His teacher notes that using these natural substances are not necessary but, in his case, definitely helpful.

Castaneda wrote of shamanism in a curiously humble manner, but with sincere passion, where newly reborn “dark magic” was freed of any negative connotations. No funny broomsticks and naked women, no ugly spells, no human sacrifices, but instead a romanticized, almost coherent philosophy, with an appealing scientific undertone.

High on psychedelics such as peyote, Castaneda was able to talk to lizards, then have a conversation with Mescalito, the helper, as shamans call him. The monster with a strawberry-like face, that you interact with at the risk of losing your life: I stopped – described Castaneda, - his eyes were the water I had just seen! They had the same enormous volume, the sparkling of gold and black. His head was pointed like a strawberry; his skin was green, dotted with innumerable warts. Except for the pointed shape, his head was exactly like the surface of the peyote plant.

Castaneda asked Mescalito questions about his life, and got some answers. Many psychedelic “tourists” have had similar telepathic interactions with entities that teach them something, that provide mysterious insights.

He writes about his teacher: “… People with whom he lived believed that he had some sort of "secret knowledge", that he was a "brujo". The Spanish word brujo means, in English, medicine man, curer, witch, sorcerer. It connotes essentially a person who has extraordinary, and usually evil, powers.” In the shamanic tradition of his teacher they called teachers “Diablero” which means an evil person who are practicing black sorcery and he can transform himself into an animal – a bird, a dog, a coyote, or any other creature.

Castaneda was thought how to use hallucinogenic plants to experience what he called the state of “non-ordinary reality”. He uses the devil’s weed to make a paste which he would apply later to transform himself into a crow and share the experience of flying:

“ I saw the dark sky above me, and the clouds going by me. I jerked my body so I could look down. I saw the dark mass of the mountains. My speed was extraordinary. ... I enjoyed such freedom and swiftness as I had never known before. The marvelous darkness gave me a feeling of sadness, of longing, perhaps. It was as if I had found a place where I belonged - the darkness of the night. I tried to look around, but all I sensed was that the night was serene, and yet it held so much power.”

In some part of the book author would describe why he needs to take hallucinogenic plants. For example, to get a help from an ally. Ally or helpers in the words of Mexican shaman “are spirits that live on the other side of the world and helps a diablero to cause sickness and pain. It helps him to kill” we read in some passages in Castaneda’s book.

For Castaneda, those experiences weren’t intended to satisfy idle curiosity, cure depression, or resolve life problems, as it is now for many who are interested in psychotropic drugs. For him it was an initiation, part of the process of becoming a sorcerer. The philosophy of Castaneda’s shaman not even targets to change the perception of the reality of the world but change a human being itself through different magic technics. He learns how to use his own will to acquire that knowledge and power.

We see the striking similarity with some passages in the The Satanic Bible of Antony LaVey. He defined magic as "the change in situations or events in accordance with one's will, which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable". LaVey stated that magicians could successfully utilize this magical force by intensely imagining their desired goal and thus directing the force of their own will toward making it happen.

Man of knowledge needs to refuse the world and other people to achieve that higher knowledge. “We are beings on our way to dying. We are not immortal, but we behave as if we were. This is the flaw that brings us down as individuals and will bring us down as a species someday.”

According to Castaneda, a shaman’s teachings extoll the concept of a loner, a warrior, who separates himself (or herself) from others, whether family or society. There are no concepts of love, compassion, God, good or evil. Shamanism cultivates an aura of knowledge, manipulating one’s human desire for improvement and self-awareness, ultimately culminating in a pagan concept of existing in harmony with the natural world.

When you distance your mind from all the terrific magical manipulations, the question remains: what is the goal of this warrior journey? The brutal answer would be: it is immortality, but at cost of losing your humanity. You fate is to become a wolf running towards the horizon, disappearing into eternity

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