Tag Archives: psychedelics

“Be Here Now” by Ram Dass

Several months ago, I went to see the film “Dying to Know” which was about Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, who changed his name to Ram Dass.  The film reminded me that Ram Dass’ book, Be Here Now, was one I have been meaning to read but had not gotten around to. So I decided to bump it up on the list and recently finished reading it.

The book is essentially the hippie’s guide to meditation and mindfulness. It’s lavishly illustrated with surreal psychedelic spiritual images that aid the reader in tuning in to the proper state of consciousness when reading this text.

The book is divided into four sections:

  • Journey – The Transformation: Dr. Richard Alpert, Ph.D into Baba Ram Dass—This first section details Ram Dass’ explorations in consciousness expansion through the use of psychedelic drugs with Timothy Leary, which ultimately led him on a journey to the east where he met a guru and discovered his spiritual path.
  • From Bindu to Ojas—This heavily illustrated section, which comprises the bulk of the book, contains Dass’ spiritual musings and thoughts.
  • Cook Book for a Sacred Life—This section offers suggestions and practical advice for individuals starting on the spiritual path.
  • Painted Cakes Do Not Satisfy Hunger—This final section is a long list of suggested reading. As I perused this list, my own reading list swelled exponentially.

While the language of the text is very hippie dippy, and feels a little dated now, the spiritual insights are still profound and relevant. There is way too much to share in a single blog post, but I will share a few that resonated deeply with me, and I encourage you to take the time to read the book closely and ponder what Ram Dass offers.

Georges I. Gurdjieff, a westerner who went on this higher trip or at least on a large part of the trip, said: you don’t seem to understand you are in prison. If you are to get out of prison the first thing you must realize is: you are in prison. If you think you’re free, you can’t escape.

(p. 42)

Reading this made me think of the average American. Americans love to believe they are free: free to seek happiness, pursue the careers they want, travel, elect who they like, etc. But American freedom is just an illusion. We are constantly being manipulated by media, advertising, peer pressure, and so forth. Americans have allowed themselves to be enslaved by a consumer society that profits from their exploitation. But don’t ever try to tell an American that he or she is not free. Americans are quick to fight in the defense of their belief in freedom.

That psychosis business is an interesting business. If you go through the doorway too fast and you’re not ready for it you’re bound hand and foot and thrown into outer darkness. You may land anywhere and lots of people end up in mental hospitals. The reason they do is: they went through the door with their ego on.

(p. 98)

We hear this warning over and over again: it is important to stay grounded when doing spiritual work. I have witnessed people close to me slip into mental illness because they explored consciousness without remaining properly grounded. It is sad, because you are powerless to do anything for that person. They become trapped within their own subconscious and can no longer function in this plane of reality.

When your center is firm, when your faith is strong and unwavering, then it will not matter what company you keep. Then you will see that all beings are on the evolutionary journey of consciousness. They differ only in the degree that the veil of illusion clouds their vision. But for you . . . you will see behind the veil to the place where we are all ONE.

(p. 53)

This is something I need to remind myself about on a regular basis. With all the craziness, intolerance, and fear that I see on a daily basis, I need to remember that all of us are spiritual beings on the path, and we all progress at our own pace. I have to resist the temptation to judge others based on where I am on my journey. All I can do is follow my own course and maybe I might inspire another person on his or her path. What a blessing that would be!

Thanks so much for stopping by. And remember, don’t cling to the past or obsess about the future, just be here now, because this moment is all we really have. Everything else is a mental construct and an illusion.

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ODY-C – A Graphic Retelling of Homer’s Odyssey

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I saw this on display at the comic store and it looked interesting. The owner said it was a retelling of the Odyssey with the genders reversed. I did not buy it at first, but after I got home and thought about it some more, I decided I should read it. So I went back and picked up a copy.

I’m kind of on the fence about this one. There are things I liked about it and things that didn’t work for me. I guess I’ll start with the things I liked.

The first thing that struck me was the map and timeline at the beginning. These are big multi-page foldouts that are lavish and detailed. The timeline, although a little confusing, builds the mythology on which the tale is constructed, while the map provides an overview of the area through which the female warrior Odyssia (the central character in this retelling) must travel.

Graphically, there is some interesting symbolism incorporated into the illustrations. There is a good amount of goddess symbols incorporated, which I found interesting. A great example is the title graphic that employs lunar goddess symbols to form the letters.

Finally, I thought the artwork was very good. The drawings are rich and vivid, and the color schemes are surreal and psychedelic. Visually, I find this comic stunning.

What didn’t work for me in this first issue is the actual storyline and writing. It is kind of choppy and disjointed. I am hoping that this is just the result of the writer establishing the foundation of the tale, which I concede is no easy task. For this reason I am going to reserve judgment until I am a few issues into the series. I feel there is potential and if the writer can focus a little more that it will be a great graphic series. I’ll commit to two more issues before I make my final decision on whether to continue or not. I do hope that the writing improves because I am very intrigued by the concept.

Thanks for stopping by and I will share my thoughts on issue #2 as soon as it is released.

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“The Sandman: Overture – 4” by Neil Gaiman

SandmanOverture_04a

After months of patient waiting, issue #4 has finally arrived. It was definitely worth the wait.

The issue is a little bit confusing because it seems to be occurring at two dimensions in time and space simultaneously. In one dimension, Morpheus, the Dream Lord, is entering the City of the Stars with Hope and Cat (Cat being a manifestation of himself). Yet on a seemingly parallel plane, Dream is also meeting with his father, the masculine aspect of the Divine Dyad.

The Dream Lord entreats his father to help him prevent the undoing of all existence. His father is disinclined to assist him. In the end, though, the father concedes that he may be willing to help. The illustrations which accompany the sections relating to Dream’s encounter with his father are psychedelic and vividly colored. In fact, they reminded me a lot of Peter Max’s work.

SandmanOverture_04b

By contrast, the scenes that take place in the City of the Stars, while still surreal, are much more fluid and the colors border on the pastel.

SandmanOverture_04c

When Dream and Hope meet the insane star, the star destroys Hope. I found this to be symbolic of society’s loss of hope in the world. And the irony is that clinging to what little hope is left in the world will actually change nothing.

Hope: I… am Hope.

Star: Unfortunate last words, given the context. Three words that mean nothing. As if saying that might ever change something.

The issue concludes with Dream being imprisoned within a dark star. The colors turn ominous as deeper shades of purple, black, and grey swirl together into a dark vortex.

Star: So we will not kill you, Dream King. We will simply render you unavailable. Inside the event horizon of a dark star, nothing ever gets out. No light. No information. And definitely no dreams. Goodnight.

This was such an intense issue, I feel like I need to read it at least a couple more times to fully grok it. In fact, I will probably re-read the entire series so far. I’m sure I will catch things that I missed on my first reading.

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“My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor

My wife read this book a while back and suggested I read it, so it has been on my list of books to read for a while. I finally got around to it. I’m glad that I did. I found it interesting from a scientific and a spiritual perspective.

The book is an autobiography written by a Harvard brain researcher who suffered a massive stroke that affected her left hemisphere, thereby disabling the analytical region of her brain. As a result, her consciousness shifted to right-brain dominance and she experienced enlightenment, for lack of a better term. Dr. Taylor analyzes her shift in consciousness and explains scientifically how the bio-chemical and neurological rewiring of her brain impacted her view of and connection to the world around her.

When Dr. Taylor describes what it was like to experience the stroke, I was amazed at the similarities between a stroke and a psychedelic drug experience (yes, I was around in the 70’s). She describes the feeling as waves of clarity and distortion. Here is how she expresses what it was like trying to read a phone number on a card to call for help: “My brain could no longer distinguish writing as writing, or symbols as symbols, or even background as background. Instead, the card looked like an abstract tapestry of pixels. The entire picture was a uniform blend of all its constituent pieces. The dots that formed the symbols of language blended in smoothly with the dots of the background. The distinctions of color and edge no longer registered to my brain.” (p. 59)

With the loss of her left-brain functionality, Dr. Taylor experienced spiritual bliss and a feeling of oneness, which she associates to the neurological function of the right hemisphere. This is consistent with the accounts of spiritual experiences and enlightenment resulting from prayer and meditation, the goal of which is to silence the brain chatter from the ego center of the left hemisphere. She is then faced with the dilemma that faces so many mystics who have experienced spiritual bliss: “Although I rejoiced in my perception of connection to all that is, I shuddered at the awareness that I was no longer a normal human being. How on earth would I exist as a member of the human race with this heightened perception that we are each a part of it all, and that the life force energy within each of us contains the power of the universe?” (p. 73)

The truly remarkable part of this woman’s story is that she recovered and is again teaching at the university level. She describes how she retrained her brain to function “normally” again, exercising her brain and training neurons to reconfigure their networks to that the left hemisphere could again process information. I found it fascinating and promising. We have been conditioned to accept that memory loss and decreased mental functioning is a normal part of the aging process, but now I think that this may be off. I think the key to keeping your mental ability is exercising your brain and training it to find new ways of retrieving information. I’m going to keep doing those puzzles in the paper every morning.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a quick read, very interesting, and spiritually uplifting.

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