Monday, March 31, 2008

Altered States, Entheogens and Culture

Continuing with the theme of academic rewilding, or the process of the sciences regaining their senses, check out the Anthropology of Consciousness on Facebook.

The group is helping folks find reliable information on altered states of consciousness, shamanism, and research into psychedelics and entheogens.

A little background: the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness was created in the mid 1970s to look into the links between parapsychology and anthropology. They also were the only group of anthropologists willing to discuss Carlos Castaneda's wild and woolly influence on the discipline. Since then, they have continued to operate on the fringe of academia, presenting research into cross-cultural mystical experience, shamanism, mediumship, possession, trance and other dissociative states as well as how these ancient practices effect culture, belief systems and contemporary societies.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hoarding Gourds

My brother and I came upon this mother lode of gourds in the middle of Levy County, Florida, piled high at Fern Sink Farm. There was no one around so we selected six gourds between us, and left a ten dollar bill under a rock in the garage next door.

This is really the best way of procuring gourds from the earth. Grab them and toss money in the general direction of the gourd farmer. He doesn't want to know which gourds I took, nor do I want him to know. That is between me and the gourds.

Gourds fragments in human context have been found in Gainesville, FL as early as 11000 BC. The earliest known bottle gourd comes from the Windover site, dated to roughly 5300 BC. We can thank the swamps for this level of preservation.

Gourds make great ladles, containers, and percussion instruments, and are steeped in some crazy kind of mythos that I can only call an intense "presence." They navigate between consensual reality and the otherworld that we glimpse sometimes in dreams and visions. They're good luck, in other words.

I endorse gourd art for curing malaise of the soul.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Missing Micanopy

It's been almost six weeks since I left Micanopy, FL, that sweet oasis of peace and quiet on the south rim of Payne's Prairie. I stayed up in that room above the horses' heads. Every morning it was coffee and a sausage biscuit down the in cafe below my room. It's true that my room always smelled of meats and cheeses due to being located above the cafe, but we just lit incense every morning and it worked out.

On saturdays - and sometime in the middle of the week - the Micanopy Porch band played right under my room too. I sat on the big porch and did my reading there, listening to some of the best folk and bluegrass I've ever heard.

On sundays, we'd walk down to Mosswood Farms and get our fresh local greens for the week. It was all about green beans, collards, corn, and tomatoes, and later, sweet potatoes and eggplant. Farm fresh eggs, too, with little bits of feather duff still clinging to each egg.

We had a master plan and it really didn't work out. I guess I'm not over that yet. The new plan is good but getting there is hard. I see my fiancée once every two weeks, and that is rough I tell you what.

Soon, I'll be missing Steinhatchee, I imagine. Isn't that how it works? The lonely heart looks backwards...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Academic Rewilding and Febreze

I'm fresh back from Yale, where I attended the annual Anthropology of Consciousness conference. It was cold and rainy, and I didn't bring enough woolens. A friend offered to Febreze my socks after I wore them for three days straight. She apparently carries Febreze around with her, so it wasn't a specious, or malicious, offer. I declined but changed my socks and had cold feet for the next few days.

The picture to the right is of the circulation desk of the Yale Memorial Library. At Yale, library workers are likened to priests. The flow of Dean Koontz novels occurs at the chancel of the structure, where celestial energy has historically flowed from the heavens through thin tasteless crackers onward to parishioners. I think I still would be working in libraries if I peddled books/Christ under those conditions.

My lecture about nature observation as a field technique was well received. Rather than going on about my own research I took to the podium to share the method of nature observation. I learned this from Jon Young's lectures, and merged his technique with a focusing technique established by Eugene Gendlin. I guess you could call this academic rewilding.

We spend so much time lamenting human separation from nature that we forget that we have the power to re-pattern our minds on the natural world simply by going outside now and then and building relationships with our non-human neighbors.

Hey children what's that sound, everybody look what's going down....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Integral Indigenous Movement

Native American leaders from more than 71 nations are meeting in Mexico to discuss what they can do to help with the ecological disaster that is the 21st century.

This is a historic event for many reasons, chiefly being the unsurpassed level of connectivity and cooperation amongst the original people of North America. Representatives range from the Maya to the Tlingit of Alaska, with a united voice that: "Our Mother Earth is being polluted at an alarming rate, and our elders say that she is dying."

Indigenous science is coming into focus for Westerners at a quickening rate. Note that the message hasn't changed in the last three hundred years; rather, it is our ability to hear the message that is changing.

This kind of connectivity really is one of the fruits of the modern age, in which the depth of Indigenous knowledge is complimented with the modern values of inter-culture communication and world-level sharing. This unique blend of paradigms is what Ken Wilber and Tim Black have discussed as an Integral Indigenous perspective. This is not idle theory; the culture is shifting.

With so much to be alarmed about in the world, I am relieved to see some fresh and creative solutions emerging with the complexity of our predicament.

Read the AP article here.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Squirrels on the Alarm

This is a view of the swamps outside of Hart Springs, where we recently canoed to along the Suwannee River.

I tell you what, the swamps knew long before I did what these months of transition would bring. The soggy still waters of quiet putrification are quite beautiful in the late winter. It's an eery beauty that feels out-of-time.

Later, I walked through the cypress, oak and palm forest near my parents' house and the silence was broken by five squirrels who alarmed me in bitchy stereophonics. I've never been so aggressively stalked by squirrel before and I stood befuddled for a while. Finally I moved forward again on the trail and spooked the young buck that waited around the bend - he took off and honked at me repeatedly from a safe distance.

The squirrels are well trained to report humans to the forest. Turns out this is especially so in these woods because a neighbor often hunts, both in and out of season. The watchful squirrels sent out the alarm in all directions, carried forward by the birds like a ripple of disturbance in a still pond. That's the metaphor naturalist Jon Young uses for the "concentric rings of nature."

Can't a man just traipse through the forest like the gentle pirate he is? Not yet; the squirrels will make that call.