Handbook of Contemporary Animism, 26-27



Psychedelics, Animism, and Spirituality

Andy Letcher


pp. 341-3 wise plants who instruct their human devotees

"Jay Griffiths describes ... her drinking the Amazonian hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca, ... in Peru. She felt herself transformed into {caused to assume the shape of} a jaguar {viz., in the astral body of a leopard} and then ... transported {/transvected/, in the terminology of witchcraft} back to her university town of Oxford where she {invisible to any material-bodied mortals there?} prowled through the reading rooms of the Bodleian library,

"roaring in anger and disgust at how my culture {i.e., "my" ruling-class} can know so little {actually, feign knowing so little -- scil., about the true power of witchcraft} ..." (Griffiths 2008:98).

{It would have been more pertinent to roar in disgust at the machinations (forbidding mention of such transfigurations in study-courses taught in schools and in colleges) of the information-suppressing ruling-class.}

"Amazonian shamans," she writes, "... when they take ayahuasca ... don't just learn about plants, they learn from certain plants called 'plant {botanic} teachers' ..., which teach people {in those people's dreams} medicine.""

Griffiths 2008 = Jay Griffiths : Wild : an Elemental Journey. London : Penguin.

pp. 341-3 the author (A.L.)'s autobiographic account of his own regular long-term ingestment of entheogenic psychedelics

p. 341

"I have had a fifteen-year relationship with ... the psilocybin-containing magic mushroom or

Liberty Cap,

{referring to the 13-Colonies' Insurrection of the 1770s-1780s, French Revolution of the 1790s, Argentine Revolution of the 1810s, and the Italian Unification of the 1860s (article "Liberty Cap" in H&HAW, pp. 293-5)}

Psilocybe semilanceata. ...

{This, the commonest (in Europe) species of Psilocybe, produceth, as an effect of its being ingested, spontaneous laughter (as likewise do the sweet spices).}

p. 342

My "tripping self" has imbibed knowledge that my "library self" finds

difficult to countenance."

{potentially hazardous to describe very openly in much detail, in the face of ongoing disapproval on the part of the ruling-class}

p. 343

"this chapter follows directly on my book ... (Letcher 2006) and

a paper ... (ibid.:2007)".

H&HAW = Beverly Chico : Hats and Headwear around the World : a Cultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara (CA), 2013. https://books.google.com/books?id=GdbYAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA294&lpg=PA294&dq=

Letcher 2006 = Andy Letcher : Shroom : A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom. London : Faber & Faber.

Letcher 2007 = Andy Letcher :"Mad Thoughts on Mushrooms : ... Psychedelic Consciousness". ANTHROPOLOGY OF CONSCIOUSNESS 18.2:74-97.

pp. 342, 345 rave-culture

p. 342

"In spite of a forty-year prohibition, psychedelic undergrounds have continued to flourish, through clubs, festivals, books, zines, websites, seminars and conferences. Rave normalized drug-taking for a generation, and in its wake there are a number of psychedelic spiritualities ... (Saunders et al. 2000 ...)."

p. 345

"Terence McKenna (1946-2000) ... saw in rave ... the beginnings of

what he called an "archaic revival" of shamanistic styles and techniques (McKenna 1991)."

{This could potentially be labeled "revival of archaic communionality", for it would entail a true "communion of the saints" with the divine world.}

Saunders et al. 2000 = Nicholas Saunders; Anja Saunders; Michelle Pauli : In Search of the Ultimate High : Spiritual Experience From Psychoactives. London : Rider.

McKenna 1991 = Terence McKenna : The Archaic Revival. HarperSanFrancisco.

McKenna 1994 = Terence McKenna : True Hallucinations : Being an Account of ... the Devil's Paradise. HarperSanFrancisco.

p. 343 profound quaestions in metaphysics

"the experiences occasioned by psychedelics ask profound questions of Western-sanctioned epistemologies and ontologies ... . ... We {or rather, persons deceived by ploutokrat-sanctioned materialism} assume the answers to these questions, rarely debate them, perhaps because we {or rather, persons deceived by ploutokrat-sanctioned materialism} are afraid even of the possibility of opening cracks in our {or rather, the ploutokrats'} impregnable {actually not resilient, but rigid and brittle} epistemology."

p. 344 praying to the Psilocybe-divinities

"For me, picking mushrooms is a sacred act. I pray to them as I go, little improvised ... songs ... . ... I pray to the land{-wights} too".

pp. 344-5 early promoters of psychedelic plants

p. 344

"subsequent to the discovery of LSD in 1943, and the eventual synthesis of psilocybin ... in 1958, ... More mystically inclined writers -- most famously Aldous Huxley, who wrote about his experiences with mescaline in The Doors of Perception ([1954] ...) -- thought psychedelics occasioned

a classic ... noetic ... ineffable encounter with the Godhead".

{In this context, the term /ineffable/ referreth to the fact that any sufficiently detailed account would imply any ordinary person's easily-available capacity to attain familiar communication with supernatural entity-intelligences, which is something which the greed-maddened materialist ruling-class is incapable of -- any contemplation of such contrast being naturally resultant in a realization of the unworthiness of the ruling-class, a fact which it would be quite dangerous to one's health to disclose, so that such a situation would be more safely left unsaid, hence the term "ineffable". [written Dec 2015]}

"American banker Robert Gordon Wasson (1898-1986) discovered the use of magic {Psilocybe} mushrooms in Mazatec Mexico in the 1950s".

p. 345

"The man who did the most to popularize the magic mushroom in the last decade of the twentieth century, the psychedelic guru, orator and writer Terence McKenna (1946-2000), ... was to reframe the psychedelic experience within a potent and popular shamanic discourse."

p. 345 conscious agent who would speak : description of a lecture delivered, by a guardian-divinity of Psilocybe, to its human devotee (T.McK.)

"For McKenna, the magic mushroom, which he championed above LSD,

{It is superior to LSD in its functionality of furnishing personal direct verbal instruction by divine entities -- something which LSD is restricted (by praeternatural regulations) from supplying.}

was {is} ... a living conscious agent {divinity} with whom a relationship could be forged and meaningful dialogue established : at high doses, he said,

the mushroom would literally speak :

{This is a dream. To listen to speech is commonplace in dreamings. This is a dream about a divinity.}

"... we have a dialogue. It {the deity thus encountred in the dream}

is a very strange person and has many bizarre opinions. ..." ([McKenna 1991]:47)."

{That which is "very strange" about the deity is to forthrightly denounce the ruling-class of a materialist nation-state for suppressing beneficial spiritual information; and the deity's opinion which is "bizarre" is to intimate the ease wherewith any such materialistic ruling-class could be utterly overthrown.}

p. 346 music to accompany Psilocybe?

"McKenna advocated ... high doses of {Psilocybe} mushrooms, consumed ... in silent darkness. ... .

{Vide, e.g. :- "PsMFM"; "MPsT"; "WhBMLTPs"}

... I ... play acoustic music ... to consume {Psilocybe} mushrooms".

"PsMFM" = "Psilocybin mushrooms -- favorite music?" http://tribes.tribe.net/psilocybin/thread/0109acbd-e9d5-4cb2-89f8-9de2740e20b6

"MPsT" = "Music for psilocybin tripping?" http://www.reddit.com/r/Drugs/comments/1ohgq1/music_for_psilocybin_tripping/

"WhBMLTPs" = "What is the best music to listen to whilst taking Psilocybin?" https://www.reddit.com/r/shrooms/comments/2vzook/what_is_the_best_music_to_listen_to_whilst_taking/

p. 346 the consistent message received from guardian-divinities of Psilocybe

"The consistent "message" ... that I receive is that my day-to-day human concerns are

infuriatingly solipsistic

{not adequately concerned for the welfare of other persons, i.e., not sufficiently socialistic/communistic?}

and narcisistically culture-bound.

{too fixated on one's own material body and on one's own immediate material surroundings}

The mushrooms "demand" that I notice ..., in particular, the plant kingdom."

p. 347 instrumental music fit for honoring the Psilocybe-divinities

"the kind of music we play belongs to a ... tradition ... that harks back to bands from the 1960s and 1970s like The Incredible String Band, Comus, Gryphon and the Amazing Blondel ... (see R. Young 2010). The 1990s ... gave the genre ... bands like Space Goats, Heathen's All, the Dongas Tribe and my own Jabberwockey ... . For all involved, ... the music ... bardism played on mandolins, bouzoukis, bagpipes, whistles and hurdy-gurdies, with emphasis on the importance of drones. This music came

to be called tribadelica

{in allusion to tribadism?}

or troubadelica and it fits {Psilocybe-}mushroom trips exceedingly well."

Young 2010 = Rob Young : Electric Eden : Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music. London : Faber & Faber.

p. 347 songs for honoring the psychedelic-plant-divinities

"Jay Griffiths describes how ayahuasca shamans sing icaros, haunting songs that somehow guide the {psychedelic} trip and act as "lifelines" for participants when the experience becomes overwhelming.

We are perhaps a long way from finding mushroom icaros ... ." {But perhaps the voicing of traditional European, <arabic, and other religious chanting could serve this function.}

{Hymns glorifying the psilocybe-divinities are traditionally warbled by their Mazatec devotees, who ["MSSMSM"] "harvested several of the mushrooms exclaiming "if I eat you, I know that you will make me sing beautifully.""}

"MSSMSM" = "María Sabina : Saint Mother of the Sacred Mushrooms", a chapter of :- John W. Allen : Mushroom Pioneers = volume 7 of Ethnomycological Journals. Seattle : Psilly Publ, 2002. https://www.erowid.org/plants/mushrooms/mushrooms_article6.shtml

p. 348 humans are noticed by plants; likewise, this fact that humans are noticed by plants can itself become noticed by humans

"I become aware of the plants, ... that they have noticed me. The way I apprehend them ..., I cannot now unnotice how they are. ... that plants can speak to you, as Griffiths recounts, seems wholly possible after {Psilocybe-}mushrooms."

pp. 349-51 pertinence of Henri-Louis Bergson's philosophy to psychedelic tripping

p. 349

"Bergson's distinction between immediate consciousness and reflective consciousness is instructive. When tripping on psilocybin,

the visions ... that occur ... arise as ... being presented ... as a stream of novelty ... .

{This is "immediate consciousness".}

And yet ..., there is always the sense of an uncompromised reflective consciousness ... performing the hermeneutic task of interpreting ... .

{This is "reflective consciousness".}

McKenna concurred ... : ... psilocybin, unlike some other drugs, leaves an observing "I" intact (McKenna 1991). ...

{This would suggest that psilocybin is not directly usable for achieving bodhi, a realization of an-atman ('no-self').}

Thus, Bergson's framework gives us grounds for arguing ... the rational observing self -- his reflective consciousness".

{Actually, being overcome by an illusion of a "self" is neither necessary nor helpful for maintaining a mirror-like ("reflective") consciousness, according to the techniques of Bauddha metaphysics.}

p. 350

"Bergson chimes for me in a way that, say, Wittgenstein does not."

p. 351

"What marks Bergson as a particularly unusual and forward-thinking philosopher is that ... reason {formal logic} ... he regards ... as ... necessarily limited".

{According to the Bauddha metaphysics of consciousness, the illusion of existence of a unitary atman is to be overcome by discovering its composite nature through meditation (consisting of systematic rigorous disproof of any conjectured themes which might suggest the existence of a unified self) alternating with manas-s`unya (mind-empty) trance (dhyana).}

p. 350 no complete system is feasible

"no philosophical system has ever achieved completeness (perhaps it is a law of philosophy that no system ever will)."

{How-be-it, a metaphysics adequate for resolving any practical problem under consideration, is always able to be attained, simply by inquiring (after venturing into their universe by way of dream and by way of trance) from the immortal deities.}

p. 351 is experience necessarily private in its essence?

"But experience -- mystical or otherwise -- remains a private matter and we only ever have access to accounts, accounts that ... may point to nothing beyond themselves."

{The experience of interpersonal thought-transference (telepathy) is in its essence an event of shared mutuality. This perfect sharing (the perfection of all-inclusive communism) is the primary aspect of intercourse amongst deities.}

{The essential mutual experience of universal telepathy is available to any persons who resolve on communism, and who accordingly pray to the deities (inhaerent in world-structure as supernatural patterns) of communism, fervently seeking victory for the divine agencies of communism; with the provision that one associate only with communism-dedicated fellow-travelers in this communistic-entheogenic tripping.}



Spiritual Beings

Stewart Guthrie


pp. 353, 357 animals may regard any erratically moving object as alive

p. 353

"according to Darwin, higher mammals may be animists as well. We are all fundamentally similar, he wrote, and all may see ... objects ... inhabited by agents".

p. 357

"As for Darwin's ..., it certainly shared ... need to find agents hidden in an ambiguous world."

p. 354 "anthropomorphism"​?

"Feuerbach, Hume, Spinoza and others called religion anthropomorphism,

{Divinities are, according to both myth and experience (including shamanic), notorious shape-shifters : they may appear at will (their own will) in the guise of humans, animals, plants, geometrical objects, or whatever.}

but lacked a convincing explanation."

{The explanation is simply that the divinities assume various forms as a teaching-instrument, in order to emphasize some point-of-doctrine whereof they are endeavouring to convince some obtuse mortal.}

pp. 355-6 differences between grand caelestial deities and wretched-of-the-earth earthlings

p. 355

"what is not humanlike, in gods, spirits and demons? It is difficult to find a clear distinction, and none may exist. ...

{For practical purposes, deities are beings who regularly appear in dreams so as to grant advantages to their waking-world-residing prote'ge', usually in exchange for some service to be performed by the waking-world denizen.}

p. 356

Gods {sometimes} have various human qualities : they may be born, eat, drink, grow old, get sick and die."

{As usually in British anthropology, all mention of deities' appearing (either exclusively or mainly) in dreams, is studiously evaded by the author.}

p. 356 agency of consciousness

"Anthropologists ... report dualism, with material body and immaterial mind ..., around the world."

"the second aspect of agency : mind (... the immaterial ... basis of identity, sentience and volition) has priority over, and independence of, body. ...

Maurice Bloch (2007) writes that by symbolic interaction, we produce states in each others' minds, making the location of ideas, thoughts and agency indeterminate.

{Furthermore, we experience such interactions not only in the waking-universe, but also in the dreaming-universe, in trance-worlds, etc. Therefore, even to ascertain the particular universe that each aspect of our thought may be stationed in, is an intractable problem. [written May 16 2015]}

In philosophy, Leder (1990) draws on medicine {i.e., on somatic psychology} to argue that

we think of ourselves as minds because we're unaware of our bodies except when they bother us ... .

{That is not why! Animals are likewise unaware of their bodies except when their bodies are bothersome, and yet nevertheless think of themselves as bodies anyway. Human think of themselves as minds because such a large proportion of their mental activity is ratiocination (whereas animals' activity is mainly sensolry).}

Similarly, Lakoff and Johnson (... 1999) say that humans consider their essential selves immaterial (and therefore immortal)."

{This commonplace is, indeed, a rationally valid deduction.}

Bloch 2007 = Maurice Bloch : "Durkheimian Anthropology and Religion". In :- Harvey Whitehouse & James Laidlaw (edd.) : Religion, Anthropology, and Cognitive Science. Durham (NC) : Carolina Academic Pr. pp. 63-80.

Leder 1990 = Drew Lance Leder : The Absent Body. Univ of Chicago Pr.

Lakoff & Johnson 1999 = George Lakoff & Mark Johnson : Philosophy in the Flesh : the Embodied Mind ... . NY : Basic Bks.

p. 357 natural inferences of telestics, finding agents everywhere

"teleology is not domain[-]specific, and ... the teleological stance ... a "primary interpretational system".

Kelemen (and Kelemen & DiYanni 2005) also writes extensively that ... teleologists, indeed ... "intuitive theists" ... find purpose and design in the world ..., and, from them, infer a designer. Hume said the same ... (Guthrie 1993:69, 283)."

{If the inference be that each purposive design in the universe hath its own distinct purposive designer, then polytheism could would be indicated.}

"These five aspects of agency ([mind-body] dualism, priority of mind, teleology ...) constitute a proclivity for finding disembodied agents everywhere. Now ... invisible and intangible {N.B. : "invisible and intangible" only in the waking-universe; but highly visible and tangible in dreams} spirits are plausible and even compulsory : they are ... agency itself."

{These are quite abstract qualities would not be regarded by reasoning persons as adequate evidence for divinities. Traditionalist tribesfolk never base their knowledge of deities on such indefinite abstractions, but on their own personal ongoing commonplace experience in dreaming, which is eathly perceived to be another universe inhabited by entities unearthly and immaterial.}

Kelemen & DiYanni 2005 = D. Kelemen & C. DiYanni : "Intuitions About Origins". J OF COGNITION & DEVELOPMENT 6.1:3-31.

Guthrie 1993 = Stewart Guthrie : Faces in the Clouds : a New Theory of Religion. Oxford Univ Pr.


Graham Harvey (ed.) : Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Acumen Publ, Durham; ISD, Bristol, 2013.