The Master leads
by emptying people’s minds
and strengthening their cores.
Gary Weber has described in detail how the “default mode network” in the brain can be deactivated through meditation. He calls it the “blah blah blah”, because it is characterized by incessant chatter, sometimes pointless and inconsequential, but sometimes of seemingly huge import. In Buddhist circles, it is known as the “monkey mind”, not because we share it with our primate cousins, but because we jump from thought to thought like a monkey jumping from tree to tree. This is what the mind does when it is “at rest” or “at ease”, in other words when it has nothing better to do. Hence the term “default mode”. We daydream, we ruminate, we worry and fret. It is characterized by self-concern, and as such has some clear evolutionary survival value. We do need to evaluate the past and project and plan the future. We need to think about our self-image and reputation and those of significant others in our personal and professional lives. That’s all normal and necessary. But, unfortunately, it can get out of hand.
If the default mode network is over-active, it begins to interfere with the activity-focused networks. We find it hard to concentrate and to perform tasks efficiently and creatively. Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) are neurologically characterized by the inability to inhibit the default mode network. Conversely, highly focused and creative people can silence the “blah blah blah” for extended periods of time. They can engage fully in a task to the point of being completely lost in it – they can enter “the flow”. Think of Mozart composing a symphony. Think of the last time you were “lost in music”. Where was your “default mode” then?
So the ability to systematically inhibit and even completely deactivate the default mode network is clearly an extremely useful thing to be able to do. Even if it comes back (and it always comes back), taking a brief holiday from it has well documented mental and physical health benefits. Meditation is one of the best ways to effect this deactivation or inhibition of the “default mode network”. Prayer, fasting, ecstatic dance and psychedelic drugs are some others.
If you’ve ever tried to teach a class of rowdy children anything, you will know how difficult it is to get through to them. This is why discipline is so important. Only once you have a quiet, attentive classroom environment can any real learning take place. The same is true of our unruly minds. We can still process information with the default mode network rumbling away in the background, but nothing sinks in at a deeper level.
On the other hand, when the mind is perfectly still and quiet, new insights strike us with the force of revelation. We “get it” at a deeper level than the surface “blah blah blah”. Imagine you’re reading a poem, say T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. When the mind is quiet, the words touch you with a deep sense of meaning and beauty. When the mind is agitated and distracted, it’s all just a jumble of words.
The object of the first part of the meditation is therefore to achieve stillness, openness and sensitivity. For details of this section, click here: The Clearing Meditation
The object of the second part is to effect a spiritual alignment by means of the following five embodied mantras. In the ceremonial context, these mantras serve to protect and orient participants on their psychedelic journeys.
The Ray of Creation is recited from bottom to top and the Tree of Life from top to bottom (the Ray represents bottom-up emergent creation and the Tree top-down emanant creativity). For more on the Ray of Creation click here: The Ray of Creation. For more on the Tree of Life click here: The Tree of Life.
The “Archetypes”, the “Virtues” and the “Transcendentals” are recited in the form of a two-barred cross (the vertical from top to bottom and the horizontals from left to right).
Reciting the Ray of Creation and the Tree of Life is figuratively called “putting on the robes of light” and reciting the Archetypes, Virtues and Transcendentals is called “putting on the armour of light” or “putting on the armour of Christ”.
Both the robes of light and the armour of Christ are necessary to approach the unapproachable, the numinous mysterium tremendum. In the Gospel of Philip it is written, “No one may visit the King without robes of light” and in the Gospel of John it is written, “No one comes to the Father except through me”. For more on this, click here: How to Approach the Unapproachable.
AMUN RA ATUM KA BA GAIA JAH
KETER HOKHMAH BINAH DA’AT CHESED GEVURAH YESOD
MYSTIC SHAMAN WARRIOR MONK PHILOSOPHER KING FRIEND
HUMILITY CHASTITY PRUDENCE TEMPERANCE PATIENCE DILIGENCE GRATITUDE
PEACE LOVE GOODNESS BEAUTY TRUTH CONSCIOUSNESS BLISS
The following reflections are based on concepts taken from The Idea of the Holy by Rudolf Otto.
“The Holy” is the meeting between the non-rational numen, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans and the rational schematisations of virtue, wisdom and grace, or the Good, the True and the Beautiful.
In the Way of the Holy Mushroom, the psychoactive mushroom provides the direct non-rational encounter with the objective numen and the mantra and the music provide the rational vehicle for the subjective experience of the numinous.
The mantra and the music provide the set and setting, that is, an amenable mind-set and a conducive musical setting. You could say that they are the “kindred spirits” of the mushroom. It is precisely this alchemical admixture that makes this practice “holy” as opposed to merely “trippy”.
Another way to understand “the holy” is as the interpenetration of gnosis, pistis and kenosis, where gnosis is the non-rational encounter with the numen, pistis the rational understanding of the numen, and kenosis the purification of all perception and dalliance of gnosis and pistis respectively.
Gnosis applies to the domain of “heaven” (as in the transcendental psychedelic experience), kenosis to “earth” (as in mindfulness) and pistis to the domain of “faith” (as in religion), connecting heaven and earth through imagination and reason, mythos and logos. In deep meditation, including psychedelic meditation, the use of special “faith words” (such as Peace, Love, Lord, etc.) is the direct contribution of pistis, which facilitates the self-emptying of kenosis and the revelation of fresh gnosis, which then feeds into existing faith words or else develops new ones.
Shamanic Christian Zen constitutes a spiritual path that embodies this interpenetration and synthesis of gnosis, pistis and kenosis, through Shamanic gnosis, Christian pistis and Zen kenosis.
“When I first met Seb to learn how to meditate, I was in a really horrible place mentally. I didn’t like myself at all, and the only way I can think of describing it is like I wanted to escape from my own brain. I was actually a massive skeptic and couldn’t imagine how meditation would help me with this issue, but I was desperately seeking change and willing to try anything. I’m so glad I did now.
From session 1, Seb was completely understanding, non-judgmental, and compassionate, making me feel entirely at ease. He explained everything as we went along in ways that I could easily understand, adapting his teaching methods each session based on my progress. I never felt ‘spoon-fed’, though, he taught in such a way that would lead me into fully discovering and understanding things for myself, which was a great way of learning.
Within about 2 weeks I remember noticing that I was having significantly fewer negative or hateful thoughts about myself. Within 4 weeks of starting, I actually caught myself having POSITIVE thoughts towards my inner and outer world, which I hadn’t had in probably about over a year beforehand.
The change was so noticeable within me that I couldn’t believe it at first, and others around me began to notice pretty quickly too. I’ve not stopped recommending meditation to just about everyone I meet since then (it’s been almost a year since my first session with Seb!) and cannot express in words how much it has literally changed my life for the better. I am very grateful and sincerely hope that anyone who gets the chance to work with Seb in this way will take the opportunity.”
“I’ve been attending Sebastian’s weekly meditation classes for the last 5 years and I can honestly say that they have transformed my life. In the past I had struggled with depression and addiction problems – for which I’d previously followed a 12 step program – however, I found that Seb’s weekly teachings were an invaluable part of the process. Sebastian’s unique guided meditations helped me connect to an inner power source, which in turn slowly gave me the ability to transform my outer world. I’m in a very different place today than I was back then and I’m very grateful to Seb and can fully recommend him!”
“I started meditating with Seb about 4-5 years ago at a challenging period in my life. Seb’s meditations are both beautiful and calming; through his guidance and teachings I have developed a new understanding of my inner world and have been able to access an inner wisdom, clarity and stillness that is a great source of comfort and happiness in my life. Thank you Seb for introducing me to the power of meditation!”
Laura Pandora Sale
Forest Magician painting (top of page) by Vladimir Kuchinskiy