Necromancy, magic invocations, ‘doors’ between the living and the dead, and spiritual revelations tend to go wrong. Myths and legends of all cultures bear the same warnings, so similar that they even have Aarne -Thompson -Uther (ATU) European legends catalogue numbers, and clusters of features revealing their archetype number (ATU 676, or type 9c Lid). Or necromancy oracles simply confirm fate, chance and inevitable truth (ATU 780 -799 or type 9c. ATU 930-949 of fortune and enforcement, or type 10 Teacher). The typology model of natural and cultural structure (Furter 2014, 2016), reveals that the vase or box of Pandora or Blackbeard, expresses the four transitional types, or c-types (see the Recurrent Features section, and more ATU parallels, in Part III. See a Roman version of the Basket of mysteries or cista, in Furter 2014; Mindprint). Artists rarely express these four transitional types, except in oracle or death themes (see http://www.mindprintart.wordpress.com). Builders express transitional types more often, particularly in mythologised sites (see Rennes les Bains and Rennes le Chateau site plans on http://www.stoneprintjournal.wordpress.com or Delphi temple precinct plan in the article Blueprint on http://www.edmondfurter.wordpress.com).
This article is Part II of three parts of a draft chapter for the planned book, Cult and Culture Code. By Edmond Furter, author of Mindprint; and of Stoneprint; and editor of Stoneprint Journal.
Pandora’s Box, vase, or basket of mysteries, cista mystica (type 2c Basket), is accidentally opened (9c Lid) by her husband Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus. The popular myth is relevant to socio-economic growth and maturity that bring gifts as well as horrors. Population spikes raise the difficulty of maintaining peace and civilisation. In Works and Days, Hesoid elaborates the idiom of Pandora’s storage jar of wine, oil, grain, burial ash, bones, or wishes. Pithos, jar, was later mistranslated pyxis, box, by St Erasmus (1508; Proverbs, or Adagia). What seems valuable may be a curse; what seems clear in logic may be a can of worms in subconscious, psychology or ecology. Since Prometheus (smith and devil, ATU 330, KHM 081a; metals 9c 10) stole fire from heaven (ATU A 1415; 9 9c), king Zeus gives Pandora, clay woman (Mud Person in Hopi myth), with her jar of wishes, to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus or Afterthought. She opens the jar, or social capacity for chaos, releasing sickness, death and evils. She slams it shut in fright, but only Hope or Forethought remains captive, perhaps to be used sparingly.
Ossuary jars symbolise bodies that allow souls to escape or return. In Erasmus’ version, Epimetheus opens the box without forethought and is startled. Our most familiar evil is wishful thinking or false hope, banking on chance instead of judicial action against fate (ATU 930 -949; 10 Teacher, 11 Womb). Hope is best used in small portions. Saints embrace hardships rather than vain hope. Zeus, Prometheus, Christ, St Anthony and spiritual heroes are tormented and tempted, but endure, to find and spread healing (AT 1135, 9 Healer) against spiritual horrors. Afterlife gains and losses differ from physical or conscious values.
Canaan’s pits of ghosts
The Old Testament notes two kinds of death oracles in Canaan, and probably in Babylonia, where the Hebrew books were written down; mediums relay a ghost from a ritual pit, but necromancers visit the dead directly, or enter the pit. Prophets condemn necromancy (Ez8:17; Hos4:12) and all forms of magic as ‘unclean’ and punished by exile (Lev 19;31, 20:6). Do not inquire of the dead (Deut18:9). Works of the flesh, sorcery, will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal5:19). Worse than death, there is a lake of burning sulfur, or second death (Rev21:8). A girl possessed with a spirit of divination or python, brought her masters much gain by soothsaying (Acts16:16), perhaps a roaming Greek pythoness, similar to the ‘released vision serpent’ in Mayan myth (AT 155, type 9c). Funerals and tombs are dedicated to the underworld mainly in appeasement, as in the Roman formula, Dis Manibus Sacer fecit, DMS, Adorned for Ghosts of the Dead, used up to the 1800s. Seeking value in the province of death may be fit for gods, but runs counter to mortal dictates.
Indian Vedic visions of light v dark, good v evil
Indian cultures use soma mixtures of wine, fig juice, milk, honey, herbs; with regimes of night wakes, recital, meditation; vast literature; religious ritual; and art conventions, to sustain epic surreal cosmic visions of the eternal battle between good and evil. Indian media integration includes alchemies of personal, chemical, metallurgical, mathematical and spiritual practice. The pot or brazier on Indian Harappan seals may have held a filter to press soma, the drink praised in the Vedas, perhaps extracted from ephedra; or a flame to burn incense, cannabis or opium (Harappa.com 2019). Drugs alone do not deliver revelation, enlightenment, maturity or a better life or afterlife. Hindu and Zoroastrian practices have many parallels in other cultures on every continent. Studies of soma reveal that these cultures are sustained by archetypal features in nature, society and perception itself.
Mayan Mexico had rituals in the form of vivid paintings of gods and heroes on high, converging cornices, over benches. One priestly dynasty with long skulls, prone to integrative visions, bound the skulls of their children to enhance either oracular or artistic skills. Their drug of choice was distilled maize beer alcohol, administered by enema.
Some priests and healers specialise in gymnosophic practices to induce waking sleep, thus gaining conscious access to dream visions. Sleep deprivation by ritual, chant, and adrenaline-like stimulant plants such as Ephedra, delays the natural rebound of slow brain waves to the early hours, when the practitioner may take a sip of soma, perhaps containing hermaline from Syrian rue, similar to mescaline and ayahuasca (Nyberg 1995) to over-stimulate the visual cortex. Ephedra is not hallucinogenic (Falk 1989), but induces fight or flight anxiety, which may add some horrors to the personal battle to integrate experience into the collective subconscious struggle between rival individual and social urges. In any mature culture, archetypal visual grammar or epic play a part (Nicholson 2002), and halucinogens play a minor part. Culture is not based on a drug. A drug could not induce culture. Culture seeks to integrate the spectrum of experience, behaviour and nature, into individual, social, and potentially universal enlightenment. It usually falls short, but its absence leaves a vacuum for a default culture of the lowest levels of needs and wants, which breeds the kind of chaos that invites fundamentalist populism and lowers life quality to Divide and Kill culture.
Macabre theatre rehearses for horror
After Black Death plague waves in the Middle Ages, age-old macabre rituals entered mainstream European Christian culture. Ancestor worship, penitence and death rehearsal may scare off death agencies. “Danse Macabre was performed by ensembles, including clergymen… provocative… dramatic antics to instil fear… in cathedrals after mass, and in cemeteries, with participants paid in wine… theatre groups toured the countryside… Macabre may recall Maccabees, Jewish martyrs who revered their dead.” (Gough 2010). Maccabees rebelled against Rome in a suicide cult to join their ancestors (type 13).
St Anthony treated bread ergot with mandrake root
St Anthony fought visions of temptations and horrors for 20 years on Mt Pispir (Dayr Maymun) near the Nile. While fasting, the devil would show him bread, beasts, women, soldiers or lashing. He endured by repentance. From 305 he instructed and organized a monastic creed that lasted into the 1900s. After persecution ended, he moved to an Eastern Desert mount (Dayr Mari Antonios), visiting Alexandria twice. Hospitallers of St Anthony was founded in 1100 near Grenoble, France, a pilgrimage site for sufferers of ergotism, St Anthony’s fire, from Claviceps purpurea fungus in bread, causing gangrene, mania, hallucinations and psychosis. Ergot outbreaks were frequent in the Middle Ages. Mystical movements and art schools tried to interpret these hallucinations (Dotz & Packer 1998). Antonian cures included distilled anaesthetics from dried mandrake root, a narcotic hallucinogen (pictured as a character in a Bosch painting); amputation; pork; and meditation on images of worse suffering, such as John Baptist, Christ and St Anthony. Some recent proposals to cure drug addiction, also involve psychedelic drugs.
Industrial spiritism conjures celebrities
Spirit mediums revived at séances in the 1800s. Novelist Sir Author Conan Doyle was an avid spiritualist. Sisters Margaret and Kate Fox founded modern Spiritualism or Spiritism in New York, using rappings to convince their older sister Leah and others. Hundreds of fakers took advantage, and many confessed, but the movement had instant social momentum. In July 1930, a week after Arthur Conan Doyle’s death, thousands of people attended a séance at Royal Albert Hall in London. Four years later, on 28 April 1934, ex Russian Noah Zerdin, who had lost his wife and fur business in a fire, hosted a séance at Aeolian Hall, New Bond Street. Here 44 people, including Doyle, were heard speaking ‘from the other side’ and recorded on gramophone acetate discs. In 2001 Dan Zerdin, Noah’s son, re-discovered the records, now in the British Library and posted on Internet.
Para-psychology categorise mediums and extra-sensory perception (ESP) as information about a live or dead person via intuition or impersonation. Both of these mechanisms are used by artists, mythographers, prophets and priests to tap into archetypal features. Apparent conjuring of ‘answers’ and celebrity ‘contacts’ from thin ether, is part of the allure of electronic ‘social’ media. Recipient perception, interaction and selective memory also play a role in finding apparent meaning in oracles and other media, but events or site features, diviners and querents collude to express archetypal structure in oracles; as they do in using the I Ching (Jee Jing); and as they do in towns and temple fields (Furter 2016; Stoneprint, the human code in art, buildings and cities).
Archetype shapes inspiration
Psychedelic gurus William James and Aldous Huxley (1954) noted that some drug trips resembled mystical ecstasy or enlightenment (Roche 2018). But some trips resemble religious illusion, cult superstition, madness or misery. Glimpses of an inner Self require a quest of decades across a sea of inner Shadow, and back to integrate subconscious and conscious egos. Weston La Barre (1979) and Peter Furst (1990) saw drugs at the root of religion, but San spiritual rites, Aztec mania and many other mystics are drug free. James Kent, in Case against DMT elves (cited in McGreal 2014) explain DMT visions as chemical overload at serotonin (5-HT 2A) receptors, disrupting visual processing and hyper-activating imagination into colours and textures, which the brain combines with subconscious fragments in search of known meaning, as it does in dreams and fantasies. Our tendency to see regular or humanoid features in blots, apophenia, or gestalt is recognised in science (Furter 2014 devotes a chapter to our perpetual search for meanings already hard-wired into nature and experience).
Kent proposed that individual Hyperspaces were different (after Van Elk 2013); and people with high temporal lobe activity (Persinger & Valiant 1985) tend to see entities without drugs (Thalbourne, Crawley & Houran 2003); and consistent details between trips and trippers; or information that a tripper did not know, could evidence an alternative reality (Rodriguez 2007, in McGreal 2014). But universal details confirm that visionary landscapes are archetypal, pre-existent, or ‘carrier waves’ of nature and culture. Thus subconscious inspiration is not ‘alternative reality’, but direct glimpses of the underlying pattern hidden among compelling and confusing details of conscious motivations.
Religion and esoterica are vertically integrated, horizontally divided
Socio-religious wars of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation were waged in sermons, ink, paint and blood. After the Thirty Years’ War, mainstream Christian mysticism temporarily integrated its own esoteric counter-cults of astrology, Kabbalah and alchemy into its art and ethic. The Bad Teinach altarpiece (shown above, again demonstrating the standard archetypal labels and axial grid) is one example of ‘vertical’ cultural integration, but ignored rival cultures, as usual. Re-discovery of the Gospel of Judas (Kasser 2006) demonstrated that the Judaic rebel cult ascribed to John Baptist and Christ had a distinctly Gnostic layer, but opposed Roman globalisation. Every culture believes it ‘preserves’ an ultimate truth. Rome had pagan mysticism; and had adopted Persian Zoroastrian mysticism; all later ironically integrated Judaeo-Christian theology that Roman slaves had already adopted as struggle ideology. Roman elite at Baia, shuttling to the capital by chariot or by boat across the Bay of Naples up the Tiber, lived literally on top of the ancient Oracle of the Dead, but ironically the state that honoured all foreign gods, blocked up this local oracle in its thermal resort suburb.
Evolution is the new alchemy
Industrial England was searching for a new ethic when European intelligentia adopted Darwin’s theory of biological evolution as secular justification of exploiting natural energy, and colonising resources of ‘backward’ cultures. The popular view of evolution is as old as humanity, but systematic documentation of its biological base, and theoretical polemic was new. The book, Origin of species, and rational, anti-church dialogue, gave adherents a model for ‘racial’ and individual superiority that seemed to override ethics by logic. But even evolutionists acknowledge that humans are not known to evolve.
Terence McKenna (1989) proposed extending the definition of evolution to technology: ‘Evolutionary biologists consider humans an un-evolving species… with the invention [plural] of [material] culture, biological evolution of humans ceased, and evolution became an epi-genetic, cultural phenomenon [broad evolutionism]. Tools, languages, and philosophies began [?] to evolve [?], but human body type remained the same… technology is the real ‘skin’ of our species… in the last 500 years, we extrude technological material… All our tools imply belief in an ultimate tool… flying saucer, or soul, exteriorized in 3D space. The body can become an internalized holographic object embedded in a solid-state, hyper-dimensional matrix, eternal, as we each wander through a true Elysium.’ Thus even the counter-culture that cultivates subconscious introspection, sees our species as heroic makers and developers of culture in an evolutionist ‘relay’ paradigm; despite biological, philosophical and psychological evidence that unchanging archetype shapes and predicts our collective behaviour (including afterlife forays); and that technologies follow population density in predictable maturity curves…
This post is Part II of the article; Ayahuasca oracle of the dead is a counter-cult to Divide and Kill culture, a draft chapter for the planned book, Cult and Culture Code. See the other two parts in other posts on Stoneprintjournal.wordpress.com. By Edmond Furter, author of Mindprint; and of Stoneprint; and editor of Stoneprint Journal.