Magical practice: A discussion with Dale Pendell

This is a transcript of a small discussion with botanist-poet Dale Pendell, a long-time practitioner of Zen Buddhism and the occult, a student of the legendary intellectual Norman O. Brown, and—as they say—a graduate of Dr. Hofmann. It took place at the World Psychedelic Forum in Basel, Switzerland, on 23rd March 2008 (read my review). A small group of people who’d just attended Dale’s talk on Zen and psychedelics gathered round a table in the busy foyer, and Dale created a focused bubble of attentiveness with his measured, colourful discourse.

An Excerpt:

[A question about the relationship of the psychoactive effects of the poppy to Zen practice.]

Wow. That’s a very esoteric question! I’ll have to think about it to make a connection; I’m sure there’s a way to do it… What I think of with the hallucinogenic effects of poppies is Greek healing, and the temple of Apuleius, where with a drink from the poppy, sick people would go in to have dreams-and the dream would reveal to them why they were sick.

If you approach it right-you know, you have to walk through the door the right way, you don’t want to offend the gods. Again, it’s a matter of ritual propriety. Confucius made a big deal of ritual propriety—what’s the Chinese word, li? I think so. It’s one of the foundations of his whole system, you can almost feel that it’s a carry-over from the older animistic traditions. Ritual propriety. Keeping everything clean with the spirits—that’s what you want to do. That’s the basic magical law.

María Sabina with the leaves, and Eve in Paradise Lost, that’s ritual propriety. With the Salvia leaves, it becomes almost palpable. If you have stems with some parts that are left over, you wouldn’t just throw them out anywhere, that would be shocking, you know? The great Japanese flower masters would dig graves, dig a little hole in a special place to put the old flowers in. You don’t just put them anywhere. And this matter of ritual propriety is much neglected by our culture. There’s no sense of presence… In the animistic world there are spirits that live in streams and trees and rocks and places, little nooks, this little nook has its spirit. People who’ve lived close to the earth for a long time all seem to have some sense of the presences Kirche, in the church, where it’s clear, that’s a sacred space and you wouldn’t think of throwing trash on the ground in the church. That’s pretty clear. We have it all boxed into this special place, but it’s in all of Earth’s places around us. This matter of presences is again one of the fundamental principles of all shamanic magic. You can kind of build the whole system up pretty much from that. Recognizing that there’s presences, you don’t want to offend them, you want to keep them in balance, and trying to find propriety.

If you don’t always know, you need to come up with some means of divination. Divination is another neglected art, it’s a kind of hazy area. It’s still a big part of our world, but we pretend that it’s… We flip a coin at sporting events-who goes first? That was to get the will of the gods. What do the gods have to say about this? Now we call it “chance”.

Read rest (here)

Via Arthur Magazine (here)

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