Alchemy At The Springs

The Springs, and I, have undergone a dramatic transformation over the last four years.  The invasive plants that once dominated the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve are akin to the “base metal” in an alchemical process, and the years of indoctrination in the religions of: Government, Catholicism and Money, had me in “base consciousness”.  The allegories of Alchemy are aptly suited to both contexts, as explained by Mark Passio in his latest seminar: “De-Mystifying The Occult“, which was expertly immortalized by my friends at Tragedy and Hope.

“ALCHEMY, literally “From Khem,” or “Out of Darkness” is an Occult Tradition taught through allegories.”

AlchemyOutOfDarknessIntoLightMark explains the essence of the esoteric truth that has been hidden, or occulted, from us:

“The Alchemist seeks to remove from his or her thoughts, emotions and actions their disorderly imperfections, or base characteristics, in order to bring them to their true state of Natural Order (Harmony with Natural Law) and to transmute them into “Alchemical Gold,” representing the purification of Body, Mind and Spirit.”

AlchemyBaseMetalsI feel deeply connected to Earth, Air, Water, Fire and, the Quintessence — Spirit, when I’m at the Scuppernong Springs.   Below, Mark begins to explain the allegories in Alchemy by revealing the esoteric interpretations of these fundamental elements.

AlchemyQuintessenceThere can be no start to the journey Out Of Darkness, Into Light, unless we honor the Sacred Feminine aspect of the Human Psyche in ourselves.AlchemyStartingSubstanceThis brief sketch can’t begin to do justice to Mark’s full De-Mystifying The Occult Presentation:

“The Philosopher’s Stone represents man himself at the beginning of the process of Self-Mastery.”

AlchemyPhilosophersStoneAllegorically, invasive species had “corrupted” The Springs, and a lack of concern on the part of the area’s first real estate developers for the consequences of their actions, put the hydrology of the Scuppernong River into disharmony.

AlchemyTheGreatWorkLast week, I stood on the north end of the loop trail filled with joy and awe as the late afternoon sunlight flooded the wetlands that were once canopied by tangled buckthorn, and contemplated my own journey to higher consciousness.AlchemyAlbedo“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.”  Buddha

AlchemyRubedoWell, I’m going all the way — to Philadelphia that is — to meet Mark Passio, and a host of other truth seekers, at the Free Your Mind III Conference next weekend.  I plan to do some exploring in the Allegheny National Forest on the way there, and back, so it should be a fun vacation.

Even The Buckthorn Man can get too much of a good thing, and I need to take a break from cutting for at least a month or two.  The level of aggressive force required to attack a buckthorn thicket can’t be sustained year round.  I’ve been ripping it up lately and it’s time to put the chainsaw down.

Last Monday, March 30th, I stabbed and slashed many a buckthorn on the north side of the north end of the loop trail, continuing where I left off last time.  Here are four views, taken when I arrived, progressing from west to east.

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And the same perspectives after my violent assaults.

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All kidding aside, I’m almost looking forward to Garlic Mustard season!

For my last hurrah on Wednesday, I was headed a bit farther east down the north end of the loop trail, almost to signpost #13 and the junction with the Cutoff trail.  Along the way, at the scene of Monday’s attack, I noticed fresh stacks of buckthorn; Thanks Andy!

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At the worksite shown below, the presence and shape of the wetlands on the north side of the trail was much more evident, even though there was a relatively thin, although decidedly nasty, curtain of buckthorn still shrouding them.  The views below are: first, from near the trail, then at the buckthorn curtain looking left and right.

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I knew this was going to be my last time cutting for a while and tried not to get impatient with the machine.

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It was on the way back to my truck on that gorgeous, sunny afternoon, that it really began to sink in just how dramatically different this area of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve looks now.

“The third and final phase of the Alchemical Great Work is Rubedo, or Reddening, the transmutation into Gold or Sulfur, representing Purified and Enlightened Consciousness, the Elemental Fire of the Philosopher’s Stone, symbolized by a red elixir, which represents the unification of Man (the limited) with the Divine (the unlimited).”  Mark Passio

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See you at The Springs!

A Cold Day at The Springs

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… is better than a warm day at the office! That’s me on the left back in the days when we struggled to get complex “Sales Illustrations” software to run in 640k of memory.

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It was really challenging work but at the end of the day, it was just for money; my heart wasn’t in it, my mind was exhausted and the fire in my belly was out cold. It’s been 2 years since I retired and I’m very lucky the way things turned out.

Working at The Springs helps me keep my sanity. If you open your eyes, see what is going on around in the world, study history to build out a context for current events, and use a method like the integrated Trivium (knowledge/grammar, understanding/logic, wisdom/rhetoric) to sort fact from fiction, it’s hard not to get depressed. The powers that should not be are enslaving humanity and most people choose to ignore it. They choose IGNORE-ance rather than knowledge, contracting fear instead of expansive love. The Truth is that which is; that which has actually occurred. We can come to know the truth, and be set free, or we can ignore it, and be enslaved. The aggregate of all of our free will choices, bounded by the Laws of Nature, will determine the reality that manifests in this world. I encourage you to check out the work of Richard Grove at Tragedy and Hope, especially the podcasts, and tune in, don’t drop out.

Super Friend Andy Buchta is definitely tuned in!

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He has been working at The Springs recently, piling brush along the trail where we have been cutting. You can see his latest efforts in the first picture above. It really warms my heart to see others independently volunteering their time and attention at The Springs and, thanks to Andy, I had a convenient brush pile to light up yesterday to keep me warm. Thanks as well to John Hrobar for stopping out with Sue and Tim and throwing a couple piles worth of brush on the fire. Below are a couple perspectives before I started working.

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It was a cold, snowy day but I was happy to get out of the house and careful to keep my hands warm.

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After work I enjoyed a walk around the trail in solitude and took the north end trail route from east to west through the Buckthorn Alley to get back to my truck. I think a couple more weeks and we’ll have a wide swath cleared on both sides of the trail through the Buckthorn Alley!

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See you at The Springs!

The Shaman Santa

I didn’t sleep at all last night; I couldn’t stop my mind from trying to unravel the mystery that I had experienced.  Pati always encourages me to tell my “Santa Story”, which I got from reading Astrotheology and Shamanism Christianity’s Pagan Roots by Jan Irvin and Andrew Rutajit, and that is a good place to start to describe my “trip”.

The Amanita Muscaria mushroom grows in northern climates under fir, aspen, or birch trees. Pati and I found huge patches of it on Grand Island in Lake Superior and I even found one at the Indian Spring. The shamans in northern Europe watched the reindeer and noticed how much they loved this mushroom. They saw that, even more than the mushroom, the reindeer loved the urine that they, or their mushroom loving brothers, relieved themselves of. The shamans experimented and came to understand the dramatic effects this mushroom could induce (especially when un-metabolized mucimol, excreted via urine, was consumed.)

In the spring, the shamans would enlist the help of children to identify where the white caps of the mushroom were pushing through the warming soil — kind of like an Easter egg hunt. As the mushroom develops it expands through the white cap under which it was born leaving the characteristic snow fleck pattern that remains on the surface of the bright red or sunburst colored mature mushrooms.

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When they were ready, the shaman harvested the mushrooms and hung them on the bows of pine trees to dry them in the short summer sun — like Christmas ornaments. As winter set in, and the entrances to the yurts the people lived in became blocked by snow, the only way to enter was through the smoke hole, or chimney. The shaman would travel from yurt to yurt carrying a sack of Amanita Muscaria mushrooms on his back.  As he delivered his gifts, he recommended that they hang them over their fireplace mantels to finish drying them out — like you would a wet pair of stockings.

Over the period of the winter solstice many of the people would consume the mushrooms under the guidance of the shaman and travel in time and space experiencing their consciousness in remarkable ways. When thoroughly intoxicated with muscimol, the active ingredient in the Amanita Muscaria mushroom, the person would “leave” their physical body and experience their consciousness in pure spirit form.  This was valued as it informed their reasons for living and prepared them for their own deaths.

The Shaman Santa Claus.

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That story resonated with me deeply and I knew I had to experience it. I found an excellent source for the mushrooms and tried to brew them in a tea, which I had heard was the way to go. It might be for some, but I was not ready for the experience; I was still drinking way too much whiskey and smoking cigarettes.  The first time I tried them, I was camped at the Hartland Marsh and spent the night shivering in my sweat drenched sleeping bag. I understood then that I need to detoxify my body and my mind if I hoped to commune with A. Muscaria. That was back in the fall of 2009 and I tried two more times in the interval and could not break through. My bout with a cancerous tumor in my neck in 2011 was the wake up call I needed to cleanse my mind and body.

Yes, I couldn’t sleep last night.  I was still coming down from my ride with Santa the night before, and trying to recall the sequence of events as my consciousness left my body and I began to travel as a spirit through space and time, finally returning after a 16 hour “trip”.  I began by chopping 4 ounces of mushrooms in the blender and preparing a mixture of apples, carrots, lemons, limes and oranges by pushing them through my juicer. I started Friday morning, December 27, at around 8:15am, with 3 heaping tablespoons of mushrooms mixed with enough of the juiced fruits and carrots to make it palatable, held my nose, and woofed it down.  I ingested more “shrooms” approximately every hour, resting or doing gentle yoga asanas between each dose, until finally, around 2:30pm, after puking twice, drinking a cup and a half of urine, and consuming all of the shrooms, I departed this realm (Much of the muscimol, the physco-active ingredient in Amanita Muscaria, is not absorbed by the body in the first pass and leaves via the urine, hence the necessity to capture and drink it.   Urine therapies go way back in the Vedic tradition.)  But, just as I was leaving, I thought of those I love, especially Pati. I thought she might be at the bedside worried about me, and I reached out to her to say goodbye only to remember that she would not be back home for another week.

I traveled at a speed beyond comprehension and soon found myself in an infinitely vast space on the rim of what appeared to be a giant wheel that spanned the Universe.  Perhaps it was an incarnation of the wheel of karma — the wheel that the Buddha often referred too — manifested from my subconscious.  It is hard to describe “where” I was i.e. from what perspective I was on the wheel, but I could see it clearly extending in both directions. Via unspoken words I was offered the choice: did I want to return to life in a physical body or continue as spirit? I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Pati and I couldn’t just leave her like that, so the choice to return for me was easy.

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I continued on and unexpectedly was given another choice; did I want to go to God? Yes! Yes! my spirit emphatically declared and I proceeded to somewhere above the wheel and as I approached what I thought was God, I heard the mournful lamentations of the spirits, “they’ve done it, they’ve blown up earth!”. I quickly passed by, or through, or rebounded past “God”, I don’t know which, but I was traveling fast and deeply into space and matter until I could see the atoms passing by. I distinctly remember becoming aware of the binary concept. And then I heard the click of off, on, off, on, off, on, off, on, off, on and suddenly, with what I assume was an “ON”, a big bang, and I began the journey back.

When I returned to the wheel I distinctly remember the voices of the spirits there contemplating if they, like roulette balls, should drop back into “the game”. They struggled with the gamble of their destiny in a physical manifestation. I noticed an incessant clicking sound which reminded me of the on, off, on, off, ON click or the sound of the balls ricocheting around the roulette wheel. I had made my choice and did not attempt to drop my ball in just anywhere, but I felt like I could still have changed my mind during that brief time on the rim of the wheel.

The next thing I became aware of on my headlong race back to the present moment was seeing an accident on a bridge over a river. I looked into the eyes of the lead horse, who was laying near the crumpled wreck of the wagon it was pulling, and I recalled Mark Twain’s characterization of life in 600AD as described in A Connecticut Yankee In King Aurthur’s Court, where he explained that if you were in a hurry, you would not hesitate to “kill the horses” to get where you wanted to go. And the horse explained to me that he couldn’t go on anymore, he was exhausted. “It wasn’t my fault”!

The bridge had caught fire and the people were dismantling the wreckage as I left the scene. The next thing I remember was a disembodied voice whispering to me “Sir Knight, Sir Knight…” and my conscious awareness returned to my body. I needed to relief my bladder, I checked the time and saw it was 5:20am, Saturday morning, but I knew I had not come all the way back. I laid down again and continued my journey and, amazingly, I saw the smiling face of Ben Johnson, who has been helping me recently at The Springs, and I knew I was back.

It took me a while to get going and my heart was set on being at The Springs. I walked from the parking lot on Hwy ZZ to the hotel spring to get some water, which I needed badly.

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(I noticed upon review that I said I was on the east side of the cut-off trail at the beginning of the video. I was actually on the northeast side of the main loop trail that leads to the buckthorn alley.)

It was so good to see Jim Davee at the work site when I arrived. He listened to my tale and I felt like he did not judge me. In my haste to get to The Springs, I left my chainsaw chaps at home (they were hanging to dry in the basement) and when I expressed my fear of cutting without this protection, Jim immediately offered to go to Forest Headquarters and get a pair of chaps for me. His thoughtfulness almost reduced me to blubbering tears. He found Anne Korman, the Assistant Superintendent of the Southern Unit of the State Forest, and soon was on his way back with a pair of chaps. Thanks Jim and Anne!

Here is what the area looked like before we started working; me cutting and Jim piling.

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As soon as I began working on the North side of the trail, where Ben Johnson left off, I realized that I had asked him to work in what was one of the worst tangled messes I had ever encountered; and it was his first time cutting buckthorn with a chainsaw! Sorry about that Ben.

Zach Kastern and I were trying to hook up at The Springs, and our schedules didn’t align exactly, but he made the effort to come out and arrived around 2:00pm. He asked where I wanted to focus and I suggested we try to carve a whole in the buckthorn in a southeasterly direction to reveal the old cranberry bog on the other side. That seemed like a good plan and we got after it.

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This is a view looking toward the “Blue V” on the edge of the horizon that we oriented ourselves to as we carved out a channel.

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We quit just before sunset and I was really looking forward to taking a tour with Zach. Jim went home to get some information about the Clover Valley spring, which is very near Rice Lake and the Whitewater Lake Recreation Area, and he arrived just in time to take a walk with us. We had a wonderful conversation as we traded ideas and information; it was memorable.

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And remember… “He sees you when your sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…”

My deep gratitude goes out to Jan Irvin, Richard Grove and Mark Passio (see his Tour de force seminar on Natural Law here).

See you at The Springs!