The following Text is cut and pasted out of a document still now at my laptop desktop, and last modified 1st April 2017. I have an e-mail record of having sent it to the recipient at that time, at 6:54am 1st April 2017. The context of why I had been having e-mail exchanges with the recipient, and reading his academic work, is overt at the end of the following:
Letter to Alex Gearin, contemplating his Article named “Dividual Vision of the Individual: Ayahuasca Neo-Shamanism in Australia and the New Age Individualism Orthodoxy”, of April 1st 2017.
I read your article a few times over, and I still think I have something to contribute to your discourse, so I am formalizing this somewhat by writing a letter, hopefully which will enable my point of view come into your professional academic considerations. To do so, I think I need assert what the basis is, from which I contribute, as well as why. In part, why is because when I first came across the studies in psychology which have equated formalized experiences with collectivism, and informal experiences with individualist social experiences, I had to myself stop and question their evidence, because of my experiences of indigenous Australian society. What my overall experience lends me to believe, (but without academic research I will not here assert), is that an informal collectivist approach, is the hallmark of the way indigenous australian culture is subverting the dominant cultural paradigm of western european imperialism. However, the relationships between formality and informality within the indigenous experience, must be very carefully examined to prove this, because of my also having witnessed quite a few examples, within which the criminal context was that most formal among indigenous men. Of my experiences which inform what I will state later in the letter, I need be upfront, and state the following facts of my associations with Indigenous Australians:
In 1987-88 I worked in Community Radio in Canberra, and that lead me to become the TLC appointed Convenor of the Canberra Bicentenary Protest Group, as well as having a number of significant experiences of marijuana use among indigenous women in female only contexts;
In my role in the Bicentenary Protest Group, I came to be invited (via an English woman who had lived in a remote N.T. Outstation community, with her former husband Patrick McConvil), attend a Corroboree of National significance, held at Kurnell 25-6th January 1988, and that experience still today ensures a significant level of indigenous acculturation experiences are accorded in my life;
Subsequently I studied anthropology and linguistics only briefly at UNE, in an Aboriginal Studies Arts degree which I did not complete, but studied for long enough to have realised that the Corroboree in ’88 enabled my comprehension is of far more depth than it would be had I not attended, and that this is in relationship both with Kinship (by Kinship I include the indigenous economy to be regulated by Kinship), and with Aboriginal dialects of English;
In late 2002 the Warlbiri Baptist congregation from Yuendumu formally gave me a Brolga Girl dreaming and dance, onsite at the Tent Embassy in Canberra, and through their attending a National Baptist Convention, which ensured I received the dance within a Westerner’s self concept, and I also received direct information that their understanding is of my having become betrothed into the unsafe social contexts among the indigenous, and that this Brolga Girl story will safeguard my sanctity;
In 2003, a younger indigenous man (23 to my 34), tracked me down, announcing he knows me in the Dreamtime, and claimed me as his own property, yet thereafter in accord with his substance misuse pattern, I experienced being stolen from him by another man and other men;
After which experiences had begun, I got given some necessary rules, including that I never enter an indigenous inhabited building if I am the only female within indigenous Kinship (or not perhaps), present, (at direct risk of inviting rape), and I found it in myself to respect and obey the rule as it is so openly provided for me as though an instruction in how to avoid being forced into prostitution;
Thereafer, and within according to every customary lore instruction I received, I experienced witnessing more of the male consumption patterns of narcotics and psychedelics;
This is inclusive of spending one month late 2010 early 2011, living among Long Grassers in Darwin, very much embraced into their Kinship as one of, to the extent even of being found by my good sister Wilma, (who is the older birth sister of Felicity who had named me her sister within Warlbiri Kinship during a series of Warlbiri Baptist congregation visits to Canberra in the mid to late 1990s, when my children became also acquainted with traditionally oriented social contexts: Wilma spared for me her condolences about my having had to become married up within the context of the less safe portion of indigenous society, and about the fact I was then travelling with a grown up “sad boy” unable sustain his manhood in ownership of myself as his woman);
I also have had a briefer by more deeply abiding relationship, with a man held to be more responsible for my presence in the world than a “sad boy” will ever be allowed to be, howeveer we became bound within ideological disagreement, based in him being a proponent of incarceration being able to be considered as an equivalent to traditional initiatory rites in qualifying indigenous men, (I made a stand against him which I hold and keep to this day, which is difficult as his is a prominent member of the local community here in Brisbane, and wants to discredit all my lived evidence);
I have also had relationship with a few more men who are called “sad boys” and are significantly culturally hurt by their experiences of incarceration, and also with two drover cowboy initiate men, who live fully within traditional culture, as well as within “Two Way” culture, that is a Mestizo type blended culture, in which to be real every fact need full corroboration between dreaming and solid matter in both indigenous and western cultural contexts;
I am well informed about the ongoing cultural struggle of traditionally oriented male initiates, to ensure that the two way experience includes traditional indigenous notions of how to manage all narcotics including psychedelics, and I am informed also, but somewhat detrimentally to myself, by an influence counter to the tradition within indigenous society, and aligned with falsified initiations via incarceration and inclusive of violent rape;
I have chewed Pituri within traditionally oriented indigenous protocol, (reminding me of the fact that when Westernized anthropologists use the phrase “traditionally oriented”, because it is just oriented to tradition rather than born without need for re-orienting, it is considered as “Two Way” culture by anybody within the label, as though an equivalent of being born as a Kriol language speaker).
Obviously, as a woman I have gained some understanding of indigenous women’s business, and less obvious is that I have an understanding of Kirda Kurdungurlu relationships. Also it is observable of my experiences, that as a woman, we experience participating within Kirda Kurdungurlu relationships potentially as an object of trade, as well as with our own rights of trade between women, and this is what defines my point of view, above and beyond any academic lessons in anthropology. However raised as I am within the Westerner’s frame of reference of thought, I write somewhat alike how an academic can, but within a funny kind of excess of words defined by indigenous communication protocol being applied to a Westerner’s mindset.
For example I have a number of discrete statements to make in this letter, which will each form a paragraph, but some will be longer and more involved than others. But I struggle to conceptually define a plan for progressing the process of writing this letter, because of abiding within my own Two Way context, I feel obligated to be keeping all of this in the order my notes are first written, which reveals the orders in my psyche. This will be true except that towards the end, will be more of my initial thinking, that I interrupted to assert the basis from within which I am providing any kind of collateral evidence into anthropology’s social context.
The major difference between what you describe, Alex, of Neo-Shamanism in Australia, and what I experienced within indigenous contexts, which in general sustain a lot of Shamanic content, (e.g. I once got told that North Queensland bone doctor men can reach into the body and rearrange the bones of a living person, and I was uncertain what to think, until a drunk indigenous man from Palm Island, sat down with me at a bus stop in Brisbane, and after ascertaining that we already know someone in common thus can place one another in Kinship, he touched my back, and I experienced a sensation as if he reached into my body and griped the lumbar region of my spine, and pulled out an object, which I saw as a black thing in his hand, which he then threw away in front of me… and my back pain went away and is gone now already 12 years), is that in the indigenous Two Way contexts, are no current consistent protocols about speaking about visionary experiences, but only the very most traditional rules, and those rules are too often being broken upon being taught, and thus being taught less than the real need is. I think one aspect of this is related to the nature of the duboisia hopwoodii experience, and the other aspect is merely about time and learning of the needs of different psychedelics being different from the needs associated with with word “Pituri”.
An indigenous Australian observation of Western Neo-Shamanism, will usually be fairly rigid in disapproval. That disapproval is often oriented with Native American disquiet about the cultural appropriation involved, however, within the entire context, are also indigenous Australian families who have intermarried with Native American, and are less vocal about cultural appropriation. Thus it is apparent that some other kind of lack of communication is present. What indigenous men will observe, is that there exist in Western Neo-Shamanism, lack of distinct definitions, and/or different patterns of belief, about what is intended in the meanings of words and phrases like “Spirit helper”, “Spirit guide”, “Spirit ally”, “Spirit animal”, and all the Spirit Nature kind of concepts which Westerners at times struggle to grasp, and at other times struggle to deny. In simple marijuana contexts, often involving illicit purchase and thus difficult to study as an ethnography, are many examples of simple ceremonial contexts in which lack of distinct meanings is causing miscommunication within use of such terms. Another observation is that those terms have different regard among different individual Westerners, sometimes with that lack of accurate knowledge being what some people desired in their use of the language. That those differences of meaning, can’t be challenged often, is for some folk the difficulty, but for others the essence, and yet for others is merely a safety net of not needing know everybody’s mindset. Often there are also misconstrued concepts of local indigenous totemic affiliation, for example, and yet the illusion thus created about indigenous/non-indigenous relations, can cause a bubble of relative safety for holding onto the accurate indigenous concept which suffers with becoming propagated nevertheless. Potentially also many mainstream religious concepts are sitting within that same bubble also. The exact issue in all this, from the indigenous two way point of view, is as your article defines, all about dividualist versus individualist social constructs and how these are embedded in how we communicate. The Two Way unspoken condemnation of Western Neo-Shamanism, is in that there is no indication of who is Kirda and who Kurdungurlu, to use Warlbiri expressions of economic values of exchange. Perhaps it can be extrapolated that to “hold space” might have been implying Kirda (in the verb to hold), but in fact proves to be more often a Kurdungurlu function, while for the Westerner, perhaps a transition from being holder into becoming a “keeper” is a transition from Kurdungurlu into Kirda. Yet in the Western contexts a keeper was thought of as lesser than a holder, while in Two Way culture, keeping is the higher social function. This point is predictive if we relate to the context of Native Title, where the exact same difficulty was occurring.
In general, with relation to your point about “…critical methodological questions regarding absolutist theories of individualism and collectivism in the study of New Age spirituality.” (p202) I believe there is a collective conceptual reality becoming born, which we can’t yet detect, at least not with enough insight to be writing about this. Perhaps also it is true, that the turning of any New Age, being a time when in antiquity and pre-history alike, the control of songcycles is being fought for hard, (and in this indigenous australia is no different than every other society in the world), what we can best observe to be under analysis, is the ways that were, which need stand up to a maxim of scrutiny to survive. Meanwhile, the ways that will be, seep into our unconscious psyche, and perhaps are only already conscious within the content of psychedelic visions, if not in contexts considered even more fully sacred and not yet able to be spoken of. Perhaps the “type of evidence” as you write, which we need find methodology to study, is just not yet apparent in the conscious world, but nevertheless we all feel it is.
One point of perhaps only minor interest, is that where I have witnessed Westerners speaking about a rule known of within modern Neo-Shamanic uses of psychedelics, which got expressed to me in the following words: “born under the Star of David”, that are not related to Judaism, but related to how we might see symbols in our mind’s eye, dreaming or with psychedelic substances, or just by looking differently. What the prevailing knowledge is of such lessons, that are also upheld within the most tradition indigenous contexts, is in fact about Christianity. In the Bible is the instruction that both circumcised and un-circumcised are being included in the lessons provided in the New Testament. In this fact, those who would uphold allowing only persons associated more resiliently with the Star of David, have had to come into a lesson of trust in Jesus, and will not be complaining about who engages in use of what. But meanwhile, are also those who have complained much about their desire that use of psychedelics be restricted to only those capable of sustaining indigenous customary lore, and they prove to be on the whole, the same persons who have within indigenous society, been breaking the same customary lore in who they share their own drugs with. Basically, what is happening within my own observation, is that those individuals who purport to want to sustain supply of marijuana as a cash crop, (there are a significant number of new strains of cannabis bred to sustain australia’s low-nitrogen high-mineral soils, and which can be considered of considerable value if in an American type context), were also who refused conversion to Christianity, BUT, defeat their own game by arguing a pre-Christian point of view about who is and who is not pre-destined to have access to psychedelics. They argue that only initiates are allowed, but lack proper definition of what law abiding initiatory ritual is and will be, citing only circumcision when pressed, (even though they implied violent rape, and circumcision as how to avoid infection as a rapist).
OK, so now here, I think I should show my hand a little better than I have already, by revealing something of the knowledge I got given within indigenous contexts, of psychedelics. Remember that indigenous men will say that everything is potentially medicine, potentially food, and potentially poison, and it all depends on timing and dose, how our body will respond to any introduced substance. Thus all substances are regulated by the same Kirda and Kurdungurlu roles, (using Warlbiri language again now, my understanding is: Kirda is the kind of ownership inherited from mothers, which defines a right of veto embedded in an ultimate responsibility; and Kurdungurlu is the kind of ownership inherited from fathers, which defines a food value of right of consumption of the resource; and normally indigenous men translate Kirda as boss, and Kurdungurlu as manager), and psychedelics can be no exception. However, in the case of use of Pituri to see visions, it can be that the presence of the Kirda Kurdungurlu relationship need to be veiled, otherwise the visions will not be seen. That is to say, normal reciprocal obligations become veiled whenever we relate with reality as discrete from the immediate solid matter, to which those reciprocal obligations must be applied. Reciprocal obligations, via Kirda Kurdungurlu relationships, can apply to the noumenal world as well as the phenomenon of solid matter, but not always within experiencing noumenal visionary life. Thus what you write about the tension between indigenous dividualism, and Westerner’s individualist paradigm, is palpable.
I have thought about this a lot in the context of my own experiences, which, while not unique, are not widespread among us whiteys. What I could cite of my relevant experience, is something about how, men’s trading of women, is traditionally a factor involved with what the totality of factors are, which have been enabling of clarity of visions with Pituri. However, in the modern context, all that was the traditional pattern, is in flux, with Christianity intermingled. The Christian influence of one husband one wife being legal now, and being a standard already held high as the preference of most within Two Way contexts, causes that of two major patterns of experience of Pituri, the “get up and walk” pattern which sees less in visions, is already dominating the “sit down and look” pattern, (which for me is always collapse into a dead faint if I do anything other than get up and walk: and this was true for me even within Ayahuasca and Hicuri/peyote experiences of American lead ritual:- I don’t know the extent to which my body is acculturated into this, and the extent to which it is in my biology, but it is safe to associate with Santo Diame knowledge of those who never see visions, as well as with historic knowledge of Pituri, and how it can enable up to about 78 hours of visions, or, can enable a three day and night on foot desert crossing without food and water:-> the potential dangerousness of its use if promoted recreationally, motivates many to silence Pituri out of the modern promotion of psychedelic science, because it is exceptionally strong and the high from, is exceptionally high feeling, but the half life is longer than that of opium, and as far as I know it is the only plant that is stronger in narcotic and psychedelic values than opium). There are also, however, many examples still around, of the “sit down and look” type of pattern of Pituri use, being applied to any drugs available to indigenous men, and of the indigenous proponents of that pattern, still engaging in battles for control of the Dreamtime for the New Age. Yet again this is all seen as the necessity that the transition of time leads us through. In times when songcycles are being re-forged, by intercultural experiences, and inter-racial marriages, etc, the use of Pituri and all psychedelics, is believed to develop a greater tension between the two patterns, until these resolve. In fact many will still refuse to use psychedelics in such times as these, citing that it can lead to difficulty discerning which direction reality is leading us all, whereas use of psychedelics in times when songcycles are totally pre-set and pre-determined, (middle age rather than new age, as these kinds of terms are defined by the stars rather than by men), is simply like a being given a brief loan of the Spiritual energy of perception, that will more readily be accounted for and repaid. In times when the songcycles are being re-forged, when one age transitions into another new age in time, those who have relied more heavily upon psychedelics in general throughout the previous age, have the motivation to propose that we all continue to rely upon psychedelics. Thus a necessary and inevitable tension is present, however, this need never be sustained and portrayed as a tension between Western and non-Western points of view, neither between religious and indigenous, or sacred and secular, just between those who need rely upon psychedelics, and those who might prefer everybody go without. In general, there is always the same conclusion, in that it is wrong to deny anybody any substance they feel they need.
You mentioned at page 203, of your article the following:
These forms of relational personhood–wherein the person is multiple, partible, and distributed across bodies, minds and objects—have been contrasted by anthropologists to a commodity form of “the person” associated with capitalist society.
And I want to strongly assert here, that a very strong distinction need be retained within the indigenous world view, between being consumed, and being a commodity. As a person, who is the object of trades, and whose substance of “self” an object of consumption, my point of view is quite dramatically Marxist aligned, about the negative implications of the commodification of human labour value. In the context of studying Classical Marxism and ANU, I have made the point that capitalism was in its onset, historically already associated also with the commodification of the health of the human body, and my point here, that this fact is all the more tangible within the indigenous experience, because of how trade with Pituri worked in the past. Pituri was, in the pre-western-antiquity of australia, what got used to trade with, rather than any small metal discs. Within comprehension of Pituri sustaining that kind of trade value, the valuelessness of money as an object detrimental to good health, can be amply apparent, all the more when our own person is the subject of trade.
Now, in having stated this, what I have previously stated, can be reframed. That is about how seeing visions via psychedelics requires a temporary veiling of Kirda and Kurdungurlu relationship. That veiling is in fact inherent in the very meaning of the word Pituri, and speaks to the need for decriminalization of all psycho-active substances. It also speaks to the need for society as a whole, to be condoning and sustaining of drugs, yet never actively promoting, merely enabling of the well informed consent of all those who will seek. It is towards this goal that I am writing this letter, wanting that anthropologists are abreast of the concerns among indigenous men who are silenced by their incarceration experiences. I think this point is relevant to your discourse around a “bricolage” of “New Age” “pick and mix religion” “self-spirituality”, and this point is much harder to grasp within the indigenous cultural context, because of the higher value still retained, about adhering to traditional rules. The bricolage provides for youthful enquiry, and as adults we have an obligation to ensure that youth is safeguarded while finding what they need for themselves, regardless of what the need is which anybody will self-identify when given the opportunity to explore the world.
My reason for engaging in this way with your work, is in that I have a specific aspiration which your work may further inform, and which may be of interest to yourself. Within this I am not without internal self-reference to work such as that of Margaret Cross and to general policing concerns, so as my aim will be viable, and the legislation as it stands now, is moving favourably, but I think we have a long way to go before Australians will accept the Portugese example as enough evidence. As somebody who works to enable addiction recovery, I have a clear understanding of how decriminalization is enabling of that recovery, but also of other potentially positive outcomes of decriminalization. The example of the influence of Pituri’s former use as the trade commodity instead of money, guides much of my point of view, since Pituri did not have a problematic use pattern then, and as a contractual substance, beats money’s weight within contract law. My own immediate aim is not going to be fully detailed here, that just a general aspiration. This aspiration is of enabling indigenous Ngungkari better access to Complementary and Alternative Medicine in general, as well as psychedelics from other lands specifically, and also simultaneously, and by means of enabling the Ngungkari, to enable more access to indigenous traditional medicine among westerners, which could include Pituri chewing if a need is evident. Yet indigenous systems which regulate observations of the need being evidence, are as yet, not fully expressed within Two Way (Mestizo type) culture, little own among Westerners. It is likely that Two Way culture will embrace the science at such time as when the scientists get it right, but I think that before then, a lot more could be done with respect of communicating necessary clues. There is already evidence in psychology, for example (Dr Tracey Westerman’s work), of indigenous men being capable of managed dissociative psychosis as a health care paradigm, yet no evidence of MAPS embracing that knowledge in relationship with use of psychedelics.
So then, on that note, I think I ought stop writing and let you eventually get around to reading my letter, written as this is, at the tail end of my first week of social media tasks for Chacruna dot net, I think your need for my volunteer time one week in four is going to suit me well enough.