We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
These words were offered by TS Eliot toward the very end of the Four Quartets published in 1943. The show us how difficult it is to know how we have arrived at this moment and all of the influences that have brought us here. We both sense a distant source for our wanderings as well as an arrival to a place we already knew. The layered palimpsest of our current ideas Surely, both our civilization as well as our individual worldviews stand on the shoulders of giants. In this dim and dimming memory of history, the questions emerge: Which giants are we standing on? What parts of those giants are holding us up? What is holding them up?
I’m often asked by students about the Congregation’s “lineage.” It appears to be a way of quickly vetting if they are likely to be enthusiastic or skeptical about our offerings. To be honest, I find the question of lineage to be problematic. To my mind championing “lineage” signals a shorthand attempt to gain some kind of contemporary credibility based on the notion that if something has been around “since the golden age” it must be more correct, more valuable, more wise. This sort of false credibility can and has been abused by gurus, teachers, priests, and leaders since the invention of history. More recently the notion of lineage was abused by the Consciousness Medicine Community leadership to create the illusion of credibility and sacredness. To my thinking, it’s not the particular content of the question here but rather the enterprise of projecting credibility based on “lineage.” For my students who seek to use the “lineage question” as a shorthand for thinking, experiencing, and forming their own opinions, I ask you to dig deeper.
I’m careful to make a distinction between lineage and its pseudo-sacred ring (coming from a long line of kings or the descendant of an excellent family, etc.) and influences. Unpacking our influences can lead us to insight, self-awareness, and the creative synthesis of new ideas and practices that if not better in general are at least more appropriate for the context in which we find ourselves. Bringing awareness to the influences that inform us, allows us a more explicit examination of not just the ideas but also the underlying philosophical matrices from which those ideas emerged. It also informs us more specifically about our own biases by making the unconscious influences more conscious and freely chosen (or rejected). Where “linage” stops thinking, “influences” spurs it on to a more nuanced and complex inquiry.
My personal influences are wide-ranging and often contradictory. I grew up in both a liberal protestant tradition (United Methodist) and a Pentecostal tradition (Assemblies of God). I went to a Jesuit (Roman Catholic) high school and taught for a decade at a Jesuit University. All of these traditions have influenced my ideas about divinity, spirit, soul, embodied experience, ritual, ecstasy, divine connection, religious doctrine, and spiritual discipline. The tension between the ecstasy of the Pentecostal tradition, the individualism and thoughtfulness of the United Methodists, and the communal, disciplined spirituality of the Jesuits have proven a fruitful ground of perspectives and contradictions.
From a formal academic perspective, I hold degrees in Physics, Developmental Psychology, and a doctorate in Mythology, Religious Studies, and Depth Psychology (Mythology! Hard science! More tension!). Specific major influences would be sacred texts: Tao de Ching, Bhagavad Gita, Radiance Sutras, The Yoga Sutras, The Ramayana, the Odyessy, and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. My dissertation was on the 2nd Century CE myth of Cupid and Psyche charting Psyche’s developmental path to become Divine. CG Jung, Wolfgang Giegerich, and James Hillman along with other modern thinkers like Robert Coles, David Miller, Gaston Bachelard, and Ken Wilber as well as ancient and medieval thinkers like Patanjali, Apuelieus, Augustine, and St. Ignatius are all “in the soup.”
I’m grateful to all of my medicine-informed teachers as well. Steve Blumenthal was my first guide and perhaps left the deepest “imprint” on how to hold this work. He has been humbly training guides and holding medicine for more than a quarter century. Many workshops with Michael Harner’s core shamanism gave me a sense of what was possible in the “other worlds.” Francoise Bourzat emphasized the importance of preparation and integration for expanded states of consciousness. I have also studied Umbandaime with Ge Marks, sound healing in expanded states with Roberto Gopar, and have visited Oaxaca, Mexico multiple times to work with indigenous Mazatec, Zapotec, and Mixteca medicine holders.
I should also mention that two decades of working in corporate training (Xerox Learning Systems, AchieveGlobal, Andersen Consulting, NinthHouse Network), higher education (University of San Francisco where I led the Executive MBA program and San Francisco State), consulting with the federal government (FBI, CIA, NSA, DSS, and other three letter acronym agencies), and founding three businesses (RNM Global, RevoMetrix, Kenneson, LLC), that I have particular ideas about leadership, organizations, and systems. Peter Block, Peter Senge, Tom Peters, Bolman & Deal, Ken Wilber (again), and a host of psychologists and business thinkers have also influenced “the soup” in which I swim. It’s a lot of soup!
In working with the emergent possibilities of the next wave of psychedelic thinking, a focus on influences over lineage allows us to incorporate the long histories of indigenous use with modern psychology and modern philosophies within a context of the specific cosmovisions that are appropriate to our current context. CG Jung and Joseph Campell both grieved the loss of early tribal thinking and cosmology with its beautiful and clear simplicity. They lamented that moderns and postmoderns can never go back to pre-scientific animism any more than we can stop checking the time or using petroleum products. It’s too much a part of the culture in which we find ourselves. While still connecting and honoring the historical stewards of these sacraments in indigenous communities, we moderns/postmoderns have no choice but to “dream the myth onward” as Jung and Campbell put it. We cannot and should not try to return to indigenous ways.
To close, I’ll return to the beginning with Mr. Eliot. In the end, I will not cease from exploring knowing that at the end of all my exploring, I will come back home through the unknown, remembered gate and know my place for the first time. It is not a lineage. It’s a human returning to what we have always already known.