Magenta Imagination Healer is the Executive Director of the Evolver Network, which coordinates and supports a network of grassroots groups that promote conscious community and activism in 50 cities across the globe. These groups, called Evolver Spores, began as a project of Reality Sandwich in 2009, and were launched as an independent, aligned not-for-profit in 2011. I had the pleasure of talking to Magenta about psychedelics, digital magick, education, and more.
Benton Rooks: The idea of imagination healing is intimately connected to narrative therapy and also what Graham Hancock, Jeremy D. Johnson, Rak Razam and I have been calling entheodelic storytelling. This is really a sort of mini-group of international writers—along with others on the entheodelic storytelling series—who parallel the visionary art movement in many ways, in terms of focusing more intently on stories derived from the metaphysical world, that may or may not be entheogenically influenced (we see all contemplative paths and spiritual traditions as equal to the entheogenic experience, and mutually beneficial). It is also the recognition that stories can be more than mere entertainment, that they can actually serve as symbolic initiations for the reader.
Like you, I’ve had an extensive history of strange paranormal and supernatural influence before my later encounters with entheogens, so in many ways it seems that the spirit world was something that came to us, and not the other way around.
I do know that both Henry Corbin’s work on Ibn Arabi and the imaginal plane, and also modern Wiccans view the imagination not as mere fantasy but as a world ‘where bodies are spiritualized and spirits corporealized’, as Wahid Azal has said in my previous interview on sufism and ayahuasca.
Can you tell me a bit about how you work with others in workshops with Evolver for this sort of Jedi-esque imagination training?
Magenta Imagination Healer: Beautiful introduction – I appreciate you guys opening a fresh connection with the living power of story. Have you ever read The Art of Memory by Frances Yates? It gets into some interesting stuff about oral tradition and how traveling poets would hold vast narratives in imaginal palaces as a mnemonic device. Also, the most true histories I’ve heard are always from indigenous people who hold some semblance of their traditions intact – very different timelines and stories about governance and origin and true magic, i.e. the power of group intention to manifest realities for healing or world balancing, etc.
I keep my Imagination Healing practice and Evolver Network separate so far, except that I embody imagination healing in everything I do and enact, especially online, having a made up name and character etc. In the imagination healing circles I host, I have a deck of cards called the Imagination Healer Toolkit – they sit in the center of the room and anyone can pull out a card and initiate a game at any time, or instigate their own game. For example, we’ll tell a group story in a round-robin, or make up an image together by holding it in our minds as we add elements to it. The intention is to release people’s imaginations, which are so pent up and stifled in American culture from a small age with school, and usually increasingly so moving forward. To have freedom in a group of people to really explore, say or do fantastical things, behave in ways that would normally not be socially appropriate: this is quite liberating and simply a reminder that we always have this power of world creation, right now, in whatever context we’re in. So I just set up a space where everyone has the permission to do that.
There are also art supplies around so people can draw, and people can bring MP3s to play. It’s kind of like an adult playpen. We might play a game where everyone makes strange sounds, and perhaps the others make the sound back. One of the strangest games someone came up with was we pretended we were each in the other’s default inner landscape. That was one of the most powerful experiences of feeling someone else’s dream world I’ve ever had. The boundaries between realms are in actuality quite interpenetrating. This is basic basic reality, science, though our version of scientific materialism is so narrow and Cartesian and industrialized that it doesn’t understand. If we had more awareness of this we would be less ruled by dreams that harm us – for example Hollywood or marketing memes around sexuality and a sense of lack, etc.
If someone asks for it, I’ll lead a trance journey and teach people how to work with a spirit animal or “travel” to other realms and interact with spirit beings. I’ve learned from a mix of people Michael Harner style (which I know some people get grumpy about as cultural appropriation), beings I’ve met from working with different Ayahuasceros, a woman who studied with Osho, and my own experiences of direct spontaneous trance or exploring what I understand to be chaos magic. I like Terence McKenna’s quote: “Reality isn’t only stranger than you suppose, it is stranger than you *can* suppose.” I’ve always been completely baffled at the society around me and how it ignores these vast other layers of what’s going on. For a while I thought something was wrong with me and I studied tons of stuff about neuroscience and psychology and synesthesia and cognitive science. Eventually I wandered into what I would call Native sciences, which is the realm of shamanic technology and different kinds of specific healers and doctors and magicians and so forth, and that made much more sense. We’ve wiped out so many of those people, and still hold many of them in oppression or continual environmental threat – it’s criminal, and these are people who understand the roots of illness in the individual and society. Anyway, the more I express my perceptions about nature and our capacities for Creation, the more I get an authentic direct response from people who would much prefer to live and interact from that place of liberation and interconnected autonomy. These are some of the things I try to open up for people. For me it’s a feeling of wanting to lift the lid of what we’re capable of together. I wish I was doing the Imagination Healing circles more often – I’ve had to focus on the new architecture for the Evolver Network the past year. I suppose I’ll begin traveling to other Spores soon, and I can do the IH circles as an offering.
I also teach workshops that are about conscious language, that get into esoteric things about light and physics and old languages like Sanskrit and Aramaic, telepathy and magnetism and biophysics. I’m working on a book about some of this as well but I’m waiting until I can discern a writing style that doesn’t fall into a new age trap of misusing science words – how do I be clear when I’m speaking poetically and when I’m trying to explain something about reality and our sensory system or biocircuitry that is simply fact. The language stuff is closely related to understanding the nature of pattern, which is another workshop I teach.
And then at festivals I’ve been giving talks about the evolution of festival culture, putting out a dream of how they can be more sustainable and integrated with the “default world”. I need to get that talk online somewhere, I have a recording I just haven’t edited it.
Yes, the work of Frances Yates is fantastic! She is one of my very favorite non-fiction authors. OK, so one of the really touchy issues at the moment is “gringo” money influencing ayahuasca tourism in Peru, the ethics surrounding potential commodification of spirituality in addition to the cultural appropriation of indigenous cultures—with neocolonialism not being entirely extinguished.
Outside of the necessary steps to guard the territory from exploitation and the increasingly complex issues of supply and demand occurring due to tourism from the West, what do you think can be done outside of Peru and Brazil to bring ayahuasca into the legalization area in places in which plant sacraments remain illegaly globally? Is it possible to allow a more open dialogue about it aside from the ironic jaguar meme jabs and the misunderstandings related to purges? From my understanding, purging can be apart of the experience, but does not necessarily occur for everyone uniformly.
Well first, I encourage people to eat mushrooms. There, I’m just going to say that out loud publicly. There are many kinds of medicinal mushrooms and what, 27 species of entheogenic ones? They grow most places on the planet. Right there you have a way to reconnect with nature intelligence and sacred healing, without having to cut down plants in the rainforest. Granted, the rainforest supreme conscious plant is finding as many people as it can because its habitat is in danger, and it’s probably able to talk to all lifeforms on the planet and knows that the planetary body of life is affected by rainforest destruction. I imagine.
But seriously, there are many entheogenic or “conscious” plants (of course its a spectrum and all plants will talk to you if you’re open to a conversation). There are also DMT-containing plants and MAOI inhibitors that grow elsewhere. I recently learned there’s a kind of grass that grows all over in the Bay Area that’s high in DMT. A fistful and there you go. There’s an Ayahuasca “analogue” that grows in the Middle East. Lately I’ve been wondering if that contributed to the incredible incredible Islamic geometric art, or if their religion has them meditating on God in a way that connects with the subtle intricate structures one sees when high.
I would like there to be more examples of religious exemptions for working with these plant teachers. What MAPS is doing is one thing, and there really needs to be a public dialogue around the importance of community containers, education about the historical usage across the planet over many thousands of years, and the beneficial health effects of the plants. With all of that you would have more safety, more support for integration of what can be overwhelming experiences, dietary information for how people can optimize their recovery and absorption of the plants’ healing properties. You would also have more information circulating about how certain conscious plants can assist with things western medicine fails at curing – depression, addiction, cancer, AIDS. Meth addiction for example is a terrible problem with a huge expense to families and taxpayer dollars with courts and rehab and and and, 95% of people who go through the system for being treated go straight back to addiction. There are plant medicine cures for this. And if the beneficial plants that alter consciousness and biochemistry were made more accessible in a safe way, you would have less destructive behavior across the board. In my opinion and research, the single biggest thing the government could do to assist public health, the economy, and the environment in one fell swoop would be to legalize entheogens. Of course that’s complicated with policy and FDA etc which at some point are jokes. Dangerous and powerful jokes who have guns, but come on. I’m doing what I can to bridge the communication gap there. I have some good ideas for media pieces and campaigns.
Education education education. By talking about it. By not being afraid to talk about it. By people who are informed and make the effort to understand the complex cultural, economic, and historical issues going on. Right now I see two areas people are running to for shamanic connection, for lack of a better term: festivals, where you’re most likely to be handed a synthesized pill from a lab made by a stranger, possibly cut with other chemicals, in a rave (basically a club in the forest, at worst) and the jungle, where again you’re taking extremely powerful medicine with a stranger, whom you might not ever see again, who may or may not have training, with a plant that is more likely than not unsustainably harvested, on and on. Biatriz Labate and Clancy Cavnar just released a book called “Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond” that goes into the details about commodification as well as the beneficial aspects of the cultural exchanges that are happening.
It would be helpful to increase mature media presence to balance some of the shallow popular press Ayahuasca is getting. It’s a fruitful area of discussion because it’s related to other things that need attention and healing culturally here in America – oppression and racism, ecological habitat destruction, physical health, economic structures around medicine, people growing their own food and medicine or getting it from their neighbors instead of trucked from far away. Can you grow Ayahuasca in a walipini greenhouse? Curious! Here are some blueprints for setting up a walipini garden at different climate zones: http://www.onecommunityglobal.org/aquapini-and-walipini-planting-and-harvesting/
I’ve never been to South America, I’ve done all my work and training with the plant here in the States, so I can’t speak to direct experience. I think it’s good that more and more people are opening to spirit world connections, I think they need more access points than are being given.
Integration has been a common problem I’ve seen among people who go to South America to receive healing and come back. It’s so dense here – the dream planes in the U.S. are really sick. I watch people struggle to adjust to their experience – being so cleaned out and then coming back to a place where there are pesticides everywhere, air pollution, psychic distress, a day job. There could be more infrastructure around healers here being available to assist with the follow through in the healing process. For example ERIE is doing fabulous work – http://erievision.org/. “Entheogenic Research, Integration and Education”. Meriana Dinkova does wonderful work organizing retreats in Peru with shamans and herself offering psychology navigation tools and translating for the specific psychological head fucks most of us have to deprogram ourselves from. Those kinds of collaborations can be powerful. http://merianadinkova.com/
Conservation is a great talking point for all this, because it affects every bioregion and is a way to demonstrate being a good ally to indigenous peoples.
It’s worth mentioning that the personal healing ceremonies most people experience in Ayahuasca work in South America are not the only format for working with the plants. I’ve heard from several roadmen now that before the conquistadors, tribes would have many shamans who are able to stay conscious with the plant, across the realms etc. while in ceremony. Together they would do ritual work on the equinox say, or if they needed a new medicinal plant, they knew how to talk to nature and call forth what they needed, and do ritual to maintain balance of spirit worlds and the interconnected ecology of being. These ceremonies are less about personal healing, going inward to your own experience, and more like being sitting across the room with each other fully paying attention to everything that is going on and having a magical conversation together with non-human forces.
I personally am more interested in ceremonies like that and would love to make art together with other musicians and artists in the days after a Work for example. That is one thing I always find strange about ceremonies in the states – because of the illegality and the importing of visiting medicine people, you don’t get the kind of follow through, depth, and consistency that comes when you live, work, pray and create with your medicine family as a way of life. I long for this so much, and I know many others who do as well. I think that’s because it’s a natural pattern, a way that works for us to be in harmony with nature and the supreme power of Creation.
Right, and I think that this in some ways also ties into what we have talked about with the identification of ayahuasca themes in European witchcraft. First off, you have the whole imagery of the witches cauldron. We know that there was an extensive trading going on in Europe during that time, so it is plausible that knowledge of the ayahuasca brew was there, though eventually persecuted and covered up by the dominator culture for a temporary period of time until relatively recently, in the West.
The work of Dr. Carl Ruck also recalls that Northern European mythology is also heavily influenced by entheogenic themes. Christian Ratsch’s amazing book Witchcraft Medicine discusses both the nightshade family typically used for darker stuff, so there has undoubtedtly been extensive use of visionary plants in the rituals of medieval witchcraft tradition, despite many modern wiccans feeling that is “forbidden”. Gary Lachman also dismantles the idea of forbidden plants in the Wicca tradition in his investigative work prying into experimentations done in the 60’s in his book Turn Off Your Mind. He essentially argues that entheogens were something that only high ranking witches were offered, in fact.
So maybe the way forward with those in the West of European descent drinking ayahuasca is not identification with mestizo cosmology, but a return to the roots of their own traditions?
Yes. This is so important. A huge part of the work with Ayahausca is healing your ancestral memory. Your biological heritage, your living DNA. Also social justice wise, it’s crucial to understand your families’ migration histories. As a European decent person in the U.S., I will not be a liberated person until the other people now living on this land are also liberated – Native Americans on reservations, African American people who still face brutal cultural oppression, queer people whose fairy nature is persecuted or invisible etc.
The deeper I go with my own magical practice, the deeper I find what I’m doing is far less like what people say shamanism coming from South America is about, and far more like what I imagine a wizard to do. I intend to write an essay about all the words we use for magical practices – how we gender them, what their historical and regional useage is, how they tend to be used in an overgeneralized way, what the specific path of oppression and genocide has been, etc. Lots of people are curious about it all, it’s romanticized, and it’s f’ing real man. Freaky stuff. And there are few initiation containers in place. It’s all a bit awkward at the moment as people wake back up to it.
White people have the same oppression wounding, completely. It’s super important to understand. If you can recognize and release that and take adult responsibility for your awareness, that’s good. The more of us that see it and let it go, the more available that healing is for all.
A friend of mine told me there’s much evidence that St. Francis of Assisi and Rumi were both wandering mushroom people. I haven’t studied the entheogenic plants of Europe but I should! For a few years I worked with an herb called Vervain that’s a minor teacher plant, used in the area of Mexico for dream divination work but it also grows in Europe. Just last night someone was telling me about the witches broom thing being that women would rub entheogens on their lady parts to absorb the medicine and get off, I mean really get off. I love that image. I don’t know how I would fact check that but I like it.
The herbalism thing is worth emphasizing. Ayahuasca is a master teacher plant – it helps teach us about other plants that can cure, it teaches us how to talk with the other plants, animals, and types of spirits, and to be aware of the spirits and currents that move through us and shape us as we walk in the world. There are many many many plants that one can form a relationship with for healing. Connecting with plants period is a whole gateway to understanding infinite invisible ecosystems – soil ecologies with microorganisms and fungi and minerals… trees with how they drink water and transmute elements and are homes for so many creatures… and for me plants speak a language of pure nature, of pattern, of reality and vibration and song, that is one with cosmos and with their corporeal form. In a culture that spends a lot of time not in its human body, and is largely out of whack with other species’ bodies, and ignorant of the dimension of spirit bodies…. it would serve everyone to tune in more deeply to how all this is interconnected, and be mindful of how one is seeking experience.
This I think ties into something I have been getting into a bit lately which is the idea of post-ironic themes in literature. For a long time general memery and meta-stories that were highly self aware about the history of literature and themselves as texts was a predominant element in the storytelling world, but that is being lifted as more personal supernatural experiences are being integrated more into the current myths of the West. This allows for people to draw inspiration that is not easily duplicated, as it does not necessarily have to do with the history of literature and is in some cases more a-historical or timeless. Do you feel that is accurate?
Yes and no. I guess I feel like people are tapping into bodies of living literature, and the past-present-future illusion is becoming less of an obsession.
I am curious as to how your views on feminism informed by your extensive experience with the ayahuasca underground?
Oh man… let’s see, do I start with the story about being assistant to a bisexual female shaman who believed she was a Mayan king who practiced sacrifice in a previous life and was working off that karma, or with the 66-year old male shaman I was dating for a while who wouldn’t hang out with me unless I was his girlfriend and asked me to take over for his anger management therapist? I’ve had some experiences. I’ve had many life lessons where the universe kept smacking me in the face more and more aggressively until I learned to set boundaries and use aggression/anger appropriately instead of just greeting everyone with open-armed love. Most of those experiences had to do with men who were being complete beasts, or with queer women who had an abusive masculine streak. Encountering those patterns in the context of Ayahuasca work were accelerated periods of learning that were very harsh for me.
I’ve found a voice of strong protective female through my work with Ayahuasca and often feel myself approaching festival culture, Burning Man culture, and my arts activism work in a motherly way, seeing strongly what boundaries and depth should be in place amidst a culture that seems adolescent. There’s a profound sexuality that is fecund and rich and full and overflowing with freedom that is something I don’t think I would have run into outside of communing with this plant intelligence. It’s not even really about sex; it’s more about creation and wild conscious spirit. One of the beautiful things with the older ayahuascero I was dating was being treated as different eras of the feminine. That was fascinating and a gift.
The first time I sat with Ayahuasca was the only time I’ve ever had an experience of seeing “her” (some cultures don’t gender the plant). She was peering at me through this shimmering waterfall of green data, like tiny heiroglyphs and such flowing just like water. She was playing hide and seek in and out of the waterfall, like between the veils, and giggling. There was a feeling of an intelligence so powerful and vast and complex, it was beautiful, and strangely future-oriented. I’ve never ever seen anything remotely like it. I think there are many aspects of the feminine and its power that women and men have yet to unlock.
A majority of my Ayahuasca journeys tend to be about media – I will be shown mercilessly the reality of American media sickness, and told to create antidotes. I’m working a lot on sacred sexuality and will eventually create a video channel specifically about that – it’s all coming together. Repression of sexual energy, how it’s channeled into very narrow expressions, is at the root of many imbalances. At times I can’t handle having sex because I’m so extremely sensitive to the way people are engaging with it, I’m that transparent psychically. Not that feminism is about sex but there’s certainly still an element of slavery and callousness and disconnection that needs a lot of work across society. I suppose working with Ayahuasca just helps me understand more deeply all the factors and how they interconnect. I once had a ceremony where I sat outside rocking back and forth for about an hour in a way that felt like unwinding sexual trauma – it was clear that it wasn’t my own. There is sooooooo much of that people are still dealing with. I feel every little disrespectful twisted energy barb that gets thrown my way when walking down the street. I have a hard time working with the internet because I feel all the porn energy running through it and what people psychically project at the screens. I don’t even know how to deal with it in myself actually. Once in a while I’ll totally break down sobbing in medicine work because it hurts so much and I just need to release it.
Maybe I just need to start asserting my version of healthy sexual expression more. I designed a workshop called The Galactic Orgasm: Fully Embodying Creation Energy, that teaches some of the biocircuitry stuff I’ve been studying and gets people to liberate and re-synch their sexuality with nature and community. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of teaching it.
Technodelics and technoshamnism in general is something that is talked about quite a bit by those at RS and Evolver. What are your thoughts on on transhumanism and futuristic forms shamanism?
Mira Melaluca from Evolver Melbourne and I had a fascinating conversation about this a while back. She was describing Evolvers as techgnostic people, working through digital means in the way other shamanic people work through plants or spirit or animals etc. We were wondering what images could represent the Evolver Network, and she suggested a person with a wifi symbol over their third eye. It’s astonishing to me how telepathically connected the local Evolver Sporeganizers are. I don’t know what the right words are for it, sometimes I think it’s just that we’re really centered in speaking and listening from our hearts. But Mira also pointed out that we’re the first generation of digital natives – people who grew up with the internet.
I wouldn’t doubt that we’re being somewhat ruled by a dream created by dystopian sci-fi writers. There’s this whole dark cyberpunk and fear-oriented AI and aliens thing. Sara Huntley (a visual and performance artist) and I did a dialogue that I need to edit and post, comparing the archetypes of cyberpunk and galactic light warrior.
I think time is a funny notion and my consciousness isn’t time-oriented. Being aware of what one is projecting into the present by focusing on future scenarios is wise. I once had a vision where I saw people into technology and people who wanted to unplug and be one with nature, peacefully coexisting in different locations on the planet, because everyone was telepathic and were able to feel if they did or were planning anything that would harm anyone else. I studied AI for several years and it was part of my “spiritual awakening” whatever that is. I was looking into knowledge representation, which is computer science modeling of how our brains process language. So I ventured into transhumanism and implants and friendly seed AI etc etc. There are some creepy cultures around it in the Bay Area – some of the content from Singularity University is so divorced from nature science that I shudder. Trying to talk with people from MIRI (the Machine Intelligence Research Institute), which I believe is still paired with CFAR, the Center for Applied Rationality, is somewhat impossible but I think that’s mostly because they are extreme math nerds. I’ve been meaning to host a panel discussion on the Singularity from three perspectives – AI / the technological singularity, cosmic intelligence / unity consciousness, and physics / black holes. I think the Singularity is an area the Evolver Network could cover more, all the robotics stuff and nanotech and quantum computing and quantum foam or whatever models of universal structure people are exploring these days.
What would your response be to those critical of Western “bedroom shamanism” that does not usually favor the classical initiation into the Peruvian cosmology?
I believe more people need to practice shamanism, whatever they call it. Because so few people are attending to the spirit dimensions of cities and old battlefields and so forth, there are serious imbalances that aren’t getting addressed. I think festivals where hundreds to tens of thousands of people drop acid and drink alcohol and do K and E and G and Z or whatever can be dangerous, period. Any intense medicine work where you don’t have a guide and someone able to consciously hold and track the container can be dangerous – the spirit worlds are no different from a jungle that has parasites and poisonous things or big things with teeth. It’s good to be aware of the power of intact traditions, and the difference between that and a hybrid or invented practice. And to work in community so one checks in with people. Studying transpersonal psychology is one helpful way to train yourself to “see” across the planes. A culture’s cosmology can be a helpful anchor to navigate the realms and be introduced to guides and forces of nature. But it might not be what’s authentic to a specific person’s path.
Thank you, Benton, for the deep questions and for the beautiful dialogues you are provoking.
Magenta is an artist, healer, and systems engineer. She is the Executive Director of the Evolver Network, an open-source community platform for sustainable planetary culture. She designed the HiveMind festival as a community forum to coalition build among organizations and leaders devoted to healthy ecology, spiritual realization, and right use of technology. Magenta has served as editor and curator for Aorta Magazine, a magazine for female and trans-identified radical political artists. She advocates for the legalization of entheogens and awareness of the history of global indigenous medicine practices. She teaches psychic skills through a lense of chaos magic, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and the physics of light. She is also an illustrator, collective marketing strategist, and designs clothing using recycled materials. To bring all this under one “job”, she calls herself an imagination healer – reminding people of our collective power to create the reality we truly want to live in. www.imaginationhealer.com