The next two paintings from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality are both by me. They are both from Chapter 9: Guhā: Cave of the Heart. I came across this Sanskrit word, guhā, meaning “cave of the heart,” and I thought it fit quite well with Joseph’s description of the human being as a medicine bag and the center of the heart being represented by the essence of carrying. Our hearts need to be empty at some point in order that we can find their fullness at a later point.
The first painting for this chapter is “Heart Meditation” which I painted around the start of working on Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. I realized, at some point, that our heart, although we often think of it as light, labours away in the darkness of our chest. Our heart never sees the light of day. It is up to us to enter into the darkness of ourselves, the darkness of our chests, to bring forth this light hidden in the darkness.
The next painting is “Heart at the Center of Dark Matter.” Joseph is always sending me clippings from science news sources about dark matter and dark energy. The Tiwa mysticism is based on going into the kiva and sitting in the darkness to await the emergence of visions and revelations. In this painting I tried to capture the central medicine wheel within the darkness of the heart sending out energy into the cosmos. This painting was from near the end of Walking the Medicine Wheel.
I asked Joseph about the meaning of caves and this is what he said:
“Nah au kwee leh neh is the Tiwa word for cave. Nah means ‘self.’ Au kwee – means ‘curved.’ Leh neh means ‘straight like a fence.’ “Nah means that when we enter a cave, we are entering into ourselves and we should think of the cave as our self. We should expect that when we first enter the cave it will turn every which way and it can get confusing, but eventually it will straighten out and you will then find what you are seeking.
“When I was a kid, I would ride my bike and swerve back and forth. I would pretend that I was riding in a cave and swerving down the passageways.. . . I would pretend I was in a golden, diamond-studded cave with jewels as big as coffee cups. Each jewel would have a special sound—I would listen for it in my imagination. My grandfather said that I should listen to things as I moved through them, like passing by rows of trees on either side as I rode my bike and I would listen to them singing. I always was really fond of trees and I spent as much time with them as I could.”
The next two art works from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality are both by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). The first painting is “The Blowing Breath of Dark Energy.” I have a small photo of this piece in my office, near where I work. Joseph is fascinated by scientific discoveries around dark matter and dark energy. Joseph says that “darkness is where all the good ideas are.” I’m not sure how old this painting is – it is from a number of 35 mm slides of Joseph’s artwork that we had transferred to digital.
The next art work is “The Underside of a Far Larger Ship.” Joseph often speaks about space, ETs, and the stars as our relatives and home. He says that according to traditional teachings, we came from the stars and one day we will return there. This is an image of a vision of ship he saw flying above the Earth.
These art works are from Chapter 7: Story Medicine and it opens with a vision Joseph had of a new creation story:
Joseph Rael’s New Creation Story
Joseph called me with a dream/vision he had one morning:
“Grandmother was making strong black coffee one morning and brought a cup to Grandfather. She also brought the coffee upstairs to the children and gave it to them so that they would get out of bed. She wasn’t supposed to do this, so she didn’t tell Grandfather this. [Joseph relates that this happened to him when he was a young boy, that he was given coffee secretly in the morning to wake him up so he would get dressed for school].
“When Grandfather drank the coffee he had an epiphany, an inspiration. He had a white sheet of paper in front of him and he hit it and it made the sound, one—weh-mu! He hit it again and it made the sound, two—wehseh! Then again, three—paah-chu! He continued to hit the paper ten times, counting out the numbers of inspiration one through ten: four—wii, five—paah-nu, six—maa-tschlay, seven—cho-oh, eight—wheh-leh, nine—whiii, ten—tehn-ku-teh. He hit the paper with a multi-colored colored pencil that he had and with each hit he created a circle of colored light that emanated out from the Big Bang of the central point.
We talked about this vision for a while and I wondered why God needed the cup of coffee for inspiration (I do live in Seattle). I wondered if the black liquid coffee could represent the blackness of the Void that existed before creation. I like this idea that God drank in liquid blackness and out of this inspiration came a vision, which Joseph describes as the soul drinking light—and out of inspiration comes rainbow circles of light creating Creation out of sound, light, color, breath, and vibration.
In Joseph’s vision, we also have the interaction of the feminine and the masculine in creation, the feminine providing the inspiration through the liquid black of coffee, but also showing the introduction of duality and the use of coffee for both the inspiration to create the Universe, but also abusing the coffee to force the children awake. In the exegesis of the vision, Joseph mentioned that the Grandmother was an older generation than the Grandfather, not necessarily the partner of the Grandfather, but maybe the Grandmother of the Grandfather—thus we have the interesting idea that perhaps the Grandfather was one of the children that the Grandmother was trying to get up, dressed and off to school, and what slipped out was that the child/Grandfather smacked the paper 10 times and created the Universe before running off to school.
Joseph explained that prior to the Grandfather having the epiphany, he was living in darkness, in the Vast Self. He was an artist who had learned to see in the dark, making his sketches. He hadn’t yet moved into the Circle of Light. “Darkness is where all the good ideas are,” says Joseph, this is where the source of inspiration is. With the first hit of the paper, simultaneously a sound and light are created. This is the point of light at the center of the medicine wheel. It is the light of epiphany, the light of movement, there is now a central organizing point. With each hit of the paper, a new colored circle of light of the medicine wheel is created.
In talking about this dream/vision, Joseph says, “Of course we are God, we are the artist.” Each of us is creation, but we also keep creation going through our lives and as we cycle through the medicine wheel we create energy—the friction in our lives creates sparks and gives off light. The medicine wheel gives a structure, organization and context to all life events. It shows how life moves in circles: each year we move from winter to spring to summer to fall and back to winter again; each life comes from the earth and returns to the earth; each inspiration and epiphany begins in the North (winter/spiritual) and then moves to the East (spring/mental), then to the South (summer/emotional), and then to the West (fall/physical). The medicine wheel explains how spiritual inspiration becomes mental idea, becomes emotional feeling, and then becomes a physical thing in material reality. The medicine wheel shows that there is no artificial boundary between the spiritual and physical, rather there is a bridge, or a rolling wheel that moves the energy along, manifesting in different dimensions at different times.
“Dove of the Holy Spirit,” is a bright and vibrant painting – colors exploding out of the blackness of the void. I keep it by me, on my desk, where I work.
The next painting is, interestingly, a bird flying in the opposite direction to the first painting. I did a series of two paintings of crows flying through the darkness of the void. Joseph often speaks of dark energy and dark matter and is fascinated by these energies and spaces that we can infer but that we cannot see with our usual senses.
“Carrying is the same as initiation. At sunrise, the sun’s light initiates the day. At sundown, the sunlight initiates the night by ending the light of the day and beginning the dark of night. Similarly, life is carrying all that is; all plants, animals, and things. Life initiates us into linear time. We live from one moment to the next one. We live inside each moment, then it passes on so that we can become something new. A past moment that just died carries and becomes the foundation for the new knowing that was just born.”(Joseph Rael, p. 165, originally from Sound, p. 111).
The next painting of Joseph’s is Drinking Universal Spirit Stars Light. This is one of a series of paintings that Joseph did featuring gold paint.
“A vision is the soul drinking light. It starts with descending light, falling like rain. . . . The visionary transformation happens in the act of perception. . . . It has the quality of “heaven is here now.” What you want to achieve is here now, ready, given.”
(Becoming Medicine, p. 76, from Ceremonies of the Living Spirit, p. 40)
From Joseph’s perspective, we are in continual interrelationship with the world and the stars are our ancestors, our elders, our relatives, we came from them and we will return to them. For Joseph the separation between subject and object which we have tried so hard to perfect in Western science is more fluid. We don’t just look at the stars, we drink their light and the ancestors and relatives nourish and support us.
“Kuaua: means hello, it is the greeting that you give when you meet someone. Ku means good and aua means life, so it means good life, have a good life, it is like a blessing. So when we say hello to someone, kuaua, we are instantly bringing out the goodness that exists in the world, in the bushes, the plants, and the trees, the stones, and the mountains. It is not that we say it and it travels over there. We say it and it re-awakens what is already there in the world. In that way we are bringing out the goodness in the world through our words and our actions. We are giving birth to the world in our everyday life. Isn’t that great?” (J. Rael, p. 155-156).
The first art work is “Blessings for Drinking from Morning Star,” and this one is interesting in that it was a completed painting, which Joseph had a print of, and he dictated to me some additional text which I wrote in my hand on the painting. I’ve always liked the intersection of art and text and this art work is as much a book as it is a painting.
The next art work is “Sacred Offering of the Five-fingered,” and there are five offering pots that spell out the word, “peace.” This piece marks the transition from the chapter “Becoming Visionary” to the chapter “Becoming a Mystic.”
“Since Ancient times in the culture of some of the Pueblo Indian people of North Central New Mexico of the Southwest knew that the Two-leggeds had a Relationship with the stars. They even said that there were people who lived in the Heavens that were related to them.
They would do ceremonies like blessing the water and bringing the light from distant stars, capturing it on the feathers and blessing the waters so that people might drink of the Heavenly places of Divine Presence. Once the Light was captured by a Grandmother in the water of a black pot, they would bless all the plant people of the Wild Places as well as of their gardens.
Through Quantum Entanglement, the Ancient Ones knew that the Stars and them were One.” (Joseph Rael as dictated to David Kopacz)
For the next two art works from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, we have one from Joseph and one from myself. Joseph’s painting is “Vision of the Blessed Virgin.” Joseph told me of at least three different visions of the Madonna. The first visit I made to Colorado, Joseph directed me to drive around (it felt like we were driving in circles at times!) and one of the places he took me to was a house in Bayfield where there was a gas explosion and Joseph was blown over, injuring his knees. He had another vision one time in an AA meeting. That painting is in Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD, entitled “Awakening at AA Meeting,” (p. 135). We also have a painting of Joseph’s in that book entitled, “Madonna Over Sound Peace Chamber,” (p. 189).
My painting I called, “Shamanic Vision,” I was trying to capture the two realities Joseph speaks of: Ordinary and Non-ordinary Reality. I also added the colors of the rainbows that Joseph uses in his paintings: yellow, orange, red, blue.
That’s the way I live. I never know how the things I do are going to turn out. I just show up and do what I’m told. This energy follows me around, but I always know if I don’t do what I’m told I will be unhappy. I used to tell my students, be sure that you follow your guidance because that guidance is in your higher interest. From that, other experiences will come to you that will enhance your growth. (Joseph Rael, p. 108 – from House of Shattering Light, p. 110-111).
Visions are new knowledge, guiding insights that come in visual form, rich with symbolism and archetypes. Visions are different than intellectual, linear thought – they are in-breakings of the divine into ordinary life.
“Ceremony is the way to do this. It gives us powers. Ceremony works because there is crying for a vision. By crying for a vision, I mean that the soul is longing for light, so it can drink it in and thus fulfill its nature. If light – vision – is lacking, there is sadness,” (J. Rael, cited, p. 89).
Here are the next two paintings from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, by David R. Kopacz, MD & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). The first painting is by Joseph, Where God and Humans Meet. This was one of the first paintings that Joseph gifted me when we first started working together. These paintings are found in chapter 4, Becoming a Visionary. Here is what I wrote about the painting in the book:
“Joseph’s artwork comes from his visions. What he sees in his visions he puts in his artwork. I keep a number of Joseph’s paintings around my desk. One of these is “Where God and Humans meet.” This painting is in the shape of a large vase, filled with tiny dots—like stars or molecules of gas. There is a central point, like a sun, which shines two rays downward to the top of two people’s heads and there is a little star where that divine energy enters in through the crown (7th) chakra. Arching upwards from the central sun is a divine being, God or Vast Self. As always in Joseph’s paintings, this divine being is looking upwards and has a large black eye (which is a black hole, Joseph says, and this black hole is about the same size as the light giving central sun). The edge of the vase and the back of this divine being are the same line, the vase grows out of the divine being which creates a container of and for existence. We are the vase that contains the space where God and humans meet, but from a visionary perspective, the material we are made of, the vase, is the material of Wah-Mah-Chi, Breath-Matter-Movement, in other words, God. Visions come from the divine and they reveal to us who we are.Visions are the soul drinking light, Joseph says,” (78).
The next painting is one of mine. When I was living in New Zealand I began reading Henry Corbin and was fascinated by his description of the ‘alam al-mithal, the place where “Spirits are corporealized and bodies are spiritualized,” (Corbin, Spiritual Body, Celestial Earth, 177). I would sit and meditate, looking out at the volcano, Rangitoto, and would try to find what this place of ‘alam al-mithal would be like. I painted 10 different paintings, but I’m not sure I could capture my vision.
“Visions are at the center of this book, just as the heart is at the center of the medicine wheel and our hearts are the center of our being. A vision is a little bit like a poem, or maybe a dream. It can be of brief, passing interest, or it can be an orienting structure for the rest of your life,” (78).
The first painting, “Dove of Peace,” is by Joseph Rael. He describes how he had a vision after his foster mother, Lucia, died – he saw a white dove in the corner of the room and had a glimpse of paradise. This painting is in Chapter 3, “Separation.” You have to go through separation before you can go through reunion.
The next painting is one of mine, “Visionary Perception,” and starts off chapter 4, “Becoming a Visionary.”
“For me, I was in training all the time that I was in Picuris. If everything is considered holy, then you are always in training.
Apparently I was in training for right now—to tell the people in the United States what we are built to do and that we are the Sacred. We are the holy ones. That is why I always speak with eloquence.” (Joseph Rael)
We are into the July 4th Weekend of the Pandemic. Will this weekend be any different than any other weekend of the pandemic? Social Distancing, we keep to ourselves, we turn inwards – and yet the birthday of when this nation was established (recognizing that we invaded other nations that were already here on this land) is usually about going out, barbequeing with friends, watching fireworks in crowds.
We have our independence from Britain – but what are we using it for? What are we doing with this independence? We are not independent of our acts of aggression, genocide, and slavery – those are intertwined with the founding of the United States of America.
Maybe we have taken independence as far as it can safely go. The current political regime in power in the USA gives us pause to consider this. Maybe it is time that we stopped celebrating independence and started celebrating Interdependence.
We would start by acknowleding our interdependence with Mother Earth and her children, this land that we live on which we took from our Native American brothers & sisters. Then it would lead to acknowledging our interdependence with Africa and her children whom our ancestors captured and enslaved, prospering off of their labor. Then it would lead to acknowledging our interdependence with all the people of the Earth.
“Spiritual Democracy is a living connection, allowing the flow of spirituality through our lives, embracing the divinity in all creatures and the divinity of the Earth. Spiritual democracy is the way we treat others when we learn to see the divine in all things and that we, too, are part of divinity. It is a sacred way of being. Periodically, we forget that we are divine as we live in this world of matter and go through its trials and travails. We, as individuals, as well as we as people, need periodic renewal at the font of spiritual democracy.” (p. 381)
We invite you to use this holiday weekend to renew our Spiritual Democracy. Let’s put the “we” back in “We the people…”
If you’d like to read the chapter, just download the pdf below.