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The next two art works we are featuring from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality are by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

The first work is “Rain Cloud and Oceanus.” Although Joseph grew up in the high desert of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, he has a special relationship with the oceans. One of his formative visions was of meeting Oceanus, the Lord of the Oceans. At the Sound Peace Chambers around the world, a fire ceremony is done on the 7th of each month for the purification of the oceans.

Rain Cloud and Oceanus, J. Rael (2006)

The next painting stands at the doorway of a very important chapter of the book, which we offer as a free pdf download – Chapter 14 Spiritual Democracy. I found this concept of Spiritual Democracy in Steven Herrmann’s book, Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward, and he had found it in the work of Walt Whitman. This concept resonated with me and for Joseph also. The painting below is an older one from 1997 that was called Earth Child, but Joseph added to the painting, making it “Earth Child of Spiritual Democracy.” I think of this fellow as the heart of our book, a seed to planted in the soil of the soul of the human being that blooms as spiritual democracy.

Earth Child of Spiritual Democracy, J. Rael (1997)

Here is what Joseph has to say about Spiritual Democracy:

“Religious liberty happens to every single human baby child when the human being swallows and drinks the milk from its mother’s breast at feeding time. Thus the American soul is in the making stage.


“What I am saying is we have to start at the foundation of what makes a human being to grow up in that religious liberty. That is the only way it is going to work if we are really going to follow the real way that we become individuals. If we don’t start at the beginning. . . .


“So I am telling you now as I am reading your paper that the idea of religious freedom was already being educated through the sound, and the being and vibration of every single swallow of swallowing-ness every time the baby was drinking its mother’s milk. This is my contribution to the idea of spiritual democracy and religious freedom,” (Joseph Rael, Becoming Medicine, 382).

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We continue on with the Art of Becoming Medicine, featuring the artwork from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality written by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and myself.

The first painting was a gift given to me when I was leaving New Zealand. There is a story of the cultural Māori hero, Maui, catching the sun and holding it close to the Earth to bring it out of darkness.

Here is the text from the back of the painting:

Dr. Dave’s moment of Satori at Takapuna Beach in the middle of the night. Ranginui the sky father is present giving you his blessings of a safe trip home. Papatuanuku the Earth goddess is praying to Ranginui hoping you will visit Aotearoa’s shores some time again in your future. Maui has caught the sun slowing down its course across the sky so there is enough daylight for life to be reborn again.

The next painting is one I did. It had the feeling of many little circles emanating outward from one large circle. I made a play on words with the motto of the USA, e pluribus unum – out of many, one. I thought of creation as having an emanation and then a re-absorption, like the in-breath and out-breath, diversity arising out of unity and then diversity returning to unity.

Out of One, Many, D. Kopacz

With the second painting from The Art of Becoming Medicine.23 (Drinking from the Flowering Light of Mother Nature), we have entered into the final section of the book, Part III Return, Chapter 12, “Returning to the Land.” Out of One, Many is from Chapter 14, “We Are All Pangeans – We Are All Related.”

“When anything is occurring, in any moment in time, it is occurring not only to the individual, but it is also occurring to that geography—to that physical geography. What is happening to me is also happening to this place, this continent, this Planet Earth, this galaxy. I am giving and I am receiving energy back from the Earth, and so are we all. We are receiving it, each according to what he needs, and translating the energies we are receiving according to what we think is happening right now.”

(Joseph Rael from Sound: Native Teachings & Visionary Art – quoted in Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, page 339)

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Two more beautiful paintings by Joseph Rael from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality.

The first is Grandfather God Creates All the Universes. Joseph started sending me paintings that he would ask me to do some finishing work on, such as adding a few words, painting in a detail here and there. This piece Joseph sent me with just the outlines and no paint, so I painted in all the color on this one. I was not sure if I should follow his style, with lots of negative space, or to go with my intution of having space of absolute blackness and then also blackness of space with stars. I decided to follow my intuition and not over think it. This piece is thus a hybrid of Joseph’s inspiration and my finishing with the pain. I look at this as Joseph is the Artist and I was the craftsman on this one.

Grandfather God Creates All of the Universe, Joseph Rael (2017)

This next painting is a beautiful one! I recently had a dream that the hummingbird who has a nest outside our bedroom window landed on my shoulder twice and seemed to be thanking me for all the salvia we have planted.

The most recent time I spoke with Joseph, he told me about how he had noticed one time that a Hummingbird kept flying up near me as we were talking and he said, “The Hummingbird initiated you into the Sun Dance.” Then he reminded me of the good luck sign of the road runner coming up on to the fence while I was visiting his home. He told me, “You saw the road runner, then a little while later, I saw a bunch of little ones, scrambling around. You have to look at what came out of that initiation for you. I haven’t told you this yet – the best, best, best thing is that I was getting out of the car at the credit union and a road runner almost went right under my fett. It kept going and then it flew to the top of the bank and quick grabbed a bug. I looked up and said, ‘Hey, you did this wrong – you are supposed to run along the road, you don’t fly on to the top of a bank!‘”

I told Joseph about my hummingbird dream and he said, “If you see life this way, you’ll have a heck of a lot of fun!

Drinking from the Flowering Light of Mother Nature, J. Rael (2005)

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The next two paintings from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality are both by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

The first painting is “Crystal Chamber Taken Up into the Sky.” This painting represents a vision Joseph had of his first Sound Chamber that he built north of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He had embedded various crystals in the wall of the chamber, which is why it is called a “crystal chamber.” He had a vision of the chamber being taken up into the sky where it continued to be availalbe in non-ordinary reality. When Joseph left that land, the physical chamber was taken down. This is also one of the first paintings that Joseph had me do some finishing work on – he asked that I paint in the water and table when he gave it to me.

Crystal Chamber Taken Up into the Sky, Joseph Rael (2017)

The next painting by Joseph is a favorite of mine that I keep above my writing desk. It shows two people whose heads are inclining from ordinary reality toward non-ordinary reality. It shows that the separation between ordinary and non-ordinary reality is but a thin line.

Ordinary, Non-Ordinary Reality Offering Bowl, Joseph Rael (2015)

“When I built the sound chamber here in Bernalillo I created a ceremony where I did a rainbow from the chamber that I had here with the chamber there at the monument where we went (the Painted Kiva). But when the people bought the place here I guess they tore it down. People call it a crystal chamber because I buried crystals in the wall. One day it became a crystal chamber and it went straight up into the sky and it is still there. So it didn’t bother me when they tore it down because it was just the physical structure. The little boy went with it up into the sky, 10,000 feet up. So it is sitting up there in the sky over Albuquerque, New Mexico.” (As part of the vision, Joseph was also given a little boy, a spirit child, who grows as the Sound Chambers grow.) (Joseph Rael, Becoming Medicine, p. 257).

Becoming Medicine Available as eBook!

Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality by David R. Kopacz MD & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) is now available as an eBook through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books/iTunes.

The eBook is an adaptation of the full color Art Medicine edition and the artwork really is luminous on the screen.

The eBook is specially priced until October as a new release.

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The next two paintings in Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality include one from me and one from Joseph Rael.

With these paintings we are entering into Chapter 10: Enlightenment & Endarkenment. My contribution is “Blue Feather,” inspired by Richard Bach’s book, Illusions. In the book, the teacher Donald Shimoda is encouraging his student, Richard, to practice visualizing from imagination into reality.

Blue Feather, David Kopacz

The painting from Joseph is “Candle of the World #1 – Ordinary and Non-ordinary Realities,” showing 2 candles facing each other with a circular counter-clockwise movement between Ordinary and Non-ordinary Realities. We’ll have Candle of the World #2 in a later series.

Candle of the World #1 – Ordinary and Non-ordinary Reality, J. Rael (2017)

“Listen!” he called across the gulf between us. “This world? And everything in it? Illusions, Richard! Every bit of it illusions! Do you understand that?” (Richard Bach, Illusions, p. 69).

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The next two art works from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality are both done by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

The first painting is “When the People Went into the Cave of Existence and Returned as Made People Ceremony.” Joseph often speaks of the True Human and how it is an ongoing process and effort to become a True Human. This painting links the cave as a place of self-connection and transformation, we are still in Chapter 9: Guha: Cave of the Heart.

When the People Went into the Cave of Existence and Returned as Made People Ceremony, J. Rael (2006)

The next painting is “The Vase of Love and Light,” which features a vase with the medicine wheel of the four seasons.

The Vase of Love and Light, J. Rael (2014)

“The ‘c’ in ‘cave’ is pronounced ‘Kay.’ There is a blanket that has been placed over that moment when the people go into a cave, that is why caves were created in the beginning by the original architect, even before goodness. We don’t know who the original architect is. God is a phenomenon that we have created. Kay means to cover oneself up with the blanket of something, getting blindsided. But you have to do that, you have to go in blindsided, covering your vision, you can’t be a visionary unless you go into this darkness. Kay also means the beginning. Something has ended. Kay means something has ended because something has just been born, so the caves in ancient time, the caves over here in Colorado, the metaphor of the caves means a beginning. You are blindsided, you have to be blindsided to go into the caves.” (Becoming Medicine, p. 227, Joseph Rael)

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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.

Heart Meditation, D. Kopacz (2014)

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.

Heart at the Center of Dark Matter, D. Kopacz (2016)

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.”

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

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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 Blowing Breath of Dark Energy, J. Rael (2020)

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.

The Underside of a Far Larger Ship, J. Rael (2015)

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.

(Joseph Rael, Becoming Medicine, 167-169).

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The next two art works from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality are both by me.

“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.

Dove of the Holy Spirit, D. Kopacz (2017-2018)

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.

Crow Flying through Cosmos, D. Kopacz (2018)

“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).