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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). These two take us into the central chapter of the book, Chapter 0: “Na-Yo Ti-Ay We-Ah (We Don’t Exist).”

Na-yo ti-ay we-ah is a complicated concept. Joseph says it means “I don’t exist.” He teaches that most of the time we don’t exist because we are trying to persist in some kind of state. The times where we really exist are when we are entering into the new and the spontaneous – when non-ordinary reality is perfusing ordinary reality. The first place he explained this to me was when we first met and we were sitting in the rental car prior to Joseph directing me to drive around to different places on the land where key events happened for him. We were talking and then he said – “There, did you see that? We were just sitting here, but then all of a sudden we both started to get really animated – that was the place where we were existing.”

The first painting is titled “Planet Earth (Our Mother),” yet it has a lot of words on it, including Wa-Ma-Chi, the Tiwa word for God. The other text on the painting reads, “Planets of outer space – to our ancient relatives who have always lived there. We ask for your help – a passage way up. Offering to the Sky and All Our Relations. Earth children. Children of Mother Earth. Help!”

Planet Earth (Our Mother), J. Rael (2017)

I’d like to include a section of dialogue with Joseph that led to him telling me about sending the above painting.

I asked Joseph what the Tiwa word for “zero” is. “Y-we-ah” he said, “the flesh does not exist.” And then he said:

“Ok, hold it right there. We are not going to go to the East or the West, we are not going to go to the North of the South. We are not going to go up or down. Write this down, I’m going to say it to you in Spanish. La vida no mas un sueño es. In English that means, ‘Life is but a dream.’ This life is not real. This life is a dream. We have talked ourselves into believing we are our ordinary reality bodies. We use these ordinary bodies to complain, to get in the car, to go around. In this life we are addictable. Use that word, I know I am making things up—we are addictable, we are addicted to this life of ordinary reality. We think we are going from 1 to 10, but we are already at ten (tehn-ku-teh). We were at number eight 10,000 years ago, but we are stuck because we are very addictable, we are stuck hanging on to life, we are hung up on the physical. Enticing as life is, it is a dream. Now, 99% of people are going to disagree with this. They are supposed to disagree because they decided to go with teamwork. All these generations have been stuck because we are very addicted to the idea of being solid, physical ideas—this leads to the idea of property and property leads to conflict. So now we have property problems between the Indians and the United States.

“The point for me—I’m being told, ‘Look you dummy, you are going around in circles, 10,000 years and you are still going around in circles.’ Every now and then, I see ancestors looking down from above—I climb and climb and climb all the way up there. They tell me, look, your ancestors got hooked on the physical. That is why they are still here but they are not supposed to be, they were supposed to have moved on. The trees stayed here with us because they love us. Plants stayed and that is where we got our language from. The mermen were planted in the ocean and now they are stuck here with us, too. It is like that man in the Bible who was stuck inside a whale—that’s us! We got addicted to the sunrise and the sunset, to seeing rainbows, then we got stuck in going to school, going to college, learning things so that we could get rich. We got stuck getting rich, traveling all over the place.

“We better start getting the message, La vida no mas un sueño es. It is dream, dream, dream! We have invested in our landedness, we get money and we buy land. We get a little money and then we buy property and we are stuck with ownership.

“This is what the Story Teller was telling us in the Picuris Children’s stories. I heard these when I was eight or nine years old. [He speaks for a while in Tiwa]. ‘Look up at the stars, they are like little bits of sand. That is where our ancestors are living. We are down here and we are supposed to be up there.’ Then they put you in a square sand box and you play with the sand. Look at people’s attraction to the ocean. They’ll travel across the world to put their feet in the sand and the ocean. They are trying to realize that they are the grains of sand and the grains of sand are the stars and that we do not belong here.

“It’s raining right now—finally I’m saying something worthwhile. This is more rain than I have seen in ten years. They’re saying, ‘Dang, David, you finally got it—you and that crazy Joseph Rael!’

“I was driving this morning and I saw a giant cloud and there was a rainbow up front on the left and then it went over and it was on the right, too. I was driving through it. The last time I saw that was driving back from Madison when I was in graduate school. It was around a place on the border of New Mexico and Texas called Texico. I drove through that rainbow and I thought, ‘It’s time to call David!’

“There’s something going on here that I’m not even going to try to explain.”

I totally resonate with this last statement and momentarily wonder if I can just say that in the book: “There’s something going on here that I’m not even going to try to explain!” But then Joseph continues and he tells me I do need to explain some things.

“We’re supposed to be here, you and I, for some dastardly reason. We need to put something in the book about what all this flooding in the world is about according to the mystic. Schools should be teaching this to kids. We need to understand that in non-ordinary reality we can leave these ordinary bodies behind. We can go out into outer space, to the moon, to other planets.

“We need to start with the premise that everything becomes its opposite. You are a scholar, you can explain this. We started with Pangea, the Indians came across the land bridge, across the straits. You need to orient people to where they come from and then tell them the statistics of what will happen with the flooding and rising oceans on the coasts. You have to look at where there is a lot of land and sooner or later that will turn into its opposite, a lot of water.

“I’m going to send you an art piece. In it I am asking for the people from outer space to come give us some technology. They can do it in our dreams, maybe the dream of a young scientist who will then get that idea to make something.” (Becoming Medicine, 308-310)

Returning Home for Mending, 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 shows a ceremonial tradition of feeding cornmeal to a deer who has given up its life to nourish the people.

The Hunter Puts Cornmeal in the Deer, J. Rael (2017)

The next painting is also of a Deer and one of Joseph’s favorite topics, dark matter.

Dark Matter Deer Medicine, J. Rael (1994)

We quoted some of what Joseph has to say about Deer in The Art of Becoming Medicine.20. Here is the continuation of that passage:

A gathering place for deer is peh mesa, peh mesa. Joseph goes over to a table and brings his hand down flat on it – peh. Then he drags it across the surface of the table – mesa. Peh mesa, peh mesa, he repeats it several times, looking in my eyes to see if I hear it and understand it. Then he goes to the TV console – peh mesa, peh mesa, peh mesa. Then he goes to the bed spread and does it again – peh mesa, peh mesa, peh mesa. Then he says, Put that in the book—Joseph Rael made the sound of the deer on the table, then on the console, then on the bed and it was always the same sound and it means “the power of true perception.” (J. Rael, Becoming Medicine, 298-299)

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The next painting in Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality is one of my favorite’s of Joseph Rael’s works – “Of Many Many Windows in the Dream Time of Mother Earth.” A detail view of this artwork was also published in our essay in Kosmos Journal for Global Transformation entitled “Becoming Medicine: When There is no Treatment, You are the Medicine.” Take a look at the article through the link, here is the first paragraph:

We are living in disruptive times, yet there have been other times as equally disruptive. People lived through pandemics, plagues, pestilence, famines, natural disasters, slavery, genocide, oppression, and wars upon wars. How did they do it? I believe there is a secret well of resilience and wisdom within the human being—located in the heart—where we find our medicine.

Of Many Many Windows in the Dream Time of Mother Earth, J. Rael (2005)

This painting reminds me of a passage I write about in the book where a deer bedded down for the night right outside my tent when I was backpacking on the way to Black Elk Peak in South Dakota. Here is what Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) says about the Deer:

Deer means peh ney. Peh means straight forward. Ney means a space in front of, before creation was made. What this is saying is that if we as a people are going to have peace, we have to go to that space beyond, before creation where Peace was. I did the Deer Dance when I was younger and I think that added to my medicine. That is an important point. The last time we were working a book, my father came in a vision and gave me permission to go forward. Now with this work with the deer medicine, the earlier dances are supporting us to go forward. True Peace is that space before there was anything that could create un-peace. (Joseph Rael, p. 298)

The next artwork in the book is also by Joseph, another great one, “Puma Giver of th Visionary Life to the People of Mother Earth.” These paintings are in chapter 11, “Initiation,” and we speak of the relationship between animals and humans and animals as guides.

Puma Giver of the Visionary Life to the People of Mother Earth, J. Rael (2005)

“I felt like something was pulling me toward the stream and I went down there and I just washed myself, blessed myself with the water, but I knew that this place belonged to me and I was turning around and I saw at least five or six puma tracks, lion tracks and some had crossed the river, right where I was drinking water and maybe that was the vibration that was I picking up of the lions and I didn’t know that I was going to have a relationship with them.”

“Picuris Pueblo seemed so far away then, because now I was in Colorado and so I noticed that right there at the river, you remember where we did the visionquest that night with the tree spirits? Right there. There were tracks coming from the other side but they were going the other direction and so there were like two separate little pathways. It was an east-west crossing of the river and I had just drank from the energy of the tracks that were the lion’s. So somehow that seemed like a different vibration, but I saw the cat tracks. I wanted to know where are these lions from, so later I went to the top of the hill and I saw that if you go far enough in that direction, you will get to the mountains where the lions were that I had left a deer for. So here I got the sense that I was dealing with a family of lions, not lions in general, but the Puma; there was a family.” (Joseph Rael, p. 292-294)

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

Joseph’s painting is called “Spirits of Chimney Rock,” and is the second painting we have of this ancient site designed for lunar observation.

Spirits of Chimney Rock, J. Rael (2016)

“Stars shine in the darkness of space. Joseph speaks a lot about space and the cosmos, using the sun and moon to orient us, and about our relationship and responsibility to the cosmos—because he keeps telling me We are cosmic citizens. There is a strong tradition in amongst the Southwestern Native American tribes of referring to the stars and the movements of the sun and the moon. I felt it was important for me to visit Chimney Rock, where two pillars of rock were used to track the changing patterns of the moon. Joseph told me to ‘note the mindset of how the ancient moon watchers used their insights regarding how they used the knowledge from moon observations.’ I visited Chimney Rock National Monument in 2015 for a dusk ceremony. As I sat listening to the Native American flute player, a small lizard climbed on to my backpack and then jumped on to my leg and sat there for a little bit. It felt good to gaze off at the pillars of Chimney Rock accompanied by this little rascal.” (Kopacz & Rael, 261)

Little Rascal, D. Kopacz (2015)
Chimney Rock, Colorado, D. Kopacz (2015)

I had painted a couple of different crow paintings and this is the second in the series, “Crow Flying Through Dark Matter.”

Crow Flying Through Dark Matter, D. Kopacz

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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).

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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).