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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 art selections from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, by David R. Kopacz, MD & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) are both from Joseph.

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.

Blessings for Drinking from Morning Star, J. Rael (2000), additional text dictated around 2018 by J. Rael, written by D. Kopacz

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.”

Sacred Offering of the Five-fingered, J. Rael (2005)

“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)

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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).

Vision of the Blessed Virgin, J. Rael (2015)

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.

Shamanic Vision, D. Kopacz (2016)

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).

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The next two art works are both from Joseph. We are still in Chapter 4, “Becoming a Visionary,” of Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality by David R. Kopacz & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

At Vision Quest Visiting with Dandelion, Joseph Rael (2006)

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.

Puuh-Tea Bringer of New Knowing, Joseph Rael (2006)

“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).

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Here are two more art works from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality by David R. Kopacz, MD & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

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.

Dove of Peace, Joseph Rael (2018)

The next painting is one of mine, “Visionary Perception,” and starts off chapter 4, “Becoming a Visionary.”

Visionary Perception, David Kopacz

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)

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

My painting, Creation, is a large, 30×40″ painting. The bottom of the painting somehow is cut off in the book, but below is the full painting. It has some glow in the dark paint – a phase I went through that is nice when you turn off the lights because it is like having a painting hidden within a painting.

Creation, D. Kopacz

Joseph’s painting is Sun and Dancing Moonlight on the People of Mother Earth, painted in 2006. Joseph developed a Sun Moon Dance and it is still performed by people he taught it to all over the world.

Sun and Dancing Moonlight on the People of Mother Earth, J. Rael (2006)

An excerpt from this section of the book will appear in the Fall issue of Parabola. Here is a quote from Joseph in this section:

Joseph is continually teaching me about the circular nature of reality, saying that we are “circle people,” that “what comes around goes around,” and that “everything eventually becomes its opposite.” He also points out how the difference between a linear and circular perception is based on the perspective or paradigm through which you are perceiving. “Look at how we move in a circle, but then look at it from the side and it looks like we are moving forward and backward, back and forth. It depends on your perspective of seeing.”

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These next two paintings from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into A Living Spirituality, are both Joseph Rael’s. The first, Eagle Dancing Feather Becoming Medicine Heals the People was originally Eagle Dancing Feather Medicine Heals. Joseph had me write on the print “Becoming” and “the People” so that we could use this painting as the cover. It, thus, has several different elements, like an acrostic.

Eagle Dancing Feather Medicine Heals The People, Joseph Rael (2016)

The next painting is the first of two paintings of Chimney Rock that we included in the book. Chimney Rock is a historic Pueblo structure on the Southern Ute Reservation. The structures were aligned to be able to tell the seasons based on the progress of the moon in relation to the peaks of Chimney Rock

Lunar Stand-still at Chimney Rock, Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), 2005

I felt drawn to visit Chimney Rock on my second visit to see Joseph in Colorado, but the gates were closed. (The first visit I had gone to Mesa Verde). I made it there in 2016. I happened to get there as there was a sunset flute performance and I had a little friend visit me there.

A little friend, D. Kopacz (2016)
Chimney Rock, Southern Ute Reservation, Colorado, D. Kopacz (2016)

In English, ‘medicine’ is something that still needs to happen, but in Tiwa medicine is already there, it is a power. Every human being is a power. One becomes a medicine person through practicing one’s destiny. The child already has his or her own medicine. Through practicing one’s destiny, the medicine person manifests the medicine that was already there as a child. The child makes medicine all those years and then becomes an adult.” (Joseph Rael – Beautiful Painted Arrow, page 30)

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Here are two more paintings from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality. The first is one of mine and the second one of Joseph Rael’s.

Rainbow Medicine Wheel, D. Kopacz c. 2016

Joseph told me that he uses four colors always in his rainbow paintings: yellow, orange, red, and blue – I follow his convention here.

Night Eyes of Direction Finder, Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) 2006

I love this painting of Joseph’s and it starts of Part I Separation (Seeking). Seeking is the start of everything, the start of the book, the start of life – the start of what we are trying to do at this very moment in history – seeking peace and love to move through these challenging times. The painting comes right before chapter 1, “Becoming Medicine.” Joseph’s quote we start off the chapter with is below:

“The thing I should have said in my books is that everyone already has their medicine. The way you become a medicine person is you practice who you are because you are already medicine. No one gives it to you, you are already it.”

(Joseph Rael – Beautiful Painted Arrow)

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The “Introduction” to Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality is my story and path of how I came to meet and work with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). Thus, more of the paintings in this chapter are mine. The two that follow are The Hero’s Journey and the Medicine Wheel of the Heart.

The Hero’s Journey, D. Kopacz, 2014

The Hero’s Journey painting was an example of the Hero’s Journey project that we invite veterans to do at the end of the 12-week Hero’s Journey class. The project invites the veteran to bring together the personal & universal into a creative project. Some veterans have done paintings, drawings, maps of their time in the service, writing and performing a song, and even multimedia art installations. I painted this as an example for the class. It is a 36″ x 36″ square canvas, divided into the stages of the Hero’s Journey and the quoted text around the circle is made up of various quotes by Joseph Campbell that pertain to that step of the journey.

Medicine Wheel of the Heart, D. Kopacz, c. 2016-2017

This was my attempt to bring together, in a visual format, Joseph Rael’s teachings about the medicine wheel. An earlier medicine wheel was published in Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. The Medicine Wheel brings together the four outer directions of North, South, East, West, and the four inner directions of Mind, Emotions, Physical, and Spiritual. Each direction also has a corresponding vowel sound: A (ah), E (eh), I (ee), O (oh), U (uu) – pronounced as the vowels are in Spanish. There is also a princple idea associataed with each direction: Purity, Placement, Awareness, Innocence, and in the Center – Carrying.

As I was working on Becoming Medicine, I conceptualized it as a continuation of the journey started in Walking the Medicine Wheel. In Walking the Medicine Wheel, we worked to integrate the four outer and four inner directions and ended with connecting to the “held-back place of goodness” in the heart. In Becoming Medicine, I saw us as entering deeper into the heart center. I found Joseph’s comment about human beings as “medicine bags” to be useful here and that the purpose of the book was two-fold: to find the “sacred objects” which are hidden in our own hearts bringing them back for communal healing, and to go even deeper into a state of non-duality. In Walking the Medicine Wheel, Joseph said, “I am my brother’s keeper.” Joseph wanted to teach veterans that we are all brothers and sisters and we are all related. Becoming Medicine is about going beyond the affiliation of relation into a sense of oneness, non-duality – this is the state that mystics and visionaries know and it is the place of ultimate peace. This insight, or enlightenment about our non-separateness from other living beings and the material world is an initiation into a new relationship with the land and into spiritual democracy. As with many mystical traditions, when you make your secret journey you will find that what you were seeking is already within the medicine bag of your heart.