It is with pleasure that we welcome Maria Papaspyrou, author of Femtheogenic Consciousness: Archetypal Energies of Regeneration, as our featured author for December.
Maria eloquently explores the intertwined nature of the feminine and psychedelic state and how altered states naturally tap into the female archetype. Maria points out that both the feminine and the psychedelic states share the same healing, nurturing and transformative qualities yet despite this both states are suppressed by Western Ideology. Maria argues that this suppression is ultimately to our detriment as it denies our potential for wholeness and internal evolution as a society and as human beings.
“Words like ‘essential knowledge’ and ‘provocative’ fail to do justice to the content between these covers. These are contemporary, controversial issues in psychedelics that aren’t adequately being addressed elsewhere: abuses of power and the ethical behavior of psychedelic guides and shamans and the role of psychedelics not only in women reclaiming their power but in deconstructing the gender binary…It is crucial information that needs to be integrated into the psychedelic community and the larger tribe of humanity.”
Julie Holland, M.D., Editor of The Pot Book and Ecstasy: The Complete Guide
“This book is packed with ideas, information, and analysis on the importance of the feminine in psychedelic, ecstatic and shamanic practice – topics I find utterly fascinating and sorely needed in this time of crisis, with our longing for transition and with our need for inspiration and magic beyond our current paradigm.”
Gail Bradbrook, PH.D., Cofounder of Extinction Rebellion
“This impressive volume weaves together an evolving understanding of the psychedelic feminine through essays and art. The call for all people to embrace the Divine Feminine in its many forms is loud and clear in this celebration of the feminine voice and historical perspective. We have the power to transform our culture and the world. This anthology is a wonderful aid in discovering a path toward love, healing and balance.”
Rick Doblin, PH.D., Founder and Executive Director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
This book has emerged out of a deep sense of the need to re-member the lost feminine wisdom and lineage and its capacity to return us to greater wholeness. Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine aims to address the inequalities within psychedelic culture by bringing more feminine voices and matters to the surface. This book does not address all the inequalities we are fostering in our community, it points to some and there are more to look at. The wider psychedelic community, resourced by the vision of feminine and altered states must meet our current collective challenges from the forefront of inclusivity, matching visionary poetics with decisive action. Below is an excerpt from my essay in the book:
Femtheogens is as much a word as it is a concept. It refers to the capacity of the entheogenic experience to revive the broken Sacred Feminine and filter its essence through to us. I will explore the healing, transformative and expansive qualities that are shared between the feminine and psychedelic states. These qualities are also points of suppression for both, as they run counter to our Western mindset. Their links unfold a triptych that contains the feminine, entheogens, and nature, revealing how each contains and reveals deep aspects of the other.
Archetypal Feminine Realms
In trying to reveal some of the feminine nature and quality, I am focusing on the archetypal feminine. Archetypes are inherited psychic entities, deeply buried within the collective strata of our unconscious, serving as primal inner maps of our human nature. They emerge through symbols and metaphors, mediating between unconscious depths and consciousness, facilitating integration of the two and enabling our potential for wholeness. The feminine archetype manifests in a multitude of aspects that range from light to darkness. Her essence is relevant to all of us, because the feminine is an elemental pattern we all carry within ourselves, whether we are men or women.
Gareth Hill (1992), a Jungian analyst, has explored the intrapsychic aspects of gender. He has divided the feminine in her static and her dynamic aspect, mapping out the deepest and most essential qualities of the feminine force. The static feminine (Hill 1992) is connected to motherhood and nourishment, gestating deep primal secrets of creation within her body. She can conceive the potential of life and give birth to it, participating in the great mystery of manifesting a soul into material life (Vaughan-Lee 2013). In that mystery, the feminine participates in the forces of creation and regeneration. The feminine link to regeneration makes her central to our collective healing process. Woman magic and earth magic are linked; they both create and nourish life (Campbell, Moyers, and Flowers 1991) serving the impersonal goals of life on Earth, species preservation and survival.
The dynamic feminine (Hill 1992) is represented by a surrendering watery flow “towards the new, the non-rational, and the playful” (17). She is spontaneous, responsive, intuitive, and forms according to what fate brings her way. She receives her wisdom by engaging with direct experience and is receptive to knowledge that belongs to the deep inner worlds. Connected to the creative and regenerative aspects of chaos she supports the expansive creative synthesis of new possibilities and subsequent evolution. The dynamic feminine represents spaces that can be fascinating and ecstatic as well as terrifying and disorienting, that as a society we have learned to resist.
In today’s society, the Goddess has lost her lineage and her priestesses. In the absence of her guides, she meets us in the land of the unconscious (Woodman and Dickson 1997) and the realms of altered consciousness. Here, her feminine work goes on undisturbed through the archaic symbolic language of dreams and imagination. In our Western world we focus on language, the ordered and rational container of experience—a masculine principle. The realms beyond that space belong to the feminine, and there we meet what is beyond words and immediate perception.
The Links Between the Archetypal Feminine and Altered States of Consciousness
One of the major insights of femtheogenic consciousness is the awareness of interconnectedness and oneness. Our illusion of separateness eroded our connection and relationship with earth, each other, and the deepest nature of our own selves, creating a crisis that is environmental, social, and spiritual. But the feminine consciousness that emerges through the womb where life regenerates from, is by nature aware that everything is connected. Similarly, in the infinite realms of entheogenic experiences, we recognise the threads that weave us into oneness.
The next femtheogenic consciousness link is boundary-dissolving experiences. Our societies are based on divisive boundaries that maintain the illusion of separateness. The ultimate and most dreaded boundary to cross is the dissolution of the ego. But the ego needs to undergo many deaths if we are to transform into a more authentic version of ourselves. Feminine consciousness is based on the elementary experience of boundary dissolution, motherhood, where the “other” is contained within oneself, a symbiotic bond that extends beyond the birthing process. Entheogenic experiences are also based on the dissolution of boundaries on various levels, dissolving the divisive lines between past, present, and future, us and “other”, conscious and unconscious, masculine and feminine. Both the archetypal feminine and entheogenic journeys deliver us to a point where in order to evolve we need to transcend our boundaries, releasing ourselves from the ego-driven mirage of our delicate reality.
The next femtheogenic consciousness link relates to chaos. We have battled for generations to tame chaos because we have perceived it to be one of our greatest survival threats. We relate to it as a state of disintegration rather than a stage of transformation. We have failed to acknowledge the inherent order it contains because its nature is creative rather than linear—it is not to be imposed, it is to emerge (Woodman and Dickson 1997). In its field reside the rhythms of matter and the deeper wisdom of the creative process. The archetypal feminine, in its dynamic aspect, has a creative link with the regenerative aspects of chaos. Entheogenic journeys embrace chaos and teach us it is a valued stage in our unfolding process of becoming. During a deep entheogenic journey we are taken apart and then put back together. Chaos gives birth to a new order that is of greater complexity than before, a step further on our evolutionary journey (Papaspyrou 2015). A big part of what eroded our connection with nature, the feminine, and entheogens is our collective difficulty to be with chaos. Femtheogenic consciousness holds the potential of reviving that relationship in a meaningful way.
The next femtheogenic link relates to the vital cycles of life, death, and rebirth. Nature’s wisdom taught our ancestors that death is a stage of regeneration rather than an end in itself. Today we relate to death with dread, unable to face its vital essence, immersed in an all-encompassing denial of it. The Goddess Kali is a powerful archetypal feminine symbol of the regenerative wisdom; the goddess who gives life is the goddess who takes life. Creation gives place to destruction, and destruction that serves life gives place to creation, in ceaseless movement and indifferent to our ego’s demands for survival (Woodman and Dickson 1997). We can only recover our deep inner treasures by meeting the dark side of the archetypal feminine; the devourer and the transformer. Similarly, the most impactful entheogenic experiences are those that unfold into the spiritual experience of ego death. Femtheogenic consciousness allows us to flee our ego, if only for a second, and receive a wisdom that necessitates and even welcomes death, where every end is a drop in a vast ocean (Woodman and Dickson 1997).
The next femtheogenic link relates to time which we treat as a fixed and static construct. But the feminine rhythms of regeneration reveal timelessness. The archetypal goddess of birth contains a soul that moves through various birth canals. She moves us out of chronos into the territory of kairos that holds the eternal moment—the past, present, and future—in unity. Entheogenic spaces also hold timelessness, allowing us to move through past, present, and future in extraordinary ways. Through femtheogenic consciousness we come to witness and experience a very different sense of time.
The next femtheogenic link is creativity. Patriarchy has suppressed our creative forces by focusing on logic and the mind. But femtheogenic consciousness supports the creative dimension of our evolution. The feminine is the creative matrix of life for our species, holding the patterns that belong to creation. Entheogenic journeys are highly creative spaces. Through symbols, images, and feeling states they create metaphors that connect us to what is beyond words or beyond immediate perception. But our societies have not acknowledged the creative and ultimately healing potential of these spaces, we only relate to them as chaotic, destructive, and dangerous.
Femtheogenic consciousness carries a particular kind of knowing our culture has long neglected and avoided. Femtheogenic knowing is intuitive, nonlinear, and informed by the creative source. It reveals us to the invisible, including the invisible corners of our psyche. This is where our shadow lives. Claiming our shadow and its darkness helps us cultivate compassion for ourselves, and in reflection, for others. This is where we encounter the limitations of our human nature and where the heart works on forgiveness, invoking the restorative inner forces of integration.
Femtheogenic consciousness opens us up to spontaneous, instinctual, and authentic ways of living. In trying to shield ourselves from our impermanence and lack of control, we have learned to perceive the world and reality as concrete. This offers us a “safety,” but it can also lead to staleness and deadness, which is ironically the very thing our egos are trying to avoid. We operate from a state of doing unable to tolerate a state of being (Woodman and Dickson 1997). Femtheogenic consciousness embraces change and impermanence, the foundational basis of evolutionary drives. The dynamic feminine exists in a freedom that is full of potential, not bound by rules or order. Entheogens too, allow us to die and rebirth infinite times within the space of a few hours, shaking away our social masks. Who we become under the guidance of femtheogenic consciousness can be far wider and broader than what the stagnant social matrix allows us to ever imagine.
The final femtheogenic link is the unconscious. In the symbolic world of Jungian analytical psychology, consciousness is carried by the masculine while the unconscious is the terrain of the feminine. It is the dynamic feminine that is linked to the invisible symbolic spaces of our psyche, communicating these into our consciousness through imagination and altered states of consciousness. Entheogenic journeys raise unconscious material into consciousness, allowing us to access our undercurrent realms. Femtheogenic openings to these deep spaces create the potential for our conscious and unconscious selves to meet and integrate, paving the way for our psychological journey toward wholeness.
The War on Femtheogenic Consciousness
In the Garden of Eden, Eve took a bite from the apple of the sacred tree of knowledge. This was a mythos that repressed both the feminine and expanded awareness into sin within our consciousness, merging them with the shadow side. Mythologically and symbolically, this was the onset point of ego development for our species, as we separated from the unconscious Eden. In our predominantly ego-driven reality, we still keep femtheogenic consciousness in exile; we systematically maintain its inferiority, and we remain suspicious of its depth and potential. We have distorted both to a diabolical form and seen them as dangerous and seductive forces. The primordial temptress and the evil snake were separated in our consciousness from what they and the apple really stood for: the potential for transformation.
Patriarchy’s attack on the feminine is a collective wound and responsibility. The devaluing of the feminine has damaged the feminine within men as well as women, because we all hold a part of that archetype in our psychic depths. And we are all part of a culture that attacks nature and the feminine in all of us. We all have to delve deep within ourselves and recognize where we have played our own part in her oppression and betrayed her essence. Having lost our knowledge and connection to her ancient mystery traditions and denied her wisdom in the rational and scientific world we have created and surrounded ourselves with, we have deprived ourselves of our connection with the unifying principle of creation.
Patriarchy has traditionally favored substances like alcohol and caffeine that maintain boundaries, create a mindless state, and support the status quo (McKenna and Hagerty 2007).
Entheogenic experiences deliver us to the land of ambiguity, cutting through our cultural conditioning and offering us a wider lens to examine what we call reality. They allow us to consider alternative possibilities that are usually more planet and people friendly. They catalyze imagination and the expansion of our consciousness. And very importantly, through their archetypal links with the feminine, they reawaken and filter her essence through to us, reviving and her regenerative and restorative energies. Entheogenic experiences make the maintenance of rigid hierarchies unsustainable and that poses a major threat to patriarchy (McKenna and Hagerty 2007). Patriarchy, in response to that threat, has made us believe that the use of psychedelics is an immoral and antisocial threat, validating the criminal persecution of cognitive liberty, which is the freedom to alter or enhance one’s consciousness.
The ultimate developmental goal in Jungian psychology is individuation; the growth into one’s full potential. We cannot individuate unless we integrate our shadow material. Patriarchy has repressed the feminine and its values in our collective shadow, and until we retrieve and integrate her essence we will continue to act out our neurotic fantasies and endanger our survival on this planet.
There has been a lot of talk about the return of the Divine Feminine. The return of the Divine Feminine is essentially a new mythology for challenging the existing patriarchal structures and for the expansion of our consciousness. To release the Goddess is to cultivate a relationship to the deep cosmic source of our psychic lives and come to care for all creation (Baring 2013). The Divine Feminine asks us to transcend our divisive ideologies, to hold a responsible presence on this planet, and to foster emotional intelligence for the generations that are to come.
The masculine and the feminine are the fundamental, complementary and compensating archetypal energies of life that make up the entire universe. We are being called to create new mythologies that integrate the alchemical union of the lunar feminine wisdom with the solar masculine consciousness (Baring 2013). The archetypal union of the masculine and the feminine principles holds the promise of wholeness. A healthy future needs to be balanced by the Divine Androgyne.
Evolution for our species at this point is no longer a matter of physicality; it is now a matter of interiority (Woodman and Dickson 1997). We need to go within and discover who we really are away and our right place in the wider whole. All birthing initiates in the darkness. We have to face our shadows before the “old solidified ego boundaries can be shattered” (Woodman and Dickson 1997, 36) and through the cracks the possibility of something new can emerge. For all of these energies to transform we need the strong container of the feminine, and entheogens are a powerful channel of the feminine voice and essence. They bring us into alignment with the sacred core and remind us of the divine purpose of being alive. They can guide us in a creative relationship toward our deepest Self, and its myriad outward reflections.
- The term “entheogen” is derived from two words of Ancient Greek, ἔνθεος (éntheos) which translates as “God within” and γενέσθαι (genésthai) which translates as “coming into being”. It is a term that refers to the sacramental and spiritual properties of the psychedelic experience as opposed to the recreational usage of psychedelic substances.
- The term “femtheogen” is a compound word made up of “feminine” and “entheogen” (see above).
- Chronos refers to the linear, chronological and sequential dimension of time
- Kairos refers to a vertical dimension of time, a space of indeterminate in-between-time where something ‘special’ happens
- Baring, Anne. The Dream of the Cosmos: A Quest for the Soul. Dorset, England: Archive Publishing, 2013.
- Hill, Gareth S. Masculine and Feminine: The Natural Flow of Opposites in the Psyche. Boulder, Colo.: Shambhala Publications, 1992.
- McKenna, Terence, and L. Hagerty, producer. “The Importance of Psychedelics.” Number 117; Psychedelic Salon (podcast). (November 29, 2007).
- Papaspyrou, Maria. “On Integrating Numinous Experiences: A Case Study.” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 7, no. 1 (2015): 54–64.
- Woodman, Marion, and Elinor Dickson. Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness. Boston: Shambhala, 1997.