Divination is practiced in many traditions and is generally recognized as a process of obtaining intuitive spiritual insight. In essence, it involves a structured inquiry into questions of the past (for healing and resolving problems) or the future (for visioning and obtaining guidance). Alchemy is the ancient art and science of elemental transformation, which in modern times was re-interpreted by C.G. Jung and his followers as psychospiritual transformation using symbolic or imaginal processes.
Combining these two ancient traditions with a unique blend of contemporary depth psychology and shamanistic spirituality, the Metzner Alchemical Divination practices are rooted in:
• The transformational teachings of psychospiritual alchemy
• Core East-West teachings of humans as multi-dimensional Beings of Light
• Shamanistic principles and practices of connecting with the spirits of nature
• A scientific systems worldview describing the interconnected Web of Life
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Ralph Metzner Bio -
Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., who has a B.A. in philosophy and psychology from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Harvard University, has been involved in the study of transformations of consciousness ever since, as a graduate student, he worked with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (later Ram Dass) on the Harvard Psilocybin Projects. He co-wrote The Psychedelic Experience, and was editor of The Psychedelic Review. During the 1970s, Ralph spent 10 years in the intensive study and practice of Agni Yoga, a meditative system of working with light-fire life-energies. He wrote Maps of Consciousness, one of the earliest attempts at a comparative cartography of consciousness, and Know Your Type, a comparative survey of personality typologies, ancient and modern.
Metzner was the Academic Dean at the California Institute of Integral Studies for ten years, during the 1980's, where he taught courses on "Altered States of Consciousness" and "Developing Ecological Consciousness". He is now Professor Emeritus. He maintains a part-time psychotherapy practice and conducts workshops on consciousness transformation, and ecological consciousness, both nationally and internationally. Metzner's published books include The Well of Remembrance, The Unfolding Self, Green Psychology, and two edited collections on the science and the phenomenology of ayahuasca (Sacred Vine of Spirits) and teonanácatl (Sacred Mushroom of Visions).
The practices have been developed by Ralph Metzner on the basis of extensive experiential research with transformative states of consciousness. These practices have been applied and tested over the past twenty years in the context of psychological work with individuals and groups.
What are the Shamanistic principles and practices of connecting with the spirits of nature?
Interview with Ralph by Willi
How would convince my 76 year old Republican / Lutheran Father in Southern Minnesota that “developments in computers and technology, the adoption and development of certain therapeutic models as well as interest in yoga and eastern religion may not have manifested in the way they have if it was not for the introduction of psychedelics?”
Did your father ask you this question? A question is the basic gesture of receptivity – without it any message expressed has a near-zero chance of being received and perceived.
Why do you want to convince your 76-year old father of this connection between various fields and psychedelics. Perhaps you might just share with him what happened with you, in your experience, without any need or desire of convincing him of anything – just connecting. Perhaps then there will be a connection of love and delight.
Is the human race dying out? Evolving? Who is prepared and who isn’t? Why?
I'm not one of those persuaded by, or alarmed by, those who say humans are facing extinction? It's contrary to all the evidence from population studies: – the human problem is over-population – too many for the available land and resources. Ecosystems are collapsing and social systems increasingly unable to support their human populations. There will be massive starvation and human population reduction by that process as well as wars over ever diminishing resources. The greater danger of extinction – all members of a given species gone – is t for non-human species on planet Earth. The extinction rate is increasing rapidly, and will soon reach (perhaps it already has, I'm not sure) the level of the Sixth Extinction, at the Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary, 65 million years ago, which wiped out the dinosaurs, and cleared the space for the little mammals to get going.
Extinction and evolution are not concepts applicable to the individual level, except by metaphoric extension. The challenge for the individual, together with family and community, is survival – in at least a manner that is in accord with intrinsic values of caring for one another and all sentient beings living in that local environments. The necessary momentum for survival is to disengage from centralized political and economic structures and focus your energies on local economies, cultures, communities and currencies. Permaculture is a key to this process. The Transition Towns movement, started in England, is another example of social evolutionary adaptation response.
Is a belief in God necessary to understand and counter global warming and other eco-crisis?
Not at all. However, global warming, environmental destruction, famine, war, disease and other death-dealing disasters may very well stimulate a resurgence of beliefs in a divine creator being who is going to save us, or at least those of us who believe. Those kinds of beliefs are a mental pathology blocking real progress in taking responsibility for dealing with our challenges. "God helps those who help themselves," as the old saying goes.
Can you tell us about any new stories and/or symbols that GEF has created or adopted to help the cause?
I like the symbolism of the Roman deity Janus, god of doorways and thresholds. An image of his two faces looking in two directions, was mounted over doorways, and sometimes on coins of the realm. I interpret the two faces as looking into the past and the future, from the cusp of the present moment. The saying "Memory is to the past, as vision is to the future and awareness of the present, " encapsulates the meaning of what I call the "Janus Model of Transformation and Divination", described in my book ALCHEMICAL DIVINATION. In these processes, people learn to track memories to heal unresolved tangles and traumas from the past, thus allowing awareness to be more fully in the present, without denial; and to envision future possibilities and probabilities (not predicting), in order then to take the steps, in the present, to help realize those latent probabilities according to our nature and our intentions.
Is sustainability like a new religion?
I certainly hope not. We don't need a new religion. Cultivation sustainability in natural systems, is an essential component of the practice of survival and supplying food, water, habitat and other sustenance for ourselves, our families and all our relations, both human and non-human. Developing sustainable or steady-state economic systems, to replace the bankrupt and monstrously destructive profit-driven model is one of the greatest challenges facing our communities – partly because there appears to be a near universal belief that the capitalist model is the only way of organizing our affairs – a blatantly false proposition.
Mapping your Self-System? What is this?
In our work, we regard the self, not as a thing or even a process, but rather a system of relations – relations with other human beings – families, friends, colleagues, loved ones; with non-human beings – animals, plants, ecosystems; with collectives of beings – families, groups, organizations, parties, communities, societies; – with places – the place we call home, places we love and visit for pleasure and growth or refuge, the land, the region, the continent, the nation; the whole Earth, the Solar System, the Universe. In the process we call "mapping the self-system" – we draw a blank circle and then represent in it, through color, symbolism and placement, the significant personal relations in our world. It's like the old question hippies and others used to ask of each other – "where are you at, man?" or "where are you coming from?"
Here, alchemy is increasingly a process for positive change. What is alchemy to GEF?
I see alchemy, along with shamanism and yoga, as the three principal holistic, multi-level traditions of human transformation – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – that have arisen on this Earth. Shamanism, dating back to the Old Stone Age, is of course the oldest, and Yoga and alchemy are the Eastern and Western extensions of it. All three share a basic recognition and respect for the integrity of nature and the reality of the Spiritual dimension of life and the Universe. There is overlap of symbolism, of course, but alchemy in the West, went furthest in creating arcane symbol system, probably to protect its practitioners from the persecutory zeal of the Church, which disapproved of people learning to connect with the divine within – wanting them instead to seek the divine in the church.
Are you creating new myths at GEF?
Yes, and reviving some of the old ones, like the mythic figure of Janus, mentioned above. And the Well of Memory, from Germanic mythology, which in symbolic code describes the memory divination described above: retrieving and recollecting a hidden or buried memory, is symbolized by lowering a cup into the well of memory (named after Mimir, the Rememberer) and then raising it and drinking the water for healing and wholeness. See my book THE WELL OF REMEMBRANCE for more on this mythology.
How do you believe the Earth came to be in such peril?
A long and complex story, with many aspects. The psychological factors or human attitudes and belief systems, including religious, are often neglected, but new schools of thought, such as deep ecology, ecopsychology, social ecology and others – are pointing to those factors. In my book GREEN PSYCHOLOGY I discuss some of these multiple interweaving historical trends, particularly the increasing trend for humans to use their formidable brain capabilities to develop technologies of control and domination, instead of practising adaptation and sustainability.
Can you discuss the connections between Christianity, the impact of capitalism and consumerism?
I think I've said enough on those topics, in this limited space, under the question about a "new religion."
Is permaculture the way back to Nature? Why?
Permaculture is a brilliant formulation and practice of cultivating a sustainable, non-exploitative, totally recycling system of living on the lands of planet Earth, necessarily specific to the local environment. It integrates agri-culture with all other forms of culture.
How do you assess potential clients? What are you key values?
I work with people, as do other therapists and teachers, who request my assistance in healing unsolved entanglements and traumas of the past, and envisioning and realizing as yet un-actualized potentials of the future.
Please see my website – www.greenearthfound.org – for details.