Cargo cults: direct link to the supernatural

The cargo cultsĀ  clearly support the deprivation theory- but they give an oversimplified view of the kind of deprivation involved in millenarian movements. Not all deprivation experiences are concerned with material goods alone. A person can also be deprived of his status, his own sense of worth, and his traditional patterns of behavior. The experiences of the Navaho Indians of Arizona and New Mexico in the 1930′s demonstrate several kinds of deprivation. In previous decades the Navahos had built up herds of sheep and goats, but the herds grew so large that they were overgrazing the land and causing erosion. As a result, the United States government forced the Navahos to kill great numbers of sheep to reduce the livestock to a level that the land could support.

In the loss of their sheep the Navahos suffered also a loss of status, for the owner of a large herd could be generous to his many helpers. Now he was little better off than the others. Deprivation occurred too, because most Navahos felt that something had gone wrong, and people were no longer behaving in the traditional way: for example, Navahos with reduced herds were not as generous as formerly. Still another kind of deprivation they suffered was in their sense of worth. As their contact with the whites increased, the Navahos began to feel inferior because, for instance, they ate such “bad” food as prairie dogs.

—Huichol nierika or cosmic portal through which the voyager
can pass during a peyote vision quest
Again these may be a function of altered brain dynamics, so that one becomes able to perceive in conscious form the dynamic modulations across the cortex induced by these agents, and some of the processes by which the senses are synthesized in consciousness. Thus cultures which use psychedelic species as sacrament tend to explain their existential cosmology in terms of visionary portals or doorways through which one is transported to another reality by the sacramental experience.—Read More:

Many Navahos reacted by becoming members of the Peyote cult. There has been considerable misunderstanding about this cult, which would eventually from the Navaho experience be incorporated as the Native American Church of North America. Peyote is a small cactus that grows in southern Texas and the northern half of Mexico. When the flesh, or root of this plant is eaten, it produces physical effects due to its morphine and strychnine-like constituents, and in most users it produces visions. Many white people believe that the prime appeal of peyote is the pleasurable experience it provides, or its addictive quality. But there is no bliss in the taking of peyote: apparently the taste is bitter and nauseating and the anxiety and depression overwhelming. It has no comparison with the relief from care provided by opiates and alcohol. Nor is it addictive. The taking of peyote isĀ  strictly a ritualized religious act, in which the individual experiences direct communication with supernatural forces.

—It is true that the therapeutic appeal is as vital and as influential today as it was fifty years ago. Many of the young peyote devotees whom I interviewed are sincere in their belief in the supremacy of peyote as a medicine. Their faith in the plant extends far beyond its value as a physical medicament, and the enthusiasm with which they described cure after cure indicated clearly that conditions have changed little in this respect from the early days of the cult. Many who stray away from the peyote religion return to its folds in times of sickness and remain faithful when health is restored.—Read More:

Like other millenarian cults, Peyote, which at one time was the main religion among at least fifty major groups of Native Americans, preaches a moral code of peace and harmony. But, it provides special gifts that compensated for their lack of economic well being and status. The white man has the Bible and learning- but through peyote the Indian has direct access to God and to revelation. Peyotism makes the Indian the equal of the white, and sometimes his superior, in finding ways to obtain rewards. That is probably the primary appeal of peyote among the Navahos. It enabled the user to foresee the plans of the United States government and also to seek new wealth through supernatural help.">


Carlos Castaneda:Friday, June 23, 1961

“Would you teach me about peyote, don Juan?”

“Why would you like to undertake such learning?”

“I really would like to know about it. Is not just to want to know a good reason?”

“No! You must search in your heart and find out why a young man like you wants to undertake such a task of learning.”

“Why did you learn about it yourself, don Juan?”

“Why do you ask that?”

“Maybe we both have the same reasons.”

“I doubt that. I am an Indian. We don’t have the same paths.”

“The only reason I have is that I want to learn about it, just to know. But I assure you, don Juan, my intentions are not bad.”

“I believe you. I’ve smoked you.”

“I beg your pardon!”

“It doesn’t matter now. I know your intentions.”

“Do you mean you saw through me?”

“You could put it that way.”

“Will you teach me, then?”


“Is it because I’m not an Indian?”

“No, it is because you don’t know your heart. What is important is that you know exactly why you want to involve yourself. Learning about ‘Mescalito’ is a most serious act. If you were an Indian your desire alone would be sufficient. Very few Indians have such a desire.”

Sunday. June 25, 1961

I stayed with don Juan all afternoon on Friday. I was going to leave about 7 P.M. We were sitting on the porch in front of his house and I decided to ask him once more about the teaching. It was almost a routine question and I expected him to refuse again. I asked him if there was a way in which he could accept just my desire to learn, as if I were an Indian. He took a long time to answer. I was compelled to stay because he seemed to be trying to decide something.

Finally he told me that there was a way, and proceeded to create a problem. He pointed out that I was very tired sitting on the floor, and that the proper thing to do was to find a “spot” (sitto) on the floor where I could sit without fatigue. I had been sitting with my knees up against my chest and my arms locked around my calves. When he said I was tired, I realized that my back ached and that I was quite exhausted.

I waited for him to explain what he meant by a “spot,” but he made no overt attempt to elucidate the point….Read More:

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