SANTA FE, N.M. — The Bear is My Father, a book that celebrates the life, teachings and legacy of Marcellus Bear Heart Williams, a Multi-Tribe Spiritual Leader and author of the critically-acclaimed The Wind is My Mother, will be published by Synergetic Press on January 11, 2022.
Offering a mix of history and spiritual wisdom, The Bear Is My Father: Indigenous Wisdom of a Muscogee Creek Caretaker of Sacred Ways is considered a love story between Bear Heart and a community that stretches across the globe. The late Muscogee Creek Native American Church Road Man had a talent for seeing people as individuals, and for making them feel seen and special in their own ways. The Bear is My Father contains the final words Bear Heart wrote before his “going on” as well as contributions from friends and family whose lives were forever changed by Bear Heart’s presence and work. In this new book, Bear Heart uses stories of his youth and traditional medicine practices to convey lessons and knowledge about living in harmony and with respect for all.
“Living a spiritual life, no matter what the practice or religion, offers freedom, joy, happiness, and confidence that everything is within our freedom to enjoy it,” Bear Heart wrote.
The book is co-authored by Reginah WaterSpirit, Bear Heart’s Medicine Helper and wife of 23 years.
“Even if you never had the privilege of meeting Bear Heart or hearing him speak, you will feel his warm presence when reading these stories and get a feel for the depth of the man,” Doug Alderson, author of Seminole Freedom and The Vision Keepers, Walking For Native Americans and the Earth, wrote of The Bear is My Father. “The pearls of wisdom found in these pages can be spiritual guideposts for a good and fruitful life. I urge you to take a few steps down the path of this book and discover how much we all have in common.”
Globally renowned, Bear Heart was one of the last traditionally trained medicine persons of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Weaving together the knowledge of many traditions, Bear Heart was an ordained American Baptist Minister, Road Chief, and renowned spiritual counselor. Speaking in 13 Native American tribal languages, Bear Heart was considered a Multi-Tribal Spiritual Leader and was called upon internationally for his healing work.
When Reginah would ask Bear Heart exactly how he made his medicine, he always answered, “I don’t make the medicine, it was here before me. I’ve been entrusted to be a caretaker of certain sacred ways.”
It is often supposed that Buddhism is and has always been ‘drug-free’, and is rather something that is practiced entirely by one’s own efforts. This view of Buddhism can be thought to stem from the fact that Buddhism has largely taken root in global consciousness through the work of the exiled Tibetan leader and Buddhist teacher, H. H. The Dalai Lama. Nowadays, there is a common misconception that the Buddhism practiced in Tibet is representative of all Buddhism and that it is the default, normative version of Buddhist practice.
However, the book focuses on an earlier form of Buddhism, known as Vajrayāna Buddhism. The Vajrayāna movement of Buddhism began in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The scriptures of the Vajrayāna continually make reference to a sacrament called amrita, the term for ‘immortality’ in Sanskrit. The term amrita is significantly older than the Vajrayāna and was used within the ancient Indian scripture, the Rig Veda, (composed c. 2000 BC) as a synonym for soma, the divine intoxicant.
A Closer Look at the Vajrayāna
Drawing on scriptural sources, botany, pharmacology, and religious iconography, the book calls attention to the central role which psychedelics have played in Indian religions. It traces their history from the mysterious soma, venerated in the ancient Hindu scriptures, to amrita, the sacramental drink of the Vajrayāna. Although the amrita used in modern Vajrayāna ceremonies lacks any psychoactivity, there is copious evidence that the amrita used by the earliest Vajrayāna practitioners was a potent entheogen.
A glance at the titles of Vajrayāna scriptures will find the word amrita again and again. Many Vajrayāna deities have amrita as part of their name and a liquid called amrita is frequently visualized in Vajrayāna meditations. Almost all the early teachers of the Vajrayāna are depicted holding skull-cups of amrita. Two “skull-cups” of amrita adorn Vajrayāna altars and a drink called amrita is consumed at all major Vajrayāna rituals. Hundreds of Vajrayāna deities are said to carry amrita in some form, whether in a skull-cup, vase, flask or bowl.
Consider, for example, the prominent meditation-deity Hevajra. He is usually described and depicted as having sixteen arms with every hand holding a skull-cup filled with amrita and in one of his several variants he and his tantric consort arise out of the amrita itself.
And yet, despite multiple references in Vajrayāna literature and near-ubiquitous depictions in Vajrayāna art, you may be forgiven for never having heard of amrita before. If you are, as I am myself, a practicing Vajrayānist, then you may have performed the Vajrasattva purification practice in which the body is (mentally) filled with amrita. But the actual nature of amrita, its origin and history, are rarely discussed, if at all. In fact, even a standard textbook which provides a detailed account of Vajrayāna Buddhism as practiced in India and Tibet has managed to overlook it entirely.
2nd Edition of Secret Drugs Coming Out Fall 2019
We are excited to announce that this upcoming Fall 2019 we are scheduled to publish the 2nd edition of Secret Drugs of Buddhism. Don’t miss out on our pre-order discount, and order your copy with us now!
Learn more about Secret Drugs of Buddhism through this fascinating podcast interview with James W. Jesso, 2016. In this episode, Michael unpacks symbolism within the Vajrayāna tradition, examining the vast history of Buddhism, and retells the story of how the book came to be!
Upcoming Author Events
June 21st, 7:30-9:00 PM, An introductory explanation of Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayāna @ SF Dharma Collective
3 classes: Friday, June 21, July 5th, and August 2nd. The talks provide a basic outline for understanding the different philosophies, meditations, and practices of the three vehicles, as well as their historical context. Each of the three sessions will include a meditation session appropriate to the vehicle under discussion.
Michael Crowley was born February 26th, 1948 in Cardiff, Wales. He began studying Buddhism with a Tibetan lama in 1966, becoming an upasaka of the Kagyud lineage in 1970. In order to augment his Buddhist studies, he acquainted himself with Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Mandarin Chinese. Mike has lectured at the Museum of Asia and the Pacific, Warsaw, the Jagiellonian University, Cracow, the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has been published in Fortean Times, Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness, and Culture, Psychedelic American, and Psychedelic Press UK. In January 2016, Mike received the R. Gordon Wasson Award for outstanding contributions to the field of entheobotany. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Psychedelic Sangha, a group of psychedelically-inclined Buddhists, based in New York and he teaches at the Dharma Collective in San Francisco.
Praise for Secret Drugs of Buddhism
Mike Crowley has manifested a delightful book on a topic rarely spoken of, and certainly never explored with such depth. With a combination of personal anecdotes, detailed historical research, and a large collection of traditional art, this book will encourage modern-day Buddhist yogis and mind-explorers to see their practice and its roots in a new way. —Rev. Kokyo Henkel, Head Teacher, Santa Cruz Zen Center
Writing clearly, in the fashion of an investigative reporter, Mike Crowley unlocks the mystery of amrita, and answers, with previously unseen certainty, the question of whether or not psychedelics were part of historical Buddhist practice. —Allan Badiner, Co-editor of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics
Changing Our Minds is one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date books on psychoactive substances, their socio-cultural trajectories of use over time and their place in contemporary society. Lucid, well researched and written, Don covers the global movement of scientifically-grounded exploration of how psychedelic drugs – such as LSD, MDA, MDMA, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ketamine and many others – have been utilized to treat conditions like PTSD, depression, addiction, and end-of- life anxiety.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of research into the therapeutic potentials of these substances. Lattin details the body of these studies, but also works to move beyond the technical details of the science and research, making efforts to acquaint the reader with the plethora of compelling characters who have made it their life’s task to help make others aware that these mind-altering, psychoactive substances can have positively meaningful, life-changing effects when used in an intentional, controlled manner.
Psychedelics Today recently interviewed Don on the subject:
In this episode of Psychedelics Today, Don explores psychedelic history, covering his personal experiences as well as the behind the scenes details that led to him writing his new book Changing Our Minds.
Lattin is able to weave a multi-layered narrative, skillfully incorporating the numerous perspectives involved in today’s dialogue on psychedelics, encapsulating insights from neuroscientists, psychologists, psychotherapists, spiritual practitioners and many more. He spans the landscape, covering territory from neuroscientists using LSD as a research tool to investigate the neural mechanisms behind consciousness; psychologists facilitating MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions; tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley micro-dosing LSD for cognitive and creative enhancement to consciousness explorers and spiritual practitioners using ayahuasca for their individual betterment.
Times are changing, and we have moved beyond the infamous ‘War on Drugs’ backlash response to the 1960s counter-culture. Many psychoactive substances are slowly on their way to being decriminalized, with the mental stigma and cultural baggage associated with psychedelics dissolving as they are becoming increasingly more accepted as tools for psychological, medical and spiritual growth.
Upcoming Author Event in California April:
SATURDAY, APRIL 28th 6:00-10:00pm – Join Don Lattin and other notable Bay Area authors at a Mad Hatters themed benefit cocktail party in order to raise money for the Walnut Creek Library. For more information and tickets, go to Walnut Creek Library Gala.
Praise for Changing Our Minds
Don Lattin’s Changing Our Minds is far and away the best book on psychedelic use and research available today… Lattin not only fully describes the important trends in research, but includes valuable back stories of the major researchers, and why they have given so much of their professional lives to such risky endeavors. Now, when people ask me, is there one book I can read about the multiple dimensions of current psychedelic research, I can say, Changing Our Minds will give you everything you need.— James Fadiman, PhD, author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic and Sacred Journeys
Changing Our Minds expertly explores the healing and spiritual journey catalyzed by psychedelic psychotherapy through the courageous voices of those who are pioneering the study of these treatments. An essential read for those interested in the expanding field of psychedelic research for therapeutic and spiritual uses, this volume lands at a crucial time during the re-emergence of psychedelic research as we approach the mainstream, scientific acceptance of psychedelic psychotherapy and the reintegration of the legal use of psychedelics into Western culture. — Rick Doblin, PhD., Founder & Executive Director of MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
About the Author:
Don Lattin is an award-winning author and journalist. His five previously published books include The Harvard Psychedelic Club, a national bestseller that was awarded the California Book Award, Silver Medal, for nonfiction. His feature articles have been published in dozens of leading magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle, where Lattin worked as a staff writer for twenty years.