Reflections on the Peyote Road with the Native American Church – Visions & Cosmology
Interestingly, Indians’ focus is on experiencing rather than the seeming compulsive questioning and rational investigation of the Western mind.
The use of Peyote is likely the oldest religion on the North American continent. Its ancient roots are lost in time. The Witte Museum of San Antonio, Texas possesses two Peyote specimens radiocarbon dated 4,000 B.C.E. which were discovered in hunter-gatherer context in the Shumla cave near the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers. The Spanish conquistadors of the 16th century chronicled Indians using Peyote for divine revelation. Spanish Priests issued an edict in 1620 forbidding Peyote which was “pagan” and opposed “to the purity and integrity of our holy Catholic faith”; therefore, Peyote was the first psychoactive substance prohibited by law in the Americas. The courageous struggle of the Native American Church (“NAC”), to use their sacrament Peyote in the 50 years since the original ESPD, has been the trailblazing breakthrough in the United States to secure legal rights to use psychoactive controlled substances.
Although, the writer was integrally involved in securing the legal status of Peyote, the focus of this paper is not law. While representing the NAC as an attorney, the writer served as an officer in the NAC and participated in Peyote Meetings with the grandsons of the fabled horse riding warriors of the Great Plains, who were conquered, removed from Indian country and restricted to reservations in Oklahoma, where they established the NAC in 1918. Surprising original correspondence and photographs with Indian elders and psychedelic visionaries such as Humphry Osmond are displayed. Visions of the divine life force, apparitions of deceased, radiating beams transmitting the wisdom of the process of life, time warps and other supernormal phenomena fostered by Peyote in the NAC are explored. The NAC cosmology of our unity with Nature, and communicating with the Spirit of birds, animals, plants and all life is explained, including inviolate commitments with tobacco and practices regarding the sacred use of water. Interestingly, Indians’ focus is on experiencing rather than the seeming compulsive questioning and rational investigation of the Western mind.