You know that saying, “No job is finished until the paper work is done”? We can apply the same sentiment to quests for spiritual growth and self-actualization: “No inner work is finished until the shadow work is done.”
Modern-day shaman, James W. Jesso, embraces his difficult mission in life as a conscious explorer, seeking, learning, growing, and educating others on what it’s like on the other side. His method for self-understanding and individuation is a deeply personal and profound one. It’s unconventional and not quite mainstream — yet, but it is gaining validity in the scientific community. His “guru” is psilocybin mushrooms, or magic mushrooms.
Jesso spent years researching entheogenics, mainly with psilocybin. His journeys, thus far, produced three books, writing gigs, with the likes of DisInfo and PsyPressUK. Additionally, he writes his own blog, and travels extensively to share his journeys and wisdoms at entheogenics and New Age gatherings. For those more audio/visual, you can listen to his Adventures Through The Mind (ATTMind) podcasts and/or watch accompanying Youtube videocasts.
In this podcast we will discuss his popular books, 2013’s Decomposing The Shadow: Lessons From The Psilocybin Mushroom, and 2015’s The True Light Of Darkness, which both discuss spiritual growth using the psilocybin model.
Famed psychologist, Carl Jung, considered shadow work key in the process of individuation. But most people in modern society live in denial of their “shadow aspect” — the unconscious aspect of the personality, which the conscious ego does not identify in itself.
“Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote in his 1938 study, Psychology & Religion: West & East, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. …” (Jung also believed the shadow to be “the seat of creativity.”)
In this 2013 interview with fellow endeogenic seeker, Dr. Martin Ball, Jesso explains shadow work, and, what exactly, decomposing a shadow entails.
“The shadow is oftentimes referred to as ‘dark personality traits’ … but I believe the shadow to be the emotional root of what eventually precipitates into a dark personality trait,” Jesso explains. “And to decompose the shadow is to essentially go into that emotional root or unacknowledged element of ourselves and bring it up through a full, complete conscious catharsis for interaction with.”
Like Jung and many other awakened thinkers in this new-day spiritual revival, Jesso doesn’t believe in repressing our shadows, but rather, coming to terms with them, accepting them, and integrating them into our conscious lives in a positive way.
“When we decompose the shadow, especially, say, with psilocybin mushrooms, we bring these dark emotions up, they come to the surface of awareness, we experience them directly, let them metabolize. And then do the thing that is most natural and beautiful in life, which is to kind of decompose, disintegrate, and become almost like the base nutrients, recycled back into the soil of our being in some way, and utilized as the energy for a new perspective. …”
In a 2016 EntheoScience talk, Jesso explains The 4 Archetypes of Psilocybin — Psychospiritual Maturity & Emotive-Psychosynthesis — the model that seeks to destigmatize and legitimize psylocybin as a positive, self-transformation, giving one an overall sense of well-being and psychospiritual healing. In short, the four archetypes are: 1). Surrender; 2). Facing the shadow; 3). Uncovering the true self; and 4). Oneness. In so many words, this is pretty much what psychotherapy seeks to accomplish, but psilocybin strips the veil, stomps out pretenses, and cuts to the chase.
Jesso wrote True Light of Darkness as a follow-up to Decomposing the Shadow,” because people who read the first book loved learning the subject, but wanted to hear more about his own experiences
“Where Decomposing engaged the intellect, Jesso said, True Light Of Darkness connects to the essence of human society, of community — its story. And together we can engage story-time and open up new worlds for everyone.”
When he wrote True Light, Jesso says it wasn’t about glorifying mushrooms, but rather, it was a warning. ” … The experiences I talk about are not fun, happy times. I was lucky to come out the other end.”
It seems Western medicine may never free itself from the grips of corrupt big pharma and insurance companies, particularly in the US, where the economy is almost solely driven by ill mental, physical, and spiritual health, which keeps society weak and submissive. But some pioneers are taking notice and are conducting studies, though not nearly enough of them. Jesso is not allowed to give his talks and workshops in the US until his lawyers get him the exception to carry mushrooms as a medicine. Thus is the condition of the acceptance of psilocybin in US society.
But people like Jesso are finding us other people out there who will demand our birthright — to live fully self-actualized, and freed from the past pains we’ve buried so deeply they manifest as self-destruction, self-sabotage, bad habits, low self-esteem and self-worth issues. Jesso imparts some of his wisdom on Emotional Trauma and Psilocybin, in an article for fellow entheogenicist, Graham Hancock, and his insightful website.
“The courage to feel sadness or loneliness or inadequacy with surrender and self-compassion — to know them like an extension of our own healthy selves — and in doing so, allow them to change and inspire us into something grander is an expression of empowerment that we are all endowed with,” Jesso writes. “We just need to decide whether we are ready to walk this lifelong path. But it won’t be easy.”
Order Jesso’s books here.
PsyPressUK author page
Emotional Trauma & Psilocybin article
Entheogens & the Mind of Society article
Fantastic Fungi article on Jesso.
Music used for intro: CVRL – Pilot