Podcast 464 – “Temple of Light”


Guest speaker: Bruce Damer
Photos from Bruce Damer's talk at the May 2015 Lightening in a Bottle Festival


Today’s podcast features a talk given by Dr. Bruce Damer in May 2015 at the Lightening in a Bottle Festival. Building on a theme introduced by Lorenzo in a talk at Esalen, Bruce takes an in-depth look at the importance and essence of the Mysteries at Eleusis. In his concluding remarks, Lorenzo discusses the drawbacks of organized religion and suggests that minor children NOT be given religious instruction.

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Lightning in a Bottle Festival

The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries By R. Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann, Carl A. P. Ruck
The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries
By R. Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann, Carl A. P. Ruck

Posted in Ayahuasca, Bruce Damer, Culture, Future, Lorenzo, LSD, Myth, Psychedelics.


  1. Hey Bruce

    i appreciate the reply and your attempt at clarifying, but i’m left more perplexed, feeling your bigoted, and in harsher disagreement then before. To start with I’m not sure how much William Thompson’s talk brings to the table. He has some data points about deities and gods changing from female to male. But again, I’m not sure that this is proof that one gender “dominated” the other at either period in time. And we’d be crass to draw any sort of positive conclusions from the few data points he brings up. Certainly interesting, and certainly food for thought. And even if, suspending all workings of the scientific method, he is correct: it still says little about our current state of affairs and whether or not we live in a male or female dominated society.

    I also disagree with the idea of women becoming domesticated. Women have always carried the child in the womb. Since the dawn of time this would have led to very hard distinctions between male and female, with clear roles and identities cut out. And this also means your contradicting yourself. I thought you said it was Mito Eve who came up with gardening and agriculture? So how is it men who have domesticated, “plants, animals and then women” if women first domesticated plants?

    Of course men are going to react strongly to your talk when compared to women because it’s the men you’re knocking. If you said short people were inferior to tall people chances are you’d get more outcry form the short then the tall, no? I think this also may be evidence that our modern state of affairs is not a clear cut Patriarchy. If anyone were to blog or lecture about how we needed more MALE power in society..jesus, man. You’d get smeared by women and feminists the world over. But you say the same negative things about men and hardly anyone speaks up. Is this not a double standard? Or not evidence against a patriarchy?

    I unfortunately think some of what you’ve posted is probably more offensive then your talk: can you please site sources as to why men are responsible for “at least over 90% of what we would all agree is highly detrimental behavior”. You’ve got to it admit this is also fabricated story telling here, Bruce. This is pretty much the definition of bigotry. Making a giant stereotype against an entire group of people, with no hard proof.

    I get it. Men have more testosterone. They are more driven. Testosterone is tied into aggression. When it comes to battling it’s typically the men. But is that to say the circumstances, desire/greed for resources, the need for protection only come from men? When a tribe gets desperate and goes hungry it’s not the women who are nominated to go pillage and hunt, it’s the men for the obvious physical reasons. But to blame only men for these aggressiona is only skimming the surface. It’s not so easy and straight forward. You can’t put blame on the male gender for the actions of Bush when he was voted in by women too.

    I do think you hit on a great point in regards to child rearing. But again you’re missing a big issue. If it’s a male dominated world in is so much as men are typically the politicians and CEOs, doesn’t this leave the women at home raising the kids? If you were to ask me what shapes society more: having control of a company, or having control of a family I would definitely chose the latter. Wouldn’t you? Did you know that over 80% of American parents still spank? And that mothers on average spank boys a considerable amount more then girls? I agree entirely that a peaceful world is going to come from peaceful parenting and non-violent interaction with everybody, specifically children. And in no way whatsoever am I saying fathers don’t spank, or even that they spank less. I’m not saying any of that. But if we’re going to blame men for being aggressive politicians or greedy CEOS we should probably also blame the mother’s who have hit and continue to hit these children. For if we claim it’s a male dominated society we must also claim it’s a female dominated child rearing environment.

    I’d be excited to read some of the things about Scandinavia you mentioned. I’m doubtful the conclusions are so clear cut. People also point to the Nordic countries as examples of how more socialist policies could work. However, they fail to note how small and homogenous the culture is compared to the U.S., and how the people of those societies are more trusting and have a harder work ethic. Not to mention the nation’s wealth divided out per individual citizen is several degrees above and beyond what it is in America. They also fail to mention that in terms of neutrality during war these countries have less to offer in terms of climate and resources, as well as the fact of unique geographical locale. So it’s kind of comparing apples with brussel sprouts. In other words, I think it’d be very difficult to prove Scandinavia is peaceful solely because it’s more feminine, that’s if you could even prove it was more feminine. (Check out a great and free book: Scandinavian Unexceptionalism for more on this if you’re interested).

    “I never intended to suggest women were more intelligent than men”. Bruce, I’m pretty sure you said these exact words in one of your two talks. I don’t have time at the moment to go back and listen to this one and the other one you linked to. But i’m pretty sure you said that exact statement, if not something extremely similar expressing that sentiment.

    But of course I agree that women (like men) have certain abilities that the other gender does not. I know the genders aren’t equal. We have different attributes that work together in tandem. I can agree with you up to that point. I just think your talk goes too far, man. And if you think it doesn’t then that’s fine. But at least admit then that you are stereotyping and being sexist. And if you don’t think you are then maybe be a bit more careful as to who you accuse of such things.

    we love to argue. The media takes this garbage and runs with it. But can’t we see that it’s all deeper. It’s the reason people get married and make vows to stay together and raise kids. Because it’s a team. Our bodies and minds aren’t equal so we join together to help each other out. I know what I can do..i can teach my daughter to respect all humans no matter their differences. And i can act peacefully to everyone in my life. That’s that.

    I think all this surface arguing is bogus. As you do too, Bruce, I’m sure. I imagine you’re coming from a kind and loving place (at least I hope so, and I give you the benefit of the doubt) but i think your talk just adds more confusion, misinformation, and saber rattling to the debate without bringing much clarity and peace.

  2. Bruce, you have a gracious spirit to take the time to kindly respond to your critics, but rest assured there are those in “cyberdelic space” who were able to clearly see everything you wrote here as implied in the tale. I also found the ideas you added about a staged mapping of the evolution of domestication quite fascinating and look forward to studying this further and hearing more about it in future storytelling.

    It’s clear that in a post-modern, post-jungian world that a conscious realization of the now ubiquitous act of relating to “other” through myths is almost impossible w/o a b.a. in media studies. 🙂

    Mike looking past the emotion behind your statement, I do see great value in your argument. However i can not agree that a regression into relatively contemporary 20th century social norms is the solution for today’s world. The archiac revival “preaches” not only an integration of these more traditional African male values, but a trancedant marriage of them with the ever spiraling, feminizing eschaton always just ahead, around the next bend. Which is so much sexier and fun to just anthropomorphize in stories we tell each other as “the goddess”, or as you get older and a little wiser Sophia.

    But I fundamentaly agree with your argument.Instead of man-bashing the neotinized monkeys, why not aim for developing more conscious, sexy men who the feminine will favor over the alternative? A lot of incredibly sexy studs w/gaian values not centered around dominator drugs like sugar, meat and alcohol. Alternatives which will allow her to select against the maladaptive males which Bruce is correctly chewing out. We need young male role models in media with a more evolved social “chemistry” which women of exceptionl value will find incredibly attractive. Genuine social figures to emulate for a society we can aspire to become. Instead of control icons which in poor taste are shoved in our face through public relations, International Relations, and marketing.

    Speaking of gaian catalysts, Bruce I’ll need to get my hands on some so I can fully appreciate the ikaros visually as well as hear the song. 🙂

    Also speaking of “orbs” has anyone ever noticed that in photographs of festivals you can see orbs dancing around the heads of people. I hypothesize this has to do with with Quantum mechanical nature of “bodies” in resonance with sound. Contributing an extra dimension of nonlocal “information” tangent to every hyperdimentional, socio-sexual point in spacetime (person) being captured on film. A single hyperspatial domain of information being represented as multiple orbs “observed” through makeshift schrodinger photon capture modeling/photography. A multitude of seemingly 3d spheres in statically modeled 4d reference frames/festival pics e/respect to the observer. I believe that when you have a static depiction of 4d reference frames you move from the particulated, euclidean models of Einstein. Like looking at motion pictures of the festival which lend an abstract sense of objectivity through the formulation of canonical operators along a thermodynamicly modeled axis of “time”. To a “singular” probabilistic state oriented domain of < than wholeness (100%). A probablistic/subatomic interplay of nonobservable statistically operating, supersyemttrical parts that Terence explained the limitations of.

  3. Hello Mike,
    Thanks for taking the time to write, I really appreciated it! Yes, the story is definitely oversimplified in terms of the actual complexity and history of human communities. In fact when first told at Burning Man 2013 in the full “Mitochondrial Eve” talk I was interrupted and challenged by a fellow who has since become a friend, Michael Garfield. As a result I backed in some of the material he later referenced me to, the work of William Irwin Thompson, which I included excerpts of at the end of the podcast:

    There is a link to his key talk about Civilization and the Displacement of the Feminine:

    This is a true scholar of that transition from feminine to masculine led societies. As you will hear, the story is complex and nuanced but what Thompson points out is a cycle of “domestication of plants, then animals, and then women” so from a scholar of the upper Paleolithic, this has been the trend in deep history.

    In all cases those who have reacted strongly to my rather ‘cartoon epistemology’ (in Terence’s words) are men. Women who have written or spoken to me about it generally nod and express gratitude. I do point out to everyone that the fable is vastly oversimplified and does paint men in a rather villainous light. However, if you ran the straight scientific statistics for the past few thousand years, you would find that men in positions of power (or not) are responsible for the vast majority (at lease over ninety percent) of what we would all agree is highly detrimental behavior, across the board, and in all cultures. My aim in telling this story is to perhaps overstate this a bit (not all men are destroying the planet) to bring up this issue with the hopes that in the future we will try “another format” with women much more representative in our leadership and other arts. In societies where they is the case (Scandinavia for instance) there tends to be a much healthier overall outcome especially in terms of early childhood development. This has a ripple effect and you end up with sane, well run societies who don’t prosecute war, and are immune to being moved to extremism by extremism, even in their midst (e.g. Norway).

    I never intended to suggest that women were more intelligent than men. Intelligence expresses itself differently: social, emotional, conceptual, abstract and one can find different mixtures of such expression in any individual. However, in early communities where women formed close bonds, tended to the affairs and maintenance of the village/encampment, they tended to have a better handle many details. While not true across the board, studies of these communities find women at the social and logistical core of the community, in much better communication with each other, and therefore building up a fabric of understanding. It is against this general understanding that I placed the fable of Mitochondiral Eve and her life in a speculative early human community at Blombos Cave, South Africa.

    The main purpose of the talk at Lightning in a Bottle was to communicate key information of the Mystery School of Eleusis, not to focus on issues of gender inequality. I hope this clears up my position on this and addresses some of Mike’s and others concerns.


  4. Sure, Abe. I agree with you there. But Bruce brought up the idea of science backing up his story and speculation, not me. If he didn’t make this claim I wouldn’

  5. Traditional 20th century gender roles are incidental to an entire retrospective characterizing gender trends dating back to the birth of our species. The fact that it’s not an exact science shouldn’t preclude speculation and the creation of art.

  6. I love a great story. And i certainly appreciate Bruce’s creativity and thought provoking ideas. However, I have some serious issues with this talk.

    First off, I’m not a scientist nor an anthropologist, but a free thinker. I believe in the self and facts and I don’t mean to throw Bruce under a bus, but i do intend to critique and open up some debate.

    We live in a strange time of opening social boundaries while still having intense taboos and (overly) politically correct rhetoric. I can’t help both find Bruce’s views on gender both appalling and incorrect.

    It similar to what Karl already wrote above:
    Bruce offhandedly degrades men by calling women the more intelligent gender. I understand the ideas of McKenna, the dominater culture, the missing archaic feminine. I’m more ok with those thoughts because he treated it as a yin and yang, needing balance, both having value and importance. McKenna thought we now had too much male sway in our culture(Maybe over his career it was more complex or different, but i’m mainly referring to his ideas in the book Food Of the Gods). Whereas Bruce seems to be putting the feminine above the masculine.

    Certainly characters like Bush, McCain, and Obama are belligerent and dangerous men. But I think using broad general statements against man is bigotry. It’s stereotyping. It’s sexist. Again…these are my initial feelings. I don’t wish to accuse Bruce of any of it as I might be missing some greater point of his, though I can’t find one in the context of this talk and another similar talk.

    What if he had said in his talk “White people are more intelligent then blacks” or even “men are more intelligent than women”. I think Bruce would be met with outrage from most people (especially the political left) and with damn good reason. But Bruce said the opposite and it’s ok. It flies. No one shouted him down or corrected him. He didn’t get blasted, perhaps most listeners didn’t even think twice.

    Again, I get that most men are holding the higher political positions. But this doesn’t equate to women having less influence in out culture. To say”women are more intelligent” and to not be met with shock and rage, when the opposite “men are more intelligent” is met with shock and rage says something about the matriarchy/patriarchy.

    We can talk male violence with some politicians (never mind Hilary’s war mongering and laughing at the death of Gaddafi, never mind women voting for said violent men) but this is not where violence begins and ends. When we look at violence in the home (violence against children, the most unprotected people in our society) it’s women who spank children more proportionately then men do. And i’ll certainly point to the research if anyone doesn’t believe me when I say that its mainly spanked, abused and neglected children who end up becoming violent adults.

    Again. I don’t think it’s one side against the other. I’m not saying one gender is worse, better, smarter, more aggressive, more kind, etc…but Bruce does seem to be saying this. We need to work together. I think everyone agrees with that. I hope Bruce would agree with that.

    So I’m mainly questioning our society and culture, and then Bruce as a member of this society. Why does this stuff fly? Why the comments that undermine men? I hope and imagine because it gets a bit of a laugh. As i hope Bruce and the audience at large dont take such comments seriously. But I think it’s more than a joke, as his entire story and talk is based on this premise.

    This is a pretty serious and staggering double standard, no? For it to be ok to call men less intelligent then women, but not the other way around (not to mention Bruce offers no proof or evidence of this claim). It is sexist and bigoted, no? And if it’s not, then this is only big evidence that we live in a matriarchy and not a patriarchy. As it’s the oppressed group who gets named called without the perpetrator suffering any societal repercussions.

    Maybe another post is in order as well, because I disagree with the science as well. Sure, even if we can date things all the way back to Eve, that doesnt mean Eve was the first or the only. We merely have a record of her. Ok? I mean, but otherwise it’s a mythologized and completely speculative story. We have these facts about climate, migration, Africa and the remains of a women. That’s it. From this exact same “scientific premise” and using the exact same scientific facts I can spin the story the other way, saying there was a super smart Adam who was this intelligent, mutant freak and it was his sperm that seeded that impregnated Eves mother, and all of Eve’s sisters. It was Adam wisdom’s and brilliance that created the calendar, learned about the lunar cycle, etc, etc…

    The scientific facts have little to do with his fabricating of the story.

    Again. Bruce gave me a lot of food for thought. He’s obviously an original and free thinker and I can respect that. However, his story contains tons of speculation, which is fine as food for thought alone, but all the while the story is completely undermining men. I think this thinking is harmful. It’s throwing around unwarranted male guilt. I’m not sure that this helps our cause…”our cause” being…i guess, a more peaceful and considerate human race.

    I’m open and willing to hear anyone out, and hope I haven’t offended Bruce or misquoted him.

  7. Abe, thanks for your cogent comments beautifully stated! Yes, a screenplay would be the thing, want to pen it? The story of Mitochondrial Eve is, after all, just a story, allegory really, but very dramatic as a potential drama. As Lorenzo has said, we need “new myths” to re-balance our story and counter some of the really dangerous, toxic stuff out there, especially perpetuated by commercial message makers, politicians and politicos, predominantly men, of psychopathic tendency by the way. We can craft new stories based partly on our need for myth but partly on the basis of science and scholarship of history gained most recently and not available to generations much before ours. More about this in the next posting!

  8. I really liked the supermutant, s.african mitochondrial eve allegory as a twist on the stoned ape rap. How she was being protected by the world’s first coven and how she grew up with a kind of Christ like apotheosis, relaying nature’s secrets to them along the way. Then she gets knocked up and is able to form this crazy pairbond based on the revolutionary notion of paternity. Which led to male dominance hierarchies as their line took over the world. Which is very Holy Blood, Holy Grail in it’s mythos. The kind of story that itches that aristocratic scratch that get secret orders like the Prior of Sion all worked up in a lather.

    However if i may say I think without the mushroom eating cattle cults of the now desertified Sahara that Terence detailed we miss how the matrifocal element was really exported from there via the Minoan-Crete to Greece.While the pastoralist cattle cults of Upper Egypt which roam free to this day, would later turn into the chattle, mind governance cults of sumer, the hijaz, and S.Arabia. I felt the allegory beautifully symbolized the patriarical/matriarchal dichotomy in the later developments of S.Europe and W.Asia. With what come to us today as the mythically vieled, apostolic universalism and orthodoxy, but it appeared to attribute the primordial influence which got the ball rolling to early paleolithic activities which sprung up there seemingly in a vacuum. As opposed to the African genisis of those cultural modalities which Terence described. I did also like the part about how Roman accountants hired German thugs to destroy the feminine in Greece but it left me thinking about all the unique matrifocal, pre-roman pagan cultures of tribal Europe. How Rome also rode roughshod over the feminine there 1st, through the creation of the Western Roman Empire.

    Oh and one last thought, i thought it’d be great to pack this whole thing up in a screenplay. A period piece about Eleusis which uses all this as a backstory. Where in the end we watch it get destroyed by a corperate class that dumbs down the world. I mean, The father, the son and the holy spirit wtf?!?! For me the whole operation was summed up by Tertullian. Who when asked if he believed in the absurdity of the immaculate conception responded, “Credo quia absurdum” or “I believe because it is absurd.” Summing up what early Catholic leadership’s take on mythic belief engineering was all about. Meaning that the actual appropriate religious figure meant to provide exigesis on the nature of the word was supposed to be a comedian.

  9. This guy clearly has some deep chip on his shoulder about ‘men’ and masculinity and ‘male’ energy. Taking his story about us all coming from one mother and that meaning we are all brothers and sisters, why then does this guy have such a problem with only his brothers? Why lay all the sins of mankind only at his brothers feet? This guy is VERY polarised IMO, and is viewing history and life through some kind of unreal fantasy feminist lens. His talk is clearly divisive on gender lines, and the subtext of his perceived inferiority of the male gender is rife throughout his entire talk. Thats cool, everyone has a right to their opinion. As do I and i felt driven to respond. as his talk actually made me genuinely angry in places – so here it is – my 2c.

  10. Fascinating talk by Damer,

    His point on not giving children a religious education was spot on. In my experience, I have found that children seem to already have a type of spiritual connection with the world, a deep interest to ask and to learn about everything!

    Its a tricky balance. We want what is best for our children, to teach them what we think is right, but we also want them to think and decide for themselves.

    I think this struggle is felt by all parents. I feel there is conflict between ‘education’ and ‘self discovery’.

    I wonder what the rest of the Tribe think about this?

  11. Great talk from Damer. Always a trip.

    Nice to hear mention of Joseph Campbell from you Lorenzo. The universe does open doors where we least expect it!!! Glad you’ve followed your bliss and scared off any religious stiffs on this talk. Plant medicines activate our own dreams and spirits to bring us out of the myth into the light of truth. On with the initiation.

  12. Finally someone else who is equally skeptic of the historic Jesus. I still disagree that the evidence is sufficient, and that it’s just agreed upon by people who’s career depends on him existing. Of course there’s no way to prove or disprove such miniscule events from the past yet.

    Great Damer talk though, my favorite of his that I’ve heard so far. I need to read the book he mentioned.

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