The Emerald explores the human experience through a vibrant lens of myth, story, and imagination. Brought to life through the wise, wild, and humorous vision of...
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Reissue: On Trauma and Vegetation Gods
Modern discussions on healing individual minds, cultural wounds, and painful societal histories now revolve around the word ‘trauma.’ Yet addressing trauma is nothing new — traditional cultures across the globe have historically had their own forms of trauma work, without ever labeling it trauma work. For many cultures for many years, cathartic ritual practice that bypasses the conditioned mind has served multiple purposes as it regrows and re-patterns brains and bodies and communities. These ritual enactments, communal ecstasies, and group catharses — these weepings over the bodies of lost gods — are traditionally tied to something very specific… vegetation. There is a profound link between the myths and rituals of the old vegetation gods and what we might now term trauma work — because the cycle of vegetative birth, growth, decay, and death mirrors our own cycle. This episode explores the deep link between the repatterning of the nervous system — which itself is described in a language of trees — and vegetation, from the numerous studies that show the healing power of the presence of plants, to the plant medicines that are literally regrowing nerve tissues, to the old vegetation deities whose theatrical ritual enactments, repetitive singing and dancing, and relationship to altered states of consciousness are deeply tied to trauma repatterning. The stories and rituals of the vegetation gods reveal a language around trauma which does not vilify or sanctify trauma, or isolate it, or see it solely as something to be extracted or released, but rather addresses it as part of a larger network of patterning and repatterning, regrowth and assimilation, a greater cycle of nature. If we start looking through this ritual lens, we see ritualized trauma work everywhere in cultures around the world. And it doesn’t always look like we think it would. Sometimes it even looks fairly… traumatic.Support the show
So You Want to Be a Sorcerer in the Age of Mythic Powers... (The AI Episode)
The rise of Artificial Intelligence has generated a rush of conversation about benefits and risks, about sentience and intelligence, and about the need for ethics and regulatory measures. Yet it may be that the only way to truly understand the implications of AI — the powers, the potential consequences, and the protocols for dealing with world-altering technologies — is to speak mythically. With the rise of AI, we are entering an era whose only corollary is the stuff of fairy tales and myths. Powers that used to be reserved for magicians and sorcerers — the power to access volumes of knowledge instantaneously, to create fully realized illusory otherworlds, to deceive, to conjure, to transport, to materialize on a massive scale — are no longer hypothetical. The age of metaphor is over. The mythic powers are real. Are human beings prepared to handle such powers? While the AI conversation centers around regulatory laws, it may be that we also need to look deeper, to understand the chthonic drives at play. And when we do so, we see that the drive to create AI goes beyond narratives of ingenuity, progress, profit, or the creation of a more controllable, convenient world. Buried deep in this urge to tinker with animacy and sentience are core mythic drives — the longing for mystery, the want to live again in a world of great powers beyond our control, the longing for death, and ultimately, the unconscious longing for guidance and initiation. Traditionally, there was an initiatory process through which potentially world-altering knowledge was embodied slowly over time. And so… what needs to be done about ‘The AI question’ might bear much more of a resemblance to the guiding principles of ancient magic and mystery schools than it does to questions of scientific ethics — because the drives at play are deeper and the consequences greater and the magic more real than it’s ever been before. Buckle up for a wild ride through myths of magic and human overreach, and all the kung fu movie and sci fi references you can handle. Featuring music by Charlotte Malin and Sidibe. Listen on a good sound system at a time when you can devote your full attention. Support the show
Inanimate Objects Aren't Inanimate (Or Objects)
In the myths and fairytales, everything teems with sentience and agency... Everything is alive. There are talking trees and singing stones and hedges that move of their own will. Mirrors speak. Swords dance. There are flying carpets and far-seeing spyglasses and cloaks and boots that leap by themselves. This pervasive insistence in the old stories that absolutely everything is alive — that everything has eyes — butts up against modern rationality and therefore gets marginalized as childish 'fantasy.' But as science discovers more and more that the lines between living and dead, conscious and not, human and non-human are not as clearcut as we'd once imagined, as science starts to unpack the sentience of trees and the latent life within clay, we start to (re)discover that 'things' are not just dead objects at all, and that this whole world hums with animacy. And so the vision of a world of persons, a world with eyes, is not simply a child's eye view — it's actually much closer to the way things are. In taking our attention to the least of things, and remembering that we inhabit a world with eyes, we open up the possibility of redefining our relationship with the cosmos itself. Sparked to life by a conversation with sculptor Rose B. Simpson and featuring original music by Peia, Marya Stark, Sidibe, Ben Murphy, and Andy Aquarius, this episode takes us on a journey through talking stones and living clay and animate bells and drums into a world in which everything has eyes, everything has agency, everything is a portal to the infinite — even the seemingly 'inanimate.' Even... your car. Listen on a good sound system, at a time when you can devote your full attention.Support the show
Animism is Normative Consciousness (Re-mixed, Re-musicked, and Re-released)
For 98% of human history — over 10,000 generations — our ancestors lived, breathed, and interacted with a world that they saw and felt to be animate — imbued with life force, inhabited by and permeated with beings with which we exist in ongoing relation. This animate vision was the water in which we swam, it was consciousness in its natural dwelling place, the normative way of seeing the world and our place in it. It wasn’t a theory, a philosophy, or an idea. It wasn’t, actually, an "-ism." It was direct, felt experience. It was, simply, how things were. Which is why it has been commonly understood across the entire world for all of time. In this musically reimagined reissue of a classic episode of The Emerald, we explore how foundational the animate worldview is to the human experience and to human consciousness, and what we lose when it starts to fade. Listen on a good sound system when you have time to devote your full attention. Support the show
The Revolution Will Not Be Psychologized, Part 2 (Interview w/ Báyò Akómoláfé)
Báyò Akómoláfé is an author, celebrated speaker, teacher, and self-styled trans-public intellectual whose vocation goes beyond justice and speaking truth to power to opening up other spaces of power-with. In this episode of The Emerald, Báyò joins Josh for a deep-dive discussion into how the Western psychological vision shapes modernity, and the need to expand into alternative stories of what 'being' means. Says Báyò: "Psychology is complicit in the creation of Western modernity. It is not a thing apart. Its disciplinarity, its history, and its legacies are tied up with the industrialization, commodification, the manufacturing, the replication and the reproduction of the human subject. How we think about what it means to be human, what it means to have agency, what it means to think, who has cognition, who doesn't have cognition — all of this is tied in with the historicity of psychology." Using animate tradition as a foundation, Josh and Báyò explore Norse and Polynesian trickster myths, trauma discourse and Puritanism, and pay homage to the gods of in between spaces as they explode open a vision of being, bodies, and sentience that is vast, wild, and porous. Support the show
The Emerald explores the human experience through a vibrant lens of myth, story, and imagination. Brought to life through the wise, wild, and humorous vision of Joshua Michael Schrei — a teacher and lifelong student of the cosmologies and mythologies of the world — the podcast draws from a deep well of poetry, lore, and mythos to challenge conventional narratives on politics and public discourse, meditation and mindfulness, art, science, literature, and more. At the heart of the podcast is the premise that the imaginative, poetic, animate heart of human experience — elucidated by so many cultures over so many thousands of years — is missing in modern discourse and is urgently needed at a time when humanity is facing unprecedented problems. The Emerald advocates for an imaginative vision of human life and human discourse as it questions deep underlying assumptions about societal progress.