Incubation is perhaps most easily understood in contrast to the art of Theurgy or ‘Work of the Gods.’ Theurgy is a process of anabasis or magical ascent whereby practitioners, such as the early Neoplatonists, especially Iamblichus and Proclus, achieved henosis or mystical union with a deity or the demiurge. However, anabasis was not always of primary importance, or even of interest, to many of the ancient Greek philosophers and magicians. More than five hundred years before the Neoplatonists arrived on the scene, Presocratic poets and philosophers, including Pythagoras and Parmenides, were preoccupied instead with katabasis—a dreamy descent to the domain of the dead, and to the dark goddess who rules over that realm.
For the Platonists, katabasis was understood as the descent of the soul into a body upon incarnation. Hades, additionally, was allegorized and viewed as the very world in which we, as incorporated beings, inhabit. Socrates says to Callicles in Plato’s Gorgias, for instance, “[perhaps] in reality we’re dead. Once I even heard one of the wise men say that we are now dead and that our bodies are our tombs.” Again, in the Phaedo, Plato has Socrates say to Simmias of Thebes, “[we], who dwell in the hollows of [the earth], are unaware of this and we think we live above.” And, later in the same dialogue, “Those who are deemed to have lived an extremely pious life are freed and released from the regions of the earth as from a prison; they make their way up to a pure dwelling place and live on the surface of the earth.” Therefore, the only way to go, for Plato and his successors, was up—in an anabatic flight to the demiurge, through the various planetary spheres that separate the divine nous and Monad from the sensible world below. Theurgy was the means by which such an anabasis was accomplished. The Presocratics, conversely, leaving Mount Olympus to the gods, for the most part, focused their energies instead upon katabasis; on transporting themselves to the netherworld.
The means by which these iatromanteia or “healer-seers” directed this delirious drop was via the use of an ancient divination and healing technique known as incubation. In ancient Greece, this was generally done inside of sacred and secluded caves that were sacred to certain gods, daimons, nymphs, and other metaphysical entities. Eventually, the practice would be translated to special temples dedicated to the technique, and finally into a special incubation chamber, usually positioned adjacent to the temple itself.
The ancient Ionian Greek philosopher, recognized as the ‘Father of Western Philosophy,’ Pythagoras of Samos, for example, is said to have descended to Hades by entering an underground cave. While Pythagoras left no writings of his own, the late Neoplatonic philosopher, Algis Uždavinys, a past head of the Department of Humanities at the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts, Kaunas, explains,
the subterranean tomb-like chamber represents Hades for Pythagoras. Hence, Pythagoras descended into Hades, that is, the subterranean holy chamber (like the Holy of Holies, entered by the Jewish High Priest on the occasion of Yom Kippur) that he had made himself, according to Diogenes Laertius (Vitae phil. 2). When he came up, withered and looking like a Shaiva ascetic, he said that “he had been down to Hades and even read out his experiences [aloud to the crowd].”
A similarly famous although obscure Presocratic philosopher, Parmenides of Elea, celebrated as both the ‘Father of Logic’ and the ‘Father of Metaphysics,’ wrote a dactylic hexametrical poem recounting his trip to Hades, and the underworld goddess whom he encountered. At the junction of three roads, the goddess instructed Parmenides as to the true nature of reality. His proem to “Peri Physeôs” begins,
The mares that carry me as far as longing can reach
rode on, once they had come and fetched me onto the legendary road of the divinity, the road that carries the man who knows through the vast and dark unknown.
And the goddess welcomed me kindly and took
my right hand in hers and spoke these words as she addressed me…
In his proem, the divinity proceeded to instruct Parmenides in the laws of logic that we know today. That is, it was a mysterious, underworld goddess from whom Parmenides received the very rules of reason, with which he returned to the land of the living for the inauguration a new era. To a world which turned on mythos—mythology—Parmenides introduced the novel pivot of logos—logic. Although, we must admit that the weird way in which the ‘Father of Logic’ acquired that understanding appears to contradict the very laws with which he was entrusted.
Moreover, Parmenides’ words may provide us with a subtle indication of just what incubation may have entailed for these heroes of Hades. The first thing the poet mentions are the mares that pull his chariot. The chariot is a token of the sun god, whose solar vehicle is pulled throughout the skies by a handsome team of heavenly horses. Indeed, ever since the time of the worship of Shammesh or Utu, the sun god of ancient Mesopotamia, the chariot has been the province of the Sol. But, the sun isn’t just about the light—for, the sun also journeys into the Underworld, like Osiris in the Dwat, through the dark, intuitive animations of Aidoneus’ alcazar. Every time we venture into sleep, we quietly and blindly slide into the Stables of Silence. Hence the false etymology suggested by the word nightmares, ‘horses of the dark.’ Like the Hunter’s three-legged horse in the fairytale of the Princess and the Tree, these ‘nightmares’ “know everything”—including the invisible way to the “legendary road” that leads to “the divinity.” The archaic techniques of dream incubation are akin to these mystical, Moiraic mares, and they alone are possessed of the potential to move us from the familiar to the fringe—down the alien road that carries the “man who knows” through the “vast and dark unknown.”
P.D. Newman October 16, 2022
P.D. Newman is an independent researcher located in the southern US, specializing in the history of the use of entheogenic substances in religious rituals and initiatory rites. He is the author of the books, Alchemically Stoned: The Psychedelic Secret of Freemasonry, Angels in Vermilion: The Philosophers’ Stone from Dee to DMT, and the forthcoming title, Day Trips and Night Flights: Anabasis, Katabasis, and Entheogenic Ekstasis in Myth and Rite. The Secret Teachings of All Ages (TV Series documentary) 2023
14 September 2022 7:17 pm Earth Greenwich time zone
A letter from Oranous to Pluto on the Sleep Temple
Who believed their bed was a four-legged bear taking them on their back for a night sky ride as their own bear cub? I did. And I always woke up in the morning and kept my eyes shut till I hear family voices in the house so I am sure my parent bear landed me in the right place to start another day acting like a human. It takes practice to master acting like a human this is why we have to do it every day. But we must also not forget who we are this is why parent Bear kept their legs and body in the human house but with their tail and head on their own and took me as their child on journeys and trips at night where I can be in awareness of all that is. No wonder it was very difficult to pretend I am afraid of the scarab that landed on my hand in the nursery! I was not. The teachers were. And that was weird to me. I suppose I also was weird for them. However, I kept that memory of the friend scarab insect that tickle my palm and I still smile at that. Who would think I had an oil well in my salon where I bathed in whenever exhausted and opened my veins to it renewing my blood completely in sessions where Hathor was standing at my back massaging me? Okay well, I had a Native American tribe settling their tipi in my living room so… Let’s say this is normal in my life. So what is a sleep temple or a dream temple? I am! Well, I guess we all are in a way. Always just believed in a sacred temple where the blood circulates around the heart like pilgrims around the sacred cube of “Ka’ba” hence ka and ba. But as I can move and I am not still at all I prefer to see myself as a Mer-ka-ba “boat in Arabic”. Oh, how I loved this when I knew that Mer meant beloved in the ancient Egyptian language! Yes I know I am loved and visited but all types of loving beings. This is so beautiful! Still, I don’t think I learned yet to act humanely perfectly and instead I look for my equals who also could not really perfect the like human acting. There is something beautiful in our imperfections. Kind of childish and more related to the womb than birth. A whole multiverse moving changing developing evolving in action inside the womb of space. A multiverse that is in fact one single child in process of becoming. Did I tell you I once dreamed of having surgery on my lungs and my heart? Well, I did. And the woman doctor gave me a prescription. That I followed! I would not be that committed following a prescription of a daily life touchable doctor, so-called “real” anyway.
Hugs Bye for now
Egyptian creative writer poetess and novelist, artist painter and translator. Published many poetry books and novels in Arabic language. Represented Egypt in poetry and novels festivals and encounters in several countries like Yemen, Spain, India, France, Cuba, and Chile. Made creative writing workshops for kids in many schools in Cairo Egypt. Received rewards for poetry, novels and for translations in Chile, Macedonia and Egypt
Was entitled as a universal ambassador for peace by the peace ambassadors circle that works under the UNESCO
The temple of dreams is located in principle in an unlimited place, it is not exactly an island, it is the sky itself in immense melancholy, surrounded by the sea and in the absence of farewells. Towards all directions a path towards you, and I discover each treasure at the bottom of the word. In the absence and presence of everything, I hear bordering a harmonious song flowing like an infinite abyss around us.
The paradise that we have penetrated and invented is resolved like the design of a luminous dream, which we glimpsed to see a long time ago, until we rediscover the trace, shake off the dust and build the raft that takes us from me to you and vice versa, yes, on this side the sleep is deep, in this temple of gods we are simple people, trying to take forever a piece of heaven and looking for a dignified death, where our names are heard and pronounced only by hallucinated insects and dogs on the last day of the humanity, we only dream that on the last day of the world we will not forget to feed them, and the last poem we wrote and the last brush stroke on the white we gave, undermine my pain to the depths, and be reborn in a beautiful pack of dogs, in another time, another planet, another galaxy as far as we can see in the temple of dreams. Because only the measure of the vision is equal to the measure of what is imagined and because everything that one builds is the measure of what he managed to imagine. In the temple of dreams I realized that, and why I was already here
Verónica Cabanillas Samaniego.
Algarrobo, Chile, Octubre 2022.
Verónica Cabanillas Samaniego (Lima, 1981), is a poet and visual artist. She has exhibited individually in Lima and collectively in Europe and Latin America: El asombro del colmillo, Le Petit Canibaal, Valencia (2014); Ludwig Zeller, composing the illusion, Taller de Rokha Gallery, Santiago de Chile (2017); One hundred years of Surrealism, Espacio Matta Cultural Center, Santiago de Chile (2019-2020), International exhibition of surrealism, Kudak Gallery, Cairo-Egypt (2022), Echo of contemporary surrealism, French Institute of Alexandria, Egypt (2022). She published in 2014 TUyYO by desktop publishing and participates in various poetry anthologies: IXQUIC. International Anthology of Feminist Poetry (Editorial Verbum, Madrid, 2018); Wagered deep on the run of six rats to see which would catch the first fire / Surrealist and Outsiders (RW Spryszak, Chicago, 2018); Liberoamericanas, 80 contemporary poets (Liberoamerica, Spain / Argentina / Uruguay, 2018); Narrow doors in wide green fields / Surrealists and Outsiders (RW Spryszak, Chicago, 2019). She has participated in the V Lima Poetry Festival (2014); IV Antifil Alternative Book Fair, Lima (2019). Her visual work is published in Derrame magazine (Chile), Canibaal (Spain), La vertèbre et le rossignol N ° 5, Vies de Saint-Artaud (Canada), Vol (France), The Room (Egypt). She is part of the book 120 nights of Eros, a compendium of surrealist women made by Floriano Martins, ARC editions, Brazil (2021). She currently co-directs with Magdalena Benavente the magazine Honidi Magazine, in Algarrobo, Chile.
FROM THE SOUL.
The melody of silence.
I search endlessly for labyrinths across the fields I will find.
Plants have eyes and they see me.
I spill my blood of color pigments.
With the wind I always seek to know infinite mountains wrinkled by time.
That golden light lets me dominate, with veiled rain and magical scents from my hidden memories of a man of the land.
Luminous nature with an open belly shows me a trace of the sun.
Conscientious without desolation, living nature, the plants have begun to love me.
DESDE EL ALMA.
La melodía del silencio.
Yo busco laberintos sin cesar a campo traviesa voy a encontrar.
Las plantas tienen ojos y me ven.
Derramo mi sangre de pigmentos de color.
Con el viento siempre busco conocer infinitas montañas arrugadas por el tiempo.
Esa luz dorada me deja dominar, con lluvias veladas y olores mágicos de mis recuerdos ocultos de un hombre de tierra.
Naturaleza lumínica y de vientre abierto me muestra un trazo del sol.
De conciencia sin desolación, naturaleza viva las plantas han comenzado a quererme.
Rene Fernando Ortega Villarroel Santiago, Chile, Octubre 2022
René Ortega, was one of the winners in the international biennial of contemporary art October 3, 2022. Rene has exhibited work in Chile and Argentina. He is involved in many cultural art programs that have related to hospitals, children and teaching art professionally. His most recent show was Mental Labyrinths at the Til Til Cultural Center Art gallery on June 18, 2022
“My concern is the human figure as a feeling of primitive and irrational states, whose main point are the heads, universal thought of the creation of man and center of the universe. All this led to a mutation of the plastic and pictorial language”.
Featured art photo Rene Fernando Ortega Villarroel