World’s Biggest Fire?

We’ve just been contacted by Burner Lise, who’s a little butt-hurt that we described Norway’s giant 130-foot high Midsummer bonfire as “the world’s biggest burn”. The flame measured a “mere” 135 feet, and one brave soul lit it from the top.

She insists that their 2007 Burn in Slovenia was even taller, at 142 feet:

slovenia burnFrom fire breathers to Mother Nature, the element of fire has set an assortment of world records…
…In celebration of Labour Day, a bonfire with a volume of 60,589 feet cubed was constructed by SKD Mladi Bostanj and lit on April 30, 2007 in Bostanj, Slovenia. The bonfire was also more than 142 feet tall  qualifying it for the [tallest] bonfire in the world on record. 

It ‘slovely. Apologies to the Lovely People of Slovenia, we never meant to cast aspersions about the size of your penis festival!

Their bonfire celebrated Labor Day, also known as the Feast of Ba’al. In American ritual ceremony Labor Day is the weekend of Burning Man. The occult nature of our Wicca burn is preserved on America’s Labor Weekend, by the pentagon pentagram that contains it.

14_theme_manBurning Man’s highest Man+Base to date has been (officially) 2011, when the height was 104 feet. Will the flames rise above the new baseless Man, more than 38 feet from its top? It’s arguable, I don’t think so. The Man’s arm raises up in a Nazi-style one handed salute, fireworks go off, then the structure burns and collapses on itself.

This year’s “Craven Ass Eerie” theme is a throwback to Mans of old, before there were themes…when there was no base and the Man stood his own ground. Can you climb up it? Can you slide down it? No-one knows but the Gamemasters:

How high will the Man stand without a base? Before, it has been around 40-feet tall. It seems unlikely that it will be 170 feet+ tall. How high do the flames go? Well, how does anyone really measure?

Lift your game and lift your flame, Burning Man! 

In 2007, Burning Man had the largest ever structure burned, the  amazing “Crude Awakening” Fire. The platform itself was 99-feet high, Christopher Lawrence played on it. Burner estimates claim a 300+ foot fireball. Wired claimed the flame as 1000 feet high, above the 100-foot platform.

bonfire 2007 sloveniaThe brains behind the tallest structure ever built at Burning Man plan to produce the tallest fire ever seen at the event as well — a 1,000-foot column of flame, primed by 900 gallons of jet fuel and fed by 2,000 gallons of liquid propane. Its creators hope this massive flame will send a powerful message about the oil economy.

The piece is called Crude Awakening. It’s the brainchild of Bay Area artists Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito. Its collaborative execution brings together eight different artists who have previously received art grants from Burning Man, and involved the help of 180 different people.

The centerpiece is a 99-foot-tall wooden oil derrick that was receiving final touch-ups Wednesday afternoon, including the completion of the steps inside that allow attendees to climb to the top.

To the left of the derrick stand eight metal sculptured human figures, most of whose surfaces are made of connected metal rings, each designed with their own different participant-activated fire effects via propane tubing. The statues are 540 percent of the size of a normal human. Some are standing, hands waved in supplication; many prostrate in various ways. All of them, Das Mann says, emulate the prayer posture of some religious tradition.

The piece is meant to dramatize the worshipful relationship and dependence modern man has toward oil. The idea occurred to the married couple during their honeymoon in India two years ago, and fit in with this Burning Man’s environmentally minded theme of “Green Man.”

The piece’s fruition comes in a performance Friday evening, to be aired live on Current TV beginning at 10 p.m. PST. At its climax, four different containers at each corner of the tower will shoot a total of 900 gallons of jet fuel (given away by NASA as unusable for its purposes, Das Mann says) to engulf the top of the structure in a huge fireball.

Seconds later up the center of the derrick, 2,000 gallons of liquid propane in a pipeline stretching out to the derrick’s right will shoot out at once through a remote-control 5-inch pneumatic ball valve. The piece’s creators figure this should create a 1,000-foot-high column of flame.

The detonation of the piece will create 2.4 gigawatts of energy, which Das Mann and Cusolito say is enough to “power the entire Bay Area for one minute.”

The artists realize that it might seem indulgent to burn so much fuel for art meant to dramatize our warped relationship with fuel. They understand those concerns. But they stress the personal conservation efforts about environmental and carbon impact that working on the piece created in all the 180 people involved, which they expect to continue.

The fuel the piece consumes only amounts to an ounce or so of fuel per attendee at the event, they note. Cusolito, who says she is thought of by her friends as somewhat of an “environmental Nazi,” says she thinks of Crude Awakening as if “all the energy I have not consumed by living the way I do, it’s almost as if I get credits” to use the fuel to “make the biggest environmental statement I could make in my lifetime.” The pair hopes the message will reach far beyond the 45,000 or so who might see the finale at Burning Man.

Das Mann and Cusolito stress the massively collaborative nature of the project, including fire work from Donya Parkinson and Joe Bard of Pyro Kinetics, and Mark Perez’s carpentry work on the derrick, among many others.

I guess the Guinness Records crew weren’t there that day…

Do fireballs count? Or is it the height of the sustained burn that’s important? What do you think, Burners? Did Slovenia beat us, and Norway too? Or does Burning Man reign supreme in the Fire God Wars?

Burning Man: Back to the Future

by Whatsblem the Pro

Or you can just sit there forever in your Rules-Royce, sucker

Or you can just sit there forever in your Rules-Royce, sucker


Whether the topic is children on the playa, cops on the playa, feathers on the playa, or just rules in general on the playa, burners are going to argue bitterly and at great length about it. Any time these topics are raised in any burner forum online, the conversation draws hundreds of comments, many of them aggressive to the point of abuse. It’s as though the desert fosters endless dispute in spite of all the groovy talk about togetherness and family and unity of purpose.

How can we resolve these seemingly unresolvable disagreements?

Consider the original reasons for going out to the Black Rock Desert in the first place; it was largely because the remoteness and harshness of the place made it a good place for a Temporary Autonomous Zone. It was a place where you could get your dog good and drunk and let him drive your car across the playa at 120MPH while you leaned out the passenger window, peppering the drive-by shooting range with buckshot. . . and there was nobody who could tell you with any authority that anything about that was wrong.

Ever since Larry Harvey and his gang co-opted that freedom by putting a fence around it and selling tickets, you aren’t even allowed to bring your dog, much less get him drunk. The speed limit is 5MPH, and firearms are frowned upon. . . because as everyone will tell you if you happen to lament those bygone days, the event is just too big for it to be practical to not have any rules. While that’s probably very true, it’s also true that without the fence and the tickets the event may very well have remained small enough for it to be OK. . . but I digress.

When the festivities on Baker Beach grew too large to avoid unwanted attention from the police, it became clear that San Francisco was no place for a Temporary Autonomous Zone of any size, as it would not and could not be tolerated by the locals. . . so, thanks to the Cacophony Society, a TAZ capable of supporting Burning Man as it existed in those days was established in the Black Rock Desert. Now Black Rock City itself is so big that the locals there balk at the idea of having no rules. . . so instead of discarding the best thing about the event in its early days, why aren’t we establishing a new TAZ to serve the needs of the woolier, more freedom-loving denizens of Black Rock City?

The obvious answer, of course, is that no matter what Larry Harvey or Marian Goodell say in speeches and press releases, Black Rock City LLC is a corporate business entity that exists for the purpose of making money, not for fostering anything too radical in the way of culture, and that purpose is inimical to the very idea of autonomy. The Disneyfication of the playa marches ever onward in the name of profits, and public relations problems are dealt with in the corporate way: by paying people off and covering things up. For example, I speculate that rape kits are not available at Burning Man, not because the environment is too harsh or the chain of custody being too difficult to maintain; but because having rape kits on the playa would mean that far more rapes at Burning Man would be reported, instead of shrugged off and forgotten about. Many rape victims would rather stay at Burning Man and quietly put the rape behind them than spend the rest of the burn in a Reno hospital talking to cops and doctors. In short, maybe we don’t have rape kits out there because it would hurt the corporate brand that the Org owns and profits from.

The profit motive is what brought us to this, and the profit motive has swollen the numbers of people attending to the point that most of them no longer have much in common with the free spirits that came to share their visions with each other in the early days of the event. At this late date, any proposal that suggests Burning Man might return to its origins of envelope-pushing freedom is immediately shouted down as unreasonable and unrealistic.

Imagine, though, a designated area on the playa – for waiver-signing adults only – with no rules. A place near enough to BRC to get to easily, but far enough away that gunfire isn’t a problem. A controlled-access TAZ. An anarchy park, within the confines of Burning Man. A place with no cops, no rules, and no limits.

Black Rock City can grow and grow, and so can the rules and the Disneyland-like aspects and the mandated safety and the numbers of children and the vast hordes of finger-pointers and burnier-than-thou shamers. . . and we’ll still have (we’ll once again have) a place to be ourselves, completely unfettered by anyone’s rules or expectations.

Comments are encouraged.

Digging Ra Paulette

by Whatsblem the Pro

You think YOU'RE an underground artist? -- PHOTO: Ra Paulette

You think YOU’RE an underground artist? — PHOTO: Ra Paulette

If you’ve spent much time at all sitting around camp fires and burn barrels chewing the fat with people who go to Burning Man, then you know they tend to be fond of talking about buying land and forming intentional communities of one kind or another, building on the lessons learned by participating in the culture that has grown up around the event.

It goes without saying that they’re also rather fond of art, and uniqueness, and deserts.

Somewhere nestled in the big empty between Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, there’s a burner daydream for sale: 208 acres of privacy and freedom to spread out on. . . and the property features two hand-excavated art caves.

Eloi need not apply -- PHOTO: Ra Paulette

Eloi need not apply — PHOTO: Ra Paulette

The large and intricately carved underground spaces – described in the real estate listing as ‘cathedrals’ or ‘meditation caverns’ – are the handiwork of 67-year-old Ra Paulette, who has spent the last quarter of a century working alone at digging out and decorating a series of mind-blowing sandstone chambers beneath the surface of New Mexico.

Describing his process, Paulette says “manual labor is the foundation of my self-expression. To do it well, to do it beautifully, is a whole-person activity, engaging mental and emotional strengths as well as physical strength.”

Armed only with hand tools and his trusty wheelbarrow, Paulette follows his own very particular star in a starless darkness whose sky lies beneath our feet. He seems to have developed techniques all his own that allow him to work with remarkable efficiency, accompanied only by his faithful dog.

“When digging and excavating the caves,” he elaborates, “I break down all the movements into their simplest parts and reassemble them into the most efficient patterns and strategies that will accomplish the task while maintaining bodily ease. Like a dancer, I feel the body and its movement in a conscious way. I’m fond of calling this ‘the dance of digging,’ and it is the secret of how this old man can get so much done.”

Paulette’s strange story and that of his long and solitary labor of love has been immortalized in a documentary that may just be on its way to an Academy Award nomination: director Jeffrey Karoff’s CAVE DIGGER. The film, which has been much-lauded at international film festivals this year, spelunks both Paulette’s artistic ouevre, and the artist’s difficulties in dealing with the demands of his patrons. Paulette’s clashes with those who would try to direct his artistic efforts in exchange for mere money have spawned a distressing number of unfinished projects and left the cloistered cave-carver determined to work only for himself as he completes his magnum opus over the course of a decade of digging.

“My final and most ambitious project is both an environmental and social art project that uses solitude and the beauty of the natural world to create an experience that fosters spiritual renewal and personal well being,” explains Paulette. “It is a culmination of everything I have learned and dreamed of in creating caves.”

According to the real estate listing, grid electricity and telephone lines are ready to serve the lot at its perimeter, and the gated property features roads that connect with New Mexico State Highway 285 for easy access. Along with Paulette’s underground cathedrals and their “candlelit niches, recessed seating and various breathtaking side rooms that are washed in sunlight,” the 208-acre homestead boasts “majestic mountain views” and “surreal rock formations throughout.”

See you there?

The trailer for Jeffrey Karoff’s Ra Paulette documentary, CAVE DIGGER

Magic on a Grand Scale

Is Burning Man the biggest magical ceremony in the world? For wicca magic, for Pagan religions, probably yes. Compared to religious festivals outside America, maybe not.

Yes, we know BMOrg deny that there’s any particular magical element. They deny a lot of things, take their word as gospel if you like. Many of their own statements over the years seem to contradict this position. There’s no magical element, but ritual’s important? People have a spiritual, life-changing experience? This is one of the biggest rituals there is, encapsulating many of the world’s movers and shakers, the best and brightest, laid out inside a series of circles and pentagons and pentagrams.

OK so it’s not as big as Kumbh Mela, India’s festival where worshippers bathe in the sacred Ganges river. That clocks in at  110 million people, if they had it in the bay area it would stretch from Silicon Valley to Sacramento, including the whole East Bay and most of Napa and Sonoma.

DCIM100GOPRO

Kumbh Mela tents, 2013

Burning Man, at 5.5 square miles, about 8,000 acres of restricted land and just under 1,000 acres of residential city, is smaller even than San Francisco. It’s still the world’s biggest rave, at least in terms of land area. Biggest rave in population is Donauinselfest  in Austria – weighing in at a whopping 3.2 million people.

Black Rock City in a Martian Crater

Black Rock City in a Martian Crater

Output Fil

Butser-Wicker-ManThe type of magic described by the pentagon shape, the pentagrams and circles contained within it, and by a ritual burning of a giant, man-shaped wooden effigy, is known as  wicca magic. Wicca as in “Wicker Man”, a Celtic ritual from the Druids. Humans and their dogs would be put inside a giant wooden statue of a man, and sacrificed to the god Ba’al on Labor Day, May 1, in a ritual known as The Feast of Beltane. This is also known as “black magick” or “fire magic”.

Druid magic is alive and strong in the Bay Area. All kinds of secret, often Satanic rituals go on in caves around the city – something Burning Man’s founders were well aware of, back in the Cacophony days.

The best example is Bohemian Grove, which is probably the closest party in the world to Burning Man in terms of thematic elements and ritualized structure and layout. They have theme camps, Playa (player)  names, commerce is banned, they have workshops and musical performances put on for free by the camps and shared with everyone. They have a big ritual of druid-robed lamp lighters, drumming, chanting, ringing bells. Then they set fire to a massive wooden effigy – in their case an Owl named “Dull Care”, signifiying the cult of Moloch. They party through the night with howls and music and revelry, drinking and making merry, which is worship of the Pagan gods of Bacchus, Dionysos, Pan. These cults are associated with the Ancient Mystery Schools of Babylon. Music, drums, fire, technology, and often, orgiastic sex and hallucinogenic drugs, are all mixed together for those initiated into their secret sects.

devil in disguise

devil in disguise

The Bohemian leaders of the world mix freely at the Grove with others of their level, from different fields. Generals mix it up with Internet billionaires, wine makers, thespians, and the Grateful Dead. They burn Care at the start of their ceremony, so they can party like they don’t have one. At the end, they go back to the Default World, and all the cares on their shoulders.

Just like how Burning Man gave us Google, Second Life, and venture funds using Eminent Domain to seize peoples homes; the druids in theme camps amongst the redwoods in The Grove gave us the United Nations, the Manhattan Project, the Star Wars program, and most of our Presidents.

Richard Nixon called Bohemian Grove “the most faggy goddammed thing you can ever imagine”. We have girls at our party (and fags, and some of the girls are fags!), and you don’t have to be elite to go there – but it helps. You have to be rich enough to take a week or two off work, spend $400 for a ticket plus transport costs, and live self-sufficiently, so well in the extraordinarily harsh conditions that you actually have fun. Even to do that cheap, costs money.

satan in flamesWe worship the Man at the end of our party. We party like we don’t have a care in the world, casting off the rules and shackles of The Man. We have a big ritual with druid robed lamp lighters, more of a Babylonian style dress perhaps, then they march to the Man, there are fire dancers, everyone sits, waiting. All the party is under the control of The Man at that moment, waiting for The Man to burn. Then, it does – the Fire God keeps everyone’s attention for at least another 20 minutes. And then? Chaos, mayhem, Yahoo!

And then we burn the “Temple”, in another, less structured fire magic ritual. Get rid of your messes. Then everyone returns, back to the real world. Back to working in slavery for The Man. Feeling like they exercised their inner rebel, and exorcised their old demons. Maybe picked up some new ones to take back with them…

2013 final web

This is BMOrg’s map of Black Rock City for 2013. The Pentagon is the trash fence. Note the orientation of North at the bottom. The proportions and dimensions between the trash fence and the circle are theirs, not mine. It looks to me the same proportions in the drawing as in the satellite photo above, where you can clearly see the trash fence and roads. The whole camp looks to me like it’s placed solely on the pentagram, with Center Camp aligned with the intersecting lower vertices. The city therefore grows out of the pentagon, to 2/3 of a circle 0.666%. Such an elegant and beautiful design is very unlikely to be there by coincidence.

To make a pentagram, connect the inner vertices of the Pentagon to each other. This shape makes another pentagon inside the pentagram, inverted. The pentagon and pentagram fit perfectly inside circles, which is why they are very popular in occult rituals.

My drawing might be crappy, but the lines sure do seem to line up pretty magically. The 0.666 of a circle touches the lines of the pentagram, and multiple lines cross together through center camp. The entrance to Center Camp seems to be entirely defined by the inner, reverse pentagram. The man is smack bang in the middle of one pentagon, inside an inverted pentagon that encompasses the inner playa, inside another pentagon that encompasses the entire event. The horizontal, left-right line goes straight through the Temple. This is also the top of the circle of the inner Playa. Deep Playa therefore becomes everything above that line, an uninhabited outer triangle zone.

santiagodecampostelaAlso note that this map is twisted 45 degrees, or 1/8 of a revolution, away from true north. The significance of this is unclear, probably to line up with the sun…although this site believes that it is to link up to a pilgrimage destination church in Europe, and a Guggenheim/Rothschild Temple in Central Park in New York.

Is Burning Man a massive occult ritual, that we’re participating in whether we’re conscious of it or not?

Maybe the pentagrams are innocent, or just coincidental. But then what about the lamp lighter ceremony with the monks, the drumming, the fire dancing, the raising of the hands of the Man, the controlled burn; thousands of people dancing around a bon(e)fire, burning a Wicker man, burning a giant effigy and sacred Temple – these are all ritualistic elements. Just because you don’t see a statue of Jesus, doesn’t mean it’s not religious. That ain’t no Solid Gold Dancers out there. These are all the elements of fire magic, as it has been practiced for thousands of years. At some point you have to say, OK, maybe this can’t ALL be coincidence, that maybe some of the people involved in putting this together had an interest in the occult, and chose to build the ceremony modelled on other occult ceremonies throughout history.

Open Scroll blog has just written a lengthy, 3-part series delving into this much deeper. An important point to consider, is that whatever the individual participants think about the ritual, doesn’t really change the nature of the ritual. The nature, elements, and sheer scale of the ritual are what gives it its power. In fact, the magic is stronger if it’s so subtle that those within the spell don’t even notice it being cast on them, and with them.

anubis burnsThis is Labor Day weekend, and once again a mass ritual known as Burning Man is taking place in Nevada with many thousands of participants. Tonight, as I post this to the blog, the burning man will be lit and wildly celebrated. Beyond the obvious “Pagan celebration” label that may be applied, when the symbol language is read and understood we see in this the intent for the ritual raising of energy within an enormous magic circle. It’s a large scale harvesting of energy as a ritual sacrifice. What I’ve just described is according to the practice of ceremonial magick, and those conclusions would be drawn by anyone who is familiar with the working of such sorcery. More may be inferred about what is being accomplished because of the consistency and redundancy of the symbolism present.

Who is the lucky target of our Burner worhsip? The Egyptian god Horus. Well, I guess we have Osiris, we had an Anubis a couple of years back, the lamp lighters are Egyptian styled, the Temple was 3 pyramids, in fact there are a lot of pyramids and Egyptian symbolism…yeah, I think it’s safe to say there is a LOT of Egyptian magick going on at Burning Man. I haven’t ever met too many actual Egyptians out there!

photo by Curious Josh

photo by Curious Josh

Certainly, participants may decide what Burning Man is to them, but it is what it is, despite what some might choose to believe. The organizers refuse to define it openly and media descriptions of Burning Man as an “art, music and everything-else festival” are merely superficial. The point of the ritual gathering may be derived from the symbols present and some knowledge of history. These things “decide” what the festival really is. It’s not really open to the subjective interpretations of individual participants. Their opinions do nothing to change what their participation means and accomplishes. They are involved in the worship of Horus and are actively paving the way for his return. This ritual is for the empowering of all his worshipers for engagement in spiritual warfare against the saints.

He also feels that the Illuminati could be involved. Unfortunately, Illuminati seem to be all the rage amongst the kiddies these days, with Kim Kardashian having to recently deny she’s in their gang. Rock-n-Roll has been the devil’s music for 50 years, I don’t think dubstep will bring Satan in if the Rolling Stones couldn’t.

nick wolfe devil in flameA point of the ritual is to raise more demonic energy, harvesting it from the Burning Man participants and further from all those who give energy to it through the spawned events and even the Internet coverage on regular sites, forums, social media and video sites. There’s lots of mind-control programming going on with corrupting influences of many kinds. Here is the typical weaving together of beast and Illuminati programming symbolism, and reality. Folks role-play in their playa name alter identities. 

…When folks revel in burning such as the mock Wall Street block in effegy, smashing, burning and destroying everything, it’s not just a carthitic experience. Some of the constructions go up in smoke as prayers with incense to their god, but others go up more particularly as a curse. That’s what the magick circle is for, with the release of the demonic energy carrying the curse into the universe. These destruction rituals are attended with directed anger. These rehearse and role play in symbol but there is in this a vital supernaturalism…

Or, it might not be just Devil Worship. It might be Catholics versus Protestants…hmmm, I think his argument is stretching a bit here…

hilary devil signThe Black Awakening is appointed to facilitate the new order by bring this order to ashes, preparing the way for their king Horus to rise. In type, every year the idol is burned to ashes. Every year, he rises again. Sun up. Sun down. Sun up. Sun down. 

I note how the August 24th marks the anniversary of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, and this is when many travel and preparations for Burning Man are completed. St. Bartholomew’s Day is observed on some Satanic and SRA calendars as a Great Sabbat and palin devil signFire festival, and noted as a large herb gathering. Burning Man is very much a fire festival. There is a metaphor biblically and otherwise where herbs represent people. Connect those dots. “The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations, followed by a wave of Roman Catholic mob violence, both directed against the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants), during the French Wars of Religion.” (Wikipedia) One or more of those groups worshiped the sun god and acted in his service. What do you know about miley devil signsCatholic assassins – Jesuits, Knights Templar, Knights of Malta, Knights of Columbus 

In terms of Wicca magic, Burning Man is surely the largest. Glastonbury is a bigger festival than Burning Man, but they tried to mass 1800 for their ritual magic ceremony against fracking. They billed it as “The Biggest Magical Operation Ever Carried Out on Earth“, but only 300 people showed up, Burning Man gets ten times that just girls celebrating that they can ride bikes and show their boobs at the same time!

silver crow dragon glastonburyStephanie and I drove to Glastonbury to participate in the Warrior’s Call Pagan Anti-Fracking ritual that was scheduled for Saturday. I had been a little concerned because 1800 people had said they were coming and I was aware of the irony of having people using fossil fuels to get to Glastonbury to work a ritual designed to protect the Earth from pollution. However, sometimes it is necessary to make a strong statement, and perhaps to do powerful magic, and this Glastonbury initiative felt important. We combined it with a long overdue visit to OBOD’s Touchstone editor Penny Billington and its inimitable illustrator Arthur ZZ Birmingham/Billington.

How many of the 1800 people would actually turn up, especially when the forecast was for rain? Damh the Bard had spotted members in Australia clicking the ‘I’m coming!’ button on Facebook, so we knew some would be coming astrally, and in fact astral travel made up the bulk of participants. About 1500 flew on the wings of thought and intention, and only about 300 were there on the lower field of the Tor, just above Dion Fortune’s (now Geoffrey Ashe’s) house. But this was a good number – enough to give a real sense of solidarity and energy, without so many no-one would hear what was being said – which I had feared if 1800 had come. The police had been worried about numbers too, and had phoned us and appeared before the ritual began. But they were reassured and went away.

Some previous coverage from Burners.Me about the spiritual and occult elements of Burning Man:

Everyone’s Unique Except Me – Why I Hate Magical Thinking (by Whatsblem The Pro)

Silence, Violence, and Self Reliance (by Whatsblem the Pro)

Seeking Divine Truth at Burning Man

Prayerformances – Rave Culture as the New Manifestation of Ecstatic Trance Rituals

Finding Jesus at Burning Man – a Christian perspective

“Theater in a Crowded Fire” – Spirituality, Burning Man, and the Apocalypse – Neo-Paganism

Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow – Paganism, Wicca, Druids, Lucifer

Exploring the Other (Part III – the Sacrifice of a Ritual) – we speculate on the Occult Symbology behind “Fertility 2.0″, the ticket crisis, changing of the guard at Burning Man, and the intersection between Burners and the Occupy movement

Ghost Trancing on Sacred Lands – Native American

Burner Principles vs the 10 Native American Commandments – Native American

Burner Fundamentalism – Burning Man’s own religion

Longing for the Next Evolutionary Step – Buddhism and consciousness

Miss Molly Goes to War

by Whatsblem the Pro

CJ Hardin has gone from PTSD to MDMA to A-OK

CJ Hardin has gone from PTSD to MDMA to A-OK

CJ Hardin first went to Burning Man in 2006; when he can make it to Black Rock City he volunteers as a medic. He spins fire staff, and is learning ball poi.

Outside Black Rock City, CJ Hardin is a soldier whose three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan left him an alcohol-soaked, suicidal wreck peppered with physical, emotional, and psychological trauma. The physical damage wasn’t much – some minor injuries, a touch of tinnitus – but the PTSD he suffered picked him up by the scruff of the neck and took him right out of his life.

Michael and Annie Mithoefer are burners, too, and more formally known as Dr. Michael Mithoefer, MD, and his co-therapist, Annie Mithoefer, BSN. The couple run a well-regarded internal medicine practice in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

The Mithoefers are currently conducting clinical trials as part of a ten-year, $15,000,000 project that intends to transform MDMA — sometimes sold under the street names Molly, Ecstasy, or X, among others — from an illegal street drug into an FDA-approved prescription medicine. CJ Hardin is a patient in one of those trials.

The project is being administered by a non-profit organization called MAPS, or the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. MAPS, currently the only organization in the world funding clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, has earned a solid reputation in the scientific community by doing peer-reviewed work on the legitimate medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana since 1986.

To a non-profit organization like MAPS, exploring the medical uses of MDMA makes good sense, because the patent on the drug has expired. This being the case, the for-profit pharmaceutical industry has little or no interest in testing and developing the drug into a product. Once someone like MAPS does it, the for-profit big boys in the big league may manufacture their own version and sell it alongside the patented products they own, but since they can’t hold a monopoly on the drug, there’s no money to be made in doing the groundwork that must come first. This is part of the reason why MDMA has remained on the government’s Schedule 1 list of substances that supposedly have no medicinal value.

All the drugs that MAPS works with either have expired patents, like MDMA, or are unpatentable, like marijuana; once the research allows products to be manufactured from them, nobody – not even MAPS – will have a monopoly on making and selling them, and thus they will likely remain cheap or even free to the people who need them most.

I interviewed CJ Hardin about his progress with the Mithoefers’ MDMA-assisted psychotherapy on Tuesday, November 26th, 2013.

Whatsblem the Pro:
CJ, you’re a burner, right? How did you find your way to Black Rock City the first time?

CJ Hardin:
I went with friends in 2006, after my second Iraq deployment. I really didn’t know much, other than that it was a huge party with cool music and art in the desert. We rented a bus and really kinda glamped it. I didn’t know that it was such a participatory event, but I really started to enjoy it once I began talking to fire spinners, since I had done fancy drill teams with rifles in the JROTC. I had a great time, but also gained a deeper appreciation for the burner community. I really appreciated how Burning Man set itself apart from music festivals I had been to, like the Family Values Tour, and Bonaroo.

Whatsblem the Pro:
How long have you had PTSD, and how long have you been doing the MDMA therapy?

CJ Hardin:
I got deployed in 2003 during the initial push to Baghdad, and served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I started to really feel it after the second deployment.

I’ve been in the MDMA study since midsummer of 2013, and I’m about to do my third MDMA session, on December 3rd. If I haven’t been getting the higher of the two doses they’re testing, I’ll get another five sessions with the high dose after this.

Whatsblem the Pro:
This is a horribly rude question that I wouldn’t ask under other circumstances, but would you mind telling me something about the experiences you had that left you with PTSD?

CJ Hardin:
Well, I’ve been hit by two IEDs while in armored vehicles, but I wasn’t seriously injured, just some hearing loss. I was hit by a bullet fragment from friendly fire that made me think I was shot. . . and pretty much every day we were being targeted with mortar and rocket fire, so we could never really feel safe. On top of that, I was a member of a command team, so I got to see all the operational stuff and the casualties. There was a lot of gory stuff, and friends getting injured and killed. . . and of course never knowing whether a mortar was going to drop on you in your sleep or on the shitter was a really bad feeling that dissociates you from the real world. All of it combined was the problem.

Whatsblem the Pro:
What sort of symptoms did you develop?

CJ Hardin:
Any sudden noise, change of air pressure in the room, motion. . . I’d get hyper-vigilant. Rapid pulse, crippling anxiety. Depression. A need to avoid crowds. Driving became impossible; I’d swerve to avoid anything near the road because it would remind me of IEDs. I got into some major alcohol abuse to keep my mind off stuff. Insomnia. Lack of a sex drive. Thanks to the IEDs, I’ve also got permanent tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears.

I got to the point where I stayed home and never went out. I didn’t even try to work really, just did odd jobs. I had a lot of suicidal thoughts.

Whatsblem the Pro:
How has the therapy you’ve been doing with the Mithoefers affected all this?

CJ Hardin:
Working with them and with the MDMA has vastly reduced all the symptoms. Some are gone totally. I go out and hike and drive now; I don’t jump as much at all at sudden things; I’m much better with crowds now. Essentially, I realize on a gut level that I’m not at war any more, and I’m safe.

Whatsblem the Pro:
All that, with just two sessions?

CJ Hardin:
Two sessions with the MDMA, and some therapy sessions in between, yes. I’m about to do the third MDMA session.

Whatsblem the Pro:
It sounds like you got your life back.

CJ Hardin:
I did get my life back! There was a profound difference after the first session. . . and my girlfriend benefits by having a sane boyfriend. Did I mention that I lost my marriage due to the PTSD?

Whatsblem the Pro:
I’ve read that a single dose of MDMA might be worth years of psychotherapy.

CJ Hardin:
Oh, yeah. . . eight hours of therapy with MDMA feels like three years of therapy without it.

Whatsblem the Pro:
What went with the MDMA? Were you guided through any particular experience with it, or did they just give it to you and babysit passively?

CJ Hardin:
Oh no, I was totally guided. The doctor and his wife, who is a nurse, were with me the whole time. There was soft music playing, and they gave me a sleeping blindfold in case I wanted to “go inside.” My girlfriend was there for most of the time, too. They let me talk about whatever. Sometimes they would remind me of what I was saying or get me back on a train of thought.

Whatsblem the Pro:
They told you to go inside yourself?

CJ Hardin:
Yep. After I’d talk about something a little more intense, they’d suggest that I go inside and try to feel where I felt the feelings. . . then breathe through it. To dwell on it, kind of.

Whatsblem the Pro:
I can see that happening at a theme camp at Burning Man, too.

Thank you, CJ. This is fascinating research, and from what you’re telling me it seems very promising. Is there anything the community can do to get involved and help?

CJ Hardin:
Actually, yes. . . the study I’m taking part in right now needs funding to continue. It’s all non-profit, and runs on donations, so there’s an Indiegogo campaign that you can give money to. You can read all about the clinical trials and the science and everything there, too.

I really believe that the work the Mithoefers are doing is going to end up helping a lot of people who need help badly and can’t get it because MDMA is illegal. It’s helping me, and I’m very grateful. Please give generously!

Whatsblem the Pro:
Good luck, CJ! We’re rooting for you.