Art & Photography / AnOther Thing I Wanted to Tell You

Daniel Pinchbeck on meeting the Kogi Tribe

Daniel Pinchbeck is a spiritual seeker committed to transmitting messages to the masses from both the furthest reaches of consciousness and the remotest parts of the planet.

Daniel Pinchbeck
Daniel Pinchbeck Photography by Erika Wall

"I feel that our current spiritual nihilism and vacuity is like a trope that developed at a very recent timescale. It was evolutionarily necessary so that we could complete our sense of separation and individuation, and, in a way, attain the freedom to be an individual – Nietzsche talks about all of that stuff – but now that is completed there is another step to go through where we reintegrate archaic understandings of what it means to be human. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but what I do know, is that when I work with tribal people and have the opportunity to humbly participate in their way of being and their culture – I just feel better. I feel like something that was totally taken away from me is given back to me somehow. The Kogi were really extraordinary in that respect. I felt they had a tremendous dignity and precision in their use of language and their thoughts. When you are with them you definitely feel that they are a totally intact indigenous culture – they’ve just preserved themselves. They claim to be a very old culture – they refer to themselves as the ‘Elder Brother’ and they talk about us as the ‘Younger Brother’ – and it could very well be the case. I mean, we don’t even know – there could be five thousand, ten thousand, fifteen thousand years of continuity in their culture or more. In that sense, there is probably a lot to learn from them just on the level that they still live totally sustainably. I think the continuity of their culture means they have a collective memory in the Jungian sense that stretches really far back. They also have a profound spiritual philosophy and cosmology – everything said to me there was so informed by that I was totally blown away and I want to go back. Part of the Kogi’s teaching is that it’s not enough to live and just do your normal day-to-day activities – you also have to make payments back to the earth through ceremonial acts which include ritualized prayers, visualizations… making sure that you’re giving your energy back to the earth. They believe life has to be lived in a sacred manner and that prayer and gratitude have to be woven into the fabric of one’s existence, or you’re discarding the sacredness of your connection to the planet, which is very much where we in the west are at right now. The Kogi are warning us about, not just our treatment of nature, but also that our misunderstanding of our relatedness to the greater world and our spiritual reality are all leading us towards destruction. I believe we will see a lot more catastrophe before there’s the necessary awakening. I mean, we’re seeing the blowback right now with the nuclear disaster in Japan. It’s a great example of how our hubris in thinking we could dominate and control natural processes for our own benefit is now beginning to literally explode on us."

Daniel Pinchbeck is a spiritual seeker committed to transmitting messages to the masses from both the furthest reaches of consciousness and the remotest parts of the planet. The psychonaut author of Breaking Open the Head and The Return of Quetzalcoatl is an advocate of the notion that we are currently in the middle of a profound evolutionary shift – on the verge of a cyclical leap in consciousness predicted by the Maya some 5,000 years ago. It may sound far-fetched but if you can set aside the cynical value judgment our consumerist secular society has conditioned us to make about such beliefs, you might just find some of his arguments unnervingly convincing. On a recent trip to London, to give a talk at Dazed Live about his film 2012: Time For Change, Pinchbeck took some time out to describe to AnOther his recent journey to meet the Kogi tribe of the Sierra Nevada. The Kogi first became known to the wider world in the early 90s when one of their elders came down from the mountains in order to deliver a warning about our rampant destruction of the earth.

Text by John-Paul Pryor

Daniel Pinchbeck was in London last weekend for Dazed Live and was interviewed at the Bethnal Green Town Hall Hotel.