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Psycho/Magic

Cult Director Recounts The Metaphysical Exercises That Shaped The Metaphysical Stories He Told in Then Soon-to-Be Cult Movies

Alejandro Jodorowsky ponders existence.

By Michael Pursley | Posted 11/19/2008

The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky

By Alejandro Jodorowsky

Park Street Press, paperback

The movies of cinematic occultist Alejandro Jodorowosky are ripe with mind-bending theology and volcanic beauty. Early '70s works such as 1970's El Topo and 1973's The Holy Mountain brought heavy doses of mysticism and the surreal to hosts of acid-bombed flower children, and the Chilean-born director was soon dubbed the "father of the midnight movies" by newspapers at the time. Long-standing legal disputes with their distributor prevented their video release until this year, so from the early 1980s until now copies of the movies circulated as shoddy bootlegs while Jodorowsky lived in France writing comics, books, and plays, giving Tarot card readings and lectures, and developing a form of psychotherapy he called Psychomagic.

Jodorowsky remains hyper-lucid at 79, and although he has written several books, The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky is the only one currently available in English. This memoir documents his years spent in Mexico City studying Zen Buddhism with Ejo Takata in the late 1960s. At that time, Jodorowsky was a prominent theater director who was admittedly obsessed with awakening, salvation, and enlightenment.

Just as his movies blend many mystical practices, Jodorowsky's memoir is an esoteric tapestry of philosophies and practices. Along with Zen, he learns surrealistic shamanism from painter and writer Leonora Carrington, spiritual massage from a woman known as Doña Magdalena, and sex magic practices from Reyna D'Assia, who claimed she was the daughter of proto-New Age guru G.I. Gurdjieff.

Although each of Jodorowsky's female "masters" walk a dissimilar spiritual path, each encounter enhances his creativity and elevates his self-awareness. Carrington infiltrates his dreams, enters surrealistic trances, and teaches him strange rituals to access his subconscious. Magdalena not only massages his body, but during a period of 40 days, cleanses his aura, removes his fears, regresses him to the womb and back, and washes his shadow. The pairing of Carrington's shamanic practices with Magdalena's massage and eastern-inspired medicine is an opening of what Jodorowsky calls his "vital energy."

His chapter about D'Assia--about whom scant information exists--may be the most bizarre set of experiences recounted here. D'Assia first impresses Jodorowsky by demonstrating a bit of vaginal gymnastics: "Gurdjieff taught my mother to awaken and develop her soul by developing a living vagina," she explained. She then traces disparate shapes in the air with each hand while standing on one leg and reciting laborious arithmetic problems. The pair then travel to a Zapotec pyramid in order to take a sacred stone to the summit and, later, participate in a mushroom-influenced death and rebirth ritual with a local sorcerer.

Zen seems downright conventional in comparison, and the practices proves to be the spiritual anchor to which Jodorowsky returns between these various initiatory encounters. He dedicates many pages here to the discussion and analysis of koans with master Takata. The koans allow Jodorowsky to make peace with his past and go beyond over-thinking his life. Master Takata, unlike the female masters, who make intense impression on Jodorowsky and then drift from his life, proves to be a long-standing friend.

This fantastic work repeatedly tests the limits of believability, as some readers may find Jodorowsky's tales of living vaginas and womb regression too much to swallow, while others may regard these events as spiritual truths that are arrived at by surpassing ordinary facts and fictions. Jodorowsky himself, obviously, would adamantly claim these events happened exactly as he wrote them. Ultimately, you have to decide if this makes him an enigmatic visionary or simply prone to exaggeration, Either way, as with his movies, The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky reveals an extraordinarily active man, mind, and spirit.

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