ASGMCOVER1

Page 2

ceremony1

Psychoactive Plant Medicine.

That phrase alone is enough to scare most people and to cause instinctual jumps to conclusions. If something affects the brain and mind, is it a drug? It’s a Yes and No thing. Alcohol affects the brain and mind. Caffeine. Sugar. Some things are stronger – some milder. Some things are dangerous. But, we don’t always place things in the right category.

Some strongly psychoactive chemicals are approved and used every day by Western society. Some to heal – we call them medicines – and some to soothe or entertain, like alcohol and tobacco. A large number of our allopathic medicines have their origins in the plants of the Amazon jungle.

Ayahuasca is a venerable tribal medicine. It is a remarkable combination of plants that provides us with, perhaps, the strongest psychoactive experience in all of nature. Is it an ancient gateway to the Spirit World, or just a “drug experience”, to be painted immediately as taboo with a brush named “Dangerous”? The truth of what Ayahuasca is and where, exactly, it takes you, cannot be found in either of these views and is still very much uncharted. It seems to fly in the face of our Western cultural mores and some deeply ingrained societal fears.

The native curenderos (healers) and ayahuasceros – those who specialize in working with Ayahuasca – see it as a true portal to a Spirit world that they casually accept as a natural part of reality. They travel there in order to learn how to heal people, to gain information for the hunt, and, sometimes, to empower themselves to do good - or harm - to the lives of others. It is beyond question that the Amazonian Ayahuasca ceremonial tradition is one of humanity’s great healing cultures – one that has been in use safely and successfully for thousands of years.

This journal sets compass to South America and the sights and sounds of Peru. Then, into a deeper journey – a necessarily personal passage to search for meaning and for evidence of the reality of things beyond our everyday world. A search for portals into the unknown night.

AMAZON12542

 

“Ayahuasca is a symbiotic ally of the human species; its association with our species can be traced at least as far back as New World prehistory. The lessons we have acquired from it, in the course of millennia of coevolution, may have profound implications for what it is to be human, and to be an intelligent, questioning species within the biospheric community of species.”
– Dennis J. McKenna, Ph.D., Ayahuasca: An Ethnopharmacologic History
(Ayahuasca; ed. Ralph Metzner, (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1999) p. 207.

One reason I took years to study Ayahuasca before working with it was to be as certain as I could be that this was an authentic and valuable encounter that would take me beyond what I know and can see, and not merely a drug encounter. There are powerful chemicals involved in the Ayahuasca tea, but taking this brew is the farthest thing one can imagine from a recreational drug experience.

One takes Ayahuasca advisedly and with the help of experienced leaders and supporters. It requires commitment and some sacrifices to experience it safely and authentically. For many who work with it, Ayahuasca is the most intense event they have ever experienced. At times, it is physically demanding and difficult. It has the potential to be extremely frightening. However, it can also give a person the most beautiful, glorious, joyful, and richly fulfilling experience of their lifetime. Its healing and teaching effects extend into the life one leads afterwards and affects the quality of that life. It can be genuinely life changing.

I had to be certain I knew what I was doing and with whom I was going to work because I am not actually a very likely or typical person to explore psychoactive medicines. My father is a pharmacist and I was conservatively raised to respect drugs and to never abuse them for “fun.” Also, I’m a teetotaler. I have never used alcohol – ever. Nor have I smoked tobacco – ever. A virgin to mind altering substances, I set out for the Amazon to ingest the most powerful one there is. Why would I want to take such a radical path from the one I was on?

In Plato’s famous cave, the allegory can be interpreted to depict humanity seeing the universe only as if by shadows cast on the wall by a great pyre of light. It is a light and a true world existing behind us that we can never turn and perceive directly. In studying religions, I’ve come to understand them as the human-made shadows we project from a greater reality – the reality that Ayahuasca can show to us. Ayahuasca gives us the opportunity, for the very first time, to turn our heads and look outside the cave into a greater view of What is Real.

So, this is a journal of my particular experiences in the Upper Amazon in Peru in 2006. I was determined to conduct this direct experiment in ontology. Knowing from my deep research that I would be physically safe, my intention was to see for myself what I might make of the visions and information that would come with working with Ayahuasca in a controlled, sacred, indigenous, and ritual setting. This would be a journey to try to determine what is real and what might simply be illusion or masterful creativity.

ceremonymesa2

SHAMANISM – THE PROCESS OF SEEING

In 1951, Carl Jung wrote:

“In psychology, one possesses nothing unless one has experienced it in reality. Hence, a purely intellectual insight is not enough, because one knows only the words and not the substance of the thing from inside.”
-
C. G. Jung, Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self (p. 33)

I was determined to go “inside” and see for myself. It would turn out to be an intense set of experiences – one that challenged my physical body through limiting diets, strong physical exertions and purging, and more to the point, challenged my mind and spirit on levels that can only be described as awesome and unexplainable.

This general approach to gathering information about things outside our everyday world by direct personal experiences is what we generally refer to as Shamanism. It is the oldest spiritual practice of humankind, stretching back tens of thousands of years and still being practiced in tribal and modern societies all across the globe today. Shamanism is not a religion, but a practice or a set of techniques that are used to investigate non-ordinary realms or states in order to learn and gather information useful to us in this world. Modern religions have emerged out of these practices with many specific personal shamanic stories becoming reduced to historical myths. These myth stories are often presented as magical proof texts for followers of a particular religion – those who are not afforded the opportunity to experience the magic for themselves.

Shamanism is the opposite of religion’s controlled beliefs and limited access to personal experience. Instead, it is defined by personal, direct experience of “spiritual” realms, beings, and other mystical encounters without relying on any other person’s testimony or doctrines or information. In a shamanic practice, each person goes through the process in order to see for themselves. Each person has to make up their own mind what the information consists of and whether it is meaningful or actionable. No one else can gainsay what you see or what I see in a shamanic state. We can compare notes afterwards and begin to draw maps of the realms we enter. Some knowledge has emerged by consensus over the millennia, but it is still a direct personal experience by nature.

There are many ways to approach shamanic states, including meditation and trance work, asceticism, drumming, sensory deprivation, dream work, and so on. The most direct method, especially for the Western person who cannot devote a lifetime to mastering certain techniques, is to use the power of plants. Ayahuasca is, arguably, the world’s most direct, powerful, and useful form of shamanic experience.

 

continued . . .

shipiboredstrip

<Back

Home 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Next >

NOTE: You are viewing my older dedicated website that contains static information. I have updated the content in 2012 to conform with my 5-part essay presentation on my blog (see below). This site remains active because it is linked to SpiritQuest's website and other links have been established that I wish to maintain.

For updates and continuing articles and essays on Ayahuasca and other topics, along with photographs and original artwork, please visit my BLOG:

http://davidcrews.wordpress.com

I journeyed again to the Amazon in June of 2013, and have journaled and presented new information about my experiences. Please join me at the blog for much more on this important and fascinating subject.

Ancient Songs and Green Magic – All contents, text, art, and photographs in this site are ©2013, David P. Crews, CrewsCreative, Austin, Texas, USA, unless otherwise credited. For repurposing any resource, contact us at: david@jaguarfeather.com

Your comments and questions concerning the subject matter presented here are welcome. Contact David at the link just given.