Ayahuasca and the Sunshine of Love
The following is an overview of the direction I see the great serpentine river that is ayahuasca moving in the times we are living in. Though this river has wound back and forth thru both fertile and blighted landscapes in accordance with the choices humans have made in the use of the great power it offers, like all life forms, it has its own teleology, its mission, its purposes. While the origins and destinations of its flow are a Great Mystery, we can nevertheless gain insight into these purposes, as they are inextricably interwoven with our own, and it is after all a ‘teacher plant’. Such an exploration can give us useful guidance in how to best move thru the initiatory crisis we humans, and by extension, the earth and all her kin-doms, are currently going thru.
Though the first uses of ayahuasca are obscured by the passing of time, our co-creative relationship with it has always been to help us survive, and optimally, to thrive. This can be traced from tribal peoples in forest environments who used it for such purposes as divination, consulting with ancestors, shamanic warfare, deworming, hunting prowess, garden magic, and illness resolution, to its use by a globalized culture of conscious awakening. It is now being used to clear negative conditionings with the purpose of deepening and refining any number of spiritual practices. These include meditations, scriptural studies, devotional singing, yogic disciplines, and sevas (selfless service). One could say that the legendary healing capacity of ayahuasca is now helping to surface, en masse, the underlying dis-ease of the usual human condition, the feeling where every person looks at her or himself as a separate entity. This attachment to exclusively individual identity has become an addiction, the mother of all addictions, and its consquent dramas have shaped much of the world we experience today.
I suggest that this progression from a planta masetra (teacher plant) used for the concerns of Amazonian indigenes to a liberator of humankind, has been hardwired into the symbiotic destiny of humans and ayahuasca. This in order to help raise and stabilize a frequency, a vibration, which allows the gravity of union with the Source known as Love, a greater order of influence on this planet at this time. This vibration floods us with a subtle light, reorganizes us to support a greater identity, and runs a current of liberation and ecstatic well being. It carries information, a story of mythic renewal, which is being broadcast thruout the Gaian cosmos. Though we are all tuned to the ‘Nature channel’ in that we can all feel it on some level, only some of us have chosen to consciously listen in. Those that have are receiving pieces, or degrees, of this story. How we ‘perform the Dream’, i.e. bring it into the human world, or not, is up to each of us presented with this opportunity.
For my part, I will recount and expand upon a specific vision, a teaching, that I received repeatedly in my early work with this plant teacher. I have since become so used to the outlook it illuminates, that it now defines my usual worldview. And I am not alone, as I have watched elements of this vision play itself out in the years since in diverse ways, and on increasingly larger scales. I offer this exploration in service to the great organism that is humanity. May it help us to feed the positive polarities of life, to choose self-understanding over ignorance, generosity over greed, humility over ego-inflation, reconciliation over revenge, peace over war.
The following adventure in consciousness, was selected from a number of similar accounts I wrote during the late 1990s. At the time I was living in the Hawaiian islands, and regularly imbibing an ayahuasca brew made by the psycho-active bard himself, Terence McKenna. Or I should say made by helpers under his direction. It was usually thick due to carmelization, sediment, and often little chunks of wood. Its vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) to leaf (the chacruna admixture Psychotria viridis) ratio was highly tilted toward the vine. We used to call it ‘industrial strength’. It went down with difficulty, and was highly vomitive. However, it got the job done, often with flying colors. In those days I ran ayahuasca, or ‘medicine’ ceremonies on the islands, not because I was ‘qualified’ (whatever that means), or even felt especially called to do it, but because if I didn’t take on that role, then I wouldn’t get to drink, nor would my friends. And I/we wanted to drink!
I felt, rightly or not, that I was protected in this task by my good intentions, and unwillingness to make any $ out of it. Still, like a tightrope walker without a net (tradition/teacher), I did fall off a few times, and learned to pray my way back thru and out of much psychic wreckage. However, there was an advantage, which I was clued into early on, to working this way. And that is that the medicine was free to engage me in new ways. These ways were resonant with me as a member of a new tribe that they, the oversouls of these plants and whatever spiritual forces work thru them, were coming in contact with, and with the islands, to which the plants had recently arrived and were now growing. I felt variously as a midwife, a pioneer, an experiment, in birthing, cultivating, and carrying the emergent ways of a neo-indigenous culture with great tasks before it. And I felt quite honored to be involved with this work, at least when I wasn’t climbing thru wreckage.
The particulars of this tale find me just returned from a couple weeks journey to Peru. There I drank with a number of ayhausqueros in Lima, Tarapoto, and Pucallpa. I felt I needed to finish off this medley with a tryp (journey via plant ‘tryp’tamines) using my usual brew on my home turf. My experiences outside of Peru, and actually outside of S. America, had a curious consistency to them, which didn’t seem to manifest as much or at all in these southern locales. I often had the sense that la medicina, was studying the complexities of my social and educational operating system, to better understand the wave of Westerners that were coming to her. I was in a PhD program in the social sciences at the time, so as one entering the priesthood of consensus reality, I was steeped in the intricacies of Western culture and its worldviews. I simultaneously never much supported the story I was being groomed to teach by the university system, so was quite open to . . alternatives.
The medicine provided guidance to such alternatives, at times quite dramatically. Sometimes it was in the form of visionary implants, and psychic surgeries. These often felt like I was being impregnated by the universe with the seeds of a coming spiritual revolution. At others times I felt pinned down and operated on, complete with bright lights, to allow me, it seems, to better receive and enact transmissions from . . . ? Such things happened most fully when I had complete freedom to work the energies, or they work me, without feeling I needed to keep a leash on my inclinations to voice, breath, and move, to follow far flights of imagery and information downloads. It can be rightly argued that part of shamanic development is learning to pull in the reins and control such tendencies. However, at the time I felt I needed to just let ‘it’ do what it wanted, as again it seemed to be teaching me something unique to myself and my culture.
On my way back to Hawaii I stopped in the SF Bay Area, and there with the one friend who was willing to go with me mid-week and on short notice, went hiking to a coastal lake, one at which I had previously done many such sessions. There we came across a green-haired young woman (!) who was studying a plant identification book by the waters edge. Acknowledging the synchronicity, we invited her to join us, and with a short, yet prudent amount of hesitation, she did.
My account is as follows ~
The ayahuasca came on fast and strong, with a flood of visions rushing towards me. These pushed me deep into a vortex of forces which transitioned into a sense that I was arriving somewhere. This somewhere had an indigenous feel to it. Yes, it was a tribe, and the people were gathered for what seemed to be my appearance. Though I felt thrashed around by the energies, the images were becoming clearer and more real. There appeared a man, a headman of the tribe, who was coming to greet me. I felt a great welcoming from these people, an acceptance into their midst. A beautiful feeling really, like an anthropologist must feel when harmoniously blended with a people s/he has come to live with.
Info-energy then began scanning up and down my body until finally seizing, and rearranging me in a most thorough and fundamental way. This was a RADICAL rearrangement. I felt myself being pulled inside out, folded, pleated, kneaded, and stretched. I remember thinking, I hope ‘they’ know what they are doing, as this seemed to be affecting patterns of my being and personality at a depth that felt uncomfortably like a complete erasure of my self.
I was aware that this restructuring was – among other things no doubt – a way of setting me on a frequency that could handle communication with this headman and the tribe. I kept trying to stabilize myself in the maelstrom of forces to talk with him. We kept fading in and out of communication, until I finally couldn’t hold it anymore and was spun off into somewhere else. I had a sense of him understanding the situation, and saying good-bye until next time.
I was really spun off. Ego protections and reality filters were stripped away, revealing a space wherein all the events of the universe seemed to be going on simultaneously, a paradox of reality gridlock and infinite change. It was a scene of no reference points – just pure cosmic chaos. This I couldn’t handle at all. My attempts to get out of it, however, were challenged by my having no personality to retreat to anymore. There was no self to take refuge in. I thought, I’ve got to save myself, and my own resources are all I have. All I really had left was my breath, so I sat up and became my breath. I leaned back with slow deep inhalations, and forward with slow deep exhalations. Back and forth, a quiet, steady rhythm, like tides crossing the shores of Being and Nothingness. I could feel myself returning to a center, a point of stability. It became a sort of birthing, a very embryonic reintegration. I was aware of intelligences, like fairy midwives, fluttering around me, encouraging and soothing the process. I felt lovingly attended to and was grateful. I was also starting to appreciate the significance and enormity of what I was going through. I then thought of a few people I knew who specialize in helping people thru psychic emergences, and now felt I knew them, their core work and capacity of spirit, like I hadn’t before.
The more I breathed, the more I gained in strength, focus, and a rising exultation. It reached the point where I was doing some extremely powerful energy pumping, one of the things I often do (aided by years of extensive tai chi chuan training I might add) and love best about these medicines. I remember thinking no illness could withstand this onslaught of vitality.
While absorbed with operating this breath-run energy body, I felt a sort of nudging, an intrusion of something not pleasant into my awareness. I tried to avoid it, but it kept insisting until I was forced to investigate. It was apparently coming from some frontier river town kind of place in the rainforest. Seems there was trouble in the ayahuasca world there, something I hadn’t created (as far as I knew), but had to deal with anyway. I reluctantly moved into it. Images came to me of dirty, unhealthy, low-minded people doing ayahuasca for likewise purposes. The trouble seemed to come from intra-group arguing, some extended family disturbance.
I felt the need to interact with it, but was noticing the handicap of having most of my personality gone. Every time I had some kind of encounter with these people, I would fade from subject-object to subject-subject, uncontrollably merging with each situation I observed. This did not leave me feeling very effective nor very safe in my dealings with the events.
I was eventually drawn into a more urbanized version of this situation, and there was joined by a set of beings that I’d run into during previous sessions. I’ve come to call them ‘astral hit men’, as they embody an amazing power dynamic, one I felt could be used for unsavory purposes. The power was relatively neutral, usually on a low throaty idle, but seemed forbidding because, 1) raw power without intention is easily misused, and 2) the ambiance surrounding these beings has an underworld, Mafia-like, feel to it. This time, I felt they had noticed me via the hyperdimensional shockwaves created by my pyrotechnic energy pumping, and were attracted because I radiated a power at a level similar to their own. They’re interested in what I can do, and are possibly inviting me to interact with them further, as in a show of my skills, or in a competition, possibly even an association. We communicate in a kind of power language, passing to one another pure feelings of strength carrying shades of meaning. A very direct dialogue. We were, I think, appreciative of each others capacities, especially me of them. I felt that these were the muscles that ran this spirit frontier town. I didn’t get a distinct sense of any hierarchy, or leadership. Maybe they were for hire.
This world had a glitzy feel to it, like a Brecht play of pre-war Berlin decadence. It felt of futuristic dancehalls, and shone with chrome, neon, and circuitry; there were smooth, oiled, well-rounded bodies that invited a splendid bordello sexuality. The feminine essence appeared as fractalizing vaginas, and that of males as the strutting legs of disembodied roosters. It was supercool. Too cool for me, and my attempt to exit this glamour bardo found me outside the dancehall where I ‘met’ two thin glistening beings. They appeared to be the drug dealers in this place. They dealt in the uptown highs, drugs that embrace and heighten the glitz. Seems they were selling some kind of DMT. I soon found that this DMT was transparent to its own tryp, because by just looking at what they were offering me, I couldn’t help but merge into it, and so was slow motion blasted into yet another world. It occurred to me that here I am ‘smoking’ DMT in the back alley of a spirit frontier town nightclub. How much higher can I get!
I found myself immersed in yet more abstract and vivid continuations of the vibe permeating this town. The energy field of the tryp seemed co-opted by thrill-seeking astral-egos, mind candy addicts, and I got the feeling that the DMT powers-that-be were sort of trapped into the games played by these beings and were not happy at their molecules being used in this way. Why? Because it kept them from more profound, more spiritually elevated pursuits with those that partake of them. I felt a call for help from these molecular souls, a plea to save them from this kind of misuse. This was accompanied by a strong insight into their ‘right’ use. I got that this involved the co-creative destiny shared by humanity and the teacher plants, which are extensions of all plants, all of Gaia, and beyond.
Simply stated, it is coming time for a new, higher octave sunlight to dawn upon the planet. This light shines thru the agency of the opening human heart, and illuminates a new path for creation. The teacher plants, with their neurochemical mandalas of molecular magic are ‘tasked’ to help make this happen, not just for the benefit of humans, but because they, the plants, are also drawn to the light in its ever more divine manifestations, they to seek to come home to the Source. We need each other to do this, for we all of the Gaian organism, all a single multi-elemental, multi-species being. As such, we are constantly transcending ourselves, yet integrating all that we have moved beyond in ever more wondrous flowerings of emergence, and the plants (as do increasing numbers of us humans) want to get on with it!
Gradually I move into another world, one that portends the Great Times, the Great Direction, or the Great Dimension. This is a familiar sphere. It is where I feel much of my work with the medicine emanates. It is a sort of evolved shamanic future, the dwelling place of the yage (another word for ayahuasca) people. It is where the architects of nature are taking the human, or transhuman species, sooner or later. There is a positivity, a vast intelligence, and high spirituality to this realm, as well as a sense of urgency. I was welcomed, as I usually am, as a sort of agent to bring back understandings to the human world to help implement this way of being. It is the reality I feel I need to share with others who can appreciate its value and potential for overhauling human life on earth in these turbulent times. Time is short, it is stressed, there is much to do! I’ve heard the expression, ‘the management’ applied to the apparently supervisory elements of the ayahuasca experience, and think it applies well to the beings of this world.
I felt very at home here, so much that I thought I needed an identity, a house to settle in and a wife, as though I should have a base for my return trips to this world. I thought of how a Secoya (an Ecuadorian tribal people) ayahuasca shaman I had worked with, took a wife in the spirit world who bore him two children. He did his healing work when she came inside his body to sing. I could see how such a thing can happen.
Eventually I was back in the river town, but this time for clearer reasons. It was time for my vomit. I could practically see the vomit daemons coming for me down a winding corridor. I was in their hands now. And I courted them. I wanted a good vomit. I went into low guttural vomit daemon courting sounds. But it seemed they wanted something from me. They wanted me to display my energy skills, to engage in some kind of power combat. I wasn’t especially in the mood, feeling like I had expended enough strength already. Nevertheless, I was almost forced to do so in order to engage in the kind of energy upwelling I needed for the vomit. I was noticing huge, round, dirty-white, cow larva-like ‘livestock’ kept by the river people, and got that I was supposed to get into a pushing contest with them. Intestinal parasites? I resisted but finally did it. Whoever was watching seemed to enjoy the contest. I took on a few other entities, even noticing the ‘astral hit men’ milling around for a view. And then it came up, a good, solid, loud series of vomits. This threw me into a bit of energetic chaos, the visions came on even stronger, and I thought, when will it end? I had a sense that whatever powers are running this tryp have turned the dial up high through out. I could feel it still being supported by massive influxes of energy.
Imperceptibly the high started its dissolution. When first noticing this I was filled with even more gratitude. I had been wondering when, and even if, this time was to come. My programming was returning from the shop. I flexed my somewhat familiar personality muscles. I am always amazed at how well ayahuasca can reintegrate its human, especially after what I just went through. When the high had eased down about halfway, I reached for tobacco. Time to reflect. And, slowly, talk. I lit a candle, burned some sage, and the three of us huddled together to share.
I will add that the green-haired young women went on to become an M.D., a career choice, she told me later, suggested by her work with the plants that night.
This account is characteristic of my early work with ayahuasca. In those day I was unevenly self-initiating thru fluctuating spells of ego dissolution, and was often, due to my ignorance of intentioning a clear psychic container, and the untidy state of my own mind, pulled down all kinds of bizarre pathways of resonance. However, as in all things, there is deep order beneath surface chaos, blessings in disguise at the core of what appear to be mistakes. Not having ‘known the trails’ of this kind of work allowed me to rediscover them in novel ways, and to blaze a few new ones. I was often guided in this by frequent re-appearances of the vision of right use of the plants that presented itself so vividly in the spirit frontier town DMT tryp.
This vision can be essentialized as follows. There is a trading of perspectives that occurs when the human suffused with ayahuasca sees the world thru its ‘eyes’, and the plant sees the world thru human eyes. This sort of cross-possessioning is towards an ultimate purpose, that of providing spiritual pathways for each other. By helping snap us out of our dream of separative existence, it ’clears the clouds‘ so to speak, that block the sunlight of divine love that is innate to the human heart. The plant spirit then ‘grows’ in this new light to its advantage, furthering its own evolution. We too benefit from this radiance (our advantage), for it reveals a path of health, well-being, and spiritual maturity, one that leads into the next phases of our species development.
I once heard a story which illustrates this well. A woman who lived in a tall building in the city had only a strip of land along an alleyway in which to grow her garden. As it was next to another tall building, it received only an hour or two of sunlight a day, yet the plants in her garden flourished. When asked how she did it, she would reply, with knowing eyes no doubt, ‘I’m their sun’.
The power of love unleashed in an awakening human is an activator that helps all in the garden of creation to flourish, to open into deeper communion with the Source. All beings play their integral part, all have their unique functions, in the awakening of the garden (life) to itself, to its inherent wholeness. The Bodhisattva vow to ‘attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings’ is a recognition of our human task in this lila, this game of existence.
That the various life forms, the tribes of creation, ‘hunger’ for the fecundity of Love, for human offerings of reverence, is apparent in the legacies of exchange relationships found among the earth’s hunting and gathering peoples, and many early agriculturalists. In such cultures, the traditional way to hunt or harvest is to first perform such acts on the spiritual plane as a communication (communion) with the oversouls of the intended food. A ritualized preparation, a ceremony, is conducted in which offerings, such as dances, prayers, tobacco, libations, songs, body adornments, self-purifications, etc., are given to the spirit of the plant or animal species. These are considered a form of nourishment, of sustenance, to these spirits. They in turn give their physical forms in exchange.
The focus then is not on the physical skills of the hunter or harvester, but on the ability to influence the volition of the animal or plant, to ‘seduce’ the food source into wanting to give its life in exchange for gestures of respect and gratitude. In this way it is more a relationship between a lover and the beloved, than the outward appearance of the killer and the killed. And as between lovers, reproduction is facilitated, as killing for food (re)cycles souls to allow the generation of new life. It follows that if some species are not taken in this way, are merely left alone, bereft of human attention and the revitalizing dance of death, they actually suffer lower populations and more disease.
This law of appreciation, i.e., the feeding of the fertility circuits of this planet with heart-felt respect and care, is our collective heritage. It appears that its unfurling into bhaktilevel devotion, with the effects of supercharging these circuits into erupting rainbows of Creativity, is our collective future if we choose to claim it. For increasing numbers of us humans, this future is now. That the 14th century Sufi mystic Rumi is the number one selling poet in the U.S. is, I feel, but one indicator of this progression. It is also quite noticeable in the rapidly changing landscape of ayahuasca ceremonies in the last 10–15 years or so, in a medicine world made very small thru the ease of international travel, trade, and communications.
These changes find their origins, at least in modern times, in the arrival of Christianity into the Amazon Basin. Trailing in the wake of the missionaries and their hardscrabble colonialist projects, were the mystic clouds of Christ consciousness. These carried the pulse and attending cosmology of a Christ that re-arises in the opening heart, of all humankind as family, of universal love. This was a new, and fertile, spiritual force to the peoples there, and ayahuasca helped it fall as a spring rain upon those open to receive it.
The sproutings of this new energy began to change the motivations for using ayahuasca. Tendrils of conscious self-awareness and heart-centered living grew thru the birth and development of the eco-Christian ayahuasca (Daime) religions in Brazil, wove themselves thru syncretic forms of shamanism created by mestizo ayahuasqueros practicing in jungle towns, and have since diversified in international and cosmopolitan contexts.
This force is bringing the use of ayahuasca into a new paradigm. It is one where you take it as sacrament, and awaken to a profound sense of the sanctity of the world. There is a corresponding realization of the enormity of the violations that have been perpetrated on this sanctity by recent human behaviuors, and one thereafter applies oneself to the remedy of this situation. Because social transformation begins with personal transformation, this often culminates in a life devoted to self-realization. This progression could of course only happen in a culture where the sanctity of the world has been denied in the first place, hence industrial growth society is fertile ground for this paradigm. Healing then becomes defined as a cessation of the ignorance, with its attendant sufferings, that allowed one to exist in such denial, to have normalized to it. The positive results of ‘waking up’, are understood, and worked with, as opening / surrendering to authentic spiritual life.
This is attracting a new, and large, demographic of people who have this intention. Many are long-time adherents of a spiritual tradition, many are well developed in any number of self-awareness disciplines. They are coming to the plant teachers to advance their practices, to help clear the contractions and ‘open accounts’ of the lower self. They are coming to turn knowledge into wisdom, to foster their native altruism into loving-kindness and compassion, to further refine the project that is their life. And in turn the sacrament ceremonies come to be referred to as ‘personal evolution seminars’, ‘meditation events’, ‘gatherings for world peace’, ‘quests for inner truth’, and so on.
When we cultivate our humanness in these ways, as creatures of compassion and self-understanding, cured of our unconscious, destructive tendencies, ayahuasca is successful in its role as an anti-body of a threatened eco-system (the Amazon basin). Since the entire planet has become a threatened eco-system, ayahuasca has expanded its range of influence accordingly. Wherever it has gone it has allied itself with local spiritual traditions, often revitalizing them with a new relevance.
The diversity of these traditions has, of course, long fueled conflict between the egos that attach to them. Attachments transform them into religions, and religions can easily become vehicles by which people project their unhealed past, their shadows, into doctrines and dogmas of us vs. them. When, with right intention, ayahuasca is let loose on a religion, it grows thru the dry husks of theologies and empty rituals, searching out and flowering into the Light at its living heart. In doing so it, it carries its human(s) right along with it. The resulting spiritual experience allows one to be in participatory relationship with founding prophets, mystics, seers, and saints. In such ways, those who use ayahuasca can become more fully aware of the universal spiritual principles working thru such luminous figures, can more easily become such figures themselves.
These principles constellate a perennial path of awakening consciousness, one of radical self-honesty, constant remembrance of the Divine, and selfless service to the world. The crucibles of suffering that have defined so much of ancient and modern history are now surfacing this path, yielding the gold of human liberation out into the world. Hence there is no longer a need, as in the past, to go to the temples for secret esoteric initiations, as now everyday life is initiatory!
One way to understand this is by mapping history onto the progression of an ayahuasca session. For an individual, the usual experience with the medicine lasts just a few hours, yet it constitutes a microcosm of the collective human experience over millenniums. Just as we (ideally) face our demons, our transgressions, to then purge, to comprehend, and forgive, to then be born anew with a matured outlook and open heart, so humanity is, unevenly, in the throes of the same process. We are, as the world news would suggest, in the midst of our purge, for long hidden wounds and lies are revealing themselves as irritants to be cleared in an increasingly transparent social environment. Some of us choose to prolong the process, and retract in fear and denial, trying to recover, to reassemble, a dissolving world. Others of us have let go to the dissolution, and are coming out the other side, homing in on a frequency that speaks to 0ur body’s guiding intelligence, that is calling us home to ourSelves. It attunes us to ecstatic communion with the world, and we are practically forced into self-purifications to be able to sustain its energies. Surrendering to this life current then gives us . . . jobs! . . in an economy based on Love. Such an economy has infinite abundance. Imagine that! This employment can be divided into two categories: hospice workers, to help ease the pain of the dying social body, and midwives, to attend to the (re)birth of those configuring to this current, to run it, to work it. Ayahuasca is highly significant in this process, as it can set humans, often after much kicking and screaming, on this vibration exactly. Hence it is not surprising that it has bloomed in popularity in the last few years. These are its times.
I will give a few specific examples of how I see this transformation happening in the evolving forms of its use. These demonstrate how the plants are succeeding in clearing the clouds from our mind’s sky, allowing yet more of the heart’s sunlight to shine within ourselves and upon the world. In such ways they, and we of this frequency, are growing, growing, globalizing . . .
The first is of an American, trained as an traditional ayahuasquero, and long practicing in Peru, who has recently retired from working under that umbrella of identity. Instead, he says, in an email to his community:
The space I will be holding in our ceremonies is based in Universality and Universal Spiritual Philosophy. I am only interested in the medicine, Love, God, Divinity, Peace, Truth, Here and Now.
I know that Love is the only answer to every question. I know that Love is the only answer to all the “Why’s.” I know that Love is the only reason for anything. I know that Love is the only consistency in a world of change. I know that Love is the essence of each universe as One. I know that it is always, at the end of the day, about Love and we might as well start there. I know that ayahuasca that starts in Love will end in Love, where we know Love and have had direct experience of Love.
The second is of a Santo Daime padrino (leader) in Brazil, who once received a vision during a ‘work’ to go to India. He did so, met his guru, and in three years became ‘awakened’ and master teacher in the spiritual lineage he had come into. He asked his guru about the role the daime (same plants as ayahuasca, slightly different frequency) were to play in his new capacity, if any. His master in effect said, ‘if it will bring people to God, keep using it’. He has since done so, recontextualizing the daime as a prasad (in Vedic tradition, an edible blessing) from the queen of the rain forest, the works as darshan (a transmission of presence between deity and devotee), the integration as sadhana (methods and actions of spiritual self-development). His religion is now, he says, simply Love, as Love is the ‘universal solvent’ that dissolves all illusions, distinctions, judgments, and dogmas.
The third is of a young W. Coast woman, who integrates her training as a psychotherapist, meditation instructor and student of the world’s spiritual traditions into her work with the plants. She weaves together her studies with S. American curanderos with a neo-tribal consciousness that unites sacred traditions from around the world. The first half of her ceremonies are kept in the traditional vein – singing ikaros & performing limpias (individual healings). The second half of the night includes a great variety of world instruments & songs reflecting the “world tribe” we are increasingly creating in these times. The ceremonies are closed by integrating the Native American tradition of praying over the water and offering feather blessings to participants. She greatly emphasizes the power of Love to accomplish all healing and the power of surrender to the wisdom of the plants to carry us safely through all passages. Intentions are rooted in truth, the energies then raised up, and flowered, by the power of Love. She considers herself to be in service to Love, and her experience has taught her to have great faith in these ways.
I’m also seeing these changes manifested in the increasing numbers of women both attending, and facilitating, sacred medicine events. These nurturing, mothering, and compassionate influences call us to become what the Hopi prophesized as the ‘One-hearted’ people, those who again think from the heart. This is part of the return of the Goddess happening world wide, itself an aspect of a wave of long suppressed archetypal forces now resurging thru humanity before the tidal forces of Nature rebalancing herself.
I see these changes in the hybridizing of ceremonial forms among the new generation coming to these ways. These reflect an increasingly sophisticated awareness of what positive outcome can be in the human and ayahuasca interaction, and how to maximize it. For example, the shamanic doctoring tradition provides plenty of personal space to do the deep work, the Brazilian churches do especially well with the communal spiritual experience, and the psychotherapeutic approach gives good insight into our negative conditioning, our ‘lower self’, and ways to let go of it, transform it. To choreograph a form to embrace the best of all three of these ways, and give space for yet more to be suggested, or alchemize out of them, is the growing edge of the art form that is ayahuasca ceremonies.
I see these changes in the underlying unity of the songs and prayers being attracted to these more open, embracive ceremonial forms. These act to purify, bless, celebrate, move with devotion, call into creation, disperse or metabolize negative energies, honor and invoke all manner of helpful Beings, give guidance, give thanks. They come from all over the world, from anywhere that the evolutionary heat of longing to shed the outworn armoring of egoic life is producing diamonds of melodic medicine. This includes sacred traditions of the past, many of which were running this frequency long before it surfaced to the extent it has now. They are therefore forbearers, offering their prayers and mantras, poems and psalms, sutras and chants, in the new temple of ayahuasca gatherings. This unity is not only in vibration (a friend of mine once observed, ‘you can’t sing a cheesy song on ayahuasca’), but in the narrative that runs thru them. Like beads on a mala, we can count them out as songs that tell of homesickness for the family of Creation; songs that (re)connect us to the lineages and guidance we carry in our biological form; songs of initiation that hold space for us to let go of identity fixations and die to the past; songs of soul gain that weave us whole again, made stronger with a heightened connectivity to all beings; and songs that tell of the way of the heart, reconciliations, and a dawning culture of peace.
Interwoven thru these songs are not only the perennial ‘golden path’ of spiritual awakening, but the pieces of the vision I’ve recounted. They tell of the sunlight of the human heart and our work in service to it, of our destiny to activate a next level of creation on planet earth and beyond, and that we are being ‘cultivated’ by the plants, and others here with us (e.g., we are likewise ‘trained’ by dogs and cats to love in ways we otherwise might block ourselves from doing) to do just this. It is, in a way, the dharma (teaching, task) of the earth to not just help save us from ourselves, but to bud us off as self-aware versions of herself, to flower us into our potentials as mini-creator gods and goddesses.
Versions of this vision, this story, are appearing in the contemporary social sphere in a number of ways. These include the ongoing herbal renaissance, which reminds us that plants are elders, are the original ‘greenprints’ of all we know as medicine; movies which imagine us with superhuman potentials, albeit often crudely featured and applied, as well as the appearance of the first film with a fully formed ayahuasca worldview, ‘Avatar’; and the growth of the internet, which externalizes the connections we share on more subtle levels with all of life, empowering us with the tools to be, if we choose, ever more effective and imaginative creators.
The widespread popularity of yoga deserves special mention here. It has been my observation that the relationship between yoga and ayahuasca is symbiotic like no other. This is due primarily to the original purpose of yoga, which is to bring one into union with Oneness, or samadhi consciousness. Ayahuasca is part of a Gaian system to do the same thing, to bring humanity into our spiritual maturity. For example, the inner sun is recognized by the surya namaskar (sun salutation) practice foundational to most yoga forms. Each begins and ends with the joined-hands touched to the heart in a mudra (gesture) of prayer.
There is a light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart. ~ Chandogya Upanishad
We can learn of the nature of existence via our physical form thru the postures, or asanas, such as tree, mountain, and cobra poses, which connect the outer world of nature with the inner landscape of the body. In the higher expressions of yoga, we are not just imitating nature, like an actor would act a role. We are instead awakening our inborn evolutionary heritage and allowing it to shapeshift us into an asana, like the transformative art of a performer, or shaman. This is knowing something by becoming it, a gesture of expanding consciousness.
The entire Vedic tradition was largely birthed out of human association with a holy plant, the legendary soma, as in —
We have drunk Soma and become immortal; we have attained the light, the Gods discovered ~ Rig Veda (8.48.3)
— so the affinity of yoga and the modern day soma of ayahuasca should not be surprising. Just as the many yogic disciplines (e.g., abstentions, observances, pranayama, concentration), prepare the body for meditation, so do they optimally prepare the body for the more sublime states of consciousness accessible thru ayahuasca. Those yogis that partake of the Vine generally find that the plant spirit grows in their body/mind with surprising ease. It open joints, relaxes muscles, and streams the breath in ways that accommodate a greater coefficient of vitality, unfurls the bud of the mind before the living current of the rishis (Vedic sages) divine words, and potentiates the afterglow ‘high’ of a good yoga practice into full blown bliss.
Terence McKenna, the late peripatetic pundit of plant-inspired wisdom, once commented that it was considered a ‘dirty little secret’ among long-time meditators, many of them well-known teachers, that they had come to their cushion thru psychedelics. Many had bought into the notion that the plant-based avenues to expanded consciousness were ‘drugs’, and therefore a lesser path, one that they had since risen above thru the purity of their meditation practice. I would suggest, as Terence often did, that one might use both to good advantage, at least until one receives clear directives to do otherwise.
From this point of view there are two paths, one a subset of the other. There is the Gaian path to self-realization, and the arrangement of its principles, its teachings, into the human path, what we know as spiritual traditions. These distilled yet further yield the perennial, or ‘golden path’. The Gaian path is based on the idea, as repeatedly stressed by the ‘hugging saint’ Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), that ‘all the scriptures exist in nature if you could but read them’. To help us read, which is really a remembrance, Nature in her benevolence provides various bridges to God, currents of love, beauty, and order in the world. Among these are astrological patterns, serial synchronicities, places of great power, sunrises, family togetherness, each others eyes, the miracle of birth, the peace at death, the occasional avatar, and . . teacher plants.
Investigate the origins of nearly every religion and you will find a plant or fungus somewhere in the mix. As a religion moves away from its origins both in time, and in locale, it to degrees either falls prey to the stagnating forces of the secular world, or stays relatively true to its founding burst of spiritual force. If the latter, this force may be unfurled yet further into the world, a flowering of the human path. We know these as blossoming traditions of wisdom and compassion, ways to stabilize and develop communion with the Source current.
We live in an interesting time in regard to these two paths. Where the bridges of the Gaian path are strongest and most intact, those of the human path tend to be least developed, and visa versa. A primary example is the Indian subcontinent. Its landscape has been worn to the bone by 1000s of years of concentrated human activity, yet it has yielded a rich source of spiritual traditions, including Sikh, Buddhist, Vedic, and Jain. It is as though nature has sacrificed herself so that these jewels of human expression could form. In contrast, the Amazon forest is nature at its most bountiful in diversity, fertility, and ecological wholeness. Not surprisingly, it has the greatest variety of medicinal plants of any place in the world, among them the maha (great)-medicinals known there as plantas maestras (teacher plants). The sophistication of the Amazonian eco-system is reflected in a wealth of sylvan pattern languages that the native peoples have learned to read, up to a point. That point is demarcated by the lack of an inheritance (with some arguable exceptions) of well-developed wisdom and compassion traditions into modern times.
It appears that, just like two hemispheres of a brain that learn to coordinate themselves into an ever more synergistic whole, recent evolutions in ayahuasca use are exemplifying how the Gaian and human bridges to God are coming into new, more direct alignments with each other. The ability of the prasad of the forest, and spiritual practices, to potentiate each other, is, from what I am observing, becoming obvious, and in some circles, a norm. The ‘dirty little secret’ is being cleansed in the light of this awareness, and is not even much of a secret anymore.
The sacrifice of nature that happened in India, is now happening as a planetwide ecological crisis. Simultaneously, the earth-inspired spiritual wisdom needed to alleviate this crisis, to take us thru this massive purge, and out to the other side, are leaving their places of origins, and spreading over the planet as well. That the Dalai Lama has become a teacher for all of humanity, not just Tibetans, is but one example of this effect. We now have the opportunity to remake ourselves thru the vast and potent array of technologies of the sacred, of spiritual practices, now available. We have the occasion to step into an identity as a globalized people, living lives of ceremony in a temple universe.
I find the Medicine Buddha to be a compelling symbol for this union of paths. He is a bridge figure between the Bon shamanism of Tibet, and Buddhism that came after it. He carries a herb of healing, and is in meditation, in non-dual awareness. To him, all illness is fundamentally borne of ignorance, ultimate wellness is enlightenment. This is the highest teachings of the plants, for it is the path of Illumination for all. Om Lokah Samastaah Sukhino Bavantu (may all beings be happy).