Ayahuasca: A Memorable Fancy

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“By degrees we beheld the infinite abyss, fiery as the smoke of a burning city; beneath us at an immense distance was the sun, black but shining round it were fiery tracks on which revolv’d vast spiders, crawling after their prey…

‘The air was full of them and seemed composed of them; these are devils and called powers of the air, I now asked my companion which was my eternal lot? He said, between the black and white spiders.”

  • William Blake,

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

1.

I’ve enjoyed a limited, peaceful relationship with drugs and alcohol. I had a profound experience with LSD in my early twenties which had lived up to the hype with a bona-fide religious vision.

It literally changed my life; that experience permanently altered my worldview for the better. I was grateful and didn’t want to risk the discovery by reducing it to a toy.

There has been some recreational drug use since, but it fitted well within the Bill Hicks dictum of ‘didn’t hurt anybody… had a great time, laughed my ass off and went about my day’.

That relationship was recently invigorated by Tim Ferriss. On episode 313 of The Tim Ferriss Show, Michael Pollan discussed his experience of psychedelics in preparation for writing his book, How To Change Your Mind.

Pollan’s book charts the history of psychedelics in Western culture as a variety of drugs originally employed for their therapeutic effects and their power to instil experiences of religious intensity.

After their role in the cultural revolution of the sixties, followed by classification as a schedule one drug and the stigma attached as a result, the circle is closing.

In episode 298, Ferriss interviewed the psychologist and author Doctor Gabor Mate. Mate’s material was confronting and astonishing. Among other topics, he discussed his experiences of Ayahuasca as a means for gaining powerful and profound personal psychological insights.

In episode 66, Dr James Fadiman, author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, considered to be America’s number one authority on psychedelics and their use, also talked in fascinating terms. Psychedelics are once again considered to be therapeutic agents of great potential.

Ayahuasca is reputed to be the most powerful among them. When a friend of mine told me he was coming down to Estacion Kapitari in the Amazon Jungle to take Ayahuasca under the guidance of the shaman Don Lucho, I jumped at the opportunity. All of this got me thinking: who can afford to say no to enlightenment?

Ayahuasca is a traditional medicine employed by indigenous tribes of the Amazon basin. Estacion Kapitari is run by the shaman Don Lucho, who brews and dispenses ayahuasca as a medicine that is taken within the context of sacred ritual.

In other words, if you want to take it, you have to submit to the process and its broader schedule of preparation.

The thing I wish I’d been told at the outset was that Ayahuasca is an ordeal, the same as a professional fight. You have to be prepared for an exhausting, often painful experience whose rewards have to be earned.

Preparation begins by eliminating drugs, alcohol and certain kinds of foods from the diet. Once at Kapitari, you go on a limited diet of two meals a day with no sugar, salt or caffeine. Finally, before each meal, you have to take a combination of traditional plant medicines.

The jungle, the heat, the privation and complete absence of routine relax the strictures of mindset. Waking with the sun and sleeping shortly after sunset resets circadian rhythms and helps the supplicant rediscover just how many hours make up the full complement of a day.

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