Publication date: April 2010
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The Science Behind Entangled
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In the mid-19th Century, Sir Oliver Lodge, who helped demonstrate the existence of electrical waves, noted that if wireless telegraphy was possible, then so too should "wireless telepathy" be possible.1
In the earliest days of 20th Century physics, Albert Einstein, in coming up with his theory of relativity, showed that space and time are "intertwined" and that matter itself is inseparable from an "ever present quantum energy field and this is the sole reality underlying all appearances."2
"Now here the theories become impossibly vague and untestable," wrote Victor Stenger in the mid 1990s, "so I can only indicate some of the language. In some sense, the wave function of the universe is an etheric cosmic mind spread throughout the universe that acts to collapse itself in some unknown way. The human mind (spirit, soul) is, of course, holistically linked to the cosmic mind and so exists in all space and time. Once again we have an example of what Paul Kurtz calls the "transcendental temptation."3
One of the more intriguing ideas involving quantum physics and subjective reality is the following: That until the actual human observation of an event, like a quasar exploding billions of lights years from Earth, that event can be said not to have existed during all those billions of years until seen by a human being on Earth. The same is as valid for the entire universe according to this viewpoint. "Our observation had a retrospective effect on events in the distant past of the universe," wrote C. John Taylor.4
The more one studies quantum weirdness, as Timothy Ferris calls it in his bestselling book The Whole Shebang, "it's not just a matter of getting used to Alice-in-Wonderland oddities of a world in which particles are waves and can leap from one place to another without traversing the intervening space. Quantum weirdness goes deeper; It implies that the logical foundations of classical science are violated in the quantum realm, and it opens up a glimpse of an unfamiliar and perhaps older aspect of nature that some call the implicate universe."5
"With all the breakthroughs in the dynamics of our natural world, the topic of physics and consciousness is becoming more well renowned (sic) by physicists. In the spring of 2003, the Quantum Mind Conference on Consciousness, Quantum Physics and The Brain was held in Arizona, USA. Their web site states, "recent experimental evidence suggests quantum nonlocality occurring in conscious and subconscious brain function, and functional quantum processes in molecular biology are becoming more and more apparent. Moreover macroscopic quantum processes are being proposed as intrinsic features in cosmology, evolution and social interactions."6
The two main characters of Graham Hancock's latest book, Entangled meet one another in what most people would call an impossible situation, becoming linked to one another across vast distances of time. The title of the book is meant specifically to evoke the quantum physics notion of entanglement.
The theories that involve consciousness and how it relates to the human mind are many and varied. One of the better places to find most of these theories at their most recent stages of development is at the Roots of Consciousness: Theory, Consciousness, and the New Physics web page. This website lays out the development of quantum theory, from its beginnings in the mid-19th Century through to today and is very helpful in assimilating to the complex field of quantum theories.7
Neanderthals first appeared in the fossil record about 300,000 years ago, then died out approximately 24,000 years or so ago. Hence, for many years modern human beings shared the Earth with another species of human. The questions about this now extinct human species continue to nag and inspire theory after theory.
Did Homo sapiens and Neanderthals mate with one another? How advanced were the Neanderthals? Did they have speech? Did they have art, jewelry, body painting, as seems to be the case from some limited evidence turned up in recent digs?1 Did humans and Neanderthals coexist peacefully, or did Homo sapiens commit mass genocide upon their close relatives?
One interesting theory about why the Neanderthals died out is because they'd been cut off from the rest of humanity in Africa, as they'd moved up and into Europe 150,000 years before modern humans began their own migration. Therefore, the argument goes, Neanderthal immune systems could not cope with the many diseases that had evolved during their absence from Africa, leaving them defenseless and eventually, dead.2
There are intriguing traces in the archaeological evidence that confirm Neanderthals were not stupid, uncreative, nor uncultured. In the Shanidar Cave, in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq, excavated in the 1950's, Smithsonian archaeologist Ralph Solecki, along with Kurdish workers and a team from Colombia University uncovered Neanderthal skeletons, children and adults. One of the Neanderthal skeletons showed definite evidence that he had been buried with flowers, due to pollen traces discovered in his carefully dug grave.3
There is plenty of evidence that Neanderthals took care of the infirm and injured, and cared for their elders as well. They also seem to have developed music and created complicated flute-like instruments as portrayed in Entangled. In 2000, a 50,000-year-old flute was found in the Neanderthal section of a cave in Slovenia, most likely of the recorder type.4 To create such an instrument would call for levels of dexterity, intelligence and creativity that most mainstream archaeology has been hesitant to grant to the Neanderthals.5
Recent evidence has confirmed that Neanderthals may even have decorated their bodies, not just with body paints but with actual makeup and jewelry, as described in Entangled. Make up containers belonging to Neanderthals have been found in two separate archaeological sites in Murcia, Spain, by a team from Bristol University.6
New DNA evidence released on 6 May 2010 proves conclusively that Neanderthals and humans did interbreed and that modern humans owe between 1 and 4 per cent of their DNA to Neanderthals.7 The causes of the extinction of the Neanderthals around 24,000 years ago remain unknown.
There have been literally scores of studies and surveys conducted by scientists, private researchers' think tanks, hospitals, and universities, on the topic of Near Death Experiences and Out of Body Experiences. In Graham Hancock's new book Entangled, the main characters initially come into contact with one another after one of the two suffers a near-fatal accident. During a brief spell of brain death resulting in a Near Death Experience in the emergency room, she experiences her own veridical (verifiable) OBE.
Ever since the phrase "Out Of Body Experience" was coined in 1943 by G.N.M Tyrrell in his book Apparitions, public attention has grown ever more conscious of this phenomenon. At this stage, it almost appears that many of the studies have moved past the "do these phenomena exist?" question, to "what makes them possible and how do they work?"
The earliest study to collect first-hand accounts of OBEs was conducted by Celia Green in 1968, containing 400 personal stories gathered by appeals placed in national media. Up to 80 percent of the respondents claimed to have experienced disembodied consciousness during their OBEs, completely removed from having any connection to a body what so ever. Numerous other surveys have been undertaken by a variety of hospitals, universities, and researchers.1
One of the more prestigious experiments examined the reported experiences of cardiac arrest sufferers. The study, which took place in the Netherlands, was conducted by Pim Van Lommel, a cardiologist, along with his team. They published an article in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet in 2001, in which they acknowledged there was enough evidence to warrant further study and definitely a mystery going on.2, 3
Twenty-five UK and US hospitals agreed in 2008 to undertake a study involving 1,500 patients who'd suffered cardiac arrest, to see how many would report having an out of body experience. The study, put together by Dr. Sam Parnia and Southampton University, involved placing messages in positions near the ceiling where they would be visible only by someone outside of their body.4
Shamans have been speaking of leaving their bodies for ages, and returning to them with veridical information that could only be gained by a genuine OBE. Usually occurring spontaneously and unpredictably in others, shamans are often able to enter the OBE state at will. Sometimes shamans speak of going on OBEs together, meeting in another realm and traveling back intentionally. Dr. Dean Sheils, after studying reports from 70 non-Western cultures, decided that due to the many similarities reported from culture to culture that there must be some validity to the experiences.5
All in all, the phenomenon is so pervasive around the world that it is increasingly difficult to deny its reality.6
Leoni, one of the two heroines of Entangled is involuntarily committed to a mental asylum by her parents. Such things continue to happen in the real world.
The ability to differentiate between the sane and insane is the job of specially trained professionals. But what happens if the professionals get it wrong? What if they really can't in all instances tell the difference between the sane and insane?
David L. Rosenhan came up with a two-part experiment to test whether first, if hospital intake staff could tell whether a sane person reporting insane symptoms was faking, and how long it would take hospital staff to catch on and discharge the faking patient.1 The second part consisted of his informing one hospital which, when hearing of the first part of the experiment insisted they would not be fooled. Rosenhan informed the hospital that over an upcoming short span of time, he would be sending one or two fake patients to see if they could get into the hospital.
Rosenhan picked, including himself, eight pseudopatients to approach the hospital intake. One was a psychology student, and the rest were older adults in varying fields, including "three psychologists, a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a painter, and a housewife. Three were women, five were men."2 At their intake evaluations, each pseudopatient complained of hearing voices, which said as near as they could tell words like, "empty," "hollow," and "thud." Besides falsifying name, occupation, and symptoms, nothing else the pseudopatients told hospital staff was untrue. All were admitted but immediately ceased all symptoms of insanity, and began to behave as they would normally in every day situations, telling doctors and staff that they felt perfectly fine and no longer heard voices. All were admitted to the hospitals with diagnosis of being schizophrenic and upon release were labeled as suffering "schizophrenia in remission."3 The length of each patient's stay varied from 7 to 52 days, averaging 19.
In the second part of the study Rosenhan retrieved information from the mental hospital about 193 patients who showed up at the hospital reporting symptoms indicating insanity. Out of those 193, at least 41 patients were judged by at least one member of the hospital staff in the intake procedure to be pseudopatients. Nineteen were judged pseudopatients by at least one psychiatrist and one other staff member. However, in reality, none of the 193 were pseudopatients.
Does this mean there are no definite symptoms that cover all mental illnesses, or that mental health professionals cannot always tell whether the patient is truly ill, or mentally deficient, or merely faking their symptoms? From Rosenhan's study, this appears to be the case.
Then there is the practice of involuntarily committing sane people into institutions against their will and over their own protests.4 Many countries have laws governing the involuntary confinement of patients, often having a time limit of involuntary confinement on patients who are reevaluated periodically to be sure there are no sane people locked up against their will. However if after reevaluation and release into society, said mental patient inflicts harm upon another person, the psychiatrist is liable for harm done to the victim of the mental patient in question.5 It seems though, until harm is done, that how one doctor or court judge may determine if a potentially involuntarily committed patient is "out of control" or a "threat to others and him/herself" is not a mathematical equation and could be loosely defined.6 This is where the U.S. Constitution has a gray area of being able to protect the mentally ill. Statutes protecting the rights of patients are often being updated in various states and countries to better define the criteria for being involuntarily admitted as in the legislation adopted by the state of California in 2003 permitting the outpatient treatment of certain persons with mental illness.7
There is still the threat of untrained and unprofessional people in positions of power who exploit the mentally ill or use the laws to get rid of troublemakers, whether they be family members or political opponents. In a case in Texas, Peter Alexis, an executive with the privately owned mental institution National Medical Enterprises, was charged in 2004, with paying kickbacks for every patient referred into their hospitals.8 In another more recent hearing on September 9, 2009 a federal judge ruled that NY State "illegally discriminated against 4,300 people with mental illness by holding them in privately-run 'adult homes' that were just as restrictive as the state-run institutions they were intended to replace."9
Entangled depicts the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in a Neanderthal religious ceremony.
While ayahuasca is one of the few entheogens (meaning "creates god within") tolerated as a religious sacrament in a number of countries, it is by no means the only one that has had effects on people and their religious viewpoints.1
There are a few who theorize that use of entheogenic plants or mushrooms by humanity's ancient ancestors was the spark that originated religious thinking and ritual.2
In several countries the use of entheogens for religious purposes is legal or unregulated. Even in the United States, the powerful hallucinogen peyote is used legally in religious ceremonies by members of the Native American Church. Iboga (ibogaine) is consumed legally by indigenous tribes and by members of the Bwiti cult in the Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo and Gabon in West Africa. Similarly Ayahuasca is used legally by the Sainto Daime and the Uniao do Vegetal in Brazil, the Netherlands, Peru, and elsewhere.3
A number of scientific studies conducted over the past twenty-five years around the globe appear to "prove" that many subjects under the influence of one variety or other of strong psychedelic entheogen experienced what, to them, was a genuine religious experience that could not be denied by those conducting the studies. The debate still rages, of course. 4
On Good Friday, 1962, in Boston University's Marsh Chapel, as part of his doctoral thesis, Walter Phanke gathered twenty divinity students for the now famous Good Friday Experiment.5 Half of the subjects took a placebo, and the other 10 ate 30 milligrams of psilocybin, the active hallucination-inducing molecule in magic mushrooms. Immediately after the experiment, all 10 who got the psilocybin reported a genuine ecstatic religious experience. Twenty years later, all 10 continued to insist when interviewed that their experience that day was genuine and had a lasting effect upon their spiritual lives.
In 2006 John Hopkins University reported its own study on whether psilocybin could induce genuine, spontaneous religious experiences.6 Thirty-six participants were chosen, primarily for their regular participation in some religious practice in their lives. Thirty of the participants had two 8-hour sessions, where at one they received psilocybin and the other a placebo. The other six were given two placebos and then at a third session were informed they were being given psilocybin and were. All subjects reported feeling genuine religious epiphanies. When questioned, family and friends reported various positive changes in behavior on the part of the study participants, 79 percent of who reported two months after having taken the psilocybin that they still felt they'd experienced a genuine spiritual experience, and that their lives were positively changed.
Entangled features DMT as one of the mechanisms of out-of -body travel that 'makes the veil between worlds thin' and brings the two heroines together.
DMT – dimethyltryptamine – the active molecule in Ayahuasca, the psychedelic brew used by Amazonian shamans, is found in many plant species around the world. It is even found n, and produced in minute quantities, within the human body.
Many writers have discussed their own experiences and visions while under the influence of ayahuasca, or simply DMT itself. One of the most famous, Terence McKenna, ethno botanist, philosopher and author, wrote of meeting what he called "machine elves" (or "fractal elves" or 'self-transforming elf machines"), who operated complicated looking machinery in a vast room when he'd first enter into a DMT state of consciousness.1
Dr. Rick Strassman, professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico, obtained permission from the DEA and US government to conduct the first study with a major hallucinogen and human volunteers for more than 20 years. The hallucinogen he chose to test was DMT. He describes many hurdles he had to leap, and hoops he had to jump through.2 Dr. Strassman began the 5-year study in 1990, eventually injecting intravenously "approximately 400 doses of DMT to 60 human test subjects." 3
At the start his aim was strictly researching the effects of DMT in human subjects who were knowledgeable and experienced with strong psychedelic drugs. In the 1970s, a study was undertaken to see if schizophrenics had higher levels of naturally occurring DMT produced by their bodies, but this was proven to be untrue, so Strassman proposed a two front approach to the study protocols.4 It was beneficial to know how so-called "normals", or non-schizophrenic subjects reacted to administered DMT. On a second front, he proposed looking at the use of DMT as a drug abuse question, as there had been steady use and presumed abuse of illegal DMT amongst mainly college students, aged 18-25. Understanding the effects of repeated use of the drug would, it was thought, be helpful in combating its abuse. Dr. Strassman describes explicitly the entire technical process of the experiment in the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies' (MAPS) Newsletter, Autumn 1991 Volume 3.5
In summary Strassman's research suggests – amongst other conclusions – that DMT might be produced by the pineal gland within the brain, and might be the link connecting our physical, concrete reality with the worlds of spirits, alien creatures, and the afterlife encountered by so many of his subjects. Certainly it is true that many people have reported not just similar, but precisely the same visitations, sounds, and sights while under the influence of entheogenic drugs. The subjects of Strassman's study are not alone.
In a report by Kim Kristensen on an ayahuasca ceremony he participated in over the course of a few days in the Peruvian Amazon with a group of what he calls ayahuasca tourists, he notes some genuinely bizarre phenomenon, where all involved in the ceremony reported seeing identical visions for at least some of the session.6
It appears quite possible that by entering altered states of consciousness, by whatever means, human beings may be changing the channel as it were, switching from the "normal" signal our senses take in, filter and send to our brains, which are basically receivers of consciousness like a television, to a drastically different signal that our brains do not have access to during "normal" states of consciousness.7 Graham Hancock covers the arguments and the evidence for this extensively in his most recent non-fiction book, Supernatural: Meetings With the Ancient Teachers of Mankind.8
There seems no denying that DMT plays a special role in human perceptions. The many interpersonal visual effects experienced by different people of different cultures under the influence of this molecule, require us to consider the possibility that these experiences are not hallucinations but sightings of real events and entities.
Entangled is the first novel to give a starring role to Ayahuasca, the visionary brew used for thousands of years by Amazonian shamans to make out of body journeys and explore the realms of the spirits.
Note 1: Inspiring Art and Artists
Altering the human state of consciousness, including but not limited to the use of ayahuasca, is and has been a self-admitted inspiration to artists, musicians, and other artistically creative people. From ancient archaeological and mythological evidence, this has been so for thousands of years.1
The brilliant works of cave art found in Southern France and Northern Spain, painted twenty to thirty thousand years ago, were probably created by shamans depicting their experiences in altered states of consciousness. David Lewis-Williams, professor emeritus of cognitive archaeology at the University of Witwatersrand, proposed in his book, Believing and Seeing: Symbolic Meaning in Southern San Rock Paintings, that the ancient rock paintings of the San were the work of shamans who had entered into trance states, usually through extended sessions of dancing and singing, among other methods.2 Lewis-Williams later extended these findings to include the famous Lascaux complex paintings found in caves from Southern France down into Northern Spain.3
When compared to many modern paintings by ayahuasca shamans and the tales of indigenous shamans, the logic seems undeniable. In altered states of consciousness these shamans appear to descend to molecular levels of perception where, as per Jeremy Narby's thesis, information encoded within their own DNA and that of the plants around them and ingested by them, is passed directly to them.4 The repeated motifs of coiled vines, serpents and rope in their paintings exactly mimic molecular structures. This is, according to Narby, from where and how human art, culture, language, music – civilization in other words – came into being. Ayahuasca, with its roots dug so deeply into human prehistory, is still inspiring artists strongly today, at the beginnings of the 21st century. Many artists and musicians have been open about their experiences and are often quite candid.
Alex Grey is a psychedelic painter in New York City.5 He is the owner of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors and has described a few of his own experiences under the influence of ayahuasca.6 In an amusing, self-deprecating short interview posted on You Tube, Grey recalls his self-righteous feeling of being enlightened for having partaken in the brew only then to hear a disembodied voice appearing out of nowhere saying something that illustrated just how fallibly human as anyone he really was, and bringing him back down to Earth.7
Grey is not the only Westerner to gain personal insight and inspiration from ayahuasca. Many Western artists, musicians and painters have gone public with their experiences, including such figures as Sting (who wrote about his feelings of seeing reality on a molecular level under the influence of Ayahuasca) and Paul Simon among many others.8,9 ,10 Another famous writer who openly admitted to using LSD while creating his classic novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was Ken Kesey.11
Ayahuasca clearly isn't the only extremely strong hallucinogenic, psychedelic, entheogen around. There are both plant and synthetically derived chemical sources, the ingestion of which lead to important discoveries or insights that push human progress forward. There is the case of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computers, and his talking of LSD in a positive fashion in the press.12 There is the prodigious pot use by world-renowned scientist and author Carl Sagan, and of course the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA by Francis Crick, said to have used small amounts of LSD (while it was still legal) to help boost his mental capacity.13,14
Note 2: Health and Healing with Ayahuasca
A multinational cooperative investigative study of the effect of Hoasca (Ayahuasca) was undertaken in Manaus, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Amazonia, during the summer of 1993.1 There have been a number of modern reports by a variety of Western travelers detailing their own experiences and research into this mysterious plant brew – for example William S. Burroughs' and Allen Ginsbergs' The Yage Letters, compiled in 1963, Terrance McKenna's True Hallucinations, published in 1993, and Daniel Pinchbeck's Breaking Open the Head, published in 2002. But none of these followed any sort of structure that could be published in peer-reviewed literature, or even attempted to meet scientific standards of studies that would lead to testable results. The Hoasca Project aimed to be the first to undertake such a study.
The Hoasca Project studied 15 long-time members of the Uniao do Vegetal, a syncretic Christian/indigenous church that uses Ayahuasca as its sacrament. In tandem 15 non-members who were Ayahuasca-naïve (i.e. they had never ingested the brew) were also studied. As the report states, "A variety of parameters were utilized to assess past and current levels of psychological function. Both experimental and control subject groups were administered structured psychiatric diagnostic interviews (Composite International Diagnostic Interview [CIDI]), personality testing (Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire [TPQ]), and neuropsychological testing (WHO-UCLA Auditory Verbal Learning Test). Experimental subjects, but not control subjects, were asked to fill out an additional questionnaire (Hallucinogen Rating Scale [HRS]) following a hoasca session: Each of the experimental subjects was also interviewed in a semi structured format designed to ascertain their life stories."2
The UDV church requires abstinence from all toxic substances such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines.3 Members participate at minimum twice a month in group ceremonies. While two of the test subjects reported current alcohol-abuse issues, there were no reports of current psychological problems amongst the 15 members of the UDV. That said, looking into the past lifestyles reported by members, 11 reported former, serious alcohol problems, including five who reported violent behavior which would accompany binge drinking. Four others reported past problems with cocaine and amphetamines. Eight of the 11 drinkers also reported nicotine addiction. All 15 members of the church reported that all troubles in these areas had disappeared, along with many other personality issues including feelings of being "impulsive, disrespectful, angry, aggressive, oppositional, rebellious, irresponsible, alienated, and unsuccessful." Members of the church were found to be as a rule more confident with strangers and life itself than the 15 non-UDV members. All 15 members reported vast improvements in their lives since joining the UDV, emphasizing that as a rule it was their very first encounter with Hoasca that showed them the life they were leading was going places they were not happy to see, and drove them to change habits and patterns that no longer served them. Usually described as frightening, horrifying, terrifying and other similar terms, by the end of the trip they each reported having met someone, often the founder of the UDV himself, Maestre Gabriel, who would show them how to reassemble what they perceived to be their shattered and dismembered bodies and other such horrors. They emerged from the trip feeling renewed, and firmly resolved to change their paths.
All 15 UDV members were quick to point out that while their use of Hoasca was an important part of their changes, and continuing feelings of confidence and ability to deal with life as it came, their membership and participation in the UDV itself was an extremely important part of the whole, without which they did not feel they would be experiencing the same positive results.
While all members of the church reported better cognitive abilities and memories, under the structure of the study, it was impossible to verify if this was real or subjective on the part of those making these reports. But again, as stated by the authors of the report, "Indeed, its apparent impact upon the subjects evaluated in the course of our inquiries appears to have been positive and therapeutic, both in self-report and objective testing. There is clearly a need to pursue rigorous and comprehensive follow-up studies to the preliminary explorations reported here, not only to further elucidate the unique phenomenon of hoasca use within a highly structured ceremonial setting but also because of growing interest and use of hoasca in North America and Europe."4
"Jacques Mabit is the founder of Takiwasi, which means 'The chanting house,'" established in Peru in 1992, in the city of Tarapoto, to treat cocaine abuse and addiction.5 Requiring patients to undergo a 12-month program, Mabit claims that of those who simply begin the program, a full third go on to remain clean, while out of those who successfully complete the entire 12-month program an astonishing 70 percent remain clean.
"The body does not forget" the addiction, particularly when it comes to opiates, as Patrick Kroupa (a high priest in Slovenia's Sacrament of Transition, a state-registered church that uses ibogaine as its sacrament) loosely stated at one point. Hence among many researchers and addicts themselves, there is an argument over Ayahuasca really being all that effective, if at all, in treating addiction to opiates. Ibogaine is spreading rapidly throughout the Western world, in large part because of the huge market made up of desperate, strung out addicts who've had no success with any of the Western methods either promoted or required by the State and mainstream medical establishment.
There have been a few reports, mainly anecdotal, of Ayahuasca either curing or seemingly effecting positive results when it comes to chronic, incurable diseases, right up to cancer. But in the matter of drug addiction, as with any other tool, much of the process depends upon the addicts themselves. There is not yet found a miracle cure that fits everyone, but with current prohibition policies, it is extremely difficult for addicts and the sick to experiment with many of these ancient plants that show much promise.
Note 3: Legal Standing of Ayahuasca
In 1985 the government of Brazil made the plants used in the Ayahuasca brew illegal, but was challenged by the ayahausca church Uniao do Vegetal on the grounds that they were being unjustly persecuted for their religious beliefs and practices. The government of Brazil responded in 1992 by making the use of Ayahuasca legal for religious purposes.1 Ecuador and Peru have both outright legalized the brew. European cities frequently mentioned as having hosted ceremonies or even have their own churches include Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt, and Berlin.
In February, 2006, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the religious use of Ayahuasca by members the UdV was exempt from federal anti-drug laws, stating there was no evidence that it caused any undue harm to either the public at large or the practitioners themselves.2 The US State of New Mexico ruled that the use of Ayahuasca by the UDV was protected in their state by federal freedom of religion laws.3
Similar cases were held in the Netherlands, Australia, Italy and Spain. A French court ruled in January 2005, that Ayahuasca was not illegal due to it not being a prepared controlled substance, which led the government of France to make the chemicals within the plants needed to make Ayahuasca illegal in May 2005.4
The use of ayahausca by organized churches and by private individuals for both religious and self-exploratory purposes is continuing to spread rapidly across the globe. Despite the continuing ambiguity about its legal status in many states and countries, curiosity about this mysterious Amazonian brew is growing.
It has been almost the opposite position of the US Government 's War on Some Drugs in regards to Marijuana. The same federal courts ruling in favor of Ayahuasca and other strong hallucinogens for religious uses and ordering states to lay off the churches have conversely been arresting sick people in those same states whose citizens had voted Marijuana use and cultivation legal for the chronically ill. Nonetheless, 14 US States have voted to legalize the use of pot for medical purposes. Also of note is the President Barak Obama's instruction to the DEA on Monday, October 19, 2009, to stop raiding clinics that serve patients with legitimate doctors' prescriptions.5
Perhaps a very different approach to how we as a society treat drug use and abuse will be part of the consciousness shift postulated by some authors and researchers for the Mayan calendar's end date of December 21, 2012.
Note 4: Origins of Ayahuasca and its spread into the West
When did the practice of mood and mind altering techniques, including the use of drugs, begin? In Entangled Graham Hancock suggests that the archaic species of humans known as the Neanderthals used psilocybin mushrooms to explore the spirit world.
There are numerous techniques for altering consciousness, including the use of fasting, sleep deprivation, dance, or other extreme physical and mental exertion, but worldwide it is still visionary plants – hallucinogens – that are most favoured by shamanistic cultures. The use of one particular "plant teacher" (as Hancock and many other authors and psychonauts refer to these varied "hallucinogenic" or "psychedelic" plant species), Ayahuasca, stands out as genuinely puzzling. Since the brew only works when two very different plants are combined (the leaves of one, the roots of another), and since there are more than 150,000 different species of plants and trees in the Amazon, it is difficult to understand how ancient shamans stumbled upon its properties – but the evidence is that they did so at least 4000 years ago.
Ayahuasca (from the Quechua language: "huasca" means "vine" and "aya" means either "soul" or "spirit", and is commonly referred to as "oasca" in Brazil) has been an important part of South American indigenous religious and tribal life for milennia. Numerous archaeological traces in the form of pottery, anthropomorphic figurines, snuffing trays and tubes, mainly in the Ecuadorian Amazon, seem to date its use back to somewhere between 1500-2000 B.C.1 Chances are good it goes back even further, with reports that Ayahuasca has been used in a number of countries in South and Central America, including Panama, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, and by at least seventy different indigenous peoples of the Americas.2
There are many variations on the recipe for Ayahuasca, each resulting in differences in effect from drinking the brew. Many shamans use the vine Banisteriopsis caapi (also called Ayahuasca on its own), which is boiled in combination with the leaves of another plant, typically Psychotria viridis (known in the Amazon as chacruna) containing N, N dimethyltryptamine, or DMT. The MOAI inhibitors harmine and harmaline in the B. caapi vine basically turn off the Monoamine Oxidase enzymes in the stomach that would normally very quickly destroy orally ingested DMT, allowing the molecule to reach the brain and initiating a long and intense psychedelic, spiritual experience.
It has only been in the past 100 years or so that Ayahuasca has been known about, discussed, and above all ingested by more and more Westerners – and at an increased pace in recent decades.
As near as can be ascertained, the first mention in Western writings was in the journals of Jesuits traveling and documenting the cultures being so busily dismantled. "One of the earliest such reports , from 1737, describes ayahuasca as: 'an intoxicating potion' ingested for divinatory and other purposes which deprives one of his senses and, at times, of his life." 3
Over the centuries, the religious use of Ayahuasca spread amongst a vast array of native peoples and into the towns and cities of much of South America. The first organized church to use Ayahuasca openly as its sacrament was the Santo Daime. According to a paper by Anthony Richard Henman, Santo Daime appeared in Brazil in the early 1930s, first becoming popular amongst rubber tappers working the "upper drainages of the Madeira, Purús, and Juruá rivers, where encounters were made with various Indian groups (notably the Caxinawá) and mestizo Peruvians and Bolivians who also were adepts of the drink."4
This form of "syncretic" church, whereby indigenous peoples incorporate portions of Christian forms of worship with trappings of their own homegrown religions, or use some form of psychedelic plant as its sacrament is not unique either to the Santo Daime or to the younger Uniao do Vegetal (commonly referred to as UDV or "Herbal Union", founded in Acre, Brazil on July 22, 1961.5 ) There is the peyote- using Native American Church in the United States, and The Sacrament of Transition, a recognized religion in Slovakia, which uses ibogaine as its sacrament.
Today South American shamans of the Amazonian rainforests not only welcome foreigners to visit them and drink Ayahuasca with them in their native lands, but also travel around the world facilitating ayahuasca sessions. Western "neo-shamans" (who have studied in the Amazon with traditional Ayahuasca shamans) have further expanded the outreach of the vine which is now known in almost all parts of the globe.6
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