Author of the Month

Ayahuasca and the concept of reality. Ethnographic, theoretical, and experiential considerations. (cont.)
By Luis Eduardo Luna, Ph.D., F.L.S.

By way of conclusion

It is not at all strange that plants with the properties of altering the mind have been considered sacred by traditional cultures. It is now forty years since my first encounter with such a powerful medicine. I have witnessed and participated in hundreds of sessions in different settings, and I have been in touch in one way or another with most of the people who have been doing research on the subject. The most important questions have not been answered. What is the nature of the worlds and the entities one may encounter in such experiences? What is their level of reality? Are they simply “creatures of imagination”, as proposed by Reichel-Dolmatoff 1975:5)? Do they have any kind of reality outside our own experience? Are certain plants really intelligent, and able to communicate with us through real “communion” (more convincing than the Catholic eucharist)? Are the supernatural powers residing in these plants “organic chemical constituents that allow mortal man to communicate through visual, auditory and other hallucinations with the spirit world that controls every aspect of man’s earthly existence”? (Schultes 1975). Is the brain more a receptor that the originator of all experience? Are we really able to communicate with normally unseen intelligences, perhaps in other dimensions? Are spirits real? Is there a multidimensional ecology of beings? What is the relationship between mind and healing? What about those very common motifs, the serpents for example? Are they part of our mind, and therefore universal?

Under the effects of ayahuasca and other psychointegrators the mind seems to open to higher, more comprehensive dimensions. One is confronted in a very real and profound way with the mystery of existence, of life and death and the great enigma of the relationship between mind and reality. Few people are left indifferent to such experiences, if done in a respectful, controlled setting and under the guidance of an experienced facilitator.

I would like to present here, as way of illustration, two accounts of recent experiences I had with ayahuasca:

“I see a strange floating irregular nearly transparent bubble with alien organs. I cannot make sense of it. It comes towards me slowly from the left. I let it happen. It stops in front of me. I enter it with my intention, look at it from inside with total clarity. I go through it and enter a world of threatening beings in the shape of brownish intricate surfaces with protruding tentacles that go for my forehead. I hum and lift my arms protecting it. From the right, almost out of my visual field, another attack. I search for my rattle with eyes closed. To open them would mean defeat. I rattle, blow, hum, they seem unaffected by what I do and persist in their attack. In front of me I have the perfect perception of three-dimensional space. Tall shapeless beings, perhaps five of them, occupy the space that expands in front of my closed eyes. I think of the water from the Sangoma Valley, in South Africa, that was brought to the house by a friend. My wife had used it on me on a previous occasion in which I was attacked, with nearly instant results. I called Rodolfo, a friend, to bring the bottle that is with my wife. Almost immediately after my request there is a change in the visions. There is light to my left; the creatures all seem to look towards the light, pointing at something to come. There is the feeling of reverence in the strange creatures of this world. Is it due to the bottle that is coming? The bottle comes to my hands. I continue with my eyes closed. Open the cork, moisten my fingers, there is now color, flowers spring out, movement towards the sacred water, almost formless beings rushing towards the moisture that crossed from this reality to the other world. Then come the gifts, like other times, small objects, perhaps some sort of jewelry, nothing I can fully recognize as anything concrete corresponding to my world. The “beings” rush towards me, appearing in several irregular layers. I am in a more familiar territory. I have seen this many times before. I am less interested and begin to pay attention to the exterior world. I open my eyes, still seeing forms in the darkness. I am in both worlds, but more here then there. Everything is all right. I close again my eyes. I am again in a world that seems to be made of a light brown continuous material, almost like a kind of plastic. I have the feeling of intelligent presence. There seems to be some sort of technology. I think: “How could I keep this channel open, how could I always get in touch with “them”, as they seem to be ahead of my own time, they know what is coming (the principle of divination?)” The thought of an implant comes to mind but no; I do not wish anything inside me. I would not allow this to happen. I think of finding out about lottery numbers, and faintly I see some numbers appearing, but then reject the thought. This is cheap; this is not the way divination should be used, for personal gain. I am taken again by the thought of communication with this other reality. But then I come back, I have to take care of other people, choose the appropriate music for the moment. This reality is calling me now.”

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