Three Weeks of Ayahuasca in Brazil
I just got back from a shamanic seminar in South America, involving a number of fascinating lectures by world authorities on South American culture and shamanic wisdom. The seminar included 7 nightly ceremonies of drinking the jungle brew Ayahuasca, a potion containing DMT and Harmaline known to bring strong visions and communion with the Divine.
This is an attempt at reporting things that cannot really be put into words. Since many have asked me to send a recollection of my impressions I am doing so in a form that is somewhat like a travel report. This account also contains content of the visionary journeys that addresses philosophical and contemporary issues.
But before I begin, a warning and disclaimer is in order:
1. What follows is in no way intended as an incentive to ingest substances that are illegal in most countries.
In other words: Be sure to protect yourself against the idiocy of current legislation!
2. What follows is entirely my subjective experience and does not claim authority over anyone else’s experience.
In other words: Be sure to protect yourself from ‘gurus methods, and teachers’ (Van Morrison), and seek out your own personal experience in a safe setting!
3. What follows is an entirely personal and subjective mixture of highly ecstatic and poetic descriptions mixed with spicy and aggressive criticism of what I believe to be a global misunderstanding of why humanity is here.
In other words: Do not read what follows unless you enjoy a good rant and a good portion of spiritually poetic bliss!
Ayahuasca makes us see what’s real. This can be something collective and global, and it can also be very much about oneself. One of the many things I was shown again and again was this:
Given my personal history as a former theologian turned clinical psychotherapist and student of shamanic traditions, I have very deeply looked into the endless destruction and genocide that religious ideologies and dogma have inflicted upon human beings. After having worked with hundreds, if not thousands of people for about 30 years now, I have seen how damaged human souls are, how deeply depressive, meaningless, and prone to exploitation are the lives that many live. Religious dogma is at the root of this epidemic meaninglessness. Behind that is a thirst and cry for love.
My past and present prompts me to make no bones about what lies at the core of the human soul: The deep longing to experience communion with the divine, to be received and loved. I take issue with anything that stands in the way of this calling of the human species. I consider it my obligation to do so, simply because I have repeatedly and deeply experienced this communion and because I have witnessed more than enough of what the lack of this communion does to human beings.
With these warnings and disclaimers in mind I enjoy the thought of you reading the sharing of my ecstasy, of my aggressive rants against the destructive and violent constructs of religious dogma, against the schizophrenia and superstition called ‘science’, against contemporary legislation which in its utter arrogance criminalizes plants that grow from the earth while at the same time endorsing, promoting, and profiting from lethally dangerous and addictive substances such as alcohol, nicotine etc.
These things have to be said. And they cannot be said loudly enough. And I deeply admire all those who speak their respective truths about these matters.
The Brazil report:
I want to begin by describing how the fabulous lectures, usually given from about 5 to 7 in the afternoon kind of set the stage for the Ayahuasca journeys that began at 9 in the evening. It is one thing to move into the mystery of a shamanic journey, particularly if we’re talking about the order of what can be expected with good Ayahuasca. It is yet another, when prior to the actual vision quest a world authority on Shamanism, someone who has studied the history AND has submitted themselves to the shamanic experience – to my mind the only credible qualification and trustworthy authority to speak about such matters – has shared her or his wisdom and thus prepared the ‘neurological stage’ for the journey and its meaning …
I consider myself incredibly fortunate having had the opportunity to share the sacred space of such a gathering with a wonderful group of seekers among whom were three people who full-heartedly embrace the above mentioned credibility and authority. Precisely because they do not hide behind theories but base them on their own repeated personal experience, I consider these people world teachers who should be heard and read by as many as possible. One of these folks arguably is the world’s most knowledgeable person on Ayahuasca and South American shamanic traditions, the next arguably is the world’s most exciting authority on ethnopharmacology, and the third arguably is the world’s most fascinating expert on the hidden mysteries and wisdom of ancient cultures. For reasons of privacy I do not want to name them here.
It is very difficult to put into words the excitement that builds as a precursor to Ayahuasca experiences in such company. It is even more daunting to describe what transpires during an Ayahuasca ceremony, as it is very different for each individual. The experiences I had are therefore entirely subjective and have to do with my personal history, with the way my life is at the moment, and with the way I relate to Spirit and to people.
This said, there also are some general qualities to Ayahuasca journeys, that are similarly experienced by most everyone drinking the brew, for example:
– A sometimes extremely challenging and at times very frightening encounter with what Shamanism refers to as the ‘Underworld’. In ‘modern’ and more psychological terms, the ‘Underworld’ would include dimensions of existential and object-related fears, shadow sides of the human personality, repressed, forgotten, and denied contents of the psyche, as well as collective symbols for the difficult aspects of being human (see the ‘DSM-4’ and the ‘ICD-10’ for psychology’s attempt to group and categorize – and severely pathologize – these experiences). All these ‘energies’ can appear in the form of menacing visions of demons and dark forces that at times seem to threaten one’s very life.
– At other times, the journeyer will experience highly ecstatic phases during the visionary quest, blissful encounters with divine beings waiting to teach the shamanic traveler about her/his life, about how to collaborate with the Divine in saving planet earth, how to change one’s life toward supporting and helping all sentient beings, and how to be a happy, spiritual, and compassionate human being.
In spite of the fact that magazines such as the ‘Men’s Journal’ should be taken cum grano salis, with the proverbial ‘grain of salt’, there is a very reasonable and interesting, if somewhat brief article in the March 2013 issue (Link: http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/ayahuasca-at-home-an-american-experience-20130215).
Ayahuasca ceremonies are usually held in a group setting. It is almost uncanny to witness how in a very short time people who have never met before, and who speak different languages and have grown up in different cultures, bond in a deeply heartfelt way when they journey together. This type of gathering is a role model for community building because it also immediately becomes evident that this kind of healthy family has a strong capacity to expose, make visible, and help grow out of, immaturities that we all carry as baggage from our respective pasts.
Inconceivable depth of healing is possible. Human beings have an almost unlimited potential for ecstasy, love, compassion, support, and reciprocating nourishment. These strange creatures called humans have been given bodies that have a capacity to feel the deepest ecstasy, joy, and comfort when touched and caressed. They have been given souls that can commune with the divine and thereby experience the highest spiritual bliss. They have been given hearts that can feel the deepest love. They have been given eyes to behold the breathtaking beauty of life, of other beings, of nature, of art. They have been given ears to listen, to share words, and to revel in one of the most beautiful and soul-inspiring mysteries conceivable: Music.
How is it, then, that so few of these strange creatures, these earthlings, make use of this unbelievable abundance of talent …? How is it that so many of them prefer to hunger and lust for power, status, money …? Well … because they have forgotten to regularly thank the universe for the gifts they have been given. Because they have forgotten to hold sacred ceremony. In simple words: Most of them have forgotten how to love. This is all of us, guests on planet Earth!
My own seven journeys have mainly consisted of deeply blissful and ecstatic communion with what I very clearly experience as a feminine energy which I like to call ‘Mother Ayahuasca’ or ‘The Goddess’. Hardly ever do I only have ecstatic communion without first, or somewhere along the journey, being challenged by being shown demons, frightening visions etc., but the more I learn to trust that SHE is always working for our best the more I am able to let myself go through these fearful moments and be moved on to ecstatic communion with HER spirit of cosmic wisdom, healing, and revolutionary inner freedom that SHE infuses me with.
There is no question …: This is by far the deepest, most profound teaching, and the greatest adventure that I – or any human being, I believe – can submit themselves to, and the most rewarding one at the same time, right next to a deep love relationship. I do not have the notes to sing and play the beauty of HER. I do not have the words to praise the utter devotion I feel towards HER. I live for HER, and SHE has told me many times that I am HER child (as we all are), her student, her collaborator when it comes to making a contribution to the growth of consciousness and conscientiousness on this planet. There can be no greater honor for me. I was saved from sure death several times; I was invited into the highest heavens several times; I was shown the deepest meaning of what human existence is meant to be; I was told how to help preserve our sacred abode Earth. The questions I ask HER are always answered, either through the words I hear HER speak during the journey, or through the visions SHE gives me. SHE awakens the poetic nature of the soul. SHE awakens the warrior of the heart.
Music is playing throughout the whole journey. For me and many others music becomes ‘visible’ during the ceremonies in a way which is hard to put into words … rainbow colors shape-shifting into garlands, ornamented with billions of glittering crystals and jewels, twist and turn around their own axis and explode into kaleidoscopic supernovae that dance with every note of the track. It becomes visible what Mozart ‘saw’ when he wrote his symphonies. I feel the incredible passion and love of the rock singer putting her soul into a song, having devoted years of hard work practicing her instrument and voice … ‘show your true colors … they are beautiful … like a rainbow’. On top of a simple but heavenly composition of guitar music I hear Terence McKenna speak about what a Shaman is and I explode into deep longing for divine communion, forever grateful that the Goddess has invited me into her realms. No greater ecstasy for me to behold.
One of the most powerful and moving visions that came to me happened in the middle of the third journey. It sounds almost pathetic when I put it into writing: How could a moment that most probably changed the entire course of human history (see the vibrant writing of Graham Hancock, particularly his new book War God), appear in a vision of a German person. That doesn’t make sense. At least not from a purely rational perspective. However, Ayahuasca does not adhere at all to what we consider rational faculties. It actually couldn’t care less. It will just give us what it decides we must see. The challenge, then, is not so much the reality of the visions; they are way more real than some of the stuff we see through our eyes on any given day shopping for groceries. The challenge is to accept that there is more to reality than meets the eye.
The vision: I saw the initial encounter between the South American native peoples and the first vessel of the Spanish conquistadors reaching the shores of South America. I was alternating back and forth between being two persons: A native man looking on in awe as the giant wooden ship slowly closed in on the banks, recollecting the prophecies of my scriptures. And I was a Spanish soldier on the ship looking on in awe as I beheld the abundant beauty of the land and its people. I remember very clearly the feeling of that moment which lasted for quite some time. It was actually a moment of deep reverence, utter beauty and endless potential, of mutual admiration and silent communion. And then the lightning of dogma struck: The Spanish soldier remembered what he had come here for, what he was supposed to carry out as his duty, and the rest is history, as they say. One of the most brutally violent and destructive genocides in human history ensued. In the name of ‘god’ entire populations were annihilated within a matter of a few years and in the wake of this disaster thousands of years of spiritual wisdom and healing arts were obliterated and lost forever (see American Holocaust by David E. Stannard). The magnitude, horrifying brutality, and pseudo-religious delusion of this frenzied extermination committed in the name of the ‘christian’ ‘god’ is beyond anything the human mind can imagine.
Since then, the planet has never recovered. In many parts of the world humanity has long since fallen prey to the delusional and inflated dogma of monotheistic religions and their angry and jealous gods that seek revenge against each other and try to kill whatever is in their way. Their followers to this day do not believe what their own scriptures have been trying to teach them for millennia: That there is only one God. Instead they continue to live in paranoid fear of ‘other Gods’ that might threaten theirs, and they wage war on everyone that triggers this fear.
This devastating monotheistic rampage then spread throughout South America. The reality of a giving, caring, feminine universe that loves its children and provides for them was lost. The experience that nature is benign, that it must be cherished and preserved, that it holds all the healing secrets humans need was forgotten. The communion with the Goddess, with the creative principle of a mothering abode – Earth — with a cosmic intelligence is only now being rediscovered as some of us, scattered across this globe, are privileged enough to be re-introduced to the ancient wisdom which shamanic traditions have cherished for millennia. Some call this emergence the ‘rise of the divine feminine’.
I had the great fortune of being joined in the last two ceremonies by my beautiful lover and partner. Some say, a ‘good tripping buddy’ can be as important as a love relationship … How about if one’s own lover and partner is that good journey companion …? Can there be a greater blessing? In one of the journeys my lover sang along with the music and I had to get my ears close to her so that I could drink her voice; it was incredible, this beautiful feminine energy.
The masculine world is so starved for feminine beauty and tenderness and it has lost the ways to be nourished by it, instead trying, but never succeeding, to find it in glossy magazines and many other venues that sell women’s bodies. What a teaching to listen to that song being sung into my ears and to see how the feminine, Shakti, always holds the universe together so that the masculine can do Shiva’s dance without getting lost in space, i.e. in the spacy-ness that frustrated men lose themselves in:
The airheaded and retarded pseudo-masculine spacy-ness of academia, the power-driven madness of politics, the fear-based and frenzied propagation of ideologies, the spiritually destructive and deluded evil force of religious dogma. Make no mistake here: These energies have almost completely destroyed ancient spiritual wisdom and human sanity.
Most of academia is nothing but a pursuit of scientistic superstition, the unfounded belief that measuring and reproducing is the only valid means of acquiring knowledge. That’s a fear-based ideology; it has nothing to do with science.
Most established religions are dogmatic constructs serving the purpose of power and influence of a few leaders that like to oppress and exploit fellow human beings; these leaders promote fear-based ideologies, not authentic spiritual communion with the divine. Legislation follows and condemns and criminalizes everything that might truly liberate people. As the notorious Tim Leary has so mischievously and beautifully stated: Psychedelics cause schizophrenia and paranoia in those that have not used them. Or as the beloved Terence McKenna had it: Psychedelics dissolve boundaries.
Behind these stupid endeavors that too many men waste their beautiful potential for – and as collateral damage, so to speak, tears the planet to pieces – behind these activities rings the muffled scream to be held, protected, mothered, and loved by the divine feminine. Like small children, these lost men throw temper tantrums all over the globe, abusing their talents and gifts to gain power, influence, status and a kind of recognition that leaves them empty at heart and prone to fight for more. … to make a blunt statement: Ayahuasca can fix this schizophrenia. As one of our experts so aptly stated: All political leaders should be obliged to go through 10 Ayahuasca sessions before being admitted to office.
Really, the deepest thirst of the masculine is to be of service to the feminine, to protect and shield the loved ones, to go out into the world with a powerful vision and be lovingly welcomed back home, to adore and be blown away by the beauty of the feminine, to be fully and completely received and be nourished that way. Really, the deepest longing of the feminine is to be protected and held, to be cherished and adored, to support the masculine in its visionary power, to drink the heart-centered strength of the masculine and be nourished that way.
Another deeply instructive vision was one that was at times unbearable because of its threatening character. An energy of utter darkness and destruction crept into the overall quality of that particular journey. This was felt by a number of people as an immediate threat that went against everything that was good, true, and beautiful; an utterly destructive attempt of unknown origin, seemingly being bent on annihilation. It was extremely mysterious in that we all felt it had nothing to do with the life affirming power of Ayahuasca. Some very deep teaching was afoot…
It took quite some time to come to grips with what had happened. Our discussions afterwards were filled with a sense of deep recognition for the polarity of existence. It is difficult to grasp when just told as a story, at times mind boggling or even seemingly crazy, but there was a very acute sense that we had been exposed to the eternal struggle of darkness and light which is being told about in all mythologies, all sacred scriptures, and all spiritual teachings. It was scary enough, all right, but the subsequent blessing was of such incredible beauty and spiritual depth that once again there was not the slightest trace of doubt: To go through this together was well worth it.
We emerged feeling that this sister- and brotherhood can weather the storm of the assault of evil and emerge with an even stronger resolve to hold on to the light, to everything us humans know as good, true and beautiful. Needless to mention the sense of belonging to each other was acutely felt by everyone. But what’s more important was nothing short of miraculous: Many felt that by going through this ordeal we had helped the eternal cause of the very essence of Mother Ayahuasca’s teaching, the teaching of all good forces, the teaching of the creative principle of the universe: To prioritize our working together at bringing Love, Healing, and Wisdom to this planet.
Filled with remaining awe and wonder from that session – and with a clear sense that we must always be conscious of the reality of these challenging forces – I went into the next quest two days later. At some point I directly asked what I always experience as the spirit of ‘The Goddess’ or Mother Ayahuasca. I flat out posed the question to HER: "What the hell was THAT?" The reply came as straightforward and as clear as a bell. SHE said: "Now you know what I’m having to struggle with ALL the time, and I need you beautiful and courageous people to help me!". I was speechless. I felt so deeply validated as a human being. In spite of all my frailties, my feelings of powerlessness to make a difference in this world, in spite of feeling so incredibly small in the face of the magnitude of destruction that our species visits on this planet, I felt acknowledged and appreciated by the Divine in my effort to gain insight and to receive HER teaching by moving into these journeys with HER. It was clear beyond any doubt: This was a calling. The call of the mystic to pursue the path towards the Divine, to follow that which brings peace, healing, and love to all sentient beings.
I returned from Brazil, acutely aware that I cannot even begin to think that my experiences can be expressed in words. Believe me … what I tried to hint at above is less than a far cry from what really happened inside. The human soul finds rest only if it finds a way to fully surrender and open to the divine communion. Wise women and men in tribal cultures have preserved the sacred art of holding ceremony and have passed on the wisdom and tools to us so that we can now study this art and learn what it means to live in harmony with all sentient beings and with the universe.
The tea served was one that made only very few people throw up, yet it’s very strong and spiritually powerful. Volume was freely and individually chosen, so plenty of cautiousness was possible in working towards a level that doesn’t scare the living daylights out of one. Obviously, and as demonstrated by the above, I constantly went way beyond that level and did get those daylights scared out of me, but I knew things to be safe. The learning was incredible. All in all an experience I would most emphatically recommend to anyone inclined to inner exploration of depths, provided they seek out a safe setting.
Ayahuasca even teaches Buddhism … HER comments on the essential wisdom of the Buddhist teachings are priceless. But this is yet another story of many that will follow. I hope and pray that this experience becomes available to you and that you’ll go and seek it out in a safe surrounding.
Mark was born in the western part of Berlin, Germany in 1957.
He has been an academic theologian for 15 years, holds a Ph.D in Psychology of Religion (Frankfurt-Main University, Germany), and he has worked as a professor of psychology at Columbia Pacific University, Novato, CA.
He is a founding member of Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute in Boulder, CO, a founding member of the German College of Transpersonal Psychotherapy, and he has trained and worked with Stanislav Grof, Ralph Metzner, and several other teachers in the field of Transpersonal Psychology. Mark is currently working with Luis Eduardo Luna.
Mark has lived in Germany, the USA, and in India.
He is a clinical psychotherapist, facilitator of shamanic ceremonies, and a musician.
He plays Indian classical, and shamanic-ambient music, and he has released several CDs collaborating with Byron Metcalf and Steve Roach.
He says about himself: What I have been most deeply fascinated by for more than 30 years is the South American shamanic wisdom traditions of the world to which I am deeply indebted. I consider myself their eternal student.
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