In this article Alann de Vuyst explains why he as an artist must oppose the war on drugs.
Someone who admired my art refuted my claims of me having been inspired by sacred plants for some work I had produced, and which he had wanted to show in France. He wanted to accept the painter but not the whole package of what the painter’s vision really was. It seemed to scare him, and he became hostile to the idea that one`s consciousness can expand by using entheogens.
I, and all the people around me, were brought up with the fear of drugs by the media, who were equally being brainwashed with the war-on-drugs. Something in me said that for once and for all I had to make a stand, and say no to the nonsense that I was brought up with at school.
I have travelled the world for the past thirty years, and came across kindred minds in SE Asia, India, and South America. But it was in 2005 that I began a search for my soul and spirit, and the awakening came through my first intake of a San Pedro potion with indigenous people, among whom were some shamans present. Having been an atheist for thirty-seven years that moment on the Island of the Sun in Bolivia introduced me to a different realm, that went beyond my agnostic beliefs and ideas. There was no way I could ever turn the clock back to who I was before. Doubts had been swept away. I became more conscious about the art I had made, and how deeply rooted it had been all those previous years, but it had been denied when I went to art school where there was no room for my spontaneous expressions in art. I was taught to paint the reality we saw around us. I felt my soul was being mutilated with every step of the teachings in academic art.
So here I am, ten years later, having listened to shamans who trained me in La Paz and in Cuzco, in the art of cleansing rituals and visionary travel. I have watched videos, attended conferences, and read the books of people like Aldous Huxley, Terence McKenna, Graham Hancock, Rupert Sheldrake, and Mark Howards (alias Mr.Nice); I have also seen works of William Blake; and read books which were written under the influence of marihuana by Kerouac, Ginsberg, and others, while the rage against the sacred plants went on and on, one lashing after another. Then the tide started turning and the UN admitted that the damn war on drugs had failed. But that has not stopped the world from continuing putting the sacred weeds, that the shamans use around the world, in the same diabolic bag as adulterated drugs.
"Today it occurred to me that something is at stake. Something very important to me: art produced in a shamanic way. At the beginning of the foundation of this group, I believe I mentioned that a gallery in Spain decided not to exhibit my works because a French agency that curates the artists and art works for the gallery would not choose an artist if he or she would consume substances that are prohibited in the EU or classified as class A drugs. I have produced and accomplished works from the mid 80s without ever touching such a drug. However, I know that the natural DMT in my body helps me in creating lucid dreams out of which I pour fragments consciously or unconsciously onto the canvas, paper or whatever carrier I can find. The medicine has always been in me, eons before I even ingested a drop of external DMT … it never occurred to me that this is how it works; I was not conscious … you just let it flow and let the Eensy Weensy spider out of the spout and let him weave his web. Still, I realise that I can count probably two dozen pieces of artwork that I did when slightly tripping on Mary Jane and San Pedro (South American cactus).
But that is not the point: The point is that people in the EU would censure my art if I were only to mention that occasionally I smoked a spliff or that I made this or that piece after or during I had ingested San Pedro …Too ludicrous for words. Add to that those people have never tried it themselves but are telling the artist that that is BAD for you and that it will be difficult to sell it if they find out about it. Tough! Imagine if we had to censure the artists, writers, or the artwork because the substance had actually helped them in being sharper in expression, ideas, use of colour and words.
But I think it is something that scares those who cling to power … who do not allow people to find enlightenment lest they become uncontrollable if they find out the truth out there.
For the past weeks I have been on a real mental roller coaster to clarify my way of creating. Is that in any way possible? NO. Does the spider have to explain why his cobweb is so easy to make? That he does it like a fish swims in the water? NO.
I am better in colours and images than in words but feel the need to use words now. Art is what later became words … first pictures than characters and letters …
Then bang, it came to me as I sat savouring my lunch in town. Eve was a shaman, I thought. The plants were going to give her the same power as god, she would be able to communicate and create like god. It took just one bite from an apple and she was expelled by a vengeful tyrant of a god, who only wanted to be loved as the only one. The first human couple had to fear him and love him and if not … they were history. So, expelled from the garden of wisdom, she had to suffer together with Adam. God told us that we were to dominate the other species, that we were superior … and look what a mess we made of it.
The shamans in the Amazon region are the Eves of our times since time immemorial; that is what I believe. The indigenous peoples were the caretakers and still are of that garden of Eden around the world, whether their name is Bushman, Dayak, Eskimo, or Huichols, who live(d) in the most inhospitable places, they listened to the plants who gave them information of how to work for the interest of the community, how to heal people, animals, retrieve souls. The shamans are the ecstatic dancers who sniff yopo among the Yanomami, or ingest Quat in Lebannon, or kif in Morocco, Ayahuasca in the Amazon. They were the keepers of secrets of plants connected with the world where the dead live, and with the plants they restore the soul back into the diseased.
But since the war on drugs, everything turned into chaos to keep a self-destructive system intact of the rulers who prefer to keep the people in the dark, in check and in the sick bay. It is just cynical to read that the pharma world is actually not interested in producing medicine that cures 100% … THERE IS NO PROFIT IN IT! People have been intimidated, have had the wits scared out of them, put in jail, and for what? Because they, the people, wanted to decide what they do with their lives and their own body and mind?
The Bible is full of references to weeds that are useful to mankind … We have strayed because of religion, and now we have the doctors and pharmaceutical companies telling us we’ll go to hell if we smoke a joint. It is far more insidious than that. Shamans are being murdered by petrol and mining companies because they stand in the way of their greedy interests. Shamans and indigenous peoples have preserved these forests and habitats for millennia, and now the west wants to patent their medicinal herbs and wrest them from their habitat dead or alive. The west corrupts the plants and offers them to the highest bidder for sheer hedonistic practices.
Another vision came to me which was that of the Amazon in danger. The West wants to save it. They scream for all to hear that they are the lungs of the world. I saw through the vision that it was more than the lungs … The Amazon rainforest is also the oldest conscience of the world. It is inhabited with conscious plants that know how to heal. I was baffled by the idea that the West (USA, the EU) has put plants like Ayahuasca and others (which have been studied for the past three decades, I believe) on the list of class A drugs. You can get six years of jail time if they catch you with it in the US, whereas in Peru and Colombia many centres (run by European doctors) are using the plant to heal youngsters from cocaine, heroine addiction, or psychological traumas. So, if you want to save the Amazon forest and its dwellers but prohibit the medicine the Amazon produces, then is that not a slap in the face of those people, another neo-colonial thinking and mockery of its shamanic knowledge? Is it not an insult? Have Europeans or Americans not learned anything in those brutal five-hundred years of ethnocide, genocide and ecocide?
That is where I draw the line for western interference and EU ideology they want to impose on me.
The famous shaman and painter Pablo Amaringo, who made the most wonderful canvases you can imagine, straight tapping out of his head what he so often saw on a journey with The Vine of Death, stopped painting snakes and serpents in his works because an evangelical sect had worked so much on him, and had told him that he painted demons, satanic forces. I guess he grew tired and was thus brainwashed; he did not want to make any enemies and accepted the cross. He ceased to practice as a shaman. He soon died and now his family apparently squabble over his heritage and how much money they can make out of his paintings. This is what the West has achieved. Despite the many articles in scientific magazines that inform us of the benevolent and healing powers that marihuana, shrooms, Ayahuasca and San Pedro have, the West does not want to know and the few that want to know have to undertake journeys to the Amazon to find treatment for what the West does not want to heal.
Fifty years on the war on drugs has ruined many lives and keeps ruining them, and still, those who have been intimidated long enough and scared, prefer to keep the doors of perception permanently closed.
As an artist I will not cower or double back before those evil forces at work. As a human I will fight for the right to use whatever means I need to see the light.”
Alann de Vuyst