Why Nature's Key To Expanded Consciousness Is So Suppressed
By: Caroline Knight
on 19th January 2015 @ 10.43am
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A whole lot of mystery and debate surrounds the subject of plant medicines, not least because you are unlikely to wander past them in the street, or even your local forest for that matter; neither will you be offered any by the shady looking character in the dark corner of your local nightclub. Firstly, the majority of these immensely powerful plants do not grow in climates like ours here in the UK.
They flourish in warm, damp and tropical climes such as the Amazon, or in hot, arid places like the desert. Of course, by dreaming up the interesting little vegetable we know as the mushroom, nature hasn’t completely left us out, but it has had a laugh in the process – you can usually find them growing on cow pat. Nevertheless, it is telling that it hasn’t put too many people off the idea.
There are a fairly large number of plants and plant concoctions from around the world, all of which are considered medicinal, with varying effects on human physiology and psychology; most of which could be termed ‘psychedelic’, meaning ‘to manifest the mind’. Although this interesting choice of a name sounds fairly positive, it makes it easy for such medicines to be considered recreational, something they most certainly are not. Well, not unless you are the type that considers sky-diving without a parachute recreational.
These plants have conveniently been given the label ‘drugs’, which is somewhat misleading. We have a preconceived idea of what constitutes drugs, and that title definitely has negative connotations. The raging debate over marijuana is an obvious example, with the general public not taking the comments of ‘weed heads’ too seriously, perhaps because it seems that many speak of bright ideas while not having a whole lot of motivation to put them into action. The idea that cannabis oil has extremely strong anti-carcinogenic properties is championed by author Rick Simpson and has become popular in recent times, but that’s an entire topic in itself.
On the whole, most plant substances are considered to be highly beneficial and therapeutic, in contrast to many of the chemical creations out there. The well-known synthetic drugs are very easy to get hold of and although they may spark a temporary ‘high’ this is usually followed by a very evident ‘low’ and there are usually no discernible health benefits; on the contrary, you’re probably going to have a foggy head, headache and a depressive mood.
The ‘spirit molecule’ versus synthetics:
On the other hand, there are substances such as LSD, which when originally created was used not for recreational purposes but by psychotherapists on their patients. Dr. Rick Strassman, author of the fascinating book and film ‘DMT – The Spirit Molecule’ started out his career in researching LSD, including its affects on spirituality, concluding that many who had not been of a particularly spiritual orientation had been swayed into a new perspective – including converting to Hinduism or Buddhism after their experiences on it.
DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine), although often referred to as a drug, is actually a molecule present in every living creature on earth, from plants to animals. It also happens to be present in the pineal gland within the human brain. The DMT molecule can be extracted from certain plants and mixed with other substances to create what we know as the potent South American brew, ayahuasca (meaning ‘vine of the soul’).
It is traditionally made from the B. caapi vine and admixtures like P. viridis and/or other plants containing DMT. There are many kinds of brew, dependent on the location of the plants and the knowledge and abilities of the shamans who create it. Some are said to facilitate more emotional experiences while some will be more visual or ‘mental’.
Ayahuasca (otherwise known as Yagé), salvia divinorum, iboga, mushrooms and peyote are but a few of the many naturally occurring plants found in the flora of various locations around the world; some types of mushrooms (containing the hallucinogenic compound psilocybin) even grow naturally in the wild here in the UK. Despite the fact that they are an offering from nature rather than something dreamed up in a laboratory, they have been made illegal. This seems somewhat absurd when you consider that our biological bodies are not designed to respond to synthetics; nature’s creations do not have to come with a list of side effects longer that your arm.
There is a vast difference between these and synthetic amphetamine style substances easily accessed in western society. It is not too difficult to spot the destruction inflicted upon the bodies and psyches of those with a crack habit, for example; yet despite the fact that it is equally easy to find innumerable positive stories of rapid therapeutic effects on the web, in books, articles and by speaking to those who have indulged, we are still quick to tar naturally occurring plants with the same brush. Such is the power of conditioning.
The selective and slanderous ‘war on drugs’:
By now, it may well be apparent that the ‘war on drugs’ is a farce that has caused innumerable deaths through violence and unbelievable incarceration costs, among other things - while caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, amphetamines and the myriad over-the-counter substances continue to ravage the physical and mental health of so called ‘normal’ members of society every day. But that’s ok, and they will remain legal because we are paying tax on those.
That perspective, although it doesn’t paint governments in a particularly great light, is probably more palatable for them than the less obvious reason for the suppression of plant medicines: they expand your consciousness. Simple logic may suggest that a conscious, aware and open-minded public is going to do a whole lot more damage to the system than a nervous, irritable, sick and drunk one.
It is undeniable that all substances are open to abuse and that anything in excess may have detrimental effects; but surely we should be able to exercise our right to learn the hard way – it is not possible to protect someone from self-abuse and I am hard pushed to believe that the state genuinely cares about our well being enough to put such huge efforts into denying any substances at all for our protection.
I personally am interested only in my health and well being and have no intention of abusing myself unnecessarily, let alone killing myself; regardless, nobody apart from my mother had a problem with me learning the hard way from alcohol poisoning in my youth and if I saw fit to do it again, whose right is it to tell me I can’t?
PSYOPS and counterculture – they wouldn’t… would they?
And so, those who participate in ceremonies with such medicines as Ayahuasca are labeled hippies, drug fiends, rebels, or just plain nut-jobs. It might be tempting to liken such a substance to LSD, but this would be a mistake. It has been suggested that there was actually CIA involvement in the construction of the original hippie counterculture of the 70’s, as is covered in this interesting video, Pychedelic Intelligence - the CIA and the Counterculture.
Given that there seems to be a fairly large effort to suppress plant medicines, it seems counter-intuitive to imagine that the CIA might have had any part to play in creating a culture that embraced such substances, but perhaps it would be wiser to look again at that idea. After all, ‘Entheogen’ is a bit of strange term and there is a lot of evidence suggesting that ‘psychedelic’ was not the original name given to ‘hallucinogenic’ substances, but something a little more sinister: ‘psychotomimetic’ which means ‘to mimic psychosis.’ Not quite so appealing.
This in depth, well-referenced analysis also offers a truly interesting perspective on the subject. It stands to reason, then, that given the history of PSYOPS (psychological operations, otherwise known as good old ‘propaganda’) and social engineering experiments such as MK Ultra, studies of human behavior through the use of psychoactive substances would be considered perfectly acceptable. The idea of nations as guinea pigs isn’t exactly a new one – vaccinations would be a good example of how that works.
Despite western culture’s generally hazy understanding of the origins, uses and benefits of plant medicines – not to mention the stereotyping and ignorance regarding indigenous peoples whose understanding and experience we can barely dream of – ayahuasca and its resulting tourism is becoming increasingly popular. ‘Wild’ by global explorer Jay Griffiths, is a highly recommended read. It is a unique, inspiring and heart-wrenching book accounting the loss of human wildness, the abuse of nature and of course, her Amazonian ayahuasca experiences.
The ayahuasca experience:
That’s not to say that there are no dangers around the experience. As previously mentioned, plant medicines are not for recreation – they are said to possess an innate intelligence, perhaps the consciousness of nature itself, and this is a force to be reckoned with, as anyone who has encountered a so-called ‘bad trip’ will tell you. Although both are famed for their mind-expanding properties, there seems to be a bit of a difference in both intensity and therapeutic benefits between substances such as LSD and ayahuasca and I posit that it is again down to the natural composition.
The indigenous people of South America (as well as anyone who has fully experienced ayahuasca) will vouch for the presence of this spirit; said by many to be the feminine spirit of nature itself, hence the term ‘Mother Ayahuasca’. The general consensus is that the plant somehow ‘knows’ what experience to give you, for better or for worse. Imbibers can often be heard the next day reporting that they got ‘exactly what they needed’.
Perhaps this is because of the firm but almost maternal voice people report hearing while under the influence of this powerful plant. This is not really a woman’s voice, but arrives via the channel of your own thoughts, injected with an awe-inspiring wisdom and insight. This is accompanied by visions, sometimes symbolic, often jaw-droppingly beautiful; a display of colours, movement and pattern in a synchronised perfection impossible to accurately describe in words and equally impossible to perceive through the narrow filters of ‘normal’ consciousness.
This form of seeing is said to occur through the pineal gland, an entirely different perception incomparable to that of the eyes. It is not called an altered state for no reason; you are offered an opportunity to see far beyond the fields of perception you previously thought possible, and the insights you are given are likely to be both universal and personal, surprising and of huge benefit to your mental health.
Ayahuasca has been described as ‘ten years of therapy in a week’. For someone who has not experienced this, it might be difficult to imagine. Yet ayahuasca has a way of stripping away – sometimes even ripping away - illusion, leaving you with nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. You are apt to be physically incapacitated, with uncoordinated movement, and it is highly likely that you will ‘purge’. Purging is thought to be part of the main benefit; it is a physical detox at the same time as a psychological and emotional release.
The downside of that is that it doesn’t usually feel too pleasant at the time and it is even less likely to for your neighbour. Yet unless you are prepared to travel out into the Amazon alone and seek out a shaman, the chances are you will find yourself in an intimate circle of strangers somewhere in Europe (where it has not yet been banned). If you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound and one thing is certain: there is no room for inhibitions in the ayahuasca experience and you won’t be strangers by the end of the ceremony.
People have also been using ayahuasca to cure poor health and it is reputed to cure all manner of diseases and conditions. It is as famous for this as it is for its psyche-healing properties, with people returning time and again to retreats in an effort to eradicate even the most tenacious of diseases. There are many success stories.
Expect the unexpected:
Still sound doable? Well, I wouldn’t get too comfortable just yet. In the same way that life is, ayahuasca is unpredictable. You cannot control it, and if you go in trying, the medicine will show you the futility of it – something that is likely to be pretty uncomfortable. Preparing for ayahuasca has been compared to preparing for death, and for most of us that is probably hard to even comprehend. The more resistance you put up, the more painful the experience will be for you.
On the plus side, you’ll get to see what a control freak you can be, and you will be given no choice but to confront yourself. Ayahuasca shows you yourself in the clearest mirror imaginable, and it does so via such profound means that whether you have a heavenly experience or a hellish one, you will come away feeling humbled, respectful and absolutely amazed. Whether you choose to take anything from it and deal with the issues you have seen in yourself is entirely up to you. Ayahuasca is not an automatic cure-all; it is a signpost, not the way.
Negative experiences are not uncommon, although what is truly negative is down to personal interpretation. We may not like it but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t helping us. There are many accounts of encounters with dark energies, alien entities and just out-and-out terrifying visions, intense emotions and experiences. The intensity and authenticity of these should not be underestimated.
While one night of a ceremony you may be blessed with insight into the workings of the universe, healed of your childhood trauma and experience blissful connectedness with all of the universe, on another you might find yourself face to face, so to speak, with your nemesis; this may be either an internal or external energy manifested as something seemingly demonic and horrifying, or simply buried or forgotten memories of your own behaviours and experiences
It has been reported on many occasions that people have been convinced they were dying or going insane – not exactly a picnic in the park; however, whatever happens is generally considered in the to have been a learning experience in hindsight. After all, you cannot deal with something you refuse to acknowledge. The question is, do you honestly have the guts to face your fears?
Erowid Vault contains a comprehensive library of information on ayahuasca and all other known entheogens. If there is something you want to know about it, the chances are you will find it here. However, it should be reiterated that preparing for such an experience is useless. You may choose to follow a strict diet as done in places like the Amazon, and this may be sensible when you consider that you are likely to purge. Even so, not everybody deems this necessary.
The bungee jump into alternate realities that entheogens represent is always going to be a hell of a ride; one that should not be taken lightly. While you may not be able to prepare for the experience, you can educate yourself about the issues surrounding it, from the dangers of ayahuasca tourism to the possibilities of mental disturbance for those who already have a history of mental illness. Bernhard Guenther presents an intelligent, detailed and highly interesting analysis of ayahuasca and the psychedelic movement in his gripping blog.
Beauty and the beast:
Life consists of polarities. As is obvious, you can’t have light without dark and you can’t know cold without knowing hot. This is the nature of the reality, so the concept is exemplified everywhere you look. It shouldn’t be surprising that polarities, like emotions, are reflected and even magnified while in altered states. It is akin to being plunged back into childhood, where everything is experienced in a novel and intense way. Pablo Amaringa is a shaman, visionary and quite frankly brilliant artist whose book of stunning paintings gives a very accurate depiction of the many visual possibilities you could experience, along with personal accounts of his journeys.
Given that the most of the senses are heightened, you are likely to be audio-sensitive. The icaros are the songs of the shamans and are considered to be an integral part of ceremonies, something which is difficult to replicate for western shamans given that they don’t have the knowledge and traditions passed down from their elders. In place of authentic icaros, world music is often played to assist in the experience, with carefully selected songs to complement the experience.
The music is an integral part of the ceremony and is intrinsically linked to the effects of the medicine itself; it too has the power to influence mental state and mood, cementing the memories of the medicinal experience. This is a good example of an impressive eclectic mix of the music used to complement European ceremonies – like the ayahuasca journey, it is at times upbeat and celebratory; at others, dark and almost startling.
Ayahuasca, like the other plant medicines, is something that should be taken seriously. If you are genuinely interested in exploring yourself, and are fully prepared to deal with whatever unpleasantness is served up for you, then you will likely benefit from the experience. If you are seeking a thrill or two, you might just find that you get a lot more than you bargained for
tags: marijuana | Drugs
Thanks to: http://www.neonnettle.com