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Ayahuasca

Last post 10-25-2006, 5:18 PM by adastra. 11 replies.
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  •  10-19-2006, 2:42 PM 11691

    Ayahuasca

    One important aspect of my ILP involves occasional participation in ceremonies using the Amazonian soul-medicine Ayahuasca as a sacrament. For many reasons I feel it is an entheogen particularly well suited for incorporation into an integral path - for those, that is, who wish to utilize shamanic techniques in the service of their awakening. It is powerful medicine which demands respect, and is certainly not for everyone!

    If you have had experience with this amazing transpersonal plant teacher (or novel neurochemical change agent, or however you conceptualize it), I would love to hear your perspective. To start, here is a report I wrote following my first several Ayahuasca journeys, which took place in Peru in 2003:

    Ayahuasca Retreat In Peru

    Here in Vancouver it is easy to get the materials to make Ayahuasca, the potent plant based brew used by indigenous people in the amazon for millennia for healing and spirit journeys. However, wanting to go closer to the source for my introduction to this plant teacher, I recently traveled with two close friends to attend an Ayahuasca retreat in Peru. The retreat took place at the Corto Maltés Amazonia Lodge, on the banks of the Madre de Dios River. We were surrounded by the amazon rain forest, with its amazing diversity of plant and animal life. Being away from the stress and distractions of modern life was healing in itself and definitely enhanced the experience. There were no media available during the retreat, and not knowing what was happening in the outside world helped me to realize that everything important was happening right there – it was the inner work we were doing that really mattered. The Ayahuasca experience itself is hard to describe; it felt something like dreaming or dying.

    The Ayahuasca session is a crucible in which psychological and spiritual processes occur at a much greater level of intensity than is typical in everyday life, enabling one to learn rapidly and deeply about life, mind, relationships and spirit. Members of the group reported a wide variety of experiences. Some people had visions, for others the trip mostly involved their thought processes or emotions. One person felt she was dying, surrounded by white light, her body dissolving into nothingness. Another reported feeling enlightened in the present moment, for the first time – after years of serious Zen meditation. A few people battled inner demons in one way or another. One person felt that Ayahuasca was essentially an artificial alteration of his perceptions, though most people felt that Ayahuasca revealed deeper truths about life. Each person had a unique experience, in fact each session for each person was unique.

    We did three sessions altogether. Each time we would gather in the dining area of the retreat center, with a pillow, blanket, water, and whatever else we would need for the overnight session. We would walk together down a dark path into the forest, lit by small torches about every two to three meters. We gathered in a special building called a malocha used only for Ayahuasca sessions. Diego, the leader of the group, would say some prayers, and then one by one we would go to him to receive the medicine. When the Ayahuasca started to take effect, Diego would begin to chant and play his guitar. His beautiful chanting was very soothing and centering, and was a valuable and helpful part of the sessions.

    For me Ayahuasca brought up whatever I needed to experience in the present moment. I found it to be a very harsh teacher. Whenever I tried to resist what was being shown to me, the experience would become more intense and unpleasant – one of the central lessons for me is that it is better to let go, to surrender to the experience. Some concepts that I had understood in an abstract way I experienced at a much deeper level. One of these concepts is impermanence. I had grasped that concept on a superficial intellectual level, but didn’t really understand it. During my first and third Ayahuasca sessions, I entered into states of intense suffering that I was absolutely convinced would never end – even death would not release me. Yet those states did pass. At another point I found myself spontaneously breathing out love into the world. It was a subtle experience but very distinct. This is something I had practiced in the past, but which I hadn’t really felt before. What had been an intellectual exercise before became an experiential reality during the Ayahuasca session. Since then I’ve occasionally been able to practice this technique and genuinely feel it. Ayahuasca also helped me to see that a great deal of what I experience is a projection of my mind, which interferes with my ability to see the world – inner or outer – with clarity. I had read and thought about being centered and experiencing the moment as it is, without trying to grasp or resist. Under the influence of Ayahuasca, this quality of mind is vitally important, and I believe I am now more capable of manifesting that quality in daily life.

    In the second session one of my friends was having a very intense, difficult time, and at one point all of us gathered around her and were chanting for her. It felt wonderful to be part of a circle of caring, giving love and attention to a friend in need. During the first session I had a very difficult time, and others helped me; now I found myself on the other side of that equation and it felt wonderful to take that role for her. During the third experience, when I was suffering intensely regarding karma from past actions - basically feeling emotions I needed to feel but had always avoided - I feel I was "burning karma,” doing some of the suffering I needed to do. I feel clearer now, as if my karmic load has lightened a bit. (For those who prefer psychological jargon: I achieved a cathartic release of repressed emotion.)

    No matter how difficult the session was, when the effects started to wear off – when I was no longer tripping – I felt happy and centered. So glad to be alive, to breathe, to be in this space with people I love. This, for me, is a wonderful aspect of the Ayahuasca experience. First I go through the difficult part, then I feel wonderful – it’s the exact opposite of taking a drug, feeling good for a while, then experiencing some sort of hangover.

    It seems to me – I can't stress this enough - that the best way to do Ayahuasca is in this sort of ritual setting. The medicine can teach a lot about relationships, and how to give and receive love. Sharing the experience with my fellow travelers afterwards was as significant as the Ayahuasca session itself. The chanting and singing were important aspects of it and the opening and closing of the ceremony helped to put the experience in context. I believe that Ayahuasca, used properly, can be a catalyst to accelerate personal and spiritual growth. You still have to go through your process, but this medicine can speed things up. It shows you what you need to work on and puts you in a state where you can do some intense learning. Ayahuasca, in my experience, works very well in the context of an ongoing spiritual practice such as meditation. I would recommend the Ayahuasca experience to anyone who is seriously interested in spiritual or psychological work. More information about the particular retreat that I attended may be found at http://www.Ayahuasca-wasi.com.



    I am seeking meaningful work.

    bio: http://aqalicious.gaia.com/

    I spend most of my "forum time" these days on The Integral Pod: http://pods.gaia.com/ii/

    "You've never seen everything." - Bruce Cockburn
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  •  10-20-2006, 12:35 PM 11780 in reply to 11691

    Re: Ayahuasca

    The following report by Robert Augustus Masters is from his book Darkness Shining Wild; here he describes a nondual experience resulting from ingesting Ayahuasca, a medicine used in the Amazon rain forest for millennia.

    The ayahuasca I took - ayahuasca varies according to its preparation - was very thick, satiny, and brownish-black, heavily imbued with a pungently sweet, semi-sickening odor. It tasted much like it smelled, but I managed to down two hundred milliliters of it. Nothing significant happened for maybe half an hour...

    Before I could do much...the ayahuasca kicked in. It was extremely strong, and getting stronger by the second. I remember saying something about how powerful it was, and then I...was so overwhelmed that I lost almost all contact with the world I'd known a minute earlier. As that world and its sustaining views - including those rooted in longtime spiritual practices - very quickly became but a fleeting speck on the periphery of the impossibly rich revelatory domain into which I'd been blasted, I buckled with huge awe and equally huge terror.

    I thought of leaving the room, but could not move more than a few feet. So I remained sitting up, quivering with an indescribably strange feeling of recognition, periodically fearing that I'd made a fatal mistake in taking the ayahuasca. Who I had been before swallowing it was but the flimsiest and most unreal of memories. Nancy and I seemed to be not observers of – nor even participants in – what [was] happening. Rather, we were it – and had, it seemed, never really been other than it – the shockingly visceral and now devastatingly indisputable realization of which maddened what was left of my mind.

    My world had not so much been altered as decisively replaced, both externally and internally...All we could do was ride out the storm.

    For its first third (an eternity of about three hours) my ayahuasca journey was extremely harrowing, partly because of the considerable strain it placed on my body – I shook uncontrollably for almost two hours, violently vomiting a number of times – but mainly because of the often terrifying, unspeakably alien yet rivetingly familiar Wonder that was manifesting within and all around me.

    The dazzling presence and implications of this Wonder, this reality-unlocking Unspeakableness, and my relationship to it made me reel; I could not convincingly stand apart from it, not even for a second, and strongly intuited that I never really had. When I somehow managed for a moment here and there to recall my life before ayahuasca, none of it carried any real depth or significance. That this didn't terrify me would terrify me for a moment, then bend me with animal awe, then pass from consciousness.

    What was now my world – and seemingly always had been, while I'd been dreaming that I was elsewhere – pulsed with a power and knowingness that surpassed anything I'd ever before experienced. No outside, no inside. No time. Flames sprouted from the leaftips of my plants with shapely brilliance. The trees outside the sliding glass doors, blazingly vivid and so, so alive, were fused with the sky, as if all drawn with the same vast undulating brush strokes. The objects in the room were no different than the space between them.

    There I sat crazily swaying and trembling, transfixed in an imagination-transcending, overwhelmingly sentient Chaos in which everything, including the nonphysical, was inseparable from everything else. The sky, dripping with terrible beauty, poured into my room like a tsunami, my body seemed to be about to die again and again, my mind frothed insanely, and I felt through all of this an enormous, intensely emotional knowingness, a primordial intimacy and recognition – at once prehuman and posthuman – that shook me like a rag doll in the jaws of a rabid monster.

    Looking into Nancy's eyes was no different than looking into the room or out the windows. It was all, all, the same self-replicating, self-aware Unspeakbleness, beyond any conceivable framing. As its perspective and mine merged, I felt as if I'd never really been elsewhere. The Open Secret of it all only affirmed and deepened its Mystery. I was alternately terrified and awestruck. I wanted to escape it all, and I wanted to get down on my knees before it all.

    Telling myself I had taken a drug – which I only could remember every ten minutes or so – had about as much effect on me as trying to stop a train by placing a marshmallow in its path. One moment I was convinced I'd gone completely insane and would shortly find myself strapped down in the local hospital ward, and the next I would gasp wonderstruck at what was being revealed. Finally, the intensity of it all faded a bit, and I was on somewhat familiar ground, albeit still highly psychedelic territory, grateful to have survived. The last two thirds of the journey were quite joyful, which perhaps accounts to some degree for what followed.

    Not long after my ayahuasca experience was over – and it took days – I was ready for more. Sure, I had been very frightened in the earlier stages, but it had turned out very well, hadn't it? I felt profoundly enriched by the whole experience, and wasn't about to stop. My memory of times in the trip when my body became other than human or even mammalian – sometimes to the horrifying and seemingly very real point where I appeared to have no breathing apparatus, and was therefore about to die – were of little concern to me. Some of this was just hubris... -Darkness Shining Wild, pp. 14-16

    In his Q&A thread on this forum I asked Robert some follow-up questions.  The following quote is from Q&A Part Two (March 13, 2006).

    Arthur/adastra asks:

    3. Your Ayahuasca experience, as described in Darkness Shining Wild, clearly took place outside a traditional ceremonial setting, and seems to have involved a truly heroic (or perhaps foolhardy?) dose. I have several clarification questions about it. Was anyone taking care of you and Nancy, or was it just the two of you? What do you feel led to the extreme power of the journey, and it's particular quality of nondual awe/terror: was it the non-traditional nature of the setting? The dosage? The spiritual work you had done previously? What kind of experience did Nancy have – was it a similar nondual experience?

    4. What advice would you have for people, such as myself, who participate in Ayahuasca ceremonies as part of their spiritual path?

    Robert answers:

    Let me begin by saying a bit about the nondual:

    To nondual being, the inherent inseparability of all that exists is neither a concept nor an experience, but an obviousness beyond understanding, consistently recognized to not only always already exist, but also to be none other than the consciousness that “knows” it. That is, not only is awareness naturally aware of itself here, but it also is knowingly not apart from whatever may be arising, be such manifestation gross or subtle, ephemeral or long-lasting, peaceful or, yes, fearful.

    No dissociation from phenomena, no strategic withdrawal from life, nowhere to go, no one to be, while “showing up” as all form, forever and everywhere — such phrases, blooming with mind-transcending paradox, point to the unimaginable yet omnipresent reality of the nondual, and point with unavoidable inaccuracy, given that there is not a fitting language for the nondual (because of the inevitably dialectical nature of language, not to mention the need for an ear that can “hear” nondual statements). What perhaps speaks most eloquently and precisely here is silence — not just the absence of sound, but the primordial chant of Eternity, the presence of which, when felt and truly “heard,” may catalyze a recognition outdancing its every translation.

    The reality of non-separation is never not here, never not available, ever “inviting” us to awaken from the entrapping dreams we habitually animate. We may conceive of it as a place, a stage, an achievement, a reward — but it is simply what we forever already are, already transcending (and simultaneously including) every would-be “us” that would attempt to assume the position of self.

    The personality is no longer the locus of self, but it still persists — and why shouldn’t it? If one is Being-centered, at home “in” (and as) the nondual, then personality, like everything else, is but one more non-binding expression of Being, asking not for annihilation, but for acceptance. To the realizer of the nondual, everything, everything, is God — anger, joy, duality, personality, fear. There is only God, only the Self, only the Real. So what problem is there, really, if fear arises? From a nondual perspective, such arising is, to put it mildly, radically nonproblematic.

    In the nondual, fear is not what is transcended; what is transcended is what was done with fear in nondual states or stages.

    Now on to the questions:

    3. It was just the two of us. “What do I feel led to the extreme power of the journey, and its particular quality of nondual awe/terror?” The dosage; the lack of guidance; the timing; the psychospiritual work I’d done; and, especially, my unacknowledged readiness to break free of the guru-centric trap in which I’d gotten myself so deeply enmeshed. I’m not sure if Nancy’s experience was similar to mine, other than knowing right to her core that there was nothing, nothing she could hang on to.

    4. Do in-depth, psychospiritual, integrally-informed therapeutic work before (and also after) such ceremonies; the same with meditative practice. Make sure you have a deep, abiding trust in your guide(s). Be as intimate as possible with your deepest fears.

    I have found that since I started working with Robert, the nature and depth of my experiences with the medicine have qualitatively changed; I find working with both Robert and the medicine (separately - he's had no further direct involvement with this plant teacher) to be powerfully synergistic.  At this point, if I were going to do a ceremony, I would ideally want to do sessions and/or workshops with Robert before and/or afterward.

    arthur


    I am seeking meaningful work.

    bio: http://aqalicious.gaia.com/

    I spend most of my "forum time" these days on The Integral Pod: http://pods.gaia.com/ii/

    "You've never seen everything." - Bruce Cockburn
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  •  10-20-2006, 4:08 PM 11803 in reply to 11780

    Re: Ayahuasca

    adastra:


    Robert answers:
    Let me begin by saying a bit about the nondual:

    To nondual being, the inherent inseparability of all that exists is neither a concept nor an experience, but an obviousness beyond understanding, consistently recognized to not only always already exist, but also to be none other than the consciousness that “knows” it. That is, not only is awareness naturally aware of itself here, but it also is knowingly not apart from whatever may be arising, be such manifestation gross or subtle, ephemeral or long-lasting, peaceful or, yes, fearful.

    No dissociation from phenomena, no strategic withdrawal from life, nowhere to go, no one to be, while “showing up” as all form, forever and everywhere —

    Fantastic. That guy is a Jnani. And I don't have to know another thing about this man to love him and know him completely. Thanks, bro -


    M

    P.S. I just re-read that and realized that "completely" is not the right word. But I bet that Robert understands completely
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  •  10-20-2006, 5:59 PM 11819 in reply to 11691

    • rfegley is not online. Last active: 02-01-2008, 9:24 PM rfegley
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    Re: Ayahuasca

    Check out this interview on The Arlington Institute's site.

    "The Arlington Institute is pleased to announce the second lecture in its TAI PRESENTS series related to different aspects of big global change. Acclaimed author of 2012 – The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Daniel Pinchbeck, will join us on Wednesday October 4th at 3pm, for a public presentation."

    Daniel Pinchbeck's latest book is my staff pick in the next issue of Holons.
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  •  10-20-2006, 7:16 PM 11831 in reply to 11819

    • perera is not online. Last active: 11-03-2007, 6:59 PM perera
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    Re: Ayahuasca

    Ha ha, Rich, imagine that! Your one and only post so far in the multiplex is in this thread!! Wink [;)]

     


    Nomali


    ~Save the Earth- it's the only planet with Chocolate.

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  •  10-20-2006, 9:06 PM 11847 in reply to 11831

    • rfegley is not online. Last active: 02-01-2008, 9:24 PM rfegley
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    Re: Ayahuasca

    hehe Big Smile [:D]

    So, Nomali, why do you say that?  You should listen to what The Arlington Institute is talking to Daniel Pinchbeck about.
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  •  10-21-2006, 1:35 PM 11917 in reply to 11803

    Re: Ayahuasca

    Mascha:
    Fantastic. That guy is a Jnani. And I don't have to know another thing about this man to love him and know him completely. Thanks, bro - M

    You're very welcome, Mascha - yes, Robert's amazing.  I highly recommend doing work with him if you get a chance.  (If you listen to the IN dialog you'll get a pretty good idea of what his therapeutic approach is like.)  A number of people I know have tested the waters by doing a phone session with him, with good results. 

    He only had the one experience with Ayahuasca (a little goes a long way), but it's interesting to me that in almost every workshop I've attended so far there will be at least one other person who has worked with that plant teacher and/or plans to do so.

    arthur


    I am seeking meaningful work.

    bio: http://aqalicious.gaia.com/

    I spend most of my "forum time" these days on The Integral Pod: http://pods.gaia.com/ii/

    "You've never seen everything." - Bruce Cockburn
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  •  10-21-2006, 1:50 PM 11918 in reply to 11819

    Re: Ayahuasca

    rfegley:
    Check out this interview on The Arlington Institute's site.

    "The Arlington Institute is pleased to announce the second lecture in its TAI PRESENTS series related to different aspects of big global change. Acclaimed author of 2012 – The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Daniel Pinchbeck, will join us on Wednesday October 4th at 3pm, for a public presentation."

    Daniel Pinchbeck's latest book is my staff pick in the next issue of Holons.

    Thanks for the Pinchbeck angle.  I know he's worked with Ayahuasca - does he discuss it much in the book you cited?  His book Breaking Open the Head was an enjoyable romp, and I briefly met him and attended his lecture at the first Altered States conference in 2003.

    I couldn't find anything about the book in the HOLONS link you provided but I found this on the Daniel Pinchbeck wikipedia entry:

    This realization led to his second book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, which examines indigenous prophecy through personal and philosophical approaches, and offers the hypothesis that humanity is experiencing an accelerated process of global consciousness transformation, leading to a new realization of time and space and, possibly, a harmonic planetary civilization within the next six years. In "2012," he also describes his direct reception of prophetic material: the voice of the Mesoamerican god form or archetype, Quetzalcoatl, began speaking to him during a 2004 trip to the Amazon in Brazil. At the time, he was participating in a ceremony of the Santo Daime, a Brazilian religion that uses the psychedelic brew ayahuasca as its sacrament.

    It sounds like he's going off the deep end in some ways - I got the same impression about Terence McKenna - and could use a more integral approach (couldn't we all?  I know I could!)  Although I don't buy into the whole 2012 eschaton theory, I reckon we'll find out in just six short years.  Smile [:)]

    Anyway, I'd be very interested in what you'd have to say about Pinchbeck and Ayahuasca if you'd like to elaborate.

    spiral out,

    arthur


    I am seeking meaningful work.

    bio: http://aqalicious.gaia.com/

    I spend most of my "forum time" these days on The Integral Pod: http://pods.gaia.com/ii/

    "You've never seen everything." - Bruce Cockburn
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  •  10-25-2006, 7:20 AM 12478 in reply to 11918

    Re: Ayahuasca

    The following is cross-posted from the How Long Can a State Last? thread.  It discusses the possibility that Ayahuasca can somehow enhance performance, and compares it to similar non-drug experiences.

    Musical Performance

    As I indicated in the beginning, music seems to be quite important in the ayahuasca experience. Where the experience is structured by formal ritual, music is a part of the ritual. The assembled celebrants will sing hymns together and will listen to music sung by leaders and others. Music shapes the visions.

    Judging from Shanon’s accounts, much of this music is prepared beforehand (though not necessarily rehearsed, Shanon does not say) - certainly that is the case with the hymns sung in standard rituals. But some of this music is improvised, and that is what concerns me now. In fact, what really concerns me is the similarity between the dynamics of ayahuasca experience, as Shanon has described it, and the dynamics of skilled improvisation - as I understand it from my own fairly extensive experience and as those dynamics are presented in the literature (Bailey 1992, Berliner 1994, Nettl and Russell 1998, cf. Benzon 2001, pp. 69-71, 93-95).

    As you read the following statement by Shanon (pp. 351-352), recall Freeman’s speculation that consciousness occurs as a serious of discontinuous whole-hemisphere brain states: 

    . . . under the intoxication, drinkers may move back and forth smoothly between radically different states of mind. Such movement need not be either erratic or chaotic, and for the experienced drinker it may even have the feel of playfulness. As I have suggested earlier, I would liken it to surfing the waves of the sea, or a bird’s flight, or perhaps a musician’s masterful playing (sic) of his or her instrument. 

    The surfing image conveys a sense that one is carried, that one only gives a nudge in this or that direction, allowing the board and the waves do the rest. That is certainly how improvisation feels when it is going well - and by that I mean routinely well, what an experienced player can achieve at will. You head off in this or that musical “direction” and expect hands, breath, and fingers to take care of all the details automatically; you do not have time to think things through at the level of specific notes and phrases. Further, you intend to hear certain sounds rather than intending to execute certain motor actions. Motor execution is automatic. It is only when something goes wrong that you may start thinking about what your lips, hands, lungs, and feet should be doing.

    Given musical knowledge, on the one hand, and a willingness to allow the music to happen, on the other hand, one can improvise. That willingness, that attitude, is as important as the musical knowledge. With that in mind, consider the following story Shanon tells about a private ayahuasca session: 

    In an amateur fashion, I have been playing the piano since childhood. I have played only classical music, always from the score, never improvising . . . Once during a private Ayahuasca session, I saw the piano in front of me. A score of a Bach prelude was there. I played the piece repeatedly and felt I was entering into a trance. Then, I left the score aside and began to improvise. I played for more than an hour, and the manner of my playing was different from anything I have ever experienced. It was executed in one unfaltering flow, constituting an ongoing narration that was composed as it was being executed. It appeared that my fingers just knew where to go. Throughout this act, my technical performance astounded me. At times, I felt that a force was upon me and that I was performing at its command. (pp. 220-221) 

    Someone who had been present during this performance remarked that “It seemed that the Muses descended upon you.” Shanon has subsequently continued to improvise without partaking of ayahuasca, though he remarks that “the quality of this playing is not like that under the intoxication.”

    Now, compare Shanon’s experience with the following one, reported to me by an acquaintance: 

    I had a gig playing piano on New Year's Eve at the cocktail lounge of the most prestigious resort hotel in town. I took in my drum/bass machine, but had to play the house piano [which had an unusually sluggish action]. For the first half hour of the gig, I struggled with the molasses-like keys and was about to quit in frustration, when a man at the bar made a request for a tune I particularly like to play, Monk's “Round Midnight.” Suddenly I found that the same stiff keys that were giving me fits seemed to melt under my touch and I played with great feeling. The man left, but I continued on my roll; within a half hour, people who had stepped out of the main ballroom where a big band was playing began to gather around to listen and dance. This fueled me further and I was able to reach even greater heights of performance. . . . I was giddy with confidence and inspiration. 2 

    This same person reported a similar incident at a band rehearsal. He was playing the “ride” or “jazz” chair in the trumpet section - that is, he was the player designated to take the improvised solos - as the band was rehearsing a new arrangement for the first time. When it came time for him to play a solo he noticed that he had lost the page on which the chord changes had been written out; he thus had no choice but to play entirely “by ear.” It was some of the best improvisation he had ever done.

    What these incidents have in common is that they involve experienced musicians playing in an unaccustomed way. It is clear that, in some sense, both of these men already had a certain capability in their heads and fingers, but did not ordinarily access it. My acquaintance was accustomed to improvisation, but his level of performance on these occasions was elevated above his norm. Shanon’s case is more extreme in that he had never before improvised; that is, he had never before assumed the attitude of an improviser.

    It is not at all clear what made the difference for my acquaintance. Something just happened. Nor, for that matter, is it clear what happened to Shanon. Yes, he had taken ayahuasca; but we do not know enough about the brain and the drug for that information to count as an explanation of what happened. How did ayahuasca unlock the knowledge held latent in Shanon’s brain and fingers? How did it give him the attitude of an improviser?


    That's from Ayahuasca Variations, an essay by William L. Benzon.  It suggests that a latent or developed talent may be already present, and is unlocked by the drug+context or non-drug context as the case may be.  He's quoting Benny Shannon, author of the amazing in-depth study of Ayahuasca from a cognitive psychology perspective, Antipodes of the Mind.

    arthur
    I am seeking meaningful work.

    bio: http://aqalicious.gaia.com/

    I spend most of my "forum time" these days on The Integral Pod: http://pods.gaia.com/ii/

    "You've never seen everything." - Bruce Cockburn
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  •  10-25-2006, 7:23 AM 12479 in reply to 12478

    Re: Ayahuasca

    Here is John Horgan's review of Antipodes of the Mind by Benny Shannon.  This is by far the most impressive book I've read on this subject, and I highly recommend it.

    arthur


    The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience
    by Benny Shanon
    Publisher:
    Oxford University Press 
    Year:
    2002 
    ISBN:
    0199252920 
    Categories:
    Book Reviews
    Reviewed by John Horgan, 11/2/2005

    Benny Shanon’s The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience is one of the most compelling books on altered states I’ve read, up there with James’s Varieties of Religious Experience, Huxley’s Doors of Perception (to which Shanon’s title alludes) and PIHKAL and TIHKAL by Ann and Alexander Shulgin. Unlike, say, the psychedelic performance artist Terence McKenna (whose writings I enjoy), Shanon’s authorial persona is earnest, serious, straightforward, absolutely trustworthy. He is a true scientist, dedicated to precise reporting and careful analysis rather than to entertainment.

    Not that his book is dull. Far from it. Antipodes is suffused with a sense of genuine adventure, of a kind that has virtually vanished from modern science. Plunging into the depths of his own ayahuasca-intoxicated mind, Shanon resembles one of the great Victorian explorers trekking into uncharted wilds, maintaining his equilibrium and wits even in the face of the most fantastical sights. Like Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle, Shanon is concerned primarily with collecting and categorizing data rather than theorizing. At the end of his book, however, he ponders his and others’ experiences and draws some tentative conclusions. Ayahuasca, he asserts, can be both truth-revealing and “the worst of liars.” Shanon remains skeptical of the occult claims often made for the drug that it puts us in touch with spirits, makes us clairvoyant, lets us leave our bodies and travel astrally. He suggests that ayahuasca visions are products of the imagination rather than glimpses of a supernatural realm existing in parallel to our own. This proposal will sound reductionistic to some, but it is actually quite provocative, and raises many questions requiring further consideration. Why does the imagination, when stimulated by ayahuasca, yield visions so much stranger and more powerful than those we encounter in, say, ordinary dreams? Why do ayahuasca-drinkers from widely disparate cultures so often hallucinate similar phenomena, such as jaguars and snakes, or palaces and royalty? Why are the visions of even an atheist like Shanon so often laden with religious significance?

    Antipodes will no doubt be eagerly seized upon by the psychedelic intelligentsia. But it deserves to be read by anyone interested in religion, mysticism, and consciousness–and who is not? It should be required reading for psychologists, psychiatrists, and neuroscientists, because it shows how absurdly simplistic are the biochemical, Darwinian, and genetic models now dominating mind-science. Inner space, Shanon reminds us, truly is the last great frontier of science, and its reaches are vast and wild and strange.

    Originally Published In : MAPS Bulletin

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  •  10-25-2006, 5:12 PM 12580 in reply to 12479

    Re: Ayahuasca


    I am seeking meaningful work.

    bio: http://aqalicious.gaia.com/

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    "You've never seen everything." - Bruce Cockburn
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  •  10-25-2006, 5:18 PM 12581 in reply to 12580

    Re: Ayahuasca


    I am seeking meaningful work.

    bio: http://aqalicious.gaia.com/

    I spend most of my "forum time" these days on The Integral Pod: http://pods.gaia.com/ii/

    "You've never seen everything." - Bruce Cockburn
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