So, yes, I have returned from Cornwall. I’m not quite the same person that I was before, that is, I am the same, but I know something now, and this knowledge, unpalatable as it is, dreadful as it was, in fact, was the medicine that I was seeking. I understand, from the very depths of my soul, what the medicine was drawing my attention to, and more to the point, WHY it was doing this… and how utterly beyond description to convey any idea of what that “it” was.
THERE IS A RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT called Santo Daime (pronounced “dimey”) based in Brazil, and which has off-shoots all over the world, but it’s not a huge institution, except in Brazil and Peru and countries around there. Spanish is the language of this church, obviously, in South America, and the structure of the ritual is Roman Catholic, which, of course, is the dominant religious institution in Latin America. But unlike other Christian churches, they don’t just pray and listen to a sermon and hope that that they feel a bit better at the end of it. The way the ritual is performed in the Santo Daime church would have the Pope in apoplexy. Or any practicing Roman Catholic, for that matter. What the Santo Daime church is all about is the drinking of a brew, a concoction made of two plants found somewhere in the Amazon jungle, amongst other places.
This drink is called ayahuasca, which translates roughly as “Plant of the Spirit” It is also called the Great Healer, or the Teacher, or otherwise referred to as the Medicine. This is the sacred brew that is drunk, with great ceremony, perhaps four or five times in the course of the ritual, which, in my case, lasted just over four and half hours. To me, it felt more like twelve hours, but it doesn’t matter, it lasts as long as it needs to. There were nine of us in total, plus a very small child. We began the ritual at 2 pm on Saturday 20th March in a most remote corner of Cornwall, with the sea in the distance and fields all about, and some farmhouses down the country road that wove through this part of a really isolated corner of England.
Who can say how choices are made, or how circumstances align themselves in our plans? I was hoping for reasonable weather, and what I got was this great wind blowing, and a dark overcast sky, and very cold. It was pretty bleak, as you can imagine, and that bleakness got to be a part of the whole thing, and that is just the way it was. It was not a question of, “if only the weather was nice” or “if only the sun was shining” and so on. What is, is. The nature of the experience does not depend on factors of that kind, and yet, and yet it does, but in ways that are very hard to express. The weather was going to darken the mood, but it was ultimately our decision to carry on with the ritual. (The date was fixed several weeks before.)
The name that is given to the ceremony is “The Works”, which is very appropriate, I feel. It implies the sense of a magical invocation, a unique occasion where extraordinary events were expected. We did The Works in an outhouse, a large converted stone barn, reasonably comfortable, with white walls, oatmeal carpet wall to wall, and exposed roof trusses. We had a couple of gas heaters, and the general ambience was quite relaxing. There were little books of the verses distributed so that we could all sing along. There was also, somewhat incongruously, a large Marshall amplifier, the kind that the Beatles used, if I recall. As it happened, it wasn’t used. There were cushions and pillows on the floor for those who needed to lie down, or sit. And there were plastic buckets at intervals along the walls, about which more later.
Adrian, was the leader. I can’t really describe him as a priest, he was too young, too much one of us. He didn’t wear robes or anything like that. He played acoustic guitar and led us in the singing of the icaros, which are the songs of praise which are sung by all in a circle around a low table, like a coffee table. Obviously I had to trust him in all this, which I did in any case. Even after he told me that he had done the ceremony about 400 times previously! I could hardly believe it. (He was only 42 years old) There was a makeshift altar against the wall, with flowers, and religious paraphenalia about. Or to be quite accurate, objects without apparent function. On the wall behind the altar were two framed photographs of the two men who were instrumental in setting up the Church of Santo Daime in the rainforest eighty odd years ago. It all began when one of these men had a vision of an entity, the Queen of the Forest, an embodiment of the Divine Feminine, who instructed him to establish a new spiritual path called the Santo Daime (Santo = Holy, Daime = give me). He was given to understand that she was instructing him to to create a religion that would centre around the direct experience of the divine forces contained both in the forest and in the astral plane.
Access to these realms would be facilitated by the drinking of the sacramental tea, that was to be called the Daime. One of the central teachings is that the purpose of religious practice is the direct experience of each participant with the Divine, with the emphasis on “direct”. I should mention too that it is expressly forbidden to in any way entice someone to participate in the ritual. I can tell you about my experience, but I may not persuade you to sign up. When you are ready for this, when you want this, then that is the time to do it. There are no door to door salesmen here, no evangelising. (Actually, I have always felt that the evangelical, sales-type approach is abhorrent, whether we are talking religion, politics, or soap powder. There are purer methods: by example, and by direct experience.) I should also stress that this path should never be considered an easy short cut. You may well have what is commonly called a ‘bad trip’ and you will KNOW that it is not for you, or not yet. (The “Magic Theatre” is not for everyone, to quote Hermann Hesse in Steppenwolf)
The rituals of the Daime provide a chance to interact intimately with a Divine Being of unimaginable intelligence, compassion, clarity, and spiritual power. They require us to bring our whole selves to the work. All of your psyche is here. No part of yourself is disengaged, or separated. It would not be possible, you cannot withstand the argument that the plant is presenting. You are undertaking this because you have a need for it, a thrusting desire for something beyond the mundane aspects of normal life. It is not a digression, nor a recreation to go through the ritual, and should not, indeed cannot, ever be approached in that way. The ritual provides an opportunity for seeing truth, gaining knowledge, and to transform oneself, one’s health, and one’s life. What we get out of this depends on our level of readiness and our willingness to surrender our inbuilt ideas of separation and enter into a new relationship with ourselves and the Divine.
So this Church is relatively new, but the sacred drink has been used for far, far longer. Basically, in the 18th century or else long before the Santo Daime existed, the drink had been known, and used by indigenous tribes for their own spiritual and shamanic purposes. Likewise today, there’s nothing to stop you from drinking the brew in your own living room at home. But that would be to take a risk. To channel the energies released, and to afford psychic protection, it should always be drunk as part of a sacred ritual, unless you are supremely confident and have previous knowledge. It’s obvious, really.
So there was Adrian and there was Noriko, his very striking pretty Japanese wife, and their child, Taiyo. (I had been invited by Adrian and Noriko to eat with them the previous night, when I came down by train to Penzance, after which Adrian drove me across the tip of Cornwall in pitch dark and a hard wind blowing, to the bed and breakfast place where I would be spending the night, as well as the night after the Saturday ritual. The barn and the bed and breakfast place were part of the farm owned by Liz, who I met at breakfast time earlier that morning. As a matter of detail, she had blue hair…) There was Willow, a young grandmother, a kind of small, somewhat old version of Cher, the singer, she had lovely eyes and smiles, black curly hair all over the place; there was Cecile, the very attractive French woman, who quite honestly would take pages to describe, and who played a very important role in this for me, as it turned out. But when I first laid eyes on her, half an hour before we began, I was struck by her French flair, her stylish clothes and expensive grooming, and I actually thought for a moment that she was quite out of place in this outback of Cornwall, she didn’t fit. But how wrong I was, as it turned out.
There was Martin, who was a practitioner in sacro-cranial therapy, if you know what that is, but he actually looked more like a professional tennis player, tall, athletic and healthy-looking. There was Dave, a shy young hippy with long dreadlocks down his back and a straggly beard; there was another Martin, an Australian. who didn’t say much, and there was a young guy called Mahon who featured quite a bit as well. More of him later. So there we were, in a small circle. We had been instructed to wear light colours, and take our shoes off, so I felt reasonably relaxed, at least on the surface. A part of me was pretty edgy, I knew that my expectations might well be completely off the mark, I knew I might be ill, I dreaded being sick, but generally everyone was very supportive. I felt that I was definitely amongst people I could trust. What I didn’t anticipate was just how well I was going to know them by the end of the day. This was a first time for the Australian Martin and myself.
From about a week before I attended the Works, I went on a strict low-protein diet which cut out just about everything that was any fun at all: NO meat, fish, eggs, bread, fruit, pasta, tea, coffee, salt, spices, oils, soya, sugars, chocolate, cheese, milk, dairy… and absolutely no alcohol… it went on and on… All I allowed myself to eat was brown rice, lentils, beans, oatmeal, baked potato, and broccoli. I cheated slightly with matzos (unleavened bread) and sunflower spread. If I was a hardier type I would have had just water, boiled or cold, to drink, but lemon & ginger infusions were fine. After a couple of days I actually got used to it! I really got into the idea of less food, although I wasn’t so keen on the lack of taste… the idea is to de-sensitize yourself by avoiding taste sensations (“eating without taste”) and it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Well, it is, really, but you can get used to it. I had a good idea of why I had to do this at the time, and during the ritual it became obvious, but I won’t go into that now. Obviously it was to cleanse the system out a bit, get rid of chemicals and toxins. But I will say I am now much more sensitive to what is good for you, or not. There’s huge truth in the old adage of being what you eat. Anyway at the end of six or seven days of a restricted diet like that I actually felt better, in some indefinable way. With less food in you, you sort of lighten up. And I now understand how this resonates with what was to follow.
I’m giving you a detailed background picture, so you can get some good idea of where I was and where I was at. I should mention that this was obviously a small group, Some of the big church congregations in South America would have hundreds of people singing and dancing, and the atmosphere would be very powerful, and quite other-worldly. But I wasn’t complaining, I was grateful to be here with these people who I had only just met. They were lovely people. Truly. I came to see that the people that are drawn to this kind of experience never do it for anything other than the purest motives. No thrill seekers need apply, and neither do they.
Outside this barn was a spacious area, a farmyard in fact, with a few other small buildings about, and a couple of hundred yards away the main farmhouse, which was also the guesthouse, where we stayed. There were some bad-tempered chickens scratching away nearby, and a goat in a field over the wall, and some geese. It was quite bleak, but it could have been pleasant if it hadn’t been for that wind, nagging away, and blowing quite hard constantly.
Tuesday evening. It is now just 96 hours since the end of the ritual. For the last 24 hours I have been heavily into the post-production phase. Post-revelatory phase. Processing the information that continues to flow from somewhere out there into my brain is quite hard work, but I am compelled, and I’m happy to be typing this out in the form of an email, so no problem with that. Still quite strung out as well! Not sleeping much, nor eating much.
I don’t have the source for this, but I found it on the internet, and I understand it now on all levels:
Perhaps, deep down, there comes a point where a clear cut distinction between perception and comprehension is impossible to make, or is even meaningless… It is not an accident that in many languages, including English, the phrase, ‘I see’ usually means ‘I understand’. The relation between perception and knowledge is a fundamental issue in cognitive thought.
The ritual itself then is basically Christian in framework, and I have to say that at some point I found that to be a problem. My Jewish background cannot be shrugged off so easily, which should not have surprised me, or anyone for that matter. In the emails that I had previously exchanged with Adrian, whom I only met for the first time when he collected me from the station the previous evening, we had mentioned religious matters, but he never asked me about my faith. Which was fine, as I didn’t want to be drawn too deeply into such a conversation at the time. The ritual wasn’t overtly Christian, there were no images of Christ, or the Madonna, nor much reference to Christ, as I recall. The one thing he did ask me about, was whether I had any objection to marijuana being smoked as part of the ritual, and of course I said that that was not an issue for me.
There was a wooden cross about 20 inches high on the low table, but instead of a single horizontal bar, it had two. The second, lower crossbeam represents the first part of the mission of Jesus, which was to plant the seed of compassion in humanity and to call us to direct, conscious connection with the Divine – that is the part that is shared with the cross as used by Christianity, the one you see all over the world. The other crossbeam represents the second coming of Christ, which is the birth of that seed – the Christ – in the hearts of humanity, and it is in that context that the religion of the Holy Daime is best understood. It has been ‘made available’ so to speak as to play a part in this “Second Coming” The other symbol used by the Daime is, believe it or not, the six-pointed star, what the Jews call the Star of David. The six-pointed star has been used even before its Jewish association as a symbol of the joining of Heaven and Earth, male and female divinity. On another level, the uniting of these symbols within a single religion, and the subsequent act of singing and dancing around them, symbolically reunites Christians and Jews. We were originally one people, and the separation of this group into two religions, and the subsequent horrors of the past two thousand years, are entirely the distorted creation of misguided siblings. (These last few lines are taken from one of my books on the Santo Daime, and I find it personally very satisfactory!)
As I said, we were arranged in a circle, all standing, with Adrian at the head, playing his guitar, and muttering prayers in Spanish and English. At some point soon after, Adrian very solemnly picked up the glass jug containing the dark ayahuasca brew, and a glass, and linen napkin, and walked round the circle, stopping in front of each of us. I could pick up from the others a heightened tension at this point. He poured a glass, I took it, drank it down in one swallow, handed it back, and he went on the next… It did not taste as bad as I expected, but it is famously vile, but I’ve had worse cough mixture in my life. Personally I had read so much of how horrible the stuff tasted that I had to say I was pleasantly surprised at my very first glass. It went down very smoothly, this black, bitter viscous brew that had begun its journey in the Peruvian Amazon. The amazing and funny thing at this point was little Taiyo excitedly indicating that he mustn’t be left out of this! Adrian gave him about a quarter of a glass, which the little boy gulped down in no time at all. This tiny toddler clearly liked the stuff, for all its vile taste. (In the course of the afternoon, Taiyo asked for, and received another two or three small doses… bear in mind he was about 19 months old!) After Adrian was done, he returned to his place by the altar, picked up his guitar again, and made us start moving. The idea here was to get the energy flow going, and at some indefinable point I began to feel something happening…
As we sang, and as part of the ritual during the singing we would do a little two steps to the right… and turn… and a little two steps to the left, and again and again… So although we were moving quite a bit, the circle stayed in the same place. The songs, the icaros, are very basic, and they all seemed to share the same melody, which made them easy enough, but to my spoilt Western ears, they sounded somewhat boring and repetitive, but then after a while I realised that that was part of it, the songs were more like a mantra, they were designed to free you from too much thinking… As the Spanish meant nothing to me, and as I saw little point in trying to find the words on the pages, I dispensed with that altogether, and hummed as I danced.
Was it mystical? Yes, of course, whatever that might mean, but not overtly so. What I mean is that I saw no symbols of any specific religion, no visions of cosmic splendour. I might have done, most assuredly, but as I know too well, the plant was getting the treatment right, and nobody could know for certain in advance just what it had up its sleeve. The plant doesn’t give you what you expect, or what you want, it gives you what you need. Hallucinations are themselves a further and deeper aspect of reality, and if you are confronted by them you might want to work through them to see the core meaning of what lies behind. Or you might just gaze at them. What I experienced was the equivalent of several months of Western-style psychoanalysis squashed into a few hours. But I say that only now, days afterwards, after my mind has absorbed some of what it was all about. At the time, the word psychoanalysis never came into it. No words came into it. But something came out of it.
At the time, the subjective event was a very different story. So was the objective event, which turned out to be part of the subjective event. It was very intense, very severe. Believe me, it didn’t feel like a few hours, it felt more like days… with great intensity in every moment. I was not only on the edge of language, I was on the edge of time itself… It was as if I was approaching the point at which time ceased to have any practical meaning… but it all makes sense: time has to slow down a lot, in order to give space for the plant to allow a better healing… time itself has to slow down and stop, in order for a greater truth beyond time to manifest… the intelligence of this plant creature took my breath away… The profundity of such an experience is on the very edge of language, and I can only write around that restriction. It most definitely was intensely psychoanalytic: ayahuasca is both psychiatrist and psychologist, a completely alien plant intelligence that I had to trust as there was no option. There was no question of the utter “reality” of it. There could be no “explaining away” so tempting to our scientists, our academics, our “experts” and others blinded by the cleverness of their own brains! Forget such labels as may come to mind, this was beyond anything in any ordinary day to day experience. What ayahuasca does, according to the books, websites, and all the sources I was reading up on before my own experience, is to re-program your DNA. That’s the way it’s phrased, you can make what you like of it.
Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic Amazonian plant concoction that has been used, often as a sacrament in religious ceremony, by native Indian and Amerindian shamans in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador for healing and divination for hundreds, perhaps, thousands of years. The name is from the Quechua language, meaning something like “Vine of the Spirits”. Many Western trained medical practitioners and psychologists have acknowledged that this brew, and others similar, can give access to spiritual dimensions of consciousness, even mystical experiences, indistinguishable from classic religious mysticism. The brew comprises a mixture of two plants, one containing the powerful psychoactive molecule dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and the other is the monoamine oxidase inhibitor that stops the stomach enzymes from metabolizing the first. It is an amazing combination: one without the other, and nothing happens, but the two together will allow you access to a dimensional shift in consciousness that bears no comparison to any normal waking state.
Here is more technical detail:
Ayahuasca has been described as “without a doubt, one of the most sophisticated and complex drug delivery systems in existence”. The word “ayahuasca” refers both to the plant species Banisteriopsis caapi, and to the brew, which is a mixture of the ayahuasca vine and other plants, most usually chacruna, of the genus Psychotria. Banisteriopsis caapi is not by itself particularly psychoactive, although it contains the alkaloids harmine, tetrahydroharmine, and harmaline, which are beta-carboline derivatives. Chacruna contains a major alkaloid, N,N-dimethyltryptamine, better known as DMT. DMT is broken down by an enzyme – monoamine oxidase (MAO) – in the stomach, so it (DMT) becomes orally inactive (which is why the smokable version of synthetic DMT is preferred by some users in the West). The beta-carbolines in the ayahuasca vine act as MAO inhibitors, so that the DMT in the chacruna can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Many of the compounds found in ayahuasca are chemically similar to neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, that are made naturally in the body, and that affect the central nervous system. Surely the ancient shamans of Amazonia had no knowledge of ayahuasca’s complex pharmacology, but still they somehow came to an understanding that boiling the bark of the B. caapi vine with chacruna leaves produced a visionary potion of unparalled potency. How did the shamans know, given the almost countless possible combinations of plants available to them, which ones to use? Contemporary shamans have told investigators that the plants themselves imparted this information.
Here we can theorise that the biosphere, at the DNA level, is the source of the images and visions, or to put it another way, the shamans are extracting information from the environment directly, bypassing the cerebral filter that we assume (in the West) to be an ever-present and necessary constant. (This is a huge topic, with extraordinary implications, so I’ll leave it at this.)
Ayahuasca is widely recognised by anthropologists as being probably the most powerful and widespread shamanic hallucinogen used by indigenous tribal societies in the Amazon region. The plants are regarded as embodiments of conscious intelligent beings that only become visible in special states of consciousness, and who can function as spiritual teachers and sources of healing power and knowledge. The plants are referred to as “medicine”, something like a healing power or energy that is associated with plants like this. They are also referred to as “plant teachers” and there are still traditions of initiation and training lasting many years amongst the practitioners.
The relationship between ayahuasca and human DNA is quite unbelievably deep and complex. There are many books on that subject, and countless personal accounts that are staggering in their implications. In a sense, ayahuasca is like the Mother of DNA. Beyond words, again… it makes no sense unless one has drunk the stuff. And then it becomes very clear. (And if it doesn’t, then that level of knowledge is beyond you anyway, and the Teacher will not chastise you for your limits.) All living things are linked via their DNA, which is why most religions stress that we are all brothers. (All created by the same God would be another way of presenting this.) If ayahuasca feels that there would be some benefit in allowing you to see exactly how the DNA field connects all living things, then you would see it. If the plant feels that this might be more information than you could bear, it won’t let you see it. This sounds quite extraordinary, I know, but it is what I understand, although it might be interpreted differently by someone else.
As the plant is associated extremely closely with the symbol of the serpent, you may see giant serpents, singly or entwined, who will tell you (in some way, usually telepathically) that they are the connecting threads of the world joining everything and that they are DNA. [Watson and Crick, the scientists who “discovered” DNA in the fifties identified the double helix correctly, but what they didn’t see, of course, was the serpent itself, which is nothing other than DNA from a wholly different viewpoint]. It would seem that Watson and Crick merely rediscovered something that has been known for centuries, a prime example of ancient knowledge being quite disregarded by our arrogant modern assumptions. I myself didn’t encounter any serpents, but there are countless reports of such meetings with serpents or snakes, and who might equally impart some quite different information, but always pertinent to the personal quest of the seeker.
This different information would be, in effect, adjusted, re-tuned; it is information that is presented which takes into account the finest nuances of the precise psychology of the participant in the ritual. The time spent in this close proximity to the Mother of DNA will have the effect of adjusting something in your perceptions of the world, and of your place in the world. You know this because the plant spirit is inside your psyche, it has blended with you on some invisibly deep level, and is now part of you, but actually has always been a part, but you’ve taken no notice of this extraordinary fact because you’ve been trained to see the world differently, and with good reason: day to day survival depends on other parts of your being, namely your sensory system, being able to help you to survive each normal ordinary day. In other words, if too much information is being presented, you would be sidetracked enough to forget about your physical body and risk accident or death. To put it another way, our left-brain rational culture has blocked our intuitive feminine access to knowledge that was once perceived as flowing quite naturally into and through our psyche
This re-programming of your DNA is in addition to countless other important tasks that might be worked on, all totally dependent on the state of the drinker, which is to say, how sick he is, [i.e. how divorced from nature, and the natural flow of spirit] and how much and in what way he needs healing. Ayahuasca rearranges something at a very deep level in the psyche, and one of the effects of this is that it analyses and breaks down destructive patterns of behaviour. These would be learned patterns, which can include anything at all, from addictions to alcohol or drugs or perhaps simply food preferences. In my own case, for example, I now find I have a definite distaste for alcohol. In fact, it’s quite possible, as I write this, [Tuesday] that I may never drink alcohol again. I find that unbelievable! I have always enjoyed a glass or two of wine in the evening, and now I find it quite unnecessary. I have not had any alcohol now since 13th March, and that’s fine by me. [No longer so true! Nov, 2008] I think that I may not ever eat meat again, which shouldn’t surprise me too much, as I have always been a closet vegetarian… [Very true: I am no longer in any closet, I’m unashamedly vegetarian.]
So then, learned patterns of behaviour, the destructive ones, these are what one has to work on. The experience has forced me to focus. I have become super-aware of two of my worst personal traits. I’m ashamed to admit that even my own family are so aware of them that they have become almost a joke. I was sometimes irritable, and I was often intolerant. Now, after the ritual, I can see that, over the years, Mr Irritable and Mr Intolerant became very good friends of mine. In fact, they moved in, permanently, they lived right within me, and when I looked in the mirror, there they were… sometimes right in my face, quite literally. I became them, and they became me. Now I see very clearly that they are learned behaviour patterns that are as destructive inwardly as outwardly. It’s so obvious! I have to break these guys, and ayahuasca helps me in this in bringing them full-on to my attention, so I simply cannot pretend that these two jokers are only casual visitors. To get back to the subject of alcohol, I would say that if irritability and intolerance are con-men, then, by comparison, social drinking is like an armed robber…!
What we call social drinking is, in reality, a barrier that prevents communication on the deepest psychic levels from flowing. Alcohol is horrible, destructive stuff, which does nothing other than maliciously distort the way the world is presented. It interferes with the delicate mechanisms that allow the deepest contact with the world and the universe. Social drinking is a myth and a lie, a destructive habit that has nothing positive to offer the deepest realms of emotion and thought. These are not just words. I understood this, not with my brain, but with my deepest essence. Our culture, with its crass, brutal social structure, is exactly in tune with alcohol, they are made for each other, in fact! Alcohol closes down the aperture through which you can see the world, and consequently HOW you see the world.
Ayahuasca performs the exact opposite kind of operation: it opens wide the aperture through which the world is perceived, and there can be no possible doubt, not in a million million years, that what you are being presented with, and simultaneously a part of, is a presence so deep, so profound, so beyond all experience, beyond thought and time, that there cannot be ever the slightest doubt of its authenticity. Higher and higher forms of reality are presented, up to the level that can be tolerated. You may not be able to take such a revelation, in which case you won’t have it. But if you have your revelation, the immediate recognition is that you have lived all your life in an imaginary world, inhabiting an imaginary body, and that all time and space are constructs of your mind, and so on. But these last scenarios are pretty rare, and I would guess that only experienced shamans are able to reach such levels. These are trance states, where the shaman is possibly astral travelling to achieve some desired goal, some remote healing, possibly. But I would say that the “average” ayahuasca drinker has different goals, on less exalted levels, and is usually concerned with emotional, psychic or mental issues. Those are the levels on which humans have their problems and issues, and in a sense that is exactly why ayahuasca exists at all, as the healing intelligence that understands and is able to move into those levels of human pain, and present them as a necessary process rather than as problems, which is precisely the healing aspect.
I’m sure you would understand that I could not put down here, in this email, what happened to me, yes, it was beyond words, yes, it was dreadful, and yes it was precisely, and I mean precisely, tailor-made for me, in this world, at this moment.
Huge amounts of information were shown to me, as pure Meaning manifesting out of the underlying Divine Ground, and I understood very well that this precisely-measured information was relevant only to me, and was of use only to me. It was very obvious that this was so, because my higher Self knew better than anyone what my issues were, and my higher Self and the Divine were, of course, simply corresponding aspects of each other. It was very clear than and is still very clear now. It is, naturally, irrelevant whether it would be clear to anyone else, the point being that a Message was delivered, and was received by me. My unspoken question was answered by an otherworldly Intelligence that was so infinitely more powerful than anything I could conceive of, that to have received any more or further content would have been unnecessary and therefore extremely damaging to my psyche. I’m not trying to sound melodramatic, one can feel the sense of a huge elemental power, and you need to be careful not to see too much of it, or to get too close to it, which is the same thing.
The way I am writing this in no way gives the slightest concept of what this experience was actually like for me. It was beyond words in its presentation, but I can say this: Amongst other things, I was brought into the realm of human suffering, and, with absolutely no choice in the matter, I was made to experience the depths of self-disgust as a citizen of this world. This was the defining moment for me, as it was intended to be. Or, to put it another way, that part of my being that is higher and wiser, was drawing me into the synergy.
I’ll stop there, for a moment, to say something of the physical background, the setting, of the experience. Apart from the emotional and spiritual state of the seeker, the setting is of the utmost importance in the experience. The setting, the physical quality of the surrounding environment, will provide the instrument, the vehicle, for the projection of the Knowledge that will be revealed. Now, accepting for the moment that there is nothing accidental in the Divine Plan, that there is purpose operating like a guiding hand over all aspects of all life, then I find it very curious (or meaningful, if you like) that the weather was fairly extreme, and not a little unnerving. I’ve mentioned this already, but I feel compelled to say more again about the setting.
Remember, we were in or about the area of St Ives, surrounded by farming ambience, and it was my first time in Cornwall, it was a very remote part, and I had not the faintest idea of where I was. I was disoriented, to say the least, I had not eaten “normal” meals or much food for nearly a week, and my senses were somewhat heightened, as was the intention. Early afternoon, and the sky grey and moody, the wind blowing incessantly, howling even at times, unrelenting wind that rattled the gates to the fields, things groaning and creaking, bushes and branches whipping themselves, in constant wild motion, and the farm buildings and stone outhouses grimly resisting this relentless elemental onslaught. There was no other sound but that frenzied wind. This is a very isolated place, not more than a few farmhouses for miles around, and the general ambience was quite bleak. It was unearthly to me, probably because I’ve been living in a town for too much of my life, but you can imagine the scene. You are, in fact, fortunate that you need only imagine it, because I had the full force of it. And it was when I left the barn where our ritual was being conducted, that I received my Message.
In the yard outside the barn I wandered, buffeted by this malevolent wind, the beginning of nausea somewhere in my being, and my attention was drawn to the group of chickens, snapping and squabbling irritably in my field of view. My field of view seemed somewhat strangely expanded, but I concentrated on the chickens. My nausea became more enveloping, I found myself bending over, retching, my mouth open like an animal, I heard myself make this ghastly rattling sound, trying to bring something up, I was juddering slightly out of my body which didn’t help much but was part of the whole, I got a glimpse of what I looked like from the outside, and the nausea… I was trying not to be sick, but this was like trying to stop the wind, and then the revelations began…
I felt an overriding and complete disgust with myself, which was at the same time merged into the self-disgust that these chickens were suffering in their undeveloped souls. I experienced their terrible life of hardship, their meaningless bickering and fighting for survival, their dreadful quality of life, and I saw with the most ghastly clarity that this howling environment was our lot as much as theirs. Human suffering poured in waves from the stone buildings, which themselves seemed to be bending with the agony of it; the sky was dark and restless with apocalypse, and the chickens and I suffered our extreme self-disgust. I can hardly describe how profound, or express in words, this, our profound self-disgust. The landscape, the world, was disgusted with us, as we were disgusted with the world, the material world, the world that we ourselves had shaped into this dreadful place.
I learned that we were in this place, psychically and physically, because we had not yet acquired the knowledge that would otherwise preclude our attendance here. We were here because we were not yet ready to exist on a higher level. It was really very clear. I find it meaningful that of all the events and images that I brought out of this day, the one vision that is engraved on my memory is that terrible farmyard, with its suffering, the chickens like mindless entities in constant movement, the buildings and sky pulsating with human pain. Almost disembodied, I saw myself in this pitiless place, bending over, nauseous, retching, trying to be sick, trying to vomit up the suffering that I have caused myself and others, trying to expel this aspect of myself that was making me so sick. I was sick. I made myself sick, in the most literal sense.
We are sick, and therefore we suffer. What a blinding insight that was!! With our suffering, in time, the sickness eventually goes. I was made to understand this, as an indisputable fact. Our central mistake is in not realising that we are sick. A part of our mind does an excellent job of sweeping difficult truths away, hiding them under the surface levels, so the sickness stays in this dormant situation, and we pretend all is well. Easier that way… Part of the message that was revealed was that it is only through suffering that we redeem ourselves, and find the correct way of being. Suffering is an integral part of our existence, it is precisely (I must stress that) the reason for our being present in this world. Perhaps other worlds too, but this world, yes, certainly. This is the teaching world, where the lessons are handed out. This is not playtime, we are given certain circumstances with which to work, such as the kind of family we are born into, and a body and gender chosen, (never, never at random) but that which suits our needs in the new life, and we are, of course, given free will so that we can sort out the choices that are part of the whole business of being human. Free will is the great gift that forces the concept of responsibility, or its opposite.
As suffering is integral to this world, and cannot be escaped, we should actually learn to embrace it, bless it even, as it provides the key to understanding. (Buddhism teaches that suffering and crisis should be welcomed as a Divine opportunity for learning and self-development.) If one’s life is merely one of comfort, and with never a problem to confront, the chances are huge that we will fall asleep, and not question anything, least of all the reason for being here in the first place. As suffering provides a key, we can work with it and in time, open a door, and move on. Simultaneously a pattern, a learned habit, gets broken, which always provides opportunities for personal growth. If redemption is attained through suffering, it follows that should a person be unaware of his need for redemption (mainly because he is asleep), he should undergo a period of suffering to open his eyes. For me, it was as if ayahuasca decided that my normal day to day level of suffering was not great enough to learn enough, so it opened me to the naked level of suffering in the world, and it was that vision that broke through to my conscious being. I could not hide from THAT truth, nobody on earth could. I suppose in Christian terms, what I experienced would be called Purgatory. This was not a vision of hell, which was something else, I knew that. Clearly, the hell-vision was not appropriate for me, or not on this occasion.
I didn’t think about this at the time, but I realise now, [Monday evening, two days later] that it is possible that by leaving the safety of the ritual, or the Works, as it is called, and going outside, I was outside the protection that was afforded by the ritual, and therefore I should not be too surprised at the way that the Message was revealed. But I also know that the Message was going to be delivered, no matter where exactly I was. But to ponder this is meaningless: what happened, happened. And consequently, I now have a permanent image in my mind of a terrible pulsating farmyard, and chickens, suffering.
I should also say that I left the ritual, and the singing of icaros, the Spanish songs of praise, and went outside precisely because I (or something connected with my ego) wanted some space, and some experience of nature, away from the somewhat repetitious songs, and the little dancing steps, now to the right, step, turn and step to the left, and again, and then back again… Some part of me wanted a bit of freedom, some space. So it was I who created the occasion, which is another lesson in life. We make our own lives. Events do not “happen” to us, we create the circumstances in which we CAUSE those events to happen. If they turn out well, we take the credit and feel pleased with ourselves, and with life. If they turn out badly, we get upset, and find somebody or something to blame, outside of ourselves. Not for a moment do we think that we might have had something to do with the process. We think, quite incorrectly, that there is “something” out there, outside our skin, that we have some sort of relationship with, good or bad or whatever. Our perceptions are tuned that way because that is the way it is for us on this level of existence. But the plant will re-tune the awareness and then we see the that we are actually part of the same fabric, and immediately we understand that the enemy, or that opposite principle, whatever it might be, is actually an extension of ourselves, and to fear or to react is not only meaningless but counter-productive, because the fear vibrations slow down our own vibratory rate. Which is the wrong way to go. All life forms are reaching up to a higher, finer, vibratory rate. This is cosmic evolution.
So I staggered back inside and continued to receive information, and so the afternoon went. We had started at 2 pm, and as the effects of the brew continued, time dilated, slowed, speeded up, slowed again. This was a completely holistic experience in that all the parts and aspects were integrated and continuous. So I have to bring in the other players in the drama. One in particular, the young guy called Mahon had the most dreadful time. He was in such psychic distress that he was lying on the floor a great deal of the afternoon, his face in his bucket, purging and vomiting… it was severe and relentless, and he certainly contributed to my own anguish… and there too, an insight, that it was part of my role to absorb the pain of others, in fact, it was a responsibility incumbent on all humans to help absorb or mollify the pain of others. The suffering in the world is so terrible, and as I absorbed this information, I would feel the sickness of it all, deep in my gut, and I too crawled to the bucket, and brought up this badness, this pain. It was blindingly apparent what the plant brew was doing, the medicine was working, the Teacher was teaching. Suffering is teaching, suffering is healing, the message coming in nauseous waves…
(As a matter of interest, all that purging and vomiting into the buckets resulted in nothing like you’d expect: all the prior dieting meant that there was very little coming up, which of course is why we ate less in the first place. Once, during the session, when I looked into the bucket after purging, I saw only a thin, clear liquid, which must have been the ayahuasca after its core ingredients had been stripped out. I have also heard reports of users seeing what appeared to be jewels in their buckets.)
I had had two glasses of ayahuasca by this point, and some joints as well (Santa Maria, as Adrian called it). I was not sure that the marijuana was right, but I couldn’t express it. It certainly had the effect of heightening further the entire pulsating experience. I found myself looking at the glass jug of ayahuasca with discomfort and serious concerns. I dreaded having to drink any more. The sheer intensity of reality was too powerful. Consequently certain instinctive responses would bubble up from somwhere, like little self-defence mechanisms that had been neutralised by the brew (as indeed was the intention) and would come to my “rescue”.
“I” formed a resolve that “I” would have no more, so when Adrian came by a third time, I indicated that the energy levels were becoming a little hard too take. You must have a little, he said, so I had about a third of a glass. I needed badly to get a grip on the old reality, the one I was used to, and when more “Santa Maria” was rolled and circulated, I found I had the wit to actually pretend to smoke it! I knew that this was a bit ridiculous, because firstly, I could easily say no, and secondly, it was very possible that some of the others could pick up on what I was doing telepathically. I preferred to take no more of the brew precisely because my ego was coming to my rescue, so to speak, and trying to protect me from the onslaught of reality coming from all sides, and especially from within. Which is the same thing, the inner and outer realities were quite obviously the same thing, and I wanted to exert a small measure of control… The ego is a very powerful force, when the survival of the host is at stake! I remember looking up at the triangular roof trusses (exposed to view in the barn) and find that they were bent in an odd way, they had a dimensional shift of some kind, and also an alien quality that was fascinating if discomforting. The one thing that I thought I wanted to see (before the Works) were hallucinations, as I knew from my reading that that they are a very common occurence, as reality shifts in and out of focus. But I didn’t see any, not any that I would call that, and again I knew the answer, as I knew the answer to many things: I was preventing myself from experiencing hallucinations, because I was protecting myself from too much reality. That was an amazing revelation in itself…!
A few yards away Mahon’s pain and distress continued, I beamed telepathically at him that he did not HAVE to do this, he was choosing to suffer in this way, but that he shouldn’t be so hard on himself. (I never knew exactly what his problems were, but they were clearly deep and traumatic.) And so I suffered with him, which was just as it had to be. By sharing suffering, we understand it, another very obvious truth, courtesy of ayahuasca. Martin, on my right most of the time, was in a secure, grounded mode, I could see, and feel. Some of the time, he and I shared the anchor points of the circle. Whenever one or other would leave the circle to go outside, or simply to lie or sit, away from the circle, then the circle would close up (Adrian motioning urgently that the circle must not be unbroken.) Cecile, the French woman, mostly lay wrapped in her tawny blanket by the heater on the other side of the circle, and I had to admire her sang-froid, her amazing disregard for the conventions of the ritual… I knew beyond doubt that she was in no pain at all, she merely preferred to do her own thing, which was to lie cat-like full-length on her cushions, and drift… She was at absolute peace in her own private communion.
Next to her, Willow did her bouncing along, singing her songs, or trying to, because none of us could sing in Spanish with any real conviction. Her small-boned petite figure, with masses of black hair framing her face seemed peaceful, secure. Before the session, I had noticed that she rather resembled Cher [the singer, of Sonny & Cher], but with much more living etched on her, and she was older than I had first supposed… which did not come remotely into the picture now during the session. She was totally tuned into the needs of others, at all times… she would adjust Cecile’s blanket, help Noriko if she had her hands full with Taiyo, she even came over to me to offer support when Noriko found fault with my maraca technique!
This was a small saga in itself, a mini-drama. It happened towards the end, I became aware that Noriko was signalling to me, as we were singing our icaros, and as Adrian completed the song and took a small break, she came over to me, and explained that I was emphasising the wrong beats when I was playing the maraca. She was pretty sharp to have spotted that, I found myself thinking, and as I struggled to find the words for this strange and very unexpected conversation with her, she showed me how she did it: with her own maraca, she twirled some very complex set of rhythms, and I said, I can’t do that! I realised that what she was getting at was that I mustn’t start becoming inventive or creative with my maraca, I must play with the others, not start adding counterbeats and so on. I realised that I was in fact treating the performance of the icaros as a jazz ensemble! But I also felt slightly aggrieved. Not only could I not understand the Spanish, but I could not ever seem to find the page numbers that Adrian would call out, “twenty three!” and “forty-nine!” and so on. It seemed, in some wierd way, that none of the books were the same as any others, and it was all a mystery to me… which was why my performance throughout the afternoon consisted of humming the tune of the icaros, quite loudly, as we sang and did our little side to side dance. And now, it seemed, I couldn’t even play the maracas right!
At that point Willow came over, obviously sensing… telepathic… my discomfort, and reassured me that it didn’t really matter. I had the impression that she didn’t agree at all with Noriko, that the point of all this was to involve oneself, enjoy it, to participate in whatever way one could. I was really touched by her intervention. Willow was being a nature spirit, and Noriko was like an official. But I wanted no further brushes with authority, so when the next icaros began, I quietly put the maraca down when nobody was looking, and got on with my humming and side to side shuffle. This was the only time I sensed any disharmony within the group.
Noriko, her hard, flat perfect Oriental face was like a strict Sergeant-Major to Adrian’s Captain. About this time, I had an interesting perception: Glancing across the room, I saw what appeared to be several women, a blur of forms, on the other side of the circle, out of which I concentrated on Cecile and Willow, and a thought came to me that, apart from Adrian’s wife, those two women were two of the most beautiful women in the room… it was only later that I came to see that those two women were the only other women in the room…!! There were no others! What I had seen was a blur of feminine essence, which became them. There was a perception of Cecile as a large feline creature, projecting a cat-like ambience, stretching herself… (later when we talked about this, she said she had felt herself to be a jaguar, which in fact corresponds exactly with many similar reports I’ve read…) Not to mention the fact that she was also projecting her sun sign, Leo, manifesting this so visually that one didn’t have to ask what her sign was! I could actually see and feel that feline aspect!!
Adrian himself played his part to perfection, as he should, with over 400 previous ayahuasca sessions behind him… I could hardly believe he could function on any level at all, yet he did: he was the priest, the guide, the focus of our little group. He played his guitar, and played and played, and sang and sang, in his somewhat reedy voice, he was working us, he was keeping a balance going with the energy, he was doing it all… I felt such compassion for him, he had taken this upon himself, this path, this shamanic way, and there he was, working so hard, singing, playing, taking control of this whole thing… with Noriko on his left, either holding Taiyo, or helping with the music-stand, or pouring water into glasses from the big mineral water bottles that stood about. On my left was Dave, this thin, fragile looking young man, with his enormous head of dreadlocks, all these incredibly long ropes of hair trailing down, he was in some pain, swaying… but he was very self-contained, and that was fine, as well.
On his left was the other Martin, the tall Australian, shy, who, when I met him had none of the in-your-face Aussie bravado that one often sees in young Australian men, and now he was expelling his demons in the most curious and remarkable way. He was making gestures with his hands, his arms, like they were pistons and pulleys, turning and twisting and chopping and working, these extraordinary gestures… He was sitting, lotus position, and his hands and arms, mostly hands, working, manipulating unseen energies, and seeming to express something that certainly was beyond words… When Adrian indicated that we must now get up and stand in our circle, and sing the icaros, Martin’s extraordinary hand movements stopped.
And on his left, the doomed and hapless Mahon, his face a mask of despair, wearing his blanket like a monk, groaning, and then twisting round to dive for the bucket as his nausea became unsupportable… at times he would retreat from us altogether, and go and lie down wrapped in his blanket in the far corner of the barn, like a dying ghost. It was like apart from his own pain, he was taking on a whole load of other pain, and I know this aspect, because of course I had that experience out in the farmyard, in my case the pain was coming from the buildings and sky and chickens all mixed in with myself… anyway, just the nine of us, apart from little Taiyo, who would sometimes wander about (but never coming to our side of the circle, possibly because we were all males on our side, whereas there was his mother, Cecile, and Willow as mother-figures.
Several times I saw him lie down with Cecile, or with Willow; embracing them, in fact, feeling the emotional energy pouring out of these women, it was wonderful to behold, that completely trusting force-field of love… The previous night, when I was sitting and smoking with Adrian in this very place, after he had driven me here from his house, he told me that not only had Taiyo been born while Noriko was floating on ayahuasca, but that (“you’ll pardon me if I’m a bit indiscreet,” he said) Taiyo had been conceived while both of them were high (if that’s the correct word) on the brew. It was staggering, but it helped to explain how that toddler of a child could also be allowed a token mouthful of the brew when Adrian deemed it time for a further booster for the whole group. He was probably on another plane permanently.
So, eventually, at about six-thirty, Adrian indicated that we were about to end the session. There were one or two further songs, and Adrian smiled as he finally put down his guitar. He had been playing more or less continuously for four hours, and I knew he was physically hurting. I know that at some point about now, Adrian had let go of the role, and was now lying, quite spent, on cushions on the floor, Cecile close by. Cecile had, from my perspective, had an utterly laid-back experience, spent mostly lying down wrapped in her blanket. Not sleeping, of course, but obviously going for the internal trip. (Afterwards, she told me that she was half-Jewish, and had also resisted the Christian ambience. She told me other things as well that explained her maverick approach, why she wasn’t participating like we were) By this stage, Taiyo was asleep in his buggy. I had mixed feelings about him being so much part of this. But that’s my cultural conditioning. We then all staggered across to each other, and exchanged embraces. It was the only time we actually touched each other. Noriko announced that food was available in the farmhouse kitchen, 150 yards away, and gradually (it seemed to take a very long time, there was still a time dilation effect, everything seemed to go forever…) we all left the barn. Much later, after a quiet (we were all so beyond words by then) shared farmhouse supper laid out by Liz, the farmhouse owner, we all went up to our rooms. There is a great bonding process between the participants, we would stay locked into each for a while.
Cecile and I met later in the kitchen, and we talked and talked into the night… there was an extraordinary knowledge and power about her, and she had had so many otherworldly, fantastical experiences. She had traveled in other dimensional realms, amongst other things, she had seen, with her own eyes, the molecular structure of her own hand…
So, the Works ended, but obviously the effects themselves didn’t just stop. I hardly slept that night, nor, when I got home to Bristol, did I sleep much on the Sunday night. Nor did I eat. After the dietary restrictions of the previous week, I virtually fasted on the Saturday itself, and directly after the Works, I was so strung out that I had no interest in food, or hardly. Neither did I eat the next day, Sunday, except in the evening, back home, to the meal both my children kindly put together for all of us. Subsequent days, Monday, Tuesday proved to be quite tricky in the way I fitted into the old landscape of my house.
With my DNA somewhat rewired, I felt different, and I was different, in many ways. My emotional level has been serviced and changed. Some ayahuasca drinkers report the existence of small entities rummaging through their internal organs, fixing things… and believe me, that’s not the the half of it!!! (see The Phenomenology of Ayahuasca by Benny Shannon, Oxford University Press) Ayahuasca could almost certainly be used in the treatment of addiction. What might happen, in such a scenario, is that the addiction would be recognised in a way that would create its own cure. Your higher mind, without interference from the lower, instinctive ego, would remap, rewire the perception of the addiction, and thus create an automatic emotion of disgust or disinterest. Through a dreadful, unbearable feeling of revulsion for the damage the addiction causes the astral body, perhaps. Ayahuasca is not called the Healer for nothing.
I should also mention that as the event recedes into the past, I feel a very strange and subtle need to drink ayahuasca again. Adrian, had, in fact, decided that we should do it again on Sunday, at 1.00pm the next day, but I was in no state to consider that. I felt huge amounts of information pouring in, and building up inside, and there was a real need to stand back from every aspect of the day, and meditate upon it. So I said no to the Sunday Works, as did three others. As I was very emotionally open on Sunday morning, I felt a wave of guilt that I was letting Adrian down, and who maybe had depended on me to book another session, and that he might have needed the money, and so on. But I’m an old hand in being firm in my need to be alone, so I said my good-byes at midday.
On Monday morning, alone in the house, sitting at the computer, processing the information, I suddenly and spontaneously burst into tears. There was no conscious specific reason for this. And I didn’t just cry, either, I virtually howled, I was shaken by wracking sobs. With no one about, and my inhibitions unrestrained, it all came pouring out. It was pure spontaneous grief. And as it happened, I understood on a very deep level why and what it was it was all about… I was releasing that which I had understood at the Daime, but at the time not allowed any other expression of. I had experienced the deep disgust, but I hadn’t expressed it in a more easily palatable form… I don’t know, it’s very difficult to put into words… but it’s all part of being re-tuned, with my emotions in a much more open mode, and so on… I should mention that I was not producing this outpouring for myself, as one does as self-pity, it was still a connection to the pain of the suffering out in the world, that which I had come face to face with on Saturday in that farmyard… [I recognise this phenomenon by the Buddhist term, dukkha, the ecstatic sorrow, the outpouring of grief for the suffering of others and for the suffering of the world…]
As I wrote right in the beginning of this piece, the processing of information is part of the coming to terms with this experience. And such is the value of the knowledge, that I have this need for further teaching, further learning, and ayahuasca is one way to receive it. To my real amazement I find I’m thinking of when the next time will be…
Postscript: I have, in fact become a vegetarian, I can see no benefit at all in consuming what was once another living creature, especially as there is no compelling survival need involved. I do eat fish, though. And I also do drink alcohol, although not with much enjoyment. Except that marijuana can be physically damaging, like tobacco, I would say that its effects are much more in tune with my psyche than alcohol, and so that would be my preferred kind of buzz. Narcotics (heroin, cocaine) are nasty, addictive, and utterly evil, as they distort and degrade reality and enslave the user, so no way. And while I’m on the subject, I would suggest that the phenomenology of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) such as is within ayahuasca) and other entheogens should be investigated further because here is actual experiential proof of other dimensions, should we wish to travel in those strange quantum regions…