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Of Aya and the Guru

The other day saw me at a conference about Ayahuasca. I say conference: It was one guy really. He's been in prison for his use of Ayahuasca, he sells consciousness expanding tours to places where you can meet real Colombian Shamans! In the Real Jungle! And learn about Ayahuasca from real Ayahuasqueros! You can also go with his groups to Italy etc where he will treat what ails ya; in the hotel lobby you can buy his homeopathic Ayahuasca water which will help prepare you for the experience and retain the feeling afterwards.

I make him sound like a shyster; that is probably unfair as he speaks no English and was working through an interpreter. None the less, he exemplified a lot of what I wrinkle my nose at within the New Age cpmmunity.

Aya is traditionally a very big deal; you fast, you abstain from sex, coffee, alcohol, meat, salt, sugar, processed foods etc for at least a week and better a month prior. For the ritual itself you never wear red (brings the spirits of war) and you never wear black (brings the spirits of death.) Within the rituals of Aya, you do not touch others, for you are supposed to be alone with the spirit of the vine, nor do others touch you - only the shaman holding the ceremony should do that, and even then, only if you are sprawled in a way that is dangerous to others or to yourself. His job is to protect the sacred space while you meet the sentience behind the vine; He sings sacred songs to that purpose.

The man explained that none of this was necessary. His teaching was that all Aya does is show you yourself, and you can just do it, and there you go, consciousness expanded. All you need, presumably, is him and his music. Consciousness is a human thing, animals don't have it, plants don't have it...he dismissed the whole background of Aya as a consciousness itself, or even a connection to the divine; leaving me to wonder why, if the shamanic background to Ayahuasca is irrelevant, he sells these jungle tours? Why not just trip off somewhere ambient and safer?

I am a believer in effort in creating a sense of the sacred. Not creating the sacred - to my mind that is there whatever we do - but giving us a sense of that sacredness, because we are so easily saturated with stimuli, it's easy to get lost, or bored. So whether it means fasting for a month, or a pilgrimage across a far away land, it is dedication and intention that gets us to the door of the numinous - apart from those extraordinary times when the numinous finds us and we are ready without knowing it.

I never got to ask him about these things, because my question was about consciousness, specifically animal consciousness: Last year this happened: https://web.archive.org/web/20131109230457/http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf . This would contradict his conviction that only humans are conscious. He was not impressed.

'When an animal can tell me that it is conscious, I will believe it,' He said. But that is just language right? 'Yes but our consciousness began with our thumbs...somewhere between that and language we gained consciousness...' Thumbs huh? lots of primates have thumbs. Some animals use tools, many have language...but by then we had moved on to plant consciousness. 'Suppose a plant or an animal has consciousness. What good is that to me or to you?' He shrugged.

Some poor guy called Cesar kept questioning him about details. 'I challenge you,' he said to Cesar at last, 'To stop analysing, to ask me something from your heart, not your mind.'

'I find that hard,' confessed Cesar. Well of course you do, I found myself thinking, because to frame questions we need words, and words are definitions with boundaries. We came here to analyse, and that requires our minds. What else should we use? The power of interpretive dance?

I left the guru, with his short cut to understanding so much better than all the other short cuts to understanding, and spoke to a friend who had gone to the same guy's intro the night before.

'You've been hearing talks on this kind of stuff for 20 years,' she said, 'Of course you're not going to be impressed.'

I asked her what she thought of him. 'Indifferent,' she said, 'But nice trousers. I like that off white hempen look.'

£10.90 for a man with no clue but a nice pair of trousers. Guess we live and learn.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 11th, 2014 04:48 pm (UTC)
Your scathing is bang-on.
Jan. 13th, 2014 12:04 am (UTC)
I dunno, where's my tolerance?

I feel doubly guilty as he is from my mother's homeland and spent ages in Spanish jails due to his dedication to Aya.
But still, meh.
Jan. 13th, 2014 12:40 pm (UTC)
Sez I, and I know everything, me.

There _reasons_ for making a ritual space before belting your brain with some heavy hallucinogenics.
No need to invoke anything other than human psychology if you don't want to.

You're going to be seeing/feeling/interacting with things that are products of the murkier patches of your own mind, that use the detail of what passes for the real world to impress themsleves upon your consiousness.
Leave a room full of blood and death symbology before you head out and you can be sure that you'll come back with visions of blood and death.

Allow random strangers to touch you whilst out and you have no idea what they think you are, what you think they are when they do so.
Can be anything from angels reaching out to wash away the sin from your soul through to outer planar nasties sinking their tentacles into your lungs to lay their eggs.

Hallucinogens are very changable.

Oh, and if he wants an animal to tell him it's conscious let him stick a coloured sticker on the forehead of a cat.
Then sit the cat infront of a mirror.
Some cats will have no idea what's going on.
Other cats will recognise themselves in the mirror and deliberately reach up a paw to remove the spot.

Sez I, and I know everything, me.
Jan. 13th, 2014 01:18 pm (UTC)
You know plenty my dear
And you are correct, there is no need to invoke a spiritual paradigm if such an outlook does not resonate with the individual.

Before one endeavours on the month's fasting, a shaman will often send out a list of chemicals/medicines that do not go well with Aya, also, s/he will ask one to make it clear if they are dealing with a medical condition/allergy/ physical issue that may affect the working. This is about respecting the chemical and physical basis of what one is doing.

As to the psychological safety factors,this sense of an ultimately safe space, the effort one has made to reach the ritual via fasting, abstinence etc, the singing of songs, the understanding that no-one should touch you unless it is to move one out of harms way - these are all deep reassurances that perhaps allow the experience of the vine in a profound, powerful but very positive way. Such practices do have their background in specific spiritual/cultural teachings (black and red may be war and blood in Mexico, but in other cultures those colours are very positive) and this is another level, this sense of meeting a benign power, a 'Mother,' a consciousness, be it one's own or something else; How the individual identifies the voice of the vine must be their own understanding and choice always.

Whichever paradigm the individual accepts, it is the job of the shaman to create a space within which this extraordinary plant may be experienced safely on any and every level, a space between all worlds. But such a sense of utmost safety takes time to build, and I think he is more about getting it down your neck fast.

Edited at 2014-01-13 01:20 pm (UTC)
Jan. 14th, 2014 10:38 am (UTC)
Re: You know plenty my dear
Ah, dear heart, would that we could sit in the dappled shade of a hundred scented apple trees. The sound of bees droning softly in our ears as tales of far off lands drift towards us on the gentle breeze.
Geometric pinwheels of vivid neon colour spinning across a fractal sky with the texture of lizardskin and sorrow.

Two hearts, four fragments of possibility.
Jan. 27th, 2014 10:18 pm (UTC)
Re: You know plenty my dear
Scientist, engineer, poet, madman. Alone you are much more than four fragments XXX
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )



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