When we humans are first toddling around, we spend a great deal of our energy trying to understand the overwhelmingly complex adult world we have been thrust into by virtue of being born. It strikes me as the equivalent of one of us adult humans being thrust into an advanced alien society, and spending much energy trying to adapt ourselves and our understandings – our worldview – to accommodate this new and far more complex reality.
The four year old child does this by constructing a simplified, childlike, cartoon version of the adult world that surrounds them. We adults tend to find this pleasing, amusing, and wholesome. We help this along by giving our kids toys, children’s books and games, and so on. Eventually, we know they will grow and expand their knowledge and the sophistication of their perceptions of the adult world that they will soon join in full.
When we enter the spirit realms directly through the sacred use of entheogens and plant medicines like Ayahuasca, we often encounter intelligent beings that interact with us. They are certainly different from us and may be quite alien – very “advanced” – compared to us. When we try to enter that realm, it seems to me we are like the four year old. We construct for ourselves simplified, cartoon interpretations of what we are being shown or exposed to. We see visions that we define in a way that must, to the spirit beings we encounter, seem childlike.
It is amazing to have such an encounter and feel the sincere interest and even love that comes from many of these Others. They may teach us harsh lessons, but also may give us gifts that seem like toys to us, but are actually much more meaningful in ways we are not developed enough to comprehend. Kind of like a four year old human.
along the Rio Nanay
© 2011 David Crews
I recently had major surgery where I was given Propofol for anesthesia. This article talks about that drug and how some researchers are studying patients undergoing anesthesia for clues to understanding consciousness.
The Propofol experience was very strange and so completely opposite of what I experienced with Ayahuasca. It was like an off, then on switch. Nothing in between.
ANCIENT SONGS AND GREEN MAGIC
– Ayahuasca and A Search for What Is Real in the Amazon Jungle of Peru
By David P. Crews
I realized that I was now in the presence of the Spirit of the vine, Mother Ayahuasca herself. She never spoke to me in words. Her expression was one of contained joy, waiting to share something with me. She widened her expressive eyes, like an inquiry, and then she showed me something.
It was a coin.
It is pitch black. I am shaking violently from my head to my feet. My heart is racing – pounding like a mad drummer. Hot sweat is pouring off my hair, my arms, my nose – for I am facing down, crouched on my hands and knees.
I do not know who I am. I do not know where I am. I do not know what is happening to me. I have just this moment emerged from a truly terrifying nightmare that was far more potent than anything I have ever experienced. The only sound is my heartbeat, hammering hard, and my frantic breaths, coming too fast as I crouch in the dark. I concentrate on those breaths – trying to calm them, willing them to slow down. Just slow them down. Push the panic back. I’m regaining some control.
Wondering now, I turn my head to look up to the right and I am startled to see just the faintest dark silhouettes of human shapes, lined up in a long row fading off into the blackness. I am fearful of them.
They make no sound and do not move.
I begin to remember things, and I reach out my hand to feel the surface beneath me. It is a rough plank wood floor. I realize with some chagrin that I am, indeed, on the floor, trembling like a windblown leaf and draining sweat into a pool below my face.
Then it comes to me, a memory I ran away from so fast that it could not catch up to me until this moment. Now it quick-streams into my mind in a flash of comprehension. I am in a sacred ceremony. I have partaken of a very powerful plant medicine. It is late at night. I am in a rude hut somewhere deep in a jungle beside a dark river.
I remember. It is the Amazon Jungle. I am with others who have also partaken of this medicine and whose shapes now surround me in the darkness.
I remember who I am.
All of this has taken only a moment, and now, suddenly, a man is kneeling beside me. He is singing! I realize that he has been singing all this time, but I did not hear him until this instant when my mind focused on him. I know him. He is a shaman – the leader of this ceremony and the one who gave me the medicine. He begins to tap my head and body with a small fan of dry leaves that make a shushing sound with each beat, and then he leans down to my neck and then my forehead and makes a sucking sound as he draws some of this energy out of me – the energy that has frightened me so much that I have instinctively leapt through the dark onto the floor of the hut in order to escape. He spits that energy away from me, into the vast darkness, and immediately I begin to regain full control of my body and my mind. I am immensely comforted by the Shaman and by his singing and his ministrations, although I am still very shaky, upset, and drenched in salty sweat.
A helping angel takes my arm now and supports me as I rise from that rough wooden floor and gingerly step back over to my seat, becoming another one of the silhouettes myself – lining up against the wall of the malluca, in the dark of night, surrounded by the chitters and cries of the night frogs and strange insects, somewhere along a fast brown river deep in the greatest and most potent forest on planet Earth.
That scene is an accurate portrayal of the aftermath of the first, terrifying stage of my experiences, as I pursued a philosophical and spiritual dream: to travel to the Upper Amazon and work with a special medicine that the indigenous peoples of South America refer to as the Mother of all Plants, a very special and unique substance known as Ayahuasca.
The visionary space of Ayahuasca is represented in the striking hand-drawn artwork of the Shipibo tribe in the Upper Amazon. This central section of a larger textile represents a cross section of the Ayahuasca vine and the visionary spaces it leads one into.
Photo by David Crews – near Iquitos, Peru.
Addendum, January, 2013:
This post gets a lot of views, so I thought I’d give this link to a newer post that also features my photos of this and other Shipibo mandalas and artwork. Enjoy!
(from a dream)
Walking earnestly through a timely land,
I dreamt I met myself three times.
Each one, an earlier shade of Self.
Each to cause some sense of shock as
I reentered life where I had been
And found the things I once held,
Surprising with their sudden existence.
Busy in my walking, I had forgotten them.
Like heavy coats, and Things to carry.
Each older version of myself,
Was burdened the more, yet unaware
Of those burdens at all.
Bemused, I wondered at my several selves.
How could I have been so hindered?
As the walker, it is certain I cannot afford them.
I must move on – get to my destination.
I smile and shake my head.
Just leave those things, I say,
And come along.
Perhaps, when I die,
I shall shed it all and become
As light as a Thought.
Perhaps, I shall float above that world
Containing all my older selves –
A soap bubble, fragile but enduring.
A swirl of pastel colors.
As light as a single inspiration.
Strong as the pain of loss.
Where all that keeps me from bursting
Is my own fierce beauty.
This new blog begins with a poem.
I’ll be exploring ideas about the nature of Life and What Is Real.
This will take us into some very human yet very strange territories ranging from ancient history to the underpinnings of the religious idea in mankind, and from science and exotic physics to the lands beyond the boundaries in the shamanic practices of the world. We will explore the sacred use of plants and the glories of the ritual entheogen experience, from the home fronts to the depths of the Amazon jungle.
I’ve been on a life-long journey to try to make sense of the world; to seek to understand what is really going on – before I run out of time. It is the eternal question. Why are we here? What is the nature of reality – of consciousness? Are we alone?
I will be adding new essays, thoughts, poems, photos, artwork, links to music and more, as often as I can, or as the Muses allow.
Your considered comments are always welcome.