Photos, Artwork, & Musings on Life, Spirit, Entheogens, Time, & Travel

Peru 2013–Pre-trip 3: Border Crossings


While preparing for my trip to the Upper Amazon in two weeks, I’ve been thinking about my main area of interest and inquiry – contemplating and exploring the possibility of the actual reality of the other “spirit dimension” that one is so forcefully carried into when working with Ayahuasca. This is such an impressive experience that most who encounter it come away from it  convinced that it is real and does exist independently somewhere or somewhen other than this physical universe we normally live in.

I’ve been reading a very interesting book that, while not speaking specifically to the plant teachers, analyzes and compares the phenomena and practices of shamanism with that of the psychological approach and theories of Carl Jung. I’ve always found the two sets of ideas to be very much intertwined and comprising two ways of describing the same thing. I’m particularly struck when Jung says things that show he understood the apparent reality of the “spirit dimension” of the shamanists. The book is “Shamanism and the Psychology of C. G. Jung – The Great Circle,” by Robert E. Ryan (2002).

One passage where Ryan speaks of Jung’s ideas really resonates with me:

“. . . one of the most important touchstones of Jung’s thought and the shaman’s experience (is that) events experienced by the mind in what we would call the ‘psychic or inner world’ would have their own claim to a reality equal to that which the same mind imposes on the unknowable world presented by the senses. Each is a realm of experience in which we seek durable laws with their own universality which allow us to track and predict change or transformation in that realm. We must suspend our reductive tendency to regard as ‘merely psychological’ an inwardly encountered pattern of experience capable of producing transformations in a process which has enlisted the depths of the human mind for perhaps tens of thousands of years, thus holding a pedigree enduring far longer than any of the discoveries of our Western scientific materialism.”
– “Shamanism and the Psychology of C. G. Jung – The Great Circle,” – Robert E. Ryan, Vega, London, 2002, p. 102

Western society is so immersed in materialistic way of thinking that it is easy to simply dismiss visions or powerful dreams as “just psychological phenomena” – that is, happening only in our brains and not exhibiting an external reality. In other words, brain fiction. Anyone who has worked with Ayahuasca will tell you that this is simply not believable. The vision space Ayahuasca takes us into is not only vivid and self-generated, but it is far richer and more detailed than one can ever imagine producing in one’s own mind, upon an instant, and with imagery so vastly original and unknown to that person in normal life. The entities one meets in this realm are vivid as well, and have their own agendas, interact with us as separate beings, and sometimes even require communication and the making of deals or arrangements between themselves and us.

It would be the equivalent of accusing the early European explorers of the Americas of having made their stories up, deluding themselves into believing that there was such a vast and amazing New World out there with all those strange things and beings in it.

Perhaps the spirit dimensions revealed by Ayahuasca are merely “brain fiction,” but if so, that hypothesis speaks of vast depths within our human machine that are not only unmeasured, but totally unsuspected and inexplicable. Why would we have evolved such a thing for the straightforward needs of an animal’s survival purposes? One may as well hammer a nail with a hydrogen bomb, or fill a tin cup by pouring in an ocean. For those who have ventured into it, this dimension or realm and the things that are seen on its shores is a great mystery – a new world and a new frontier that reduces all other human explorations to insignificance. As Graham Hancock has said, it may even represent the next stage of our own evolution. Who, seeing it this way, would not be thrilled and excited to go on such a journey of discovery?

I’ll be crossing quite a few borders on my way to and from Peru and the Amazon, but it is the esoteric border I will cross while sitting still in the heart of the great forest that I am most interested in, apprehensive of, and hopeful about experiencing. I can think of no greater adventure and no better thing to do with my energies and time than to plan my expedition well, board the magical boat of Ayahuasca, and venture into that new continent, slipping between the folds of space and time and seeing around that strange bend that no one can normally find. It is a bend not of this dimension. It can be navigated with the help of the teacher plants and the experienced human guides – our shamans. However, we must be ready, alert, and open to discovery not only about the new universe itself, but also to powerful discovery of our own selves as we cross and recross that often frightening border.



8 responses

  1. You might be interested in looking at this:

    It is an Jung-oriented attempt to see consciousness as a series of Chinese boxes where the inner most box and the outer most are the same, a sort of M. C. Escher type of construction. It reminds me of some of my own experiences where I feel myself peering into very small geometric structures that compose reality but I am not sure whether I on the outside looking in or am actually in the structure.

    I talk about this idea in one of my posts:

    May 26, 2013 at 6:21 am

    • Thank you for your comment, James.

      I read your excellent post and those ideas are a fascinating way to try to understand “what’s going on.” I also use the I Ching as a synchronicity system, reflecting my own Self non-locally and providing some insight and perspective on my life. Anything can serve as a synchronicity system, even natural symbol manifesting like Jung’s scarab, but I believe the I Ching is the best man-made system because it’s structured with the right detail and form to give it a higher resolution, if you will. One of my teachers and friend, Katya Walter, who studied at the Jung Institute, wrote an excellent book on the subject, showing the strong connections of the I Ching’s form to the structures in our DNA.

      Some of the most fascinating ideas about Ayahuasca have to do with scale and DNA. The first book that inspired me to try the brew was Jeremy Narby’s “Cosmic Serpent” where he speculates that the drinker actually is taken down in scale to the microscopic world of DNA and experiences that form as intelligent intertwined snakes. These snake images and other microscopic forms show up in the majority of the visionary art associated with Ayahuasca and other entheogens.

      The nesting Chinese Box idea is interesting, especially the concept those authors raised of emergent consciousness and how we may be on a path toward a more complex and “advanced” type of it as a natural expression of the universe as a whole. It does seem that this could explain why the presumably more advanced entities one contacts with Ayahuasca are interested in us and our welfare. It could be that they are a version of us, but in a different form and manifesting themselves outside of our strict space-time expression. It may be impossible to know for sure due to the limitations of our own physical state and bodies, but it also may require such “stretching” of ourselves to initiate that series of changes it may take to evolve to those states. Who knows? It is certainly fascinating to actively and personally explore such things, not only with everyday synchronicities and symbolic dreams, but especially with such a powerful delivery system as Ayahuasca.

      For many who work with the tea and interact with those spirits, the consensus message from them seems to be that we humans are foolishly ruining our current “box” and the broader primal community of global life here on Earth will have to correct for us if we don’t stop it. There may be some dramatic and difficult shifts ahead that will reset many things.

      Thanks again for reading my post and for your comment.

      May 26, 2013 at 7:50 am

      • I’ve read the Narby book. My own thought is that we might be looking at the internal operation of our own brains. We are seeing visual images that represent the operation of our neurons, synapses, and other neural structures which also tend to look vine and snake-like. It is like the external world is cut off so the visual images the brain produces are of itself. That doesn’t really conflict that much with Narby’s view since DNA is heavily involved in the brain.

        May 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

      • Indeed, it could very well be. There is certainly a lot of exaggerated brain activity triggered by the DMT in Ayahuasca in the seratonin receptors. I and others have often sensed or seen the “Little Doctors” or what Terrence McKenna called the “machine elves” who are excited to see us and want to give us a tour of the plant, as it were. They are apparently responsible for the molecular level activity and healing that goes on inside our bodies.

        In Ayahuasca ceremonies and with Salvia Divinorum, I have had the spirit beings try to tell me that much of the actual animated graphics part of the visions are pretty and all that, but that we should pay that part of the experience rather little attention since it is like a distraction – the brain painting pictures – and we should focus on where we have come to and gather what information we can learn about ourselves and our world while we are “tuned in” to their plane.

        It could all be brain fiction. That is where fiction comes from after all, but the sense of “other” when encountering the spirit beings is very convincing to those who have dealt with them personally. If they and their amazing worlds are all brain generated, that would be more astonishing and inexplicable to me than to understand that they are external in an external alternate reality or dimension. It is just this very distinction that fascinates me and propels me to investigate further. I doubt I will ever gain an answer that would be or should be satisfactory to another person. Shamanism is not about empirical proofs, but rather very personal subjective experiences. Still, one may interpret for one’s self what is experienced, and that is a path with heart.

        May 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      • Well said.

        May 26, 2013 at 6:48 pm

  2. James, I just read your first link. Fascinating ideas. It reminded me of an old science fiction short story by Heinlein called “– And He Built A Crooked House –” where this architect builds a house in the shape of an unfolded tesseract or hypercube, which promptly “folds up” into one cube when an earthquake hits. The rooms and stairs all connect to each other in infinite loops. I always liked that story.

    Text here:

    Click to access crooked-house.pdf

    May 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm

  3. Chris Battis

    David–In my almost lifelong experience with Vajrayana Buddhism, one might encounter both ‘worldly spirits’, who might have access to certain relative truths, and ‘wisdom deities’, who can actually teach us the true nature of reality and mind. At the same time, worldly spirits, of whom there are many, might indeed transmit actual, useable truths to us, or they may have their own agendas.
    Part of my mission in going to the Amazon is to freely encounter the range of non-corporeal beings inherent in the vine and their lessons, and to learn if any of them is in fact a true teacher and can guide me to the absolute.
    This may be ambitious and I can only hope that to move forward with this pilgrimage in a spirit of curiosity and service will be sufficient protection.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    • Chris,

      Many have said that there are different spirits like that within the dimensions we enter in Ayahuasca as well as with other modalities. May you find the discernment you seek.
      Peace and protection be with you.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:20 pm

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