Alternative Medicine and the Amazon Rainforest
The awakening offered by ayahuasca, an alternative medicine practiced by the native tribes of the Amazon rainforest, requires deep reflection, and carries the risk of misinterpretation.
Ayahuasca: A Medicine Capable of Inspecting the Innermost Vibrations of Mind
“One wonders how people in primitive societies, with no knowledge of chemistry or physiology, ever hit upon a solution to the activation of an alkaloid by a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Pure experimentation? Perhaps not.”
— Richard Evans Schultes, An Overview of Hallucinogens in the Western Hemisphere
“In the Amazon and other places where plants hallucinogens are understood and used, you are conveyed into worlds that are appallingly different from ordinary reality. Their vividness cannot be stressed enough. They are more real than real. And that’s something that you sense intuitively. They establish an ontological priority. They are more real than real, and once you get that under your belt and let it rattle around in your mind then the compass of your life begins to spin and you realize that you are not looking in on the Other; the Other is looking in on you.”
— Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival
We are beginning to understand why ayahuasca — yagé or “Grandmother Medicine” (a modern name that indicates respect) — is considered to be an entheogen, a substance that “reveals inner divinity.” This differs greatly from a hallucinogen or a psychedelic, in that visions and experiences under the influence of ayahuasca (as well as other known entheogens used in ceremonial context) can provide deep and meaningful — oftentimes uninhibited — insights into the nature of life, illness, and well-being, including revelations about the very fabric of existence itself. Experiences are seen and felt as “real,” as opposed to flat-out hallucinations, which ultimately are of little or no consequence, as they are mere mental stimulation, no matter how amusing. It is as if upon drinking the medicine a window to other worlds is opened to realities that exist right here and now, closely alongside our own. Boundaries and egos crumble. It is without doubt a shift of viewpoint, an extension of experience beyond ordinary consciousness. Nonetheless, regardless of how “real” the experience may be, or how accurate a reflection it allows of both outer and inner “reality,” there still exists the great risk of misinterpreting these “otherworldly” experiences and how they might relate to one’s life in the everyday world.
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