Guest speaker: Hamilton Souther
[NOTE: All quotations are by Hamilton Souther.]
“Even they [the shaman] do not know what ayahuasca is, because you’re never experiencing ayahuasca. You are always experiencing ayahuasca plus you, and that combination is not ayahuasca. That combination is you and ayahuasca. And that means ayahuasca then is undefinable, we don’t know what it is, which then always allows us to continue to explore the unknown. And it becomes an unlimited journey for us to be able to continue to go further and further and further in our understanding.”
“The shamanism becomes a guide, and the ayahuasca becomes a guide for an exploration of the purity of consciousness.”
“[When interviewing a shaman] especially look at everybody in the eyes. The eyes in ayahuasca tell you everything. If you see people with eyes that get really glossed over and become really shifty, it’s letting you know something there is going on that maybe you don’t want to become like that. Maybe that’s not why you’re there.”
PCs – Right click, select option
Macs – Ctrl-Click, select option
Paul said in the comments above: “It is probably true that the path of ayahuasca can do something like this. However, what “going beyond our stories of life and death” would mean is for your present self to “die” first. This is probably not a particularly pleasant process, the death of the self. It might be better in the end, but as the self is actually dying, I don’t think it would be all that fun…For instance, I don’t see being in the terminal cancer ward as a rollicking good time.”
The problem here seems, that you are standing next to the swimmingpool and are trying to comment about how it ‘probably’ would feel to have an ego-death. I have been drinking ayahuasca for some time (if you are interested, read my account here http://bit.ly/14c5UjT ), and yes, it can be very challenging. But the ideas you seem to have develloped about the assumed terror of the egodeathare of no more value than, to quote McKenna, ‘the opinion of eleven year old boys about sex’.
For me, the ayahuasca is a divine being, and yes, there exists something like ‘Timor Dei’, the fear of god, when crossing the threshold. And yes, fear and doubt are the guardians of the threshold. But some things can only be rated at its value after having experienced it.
Thank you, Lorenzo, for you comment.
Just let me point out a few quick examples of traumatic experiences on ayahuasca.
I just heard a podcast by Graham Hancock in which he talks about a shamanic dismemberment, a shamanic death and rebirth while under the influence of ayahuasca, which he describes as very much like an actual death, with all the attendant fear and loathing.
One of the people I respect the most who works with ayahuasca said that the first time she participated in a ceremony, she screamed out, “WHERE IS THE ANTIDOTE??? GIVE ME THE ANTIDOTE!!!”
I have another very close friend who saw very clearly the process of the slaughter of animals and felt the terror that animals feel upon being slaughtered as the ayahuasca first took effect. He saw the mundane terror of the barnyard, which is indisputably part of most of our lives, and ayahuasca made him aware of that. As this was happening, he lay moaning uncontrollably on the floor.
My friend later in the ceremony had very meaningful visions that suggested that he had stepped out of time, had died in a way, and was looking at the totality of his life from an unknown perspective.
That is, he saw himself simultaneously as a child, and adult and an old man. In order to get to that vision, he had to experience ego death, which was painful.
It is important to note that both Graham Hancock and the woman whose story I am telling both continue their work with ayahuasca despite the terror that it engendered. (My close friend was scared enough to step a few steps back from aya, while still appreciating and respecting the lessons it had taught)
All of these people experienced the terrors of ayahuasca within the safe confines of a very responsible ceremony led by experienced shamans. They were not taking aya recreationally, but to really investigate *what it means to live* and *what it means to die*.
We are all terrified of death. Within each of us is a mechanism that (thankfully) instinctively recoils from death. Medicines such as ayahuasca allow us to go beyond that, but in order to go beyond, we must confront it, which is really painful.
Given these examples, I am not sure what to make of your assertion that you have seen very few “bad trips” in your many ayahuasca ceremonies, especially as the medicine is sometimes known as “the purge.”
I can only imagine that you are lucky enough to have found shamans who are able to brew up a mixture that avoids this confrontation with death.
Whether this is good or bad, I don’t know.
Also, remember the talks by Myron Stolaroff in which he unequivocally states that one of the highest uses of LSD is to confront the black mass of fear, anger, guilt and doubt which most people carry around with them.
There *is* a light at the end of the tunnel, I believe. There *is* rebirth, a life beyond this dying body we carry around. This is the *good news* (really good news!) of medicines like ayahuasca. But to get to that point where you hold that knowledge in your hands like a pack of cigarettes or a rock is not an easy journey, as far as I can tell.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: re: “We are all terrified of death.” . . . You obviously speak for yourself, but I for one have no fear of death. For me it’s going to happen sooner rather than later, and I am very much at peace with that. And while I still disagree with you about ayahuasca (which it appears you have never personally experienced), my advice to you is to never try it.]
This was a very interesting talk but….
I don’t think he emphasized the shock to the system that ayahuasca can represent.
He said something like, “Go beyond our stories of life and death…”
It is probably true that the path of ayahuasca can do something like this. However, what “going beyond our stories of life and death” would mean is for your present self to “die” first. This is probably not a particularly pleasant process, the death of the self. It might be better in the end, but as the self is actually dying, I don’t think it would be all that fun.
For instance, I don’t see being in the terminal cancer ward as a rollicking good time. This is something, even if after my own death I feel better, that I , and I think most people would rather avoid if at all possible.
Someone on the MAPS forum who is very experienced with ayahuasca described his ayahuasca experience as a long, slow, painful four year death. This, my friends, is not to be taken lightly.
And remember, Mr. McKenna himself has recently been called out for having given glowing reviews of “heroic doses” while secretly being terrified himself and you don’t often hear him talking about all the pain of ego death, now do ya?
In this talk and in McKenna’s talk, they selectively pull out the fun parts, the wonderful parts at the end of the experience without pointing out how horribly frightening it is for most people to effectively die.
True, you can go on aya trips without confronting this. I remember one story of a girl who was at an aya ceremony commenting on all the pretty colors and so forth that she was seeing.
The shaman sternly admonished her: “That is not what this is for.”
What it is for is really understanding what it means to live and die. And again, this is not like going to a movie. Most people would be pretty darned afraid to die, and this needs mentioning again and again and again when talking about what ayahuasca might truly represent.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: I have had dozens of ayahuasca experiences, and I never had anything even close to a “bad trip”. The circle that I have been a member of, collectively, have participated in a very large number of ayahuasca experiences, and while from time to time someone may mention a metaphorical connection with a death experience, I have never heard of any of them/us actually experiencing the kind of trauma that you seem to fear for people who work with the vine. With professional, experienced, and caring ayahuasceros, this is possibly the safest of the high dose psychedelic experiences that can be found. . . . At least, that’s my opinion.]
Funny to see that there are more people interested in what book Lorenzo referred to in this podcast – I was about to ask the same. 🙂
Isn’t it then the “Cloud Atlas” that was recently a movie? Well, one should not compare a book to a movie anyway…
About Hamilton’s talk, I found it great in the beginning but I find it always difficult to appreciate stories about unknown beings suddenly appearing (be it ET’s, machine elves or whatever) – should one really take this literally? It does not quite sound like “cleansing the doors of perception” anyway – rather adding a whole lot to the hallway.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: Although I haven’t seen the movie, from what I’ve read (including the author’s more-or-less apology for the movie) the movie version wasn’t nearly as good as the book, which I enjoyed and am still thinking about.]
Already turned me on to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One which I read twice back to back while on a driving trip through Europe. Keep em coming! Thanks
hehe I looked up Cloud Atlas on amazon. Here was the description:
“David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian lore of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick.”
Now I really have to check out his book. You might be interested in the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (inspired by PKD) It reminds me a lot of the topics in the Salon eg. the Biosphere Project etc.
That’s a lot of good reading! I was curious which book it was that you were reading, which you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast. It sounded like a real page turner, sort of like a Phillip K. Dick novel.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: Although I’ve read much of Dick’s work, the book I was reading when I did that podcast is “Cloud Atlas: A Novel” by David Mitchell. I wanted to see how this new style of novel worked. For me, it kept me turning the pages. ]
Amazing pod. I’m sure me and aya are getting closer and closer…would love to talk more about in person. I’m in the San Francisco bay area.
What book are you reading?
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: I always am reading more than one book at a time. Here are a few that I’ve recently finished: “Cloud Atlas”, “Only Time Will Tell”, “A Candid History of the Jesuits”, “Democracy, An American Novel”, “A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln”, “The Education of Henry Adams”, “Things Fall Apart”, “Fall of Giants”, “Burr” (Vidal), “Lincoln” (Vidal), “Present Shock”, “The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss”, “The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal”, “The Locusts Have No King”, “A Time to be Born”, “The Golden Bough”, “Madam Bovary”, “Debt: The First Five Thousand Years”, “The City and the Stars”, “The Last Empire”, “Dodsworth”, “Childhood’s End”, “Legacy of Ashes”, plus most of Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, and George Orwell that are found on Gutenberg.org. . . . That’s my reading so far this year, not counting several that I’m currently reading.]
This guy has amazingly lucid thought patterns,
it must have something to do with yage, i assume..
Thank you for posting this talk, Lorenzo. I’ve been through very moving ceremonies with Hamilton that have changed my life for the better. This will hold me over until my next visit.
Amazing talk. Hamilton is a Maestro and I have been blessed to have been in aya ceremonies with him.