Seating Ayahausca at the Cannibal Banquet of the Soul (Part Four)

by Captain Bill

Iquitos Peru, Ayahuasca, What Happened To Me, Part Four

A guest post by Dag Walker

“Only when the dusk starts to fall does the Owl of Minerva spread its wings and fly.”

G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, “Preface” (1820)

The philosopher who wanted to explain the nature of things, to create, to shape, to make the world in his own image, finds that it is only at the end of his history that he is able to see that story at all; and then it is too late to do more than at last understand. Wisdom comes when all else is over.

John and I took a mototaxi across town for the third trip to take ayahuasca at Low Town in the shack with local ladies looking for cures for curses and relief from harmful spirits that plague them. Our taxi nearly spilled us as the driver sped reckless down the flooded street in the pounding deluge, missing sight of a hole hidden by the flood, the rear tyre falling deep, smashing into the ground, jerking the little buggy sideways hard and threatening to toss us all into the lake of mud that is the street. Then we sank in the mire and could go no further except on foot to the ayahuascero’s dumpy little house in the dark. Sometimes wading knee-deep in mud and flowing water we went to the man’s place for me to seek enlightenment and wonder from ayahuasca, soaked and cold and expectant of greatness. Having taken only a cupful of ayahuasca last time out, this time I was determined to do it right, taking two cups and maxing out the higher limit of the possible. Grim but smiling I entered the curandero’s place and took my seat and waited my turn for a cup of foul ayahuasca. John explained to the man in far better Spanish than I can manage, that I would this evening take two full cups. The curandero objected, saying it’s too strong and that I would be in danger. I shook my head and insisted. The old man shrugged and passed me the cup. I drank it down and held it out for more. He shook his head and said I should wait, and if I really needed more he would give it to me later. And so I sat and listened as the maestro sat and with him sat ladies come for his healing prayers, his sacred chanting and his mapacho blowing, the smoke being a terror to daemons, his presence enough to cast out evil from the worried ladies who brought their children to sit with strange foreigners taking drugs in an old and decaying building in the night. The rain pounded on the tin roof like an army of mad pagan fists.

The first hour went by for me as I amused myself thinking of Child Services agents swooping in from America like golden eagles to catch up and soar away with little children safe in their claws, removed from this hellish scene of abuse where dark-skinned Indians sit in the dark to be saved from spirits. My stomach almost rumbled, and so I had John fetch me another cup, though the curandero said it would be too much. I took the first mouthful and grimaced at the taste, far worse than ever before, the lingering aftertaste of the first cup still making me sick of it, and then two more gulps to the point I could hardly stand it. But down it went. The ladies and their sleepy children one group at a time got up and left as their prayer sessions ended, leaving me and John and a couple of young men to remain and deal with ayahuasca itself. Shortly thereafter the Peruvians were puking up bucketloads while I sat waiting, listening to the curandero chanting his sing-song icaros.

In every group of twenty ayahuasca drinkers, it seems, there is one person who spends long hours in terrible boredom while all around are in various states of mental weirdness. That one person who is bored is perhaps one who has “blocked chakras.” Or he might be anal retentive. Perhaps he is chakra retentive and or anally blocked. For some, ayahausca does nothing. For a few it is nothing at all.

Blocked chakras? I suspect it is a matter of physical strength, as the curandero tells me in his inimitable way, mapacho cigarette in the corner of his mouth, his large uncovered belly sagging over his pants, his raspy voice chuckling that “I am very strong.”

Ayahausca is a delivery system for chakruna and other DMT-containing drugs. The ayahuasca is not a hallucinogen itself.  Ayahausca is meant as a purgative, to rid people of worms. It is the DMT that produces the “visions” that the drug tourists come to Iquitos and take ayahuasca for. Talk about “ceremonies” is a cover for the cover. It is all about DMT. For DMT to enter the bloodstream to affect hallucinations, the ayahuasca must sneak it into the body’s system before the body breaks it down. It is not the blocked chakras of anally retentive people that prevents the DMT effect. It is a strong gut. Thus, to fool my own belly, I took a cup of ayahuasca and let my body destroy it and the DMT; and then, being a clever fellow, I took another cup when the body had done it’s work on the first.

Shortly after taking the second cup, the first had a mild laxative effect and I relieved myself in the adjoining space (i.e. the bathroom) containing a 50 gallon drum of water meant to flush the hole in the ground that doubles as a shower drain and toilet. I returned to my cot and laid down, waiting for the visions I was so keen to see, for that entry into the undiscovered land of altered consciousness that would give me hope of a better world on the horizon, or at least some insight into why such a world as our is as it is, a “cannibal banquet of the soul.” I laid down and closed my eyes, waiting.

John had curled up and gone to sleep and the other Peruvians were gently swinging sideways in hammocks, a couple of young men who would occasionally spit and vomit in the plastic paint buckets they kept handy. The curandero chanted icaros and whooshed mapacho smoke at me. I closed my eyes and saw a neon embroidered soccer ball hanging in front of my vision. I mentally kicked that one down the road and it was replaced soon after by endless shelves of indistinct cookie tins. I was then greeted by the welcome sight of a science fiction movie scene of massive blobs of puke bubbling on the walls and floor. Taking this as my cue, I stuck my finger down my throat and puked up a record amount, spitting to make sure I did as well as the others around me.

My vision will be a sorry disappointment to most, I fear, though it is as true as I can make it:

I saw in the jungle by the river a beetle rubbing his legs together and making a lion-like roar to attract all the hottest beetle babes for miles around for great sex all the night long, just with him. Other beetle guys were standing off in the darkness, worried shitless that all his big noise would attract as well as the babes all the beetle predators possible, that he first would be eaten and be no more. Some beetle guys tentatively rubbed their legs together, and a few huddled nervously round the guy with the cell phone putting in a futile call to 911. There is no law in the jungle but life and death. But the big guy carried on as loud as living, his roar that of the Beetle God of Eternal Life. “I am alive, and let us together make beetle babies to cover the earth!”

That vision, I hasten now to add, did not come from ayahuasca, it came from being stranded in the jungle for a few nights on a broken-down boat in the  wilds of Bolivia. That vision in the night showed me life lived at a frantic pace so fast that there is only life and death, eating and breeding, living to breed so others can eat ones children, too. The meaning of life? It is life itself, not anything more or less.

Healing ceremonies of Mother Ayahuasca? Life is about living, however long at this cannibal banquet of the soul, and having babies, however long they live and whatever they might do; babies living and growing and having babies in turn; the Plaza filled with little babies in parents’ arms; children living; boys and girls wandering; adults striving to keep them all alive till they all die. Babies and beetle babies and bugs and living things I cannot see, all of life is living. This wisdom comes a bit late for me.

Not much of a vision, and none of it from Mother Ayahuasca. I ate Mother Ayahuasca, and then I slept.

In a fragment from one of Aeschylus’ lost plays, The Myrmidones, he writes of an eagle finding itself impaled by an arrow. Seeing himself thus, the eagle says, “Thus not by others, but with our own feathers/ are we undone.” My body defeats me when I drink ayahuasca. I’m unhappy with that, and I feel that I have so far failed to win this battle I set out for. I don’t like failure; and thus I won’t stand it forever. I will keep drinking ayahuasca till I receive the right effect. I might go so far as to make my own ayahuasca and learn from those masters who know it’s secrets. I’m a lazy guy, and I don’t like the idea that I have to live for decades traveling, listening, reading, thinking, experiencing the world, the earth, life itself to find enlightenment. I want it now, like others who drink ayahuasca. So, I might sit in jungles for a long time learning till at last this instant enlightenment in a bottle works for me. Mother Ayahausca? I’ll defeat it even if I have to beat that bitch to death with a two by four. Ain’t done yet.

Seating Ayahausca at the Cannibal Banquet of the Soul (Part Four)

A guest post by Dag Walker

This piece is an excerpt from my up-coming book, “Iquitos, Peru: Almost Close,” a popular account of Iquitos, its history and people.

You will want to read;

Iquitos Peru, Ayahuasca, What Happened To Me, Part One;

Iquitos Peru, Ayahuasca, What Happened To Me, Part Two;

Iquitos Peru, Ayahuasca, What Happened To Me, Part Three;

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

If you would like to read more about Iquitos Peru, click this link to my blog, No Dhimmitude;

Hi Bill Grimes here. As always, the views expressed by guest authors are not necessarily the views of Bill Grimes, Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises, or the Captain’s Blog.

I do think you will be interested in these articles by Dag Walker posted here in the Captain’s Blog;

Iquitos Peru, A Really Dirty Story;

Iquitos Peru, Black Days, Red Nights: Riot, ’98;

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dag Walker June 6, 2013 at 10:02 am

I had written about ayauasca 17 times over the course of close to a year before I approached Bill Grimes with the idea of writing at his blog about my actual experience with ayahuasca. We were both excited that after all this time of writing about the history of ayahuasca, the interviews with shamans, the close examinations of doctoral theses and so on that I would finally have my own account to narrate. I told Bill that I wanted to take ayahuasca three times to get a fair overview of its affects, each one likely being different and needing a broad sampling to get the full flavour of possible reactions. I was so keen on this that in a moment of intellectual exuberance I suggested the title “Seating Ayahuasca at the Cannibal Banquet of the Soul,” a reference to Tertullian’s condemnation of decadent Rome circa 200 A.D., likening our time to that, suggesting that it would be a better thing to have ayahuasca on the menu than human destruction. I was raring to go. And so I went.

My first taste of ayahuasca and the resulting non-experience didn’t dampen my enthusiasm much. I’ve interviewed numerous people for whom there was no effect from ayahuasca. So I took it a second time, increasing the dose significantly. And then a third time, doubling the second dose. Still nothing.

Since there was nothing, I examined what there is about ayahuasca for others, and I found someone who asked, “Did you ceremony last night?” I drank ayahuasca, indeed, and yet I found myself uncomfortable with the middle aged Valley Girl speak I was supposed to engage in. There, too, nothing, or nothing positive, came of it. The conversation devolved on the other’s part into juvenile babble, leaving me to wonder just what people bring to this and what they take away if what I see is indicative.

I have treated this subject of ayahuasca with deep seriousness over the course of now 22 essays. The actual field work, if you will, of ayahuasca has left me disappointed, to say the least. Moreso still is the banality of the ayahuasca sub-culture of Modernists who bring to the Amazon a sentimentality and a fundamental dishonesty in their approach to it. I suspect still that ayahuasca, if treated properly, is of some interest if not value to many; but the phoniness of many is too much for me. As well, I am less than positively impressed by the cold-eyed drug dealers who concoct this phantasy of “enlightenment” for the gullible. Ayahuasa is a drug, and those who sell it, regardless of the pretty package in comes in, are drug dealers. This hardly offends me. All I demand is honesty. It’s the lack thereof that truly offends me.

I’ve done my best to give an honest account of my experiences with ayahuasca. I will no doubt try again sometime. For now, the experience is nothing. Such is life.

2 adrian walker June 6, 2013 at 12:46 pm

“Do I hear you or does some fond illusion mock me?” Horace a long time ago. He might have been writing about fairy godmother ayahuasca and Dag, thanks for settling the issue in favour of the skeptics. It’s bullshit, Oprah Winfrey and dineros all the way for the gringo dealers.

3 Dag Walker June 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I know from many others that ayahuasca is a powerful hallucinogenic drug, but it doesn’t work for me and some others I know. I’m sure this does not mean it will never work for me and those others. It means I am not willing to invest more money and time on something that is unlikely to work on me. Having said that, I am open to invitations from those ayahuasca people who have confidence in their own product. I’ll take it; I’ll write fairly about it. I just won’t pay for it anymore. If it works, I’ll do as good a job as I am capable of to let the world know what happens. My mind is still, and I like to think always, open. But not my wallet. If the stuff works, then others can have some faith in themselves and prove it to me.

4 Gart van Gennip June 8, 2013 at 11:59 am

Being an ayahuasca skeptic myself, I understand that some people will want to approach the subject with, well, skepticism. However, I like to keep an open mind, and have found that ayahuasca has to be more than just “your brain on drugs”.

My own experiences have not been “spiritual”, like some people seem to have, but rather a slide show of random images, as I like to call it. This would indeed point in the direction of just a halucinogenic drug. However, I would not dismiss the experiences of others as easily as you gentlemen do.

In fact, I am a bit surprised that someone who can write so eloquently (and you may want to tone that down a bit; just because you can, doesn’t mean you should), would display such shortsighted ignorance and prejudice. You obviously don´t get what ayahuasca is, what it means and what it does.

By the way, please refrain from all the pompous quotes as well; advertising your intellectuality is never charming, nor impressive.

5 adrian walker June 8, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Gart, could you illuminate us as to exactly ayahuasca is if, as you say, we have missed the point. To my knowledge it’s a vine which, when boiled has emetic and purgative properties. Hundreds or even thousands of other plants have these same properties. Ayahuasca is nothing more than a hard sell by those gringos who learnt from the tobacco industry that a soft sell and good press with outrageous claims can make unscrupulous people a lot of money. As for the quotes, they’re surely there as enhancement of the overall story, not self glorification of the writer’s intellect. It almost sounds as if you wish to adverise your lack of intellect?

6 Dag Walker June 8, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Gart, you bring out the school teacher in me, and I find myself compelled to point out a few monor flaws in your literary criticism above.

You are a “bit surprised that someone who can write so eloquently (and you may want to tone that down a bit; just because you can, doesn’t mean you should)….”

I think you’re making some objection to erudition, which, if I read this rightly, you conflate with literary pretention. Or: I would normally in a long piece write a few pages of foreshadowing, but in the case of a few pages in total I use instead an illustrative quotation. This is of some benefit to the average reader in that the illustration sets up very quickly the thesis and foreshadows the overall theme of the piece to come. Because I can, Gart, I do. It’s at least a courtesy to my readers.

I think the gist of your criticism is that I “display such shortsighted ignorance and prejudice” of something others find beneficial about using ayahuasca. “You obviously don´t get what ayahuasca is, what it means and what it does.” This is true, Gart, and is what the whole narrative states clearly from the first part, excluding the introduction. As is painfully clear, not everyone has a positive experience with ayahuasca. Some, like me, have no real experience of it at all. No experience is a valid experience as well as what others have. I think that is plain in any objective reading of my account.

I have to guess here, and am open to correction, that your real objection to my post is that I am unsympathetic to a culture of victimhood and effeminacy. That is what I read as subtext in your comment, hence “short-sighted ignorance” and “prejudice.” Ignorance isn’t short-sighted, Gart, it is simply ignorance in itself. So, that leaves us with prejudice as your main complaint, my literary failings being of no real interest to anyone who read my posts. Frankly, I’m not confident that you did read my posts at all in any depth. About ayahuasca I am still, as I noted above, open to further experience. This leaves me with the impression that you find offence in something else, that likely being my emphatic rejection of “Oprah” culture. That is a seperate issue from ayahuasca. If you or others care to discuss ayahuasca, please feel free to enlighten me and other readers here. I’ve written 21 posts regarding ayahuasca from many angles and I am open to learning more. If you have anything to contribute to that, I hope you’ll do so here so we can all benefit from your knowledge.

Finally, “advertising your intellectuality is never charming, nor impressive.” I know you will share a laugh with me over your unnecessary comma. I make so many tyops that I am sometimes, though not often, embarrassed. One of my favourites was using in a headline, “The Pubic Library….”

Thanks for the input, Gart. Next time we meet I will go out of my way to be both charming and impressive. I won’t, as you haven’t done, ackowledge any grasp of Kantian ethics. I’ll just sort of use a quotation with no acknowledgement of the source or sense of it.

7 Gart van Gennip June 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Hello gentlemen!

I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comments, but I have done more than enough posting about ayahuasca on these very pages.

Funny you should point out an unnecessary comma, Dag. Let´s not get into errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation and style, especially with the huge error in the title of your artice in mind.

Best wishes to both!


8 Dag Walker June 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm

themdammed tyops!

9 Dag Walker June 10, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I suspect I am not yet finished with ayahuasca, given that I haven’t had the typical experience I had hoped for. I’m in no rush to repeat the experiences I have had so far, so I wil sit and think about this further to see if I can find out what happened and what didn’t happen. Then, assuming I have the experience I think I should, I will write again.

I read Norman Gorman, Ayahuasca in My Blood. I read an account of Gorman trying to walk a short distance from the forest to his hut and how he couldn’t make it till he followed psychedelic lilly pads back. Frankly, if my ayahuasca experience were so trivial, then I would not write about that. I would find that kind of experience not just trivial but humiliating. Neither would I write about the joys of vomitting, leaving such to professional bulimics. What I would and perhaps will write about is some serious encounter with an altered state of consciousness, as I see it. yes, paisly lilly pads would be an altered state of perception for me; but no, I wouldn’t think it interesting.

There is the question of intellectuals being “blocked” from ayahuasca hallucinations, as if somehow thinking at a professional level somehow prevents one from “feeling” or being open to new experiences. This is foolishness on stilts, as Churchill puts it in another context. The whole point of intellectual endeavours is to attain a continuous state of altered consciousness in daily living, i.e. in the life of the mind in the world, so one can think outside the usual assumptions and can therefore think creatively and independently. This is hardly a “blockage” that would prevent a thinker from hallucinating. Neither is it a Dr. Spock-like logicism that prevents one from having emotional responses to natural events in daily living. No one is so cartoonish other than in the minds of the completely gullible and the organically incapable. Thinking is already to be in an altered state of consciousness, and one attempts to go further in ones profession, as a rule. Logic, conflated with unemotionalism or emotional incapacity is not all-encompassing as some seem to want to think– in an unthinking way. Logic is an altered state of consciousness to a hyper degree, and it requires imagination beyond my capacity most times. Logic doesn’t stop anyone from creativity. Logic demands creativity. It requires, at a high level, an abandonment of the trivial and the conventional. Seeing coloured lilly pads is pedestrian. What ayahuasca hallucinations should provide the intellectual, whether a formal logician or informal, is something akin to what one already experiences in daily living, i.e. another and complementary vision of the arcane.

If and when I have an ayahuasca experience of genuine worth, then I will write again about this. Meanwhile, I find Gart’s responses here and elsewhere to be the stuff that makes my life worth my time and effort: I find in Gart a mind unlike my own and one I find interesting enough to consider at some length in the day. Gart’s comments reveal to me a world I was not particularly aware of previously. It’s worth my time to examine the mind of Gart, we both living in what is objectively an altered state of awareness. I’ll find out new and perhaps intriguing aspects of humanness from Gart. I don’t need ayahuasca to do that thinking. Nor does that kind of thinking prevent me or others from thinking about other realms of possibilities.

For now, for Gart, it’s yalla from me.

Think globo.
Act loco.

10 Robert Burnaby June 11, 2013 at 1:45 am

There is no law in the jungle but life and death. But the big guy carried on as loud as living, his roar that of the Beetle God of Eternal Life. “I am alive, and let us together make beetle babies to cover the earth!”

Life is about living, however long at this cannibal banquet of the soul, and having babies, however long they live and whatever they might do; babies living and growing and having babies in turn; the Plaza filled with little babies in parents’ arms; children living; boys and girls wandering; adults striving to keep them all alive till they all die. Babies and beetle babies and bugs and living things I cannot see, all of life is living. This wisdom comes a bit late for me.” – Dag

I don’t know anything about Ayahuasca or DMT. But of course that doesn’t stop me from interest in Dag’s affirmation of human life. And for us life’s affirmation is much more than affirming the law of the jungle pitting life and death.

I heard a rabbi say that what drug users are looking for is the same thing a Jew can find in the kabbala. In other words, what all people are looking for is transcendence of the worldly world, or of the jungle, an embrace of ethical and esthetic revelations that go beyond mere physicality for they unfold and survive physical life in a domain that only exists among us, in the exchange of signs, and not, first of all, in any of us. They exist in our consciousness of being on a scene with others. It is our human ability to share esthetic consciousness of human truth and beauty that makes it possible for us to be transfixed by the observation of nature, landscapes, scenery, in a way no animal (who has no need or reason to consider nature in some “offline” mode, from some imaginative p.o.v.) can. Our esthetic faculty no doubt builds on jungle survival skills for recognizing differences in habitat or terrain, but it is not the same thing. It is a qualitative leap forward unfolding on a distinctive kind of shared human scene.

Why exactly some would need (or think they need) drugs to become aware of this reality of which all humans have always already been a part, and why drugs would not do anything for others, and why religion or travel would work best for others, is not a question i can readily tackle. But I think, ultimately, the rabbi is right that it is all the same quest, if with different costs and benefits.

I will say however that one of the outstanding characteristics of those who worship Gaia in typical postmodern, victim-worshiping, fashion (and which I imagine is similar to the drug tourist’s worship of Mother Ayahuasca) is the reduction in one’s understanding of humanity, of all human on human relations, to the model of oppressors exploiting nature-Gaia. This victim- or Oprah-centred model leaves one precious little room for understanding the human agency behind the creation of transcendence, an agency we all enjoy, most simply by just talking. And if someone were, as Dag suggests in his disdain for Oprah (though real wisdom might see a creative force even there), caught up in a worldview where one can be only either active human victimizer or passive, naturelike, victim, then imbibing Mother Ayahuasca would be an attempt to reverse one’s human agency to bond with the passive earth mother, and in a way to think as if the law of the jungle could be translated simply into human terms, with only the addition of a small moral supplement that desires to worship the suffering mother and hate the killer (imagined as male-human).

But the Gaia-worshiper is creative, in a male-human way, even if she thinks only in terms of oppressor and passive victim. Her desire for “ceremony” and revelation and experimental living, and art, inevitably transcends her victim-centred ideology even if the latter is a brake on that active creativity.

Which is just all to say that if we are to affirm human life, we must find the path to recognizing that the law of the jungle isn’t the vision we really look for in drugs or god or travel, even when we are happy to be considering, in our transcending minds, the jungle.

11 Dag Walker June 11, 2013 at 5:35 pm

It’s too easy for Modernists to lose sight of the Law of the Jungle in that we live at a frantic pace in cities, our lives cut off from nature because it’s something we see occasionally on television or perhaps at university under a microscope in a botany lab. But it can and does get worse: some see nature only when they are in a forest with those who have personified the scene and turned it into a refleciton of their own pasty ideological borrowings. Nature becomes some vaguely recalled thing filtered through the unread pages of Rousseau and the mostly unknown founder of the pseudo-science “Oekologie,” Ernst Haekel, and worst still from the babble of idiots like Lovelace who go on for no reason whatsoever beyond the need to talk, those who speak of Gaia. Then along comes an avatar of all idiocies, an Oprah who can gather up all the cliches like an idiot savant at the casino and make it pay off, intuitively combining one idiocy with another till it is seemless and seems to say something profound. Undeniably, this is some sort of genius. As Dennet puts it so well of computers and people, it’s a matter of “competence without comprehension.” It’s not anything to be proud of, though it can make one richer than God. Regarding life itself, it leads to hell, a lifeless existence of second hand idiocy and an end that would be despair if only those at the end could think it through: A life unlived.

At the risk of being erudite in public, it is Feuerbach who demanded of his followers that they, and all mankind, be the ground of their own existence, their own makers of themselves as demigods. This is not a freedom to be an individual among the herd, it is a destruction of the authority of the moral, if I may be oblique. And once the authority is gone, there is, unsurprisingly, no authority, no legitimacy left for the individual to seek validation from other than himself in his loneliness. How does one know anything in a vacuum? Thus, one turns to other demigods better suited to knowing and telling, and we end up with totalitarian sadists who assert. The sadist to is the ground of his own existence, and thus, a demigod like all others is as dubious as another, though probably cruel and violent if forgiving and loving in his murder. Is this good? Who would know, and how?

So I go back to the jungle to see the first move, as it were, to see what is real and what is Oprah. The jungle allows for a clear and unfiltered vision of life without ideas. Human life is probably impossible without ideas, but in the jungle one can see other forms of life without. Thus, what is their ground of existence? Life itself and the furtherance thereof. In the jungle there is no feminism, no socialism, no ecology, no racism, no weepy girls crying about Gaia. There is only life. From life itself one can begin to build some sense of authority– and the moral. One cannot find this in oneself from television emoters. Nor can one find this from a boiled vine and leaves. The solitary being is feral and has nothing to teach us but to beware. But the social being has his warnings too, that we must be careful not to believe without thinking. What is the first principle? It is that life is life. That is nature. Without that, there is only belief in other peoples’ second hand opinions; and that is generally the first principle of the majority: authority without moral. The law of the jungle is not the moral of the story by any means, it is the first principle from which we begin to explore.

It might be unfair to pick on Norman Gorman specifically, but he is the author of “the bible of ayahuasca,” and thus is the centre of much of the rot that is the pseudo-relgion of self-discovery through ayahuasca in Iquitos and beyond.

Gorman becomes on the strength of his “bible” the authority of the moral of ayahuasca. He is the Oprah of ayahuasca. He misses the essential first principle that life is about life first; about anything living only later. His idiot savant routine leads the anomie-driven atomist lone being in nature to adopt his babble as if he were the ultimate avatar of the moral, the authority to whom others would go for truth and validation. Thus, missing the first principle, all are lead astray into nihilism and self-worship which soon turns to self-disgust because few are sadistic enough to fully believe themselves to be gods. Those disillusioned people in their despair turn to power and charisma, in some cases to ayahuasca celebrities, to validate their emptiness with babble. Those who conform to nihilism of Feuerbach eventually turn to the charlatanry of such as Gorman in the polluted hope of salvation and meaning. Since such is based not on nature and the rage to breed, there is no bottom on which to base authority. Everything floats in the mind, changing with the wind, today ayahuasca and its 5,000 year old ceremony [sic] and tomorrow perhaps salvation by space aliens. It will depend very much on what ones friends say they believe.

Ayahuasca is, among the drug tourists, a matter of not finding the first principle, of avoiding the serious reality of death in an eating undiverse. Life is not about the demigod, it is about life. For the drug tourist, life is about the emptiness of life and the self-deluded second hand idea that some sadist with power and charisma has an answer to fill one up. There can be no mutal assistance in this programme. There can only be sadism and masochism. We end up with a smiling idiot peddling dysteleology, with starry-eyed idiots mooning about Mother Ayahuaca, about ceremonies and healing, and all of it ending in dusty death.

12 Robert Burnaby June 12, 2013 at 2:56 am

By attending to the law of the jungle one can appreciate biological imperatives, one may even gain insight into universal morality, but when it then comes to questions of how to live in human society, in a particular place and time, one has to have an appropriate ethics. And it is that leap from morality to practical ethics, from your (or any) first principle to the reality that ethical life in any society is always and necessarily full of nonsense (you go girl) that is the irresolvable problem. One can end up like Dawkins, an object of justifiable ridicule for his inability to appreciate that his scientistic hatred of religion becomes just as nonsensical a religio-ethical system shared by a certain class of Voltaire-worshiping people as any he berates.

The ethical is always in good part nonsensical because no society can put off the pressing need for shared values in order to go through some “scientific” process of determining them.

There is the affirmation of life because we are aware, unlike any jungle creature, of our own mortality, an awareness that stems from the paradoxical reality that our own species is our biggest threat. To defer that threat, there is the pressing need to share values now (which is not a simple question of conformity vs. demigodism, since sharing is neither a mindless nor a mindful exchange, but is rather always cloudy about ultimate values, engaging even the dimwits at time in “theoretical” questions of “real” value, and is always inflecting and reshaping those values) gives us ethical positions that may well seem nonsensical to someone theoretically inclined but on the ethical (as opposed to the minimally moral) front we should always be wary of putting personal theories ahead of the evolved “wisdom” of the common human scene. For the ability to sustain the scene itself is the heart of ethics. The theoretical may well be able to identify universal truths, but then they are not too wise if they think that provides some keen insight into how to live in any given society. Dag the “serious” writer and Dag the raconteur: two different guys.

13 Gart van Gennip June 13, 2013 at 10:53 am


While it is refreshing to see some discussion of a higher intellectual level, I have to ask: who do you guys write for? Dag claims that using quotes from distant and obscure thinkers is a courtesy to his readers. What readers, Dag?

I mean, who can muster the time and the energy to wrestle through an entire article or comment of yours? Not me, I can barely get through a single paragraph, but I did read Norman Gorman’s entire book without a problem. His real name is Peter, by the way. And don´t you go make me feel stoopid now, for not being an interlectural!

I suspect you don´t write for your readers at all; just for yourself. Nothing wrong with that, though; any artist should just create to impress himself and nobody else, so I guess that is true for a writer as well. But while Peter Gorman reaches thousands through his writings, I don´t think you reach anyone but your buddies Adrian and now Robert. I hope the three of you are very happy together.

14 Dag Walker June 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Speaking of famous writers who make tons of cash, Gart, I have been trying to coax Sarah Palin (and Ted) to come down here to go fishing. If they come, and if you’re not feeling cranky, come join us for a drink on the malecon. I’m sure we could both use some tips on writing, as could Gorman, who doesn’t sell near as many books as Sarah.


15 Dag Walker June 13, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Robert, I’m beginning to think about your position from the standpoint of pre-Homeric oral narratives. The tribe learns from the bard, but when Homer comes to write it all down, then the narrative must keep the essentials while still moving on to meet new possibilities, bringing the same story to the changing audience of generations who also bring new insights to a set in stone story. The narrative is eternally Homeric even after the fact that Homer gets some scalp tonic that makes him look like the Wolf Man. But it is still a Sipmson’s episode; and thus we need the old context to keep ourselves from total nihilism, changing, yes, but maintaining the core narrative given to us over the seasons.

This is for Gart, of course, as well as my couple of readers.

16 adrian walker June 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Phew!!!!! Did somebody gart in this forum?

17 Gart van Gennip June 13, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Now Adrian, there is a post I can relate to!

Dag, is Ms. Palin bringing her machine gun to shoot the local wildlife from a helicopter?

By the way, don´t confuse her with an author; she couldn´t form a flawless sentence in the English language to save her life.

18 Dag Walker June 13, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Gart, it’s good to see you taking this with a sense of humour.

Of course Mrs. Palin isn’t bring a machine gun. That would be illegal. Besides, we hope to go fishing, for which handgrenades are more appropriate.

My best.

19 Robert Burnaby June 14, 2013 at 1:39 am

All i can say is that the best way to catch fish is to make Sarah Palin president of Harvard, Or maybe Caltech. When all the heads along the coasts explode, voila!

20 Dag Walker June 14, 2013 at 10:15 am

And the winner is….

Robert, that is hilarious!

If ever ayayhuasca visions turn ugly for the crowd, then we can expect now they will all be running nekked down the road as they flee images of Sarah in a helicopter with a machine gun shooting pirahnas at them.

21 adrian walker June 14, 2013 at 10:29 am

on the subject of Sarah Palin, we’re on the same page. My only dispute is whether she could a form a sentence at all!

22 adrian walker June 14, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I have no poblem with you personally or your curious (to me) sexual preferences but I do have an issue with libellous comments being posted on Facebook. They are all lies, inventions of a sick mind, perhaps a testimony to your own chosen lifestyle of unnatural behaviour. Gay men love to bitch don’t they? An apology is due or alternatively a denouement with proof which doesn’t exist so good luck finding it. I have no intention of competing with your miserable scumbag business and would probably decline your clients (if you have any?) Again Gart, in the past I would have suggested pillows at dawn but your offensive attitude makes the matter more serious than that. Sarah, where are you darlin?

23 Dag Walker June 14, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Now that that’s out in the open I hope we see the end of it here. This particular post is about ayahuasca and the subculture that follows it. It’s not about Gart slagging Adrian and Adrian’s response to that. Take it somewhere else, gentlemen.

24 adrian walker June 15, 2013 at 11:30 am

Quite correct Dag and my apologies for the brief diversion. Back to the topic, my question remains as to if ayahuasca is a medicine as claimed by its proponents, why doesn’t it heal the likes of Fart?

25 Dag Walker June 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I have such a clever audience sometimes….

Now I know why the world at large refers to you as the evil twin. It’s not much of a mystery why I’m the handsome twin. About ayahuasca, the actual point of my lengthy writings here and elsewhere, I’m still working at it. I look forward to serious input from those who know stuff.

26 Non-responder June 4, 2014 at 7:18 am

I am also a non-responder. After several non-descript ceremonies at Temple of the Way of Light, I am pretty convinced I am one of the 5% that Terrence MacKenna observed as having no response. Rick Strassman observed this same margin in his IV DMT studies. Apparently one of his subjects did not respond at all to the big dose, and a couple of subjects had very mild responses. So, being that they were receiving injections, the issue is more likely within the neural network than the gut. I also tend to think that anyone who receives a healing or evolves from what they experience from Ayahuasca is either experiencing the power of their own belief (what is existence but a holographic projection of our complex web of beliefs) and / or they have the maturity to take on board what they experienced and learn from it. Many don’t. A good example can be observed in the documentary “Vine of the Soul” where one fellow with relationship problems repeatedly reverts to his old ways. On the other hand, I suspect Ayahuasca may have super powerful antioxidant compounds which make it useful for drug addicts to detox quickly and without the usual withdrawal symptoms. Just a guess. 🙂

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