Psychedelic la la Land–when visions go wrong

by Captain Bill

"Medicine Hunter logo"

Guest Post by Chris Kilham, Medicine Hunter

Bobbie from California is brimful of energy, bursting with enthusiasm, and expressing a sheen of glistening sweat as he stands shirtless, breathless, exuberant and beaming in the scorching Amazon sun. The profusion of new tattoos covering his torso and arms give testimony to his ardent mission – to represent Mama Ayahuasca. “She showed me! She did! She showed me! It’s soooooo clear!”

One thing is certainly abundantly clear- the freshness of the tattoos. Bobbie’s skin is puckered at the edges of the ink, a lavish display of brugmansia blossoms, mapacho leaves, a jaguar, a huge caapi vine growing up his chest, and the freshly needled outline of an anaconda slithering its way from his shoulder to his hand. The work, all done at a small tattoo shop around the corner from the waterfront promenade in Iquitos, Peru, the Disneyland of ayahuasca journeying, is the result of visions. Visions that convinced Bobbie that he is an important representative of Mama Ayahuasca. As such, he is on a mission to cover his upper body with the signs of his journeys, to pay homage to the plant spirits, and to “represent, man, represent!!!”

I predict that Bobbie will wake up at age 50, stare at himself wearily in the bathroom mirror, sigh “what the fuck,” and look up a good laser clinic, to start the slow process of de-inking. Visions indeed.

Because here is the sober psychedelic fact of the matter. While some visions experienced in the throes of ayahuasca, peyote, mushrooms, San Pedro and other agents are in fact prescient, insightful, revelatory and wise, other visions are mere head salad. If you are going to journey with the aid of psychoactive substances, you must learn to discern the difference between manna from the gods and mental cole slaw. The former may set you on a new, luminous life path. The latter may send you down a rabbit hole.

A woman I know, let’s call her Eliza, drank ayahuasca a couple of times at gatherings in Florida. The medicine showed her many things, and gave her valuable information about Sumeria, Atlantis, the New World Order, Edgar Cayce and exactly who is going to live, and who is going to die in the coming crisis. You know, the coming crisis that everybody talks about. That one.

The guy on the mat next to Eliza also had lavish visions, and saw things clearly. A gym rat and a Tough Mudder, he knew what had to be done. Start an army. But of course. Conveniently, he would be the general. And Eliza, just by virtue of sitting on the mat next to him (fate!!!) would be a colonel. Though she confided in me on the phone “I’m really the powerful one, because of my visions.” Apparently the army also need me “You’re absolutely essential,” she told me. But I had other plans.

Okay, so what happened from there? Eliza, a mother, decided that she had “already had the mother experience,” and that probably her 12 year old son didn’t need her anymore, so she could go off and start the army. You know, the army that is going to “be ready.” Ready for when “the shit hits the fan.” That ready. Uh huh.  As of last check-in, Eliza and the general work out a lot, compete in Tough Mudder events, and are getting their army idea polished. They are preparing for the end of days, when a Vin Diesel movie-like world will ensure that those with biceps make it, and those who can’t dead-lift 350 don’t survive.

The now famous story of the Iquitos pyramid made its global debut in Vanity Fair, recounting how an ayahuasca vision experienced by Englishman Julian Haynes led to his own quixotic and very public quest. Haynes, convinced that he was directed to fulfill a high mission, funded and built a massive wooden pyramid that sat precariously in the water for a long time right off of the lively Iquitos waterfront promenade. For a time, it was the city’s most famous attraction. The pyramid was to be a world peace center, a spiritual magnet, a hotel for travelers, and many other things. I used to watch it with fascination, and always looked forward to seeing where it had drifted, near or close to the promenade.  Today the pyramid is not one whole and integrated global spirit chakra, but thousands of pieces of woody flotsam, spread out all over the Rio Itaya. Larger pieces have been salvaged to make shacks. Smaller ones have been dried to fuel cooking fires.

In fact, Hayne’s pyramid eerily mirrored the frenzied tale of Fitzcarraldo, the horrific Werner Herzog film starring manic Klaus Kinski, in which the vision-driven protagonist drags a gigantic riverboat deep into the steamy verdant Amazon, as part of an ambitious plan to build an opera house in the jungle. Mad as a hatter and twice as scary to watch, Kinski embodied obsession in the film, which was shot in steamy Iquitos. If you tire of eating at Dawn On The Amazon (most near the tattoo stand), then you can drift down the promenade to the opposite corner to Café Fitzcarraldo. And if you want to sop up the rotten, sad remains of that film’s history, you can drop into Casa Fitzcarraldo across town near the banana market, where photos of the film’s stars adorn the walls, where sad-eyed jaguars are locked in cruelly tiny cages, and where the pool water is a milky green.

Beware, oh psychedelic traveler, of the sudden, astonishing, life-changing vision. Beware of “realizations” that you must abandon your comfortable life, job, home and family back in the States or Europe, and grub out a living selling raw cocoa-and-nut balls on the Iquitos streets. Beware the “realization” that you will be a great shaman, and will lead millions to a peaceful era. Beware of ANY vision at all in which you personally have been singled out to play a lead role in the re-doing of all human history. You haven’t. And for goodness sake, beware of the impulse to cover your entire body with ayahuasca visions in indelible ink.

Ayahuasca and other psychedelics can deliver positive, transformative benefits. But they can also set the mind afire with lavish, nonsensical ideas. Most common is the notion of “discovering” that you, yes YOU! will save the planet. You won’t. This is just the same old messy messianic thinking that has never worked and never will. For if there is to be a new, more free and conscious world, we will need not one, but several billion messiahs, each selflessly pulling together for the whole of humanity and planetary welfare.

In the meantime, we have only begun to see the Age Of The Kooks. As more people drink ayahuasca, there will be more visionary fallout. People will decide to undergo rapid and regrettable sex changes. They will ink themselves from head to toe, like Rod Steiger in The Illustrated Man. They will bellow revelations from building tops and get whisked away to secure cells. It is all going to happen. In the great and fabulous circus that is the explosion of ayahuasca into the public mind, every freaky, awkward, bizarre and outright nutso scenario that can play out, will.

Psychedelic la-la land – when visions go wrong

This guest post is by Chris Kilham, founder of the Ayahuasca Test Pilots. Chris is the FOX News Medicine Hunter, and travels regularly to Peru.

Check out his wonderful web site

Hi, Bill Grimes here. If you enjoyed Psychedelic la la Land – when visions go wrong, read more Chris Kilham in his hilarious accounts about Iquitos, ayahuasca and life in general at the links below;

Another Iquitos Evening;

Mareado On The Nauta Road;

Saturated With Spirit At Nihue Rao;

Gringo Self-loathing and Ayahuasca;

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ROgelio November 2, 2013 at 12:23 pm

C’mon Captain! All of our “rationality” and “sanity” is actually constructed and just a reflection of socially acceptable choices, one of the things that ayahuasca and many other substances do is to make people change perspectives, realize their real priorities and change paths of life that won’t make them happy…
Fitzgerald and Haynes at least got their legends, and for Bobbie I predict he will wake up at age 50, stare at himself wearily in the bathroom mirror, sigh “what the fuck,” and go get his old tattoos re-inked hahaha

2 Mike Collis November 3, 2013 at 8:36 am

Well Chris, I eventually got here to read your wonderful article. So many times I reflected on those poor souls who came here for elightenment and ended up crazy, like Victor from Canada (where is he now, I wonder?) or Ruby the american guy who was frantically searching for his husband!
And, of course, we must not forget those who came here hoping to change their lives, and they did, they are dead, remember poor 18 year old Kyle, or the friench girl who hanged herself in Tamshiyacu and then there was Gary Thomson who never returned from an ayahuasca retreat on the Iquitos-Nauta Highway. Thanks Chris,
so well informed as usual and with that extraordinary skill of putting it down in words. Well done

3 David Volkmann November 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Skillfully written like a pro. I see so many stories about Ayahuasca and other hallucination drugs. Why? I can’t imagine anyone wanting to change anything about there life when they are born reasonably healthy. Never hear of those with disabilities into hallucination drugs. How can you appreciate a good day unless you had a bad day. I would never give up all the failures and loses I have experienced in my life. Sure, winning the lottery would be nice. I would not trade the largest lottery in history with the blessing I have received. In order of importance of my blessings to start with is my family and the air I breath. Nothing out of the ordinary for most.

4 Gart van Gennip November 3, 2013 at 7:50 pm


I guess I will cancel my appointment at the tattoo parlor tomorrow!

Great writing, Chris!

5 Darrin D. Mortenson November 15, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Great and thoughtful post, Chris. As your friend Bill Grimes knows I am also a skeptic, but also a beneficiary of Madre Ayahuasca. I think Bobbie will wake up at 50 and there will be an army whether he lies it or not. An army fighting the destruction of all that is sacred in Nature. Nature. And if Bobbie is smart, he’ll freshen up those tattoos and reconnect with the medicine for guidance. No, The Age of The Kooks is already here. It’s people who work for the media organization you do. It’s people who work for oil companies that destroy everything for profit. It’s people who see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil — yet do unspeakable evil in their “day jobs.”
You are a useful fool (tool), my friend. A talented one, no doubt, and one with a comfortable roost to crow from.
I invite you to the Temple of the Way of Light. Just hang out. Don’t get caught up. Just ask questions and then talk of who’s a kook and who’s not.
– Darrin

6 Leo Jones November 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Darrin, I realize I’m showing my ignorance, but is this Temple of the Way of Life a place or school of thought? Good post.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: