Don’t ask what the Spirit World can do for you but what you can do for the Spirit World.
This post is prompted by attending Stephen Beyer’s recent session at the MAPS (Multi-Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) conference in Oakland, California on Friday April 19th.
Stephen began his talk pointing out that the main thrust of much of what was being presented at the conference was looking at the benefits of man-made psychedelics and medicinal plants, notably ayahuasca, principally from the reductionist perspective of seeing them as a collection of molecules that can be used for human benefit. (And I would add largely for Westerners). This perspective, in my opinion, follows the well-worn path of Western science in seeing nature as an inanimate resource that can be expropriated for human use.
In contrast, in Amazonian and other indigenous cosmovisions, the medicinal plants are spirit beings with their own intelligence and autonomous existence. They are not simply a means for human ends. Contact with them implies respect, reciprocity and obligations.
In his talk, which is well worth reading, Stephen said:
“Opening the door to the magical world is not a day trip. Every approach we make to the spirits entails reciprocal obligations, the risks and dangers of the vision fast. What those obligations are is a matter between each of us and the spirits, but at the very least they require gratitude and humility — a willingness to be courageous and vulnerable, to speak honestly from our hearts and listen devoutly with our hearts, to tell the spirits our truest stories.”
This resonates with my own experience. I would like to illustrate this with two stories – one of my own and another from a friend.
1. After about eighteen months of drinking ayahuasca, I was becoming more familiar with the world that Madre Ayahuasca granted me access to. Sometimes, I thought of this world as a form of ‘shamanic space’ potentially inhabited by spirits, though at that time I had no contact with them. At other times, influenced by my reading of Jung and Hillman, I thought of it as the way my imagination was representing the ‘landscape of my soul’.
I had already seen this world in a previous ceremony as enclosed by the kind of tape that police use at crime and accident scenes to stop people from entering. Another time, I saw it from a distance with a sign outside saying ‘Closed for Maintenance’. So I was pleased when, in a later ceremony, I was allowed to fully enter and inhabit this world. At this point, I heard Madre Ayahuasca’s voice say to me: “It’s fine to find you here but what are you doing here? Why have you come here?”
To reply that I was motivated by curiosity, which would locate me, in Stephen Beyer’s terms, as a ‘tourist’ in this world was a completely inadequate response. Furthermore, answering this question in terms of my own learning and development was also insufficient. I’m still, eighteen months later, working my way to fully answering this question.
2. The following account was told to me by Robyn, a friend who I drank with in a ceremony on the evening of December 20th 2012, which took us into the fateful day of December 21st 2012.
She said that her ceremony began with a strong concern on her part that she had not fulfilled an agreement with another friend to be at Machu Picchu the day of 21st of December 2012, which she felt was the culmination of contact over a number of lifetimes. She was able to make psychic contact with this friend and through this contact entered into another dimension.
In this dimension, an intergalactic war was happening between our galaxy and another. The beings fighting the war for our galaxy were angry that people from earth were not pulling their weight. Robyn said she could see a network of various people scattered over the globe, like yogis and experienced meditators supporting the war by holding space, but they were comparatively few.
Robyn was given a small one-person fighting plane and asked to join the fray. She sat in the cockpit, and distressed, realized she did not know how to fly the plane. She was then asked to go and help tend to the wounded.
The area for the wounded was full of beautiful, noble, tall beings, with animal heads, who looked like Egyptian Gods. Robyn thought they might have been from Pluto or Neptune or from the outer limits of the galaxy. She tried to tend to their wounds but found herself too upset to help and began to cry.
In response, she was told: “Come back when you can contribute”