The ten best quotes in 2014 related to ayahuasca
As the New Year of 2015 is now a few days upon us, I thought I should write a blog with an end of the year/beginning of the New Year perspective. So I have collected together the ten (more or less) best quotes I found in 2014 (and before), which I think have something to say to us about our experience with Madre Ayahuasca. Many of these have already been cited in different blogs of this last year.
1. Martín Prechtel
“We live in a kind of dark age, craftily lit with synthetic light, so that no one can tell how dark it has really gotten”
This quote is taken from the first line of the excellent last chapter of the first book called ‘Secrets of the Talking Jaguar’ in the trilogy of books about Martín Prechtel’s life as a shaman in a traditional Mayan village in Guatemala.
It sets the context in which we are drinking ayahuasca and I helps to explain why many of us have apocalyptic visions.
We really do live in a dark age despite the pretensions of Western cultural rationalism to claim that contemporary society is the most advanced in history.
In Hindu terminology, we are a few thousand years into the four thousand year cyclical period of Kali Yuga (The Dark or Iron Age) in which genuine spirituality is in decline.
2. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
I remembered this quote forcefully many ceremonies ago and it still continues to resonate with me.
3. James Hillman
“Having visions is easy. The mind never stops oozing the sap and juice of fantasy, and then congealing this play into paranoid monuments of eternal truth. And then are not these seemingly mind-blowing events of light, of synchronicity, of spiritual sight in an LSD trip often trivial – seeing the universe revealed in a buttonhole stitch or linoleum pattern – at least as trivial as what takes place in a usual therapy session that picks apart the tangles of the daily domestic scene.”
James Hillman is my intellectual hero and mentor. I was fortunate to be able to spend four lengthy workshops with him whilst he was alive. This quote is taken from his brilliant essay ‘Peaks and Vales’ in which he makes a differentiation between soul and spirit.
This has always impressed me for its clarity and insight – in contrast to much thinking which simply conflates and/or confuses the two terms.
For Hillman, spirit is an upward, transcendent, movement residing in the heights, heavens and mountains. Soul, for which Hillman spoke up for all his life in all its multiplicity of manifestations, is a downward movement, into the valleys and depths. Soul is attached to and enmeshes itself in the world: spirit seeks to transcend the world.
Our society tends to overvalue spirit and devalue soul.
4. Chris Kilham – the Medicine Hunter
“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.”
In this quote, taken from the amusing and well-written article on his website, Chris Kilham is making the same point as the previous quote from James Hillman. Enough said, really.
(Incidentally, Chris Kilham’s website has an excellent index to links about all things plant medicine related.)
5. Michel Foucault
“Deep down what is experience of drugs if not this: to erase limits, to reject divisions, to put away all prohibitions, and then ask oneself the question, what has become of knowledge?”
A few weeks ago, I would have been surprised to include Foucault on this list. He was a French philosopher and historian of ideas who was (and remains) very influential when I was studying social and political sciences forty years ago. He did pioneering work to show how over the ages society has defined and categorized madness and sexuality.
His colleague Pierre Bourdieu summarised his thought as “a long exploration of transgression, of going beyond social limits, always inseparably linked to knowledge and power.”
I had no idea he had taken LSD in Death Valley California until I read this link.
His quote raises the fundamental issue of what does our experience with La Madre Ayahuasca tell us about what is knowledge. What do we really know? And on what basis do we know it?
6. Jeremy Narby
“Drinking ayahuasca provides a profound challenge to the dominant Western rational paradigm”
I thought I read this somewhere but as I can’t trace it I think it might have been something that Jeremy Narby said in a podcast. It follows directly on from Foucault’s quote.
[ADDENDUM: 7 January 2015: I just heard from Jeremy Narby who I had asked about this quote above and he gave me a reference for another great quote from Benny Shanon in his book, “Antipodes of the mind”: “Ayahuasca brings us to the boundaries not only of science but also of the entire Western world-view and its philosophies” (p. 39) ]
Drinking ayahuasca shows us the profound limitations of our deeply conditioned Western worldview. She shows us that what we normally take to be consciousness and therefore our knowledge of the world based on that egoistic, instrumental, problem-solving mode of consciousness is a fraction of what is potentially available – which brings me to the next quote:
7. C.J. Jung
“The ego is only a bit of consciousness that floats on an ocean of dark things. The dark things are the inner things.”
I also like this next quote by Jung which gives his definition of God. It reminds me of the joke: “How do you make God laugh?…………….Tell him your plans.”
And from Jung:
“To this day God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of my life for better or worse.”
“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”
Rumi’s poetry, especially as translated by Coleman Barks, has been an indispensable guide and companion for me on the path with Madre Ayahuasca. I’m told that Rumi’s poetry is now the best selling poetry in the USA, which should be some cause for optimism whilst the USA continues to fight a war in Afghanistan – the country of Rumi’s birth.
I could have chosen any of a thousand poems – I like this one for its sense of community:
What is the Path?
A self-sacrificing way,
But also a warrior’s way, and not
For brittle, easily-broken, glass-bottle people.
The soul is tested here by sheer terror,
As a sieve sifts and separates
Genuine from fake.
And this road is full of footprints!
Companions have come before.
They are your ladder.
Without them you won’t have the spirit-quickness
You need. Even a dumb donkey
Crossing a desert becomes nimble-footed
With others of its kind.
Stay with a caravan. By yourself,
You’ll get a hundred times more tired,
And fall behind.
Hafez is a Persian poet who is less well-known than Rumi but belongs in the same ecstatic, mystical, Islamic tradition. Here is another wonderful poem on the theme of the spiritual path:
What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?
The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”
Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.
10. Dawn Kelly
Dawn Kelly is the pen name for a friend of mine who is an inspiration for her struggle with a major life-threatening health issue. In a Facebook chat we were having, she wrote:
“The medicine shows how magnificent you truly are and the ego jumps on it.”
It really says it all – she was referring to herself as well as other people. Actually, I think she is talking about the 99% or more of us who are not yet enlightened enough to stop our egos jumping on our spiritual experiences.
It is linked to many of the other quotes cited and points out the dangers of ego-inflation in working with the medicine and, for that matter, in any spiritual journey. If I can cheat again (there are more than ten quotes already) and offer another quote on the same lines which is from James Hillman and Sonu Shamdasani conversing together in the marvellous book ‘Lament of the Dead: Psychology after Jung’s Red Book’:
Sonu Shamdasani says: “There is one point where he [Jung] says you’re not significant because you see something significant.”
Hillman replies: “That’s holy. You are not significant just because you see something significant.”
I’m aware that there are many people I have missed off this list. I would have liked to include both Terence and Dennis McKenna for example. (There is a very good appreciation of them both here by Ralph Metzner). So I’ll end with one additional quote which is my favorite from many of the intelligent, incisive things Terence McKenna said:
“You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”
Do you have a favorite quote about Madre Ayahuasca? If so please leave it in the comments section below.