Posted 27 November 2006 - 11:01 PM
Along with watching this great documentary I recommend checking out Benny Shanon's 500 page book about Ayahuasca entitled "Antipodes of the Mind" if you haven't allready. Shanon has taken ayahuasca over 160 times and along with interviewing hundreds of other people who took ayahuasca, he wrote beautiful descriptions of the visions he saw...here is just a sample:
Quote from Shanon's book 'The Antipodes of the Mind':
"The first example consists of a 'real-time' verbatim report of what I saw in one session in which I partook of Ayahuasca by myself. I spoke aloud describing what I was seeing and notes were taken by the person who watched me. This session is not part of the core corpus and it is the only session of which I have such a recording. Overall, I would characterize this session as one of moderate strength. In it, there were no grand visions and most of the visualizations in it are snapshots and relatively simple scenes. Furthermore, in this session I had very few ideations and no special psychological insights or spiritual experiences whatsoever. Yet, I find this report to be especially valuable in portraying the general flavour of Ayahuasca visions. Manifest in it is a fairy tale-like ambience and an overall air of magnificence and enchantment. Also featuring in the report are several details that are character*istic of Ayahuasca visions in general—these include fire (note the various ways it is incorporated within the narrative of the vision), light-producing objects, carriages, and processions.17 Also recurrent in the report are turning movements, upward movements, and looking forward far into the distance. One comment made by a person seen in this visual sequence is a good example of how ideas relate to Ayahuasca visualizations. The entire sequence lasted about forty minutes:
A golden crystal chalice.
Flowers. In the flowers there are birds and insects and the birds go up and up.
A wheel is turning and there is a rod that is turning round and round. From it, a fire ignites.
An old man holds a taper and from it the fire climbs up and up.
A futuristic city.
A Chinese king is sitting and turning his parasol. Now he is in his study. In the background, birds are kissing one another.
A great hall—like an animated movie.
There is a code here—like that of Morse or the genetic code. The code is constituted by many, many dots, the density between which varies. All this is a language calling to be deciphered.
There is something that pushes up and up. It is like a mountain train. All the time it goes up and up.
A car from the 1920s. Delightfully magnificent. From it emerge light and flowers. Advancing with this light, we pass along gold-plated walls and come out through a staircase made out of gold and ivory. The steps go up and down and reach a theatre.
Up in the heavens there is a woman escorted by a man. In the woman's hand there is a torch that swirls. Lights come out of it in the form of flags and the flags turn into hats full of gems. The gems are sparkling.
A scene in Europe in the sixteenth or perhaps the eighteenth century. Knights are riding. They are mounted upon magic motorcycles full of colours and light. All is like a cartoon and enchanted. It is all part of big procession. There are also small dwarfs there. Two of them are holding a banner with the insignia of the sovereign.
An Indian is smoking a big pipe. Through an old telescope, a man is peering into the far reaches of the universe. A view of the planet Earth turning round and round.
Beautiful gardens like Versailles and the Tuilleries.
There are ballerinas there. Like a cabaret. Their thighs are exposed. One woman gets to the balustrade and is watching the audience.
The Indian is smiling. The message is that 'all of these are the expressions of the same source, a source of bounty and grace'.
In a King's reception hall. There are chalices full of wine. Long processions of carriages proceed further and further. Slowly, all the time, the horsemen are pushing forward. In the hall, the seats are made out of silver. There is a feast. A big pot is placed in the middle. A fruit salad is offered in goblets of finely polished, very clear glass. Slowly, the chef pours some sort of syrup or gooey topping. The sauce covers the fruit and then it ascends upwards.
An elephant lifts up its trunk high and looks far, far forward. Up there are birds and they are looking in my direction. There are flowers, and butterflies are flying from flower to flower. All are washed in the light of the sun.
Women are dancing. Carriages come one after the other and the wine flows. An officer approaches a carriage and salutes. The footman bows and opens the carriage's door. The Queen is stepping out."
"The second example was provided by a young man who partook of Ayahuasca in private sessions conducted in Europe. This individual is not amongst the informants whose data are analysed in this book; his report was communicated to me just when the typeset of this monograph was being sent to the publisher. I present this report as an illustrative example of the experiences of a first-timer. The following is a slightly edited synopsis of what this person saw during his first two sessions with the brew. I shall note that while the report is rich in details, the intoxication experienced was not especially strong; by the present structural typology, all items seen would be characterized as single, simple images.
Animals. Those seen most frequently were serpents, felines, and birds. Some of the serpents were ornate, like Chinese dragons; the felines included tigers and black pumas; the birds included parrots, peacocks, and toucans. Also seen were a galloping horse, dragons, monsters of all sorts, and evil beasts; with some of the latter blood was associated.
Many human persons were seen. Amongst these were Indians and a sensuous Caribbean dancer. A person present in the session appeared to have the face of a gorilla with the beak of a bird.
Palaces and mansions. Amongst the buildings seen were skyscrapers and pyramids. Also seen were interior decorations of buildings. These were very exquisitely ornamented; many were gilded.
Cities. Many different ones were seen; some had futuristic architecture.
Landscapes. These included forests, open deserts, river scenes, and scenes under water. Associated with the latter were corals and 'tornadoes offish'. Overall, the landscapes had an ambience of serenity and silence.
Especially frequent were disembodied eyes; many of these pertained to big cats. Other items noted: an Indian in a boat, an old woman turning white and transforming into a young girl, cars of the 1950s that were colourfully painted in a style which was 'rather kitsch', streams of gold.
The trees outside looked like goddesses.
Significantly, the items reported by this informant include all those that are typical of Ayahuasca visions. As such, this report, I find, is a good example supporting the cultural non-specificity of these visions."
Another short sample:
"The Cultural World
Ayahuasca belongs to the Amazonian rain forest, but my data reveal that, apart from beings and animals, the items that feature most frequently in the visions this brew produces pertain to culture: cities and architectural complexes, palaces and temples, and various works of art and precious objects—all are very common for both me and the different groups of my informants. Indeed, palaces and objects of art and magic are, for some, the items most commonly seen in the visions. A perusal of the anthropological literature reveals that items pertaining to culture are also common in visions reported by indigenous persons.
Buildings appear very frequently in the visions; most of them are magnificent. Most notable are, on the one hand, palaces and other palatial complexes and, on the other hand, temples and religious sites; castles, mansions, and archeological ruins are also common. Often the palaces and temples seen are made out of gold, crystal, and precious stones. Here, for instance, are two descriptions taken from Polari (1984: 197-8, 264):
'I found myself in the salon of a castle illuminated by torches. The salon was oval, slightly oblong, with semicircular doors, placed at regular intervals. At the same time, I saw an atrium situated in front of the principal wall, and the hall of the throne.
Thousands of tunnels, galleries, corridors, secret doors, staircases, inclined planes crisscrossed in a composition akin to one of Escher's These led to sumptuous palaces, lofty halls, sarcophagi, caverns or temples. In some of these there were sentinels appearing as medieval figures.'
I myself have seen palaces and temples many times. As described in the previous chapter, the only time I consumed Ayahuasca in the midst of the virgin Amazonian forest, I saw a whole sequence of palatial and regal scenes. I hoped to get a glimpse of the mysteries of the Amazonian jungle, but instead I saw palaces and royalty from different cultures on both sides of the Atlantic. The most impressive of these were two visits to the throne hall of an Egyptian pharaoh. In real life, I have been to many of the famous archeological sites in Egypt, and I have also visited the Egyptian galleries of many museums, but what I saw in this and other visions surpassed them all. The Egyptian palaces revealed to me in my Ayahuasca visions appeared to be totally new and full of life, as if they had just been constructed.
Like Polari, on many occasions I saw corridors, one hall opening into another, marvellous wall-paintings, sculptures, and reliefs. Architectural details that especially impressed me included sculpted marble colonnades in the form of white elephants, staircases adorned with golden lions, and finely carved gilded wooden ceilings. Several times, I saw most beautiful painted tiles. In the reports of my informants mosaics appear frequently; an example was described in Ch. 6 when serial images were discussed.
The temples I have seen were both ones of ancient civilizations and ones of the more recent Christian world. One of the more impressive architectural visions I have had was of a grand cathedral. The edifice extended up to the heavens and its dominant colour was emerald. I have heard of very similar visions from my informants. Several informants told me that looking, with open eyes, at the hall or the maloca (Amazonian hut) in which the Daime or Ayahuasca session was,taking place, the whole place transformed into a holy edifice. In more than one instance, the actual roof seemed to disappear and the visioned construction reached up to the sky. Also reported by many informants are pyramids of all sorts, most either Egyptian or pre-Columbian.
As exemplified in the above citations from Polari, basements, hidden passages, gates, and doors are all very common. These often have a secret, enchanting allure.
Entire cities may be seen as well. Here I focus on cities qua architectural complexes; cities as a type of place are considered later in this survey. The cities seen in visions are usually exotic and most fabulous. Discussing the Amaringo paintings Luna comments that: 'About one third of the visions presented contain... cities. Their architecture is either diffusely Eastern—Chinese, Arabian, Indian—or futuristic, or both. They may be located in the underwater world or on another planet' (Luna and Amaringo, 1993: 41; see also Harner, 1973c).
My own experiences corroborate this general statement: Most of the cities I have seen seemed to belong to ancient civilizations whereas others were futuristic or magical, whose identity I could not determine. The reports of my informants reveal the same pattern. The most impressive city I have seen was that described in the Prologue whose buildings were made of gold and precious stones..."