I've decided to share another fascinating article on ayahuasca, this one from the same person who recommended The Doors of Perception:
Some thoughts on it:
There are, of course, similarities between this and Sean Illing’s Vox article, but the one I found the most interesting was how both authors decided to take a second trip even though the first time cleared up their depression. Perhaps Sean also had “stubborn enemies” hiding out in his psyche.
There’s also something Salak mentions that reminds me of something I mentioned in a post of mine (my-third-session.html): directness. It seems ketamine and ayahuasca alike are good at bypassing the need for a therapist and getting directly to “the core”. Another thing that resonated with me is the suppression of emotions. I too don’t feel it’s a sign of strength and feel resentful about the fact I’ve felt the need to suppress some of my emotions related to my depression.
All that being said, I found one striking difference between Salak’s article and Illing’s: Salak’s trip seemed to be much more religious in nature. It makes me wonder if it has something to do with the fact that Salak took the drug in Peru whereas Illing took it in Costa Rica. Perhaps it’s a cultural difference between the two places?
One major component of this can be seen in a metaphorical light though the shamans don’t seem to see it that way. According to them, whenever a traumatic happens to us, we lose a part of our spirit. Unless we undergo soul retrieval, those parts will be forever lost to us. Each one contains an element of who we truly are: sense of humor, trust of others, innocence, etc.
There’s also the part mentioning the materialist angle. Salak talks about how she grew up among “fundamentalist atheists” (whatever that means). Her lack of happiness, though, drove her into the arms of shamanism. Furthermore, it’s difficult to catalog the drugs effect because it seems to affect people on three different levels: the physical, psychological, and spiritual.
However, I nevertheless agree with Benny Shanon’s take: “Under [ayahuasca’s] intoxication, people’s imagination and creative powers are greatly enhanced. Thus, their minds are prone to create the fantastic images they see with the brew” and Ralph Metzner’s observation “[Healing with ayahuasca] presumes a completely different understanding of illness and medicine than what we are accustomed to in the West.”
I don’t think the problem is materialism per se. Rather, our use of science over the centuries has sterilized the world too much for us, and we’ve lost touch with a part of what it means to be human. That’s why Joseph Campbell’s works are so popular. Like lost knowledge about sleep, we’ve lost the art of myth making. For instance, although scientists have confirmed the existence of animals like the giant squid, there seem to be no more monsters left in the world. Maybe the old will be new again.