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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The dangers of being a 'Basement Shaman' - Ayahuasca

For all my friends who have ordered Ayahuasca online and take it 'recreationally', heres an amazing but terrifying story of Ayahuasca and the dangers of being a 'basement shaman' from Graham Hancock, the writer and esoteric thinker...

''Warning before you begin reading. In what follows I am reporting experiences and also interactions with others. I give my interpretations of those experiences and interactions, but I make absolutely no claim that my interpretations are correct.

Very strange and disturbing events around our fifth Ayahuasca session here in Brazil which took place on the night of Monday 4 February into the small hours of Tuesday 5 February.

I mentioned in my previous status update on this subject that during the fourth session something happened to me that I experienced as an intense and focused psychic attack. To provide context I cite extracts from that account here:

“I was still in the ceremonial room in Brazil but at the same time I was not – as though everything had been shifted half a step to the side into some parallel dimension that had always been there, overlapping with ours, but had hitherto remained unseen. So at one and the same moment I was in my body, on my mattress in the ceremonial space, and at the same time out of my body in this other simulacrum of the room half a step to the side on another plane of reality.

“The entity that was attacking me stood very close to me. It had human form, in fact it looked like one of the other members of our group, but it was immediately obvious that it was not a physical being… Sparks of light flashed from its eyes and there was sorcery in its hands and its gestures, and all my puffed up pride that I would be able to handle this malevolent force, that I might somehow meet it on equal terms and defend against it, was blown away like mist. I realized I was completely powerless and incompetent in its presence, utterly overmastered by it, out of my league. If this were a spiritual dojo I would be the novice wearing the white belt and this thing, whatever it was, would be the ninth dan black belt here to wipe the floor with me.

“I tried projecting love at it. It wouldn’t work. The sense of threat and danger continued to mount. I tried to invoke Mother Ayahuasca in her manifestation as the Blue Angel. This did no good at all. I tried to raise a barrier of light. Failure again. Finally my out-of-body self just curled up into a ball while I was pummeled and beaten and humbled on that etheric plane.

“I endured the continuing psychic attack for some while, but then when I could bear it no longer I decided the only course open to me was to leave the room, so I staggered out – the Ayahuasca was very strong and I was a little unsteady on my feet – went downstairs, across the dining area and out through the porch into the lush tropical gardens that surround this property…”

So that was the fourth session (if you wish to read the full text you will find it in the relevant earlier status update). Now just before the start of the fifth session something even stranger and utterly unexpected happened. Having already stated our individual intentions for the evening we began to queue up to receive our cups of the brew from our shaman.

Often during this moment members of the group embrace and wish one another a good and safe journey; that is quite normal. But this evening I heard a sudden cry of shock and one of the women in our group – I must respect privacy and will not name her – protested that another member of the group, a man (again, no names) had approached her making a series of bizarre and threatening hand gestures and at the same time projected his breath forcefully into her face. For those of us familiar with Amazonian shamanic traditions it was immediately obvious that this was a very serious act, for it is by blowing with the mouth that the brujos – sorcerers – of the Amazon project the magic pathogenic darts known as virotes at their enemies in order to do them harm. Virotes may also be projected through a sorcerer’s arms and out of openings in his hands.

“Did you do that to anyone else?” asked the woman who had been the victim of this sinister assault.

The man admitted that he had not.

“Then why did you do it to me?” she asked.

“I was blessing you,” he said.

“I don’t even let my husband blow in my face like that,” she objected, “and I certainly didn’t ask for your blessing! What were you trying to do to me?”

“Pah!” he replied, turning his back, “you wouldn’t understand.”

It seemed that what had been just a few days before a peaceful, trusting, cooperative group had suddenly been exposed to some malign energy or intent. And for me the strangest thing of all – the very strangest thing – was that the man who had blown into the woman’s face, who had so aggressively stepped into her space and infringed her sovereignty, was the very same man I had been attacked by the night before in my visions.

Except then I had convinced myself that it could not be him (“it had human form, in fact it looked like one of the other members of our group, but it was immediately obvious that it was not a physical being”).

Now, I was not so sure.

After such a disruption of the flow it would probably have been wise if no one had drunk the brew that night but, having come so far, we all did, including the woman who had been assaulted – although she asked our shaman to clear the negative energy that she felt had been projected at her first.

I took my largest dose yet in this series of sessions, 100 mililitres, composed myself for whatever lay ahead and instantly regretted drinking so much. In the event, however, I was hyper-alert, jangled and so afraid that whenever an intense visionary state threatened to creep up on me I resisted it, actively and consciously fought against it, and willed it away. The plain truth was that I did not wish to become vulnerable again to that malevolent force, that had overmastered me and psychically bullied and terrified me during the previous session and since it could not get at me in the physical realm, but only in the visionary or astral realm, my instinct was not allow myself to go there.

And I found myself wondering – what are we dealing with here? Is it in fact what it appears to be? Is this individual who tonight so blatantly transgressed the sovereignty of another member of the group in physical space, somehow manifesting a spirit body and using it to transgress also on the astral plane? Or is it as I originally suspected some powerful etheric entity that is not him at all but simply disguising itself as him? Or could it be a bit of both? Could he be a weak, perhaps psychopathic, individual who has made some sort of Faustian bargain with a dark and hungry supernatural force and is serving as a more or less willing lightning rod to channel it to others around him? Or might it none of the above?

Here, before going further, I feel compelled to repeat that I make no claim as to the reality of the entities and realms encountered in Ayahuasca visions. It is possible that they are real but only accessible to our senses in altered states of consciousness; but it is equally possible that they have no fundamental reality whatsoever. There are many other possibilities, ranging from archetypes to projections to the imaginal, that are also worthy of consideration. All I can say for sure is that they are experienced as real and I claim nothing more than that.

About two hours into the session we all heard a crashing sound somewhere below. Along with our shaman and a couple of others I hurried down the stairs and we found another member of our group, a strong young man in his early thirties collapsed on the floor. He said he did not understand what had happened to him. Something dark had attacked him, swarmed over him, overpowered him, and he had felt certain he was going to die unless he got out of the ceremonial space. On the way down the stairs he had become faint and fallen. “I looked death in the face,” he kept on saying, “I looked death in the face.”

Our shaman went to work on him. There are certain techniques – the use of a rattle, a thumb placed firmly on the center of the brow, the chanting of special songs called icaros – which are helpful in clearing away negative psychic energies and, after about half an hour, the young man was able to stand and walk around. “I looked death in the face,” he repeated – but this time with a smile – “and I survived.”

Later in conversation our shaman told us that when he had begun to work on the young man he himself had been seized by a feeling of absolute terror – a powerful and overwhelming dread that he was only able to master with great difficulty and by drawing on everything he has learned in more than forty years of working with the brew.

Later still, another member of our group, a trained psychotherapist who is also enormously experienced with the sacred use of psychedelics, came down from the ceremonial space to join us in the kitchen, took a seat and said calmly and reflectively: “What the hell was THAT?” He then reported that he too had been terrorized in the visionary realm by some dark entity that he too associated with the individual who had blown in the woman’s face at the beginning of the ceremony. “I tried very hard to rationalize what was happening,” he said. “I tried to convince myself that what I was experiencing was just my own shadow side taking illusory form, that this was something I was projecting, but in the end I became certain it was a real force, something utterly alien and deeply, deeply evil and completely external to myself. I tried every technique I know to keep it at bay but nothing worked.”

The following day I talked to the individual who had blown in the woman’s face. “I’m a basement shaman,” he said. He sounded quite proud of himself. “I make DMT and smoke it a lot at home, exploring visionary worlds and I go around Ayahuasca groups doing this work. Sometimes people don’t like it but I just withdraw within myself so they can’t get to me.” He told me he hoped I appreciated how much courage it took for him to talk to me openly like this about the disruption his behavior had caused. I told him that my advice was that he should cultivate humility and not imagine that he has any “work” to do with anyone else; only with himself. After speaking to me he spoke to the woman whose sovereignty he had transgressed the night before and apologized to her, again repeating that he hoped she appreciated what tremendous courage it took for him to come out in the open like this. She found herself unable to accept his apology. “You’re trying to make it all about you,” she told him, “with all this crap about your courage. That’s not a genuine apology at all.”

Two days later, mercifully, the man left. Indeed most of the group have now gone. Just seven of us remain for the final two sessions, the first of which took place on the night of 10 February into the small hours of 11 February. It was a blissful, open-hearted night with a great feeling of love, security, solidarity and trust. I am not going to describe it further here except to say that the same member of our group who had asked “What the hell was THAT?” after the fifth session had a new insight during the night. He experienced a direct, personal encounter with the loving entity whom we call Mother Ayahuasca (who is perhaps a goddess, though she does not wish to be worshipped) and he asked her the same question: “What the hell was THAT thing that attacked us during the fifth ceremony? Why did we have to go through that?”

“You needed to see it,” she replied. “Now you know what I have to deal with all the time. It’s the evil that is loose in the world, twisting and destroying the human spirit and I need your help to fight it, the help of good people everywhere, the help of the power of love.”

I realize how strange all this must sound to those (undoubtedly the vast majority who read this) who have not drunk Ayahuasca and perhaps do not wish to. All I can say, as my good friend Dennis McKenna puts it, is that Ayahuasca is the ultimate skeptic’s challenge. It is not an intellectual argument. It is not a matter of empirical, scientifically verifiable proofs. It is quite simply an experience. Once you’ve had a deep and powerful encounter with the brew you can make of it what you will, but until you have had such an encounter it is better to withhold judgment.

I hope with these personal accounts that I have added some quantum of useful data to the body of available information about the Ayahuasca enigma. I have not held back and have shared with you both the dark and the light sides of the realm of experience into which this mysterious, ancient and sacred Amazonian brew can plunge us. It is as though a doorway is opened into a parallel universe in which – as in the universe we inhabit in our daily lives – there is both good and evil, but in which – both there and here – we as conscious human creatures are gifted with the power of choice. Sometimes we must face evil, sometimes it may do us harm, but we do not have to join forces with it, we do not have to make compromises with it, we do not have to bow down to it and we do not have to serve its purposes. Evil cannot always be defeated but it can always – always! – be resisted.

So the Ayahuasca experience is by no means all sweetness and light and if you go into a session with that na├»ve expectation you may well, at some time or other, find yourself unpleasantly surprised. Ayahuasca is extremely serious business and this is one amongst many reasons why I would not advise anyone to partake of it without skilled and well-intentioned shamanic guidance – though such guidance, these days, is available from a small but growing number of good-willed and completely un-egotistical Western facilitators as well as from Amazonian shamans. Indeed the fact that a self-styled “shaman” hails from the Amazon is no guarantee whatsoever of the quality of care and service he will provide; in this, as in all adventurous journeys where hazards can be expected you should do your research carefully, consult others and rely on word of mouth before committing yourself to a particular path.

With these necessary cautions expressed, however, I conclude by affirming that the Ayahuasca experience is, above all else, about love and that there is openness of heart in it and a tremendous sweeping away of the blockages and mechanisms of denial that prevent us from getting to grips with and resolving fundamental issues in our lives. Truly, it is not for nothing that a very strong Ayahuasca session has been described as twenty years of psychotherapy in one night! In this regard I have already set before readers here the radical change in my own life initiated by a series of Ayahuasca experiences I had during October 2011 – see my article “Giving up the Green Bitch: Reflections of Ayahuasca, Cannabis and the Mystery of Plant Teachers,” ( which is now permanently posted on the Articles page of my website.

And above and beyond all that, as I’ve tried to show, the great virtue and promise of Ayahuasca is that it raises profound questions about the nature of reality itself. There are, as yet, no definite answers to those questions – perhaps there never will be – but to confront the experiences that give rise to them, while sometimes terrifying and often chastening, is, I believe, ultimately of the greatest value.''

1 comment:

  1. Through out my personal growth and ever expanding understanding of reality,Shaman Ayahuasca I have now merged two worlds that I always kept separate……. Jonathon Twiz and the Higher Self