Monday, September 24, 2012

Ayahuasca and Gullible People

There as a young fellow who died at an ayahuasca retreat last month. We are still awaiting autopsy report but evidently the curandero panicked and buried the body until the parents and police came, at which point he showed where it was.
   Now I don't believe he died of ayahuasca. I know of no deaths attributable to that medicine. But he might have died of snake bite, or drug interactions, or spider bites, or choking on his own puke. The topic has raised a lot of hair in the aya community. I've tried to stay out until the autopsy is in. But on one thread there was enough vim and vinegar that I responded. Here is my response, crude as it is:

There is a huge problem, I think, with people going to the Amazon and having a vision that they think they must act on immediately. Often this vision is to open a center for an ayahuasquero with whom they had medicine. They wind up cutting down several hectares of primary jungle to set up a camp for someone they hardly know, imposing their vision on a people who don't need it.
     Problem here is that Rob, with a really good heart, had a vision that he should open a center for a teacher that provided those visions. But Rob didn't live in Peru for 20-35 years. Rob didn't know anything about how Peru operates. Rob brought cement to make a permanent place in a place that lives on being turned over every 12-15 years. He has no idea that marrying a Peruvian girl involves 6-8 wedding parties, starting with the first party given to the people who hate you and will send brujo's to kill the marriage. He had no idea that giving a poor man millions of dollars of property would put that man in a position he had no way and no experience of dealing with. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and this is just a single example. If I could give advice, I would say that when you get a vision to open a center or build a pyramid in the river or make a hotel or whatever, that you wait 10-20 years and learn about the culture before trying to implement that vision with no knowledge of the culture.

      I railed against Chimbre before it was open because no one there had any idea of what the impact would be. No one involved knew Peruvian culture. And even if Mancoluto knew Andean culture, he had no experience in the jungle. Who was he to impose anything? Who was Rob? And I give Rob all the credit in the world for having a good heart and giving all his money to the point where he is now poor. But it was wasted. He simply did not know the culture, did not know anything more than what a vision--which might have been true but might also have been something to do 20 years hence--told him. I always remember this story: There was a person who went to a famous retreat outside of Iquitos a few years ago. The curandero was not there. THe assistant was not there. The guy who brought the water to fill the pot was there. He saw the gringo couple and when they offered $50 each for the ceremony, he found some aya and served them. The woman had an extraordinary experience and decided to open a center for the curandero. And she did. And he became famous as the curandero who did not sing icaros. Those of us who knew the man knew why he did not sing icaros: He's never been in a ceremony in his life. He didn't know that icaors were sung. But he made his $100 that night and the woman opened the center for him and he made a good living for several years--without ever having tasted ayahuasca. Rob was as fresh as this woman. He meant well but had no idea what the heck he was doing. He was warned by hundreds of us with experience that this was not okay but he was blinded by his vision. Rob wasn't a bad guy. He meant the very best and having spoken with him several times I know that, or feel that. Still, Would everybody please stop acting on their freaking visions? That doesn't help anybody. Mull the vision over 10-20 years, and figure out what it really means. Then act. Otherwise, well, the otherwise stinks.

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