by Howard G Charing
Writing from my own personal perspective from my years of work and research in the Amazon Rainforest with the shamans and curanderos who drink the visionary plant brew called Ayahuasca. I use the term ‘shaman’ as a convenience as this title has only been ‘imported’ from the West into the Amazon quite recently in the past thirty years or so. A more appropriate general term could be ‘vegatilista’ or a seer and healer who work with plants from not only the physical or medicinal aspect but who are also in communion with the soul of the plant. in addition there are many ‘sub’ specialities, so a shaman who primarily works with chonta (a hard palm wood) is known as a chontero , a shaman who works with the aromas and scents of the plants is called a perfumero, and a shaman who works with ayahuasca is known as an ayahuasqero.
Ayahuasca is a combination of two plants (although other plants are added to elicit certain visionary experiences or healing purposes). This mixture of two plants the Ayahuasca vine and the Chacruna leaf, operate in a specific manner with our neuro-chemistry. The leaf contains the neuro transmitters of the tryptamine family (identical to those present in our brain) and the vine itself acts as an inhibitor to prevent our body’s enzymes from breaking the tryptamines down thereby making it inert. Science defines this as the MAOI effect (Monoamine Anti Oxide Inhibitor) and forms the basis for many of the widespread anti-depressant pharmaceutical medication such as Prozac and Seroxat. This MAOI principal was only discovered by Western Science in the 1950’s, yet interestingly this very principle has been known by the plant shamans for thousands of years, and when you ask the shamans how they knew this, the response is invariably “the plants told us”.
Ayahuasca has revealed to me more of the great dream of the Earth, and how disconnected we have become from our relationship with the living planet. I experienced the evolutionary process of DNA. Shown that many of the problems that we experience as a species is because we are primates, and even though humankind has done everything possible to dissociate ourselves from our animal origins, we remain driven by our animal glands and hormonal systems. Yet at the same time, we are in harmony with our higher state of consciousness that approaches that of dolphins, who are aware and in conscious communion as part of a soul mind.
This great question, the mystery of the communion of mind, soul, and body is a search that we humans have been on since we first raised our eyes to the night sky in wonder. Some of the ancient myths of the jungle from the Ashuar people of the Upper Amazon tell us of this separation, the myth of the ‘Moon Man’ as collected by Alonso Del Rio from Peru is such a one;
‘In the time of the ancestors there was a ladder, like a rope which connected the world of the Ashuar with the upper world. Here lived other beings just like the Ashuar but they were spirits. These beings were very powerful and could transform themselves into anything they wanted. One day Moon-man cut this ladder so that the people could no longer communicate with their spirits above, and thus they lost their power. ‘
In the Ashuar tradition the Moon Man is associated with the analytical mind and it is “rational thinking” therefore which has severed our sacred connection to the cosmic mind. This legend therefore speaks of humanity’s need to reunite with the consciousness of the universe, using the rope (ayahuasca) to climb our way back to the oneness we once knew. Only then can we re-enchant the world through imagination and inspiration. If we look deeply into our hearts can we say that we are any different from the indigenous peoples of the rainforest? The reflections of Carl Jung in his book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul point to the very same dilemma as the peoples of the Amazon;
“If we are still caught by the old idea of an antithesis between mind and matter, the present state of affairs means an unbearable contradiction; it may even divide us against ourselves. But if we can reconcile ourselves with the mysterious truth that spirit is the living body seen from within, and the body the outer manifestation of the living spirit – the two really being one — then we can understand why it is that the attempt to transcend the present level of consciousness must give its due to the body. We shall also see that belief in the body cannot tolerate an outlook that denies the body in the name of the spirit.”
The visionary plants and ancient traditions of the plant shamans reveal a hidden universe, in which the separation between the physical and the unseen universe is an illusion caused by our limited sensory perception. The body and soul permeates and infuses each other. The plant teachers show us a path to an expanded consciousness and communion with our sacred source, our soul companion.
Howard G. Charing, is an accomplished international workshop leader on shamanism. He has worked some of the most respected and extraordinary shamans & healers in the Andes, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Philippines. He organises specialist retreats to the Amazon Rainforest He is the author of the best selling book, Plant Spirit Shamanism (Destiny Books USA). His website http://www.shamanism.co.uk