Ayahuasca and I: Not your typical trip report – Part 4/4 – By James W. Jesso

Read part 1 here – Part 2 here – Part 3 here.


***Now, before we proceed, let me point out that I can go on describing a conceptual framework for Ayahuasca as a parasitic plant and all the structures surrounding the traditions that help facilitate it. But that’s all illusion and projection, just as much as the concept that Ayahuasca is a deity. So I’ll drop that whole parasite bullshit and move one with the story, but keep in mind it was playing a strong role in how I was interpreting my experience in real-time.***

After sitting up, some deep fears arose about going against the social norm. But, if I was to listen to the voice inside of me, warning me to get out of there, I would need to overcome my fears of social alienation. I managed to muster up the confidence to do so, and I left the ceremony. Downstairs, I reminded myself that the men upstairs cared about my safety, however, they were also mesmerized by the evil parasite. In their caring, I knew they would be concerned if I didn’t come back as I was still on this crazy high and they were essentailly responsible for me.  I knew that I needed to walk back up into the room again and tell the Curanderos that I was leaving, so they wouldn’t get worried about where I went. Leaving the group was one thing, going back to state that I didn’t believe and to the people I saw as the leaders, that was a whole other expression of challenge.

Of course, I was encouraged not to leave and to stay with the ceremony and lay down again, which was not going to happen. I fully believed that all the songs and other elements of the ceremony was a psychic harvest for some evil parasite. Not much “trust and surrender” going to happen there. Downstairs by myself, I began to go delirious. I was spinning and reduced to the base needs of survival as I tried to find solace in something, anything, but only found myself sicker and sicker.

Face in the garbage, vomiting, hands all over my face. I was ready and willing to roll in and love the depth of human depravity and filth for survival.  Furthermore, terror swells forth in a dynamic fullness as I began to recognize that every belief system I had ever bought into was the same, an illusion. From Christianity, to indigenous traditions, to Ayahuasca, to the economy, social values, holidays and even the concept of spirituality; it was all superfluous bullshit. There was only one thing that was true and it was the tiny silver thread of God that exists in each one of us, naked but dressed in ceremonial cloths and wardrobe to help us feel more comfortable and safe. I had nothing to hold onto but God and I was still missing it, because I was still objectifying it.

At some point a man, lets call him Bill, came down to check on me. I was delirious and spinning around. A depraved animal rolling around in my own filth as I tried anything I could see to help me. He offered to take me back to the ceremony so that Shamans could help me, but I wanted nothing of that help. I looked at him and said “I do not trust the whisperings of the serpent” as I went and knelt in front of an industrial sink with the water running over my vomit hands down onto my face and into my mouth. (Hindsight alert) I would rather die in my truth and alienation than to survive on a stage of smoke and mirrors. I’d rather stay true to my naked self then be coddled in the wardrobe of another.

Ayahuasca and IWhen finally I gave in to what was happening and stood still, I was cracked open to experience myself as a depraved animal in the filth, the infinitude of God, the Christ-type saviour of my own existence, the evil entities I once believed were attacking me and a basic human in need of support, all at once. Literally, I looked upon a toaster and saw the divine manifesting in all its forms. All traditions, all belief systems, all rituals, ceremony, wardrobes, etc. are meaningless without human investments of value. We don’t need any of them beyond the use of references to psychosocial mechanisms for offering a continuity of accessing different sates of awareness within ourselves, based on personal value. The only thing that is real is God as an experience of self; the naked human in all its beauty.

That’s when Bill came back down. However, this time, when he asked me to come back to the ceremony so that the curanderos could help me, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “I don’t need songs and feathers, I need real human support. Please, brother, help.” And he let it all go for a moment. He got me some lemon and joked with me, told me everything was going to be OK. He supported me with a response-ability to where I was at in the moment, and then took me to my bed, where I could feel safe and lay down. I could still hear the purging and songs, but didn’t have to participate.

Throughout that time in my bed, bearing witness to the sounds of the ceremony in the other room, I further reinforced all the parasitic perceptions and suspicions I had established. It was only later that I came to realize what I had actually gone through.

When I arrived at the retreat I surrendered my critical skepticism and bought into a religious belief system. I offered myself in blind faith to the legitimacy of a cosmology of a spiritual realm of consciousness inhabited by dark entities and the deity Ayahuasca, accessed through the blood and body of the sacred deity, Ayahuasca in physical form.  All of this was my choice to create and participate in, regardless of how much periphery influence there may have been .

Let’s look at this now from a psychodynamic perspective, the one I currently hold for my experiences and recommend others hold for their experiences as well:

The deity was the manifestation of the archetype for the Divine Mother, present within my psyche, to which I was able to project the objectification of the saviour role onto (as well as the role of lover and other feminine roles). My suspicion towards the Curanderos and to the deity of the Ayahuasca was actually my loss of trust in myself due to having given into blind faith. I saw the Curanderos as behind all of this because I had projected the role of the Wizard upon them; it was really my unconscious self-direction pulling the levers behind the curtain. The dark entities were devious, deleterious, deprecating thought patterns that were strengthened when I fought them because the very thought patterns I used to do so were all expressions of the same self-illusions. The battle between good and evil was inside me; I was Don Quixote and I rode upon Ayahuasca like my Rocinante into psychedelic spirit realms to battle mechanical evil entities like the windmills of my mind. There would be no victory in this battle. Victory will be found only in the emergence from illusion.

It wasn’t the traditions or the ceremony or the facilitators that offered such a terrifying/liberating experience, it was the projection of my upset over offering myself up in blind faith. I was projecting my issues onto the elements of my experience, inferring each separate element to play a role in the psychodynamic process of awakening to recognize myself as an all-contained expression of God – no bells or whistles needed. I brought myself into a place of depravity to understand the divinity in all things. I showed myself naked to understand everything else as simply costumes we wear to relate to each other and prime certain states of awareness. I showed myself God, as God, so I could understand that anything other than the direct experience of God is merely another costume.

But what’s next after being the I Am That I Am? Just because I have been the light doesn’t mean I am not all fucked up. I think here is where educated use of psychedelics come in. They may help us in reformatting the defunct psychological/biochemical programing that prevent us from being able to be naked without all the social costumes. But then again, they can only enunciate what we offer ourselves and can work as the most elaborate costumes of all.  If we learn to understand ourselves as raw, naked humans and stop dressing up our psychedelic experiences of self with all the costumes of illusion, we will be able to let go all the confusion and start embracing applicability.

Ayahuasca, in example, I realized is no more a parasitic consciousness than it is a deity. It is a psychoactive experience associated to a plant energy that manifests in human consciousness in the form of the archetypal divine feminine, both light (i.e. Shakti-type energy) and dark (ie. Kali-type energy), and plays out on the psychodynamic stage we create for ourselves. Ayahuasca the deity is the experiential manifestation of certain characteristics present within the human state of consciousness awakened and objectified. The traditions and ceremony are unnecessary, so is the objectification, but they may be functional and effective in their own right. One doesn’t need a belief in the system to gain the benefits, but having a community and established rhetoric to make sense of a novel experience is important.

There are of course other elements that help with facilitating such a mutable psychedelic experience that have experiential validation, such as the icaros. But, the functional use of these elements and facilitation tools, doesn’t denote an imperial necessity to whatever belief systems orbit around their use beyond the personalized value of integration. And even then, too many superfluous additions to the cosmology will only work to distract and confuse.

The Curanderos facilitate, according to their tradition, an opportunity to feel safe and supported in a challenging set of experiences. They are not magical men, but people dedicated to a craft with a varying spectrum of capability. In regards to the traditional elements presented within ceremony, yes I believe we need all the structure associated to a tradition to have a traditional ceremony, but none of it is inherently necessary to experience healing or awakening.

In regards to the Shipibo tradition, I welcome my next opportunity to sit in that setting as what it offered from a history of hard learned lessons is how to create a safe space for participants to hold a personal experience of value. For me, there is no more of a valid reason I can consider.

Since this experience and the lessons it contained, my ego has been challenged by the concepts of being naked. There is no tradition/ritual/ceremony/belief system that is imperially valuable, necessary, or valid outside of the psychosocial context in which it is supported. It has also opened something beautiful in me: the ability to explore myself and my relations to life with the awareness that at anytime my truth is only a soft reach under my costume and I am confidant in being naked with you.

You can buy a hard copy of the whole article in zine form from James here.

“James W. Jesso is a Calgary, Alberta based author, conference speaker, workshop leader, and event coordinator who has been touring and organizing conscious events all across Canada since 2010. His insightful and engaging book Decomposing The Shadow: Lessons From the Psilocybin Mushrooms presents a complete conceptual and cognitive model for the psilocybin mushroom experience as it pertains to psychospiritual maturation and the healing of mental emotional wounds. His second book, to be released in the spring of 2014, furthers this investigation. Check out more of his work through his… 

James W. Jesso

James W. Jesso is a public speaker and author who pulls apart his psyche to weave stories out of the process. Deeply versed in the psychedelic experience, his work draws on the wisdom and insight distilled in facing the turbulent reality of his own darkness.

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