Organic and the Inorganic in Ayahuasca Visions (conference video)

Talk delivered at EGA (Entheogenesis Australis) 2014, RMIT, Melbourne.

Abstract: Images saturate our consciousness today. With the advent of photography, television, the personal computer and the Internet, images have become central to the way we perceive and understand history, the future, our identities, and the world around us. The image revolution has extended to the heart of our private lives by transforming the very experience of remembering and imagining. While mechanical innovations have enabled the mass production of images through electronic media, indigenous Amazonian shamans have been ingesting phyto-chemicals (such as ayahuasca) to the effect of perceiving socially resonant visionary content in trance-experiences well before being introduced to photography, television, and the personal computer. It is no surprise that indigenous Amazonian’s tend to understand cinema, the Internet, and mobile phones through using shamanic language and ideas that are linked to generations, if not centuries, of consuming visionary plants. Similarly, in the reimagining of ayahuasca use by Westerners, visual and telecommunication technologies have become key tropes by which ayahuasca drinkers understand their trance-experiences and the natural world. In this paper, by analysing similarities and differences between media technologies and ayahuasca, ideas emerge that make the alien familiar, the irrational rational, and the incomprehensible graspable.

One thought on “Organic and the Inorganic in Ayahuasca Visions (conference video)

  1. I liked your mention in another article about the $30,000 worth of sound system used in modern shamanic ceremony. The entertainment industry in conjunction with, or inspired by, modern synthetic psychedelics like LSD and MDMA (and other arts industry drugs like heroin and cocaine), uses vast amounts of resources and energy. It’s hard to see how this is in accord with ideas of planetary healing, communal living, nature worship, Gaian consciousness – especially when it comes to sourcing materials in the South American rain forest to be sent to legions of Chinese factory workers to make media equipment and computers.
    Ayahuasca energy use is miniscule, and given the purging involved is likely never to be integrated with modern media/entertainment forms like cinema, dance etc.
    Isn’t there a great deal of confusion when people lump ayahuasca and LSD, MDMA etc. together as sacred substances, when the synthetics seem to be in direct competition with the use and environmental ethos surrounding the former ?

    The problem continues when considering computer VR as a potential psychedelic, as the internet already uses 2% of global electricity even before the business it drives is taken into consideration. VR headsets are about to become the next big thing, to be sold by the billion, and that means a draw on the global resource markets. What happens when, say, the oil needed to make them comes from the jungles of Venezuela and Ecuador ?
    Maybe extended use of VR will become an efficiency boon as people stay at home and techno-trip rather than travel to work or leisure, but is it really a technology that will not be putting more pressure on the environment ?

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