Religion has replaced
having your own experience
with having faith
in someone else’s.
Generally speaking we get what we expect because when we expect something we will be on the lookout for that experience and we will interpret things with a bias towards what we expect.
With that in mind let me say a few words about drug education in Sweden (although I guess this to be true in many countries). The drug education in Sweden is nothing less than fear mongering propaganda. The entire focus of the education is on dangers, which are either extremely exaggerated or just outright lies. Anyone who uses any substance, no matter how often or why, will be labelled an addict and other views are strictly oppressed. As if that wasn’t bad enough Swedish drug education never teaches people how to handle bad experiences.
So what does all this lead to?
Well, if you are expecting a bad experience you are much more likely to have one, so what the propaganda machine is actually doing is programming people to be afraid and thus making them more susceptible to bad experiences. And when people occasionally do have bad experiences they are not at all equipped to handle them. Now if that isn’t an asshole move I don’t know what is.
Luckily most of us weren’t actually paying attention during class. Looking back I have realized that my drug education didn’t come from school. It came from The Beatles. They didn’t actually talk a lot about drugs, but they sure showed us what great creative fun they can be when done properly.by
First of all, to become a shaman you need to feel “the call”. Normally this call comes through dreams, through a revelation in a plant ceremony, through a blood linage (heritage), or such. If becoming a shaman is your destiny there is no way to avoid it. Life will always push you towards that path. Some people are afraid and others have a hard time accepting it, but in the end it is your own decision to walk that path. Shamans often live the hardest of lives. Why? I believe that a shaman must have lived and experienced suffering in order to understand pain itself. Without such experience one cannot help others in similar situations.
A shaman is an intermediary between the spirit world and the humans. When I talk about the spirit world, I mean the plants, animals, rocks, crystals, mountains, etc. Everything is alive because everything that exists contains a spirit. Everything that exists is having an experience, and therefore also has a consciousness.
That a rock does not speak the human language does not mean that it is not having an experience. Its experience is very different from ours and exists for a purpose. I believe that we have been everything or that we have experienced every part of the consciousness on this planet, like being a crystal, a plant, an animal, a river. It’s just that our egos have made us believe that being a human is the highest way of being or consciousness, but in fact on this planet we experience different levels of learning and teachings. That’s why we feel more connected to certain animals, to certain plants, or to certain crystals, because we have been them at some point during our earth experience.
A shaman is doctor, a social worker, a storyteller, a sharer, a scientist – because when you are connected with the spirit world you can basically log in to all kinds of knowledge. There are no limits in the spirit world on how much we can evolve, grow and learn.
In Peru we connect to the spirit world through the use of sacred visionary plants and sacred master plants.
Diets are the triangular base of shamanism and are the most important part for those who use master plants as tools for healing. It is among other things through the diets that the shamans get their knowledge and healing powers. If we compare it to university studies, we could say that the diets are the different courses that one takes at the university.
When you do a diet you create a contract with the spirit of what you will diet with for a certain time and under certain conditions. This can be from three days, until many years.
Some shamans specialize in using one or more specific plants, which they have dieted for long periods of time. We do not always connect or feel a connection with the spirit of what we are dieting. This is the same as in ordinary life. Sometimes we are more compatible with some people than with others. It is the same with the plant spirits. We are compatible with certain plant spirits, but not with all. With time you will recognize the spirits of the plants that connect best with you.
When one does a diet one makes a friend, an ally for life, and these allies help the shaman work in ceremonies and such.
The shaman works with the energy of plants that s/he was dieting, and not with her/his own power. In that way you can always keep your energy strong and in balance. Otherwise each ceremony would make the shamans weak or dry of energy. But what happens after being in a ceremony is quite the opposite – the more diets, more energy and better work. The purpose of the diet is to clean, learn, reconnect and transform.
More about diets in the second part of how to become a shaman in the Amazon.
Photo: The Shaman amid the Forest by Nick Jewell on Flickrby
People have always searched for the higher meaning of existence. In their search they have had sensations of the highest divine and tried to name that which cannot be named. They have sacrificed to Zeus, thanked Freya, asked Shiva for focus and God for mercy. They have searched inward and outward with dance, prayer, singing, yoga and meditation.
One of the oldest traditions in order to get in touch with the highest divine, and with the other realities that surround us, has been by using plants. In the beginning humans were very close to nature and talked with the sun and the plants, the wind and stones. Nature was a teacher who shared its wisdom, but who also helped humans to be able to get in contact to other realities.
Over time some people have however made the experience more academic than spiritual. While the original spirituality was based on every persons own experience and their own contact with the highest divine, nowadays many people are content to believe in a constructed religion. They do of course overlap, but I’m guessing that most religious people today do not have a personal experience of contact with the highest divine, but are satisfied with believing others’ descriptions of it.
To me there is big group of illegal substances that is intimately connected with spiritual exploration – mostly those we would call natural psychedelics. I’m talking about plants and preparations such as Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Peyote, Cannabis (semi-psychedelic), psychedelic mushrooms and Iboga.
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Ayahuasca is a preparation made from a jungle vine and another plant. Shamans have probably used it for more than 6,000 years to have contact with other realities and heal people. It is used almost exclusively in ceremonial contexts, but is banned in Sweden because it contains the natural substance DMT, which is also found in the human brain and appears to be heightened and released by prolonged meditation, sleep, and at the moment of death.
San Pedro and Peyote cacti are used in similar ways and in similar contexts, for deep transformative and spiritual experiences. As far as we know the knowledge to work with them is probably more than 4,000 years old, but as with all these substances it might very well have been used for much longer than that. Today the knowledge is kept alive by South American shamans and North American Indians. While the cacti itself is legal in Sweden, it is illegal to consume it because it contains the natural substance mescaline.
Cannabis is regarded in Hinduism as a gift from the god Shiva to mankind, created from his body. It has been used for more than 4,000 years, both spiritually as medically in Hinduism and Buddhism, but more recently also in religions such as Islam and Rastafarianism. It is celebrated for its spiritual, mystical properties, but also because it allows people to see through illusions and lies. In the drug context cannabis is among the least dangerous substances, much less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, but it is being fought with tremendous zeal. The active ingredient THC is easily spotted with a quick urine test.
Psychedelic mushrooms are available in hundreds of varieties and on every continent. The most famous Swedish psychedelic mushrooms are the Liberty caps, used by witches and shamans. In Europe, however, the Christian mass murder of dissidents makes it difficult to track past use. The mushrooms produce similar deep spiritual experiences including contact with other realities, past lives, a connectedness with nature and with the universe. Liberty caps are commonly picked in cow meadows after the first frost, but if you do so you are a criminal. All mushrooms containing the natural ingredient psilocybin are forbidden to handle.
Iboga is a West African shrub that contains the illegal natural substance ibogaine. It is documented to have been used in Africa in a spiritual context since the 19th century, but before that it is difficult to say. It gives deep transformative experiences and having taken Iboga one will often lie down for an entire day. Nowadays Iboga is most famous for its medicinal properties, as it has been proved to be able to break even deep rooted addiction with only one or two trips. But to do so is illegal.
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These are just a few of the illegal substances that have been used in spiritual practice for thousands of years before such recent phenomena as Christianity came along. Natural psychedelics are found on all continents, and maybe even in all countries. The tradition of using them in order to get in contact with other realities and with the highest divine has been preserved in many places in the world – by shamans in South America, witches in Europe, yogis and shamans in Asia and medicine men/women in North America, Africa and possibly Australia. However, they have for long periods been forced to go into hiding, because above all Christianity has violently persecuted them. Today this continues with the help of the disrespectful and discriminatory drug laws.
Drug laws thus not only violate minority rights, but also each person’s inherent right to their own spiritual experience and journey.
There are those who argue that these plants should only be used in their original cultural contexts, that is only the shamans of the Amazon should be working with Ayahuasca, and only the medicine men/women of North America with Peyote. With that logic the Liberty caps should of course be legal in Sweden. But besides that these people seem to overlook that we live in a globalized world and that the spiritual search has never let itself be confined to places or cultural context. Just as religions spread across the world and have borrowed freely from each other’s cultural contexts, shamanism is also worldwide and practitioners are inspired by each other. There have also been new substances used in similar ways, with similar spiritual effects and with similar healing properties – LSD, MDMA and Ketamine, to name a few.
Some people speak of religious freedom. I guess that would be the freedom to settle for believing in other people’s descriptions of the highest divine. I’m not interested in religious freedom. I require spiritual freedom – the freedom to have my own spiritual experience and my own contact with the highest divine. If my spiritual path happens to involve working with plants and in a tradition that is older than any religion, that is my business as long as I do not harm anyone else. A law that tries to stop me from doing so is nothing more than oppression and discrimination institutionalized.
Main photo: Headlong by Brad Hammonds on Flickrby
I suspect that many atheists have a box labeled ”Shit I don’t understand and refuse to investigate”. I had one myself and looking back I can see it was very important to me as an atheist. Without it my world would be filled with conflicting experiences, but instead of having to deal with these conflicting experiences I could just stuff anything I couldn’t wrap my head around into the box.
There was quite a lot of stuff in that box. Experiences of spirits at an early age. An out of body experience. The time I saw a genuine UFO. Life kept throwing strange things my way and I kept stuffing them into the box. Once in a while I would tell someone one of those strange tales, but it was always with a smile and a laugh. Never too serious or with the intention of actually examining the experience.
It took me a couple of years after I stopped drinking before I could really get to terms with that box. Drinking itself was a lid on all such experiences and I came to understand that I had been drinking to sedate myself from spiritual experiences. Once I stopped drinking they were soon so numerous that I could no longer ignore them. That’s when I invented my new box “Shit I don’t understand, but hope to understand some day”. That box is absolutely huge and I love stuffing things into it and I often look at what’s in it, to see if there’s anything I can get closer to understanding.
Nowadays I find it interesting to see how atheists will quickly try to pack things away and refuse to talk about them. And quite often they pat themselves on the back for their refusal to discuss such things, as if it was in any sense a rational behavior. Rational and logical to me would be to empty the box and try to sort it all out. But that of course would require an open mind, and one thing I have noticed is that atheists are often as closed as many religious people are. Thinking of it many religious people must have the same box.
Atheists and religious people have much more in common than they would like to believe.
Photo: Thinking Inside The Box by David Goehring on Flickrby
– I’m not interested in what you have read. I don’t want to know what you have watched on TV, what someone else has told you or what you learnt in school. I want to know what you have experienced in life and what that has taught you.
His words rang true in me and I adopted the same attitude. I try not to have too many assumptions about things before I have personal experience. It certainly isn’t easy, but when it comes to knowledge, personal experience and practice always massively outweigh books, tv and theory.
And when speaking with others I have lost almost all interest in the everyday blab of reciting the news and going through the gossip of politics, celebrities and sports. It just feels less important than ever.
But when you tell me about life changing experiences – about traumas in your childhood, loves you have kept in your heart, sexual experiences that have shaped you, shit that you managed to cope with and happiness that you haven’t – then I am 100 percent there. Because that, in my mind, is what really matters. That is where we get to know each other, where we connect and where we can actually teach each other some valuable lessons.
Photo: Talk Listen Door by Alex on Flickrby
Once upon a time, I was outright hateful towards anything even slightly spiritual. As soon as someone told me about such things, I was quick to mock and diminish the person.
This led people not to discuss spirituality anywhere close to me. At least not a second time. Nobody told me about their experiences, which made me even more convinced that no one really had any to begin with.
Then I took LSD and I opened up extremely significant new aspects of my life. I was flooded by experiences that I could not possibly understand without ridding myself of my hostile mindset. And when I looked back on my life I understood that I had been having these experiences all along, I had just been tranquilising myself with alcohol.
Then one day, I realized…
If you tell me about an experience you had, I have nothing to gain by arguing with you about it. This was your experience. If I am disrespectful, you’ll just stop telling me about it. If however I listen and ask, you will open up and tell me more.
I don’t need to evaluate what you say. You can tell me about your contacts with angels, a trip with aliens or dancing with the fairies – without me making it my reality. It is your reality and that’s good enough.
When I adopted that attitude, to ask and listen with sincere interest, people began telling me the most marvelous things. They opened up and showed me things that few people had seen. It can often feel like taking a risk to tell about a spiritual experience you’ve had. You risk being ridiculed by someone like the person I once was.
But if you keep quiet and hide you will never find out how many people you share the same fantastic experiences with. You won’t find out that you are far from alone.by
The Pentecostal pastor came in for a cup of tea and our conversation came to focus on angels.
– Do you believe in angels, I asked him.
– Of course, he replied. Angels are real. I often talk about them in my sermons.
– Have you talked to them, I asked him.
– Have you worked with them in some other way?
– Have you felt their presence?
– So how can you believe that you know they exist?
– It says so in the Bible.
We often preach without really having any idea. The world is full of preachers who spend a lot of words convincing people of things that they themselves have never experienced.
I’m reminded of a story about Gandhi. A mother came with her sugar happy son and asked Gandhi to tell him not to eat sugar.
– Come back in three weeks, he answered quite shortly.
Three weeks later, the mother and son came back.
– You should not eat sugar, Gandhi said to the son.
– Why did we have to wait three weeks for you to say it, the mother asked at last.
– When you were here last time, I ate sugar myself. I needed to stop eating sugar, before I could tell your son to do the same.
Imagine the difference in the world if we spoke from our own experience.
Talk about what you’ve experienced.
Ask others to tell you about their experiences.
Cut the nonsense about the stuff that you honestly don’t know anything about.
It will give a totally different quality to the conversation.
I promise you.