The ego’s need to self-justify
I receive a surprising number of emails in response—perhaps reaction is a more appropriate word, in many cases—to the articles I wrote in 2013 on The Dark Side of Ayahuasca. The emails have been of two kinds. Most of the emails have been from people who took ayahuasca and subsequently felt negatively affected by the experience. People have written to me about cases ranging from relatively mild psychic infiltration and imposition, through to read like full-blown horror stories. The negative trauma and crap (to put it bluntly) we humans can put ourselves through in our seeking to have a spiritual experience or seeking healing, is astounding. Typically these people express relief and/or gratitude at having found and read information that sheds some light on their situation. But this is just one side of the coin.
The other side—what I could justifiably refer to as the dark-side of the reaction to my articles—is as follows. This other kind of reaction has been from people who I presume feel the need to justify their foregone conclusions and beliefs about ayahuasca. This inclination, in itself, is understandable. That’s how the ego-mind operates. It is something I had expected to have to contend with as a consequence of giving voice to the relatively seldom mentioned shadow issues of contemporary ayahuasca usage. Many of the reactive comments provide clear examples of how challenging it is for people to relinquish, or simply question with an open heart, the attachment they have to “plant medicines”—what I suggest are spiritual and psychological crutches. There is nothing inherently wrong or bad about crutches. If your leg is broken, a crutch can be a very useful and helpful device. In the same way, if the psyche is seriously disconnected from Spirit—which is the case for the vast majority of human beings at this time in the human journey—the crutch and potential psychic boost or uplifting hit provided by things like ayahuasca arguably also has some value. But all crutches have their limitations, and it is folly when people fail to clearly see and appreciate all sides of what they are using as a means to spiritual awakening and/or psychological healing. Anti-psychotic drugs also have their place as a “medicine”, and yet have serious limitations too.
This other kind of email (and comments) were invariably loaded with self-justification arising from what I perceive to be a state of spiritual delusion. People have expressed to me all kinds of justifications and validations as to why in their particular case (if not in most cases in general) using ayahuasca has been the best thing for them, and without negative consequences. “Sure, I may have had a few rough and dark experiences (‘It’s not for the faint of heart, you know…’), but that was all important learning too man…” is a generalisation of the common story I hear. A surprising number of people have even agreed that ayahuasca is wrought with dangers, often linked with sorcery, sexual abuse, malpractice, etcetera, but in their case it has done them nothing but good. “It just means you have to make sure you’re working with a good shaman, and I know a great one,” I watch people tell me. From where I stand, it’s not dissimilar to people arguing with me about the unquestionable merits of vaccines, water fluoridation, antibiotics, chemically based agriculture, etc.. All of these inventions have positive benefits, unquestionably. But are they the most life-giving and life-affirming means to their intended ends? What’s more, are the intended ends always based on the intentions we are led to believe? I’ve taken these self-justifications with a grain of salt. As you’ll read in a moment, I’ve made many similar justifications myself. If people feel inclined to read my articles on the shadows of ayahuasca, that’s their prerogative, and if they are personally and psychically invested in using ayahuasca, the tendency to justify their position is to be expected.
Delusions and maligned intent
What has stood out to me as a little surprising is the number of people who have written to me under the false pretence they have a genuine interest in better understanding why I’ve “spoken out against” ayahuasca, when in fact they are covertly approaching me with maligned intent (i.e. maliciousness). When this behaviour comes from people who presumably wish to be more conscious and mindful about their relationship with life (why else would one drink ayahuasca?) it seems, to me, all the more misplaced. Thankfully, the people behaving this way have been the minority. Most of the other emails I’ve received have been from people genuinely looking for help at overcoming the issues they have been facing since they took ayahuasca. This, however, often brings to light another can of worms.
What I have found is that a significant number (the majority) of those looking for help with their psychic damage are approaching the solution to their ayahuasca induced issues as something that someone—the right person, shaman, healer—can do to them and for them. I suspect it is this approach to reality that played a key part in them looking to psychoactive plants as a solution to their issues or ‘spiritual needs’ in the first place. It’s an approach based on the idea that if I take the right thing, or receive the right healing, all will be okay. As opposed to an approach based on the understanding that, ‘If I apply myself within my own psyche in a certain way, and consistently enough, I will bring about the changes I am looking for’.
I don’t mention any of this to discredit and condemn this behaviour, but simply to shed light on what I see playing out. It has reminded me of the sevens year when I was manufacturing and selling natural health programs for thyroid disorders. After some time, I realised many of the people buying these programs were primarily just looking for something to take. Typically they had tried taking the pharmaceutical drugs recommended by their doctors, and, not liking the results, they turned to looking for something “natural” or alternative to take. Whereas from my perspective, what they ultimately required was not drugs or herbs or nutrients—yes, all these things may play a supportive role in the process—but in fact they required a shift in consciousness. A shift that would ultimately come about through their own self-application at educating themselves and changing their perception (of self, health, disease, etc.).
I suspect it is the potential for a shift in consciousness that plays a big part in the increasing popularity of ayahuasca. As with all psychoactive substances, you essentially just take it and let it happen, and despite this easy entry the end result is typically a significant shift in consciousness.
Witnessing the delusion in others
Recently I received an email from a fellow who wrote the following:
I personally have had profound and life changing experiences with both Ayahuasca and San Pedro (in Peru with a Shaman). Before doing so I did a lot of research. After my experiences my spiritual practice deepened, my relationships improved, etc. Many of the people I encounter have had profoundly beneficial experiences….this is not congruent with:
“I travel all over the world teaching people interested in spiritual matters, and as a result I have met a considerable number of people from many walks of life who have taken Ayahuasca. In my observation the vast majority were infiltrated by entities of one kind or another, and most were still seriously disconnected from the Divine. In some cases people were seriously harmed, on a spiritual level, by their experience with Ayahuasca. Some of those folk knew they were negatively impacted, but didn’t have a clue what to do about it. Others were oblivious to what they had brought upon themselves, or aware of the effects but in denial of the cause.” [*this is a quote from the Dark Side of Ayahuasca, to which this fellow is responding/reacting]
If SO many people are being “seriously harmed” why are there hundreds of accounts of people being healed [*what is actually meant by ‘healed?’] from these medicines? One would think that if what you say is true, that the scientific research that has been done would show that regular ayahuasca users have more problems with addiction (as I understand many addictions are caused by astral attachment) as well as generally being poorly adjusted. What does the actual research show?
[… he provided (copy/pasted) a 200 word paragraph from the above linked article… and went on to say…]
I am not denying that there is risk of astral attachment with using these medicines; however, I would like to know where are all of these people that are being harmed by ayahuasca?
His message had me wondering what his real intentions were. I got the impression his email had a passive-aggressive tone to it. It was not clear to me why he was writing to me, other than to justify his position, and (I suspected) to get into possibly set me up for a bout of character assassination. Not wishing to assume these things, I wrote the following:
In reading your email…
I understand you feel strongly about this matter you have raised.
I also understand you experienced benefits from the experiences you have had with Ayahuasca.
As you have pointed out, many people do have positive experiences. The intention of the article you are referring to was not to refute that point. Rather, the intention was to shed light on the fact that that there is (from my perspective) another side to this matter.
>> I would like to know where are all of these people that are being harmed by ayahuasca?
It is not at all clear to me what kind of answer you anticipate receiving to such a question. “Where are they…” ?
To answer you any further, I request that you clearly state your intention for writing to me.
I made this request so that he might either come clean with himself about his real motives, or at least reveal the ugly head of the shadow-forces I perceived he is linked to.
About 13 minutes later he replied with the following:
Thanks for the quick reply!
Some background- a spiritual teacher I am working with told me that when using these medicines it is possible to have an astral attachment and that this can cause all kinds of problems. I spend some time researching the topic and stumbled upon your website.
My overall intention is to as best as possible understand the risks associated with using these medicines so that I can make as informed decision about whether to use them again as a means of resolving trauma and deepening my spiritual practice. I certainly don’t want to put myself at risk. I spent years working with therapists and teachers and was not able to accomplish what I did with Ayahuasca- my wife is a therapist (and was initially opposed to me using them) admitted that what happened to me was nothing short of remarkable. I am trying to reconcile my own experiences with both your thoughts and the aforementioned teacher’s thoughts. I have done quite a bit of spiritual practices and retreats- all of which has helped me grow spiritually; however, didn’t come closs to the growth I experienced with these medicines.
At face value this email may appear sincere and candid. Yet I had reason to doubt this. If, however, it was a genuine representation of his intent, I am aware he raised a delicate matter—that of his psychological healing, and of deepening his spiritual practice. If this was his true underlying motive in writing to me, I wondered why his first email was passive-aggressive? I tagged his email for follow-up, left it in my inbox, and went about my day. This was in part because I was busy, and in part because I got the impression that was the most appropriate course of action.
Around 40 hours later, I received this:
I am not surprised that you didn’t respond to my email, nor do I expect a response from this one. [He has immediately, without provocation gone into confrontation]. I don’t refute that negative outcomes can occur from using these medicines- both spiritual and physically. That being said, I think you are fear mongering- it’s the oldest religious trick in the book. A friend who I shared your blog post was much more elegant in his response to your blog post.
– – [*what follows is the input of his friend. All emphasis in bold and underlined is his]
Thanks for sharing this article Simon [*name changed]. While I do feel that what is written has merit in some instances, for the most part I feel it is a gross exaggeration, as well as an example of a foreigner who drinks the tea once and next believes they know everything about it. [Apparently he didn’t read my article particularly thoroughly, as I clearly state I spent a couple of months in the jungle working with ayahuasca]
It sounds like this person already had made up their mind about what ayahuasca was and wasn’t. I also believe that this person went down to South America with the intention of finding bad stories about the brew, and no surprise, that’s all they encountered.[An incredible case of jumping to conclusions]
It’s also very convenient that the person claims ayahuasca essentially just confirmed his own belief system. Maybe if he didn’t offer spiritual services himself I would take that point a bit more seriously. But I couldn’t help [*I wonder what forces leave him so helpless against these delusional thoughts?] but read this article and think: ayahuasca tourism is competition for this person, and I can see a client of his going down to Peru and coming back and needing less of his services, or more realistically, none of his services. I can also picture him speaking to client after client and them bringing up ayahuasca and him becoming irritated. It’s also kind of (in)direct advertisement for his services, like saying: no need to go down to South America – I’ll save you the trip down there, ayahuasca confirmed that I am right! Follow me! [*If nothing else, this fellow has an amazing capacity to “see” and “picture” things that have zero basis in reality]
I would be weary of any spiritual “counselor” that promotes fear in their articles. The article even ends on a negative note — He didn’t even give advice on what to look for regarding a good shaman. It’s like he doesn’t want people going. And then he finally says: I went there to warn all of you! That is why I drank the tea at all. [*By now it seems comical to me this fellow is actually unaware of how ridiculous these baseless assertions come across]
Without any provocation on my part, and simply left to his own devices, Simon immediately lunched into an attack at my character and intentions. He then presented the opinion of his friend, which attempted to make a further attack on my character and intentions. I was amused, and yet also concerned. In my experience, when Man is connected with his/her Spirit—with his/her Divinity—deluded diatribe such as this simply does not arise. The Spirit of Man has no need to justify itself nor to attack another’s character. Immediately, both Simon and his friend have revealed the disturbed and infiltrated condition of their psyche (their luminous body). It took Simon less than 40 hours to launch into enacting his real intentions for writing to me, without any input from me except my suggestion he get clear about his real intentions. I make a point of this not to in anyway discredit these two people, but rather to bring to light a behavioural tendency that is, in my experience, relatively common among people who have a deranged luminous body.
I wrote a relatively lengthy response. It was quite possibly an utter waste of time/energy as far as Simon and his friend are concerned. Admittedly, I felt some level of responsibility to attempt to draw to Simon’s attention his folly. I had originally published my full response below. I have since decided to leave in only the paragraphs that I feel directly contribute to the subject matter of this article.
[…] Ironically, it looks to me like you have done the very thing your friend has accused me of. Have you not?
When you write to me in the way you have, it seems you have approached me as a “person [who] had already made up their mind about what [Jonathan, and his articles] was and wasn’t”.
Based purely on what he [*Simon’s friend] has written, from my perspective he appears to be so engrossed in believing his assumptions about me that in this particular matter he is verging on being delusional… or at least he is grossly caught up in the fruits of his own wild imagination. His tirade—which I struggle to see as “elegant”, as you put it—about what he imagines my intentions are… is an unfortunate discredit to the integrity and impeccability of his Spirit.
From where I stand, knowledge of the “dark side” (to put it simply) does logically equate to a state of “fear”. In my experience, such knowledge has a profoundly more useful purpose of supporting a person in the application of their discernment. Knowledge of the shadow-side might also empower a person to exercise due diligence and caution as and when appropriate. From where I stand, knowledge about the dark side of an aspect of a given situation does not automatically have anything to do with “fear” or even rejection or resistance. Based on these emails from you, it appears that fear is the way in which your friend and you have interpreted and reacted to the information presented in those articles. Why is that? […]
From a space of Love, there is nothing in those articles to be afraid of. It is merely information. If it is information you feel has no value or worth to you, why even bother writing to me? If it holds nothing for you, would it not be energetically cleaner and more impeccable for you to just forget it, and move on?
[…] I suspected, although didn’t wish to outright assume, your underlying motive was orientated toward possible character assassination and/or the defence and justification of your own foregone conclusions about Ayahuasca and what it means to you. In your most recent email you seem to have, perhaps unwittingly, brought to light that your true intentions were in fact along those very lines. It does not surprise me you have called upon, and quoted, the support of a “friend” who has also proceeded to engage in that exact same behaviour. […]
Fear and Man’s loss of consciousness
Simon, and his friend, are not the first to say my ayahuasca articles are based on fear. It strikes me as interesting people would equate knowledge of the shadow-side with fear and fear-mongering. I get the impression that in fact Simon (i.e. aspects of his soul/psyche), and the entities he is very likely linked up with, are in a state of fear (contraction). I suspect those entities have provoked Simon to react in the way he has, by directly impacting upon his astral body, because they are fearful of losing an easy way to infiltrate him and harvest energy from him (to put it simply).
This game of projecting that someone is fearful and “dualistic” (one of the other labels sent in my general direction, in reaction to my ayahuasca articles) because they speak up about a shadow aspect of something, is rather common and potentially harmful to those who do it. It’s an effective way to blind a person to what is actually playing out. For example, I see people doing the same thing toward religion, in particular Christianity, with its stance against drugs and sexual promiscuity, among other things. [I will use this as an example because it also addresses Simon’s attempt to liken my “fear-mongering” to what he referred to as “the oldest religious trick in the book“]. It is all too easy to react to this kind of dogma (religious belief) without first stepping back, into a space of Love and expansion, and taking a look at the broader context of what is playing out. From where I stand, many religions went down the road of forbidding activities like drugs, drunkenness, masturbation, and sexual promiscuity (to name a few that come to mind) because at some point it was recognised that these activities all have a high propensity to result in people being psychically (i.e. spiritually) entangled, confused, compromised, infiltrated, and weakened. As the subtlety of these metaphysical understandings and implications were lost to ordinary man—as ordinary man became increasingly engrossed in matter—, these religious beliefs/restrictions for some people started to seem unreasonable and controlling. What’s more, many of the strict adherents to such dogma degenerated into behaving like religions zealots and fanatics, as they were also unable to remain in an expansive and loving state of comprehension and relatedness to Life and the essence of what they are preaching and advocating.
In summary, from where I stand, this state of affairs is the natural consequence of man’s loss of spiritual perception, of our loss of spiritual consciousness. It is also a consequence of infiltration by dark-forces, and the power of ordinary man’s unenlightened (i.e. ignored and denied) shadow. I see it as representative of just some of what many people are presently incarnated in the Earth realm to work their way through—both collectively, in an impersonal sense, and individually in a personified sense.
The big challenge in all this is that ordinary man is typically blind-sided to his compromised psychic condition. So we often end up with the blind leading the blind—not unlike Simon and his friend—in a great many of our endeavours, both spiritual and worldly. What’s more, the relatively recent advent of so-called “science” (I say ‘so-called’ because I consider much of the contemporary use of this word a misappropriation of its original meaning and intention) and the empirical, reductionistic, materialistic dogma and superstitions contemporary “scientists” (who are actually a relatively small fraction of humanity at large) are trying to advocate to humanity as—or, as a means to—the ultimate truth or reality. The modern religion of empirical reductionism that calls itself “science” is in many ways only further pulling the consciousness of Man further into ignorance of our true nature. It has, thankfully, helped many folk do away with—or at least provides a means to do away with—some of humanities blind beliefs in spiritual superstitions and some of our degenerate “spiritual” practices and religious inventions, but it remains to be seen whether our well-meaning empirical reductionistic scientists have in fact only replaced one set of degenerate superstitions with another.
Our challenge—your challenge and mine—is to skilfully, not haphazardly (which I feel is often the case with “spiritual” drug use) both expand and deepen our perception to reincorporate spiritual reality, whilst remaining grounded in the benefits and application of clarity and discernment provided by the rational aspect of our consciousness.
Our challenge is to be very wary of our reactions and projections. To use them not as a means to justify our folly, but as a diving board into self-investigation. Over the years I have found my reactions and projections in fact tell me more about myself than about whoever or whatever I feel or think I am reacting to. I have also found that people who rely upon psychoactive substances as a cornerstone in their spiritual path/practice often tend toward spiritual- and self-delusion and psychic confusion more than people who don’t. There are bound to be exceptions; I am admittedly stating a general observation. I realise this is an observation some people will recoil at, and yet that in itself is, from my perspective, an important indication some serious heart-centred self-investigation awaits them.