Ancient Medicine in a Modern World
Ayahuasca is one of the most powerful and well-known natural entheogens known to man. The name ayahuasca comes from Quechua, a widely spoken South American language found throughout the Amazon: aya means “soul” or “spirits” and huasca means “vine.” The full name, therefore, means “vine of the soul” or “vine of the spirits.” It is a powerful plant-based medicine that can open a doorway to communication with the inner worlds and spirit realms.
Ayahuasca is a shamanic brew; a holistic, existential, experiential medicine that facilitates deep cleansing, states of inner-awakening, and direct connection with the spirit world, and is a tool to reach amplified states of consciousness. It is respected by a vast number of indigenous people of the Amazon as a healing plant or “master teacher plant” and represents the basis of their traditional medicines.
In the Shipibo language, the name for ayahuasca is Oni (pronounced “OO-knee”), which means “wisdom,” or Oni Kobin, which translates as “cooked or prepared wisdom.”
Ayahuasca works on every level – on the physical and non-physical being, on our consciousness, on our emotions, and on our spirit. Also known colloquially as “la purga” (the purge), ayahuasca is a potent cleansing and purifying medicine that offers a powerful intervention to chronic emotional and psycho-spiritual issues and catalyzes a re-awakening process for most people who work with the right intentions. Ayahuasca rids the body of physical impurities, cleanses negative energies from the energetic system (which lie at the root of most physical, emotional, and psychological issues), helps bring integration to deep-seated emotional problems, and guides us towards releasing limiting and fear-filled beliefs.
It is a plant medicine that needs to be approached with absolute respect and caution. Provided that a number of clear guidelines and specific precautionary measures are followed, ayahuasca, in combination with a myriad of other plant-spirit doctors of the Amazon, has the potential to effect profound and lasting healing. It can initiate and guide us on a longer-term journey back towards wholeness, coherence, harmony, and presence.
It could be considered no coincidence that in Inkan tradition, Huascar is the gatekeeper of the Underworld – the guardian of our shadows and all that is held in our subconscious minds. Huascar is the harmonizing principle of chaos and darkness, the loyal tenderer of our Sacred Garden. It is in this beautiful place that our untapped creativity, vitality, and raw potential wait for us until we are ready and able to bring them home. Therefore from an Incan perspective, the mythical content of an ayahuasca ceremony refers to a journey into the shadows of the soul (subconscious) and through the dark world of collective unconsciousness. An ayahuasca ceremony is an experience near to death, a process of spiritual renewal and reclamation of trapped energies.
Is Ayahuasca a Drug?
Although it contains a psychoactive component, ayahuasca cannot be considered a classic drug of addictive and negative effects. On the contrary, it is essential that working with ayahuasca is never within a recreational context. A series of scientific research studies have proven that the physiological effect of ayahuasca in the human body does not cause any toxicity. Consuming ayahuasca within a controlled context shows no side-effect, and it is not addictive and does not produce any lasting withdrawal symptoms.
The medicine must be offered within a ceremonial, ritual-based environment with sacred, spiritual, and therapeutic characteristics by trained healers who can guide, protect, and contain the healing and learning journey of the drinker. This is essential in order to safely move into an often intense process of deep introspection while experiencing both agreeable and difficult experiences throughout the ceremony. The essence of working with ayahuasca is having a direct experience of your inner world through which you clearly see the nature of your difficulties or problems and discover the ways to overcome and transform them.
“Look deep into nature then you will understand everything better” – Albert Einstein
Ayahuasca is not a drug despite moralistic propaganda and the stigmatization of indigenous healing practices that can be attributed to religious wars on shamanism and repressive drug policies. Labelling ayahuasca healing “irresponsible drug use” ignores the fact that it has been an integral part of the well-being and survival of many indigenous communities of the Amazon basin for centuries, possibly even millennia. Part of the Temple’s mission is to participate in the scientific validation of traditional medicines and legitimize their use in the modern world.
Legitimizing Traditional Ayahuasca Practice
For thousands of years, indigenous and pre-industrial societies have applied their masterful knowledge of special plant species to emotional, psychological, and spiritual development and to issues critical to social harmony and cultural survival.
Ethnobotanicals such as ayahuasca have been singled out by modern researchers as having considerable potential for treating a wide range of conditions, from depression and stress disorders to substance abuse. Clinical research is also shedding light on the complex neuropsychological effects of these plants and the implications for improved cognitive function and integrative thinking that can help people deal with daily life issues in more effective and creative ways.
People from around the world, irrelevant of race, religion, or social status, who have often exhausted all avenues in conventional healthcare seeking the resolution of chronic emotional and psychological conditions, do not consider this plant to be a drug. They see it as a unique tool for healing, introspection, meditation, therapy, inner cleansing, auto-exploration, and self-awakening.