aya and i 4***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 essentially 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, let’s 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.

When 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 savior 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 the 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, for example, I realized is no more a parasitic consciousness than it is a deity. It is a psychoactive experience associated with 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 with 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 any time my truth is only a soft reach under my costume and I am confidant in being naked with you.


Or, if you haven’t read the rest of this story, you can via the links below!

Part 1 ~ Part 2  ~ Part 3

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  1. James W. Jesso wrote
    > 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.

    Is God naked?
    No, he wears us

    > The only thing that is real is God as an experience of
    > self; the naked human in all its beauty.
    > Literally, I looked upon a toaster and saw the divine manifesting in all
    > its forms.

    I think I know exactly what you mean. I believe at that mind
    manifesting moment the divine follows your gaze and focuses ALL the
    wonder wherever you look. Spreading out the wonder over your whole
    field of vision and whole life shows you the divine in everything. You
    saw one way the wonder is spread when you recognized your own
    projections had affected your perceptions of the people around you.
    Recognizing your own immanence in your environment covers the full
    spectrum of awe from “divine manifesting in all its forms” to the
    personal items you have gathered around you daily, or what others see
    when they look at you.

    The reducing valve gradually hides the effect of projection so most of
    your field of vision takes on the illusion of objective reality. I
    presume this is god’s choice, trying to become human, with an
    unalterable past, a surprising present, and a hopeful challenging
    future. (And “others” for reinforcement.) When full function returns to
    mind/brain the reducing valve focuses only a human-scale bit of wonder
    where you’re looking. Your immanence in your environment is mostly not
    recognizable, except in the routine details humans can affect..

    > 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.

    Right on!

    > anything other than the direct
    > experience of God is merely another costume.

    “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid
    the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.
    There is no reason not to follow your heart.” — Steve Jobs

    • jameswjesso Reply

      Thank you for this beautiful analysis and perspective Lee. I am grateful to be shown others who understand, it helps with the sense of alienation that came with breaking tradition. Thank you.

  2. Great thoughts.
    I too usually end up having to “break with tradition”, whether it was my born again christian days, or new ager days, and now the aya days.
    I’ve sat thru ceremonies, with shaman’s, and ended up becoming a shaman myself (during the trip), and saw the light and dark forces, and the battles.
    at first i thought i was finally catching up to all these other “spiritulists” who have been seeing angels and demons, or entities since the 60’s.
    but alas, there’s something else at work here.
    looking forwar to the next session to look into this a bit deeper, with eyes just a little bit more open, after reading your article.

    • jameswjesso Reply

      Beautiful to be offered your perspective and comments. Thank you Shane.

  3. Thank you for this report, as I read it i went through my 2 month ago experience which was somehow resembling yours. 4 takes, a lot of evil visions, but add so called possessed people at 2 ceremonies. Every time I said to myself it will be the last one. I felt ayahuasca very physically, but I also felt that troubled people at ceremonies made my trips taking ambivalent directions. The most pleasant trip, the last one, was when I took half a cup because I felt much more relaxed and didn’t wanted to fight bad visions which changed themselves to good ones and back. I also noticed that when I sing it helps a lot but there is no visions in this time. I am still rethinking what it is all about and why I am, being an agnostic and secularist, saw so many religious visions thinking inside myself no more fucking religion. But I also experienced some extremely beautiful mystical states and I was thinking about the price I paid for them with the bad visions. I
    know that all shipibos see different visions, more natural and wonderful worlds, craving for the
    same experiences but getting what I got. It was an ordeal, i was told that many people including shamans see evil spirits but the trick is that we westerners keep ourself
    sceptic by rational explanations. And I saw some that do not see anything , some that suffer, some that see very usual things like relatives far away. The word aya means spirit
    or dead. Your writing made these experience reemerge in my memory, powerful, thank you. As for me, the positive and healing effect was felt back home some month later, I mean, my good values got stronger over wrong ones. I will do ayahuasca again with same shaman (shipibo woman) but i need to work in my real life to fill myself with more strength and love for the next time.

  4. Although erudite statements frequently entertain, they rarely illuminate.
    –just plain susie MD PhD
    If you are sincerely seeking nakedness before others and God, a state of surrender that strips bare the social display of self and allows the freeing winds of nakedness to toss away our uniqueness so we may assume our space within the cosmic oneness — than may I sincerely suggest you set aside the highfalutin’ nomenclature that shouts by its very appearance “Look at my incredible intelligence (which I’m carefully hiding by trying to be so forthright”) and will never fail to set you apart in your elaborate wordsmith garments, not place you within that circle of individual oneness.

    I learned from the insights described in your story, and can clearly see that you have been blessed with a marvelous brain. However due to the plethora of esoteric language in your word choice to describe your experiences (which have the potential to bless many) your observations seemed as cloaked with gastrointestinal by-products as the purges you described.

    You have much to offer many, I suggest you use the humility you seek in your word selection also, I believe your insights will be received with the authenticity I have faith you intend. When you are speaking of the soul, speak with the clarity that soul awareness offers.

    Gracious peace upon you brother. I honor your journey. Keep It Simple(r).

    PS I speak of these matters not only from my own failings in such things, but because in 4th grade I had to write on the chalk board 100 times “I will not call a dangling participle a dangling parsnip.”

    • jameswjesso Reply

      I loved how verbose your criticisms of my over-intellectualized diction were. On that note, my words are as they are, I do my best to refine my writing for enjoyment of the reader while not loosing the voice of my inner-narrative. To offer any less or to simplify in effort to create the image of ‘humble honesty’ (as if humbleness means speaking real simple, like), would be hypocritical at best. And at worst, create a sense of grandeur of myself over others, as if I am too smart and ‘gotta dumb it down for the readers’. Again, my words are as they are, I do my best to refine my writing for enjoyment of the reader while not loosing the voice of my inner-narrative. I speak and write with effort to communicate clearly, helping complex ideas being easily digested, but never with the assumption that my reader is any less intelligent than I… Besides, when it comes to writing about psychedelic experiences, playing with complex vernacular is half the fun!

      ps I recognized the softness and respect your comment offered, and I appreciate it. Thank you.

    • Bravo! Well said with clarity, respect and humility. I’ve pondered whether to reply to this page or just close this tab since falling into this internet wormhole 45 minutes ago.
      I think many of us as westerners with our inherent ego nature chose to intellectualize primitive culture rather than immerse our humble selves into the experience. A willingness to let go of who we think we are takes courage.

  5. Thanks James, that was a great read!

    Not often do I find a description of a psychedelic experience that actually makes sense. I think everybody participating in ayahuasca ceremony needs to understand that all those visions, entities etc. are not some external objects but manifestations of one’s own mind. That would make the experience a bit smoother and more productive for some people.

  6. Krishna-Shakti Reply

    Its amazing how entheogens up to the psychic realm and can even assist in realization/experiences of impersonal aspects of God.My understanding is that ultimately the Original Person is behind it all and realization of Him/Her requires pleasing the Original Person(Him-Her) (aka devotional service etc.) and so its called “revealed knowledge” and cant be manufactured by swallowing liquids (or solids lol)…But what a great medicine to help souls heal/transcend the diseased state of material existence.I would like to experience ayawaska and help other addicts with it so hopefully we can establish contact,etc.

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