Sunday, April 09, 2006


Having just come back from the Peruvian Amazon, I was intrigued by this article in the latest National Geographic Adventure Magazine, Hell and Back. We spoke of this article while in Peru, so now back in the States, I looked it up. It is written by my favorite woman adventure writer, Kira Salak and it's brilliantly written and very powerful.

"All negative thoughts, shamans believe, are dark spirits speaking to us, trying to scare us into reacting; the spirits then feed on our reactivity, growing stronger and more formidable until they finally rule over us," writes Salak. "The shamans believe that whenever a traumatic event happens to us, we lose part of our spirit, that it flees the body to survive the experience. ... people may lose their sense of humor, their trust of others, their innocence."

It brought tears to my eyes, in the part when she writes, "I'm made to see that what is being purged now is a deeply rooted belief that I don't deserve to be alive, that no one can love me and I will always need to justify my existence."

I find it most interesting because the shamans, and those who use the hallucinogenic ayahuasca, experience and see what can be thought of as the spirit world. It's typically a dark hallucination experience it seems, not surprisingly perhaps since the use of ayahuasca is to heal, and since they view illness as being associated with dark forces, demons, devils.

To the modern, scientific, clinical days we live in, we separate science and spirit and for good reason. And yet as one who believes in both the spirit realm and the need for studying the natural world using naturalistic scientific inquiry, I find this article truly fascinating. I find it intriguing that most of the modern Church would reject shamanism and the visions as some sort of physical manifestation of the hallucinatory drug, whereas even Jesus himself clearly saw illness as manifestations of demons throughout his healing in the New Testament accounts. Not so different, perhaps. Maybe we have something to learn from this.

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