NOW SERVING Psychedelic Culture

Lizard Wisdom: A Review of The Ayahuasca Sessions by Rak Razam

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In my previous article “20 Essential Books on the Mysterious Power of Ayahuasca”, Rak Razam (one of the co-coiners of the term “entheodelic storytelling” along with Graham Hancock, Jeremy D. Johnson and I) had the great honor of having two books on the list; The Ayahuasca Sessions and Aya Awakenings (now a documentary).

On May 27th, 2014, The Ayahuasca Sessions received a proper reprint from North Atlantic Books, which includes a much improved cover and stunning full color photo inserts, not found in the older, now out of print version.

Sessions dissects some of the central paradoxes of ayahuasca tourism. Early in the book Rak prompts Guillermo Aravelo to admit that the vine itself is the shaman and initiator, and the shaman is only the facilitator (the one that is often needed). [1] Controversially, I myself am a solitary drinker and have no intention of traveling to some remote location when I’m able to safely commune with the plant spirits that I’ve already developed a relationship with in my own garden, though before coming to the medicine I had extensive history with an esoteric initiation into Hindu mysteries, so I was not without some preparation for the inner demons that assail those traversing the inner planes. I do not intend to discourage those who want a more traditional experience in Peru or Brazil, especially for the first time, but I do not see either path as having more or less spiritual import and value. [2]

The great strength of the interviews found Sessions is its down to earth conversational style, which works in bridging the gap between indigenous curanderos, Western shamans, and ayahuasca authors. Rak’s talk with Jan Kounen was of particular interest to me as a graphic novelist who is interested in incorporating the holographic visions of the grandmother vine into visual art, and while I won’t spoil it, I think that it’s his best interview by far, from an insider ayahuasquero point of view, rather than the typical celebrity obsessed media culture plugs one often finds relating to film.

Another strange striking example of surreal synchronicity is hearing Adela Navas de Garcia, a curandera from the Amazon, [3] talk about seven songs that came to her from the multidimensional lizards and snake totems that are relatively common in the thralls of the aya trance. As the seven Lizard Kings factor into my graphic novel KALI-YUGA—penned well before I met Rak—this was a welcome addition to what I could explore and reference within the deep non-linear structure of the comic.

Apparently, the spirit-reptiles taught Adela seven icaros, known as the magical songs that are meant to lead the shaman into deeper levels of trance in innerspace [4], in order to give power over shamanic totems and protection in order to ward off negative entities. She also states quite emphatically “shaman women can be better healers.” Be ye wise as serpents, indeed.

Other myths and common misunderstandings about the medicine are dispelled right away, such as the oft-cited purge, which many California bros are quick to point out, that “they wouldn’t want to be shitting and puking their brains out while tripping, man.” Fortunately, those that have done more than simply read on the subject know that the initial cleansing stage—wherein the spirits literally force you to throw away the black-energy vibes that many of us have picked up simply by existing in Western civilization—can be relatively quick for some people. Graham Hancock relates that he stopped having deep purging around the 10th ceremony or so, and I have experienced a similar indication that heavy purging does not last forever, allowing for a more enjoyable “walk to the other side of reality”, as Hancock calls it.

Getting to the heart of the central metaphysicality of the medicine is one of Rak’s fundamental strengths as a teacher. In a later part of his interview with Guillermo, he asks about the deeper aspects of the spirit planes that lie beyond the more commonly referenced astral planes (such as the causal plane, as depicted in various comparative cosmological maps at kheper.net/topics/planes/.) In the causal plane it is said that a single thought may become an entire universe for the soul to be trapped in, and in the dimensions of pure spirit that lie beyond all causality there is the idea that the spirit is beyond all duality, or beyond the language of heaven and hell most commonly found in the astral universe. According to Peruvian curanderos these are not mere metaphors, but tell-tale experiences and signposts of deep innerspace exploration lying within the sacred medicine. 

For those that are already familiar with the subject matter, Rak goes far deeper in The Ayahuasca Sessions than most books I’ve encountered on the subject, as he is not afraid of controversy. For the new comer, it is perhaps the best introduction because of it’s wide scope within the singular focus of the esoteric mysteries. Sessions, like the vine itself, works on a heart-chakra based, conversational level approach, honed in on the lived experience of the medicine path—not merely the seemingly detached scholarly explanation of it. From this point of view it is essential reading material, and I highly recommend it.

[Those interested be sure to check out Rak’s awesome podcast “In a Perfect World” for more subtle nuances on the subject matter.] 

 


[1] Since self-initiation is still a point of controversy within the culture, it’s worth quoting this in detail. On p. 11 of The Ayahuasca Sessions Rak asks “I’ve heard it said that the plants themselves are the real teachers and the shamans are a facilitator. Is there any exception to the rule that the plants download information directly to the participant, without the intermediary of a shaman?”

Guillermo’s reply is: “Yes it’s possible, it’s true. It’s a possibility. But sometimes the people who drink ayahuasca get confused, or there are some fears, or other problems. And those problems interfere with the ability of the plant to give information and have it properly understood. But without those problems it is possible.”

[2] For a sound and well-developed perspective on the ayahuasca cult in Peru and Brazil—from the point of view of the solitary drinker—check out Jonathan Davis’ “Power and Plant Spirit Shamanism”.

[3] For more details on some of the differences and politics of discrimination that occurs towards curanderas from the typically male dominated shamanism found in South America, see Steve Beyer’s Singing to the Plants.

[4] For detailed thoughts on the phenomenology of the DMT space relates to ayahuasca visions see Patrick Lundborg’s Psychedelia

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