In 2014 ayahuasca hit the main stage when the first World Ayahuasca Conference was held in Ibiza (Spain). This extraordinary gathering, organized by the ICEERS Foundation brought together leading scientists, legal experts, practitioners. environmentalists and others involved in the ayahuasca field. That so many people answered the call and came together to share, learn and plan for the future is testament to the extent to which the interest and use of ayahuasca has expanded over the last decade.
In a packed itinerary, themes included academic work documenting therapeutic advancements, cultural phenomena and the growing body of study that underpins our new understandings of this mysterious and ancient brew. Community meetings celebrated an emerging global “Familia” that is connecting like-minded people around the world concerned with personal and planetary well being.
There was also a legal track and the mood shifted as this gathering of global leaders, thinkers and healers heard recent accounts of colleagues and friends who had been either incarcerated or harassed for their involvement in the Ayahuasca community. It was very important to the people at that meeting that a process should be agreed for standing together in solidarity to share the burden of the unlucky individuals that had come to be a target for law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, it was agreed that now was the time to clearly and articulately make the case for shifting to more ethical means of regulating these plants that takes an objective and scientific perspective on the benefits of use as well as any possible health risks.
What is it?
The Ayahuasca Defense Fund was born. The idea is simple, an invitation open to all of us in the Ayahuasca community to contribute whatever we can to a central pot. These resources are then coordinated and used by the central committee.
Specifically, the fund will:
- work with people facing prosecution worldwide to assure the best legal strategy and defense
- advocate for sensible and tolerant legislation and public policy
- educate and protect the global community by providing a reliable information and resources
The people behind the Ayahuasca Conference immediately understood the vital role such a body could play and has taken on setting it up. The ICEERS Foundation started life in 2009 and since then has been working to bridge the ancestral ethnobotanical knowledge of the indigenous cultures that have been using iboga, ayahuasca and other traditional plants, with occidental therapeutic practice and science, working towards the integration of such plants as therapeutic tools and personal growth/spiritual catalysts in our society today.
The Founder and Executive Director of ICEERS, Benjamin De Loenen, sees it as crucial that the community has a means and capacity for engaging with legal issues.
“During the last 6 years we have been confronted with the harsh reality of legal prosecution of people who often dedicate their lives to working with ayahuasca, have extensive training in different traditions and all of a sudden fall into the criminal justice system. We have seen though, that these cases can be turned into opportunities for educating the judge and authorities about the important value of these plants and establish positive legal precedent.”
An emergent network of gratitude
People from all around the world have connected to teacher plants in a way that many describe as organic, serendipitous or perhaps even as part of the destiny of their lives. The “circles” and networks of people that have come together to heal themselves, learn, grow, connect with their spirituality and gain precious insights presents very exciting opportunities for us to coordinate our actions and have a profound positive impact upon the world. From one viewpoint we are a small number of people widely dispersed. From another, we are highly-connected, purposeful and committed to updating our culture for mutual benefit.
Crowdfunding emerged as a very good fit for both our community’s demographic and for what we are setting out to do – with impacts in multiple countries simultaneously. Many of us have benefitted, or even had our lives transformed, through working with sacred plants. Some report deeper connections to ourself, our family, environment, nature as a whole and the journeys of our lives. A natural subsequent feeling is gratitude. We feel grateful to the healers or shaman who helped us on our way, grateful to the biotic community for the gifts they bestow us and grateful even for simply existing and having these precious experiences at all. We hope to engage with that gratitude and offer people a practical way that they can help the Ayahuasca community and wider related networks so that the traditions around teacher plants be treated with the due respect and reverence they deserve.
Crowdfunding works best when networks of people, engaged around issues and projects and sharing common values push together for the best results. We are now asking everybody reading this article to please view the campaign, tell your friends about it by forwarding the link or sharing on social media and if possible make a contribution. It will only takes a small effort by many of us to achieve our target and secure the key resources to take the Ayahuasca Defense Fund to the next level and start to achieve the aims and help people in need.
Constanza Sánchez Avilés, ICEERS Policy & Human Rights Coordinator says:
“In the last 12 months there have been almost 20 shipment interventions, many of them ended up in the arrests of people involved. We are being asked for help from more than 10 different countries. We are learning from every case and developing the tools to make real progress but everything we do is partially limited by funds. We really need the support of the wider community”
The Ayahuasca Defense Fund presents a unique opportunity for us to pool resources and protect our new global community as we reunite to reimagine the world. Generosity is key but it is also in solidarity and with hope. Oppression, extraction and prejudice have dominated global culture for too long. Linking together and empowered by new technology we can make the world more, just, sustainable, creative and flourishing. Central to these efforts is standing together and saying clearly that we will not be denied access to vital plant tools.
A vision for the future
With or without the aid of ayahuasca and other consciousness expanding plants, many people around the world sense that we are entering an immense and important period of change. Out-dated modalities of Descartian separation, limited and depressing visions of the future and sick obsessions with continuous economic growth, militarism and incarceration are on the way out. Commentators, thinkers, ecologists and activists are imagining new ways of living, new economies, more compassionate legal systems and greater opportunities for less well off people around the world. Charles Eisenstein calls this “The Better World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.”
On the one hand the world is in crisis. Our world is still ravaged by war, gross inequality and the collapse of ecological systems. On the other, humanity has more potential than ever before. Regular people around the world are linking up, coordinating their actions and bypassing bureaucracies, hierarchies and corporations to co-create the solutions we need. Time is tight but there is ample evidence that we have the technologies, know how and passion to get where we need to go.
We imagine an equitable, flourishing future human civilisation that lives in harmony with the biosphere. Citizens are freed from the tyranny of a rampant, expansive, unsustainable global economy and have far more time to be creative, enjoy their communities, play sport, make art, travel, love each other and perhaps from time to time investigate altered-states of consciousness. For many, teacher plants have proved to be allies in achieving and maintaining healthy development and deepen the connection with oneself, one’s family, community, humanity as a whole and planet earth. It is also possible that they have an important social role to play today as we co-create new culture.
We have come to a place where the global community is conscious, mature and working more and more together to move towards a world in which these plants can have their place. We understand that together we are strong. By pooling resources and coordinating our legal, scientific, policy and communications expertise we can fight and win cases and help people safely connect with these plants without prejudice. We see the War on Drugs as a core component of an unjust and unsustainable world. Together we can build the tools to make the changes we need to see. Please join us.