Could the war on drugs (and therefore hallucinogens) be limiting human creativity at a crucial time? Environmentalist Matt Mellen places the efforts of the Ayahuasca Defence Fund within a broader historical narrative.
“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.”
Pushing back against the War on the World
Planet earth has been held hostage by a death cult for 2000 years. We have lived our lives immersed in a dominant culture that operates on the basis that the human species is separate from nature and exempt from the rules of ecology. This madness underlies many of the critical challenges now faced by our species, not least: climate change, the Sixth Mass Extinction event and an economy that treats its participants like machines enlisted in the mindless destruction of our home planet. The historical routes of this pervasive, expansive and violent ideology are widely documented but deeply misunderstood.
Today, all around the world, networks of connected people are coordinating their efforts to push back against the machine-mind and restore some kind of new balance and harmony to a global system that teeters out of control and nears collapse. This global “blessed unrest” is colourful, diverse, indigenous, earthy, plant-powered, feminine, vital and urgent. The Ayahuasca Defence Fund is a new opportunity to co-create some of the changes we need to see that can help to shift humanity back into a more healthy relationship with the natural world. Your participation is invited.
The War on Drugs is one way in which machine culture regiments and contains the natural freedoms, creative exuberance and visions of humanity. Since the 1960s it has specifically and explicitly sought to shut down citizens’ access to hallucinogens. This containment has been rationalised under mass-propagated, misinformation about health and safety. This deceit is increasingly untenable as pioneering new research catalogues the demonstrable, repeatable and statistically highly-significant range of positive benefits these substances offer human beings.
The Beckley Foundation is leading a new wave of scientific research into psychedelics. Their recent findings demonstrate that magic mushrooms can cure treatment-resistant depression far better than any synthetic compound. In some cases, one intervention is enough for a profound life-improving event. Elsewhere, we learn that Iboga can cure hardcore drug addicts. Cannabis oil can cure certain types of cancer and MDMA treats PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). However, more than this, beyond their therapeutic functions – “plant medicines” are offering a new generation of adventurer the opportunity to alter their consciousness and experience existence in new ways that can often offer insights and opportunities for creativity and growth that supplement and enhance our normal modes of operation. For many, these represent significant life events, rites of passage, powerful awakenings and even glimpses of the divine. Could the restriction of these exotic substances represent some kind of cultural lobotomy limiting our abilities to envision new futures and evolve and update culture precisely when we need to be doing these things most?
A new, global, civil rights movement
Front and central in this new psychedelic renaissance is the “Spirit Vine” known as Ayahuasca. In his book The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, Jeremy Narby documents how this remarkable compound came to exist via the ingenious botanical alchemy of Amazonian tribal people following direct communication with plant intelligence. Shamans in the Amazon have used versions of this substance for centuries to cure ailments as well as access new knowledge about their environment and the cosmos and to channel wisdom to their communities. In recent times, increasing numbers of Western people are also seeking access to the benefits on offer. In doing so, they put themselves at loggerheads with international law enforcement agencies that increasingly represent corporate interests, repress decent and maintain the catastrophic status quo. If at the global level these plant medicines can play some role in re-integrating humanity back into our planet’s natural life-support systems then these oppressive laws may be the noose we hang around our species’ neck.
The stage is set for a new, global, civil rights movement. On one side, sits the entrenched establishment clinging to out-dated modalities of Descartian separation, limited and depressing visions of the future and sick obsessions with continuous economic growth, militarism and incarceration. Rising up in celebratory dissent are: activists, environmentalists, indigenous people, health workers as well as a diverse variety of people claiming sovereignty of their own conscious states and keen to connect intimately and directly with other realms. Unknown to many, this resurgent spirit is as ancient and primal as its eruption is now urgent and raw. This new global negotiation is part of a historical meta-narrative that dates back to the foundations of Western culture, the emergence of monotheism, patriarchy, salvationism and the ensuing war against the world waged by a violent emergence of religious people enthralled to an extraterrestrial “big daddy” God. Hanging in the balance is who gets to decide what each of us does with our minds? The answer to that questions may shape the destiny of life on our planet.
Indigenous world views and “teacher plants”
For ancient indigenous peoples, who have lineages that have existed for millennia it is fully understood that they are enmeshed in the web of life and in many cases that nature herself is sacred. Perhaps it is not surprising that evidence of interaction with teacher plants and altered states of consciousness is ubiquitous around the world across myriad ancient cultures. Indeed, some commentators, such as, Graham Hancock writing in his book – Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, argue that connection with these substances was far more ancient and pervasive than many today might presume and may have played a fundamental, transformative role in the evolution of the advanced human mind and its unprecedented feats of language, art, imagination and creativity.
Today’s dominant culture with its obsessions of hierarchy, submission, toil and extraction didn’t take over the planet by winning logical arguments or having the best ideas but by smashing skulls, burning libraries, banning access to teacher plants, committing centuries of genocide on five continents and forcing it’s virulent ideology of separation, domination and oppression upon the planet.
In his book – Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief, John Lamb Lash describes how ancient systems of thought and knowledge were vigorously attacked, destroyed and replaced with powerful new stories that orientate humanity off-planet, resulting in the miss-treatment and devastation of the world we inhabit today. He begins in 415 C.E. when a beautiful and wise Pagan noblewoman called Hypatia was pulled from her chariot and savagely beaten to death by a mob of proto-Christians as she returned home from the great Library of Alexandria. Hypatia was the daughter of the mathematician Theon of Alexandria, the last known teacher of the Mystery Schools.
Mystery schools, Gnostics and reverence for Gaia-Sophia
Hypatia, her father and many other Brahmins of their time were Gnostics. They believed that all of us are capable of having a direct and profound understanding of our world, God, the cosmos and consciousness and that the knowledge of transcendence can be arrived at by way of interior, intuitive means. The Gnostic creation myth centres on the fallen goddess Sophia from which all of nature emerges. Sophia shares much in common with Pachamama and modern conceptions of Gaia. Gnostics, like most indigenous peoples revered nature and were bound to the land in a symbiosis of reverence and respect and some expanded and enhanced their personal spiritual growth in ancient Mystery Schools – rites of passage in which initiates were guided into deep and profound direct knowledge of themselves and the world aided with entheogens – hallucinatory teacher plants (for example, the Eleusinian Mysteries may have utilized ergot – a fungus on wheat).
The attack on Hypatia was a historical turning point because it manifested the emergence and dominance of a new story explaining the origins of humanity, our purpose on Earth and alongside it systems of thought that demoted our own consciousness as no longer central to spiritual evolution.
The rise of dominator, patriarchal monotheisms
Early Christians were fierce and violently committed to the idea that an extraterrestrial, all-powerful, father-God ruled to pass judgement on a humanity that was, from the outset, cast in sin. Humans were born sinful and the earth was sinful and should be “subdued” and only the righteous would be saved from a torment in hell in which torture could be extended for eternity. These pathological ideas have scarred the minds and bodies of billions of humans as well decimated the earth.
Many people accept today’s mainstream narrative that the major antagonism of our times is between Christianity and Islam. This is a cataclysmic failure to grasp the bigger picture. Christianity, Islam as well as Judaism are all from the same Abrahamic route and share many of the same damming delusions. All three share expansive, violent and destructive memes that have forced our planet into awkward convulsions. Other ways of being in the world may have been suppressed but they never completely died out. Today, people are not just challenging the major religions from an atheist or humanist perspective but also demanding new interpretations of what is sacred. The Earth can be sacred and we can be holy without some extraneous judgement and transfer of power to a bizarre extraterrestrial domain that may or may not contain virgins for our satisfactions.
The emergence of these cults of patriarchal monotheisms could have done no more harm then warp the minds of the early fanatical converts. Alas, within these religion’s DNA were dictates to expand and convert that made them go viral. Colonists, priests, evangelists, Jihadis, crusaders and other bastards have mercilessly tortured and killed every earth-based spiritual sect that dared to be in their way. All across Europe, pagans (“heretics”) were forced to convert or face death. Strong, wise women who could heal with herbs were systematically drowned and burnt in witch hunts that spanned centuries and killed, according to the highest estimates, a possible 9 million women. We look, appalled, at Jihadis today but they are no more barbaric than their earlier Christian relatives, for example, the Spanish conquistadors who roped together indigenous latinos by the thirteen to be burnt in honour of The Christos and his twelve disciples.
The edifice of Western culture stands on the cruel foundations of slavery, colonialism, genocide and everywhere the unsustainable extraction of natural resources. Today’s corporations may be new sanitised and legally legitimised versions of the dominator culture but the havoc they wreak is, if anything, worse. Their international operations are on the back of European expansionism and their principles of domination, hierarchy and wealth concentration have ancient roots.
Those early fanatics steamrolled out of the cradle of civilisation after being incorporated into the “Holy” Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great (306–337 AD). This early fusion of expansive, toxic ideology with centralised bureaucracy and militarism struck a devastating chord that reverberates across all subsequent historical time. Christianity set out to prove decisively that there was one true God that all people should surrender before. Direct interpretations of the divine were anathema. Priests emerged and became more powerful. They dressed in odd robes, carried the cross of torture and sucked up wealth from increasingly paranoid populations that were taught about hierarchy – paving the way for feudalism, wealth concentration and the dominance of today’s ruling elite. Churches were built on ancient sacred sites and people were urged to repent for being earthly – a mortal sin. Even sex, perhaps the most profound biological connection available, became mediated by the men in robes who enacted arcane laws and decreed whose love was pure, who’s a sin and who should be stoned to death in the village square.
When their hold on Europe was supreme the madness set sail for foreign lands where new waves of terror were unleashed on populations that could have had no idea how bad things were about to become. Just as happened in ancient Europe spiritual self-sufficiency was annihilated. Hand-in-hand with the forced submission to church and nation-state was the repression of indigenous religious belief, the assault on all other gods and, of course, a war upon botanical substances that might enable people to see through the convoluted parables and bureaucracy to an independent glimpse of the divine ground. It is to all of our immense benefit that these efforts were not an effective “final solution.” All around the world small pockets of Gnostics, Pagans, Shamans, druids, natural healers and independent thinkers survive. They are needed now more than ever.
A solution? A new psychedelic renaissance
Those of us awake to the severity of the various social, economic and, most of all, ecological crises faced by civilisation today are keen to bring the best tools to bear on this critical situation. If tribal people that have co-existed with their environments for thousands of years longer than Western civilisation tell us they have medicine that can help – many of us are not too proud to sit at their feet, listen and learn. Contemporary deep ecologists maintain that shifting to an economy that adequately values ecosystems will require, with or without the aid of entheogens, our own personal, direct connection with nature.
Right now, while many of us struggle to come to terms with the state of the world, shaman and wisdom keepers venturing out of the last wild places to share connections to plant intelligence are being rounded up and incarcerated. Their torment is shared by all of us working to co-create a new ecological world.
The Ayahuasca Defence Fund presents a unique opportunity for us to pool resources and protect our new Gnostic 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 the world 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 medicines by authoritarian states that are destroying the world. That nightmare must end.