Friday, September 3, 2010

Ayahuasca: a Peruvian potion offers spiritual experiences

Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts. Revelation 9:21

According to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (1940), the Greek word for sorcery is pharmakia or pharmakeia, which
...primarily signified the use of medicines, drugs, spells...

...In sorcery, the drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.

As reported in The Washington Post of August 21, 2010:

IQUITOS, PERU -- Kevin Simmons, a 28-year-old Chicago native, said he "was stuck" -- depressed, locked away in his home and taking more than a year to even open his e-mail.

The road to recovery, he said, came deep in the Peruvian jungle, in the form of a sludgelike concoction the Indians call "the sacred vine of the soul."

The potion is ayahuasca, and increasingly, it is becoming an elixir for foreigners grappling with everything from depression to childhood trauma. Coming from the United States and as far away as Australia, they arrive in a jungle city of faded glory to participate in ayahuasca rituals offered by a range of healing centers.

Ayahuasca may taste like ground-up earth, but many leave here praising the brew in reverential terms for having purged them of demons and shown them a clarity about life that they never thought possible.

"It's provided a sense of okay-ness, this maternal reassurance that everything is all right," said Simmons, who now does environmental work in Panama. "It made me feel like trying again, reminding me of this beautiful internal world that we have."...

...Some also visit the Blue Morpho ayahuasca center, founded by Hamilton Souther.

Fresh out of college with an anthropology degree, Souther said, he was feeling lost in the world when he had a spontaneous mystical experience and interactions with spirits. The message he received: Go to Peru, he recounted. He left California in 2001 and trained for nearly two years in the jungle to be a master shaman...

...Though ayahuasca is technically a hallucinogen -- it contains a hallucinogenic alkaloid that is illegal in the United States -- the plant is not addictive. In fact, it has been shown to help overcome addictions, said Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UCLA medical school who oversaw a study in the 1990s of the members of a Brazilian church that uses ayahuasca in its sacrament.

Grob said there are no clinical studies to show that ayahuasca alleviates depression but the anecdotal evidence is tantalizing.

"I believe, and my colleagues believe, that it holds great potential for helping us further understand the mind, the realm of internal experience, psycho-spiritual experience," Grob said. "And it may have a very powerful potential on improving mental health."...

...The payoff can be profound, say those who have repeatedly used ayahuasca. Some say the potion provides an almost divine, transformative experience. Others describe new insights into their lives. The long, exhausting ceremonies where ayahuasca is consumed often end in intense joy.

Danny Vulic, 36, an Australian who has come to Peru twice for ayahuasca, said the brew has helped guide him as he makes decisions in life.

"You know, it is just really nurturing, caring, it is an amazing thing," he said. "I am always quite willing to surrender to the medicine completely. I want the work to be done. I have full trust in it."

Don't be surprised (you read it here first) if the use of ayahuasca or a similar hallucinogenic becomes popular within, and is recommended by, the emerging church.

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