Sunday, 26 October 2008

Ayahuasca: Shapeshifting or egotripping?

I posted a new video from a recent conference in Madrid organized by Asociación Eleusis of which I am member.

The speaker is Josep María Fericgla, a Catalonian author, anthropologist and (almost) psychologist. His work falls in the area between those two fields, he calls it ethnopsychology or cognitive anthropology. Though less known in the English speaking world Fericgla is quite an institution in Spain. He did fieldwork with Shuar shamans in Ecuador, and wrote "The dream hunters" as well as "Al trasluz de la Ayahuasca" a multidisciplinary study on Ayahuasca. On his return to Spain he began to work on finding ways to adapt what he had learned about modified states of conscious into a western context. He founded the Society of Applied Ethnopsychology where he runs a number of seminars and workshops, as well as 2 to 4 year course as a "Director-Guía de Experiencias Estructurantes Activadoras" something like: director-guide of structural activating experiences.. hard to translate. As can be seen by the language Fericgla´s tries to stay as much as possible on the scientific, non-fluffy, non new-age, approach to entheogens and the therapeutic use of altered states of consciousness.

I interviewed him in 2003, and recently bough his book "Los chamanismos a revisión" (shamanisms under revision) where he systematically disassembles most of the romantic western ideals around shamanisms (in plural, he says there is no such thing as shamanism, there are only shamanisms) Unfortunately the book hasn´t been translated to English, but I plan to post a long review of it soon, as it brings up some very interesting ideas.

Anyway, during his talk he mentioned forms of regressive and narcissistic tendencies among entheogen consumers. I was curious about this. I think his answer is very interesting.

His view on shapeshifting is, to say the least, quite unique. But he should know what he´s talking about, at this point he has more than a decade of continuous experience on the therapeutic use of altered states of consciousness.

There´s a hand-me-down idea often repeated among what McKenna called "psychedelic people" (i'd be one of them) the idea says something like: "entheogens are ego dissolvers." Though that can be sometimes true, the ego is strong, and soon finds ways around it. Hence "many people take ayahuasca and are still full of shit." -As Evgenia succinctly said in the YouTube comments.

PD I have been wondering lately how come I only seem to post negative stuff: ego tripping this, appropriation of indigenous knowledge that, fake shamans etc. Don´t I have anything positive to say about Ayahuasca?

I certainly do.

There is just so much of that already online (and in my tapes) that I figured it'd be a better contribution to bring new ideas to the debate, rather than to rehash the same old ones...

Update: A video of the whole conference (in Spanish) can be found here