In the west our views about the world in which we live and the questions about our existence, in other words “our reality” are largely shaped by science and religion.
Many indigenous cultures, on the other hand, see their lives and understand their existence in a very different way. Their knowledge and belief systems are guided by experience and observation handed down orally over the ages. Many cultures also learn from plants. Their shaman ingest what they consider to be sacred plants such as ayahuasca, which allow them to travel into the spirit world in order to learn, grow, heal or be healed.
As we near the technological singularity why are non-western belief systems important to us in the twenty-first century?
The advancements to our society and culture stemming from the industrial revolution of the last century to the Internet explosion of today are clear. Yet, with all the knowledge we have gained we also tend to live in disharmony with our planet, other nations and within our own communities.
But what of the knowledge of indigenous cultures and the use of the sacred plant medicine ayahuasca – is there something for us to learn? Can their knowledge provide new insight? Can their wisdom enhance what we know? Is there a place for western style and indigenous knowledge systems to co-exist?
The Path of the Sun seeks to answer these questions by hearing the words, ideas, concepts and thoughts directly from two indigenous groups of shamanic practitioners: the Q’eros of the high Andes of Peru and the curanderos and ayahuasqueros of the Peruvian Amazon.
The Q’eros believe they are the direct bloodline descendants of the Inka. It was in the late 1950’s when a group of explorers headed by Anthropologist Oscar Nunez Del Prado went high up into the Andes to meet with the community for the first time. They found that many of the Q’eros lived at altitudes that exceeded 14,000 feet. Their homes were primitive stone huts, had dirt floors and grass thatched roofs. They claimed then and today that their shamanic ways are derived from the same practices of the Inka and tap into universal energy. This energy work is said to heal sickness, predict the future and manipulate their environment. Up until the middle of the 20th century, prior to frequent contact with the outside world they were able to live in harmony with Mother Nature through a reciprocity based system of exchange called Ayni.
Mestizo and Indigenous curanderos in the Amazon work to heal ones sickness, malady and soul with a sacred brew called Ayahuasca that is made from the vine Banesteriopsis Caapi and the Chacruna leaf Psychotria viridis containing one of the most powerful hallucinogens known to man DMT N-dimethyltryptamine. Ayahuasca is a powerful medicine that is said to be able to transport you to other worlds where one encounters spirits and intense visual images. Ultimately, the medicine works in a way that heals; from relieving stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders to in some reported cases curing physical ailments, illness and disease. Many practitioners and westerners that work with the brew also say that the medicine improves their lives and relationships as they are able to see things in a different way after drinking the brew. Ayahuasca has also been used successfully for decades to treat alcoholism and drug addiction.
@whitefangk, what? Why not? Thats a really negative statement, do you care to elaborate?
@seti, Aren’t the Q’eros considered very highly catholic now? I went to cuzco and was surprised to see most of the indigenous celebrating “Corpus Christi”; chanting biblical things, and carrying around huge statues of Jesus and Mary.
I met one of the “Shamans” and he absolutely despised them, thought they were fools, and the whole celebration was stupid. He was extremely pessimistic about everything, which I could understand, but I assumed most shamans seem to rise above that type of petty attitude towards civilizations, in light of the greater scheme of things. He wasn’t having it, he also was very condescending to us, as we were Americans, but I could somewhat understand his views.
But really – that type of clothing (i.e. the Q’eros) and catholicism are almost synonymous in Cuzco… Do you have a comment for this?
I don’t think “ancient wisdom” is necessarily special. It’s an appeal to authority. Granted, some of it is true, but a lot of it is also bull. I see nothing wrong with testing certain things though. Many things have an undeserved status.
If I were you, I’d also be aware of how I present the “singularity.” Proponents often confuse science fiction with reality.
Sure, I’d love to respond.
While some Q’eros have converted to Catholicism, the majority practice their traditional spirituality. This includes offerings to Pachamama or mother earth, limpias which are energetic cleanings and karpays, which are initiation ceremonies – none of which are Catholic or Christian practices. In all of the ceremonies I have witnessed (100’s), I have never heard the name Jesus Christ, Maria, or any other “Christian” terminology. The closest ‘Christian like” phrase I have heard is Santa Terra Pachamama. They also do not cross themselves of have other ritualistic practices like genuflecting, eating the wafer, confession, and on and on, it’s just not practiced in their ceremonies, so I would definitely say that No – Q’eros and Catholicism ar not synonymous.
Many people in and around Cuzco are indigenous, but there are few Q’eros, maybe 30-40 or so living in the area…. Maybe – and that would include their families. So who you saw at the Chorpus Christie celebration I am not sure, but many Mestizo or Andean peoples have converted to Catholicism, my guess is that the people you saw at this celebration were probably not Q’eros, if they were Q’eros, it would be a very small minority. If you have some pictures I can tell by the clothing and textile patterns if they are Q’eros. It is not common to see Q’eros textiles in Cusco. You do see more of the hats that they wear, but they are tourist copies for the most part, if you know where to go you can get the real deal, but it’s not readily available. Their ponchos and woven cloth mantas are certainly not in most stores either. Like I said, send me some pics and I can comment further.
There are also many people in Cusco who claim to be shaman, who are not, they just look like they could be one and know they can make money by imitating shamanic practices, so they bad talk others. It’s a typical sign of a non-shaman or black witch (brujo) to bad mouth others. True shaman are about the light and would not do that, they are humble people.
BTW – the Q’eros are considered Patrimonio Cultural in Peru, by law, therefore they area cultural heritage. This status has been the source of much jealousy of the Q’eros community.
Hope that helps.
@dalniente, IMHO knowledge that is known by few and unknown to many is special. I agree some of it works and some if it doesn’t. But isn’that the case of modern medicine? The point I try to make in the film is that we should listen to people who come from another perspective, and perhaps there is something here for us to learn.
Regarding the technological singularity – what do you refer to when you make the point that proponents confuse science fiction with reality? Can you give some examples?
@seti, Here is a picture I took of my friend when in Cuzco (look at us tourists!):
I’ll wait for your response to talk further… There was something else that the Shaman was saying that was odd.
Do the Q’ero’s speak predominantly in Spanish, or another tongue?
@seti, then we’re going off two different definitions. I elaborated on mine with the case that not all “ancient wisdom” is true, so they often have an undeserved high status. In the case of evidence-based medicine, new research can change how medicine is practiced. That’s the whole point.
One case is dogmatic in a sense: things are held in high regard without sufficient evidence. Why should I believe it? Because it’s “sacred?” In the case of evidence-based practice, we are (ideally) open to new evidence. I agree that it is not perfect (for example, not all nformation regarding drug trials is released), but I think it would be foolhardy to say the two are equal ground (not that you did).
As for the “singularity,” advocates are not all the same (there are also several branches), so it would not be fair for me to paint them all one way. I did say that many are often misguided in their views though. Some examples I will soon give are not necessarily impossible, but are often speculative in nature. I have an issue with people who hold them up as fact. So: Ray Kurzweil’s health nuttery, experts out of their field making bold claims about other fields, much of cryonics, a number of claims regarding nanotech, progress of AI, etc.
The women in the photo are not from Q’eros. They are from a rural andino community, but I do not know which one.
The following link is of a Q’eros shaman – Don Andres Flores. He is from a Q’eros community called Chua Chua – her rarely leaves Q’eros. His poncho depicts the typical Q’eros community pattern.
Rolando Soncco is also a shaman from Q’eros, you can see him wearing a similar a pattern. Additionally, his hat is also a classic trademark of Q’eros – it is one the shaman wear.
Try to find these pattens in the picture above……
The Q’eros speak Quechua, but it is not the same as the Quechua of Cusco. Mostly the same, but definitely different. For example, in Cusco to say thank you one would say sulpayki, in Q’eros one would say Urpi Chai Soncco Chai (from my heart little dove) it’s more poetic….
Hope that helps
@ijesuschrist, darn, I keep forgetting to use the hash tag.
BTW, I know of one Q’eros that speaks castellano perfectly, the rest speak very broken spanish at best…
And, there is one Q’eros who speaks english – not too bad either. His name is Santos and his father is a shaman and his uncle is the President of Q’eros……
@dalniente, I think you would get some interesting reactions, perhaps all of Phili and a bit of Jersey will be using that to say TY in a few years if you start the trend ;)
So, to your points….. Ancient wisdom is based on observation and experience. Sometimes this knowledge is learned over 100’s or 1,000’s of years. There is value in this. If it is known that a certain plant in the Amazon cures a certain fungus or another plant stops indigestion do I really need a scientist to run some tests to tell me the same thing? I’m not panning science, I just think science provides much value, but it tends to be rather arrogant. My point is that we need to listen to what others have to say. We don’t have to compare whether they are on equal ground. I wish I could remember where I saw a study that reported of several hundred plant species identified by healers in the Amazon to provide certain medical benefits, once studied in a laboratory nearly 100% did in fact provide the benefit stated by the shaman. How did they know that? Observation and experience. So what I’m getting at is, if we open our ears we can learn something, rather than dismissing indigenous ways because of a scientific social darwinistic attitude.
I don’t necessarily believe all that Kurzweil says, but hmmmm I think 70% of his prior predictions pre 2000 have come true. Not so bad. He will not be right on everything, but a lot of what he says may in fact become reality. Like mechanical devices running through our blood stream and hunting out and destroying disease – I think that is quite possible. the ability to download our consciousness onto the web in 2047, not so sure, but eventually, why not?
@seti, we’ll see then!
People are arrogant, not science. Science is just a process. Overconfidence is a human flaw that gets us into trouble. Like we both said several times before, many “ancient” methods do work. For example, we isolated aspirin from willow. However, we need to sort the effective methods from the nonsense.
Our minds are riddled with biases, and we often tend to place too much importance on anecdotal evidence. Many effective bits of “wisdom” have stayed with us this long, but many things that seemed (or seem) to be “intuitive” or “common sense” turned out to be false and even dangerous.
I don’t to sound like I’m dismissing many of those beliefs entirely. I tried to make it clear that I want those things to be researched in well-conducted, controlled studies.
There are many misconceptions about nanotechnology. It’s much more likely that we will have specially designed chemicals in the near-ish future. Keep in mind that the scale nanotechnology is at is one billionth of a meter.
@seti, The shaman I went to see was from a place called “The Shaman Shop” in Cuzco – a bit of a tourist trap, but the guy I went to see was undoubtedly a Shaman, he lived up on the… Eastern? Hill? Near the ruins – a place called Monkey Cave I think, and some other carved out ruins, from some of the earlier people that moved to Machu Pichu.
Anyway, if you know about the Shaman shop I’d be interested too.
It just seems very odd down there, especially with what I’ve heard of the Mayans – they are extremely catholic, but still have Shamanism, its kind of like they do the whole Catholicism for the “What if?” factor – as if its more important that shamanism cause of “Hell”.
And it kind of resembled that way with some people in Cuzco, however the Shaman I met himself (REALLY WISH I SPOKE SPANISH!) was not having anything to do with the Corpus Christi.
I also visited another Shaman, out of chance, not intended, who had pictures of Mary and Jesus all over and wore a cross on his neck. Its very conflicting, to be honest. But I trust the people you are naming are a bit more, unconflicting.
And by the way I am not trying to grill you or challenge you in any way, I just feel like you would be the person to clear up these questions of mine! I Fully support your film, but I literally am at a point where I will not make it to next month on my $ right now – at some point I will need to be asking for money from some people… :\
@ijesuschrist, I know the Shaman Shop and Kush. Yes, the place is a tourist trap. Using shamanism in an exploitative way in my opinion is dubious. The same items that are sold in the shop can be purchased at other locations for much less. Offering Ayahuasca sessions every night at 6 pm. is not how traditional shamanism is practiced. That being said, Kush read coca leaves for me once and he was rather uncannily precise on a certain matter that goes beyond explanations. I am one who supports shamanism as it is practiced in a traditional setting in a non-exploitive way.
I am not surprised that many Mayans are Catholic, nor indigenous Peruvians. Both Mexico and Peru, and other Latin American countries have had 4-500 years of oppression, exploitation and slavery imposed on them from people’s who’s beliefs were catholic. That being said, my expertise is in Peru and I can talk specifically to the Andean Cosmology which, prior to the arrival of the spanish has a a core element to its spirituality that is a “complimentary dualism”. Where we see opposite in the west (man/woman, night/day, life/death) the Q’eros and other andinos see compliments. It is called Yanantin and Masantin in Quechua. So, the concept of Jesus and Maria, heaven and hell, good and evil and many other catholic artifacts that compose a dialectic can be embraced in a positive way. The Inca historically also embraced other beliefs that worked for them i a positive way. So the tendency for an andino to embrace another belief that works and incorporate it into their own mental modality works. That outlook I think is something that we can learn from in the West……