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.
@dalniente, I hold the opinion that science is in fact arrogant. If a scientific study is not conducted then other non-scientific evidence is dismissed. To me that is a statement of superiority or arrogance. I would prefer a system that embraces anecdotal evidence and works it into the methodology. And, I’m happy you agree that you “want those things to be researched in well-conducted, controlled studies” To me that is listening to ancient wisdom.
Time will tell on the singularity, there are many amazing technologies being researched and developed. I am sure some will come to fruition. Some will fail, and others will surprise. I wanted a smart phone in 1995, but it took almost ten more years, and they are more than I ever hoped for. I think there will be many amazing technologies in all fields, but I also ask at what cost.
One piece of ancient wisdom that has been lost is the ability to live in balance with our environment. With all our technological savvy and knowledge we have not solved many of man’s basic needs. People go hungry, live in poor conditions, we pollute the environment (those iphones are toxic), so while we exceed in one area we fail miserably in others.
When the spanish arrived in Peru, they did not find poverty. Everyone had food, housing, education and a job, EVERYONE, and we are talking about an empire that included over 30 million people and was spread out over 2000 miles. So, how do we in the west with all our knowledge compare to an ancient wisdom on the basis of providing for the common good?
These are some of the ideas I am addressing in the film…..
@seti, “have had 4-500 years of oppression, exploitation and slavery imposed on them from people’s who’s beliefs were catholic.”
You know I never really even realized this, that their ancestors probably had to become catholic, or faced death / torture. Makes more sense this way.
I really would love to support / see your film – kind of ironic though… but no way around that. Can’t make a movie from sticks and stones!
@seti, scientists are supposed to be open to new evidence. I said that we often put TOO much importance on anecdotal evidence. That’s not to say those claims shouldn’t be tested, there are just many reasons to question them. So, yes, controlled studies should be done, but it should be noted that some claims are not falsifiable.
As for the singularity, of course it’s possible. I have little doubt that we will make great technological strides if we don’t kill ourselves first. The problem many people fuss over is this: when will the singularity happen, and how? Some get it into their heads that they can predict the future with questionable methods that often lead to questionable results, or conveniently overlook the current state of certain technologies (and how they could be limited in the future).
I’ve seriously considered cryonics, but I’m also aware of its limitations (for example, freezing can cause irreversible tissue damage). Like I said before, my issue is really with people who hold many of the things we talked about as fact. Despite my criticisms, I’m involved in some related online communities. For example:
I’ll admit that I’m not an expert of the Incas. However, my understanding is that they still had a very stratified society. Some civilizations were ahead much of Europe (much of the Muslim world was a beacon of light at times) before they were basically annihilated, such as the Aztecs with their educational system.
Could you provide references? I’m not denying that many civilizations were quite advanced in certain ways, but we often over-romanticize the past and have limited reliable evidence to see how life really was for the common people.
Our actions have had many harmful, unintended consequences that should be reversed. We’re also capable of much more damage on a much larger scale. I think the damage some civilizations inflicted on the environment in the past is often underestimated, but many cultures also had religious beliefs that helped to form a kind of respect for nature (but by no means was that perfect).
With or without “ancient wisdom,” I think it’s safe to say that our survival depends on the planet we live on. Most of the environmental effects are driven by our modern lifestyle, so we should strive to minimize those effects with more efficient sources of energy,
@dalniente, Thanks for your comments, I’m not disagreeing with anything you have stated above, I think we have come to some good common ground.
Yes, the Inca society was stratified, and work was obligatory. It was rather socialistic as well. I’m still a student of their society and trying to find out more about it. A good first book on the Inca is Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who was of Inca royalty and spanish blood. He was highly educated and provides many first hand accounts of the Inca.
It was written a long time ago so it is in the public domain and Google books has been kind enough to host it….
Here’s a link:
@dalniente, (are you AllTooHuman?) I think this is one of those things that you need to really experience, sit down, and talk with these people to really understand the differences that Seti is trying to emphasize between our culture and theirs. They see things differently, and their cultures are structured differently. They weren’t perfect, by any means – the Native Americans had all-out wars, and many of the Amazonian tribes continue to spear each other over petty circumstances. There is one tribe that it was impossible to live past 40 – because you would get speared to death.
I romanticize their culture a lot, and often do not put emphasis on their faults, but they have wisdom, while we have science. We do not learn like we used to – we do not learn from word of mouth, nor do we learn from stories, or get feelings passed down from experiences, and you, out of anyone on this forum, are probably familiar with that. Most of your knowledge comes from books and journals – you get no emotion and no personal ties to the one who learned these things in the first place, unless you worked with them, or are lucky enough to attend a good conference.
While the Shamanistic tendencies tend to over-emphasize tales long since passed, which are often hard to believe, they have a way of speaking, communicating, and understanding that is often far superior to ours in regard to complex systems. I.E. the body, the forest, the earth. If you do not feel well, and no doctor can cure you here, travel to a Shaman, a true Shaman, and chances are he will at least tell you what exactly is wrong, and possibly cure or treat you. It isn’t reductionist logic, which is what you and I are used to.
They do not go in the forest, take apart every plant, understand what chemicals are active, and then write things, and pass them across the world. They have no foundation like that, rather, they simply see. And, often, these indigenous cultures have many words for “see” – that is yes they see the mountain, they see you, they see the sky. But they also see the mountain, you, and the sky. That is they know what the mountain’s effects are, they see the connections between your skin color and your health, they understand a rain is coming by looking at the clouds.
They do not need to know the exact basis for how they do this, and often, the reasoning is far beyond what can be done by ‘science’. Its the same thing as when a flood is coming, animals travel up hill. They “see” the signs, they react – they do not contemplate why.
And thus, a Shaman is extremely well suited at this. They can see you.
@ijesuschrist, this should answer your question. :)
If you could suggest some sources, I’d like something new-ish to learn over winter break. I think you can guess how I spend most of my time learning.
@dalniente, sources? Yeah, peyote, psilocybin mushroom, salvia divinorum, you know.
I don’t have any sources. I’ve never read any books except “The Cosmic Serpent” which was lolz, I don’t recommend it. The only way you’re going to learn that stuff is to experience it. All the studying and reading in the world doesn’t really compare to 15 minutes of what the Shaman does. The veil gets lifted, and things become more clear.
Hence why films like this are important. We can’t just ‘extract’ that knowledge and put in a book, and write an equation for it. It must be experienced, and I would suppose, talking to any shaman for any good length of time would be quite the experience.
Sorry I keep bringing that up, but its relevant to the discussion lol.
@ijesuschrist, a trip (hey, that could imply a different meaning) sounds like it would be a fun learning experience. I’m also not really able to pack up and travel thousands of miles right now. :)
I’ve yet to try salvia divinorum (after finals?), but at least I live in NJ. You may remember from before that my involvement in healthcare (and hopes of entering a MD-PhD program) makes legality more of an issue for me.
@dalniente, Salvia would probably be the last one to actually suggest. Yeah it will blow your mind, but you don’t learn much from it, except how far the mind can REALLY go… and really… really go. Salvia is pretty fucking weird man. It probably won’t enforce my points made thus far very much, other than you’ll definitely question your perceptions a bit more.
if you do it right. Most people don’t smoke salvia successfully and just “feel” funny and see things cartoonish. A real salvia trip blasts you into a child like dimension where you’ve completely forgotten that you took the drug, thus promoting “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?” behavior. Plus, you may have no idea what your body is actually doing while high on salvia – I was trying to remove “people” from the inner membranes of reality… as I came out of the trip I realized I was clawing at a rock, fairly ferociously.
You can buy San Pedro legally, which has mescaline. . . Its much more forgiving, much happier, but with all its euphoria, can still be very profound – I would recommend this first.
Buying San pedro online is easy too, and you don’t have to go to sketchy head shops to buy it!
@ijesuschrist, I’m very interested in the human brain, but studying how certain chemicals affect it just isn’t enough. That being said, I won’t put my future at risk (although there are legal substances to choose from), and I need to get over some of the insecurities I have about the long history of schizophrenia on my mother’s side of the family. I think that led to a reluctance of “letting go” mentally. My friends say that I just need to get laid, even though even up to a few months I just wasn’t interested. There is someone I’m interested in now, so maybe I should just get it over with and see what cocktail nature will throw my way, lol.
So yeah, loosening up would probably be good for me.
@dalniente, man… your FEAR of schizophrenia is the only thing that would lead to the schizophrenia. This is like the 7th time I’ve said this; Stop doing it to yourself. You’re afraid of fear, the fear of losing control in schizophrenia. An admirable fear, but fear none-the-less. If you stopped fearing this, you’d be fine.
yes, loosen the fudge up. Mescaline wouldn’t be something that would push you to schizophrenia, habitual drug use, being lazy, unambitious, and genuinely unaware would lead to schizophrenia.
And you really think that somehow someone would find out you were taking mescaline, and your whole future would be destroyed? That’s so unrealistic and improbable. How do you even suppose that would happen? Hell I knew a guy up in Toronto studying Clinical Therapies, finishing getting his Doctorate, did mushrooms and peyote every couple months.
Insanely improbable that it would put your future at any real risk…
@ijesuschrist, I wasn’t talking about legal substances! (“Although there are legal substances to choose from.”)
Much of my fear of developing her illness has subsided, but what has remained is how rigid I can be about being “in control” of my own faculties. That’s what I really need to get over.
@ijesuschrist, I would recommend that you use a variety of forms of education, but keep in mind one has to discern between good information and bad information. With the web we have a wealth of data at our fingertips, but much of it is not correct, or partially correct or misleading. One must use the powers of discernment to extract information.
That being said, I would recommend that yo use the web and look for articles and blogs and videos on shamanism and sacred plants.
I curate the following blog on shamanism and sacred plants:
You can also follow the blog of my film http://www.thepathofthesun.com
I would also recommend the folowing blogs
The RETURN of the INKA: A Journey of Initiation & Inka Prophecies by Elizabeth Jenkins (also interviewed in the film)
Masters of the Living Energy: The Mystical World of the Q’ero of Peru by Joan Parisi Wilcox (to be interviewed for the film)
Start with that and keep in touch with me and I’ll send you more firstname.lastname@example.org
BTW – I will be guiding trips to work with my shaman maestros beginning in April……
Guys I do not recommend that you use Salvia or San Pedro in the ways you are discussing.
First, I am a psychonaut. I have experimented with many substances from LSD to Ecstasy to Ketamine and many others. When I was young I used these substances for fun, they were cool and I was part of the counter-culture, an outsider. But what I learned over the years is that something was missing. For a variety of reasons the US war on drugs is exists. It’s goal is to keep teacher plants and other synthetic substances that have a medical benefit out of our reach. And in so doing, it has created the underground drug culture. But, what’s missing? THE SHAMAN. The guy with the knowledge. The teacher. The guide. The healer. The person who watches over you and allows you to be in a safe space to learn, grow, expand consciousness, create a relationship with the spirit world and heal. Therefore, I recommend that if you want to work with teacher plants, then do it in a traditional environment, with a shaman, or someone with experience.
This can easily be done in the US. There are thousands of people who participate. I am talking mainly about Ayahauasca, but you can find San Pedro practitioners as well. You also can also work with Peyote, but need an introduction into the Native American church.
Or, if you are afraid of the legal issues. Come to Peru. It is not only legal here, but it is considered Patrimonio Cultural – or a National Heritage by law.
Jersey girl (BTW I grew up in Bergan County) you will find that in the scientific world that there are 10’s of thousands of psychonauts, leading a double life of course. I did it, never got caught and made the decision last year when i started the film and left the corporate world, that I would come out as a psychonaut because of the low risk factor at this time of my life.
@seti, Doing it with a Shaman is the appropriate means, I agree.
I’ve been experimenting with them myself for a long time, however, and never “for fun”. Salvia divinorum with a shaman would be weird, though. Mescaline is such a forgiving drug, though, that even at decently strong doses, the introspective nature can be extremely rewarding.
I would err on the side caution with psilocybin, LSD, or ayahuasca, certainly. These are much more chaotic, more sporadic, and a teacher is or Shaman is encouraged. However, the two different trips are completely different, and can lead to dramatically different results. Although the Shaman can lead you certain places, to be completely lost (lol) is… something only one can experience by themselves!
Not always safe, but its something to behold.
But I know – a Shaman will tell you to never take the substances without another shaman. The one I was with was like “You did Ayahuasca alone? This is very not good” Made a gesture of slitting the throat… and I was really freaked out by that. He seemed so weird.
@seti, it was interesting to read to read what you had to say. I want to make it clear that I don’t have any intentions of doing anything crazy at first, or be completely without support. I’ve had salvia divinorum and San Pedro in mind for a while, but I don’t foresee taking much else anytime soon. I heard experiences from friends in New Mexico, and I know people up here who’ve taken them as well. That being said, would you have any additional advice for me?
As for spirituality, “Spinozist” would be accurate to describe many of my views. Honestly, I’m most interested in experiencing certain biochemical effects for myself. :)
@dalniente, Oh, a book that has gotten good appraise (haven’t read) is DMT the spirit molecule, which basically covers the entheogen experience as a whole, but specifically with DMT – the active ingredient in ayahuasca, and arguably the most powerful/intense entheogen we know of. Not much to do with Shamanism, though.
I think holding Spinozism as your belief would probably ground you better for the experience as well, if not enforce it.
The most well know author on Mescaline is Carlos Castaneda, but his works are genuinely considered fiction (but I don’t think anyone knows). I would give those two a try, for they are all I can think of on the matter.
@ijesuschrist, I would like to read more about its history and experiences people have had, but from what I’ve looked into so far it seems questionable. The documentary as well. What research has been done in animals is interesting, but by no means is it conclusive. At least there’s more weight to it than how I’ve seen quantum mechanics bastardized. I also haven’t read the book or watched all of the film, so I can’t properly judge them now. I’ll be critical of any scientific claims, but I will look more into your suggestions for people’s experiences. That’s what I wanted anyway, so thank you.
I don’t think I ever asked you before: how would you describe your spiritual beliefs? “Spirituality” is a fuzzy word though, since everyone seems to have their own meaning.
@dalniente, My beliefs are dynamic. I’m constantly changing. I am rooted in science, determinism, and the belief that consciousness is rooted in the physical.
But I cannot explain these experiences, I could, but they are so mind blowing, and the feelings and epiphanies, it leaves so many questions, and few answers. How can just a simple molecule make me imagine the future, see the past, act on the present, view all things from multiple perspectives, all with such coherence and understanding? It could be explained physically, but after you (or if you) partake in something like a full blown DMT / Ayahuasca experience, no explanation will truly satisfy you that only pertains to the physical realm… or at least, without any “God” characteristic to it.