July 22, 2013
The Shaman & Ayahuasca (book review)
Now Playing: Rex Foster LP

The Shaman & Ayahuasca: Journeys to Sacred Realms by Don Jose Campos, Geraldine Overton, Alberto Roman and Charles Grob (2011)

This recent addition to the growing field of ayahuasca literature has collected a respectable amount of support on the internet. Humble as the book is, this may reflect the great hunger for anything with a yagé flavor as much as any immediate qualities. Or so I thought while reading the first few pages, with Western editors professing the life-changing effects of an Amazonian jungle romance, the obligatory academic testimonial from Charles Grob, and the vague spiritual exhortations of the shaman du jour.

Happily, however, the surly skepticism that lingered in me from reading half-assed ayahuasca tomes in the past soon gave way for a more positive sentiment. The shaman, Don José Campos,  sounded like the real deal despite a distinct touch of Westernization, and he strives to share experiences that were neither opaquely woven into tribal mythology, nor trivialized with Western psychology. His language, translated from Spanish, is straightforward. As always I wish for more reports of specific visions and journeys, partly for the sheer thrill, but also for the purpose of accumulating maps of Innerspace, as described in my Psychedelia book. The reader does get a sense of the shamanic Otherworld from Don Jos'es words, but like a true curandero his focal point is always the healing of others. To that end, his monologues also deal with practices outside the ayahuasca sessions, including descriptions of medicinal plants, and the practice and purpose of "dieta".

Don José also takes us to meet his friend Pablo Amaringo in one of the great artist's final interviews, a worthwhile account which includes a vision description that I believe is unique to this book. Like Amaringo, Don José is well familiar with other cultures than his own, and he invokes both Western psychology and Eastern spirituality in his talks. He expresses a special interest in Buddhism and mentions the possibility that buddhist monks of old used vision plants such as Datura. Speaking of Datura, or "toé", our shaman gives the impression that it's been and still is a frequently employed additive when "drinking the plant". I think it's essential that Westerners find a way to handle Datura so that its place among the entheogens can be understood. It is abundantly clear that its shamanic role is substantial and also more widely distributed than any other vision plant. As I suggest in Psychedelia, Datura is likely to be the next frontier in psychotropic exploration.

Finally, the book does offer a couple of terrific trip reports; not from Don José but from the Western couple who befriended him. A few pages featuring an intermission of sorts recap what was clearly a couple of fully rewarding visitations from the "Madrecita". I'll leave it to the reader to absorb this material, and just observe that they are fine examples of ayahuasca's potential; beautiful, thought-provoking, and a little spooky. Kudos to the travellers who had such journeys both in this world and the Other, and went on to produce this slender but worthwhile volume.

- review by Patrick Lundborg

There is a corresponding DVD which I hope to check out in the near future.

Posted by Patrick at Lysergia at 19:24 MEST
Updated: July 22, 2013 19:28 MEST

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