Deepening the Conversation: Authenticity and Illusion
Last year we put the title: “The Next Level: Deepening the Conversation” on the Spirit Plant Medicine Conference (SPMC) homepage. That title sprang from the intuition that in some important sense the ‘community’ of those working with entheogens had to some extent passed through an initial phase of discovery and it was time to roll up our sleeves and take a closer look at the best ways to advance the beneficial use of these sacramental medicines.
As the medicines become increasingly well known, especially ayahuasca, this sleeve-rolling is getting even more important. I just had a fascinating conversation with Donny Blaikie. Donny is a true wisdom elder, with thirty years of experience as a Native American Church roadman (ceremony leader). Now he’s like a great spirit watching over the proceedings. Donny has been part of the SPMC from the beginning and at this point it’s hard to imagine the conference without his presence.
For the past several years Donny has spent about half the year in Central America doing remarkable work to help support indigenous communities connect to their strongest traditions and heal from the generations of oppression by foreign cultures. He also gets invited to speak and run ceremonies at major festivals like the GeoParadise gathering in Panama and a similar event in Costa Rica. These events in particular have placed Donny nose to nose with organizers, presenters, shamans, and participants on the leading edge of this “movement”, for lack of a better word.
Donny’s observations are deeply relevant for the “deepening the conversation” dialogue around the spread of the sacramental medicines. If you’ve been following the SPMC over these past 4 or 5 years, you know that the core of our mission is to help usher in the wise stewardship of these remarkable substances. Ayahuasca is far and away the most widely used of these and we’ve been keeping our eyes on its development, with concerns about proper training, ethical boundaries, sustainable harvesting, and reciprocity with the cultures, the land, and the medicines themselves.
To put it simply, it’s not all a rosy picture. As Donny put it, there is a front edge and a back edge to this development. The front edge is the minority of people who really get it and are waking up. According to Donny, these people are very inspiring. The back edge is the unfortunately large group of those who have fallen into what Donny calls a “false identity”, with ungrounded, idealistic, romantic ideas of who they are and what they’re doing.
Even more problematic than the delusions of many of the participants at these events is that there appears to be no shortage of people willing to feed off that hunger and naivety. Just as with the great enthusiastic blossoming of interest in Asian religions like Buddhism and Hinduism in the 1960s and 70s, charlatans and abusers come out of the woodwork to take advantage of the hunger when there is money and power to be grabbed.
We believe that people need to be well educated about how to negotiate these worlds and have their bullshit detectors fully functioning. The medicines themselves are not magic pills. They are non-specific amplifiers and one enters into a relationship with them. Both in the short term and the long term, much depends on the intentions and commitment of the seeker and about as much depends on the skill and attitude of the person guiding the ceremony.
That’s why bringing this loose, amorphous community together at events like the SPMC is so important to the future of the sacramental medicines. I hope everyone reading this post will give serious consideration to participating and to helping get the information out to all those who might benefit from the information, inspiration, and community connections.
On that note, I’m currently in conversations with Donny about having a panel to discuss this subject. In honor of Terence McKenna, who for a while gave talks on how he saw the state of development of work with the sacramental medicines, it popped into my mind to call the panel discussion “The State of the Onion.” If it happens, Donny would be a key player in that discussion. Believe me, he has much of relevance to say on the subject.
From the heart,