To Ayahuasca or Not to Ayahuasca

Pablo Ameringo's El Principio de la Vida / The Beginning of Life

That is the question. Muses are sometimes asked about the use of strong hallucinogenic substances to boost creativity. Unless its use is carefully supervised by a highly experienced shaman or health professional, the risks far outweigh any potential benefit, the answer is usually a firm "No." We believe that earthly exercises in meditation, nature, and vibrational work and so on are more effective for artists in the long run. Having said that, one particular drink, ayahuasca, has been used widely in South American and studied for spiritual purposes with fascinating results.

Pablo Amaringo was a Peruvian visionary artist and shaman known for his prolific use of the South American hallucinogenic drink, ayahuasca. He recreated the visions he received during his hallucinations in his paintings. Others who have used ayahuasca claim these works to be accurate depictions of the spirituality of plants, visitors from other worlds, and guardians of knowledge that make themselves known during ayahuasca use.

Amaringo performed ícaros--magical songs used during vegetal ceremonies to produce a profound state of awareness and healing--while painting to infuse the alchemy of the ayahuasca into the piece.

He said, I chant ícaros when I paint, so if ever a person wishes to receive teaching or healing, they should cover the painting with a cloth for two or three months. On the day they remove the cover, they should prepare themselves by bathing and meditating. When it is uncovered they will receive the power and knowledge of the ícaros that were sung into it.

In his book "The Cosmic Serpent," Stanford anthropologist describes his visions after trying ayahuasca in a carefully supervised ceremony in the jungle:

I suddenly found myself surrounded by two gigantic boa constrictors that seemed fifty feet long, I was terrified...the snakes start talking to me without words. They explain that I am just a human being. I feel my mind crack, and in the fissures, I see the bottomless arrogance of my presuppositions. It is profoundly true that I am just a human being, and most of the time I have the impression of understanding everything, whereas here I find myself in a more powerful reality that I do not understand at all that, in my arrogance, I did not even suspect existed.

Benny Shannon, a cognitive psychologist of Hebrew University, describes observe creativity abilities while using ayahuasca: Once during a private ayahuasca session, on the spur of the moment, I decided to play the piano. ...Here, for the first time in my life, I began to improvise. I played for more than an hour, and the manner of my playing was different from anything I have ever experienced. It was executed in one unfaltering flow, constituting an ongoing narration that was being composed as it was being executed. It appeared that my fingers just knew where to go. Throughout this act, my technical performance astounded me. Another person was present and he was very moved by it. When the session ended, it occurred to me that I had had the most wonderful piano lesson of my life...

Shannon cautions, however, that I would strongly advise against simplistic, reductionist views of the effects of ayahuasca (and psychoactive substances in general)...this brew can endow human beings with special creative energy but what will be done with this energy depends on the individual in question.

Amaringo, himself, warned against regular or careless use of ayahuasca: Is is not something to play. It can even kill, not because it is toxic in itself, but because the body may not be able to withstand the spiritual realm, the vibration of the spiritual world."

For this and other reasons, I suggest meditating on the paintings of Amaringo and utilizing his suggestion for gleaming creative energy from his (or any other artists') work rather than trying ayahuasca.