The Why, The Fear, and the Exploration of the Curious Curios Presumed Inside - Part II
Before one can solve the dilemma, there is "the fear."
But dilemmas have an issue. It's not at all certain they can be solved, at least satisfactorily.
I only know that solving mine is an absolute necessity if I'm ever to be rid of the fear.
It was midday -- eight hours after my first Ayahuasca ceremony wound down in confusion and panic. I found a quiet place by myself among the breezy eucalyptus trees. I was tired of thinking and not even sure if meditation was safe. Wavering in a state of stunned fight-or-flight, I needed a place to sit, mainly because wandering around in a daze was problematic. I didn't feel fully in my body and moments in time were still expanding beyond their lock-step borders. Encountering anyone else at that time would not have led to any sensible conversations. Not when my soul was babbling an emotive language that I hoped something in nature might understand. Maybe nature could be my interpreter. Perhaps a familiar natural world would slow my soul. Then possibly I could parse the thoughts whizzing through a flurry of emotions. I sat and made an unsteady practice of taking breaths. They struggled in like sucking Jello. Out they came like helpless sighs.
I wasn't sure if it was possible to process where I had gone or what I had seen the night before. I told myself there had to be ways to make sense of it. Then just as quickly, it all was too incredible to entertain explanations that would last. Either I had somehow crafted the most terrifyingly elaborate, self-reinforcing mind game -- or the unpredictable plant medicine was seriously playing with my head -- or I had actually seen something more genuine than anything I had experienced before.
Just my luck -- the dilemma had more than two factors.
The question looped endlessly; why would I be shown this? To torment all normalcy and certainty out of me? If so, it didn't work. The experience had been hyper-real to the point that now I was certain of things that couldn't exist. How could I be so positive of something so impossible? People could convince themselves of anything. Maybe my analytical abilities had gone ballistic in an orgy of creative self-flagellation and conjured up the best of the worst my runaway imagination could bear. What was more likely -- a hallucination had become real or a simple death-spiral of unreasonable fear had transformed a series of mundane occurrences into an all-night fright show and nothing more? For reasons that were all-too-apparent, asking the shaman was not an option. It didn't seem any use trying to explain myself to anyone else. Even I would have answered myself the same way -- Get over it, it was just a fucking hallucination. Concentrate on the message. What was your lesson?
Oh yeah, that really did nothing. That missed the point. This went beyond messages.
Maybe I should have closed my eyes like everyone else and taken the journey within, forced myself to listen to the icaros and nothing else. What if I had concentrated on continually repeating my intention? Over and over, just say it -- no matter what else swirls around.
Would that have rescued me from spending the night watching the veil lift? (Fat chance.)
Could that have saved me from witnessing the ceremony for what it really was? (Not really.)
Funny thing is -- I had a perfectly fine intention. I shared it with the group beforehand and they raised no red flags. I told them - I've spent the bulk of my life being very good at something that isn't me. With the remaining time I have, I'd like guidance on what I should be doing. I want it revealed to me the best way to be the real me and in doing so, contribute and make life meaningful. Also, if Mother Ayahuasca had the time, I'm also interested in knowing just what this place is and why we're here. It's the big existential enchilada of a question, I know, but as far as I can determine, it's only been guessed at and never really answered with any completeness or consistency. At least not outside adopting some kind of faith. Don't get me wrong; faith is good as a stopgap. But who would pass up a chance of knowing the answer for sure?
As night fell and the central fire was stoked, I was excited and a little nervous but I had nothing but positive vibes about the night ahead. Having been acquainted with psychoactive substances in the past, I felt justified to presume past experience had paid most of my trippy dues. After all, the inaugural run of the loop-de-loop is not so scary if you've already been on a few gnarly rides. So goes the logic. (Shitty logic.)
The brown sludge poured from a worn plastic bottle into a battered metal cup. The shaman blessed and purified the brew by passing it towards the fire before offering it back to me. A half an hour passed before there was any effect from swallowing the nasty mixture. It began with a sense of queasiness to the passage of time. Soon to follow was a subtle unease. A bilious ache rose from within. The maloca seemed to be holding its breath, awaiting something.
Then it came. Concussive like an IED, an attack of heat flared from within, shot out from my bones, and consumed my body. It was nothing less than being on fire, but impossibly burning from within. Seared to the core, I was frantic. I struggled to shed all the layers carefully worn to prepare me for a night spent outdoors in the unfamiliar Andes. It was as if something was amused at my preparations and, as overture to what was next, wanted to show me it could not only render them useless, but easily turn them against me.
It took less than a second for the immediate need to become a panicked imperative. I realized the simplest action of unzipping or unbuttoning had become an otherworldly chore, like something I had never done before. To make matters worse, my mind could not move my body as fast as was normal. Every little action took intense concentration but that focus only fed the molasses of movement. It was as if a heavy cloak of bodily organs had burst into flames. My resolve melted away. I had no other choice but to struggle to free myself. Finally, I managed to uncover down to my shirt, a feat I hadn't thought was possible. The inner fire still burned but now, at least, the night air was felt at the edges of the pressure cooker of skin. I thanked whatever, if anything, that had helped me prevail.
But my thanks was short-lived. The hoped-for meager relief never came. Immediately, I was pierced by a zillion arrows of intense cold. I gasped in shock at the instant, absolute contrast and how sub-zero my environment could shift in a split second. Frozen to my purge bucket, my mind yelled at me to put my warm sweater back on. In a coat pocket somewhere nearby, I knew there were gloves. If I could only find the discarded clothes I had just shed, maybe I'd have some chance of warming up. Could this really be coincidental? At the exact moment when my many warm layers were tossed away, the temperature inside and around me should reverse so drastically?
I reached to one side and then the next, feeling my way through a confusion of cloth. I couldn't tell my clothes from the blanket underneath me or the blankets of the other participants alongside. The deep freeze became painful. I had no choice; I had to keep searching, even if it seemed useless. Given the depth of penetrating polar cold, I didn't see much hope in any relief from a simple layer or two of cloth. But there was nothing else to do. I couldn't stand it. The cold paralysis of my situation was obvious. I was almost too cold to move and there was no way I was going to find the clothes I had just shed. They might as well be a million miles away. As added grief, if working buttons and zippers had been nearly impossible getting the clothes off, then navigating the dark around me was out of the question. Even if I found them, the clothes had been pulled inside-out and twisted into knots in my frenzy to escape the heat. Trying to sort out all the bunched-up sleeves from head holes and blanket flaps would be the final impossibility.
Lost as to what to do, I looked up from my misery. Surely the bonfire at the center of our sacred circle would provide some relief. My God -- it was only a few feet away. How could the heat it was radiating miss me so totally? I stared at the dancing fire. As vividly familiar as it was, something was different. It was not quite an abstraction, but it was somehow removed from me.
I dragged my gaze around the maloca. It was a circular space with walls open to the night but covered by a high, pointed roof. Over twenty other participants sat or laid back, facing the central fire. A narrow dirt path provided a middle ring of transport between the participants and the fire. Anyone entering or leaving the circle had to walk the dirt path in a clockwise direction in respect to the group energy now united in ceremony. Desperately, I tried to search the faces of other participants in the circle to see if they showed any signs of a similar battle between heat and cold. With some surprise, I found no hint of it anywhere. There was no movement among them. Everyone was quietly dazed by the start of their own personal journey. Half had their eyes closed or looked down pensively. The rest stared in rapt awe at the central fire.
The fire crackled and the cross-legged shaman, a member of our circle, attended to the ceremonial objects arranged in the dirt before him. In the far darkness, a trio of dogs barked at phantoms in the trees. Nearer in, hidden frogs announced their widely-dispersed locations by random, distinctive clicks, each click echoing against the stars. Just outside the maloca, in near darkness, a pair of volunteer shaman-helpers busied themselves by positioning extra blankets and clean purge buckets at the ready.
But something did show. It revealed itself in smooth stages, like the slide of a scrim, a gauze, a thin veil between me and the maloca I had known. Another dimension entered my awareness as I entered another dimension. It was as if a slow, special-effects movie dissolve had superimpositioned another reality on top of the one I came from. The same maloca, the same activity was still there - the shaman, the circle, the fire, the frogs and barking dogs, but they were no longer in the dimension where I was. I had woken up to another level co-existing with the one I lived in. With expanded sight, more was being revealed. Where once I had assumed I knew what could exist in time and space, I now saw another layer to a fuller reality where time and space shrunk to minor, component parts. While both layers co-existed, even interacted, I might as well have been in another universe. The maloca I had entered an hour before was now energetically distinct. This new dimension was a lighter place where more was possible. And also where different entities existed to take advantage of their realms' attainables.
The presence I had felt whooshing by me before now began to multiply - or maybe my expanding sight finally was able to take more of them in. I pulled in deep breaths and exhaled to cope. My heart raced as I identified each additional entity's movement in and outside the maloca. As yet, I could only feel them. It was a pinpoint, low-level telepathic awareness of me noticing them - and them noticing me.
Oddly, I felt no desire to purge. All nausea had lifted from me, as if such a thing was only possible in the burnt and frozen body I had left behind. My purge bucket remained an empty thing to clutch with my freezing hands. But now the intense cold was no longer a physical thing. The blistering cold was something only one's spirit could feel. It was breath I needed, and lots of it. Again and again I breathed in with all my might and exhaled deeply. I knew such intense breathing was a form of purging, but in the dual realms I occupied, it meant something else. With each breath, I felt myself lifting higher, becoming more solid in the other dimension where they were.
And as I landed squarely in the other place, the presences that were only a feeling around me before began to appear as forms. I couldn't believe my eyes as these others faded into sight. They were cloaked in a fabric of dark energy but underneath they gave the impression of being somewhat human in form. Most were busy about their work in and outside the maloca. It was work that overlapped and intertwined the ceremony where my experience began. One or two of these dark gliders stopped on or near the circular dirt path to consider me; their motion reminded me of the "squidies" of the Matrix movie. It was as if piranha had interrupted their dart to consider me for a moment, then glided on with a determined singular focus.
Several other things became glaringly apparent in rapid succession. For one thing, these entities had forms that appeared solid but they could shape-shift their bodies like sculpting smoke or carving water. They glided, they didn't walk. They interacted with the other participants in my ceremony but just as easily they could float right through them, as well as floating up through the roof or down, disappearing into the ground. One particular spot in the maloca, about ten feet in front of me and to the left, seemed to be a nexus for their energies. This nexus was an invisible vertical shaft, like a beam of unseen dark light, like a doorway zone that bisected the maloca from below the earth to above the sky. From this nexus they streamed into the maloca or out of it, disappearing somewhere else like a school of specter fish changing direction with the currents. Once I had felt the nexus and witnessed the comings and goings through it, I sensed that the dimension I was in was somewhere between theirs and the one where the ceremony was underway. They were accessing us through this middle layer but I got the distinct impression telepathically that they did not like the fact that someone had poked their head up and was watching them.
As their awareness of me intensified, so did the bitter cold. I felt no anger, no emotion from them other than their need to deal with me, the anomaly. They were either nothing more than an agenda or their agenda was all-consuming. Their energy seemed directed with infinite myopic focus. Like an insect wanting nothing more than to suck nectar from a flower, their impulse existed as an all-encompassing imperative. It just was - there was no need for emotion, only responses to preserve the agenda. Seen from without, their responses could seem malevolent, even satanic, but it was nothing more than the absolute form of self-service. I have never been to a place occupied so completely with self-interest, absent of caring or concern, void of anything but the tricks to get what they wanted. It was the ultimate trickster space. Everything and anything would be inverted if necessary to satisfy their motive. Unfortunately, it appeared that meant inverting and tricking everything we knew or held to be true. I had never felt more isolated and alone. It was a place not so much where love didn't exist -- rather, a place where love had no meaning.
Three of them paused at the foot of my space. One shape-shifted into something smaller and came closer before recoiling with renewed interest. Immediately, the fire from within returned. The burning feeling erupted from my bones, only this time, as the intense heat became an attack, the impossible occurred. As the heat burned, the biting cold remained. Incredibly, I was burning up and freezing simultaneously. Satisfied with this impediment, the three at the foot of my space glided on about the agenda's business.
It is said that there is a third state, exhibited in the animal world, that exists between the terror of fight or flight. It is a state of suspension, of paralysis, a condition that remains as the only thing left when neither flight nor flight is possible, or when the animal determines that both fight and flight are equally necessary. It is this third state I now entered. Feeling my spirit burnt and frozen at the same time, I was left defenseless except for a retreat to a singular still point within. At the still point, my will to hold on could not be accessed. Some have called it the still point of the turning wheel. I have read about it but never experienced it. Whatever it is, it was the only thing I had left. Maybe it was the source of myself where nothing that moved could reach. I attempted to numb myself to the combination effect of heat and cold and left everything behind to enter that still point. Somehow I knew if my consciousness could exist at that point, then I might hold out against the onslaught. With consciousness rooted at the still point, my awareness was still with them.
The ceremony lasted from 7pm until 4am. The brew took effect at about 7:45pm. From 7:45pm until nearly 3am, I held on at the still point, or maybe it was simply a state of suspension between fight and flight. Either way, while unrelenting heat and cold tried to consume me from within and without, I watched the night unfold around me. All the while, I had to take fitful breaths in, followed by the mournful sighs deeply exhaled. Only once was I tempted to close my eyes and try to ignore them and the dimension I was in. The thought of doing so quickly passed. How could I close my eyes, knowing what was going on around me?
As the night progressed, the stark, unrelenting isolation and hopelessness of the place deepened. The idea of being trapped, totally alone in such a place weighed heavily. The serious wrong of their agenda was felt more intensely as my telepathic link with them strengthened by the hour. Their coldly calculated sighs, those exhalations of nothing more than self-interested intent, in time became whispered words, words murmured with a trickster smile with the same menacing, breathy voice. Someone across the maloca would violently vomit into their bucket and the air around me would shape-shift dark with delight. "Go ahead...purge...purge! That's right...wretch! They call it the medicine...we call it the poison!"
Other messages followed, equally inverting the whole intent of the ceremony. Whenever any ceremony ritual began, a more intense inversion would overlay the action. Icaros became the hellish wails of those trapped by their repeated use of the medicine. The hypnotic effect of the songs was loaded with subliminal suggestions that en-trained the participants' minds to forever fixate on anything negative in their life.
Whenever a ceremony participant had a difficult episode, entities would eagerly glide to the spot. It was hard to tell what they were doing, but they quickly set to work over the distressed person. As hours passed and patterns showed in their behavior, the impression that negative energy was being collected or fed upon was inescapable. We had been warned by the shaman not to pass between a participant and the fire during a purge episode. He had said that whatever was being purged needed to go into the fire. If we passed in between fire and purge during this time, there was a chance the purge energy would go into us. Strikingly enough, in between fire and purge is exactly where these entities would place themselves.
At one point, I thought I had to do something to alleviate my situation. We had been told that help was available for the asking from the shaman or his helpers at any point during the ceremony. But the impulse was quickly challenged by a message whispered as a shape-shifter shot around back of me. A low, self-satisfied little laugh preceded the words, "There is no help here. He won't help you. He's with us. Go ahead. Call him over. He wants you to call him. Whatever he says will only make it worse for you. You'll see!"
Other messages followed to demonstrate how the whole ceremony had been co-opted energetically, and totally, for their own agenda. It didn't matter if the shaman knew about them or not. It made no difference if he was possessed by them or not. The thing that needed to transpire would happen regardless of anyone's best intentions or ritualistic mumbo-jumbo - in fact, because of such things. "They call it the blessing. It's really the curse." Participants would lie back and moan or cry or laugh with dredged-up emotion. Another smug whisper would whoosh by, "That's right...bring it up...bring it all up!" At one point the other participants in the ceremony appeared to be nothing more than cattle being milked by automated energy udder machines.
After a couple hours of existing in a timeless place with them, they had me convinced I was on my own. There was no help to be had from anyone at the ceremony. I was afraid to risk it - so dire were the messages of consequence elaborated by trickster intent. Then I remembered one thing that the shaman had said. He offered one technique for centering oneself amidst a swirl of fright or confusion. He said to look into the fire; meditate on one's intention and center oneself on the fire. If nothing else, it was something else to try. The entities occupied the entire space. I heard odd laughter from behind me. The space I held was sinking into isolation hell. With nothing else to do but suffer, any hope is a distraction. "Go ahead and try for hope in the hopeless place -- it only feeds the despair."
I looked into the fire and tried to concentrate. Immediately, my sight was drawn into the morphing movement of the flames. The movement contorted into horrific scenes of torture and depravity. Each one was licked by a self-satisfied flame into the manifestation of another. I looked away and tried to regroup my thoughts and my resolve on my intention. I tried repeating my intention in my head but something they did telepathically sliced and diced the syllables into gibberish. I dropped the attempt. I didn't have to actually say the intention. I knew it. That was enough. So I looked back to the flames. Immediately, an entity glided up to the flame. It positioned itself between me and the fire. Then it shape-shifted exactly as the flame behind it moved. The effect was the perfectly blocked sight of the flame from my sight. I could see the glow off of the flame reaching up into the maloca, but every motion of the flame became a motion of the entity. In effect, I was now staring into a black flame, a flame of dancing shadow.
If nothing else, the entities were relentless. This unabating focus displayed itself in their duties about the maloca as well as in their determination to deal with me, the anomaly. The fact that I still saw them elicited a continual response. Their next salvo proved to be the most dramatic of the night. As the night neared the midnight hour, I had become as familiar as I dared with recognizing their positions and movements around me. Like a wounded animal surrounded by a pack of hungry hyenas, I knew the standoff of holding my ground at the still point might only hold if I avoided being blindsided by them. So when a couple of them shape-shifted into invisible energy and shot around me only as a discernible presence, I suspected something was up. Presumably, they wouldn't shed their visible forms without a purpose, seeing how purpose-driven they were in everything they did. It didn't take long to discover what this was about.
There were over twenty participants in the ceremony and all of us had to be compacted pretty tight to fit the maloca. The man next to me was within inches of my space, as was the man on my left. When the formless entities shot around me with increased vigor, I steeled myself for their next trick of discomfort or despair. But instead of attacking me, I sensed at least one of them enter the man to my right. Over the next fifteen minutes he became more agitated and hysterical. He commenced a repetition of a low-toned "Fuck!" Over and over he said it as he twitched and became more anxious. Soon, the "FUCK!" became louder. Then a jerking of his left arm was added to the mix. The jerking arm soon became a weapon to hit me with. With every twinge of torment he was going through, there came a clenched fist hurled at my side and a shouted "FUCK!"
One of the shaman's helpers took note and hurried around the dirt path to assist. The helper did not look anything like the gliding dark entities that hovered near his shoulder. The helper tried to calm the man, asking him to quiet down, then asking if he needed help, finally imploring the agitator to settle down. The violent twitching, the fist strikes, and the tortured "FUCKS!" kept coming. Another helper rushed to be of assistance. They crawled forward and tried restraining the man. Their attempts only produced squirms and guttural cries. In time, extra help had to be called and five men struggled to carry the thrashing man out of the maloca. He didn't go peacefully. In fact, he punched one of the helpers. They carried him to an area a short distance from the maloca and placed him on a mattress. Helpers had to stay with him to protect him from himself. Repeatedly, he erupted in rages and had to be restrained. Again and again he tried kicking over candles with the stated intent to set fires. Oddly enough, right after he was taken away and the space next to me was left empty, a dog ran into the maloca and raced through the same empty space. The dog's insistence as he bumped past me was unusual, as if he needed top speed to chase something or he needed to send me a message - "The pathetic one was carried away but we have others."
The terror of feeling those fist strikes and knowing where they came from must have been obvious. The helpers no doubt reported to the shaman as to who had received the brunt of the wild man's rage. The shaman's wife came over, crawled up the blanket and passed a rosewater-scented palm near my face. Several times, from chin to forehead, she moved her hand up within an inch of me. The floral scent was sweet and aromatic. But the scent was fouled by the inside knowledge of the others. "Take it...take it in...you know you want the relief. We catch more flies with honey than vinegar... yes...yes...how sweet is the bait." Doubting her intent was strong enough for me to hold my breath as the last few passes of her palm offered the rosewater scent.
The shaman brought up one participant before the fire and conducted a lengthy cleansing ritual with blown smoke and shaken leaves. Then another participant received the same treatment. As the cleansing and protection rites were being administered, the nexus point bristled energetically. A dark form appeared, rising up from the ground in the vertical column. This form was wider than the others, and I soon found out, taller - much taller. The form continued to appear out of the ground. It rose up towards the roof of the maloca. Its final form stretched at least twenty feet tall. Unlike the draping shoulders of the others, this one had perfectly squared-off shoulders. It never showed any intention of moving beyond the nexus. Instead, it occupied the nexus space from ground to ceiling through the maloca. All of the other forms came to it, all of them in turn. Their darkness merged with this larger presence and then they shape-shifted away, some back into the maloca while others shot up or down the column and were gone. But for every one that disappeared into the sky or ground, there were others that emanated out of the column into the space. For a while there was never a fixed number of them. They appeared in a flurry as needed, however many it took - an obedient multitude, emanating from the one.
With the appearance of the dark column, a heavy certainty of isolation and despairing energies reached their zenith. I was at my lowest point. I needed to cry out or simply cry and couldn't do either. I had no resolve left. I was in shock, a shock that felt catatonic. The only saving grace was the fact that the tall one seemed content to stay in the nexus and not approach me. Giving the hours spent, stoically holding my space, I must have been catatonic for quite a while. How else did I manage to sit and take the beating of a possessed person? How else could I have withstood the hours stretched timeless in burning heat and deathly cold?
It was then that one of the shape-shifters glided next to me and made it oh so obvious that the approach would be personal. It took infinite pleasure in whispering close enough to be felt, "Yes...yes...YOU CREATED THIS!"
The concept blindsided me. The implications of the message discharged through me like electroshock. This was definitely their mousetrap going off. I was left to writhe in the invasive press of its grasp. This was their blissful denouement. There was so much wrong with what they had said. But was it right? Consider the source. But was the source even real? It's entirely possible that all of it was just a personal trip to my own personal hell - but did that personal hell actually exist or had I merely dreamed it up under the effects of a psychoactive substance? I created this? It couldn't be. The whole thing was too real, more real in fact that the veiled world of the maloca's ceremony. But who was fooling whom?
Was this the trickster's final trick? Was this to be the source of my ultimate despair - the unsolvable dilemma, custom-made just for me? They didn't care about my "still point" or my resolve. They knew all along they didn't have to attack me at my still point. Not directly. If they could take me to hell and convince me that it was all my doing -- it was my own creation -- was that my final torment or demise?
Maybe they had manufactured a pretend hell but still convinced me it was my doing? Maybe the trick was to invert the whole ceremony, make a Black Mass of it, make me believe their hell was mine. Perhaps that was the trick -- they needed me to fear the ceremony because it might be the very thing that would open my consciousness to more. As side benefit, they would be able to feed on my fear. What better way of isolating me from my positive potential than inverting the shamanic ceremony into something darker than dark. Make me recoil from the one thing that might give me positive answers and they would win.
But I couldn't escape the feeling that the true intent of the ceremony had been revealed to me.
That intent was anything but positive. Yes, maybe the humans thought they were getting help from the "medicine," but the true masters of the ceremony encouraged those human illusions so the real ceremony, the inverted one, could take place in another realm.
That's the problem with dealing with the Trickster.
By definition, no matter what you expect or how clever you analyze it,
the trick will always take you by surprise.
And if you're still standing, chances are, the final trick is yet to be sprung.
Perhaps their final trick was leaving me in knots with a dilemma of doubt.
Long after the ceremony had ended, they would have succeeded at bounding me in a twisting tangle of down-spiraling possibilities. Even if the experience was not real, they had left me with a real feeling.
Could it be that's what they wanted all along? Fear -- uncertainty -- and doubt. A three-course dinner.
Like insects on the flower, they continue to draw sustenance from it.
By 4am, I believed the effects of the night were wearing off. Slowly, in reverse order, I descended back from the other dimension. The dark forms became disembodied presences. The veil eventually dissipated and I settled back in the normal-world maloca. The pile of ash where the central fire had burned was no longer an abstraction. Ironically, the only thing that really didn't return to "normal" was me. Now I had become the abstraction in a normal place. When one visits a place more real than here, it's quite possible they won't feel so real when they return here. But now that I had returned, the urge to purge was intense, only my purge necessitated the immediate and explosive use of the restroom, not a bucket. Sitting in the restroom, I wondered why my purge should be intense diarrhea and not vomit. Just as quickly, the thought came to me -- diarrhea is closest to the lowest chakra. Given where I had been and the company I had kept, ridding myself of low-energies was paramount to my recovery.
The fatigue of late night/early morning overtook me and I felt an overwhelming urge to go to bed. My room was a reasonable distance by foot but two paths could take me there - one was more direct but would take me over much uneven ground in darkness. The other path was up a paved road, over a paved path, and down a paved trail. Feeling unsteady, I chose the paved option. In my whoosiness, I completely forgot that the shaman had said we should not go to bed before eating something -- and we shouldn't attempt the walk back to our rooms alone. Exhausted to the point of forgetfulness, I set out on my own along the path. I estimated rest in bed should only be minutes away.
But then the feeling of them returned. Along the path with me there were diffused presences. It wasn't long before I couldn't recognize where I was or where I should go. The night scene around me shifted different as easily as reloading one's virtual reality headset. I backtracked several times, managing to make progress in agonizing fits. At the point where I thought I was halfway to my room, I concluded I was totally lost. A presence, ever circling, assured me that being lost was my permanent condition. Uncertainty was my strength -- and my weakness, and they knew it.
Feeling them so strongly again evoked a slow-burn panic. Nothing looked the same as I expected. I finally reached a cluster of structures but they might as well have existed on a different continent or from a different time. I hurried around them, down walkways, through patios -- no one was around. It seemed as if I was walking through a movie set on a shut-down sound stage. The whole thing was lit only by dim catwalk lights that someone had covered with silver-blue moonlight scrims. The deeper I searched, the more unfamiliar and unreal everything became. I quickly retraced my steps and found the path I entered on. There was nothing to do but try to backtrack to the maloca. As unreasonable as that sounds now, at the time it seemed my only option. Lucky for me, halfway down the trail, I encountered a pair of participants on their way back to their lodgings. I tried my best to hide my panic and joined them. Their stroll guided me right back to where I had been, only now, entering the space with them, the whole setting looked different. It was so different, I recognized it.
As I fell asleep, and all through the next morning, the question was out there -- what was I to do with what had happened? Should I share the truth in group discussion the next day? Would anyone want to hear that the whole ceremony had been an elaborate cover for something dark, malevolent, and parasitical? I thought not and decided to talk only about the "trickster." I'd confess that each trick was designed to invert everything I tried to take from the ceremony into something that would make me feel bad and benefit the trickster.
I knew what everyone would tell me. It was just a hallucination, fed by inner fears and deep-seated emotion. But I wondered - did such entities like I encountered really exist? Was it silly even to entertain such a notion? Could they possibly exist independent of the Ayahuasca experience? If not, then why did all the shamans have to cleanse the space, sing "protection" songs, and instruct people on ritual methods of "holding the space." If nothing unseen existed out there, if it was childish to fear the boogieman, then what the hell were the shamans "protecting" us from? And if there were real entities out there, could they be co-opting the ceremonies for their own nefarious purposes? And if so, did the shamans even know about it?
For me, the one who had spent the night with the entities...
-- the one who got no pretty color hallucinations or geometric fractal shows during the whole night
-- the one who never saw large serpents or jaguars or talked with happy gremlin creatures
-- the one who never had a life review or empathetic communion with past and present loved ones
-- the one who never heard the strong, feminine voice of Mother Ayahuasca give me motherly advice
-- the one who never got taken aboard a spaceship by purple flirps so they could strap me down and have laughing jack-in-the-boxes rip me apart and force me to eat the gore...
I was the one who had a different experience.
I had an experience that was literally seared into me then quick-frozen to preserve it.
I know what I experienced.
The analogy of a movie theater best describes my dilemma.
Many people go into the theater to see a show. They are the participants. But in the Ayahuasca theater, each participant sees a different movie up on the screen; it's a personal movie re-cut and re-scored especially for them. They all exit the theater and talk in depth about what they saw and heard and felt from their unique experience. But everyone, without exception, discusses what they saw up there on the screen.
It seems my experience in the movie theater was very different. The curtains parted but, as far as I was concerned, no movie appeared on the screen, even though everyone else appeared entertained. What I witnessed, instead, was a horde of darkly determined ushers doing who-knows-what to the theater goers. As the audience sat incapacitated by their hypnotic stare at the screen, otherworldly ushers took over the theater and played out their agenda on the audience. As the audience around me watched their movies, - I was watching the goings-on in the theater.
The way I saw it, the real show was not up on the screen. It was the reality playing out all around me. After the curtains closed and the lights came up, how could I ever explain to the audience what had happened to them? I could try but with little chance of being believed. The audience would explain it away. Don't be silly -- the dark ushers were not literally in the theater. You must have seen them up on the screen. Oh yeah, I merely saw a movie -- about sitting in a movie theater.
Eight hours after the ceremony ended, I sat among the breezes in the eucalyptus trees.
The full impact of the dilemma was beginning to dawn on me.
I felt the hopelessness of not being sure what to do.
An echo of the last whisper would not fade away, "Yes...yes...YOU CREATED THIS!"
Then out of the breeze in the trees, an answer raced into mind. "You didn't create that. You are from Love -- and nothing from love could have created that."
It was an answer, but where did it come from, and why?
Fear of the trickster returned. "If you didn't create that...then it must be real...because you know you were there."
Torn between the two answers and the ripples in their implications, I was left with the dilemma.
Later that day I discovered that another participant in my ceremony had reported an energetic rift in the maloca. It was a fissure large enough to be a portal. He reported this the morning after the ceremony. In response, the shaman made a special trip to the maloca to conduct unscheduled protection and cleansing rituals necessary to secure the maloca for future use.
I was curious and sought out this participant who had reported the energetic rift. He was someone who back home made a practice of reading and cleansing auras. I asked him where precisely was this rift he had energetically sensed. He described for me the exact spot I referred to as the nexus point for the entities. He and I never had spoken about the ceremony before this. When he told me, he knew nothing about my experience. But his validation of the nexus struck deep and was tacit evidence that I wasn't imagining things. And if all of it was just my hallucination, why did the shaman agree with the man and conduct the special ritual to close the rift and make the maloca secure again?
In spite of validation or any other evidence, no matter how one tries to float it, the possibility that I experienced something real invariably sinks fast with the same explanations. A day after the ceremony, there was no point trying to explain myself to anyone. Even I would have answered myself, eventually, the same way -- Get over it, it was just a fucking hallucination. Concentrate on the message. What was your lesson?
Yes, indeed. What was my message from all of this?
What was my lesson?
And yes, I can see it coming -- I too can answer those sensitive questions by rattling off a thousand clever jibes of scoffing ridicule and derision like the auto-bot internet trolls do so well. Their vitriol appears magically whenever a search algorithm red-flags a word like "Ayahuasca" and the disinformation expert system is triggered to respond. Their brand of ingratiating stupidity is all too easy as knee-jerk entertainment and mini-me ego-gratification, but it's also a calculated circus to distract and shut down real communication between people. It's the hay that's meant to hide the needle.
As far as my real message and lesson --
I wonder -- can they ever be known
without solving the dilemma, and ending the fear.