Review: Moksha: Writings on Psychedelics & the Visionary Experience

Moksha: Writings on Psychedelics & the Visionary Experience
Moksha: Writings on Psychedelics & the Visionary Experience by Aldous Huxley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of Aldous Huxley’s work from what I know of this author. A friend in the music business recommended that I try Moksha and I thoroughly appreciated reading it. It is perhaps the logical follow-on read to the infamous ‘Doors of Perception’ as the book covers the period during which Huxley’s great mind was subjected to hallucinogenic drugs. His groundbreaking work with (and indeed coining of the phrase) the hallucinogens, was important for science as a whole. So often drug use can be tainted in today’s society. Huxley demonstrates that he was acting in a responsible fashion and he was exceptionally keen on expanding his consciousness. He saw in the substances he used a visionary future for mankind and Moksha gives us an insight into that world. I found the most enthralling part of this book to be the interspersed personal correspondence between chapters. These letters showed Huxley’s devotion to his cause and gave valuable insight into his personal manners. I felt Moksha to be an intimate portrait of a man with immense brainpower, a true literary shaman and a genius. Huxley’s work should long be remembered and his life celebrated more so than it actually is. I plan to go on to read his novel ‘Island’ next as that has so far eluded me.

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Review: The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge

The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge
The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I eagerly anticipated this book as I had heard it mentioned as a classic on Ayahuasca and as a good reference point in a number of other books and Ayahuasca and shamanism. The author begins in typical Ayahuasca tourist fashion, and undertakes you on his Amazonian journey with a shaman, partaking in the sacred Yage ceremony. If anything I was a little disappointed with the author’s own experiences and felt that he had perhaps misunderstood his visions a little. I read on, however, and the novel turned into a page-turning thriller. The research done on the twins / dual serpent cosmology myths was fantastic and a revelation to me. It was clear that Narby had done a great deal of research on his hypothesis. I think to anybody studying shamanism, the middle chapters of Narby’s book are essential. As the book moved towards the DNA link with Ayahuasca I was at first sceptical but the author wrote in a convincing manner and I felt that the extremely distant link was well-pointed out and certainly a possibility though I can see the scientists more easily dismissing ‘The Cosmic Serpent’ than perhaps the ancient medicine men who I would imagine would be more open-minded. As an apprentice ayahuasquero myself, who has studied exclusively on my own in the West, I think that there is a lot more to the DNA link than meets the eye. Ayahuasca is a substance which does alter the mind in a tremendous way and I See true possibilities that it is what we call DNA triggering some of the visions. I think the book highlights, not how much we know of science, but how little we know of ancient shamanism. A true understanding of Ayahuasca and the power it harnesses, if well understood could drastically improve our world, if nothing less than to bind Western man back to his natural roots.

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Ayahuasca In My Blood: 25 Years Of Medicine Dreaming – by Peter Gorman

This autobiographic tale of one man’s relationship with the most sacred vine, shows Peter Gorman as a true pioneer. Ayahuasca is still very much an unknown quantity in the West and Gorman’s 25 years of experience make him a critical read for anyone considering experimenting with Ayahuasca, as the ‘Vine Of The Soul’ becomes more fashionable in mainstream society. I’ve had a few Ayahuasca sessions myself and I can relate to the rather bizarre and powerful nature of the sessions he describes. It really does put you in a different frame of mind and in a way is something that cannot very easily be put into words. Gorman does really well in painting a vivid picture of the alternate realities that Ayahuasca drinkers experience. It does become a life changing experience and the way Gorman seems to struggle between his life and family in the ‘real’ world and his mystic Amazonian adventures forms a key element to his story. Ayahuasca becomes a belief system to him, a religion, and he uses the vine ever more so to seek out answers to all aspects of his own life, and once he begins to master its application to himself, like a real shaman, he begins to turn his attention during the rituals upon the lives of friends and families and how he can help them for the better.  The descriptions of his jungle adventures and the detailed depictions of the shamen that guide him and the traditional ceremonies themselves gave a true insight into how the vine should be most appropriately used. I’ve never journeyed into the Amazon (though I would very much love to go there) and experienced a genuine ritual, but from what Gorman has revealed, I shall be applying some of his techniques in my next Ayahuasca encounter. I think that for every individual and every experience, the vine is truly unique. Its power is unfurling and almost omnipotent and to a non-initiate, maybe Gorman’s experiences would seem a little far-fetched and fictional. I believe every aspect of his tale and I think that the Ayahuasca has given him the insight and courage to have presented many of his deeper emotional thoughts about his family and genuine struggles in life in an open and honest fashion. It has made him realise his own imperfections and has guided him into being a better and stronger person. I’ve read quite a few books and watched films and documentaries on Ayahuasca and can say that this is certainly amongst the better ones.  If you are considering becoming a Western Curandero then you should not miss out on Peter Gorman’s well-presented personal journey.

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Casteneda

For anyone who has the vaguest interest in shamanism, this is an essential text. It is Carlos Casteneda’s seminal work and in my opinion is a work of art. He has a very direct personal way of revealing his story, about an encounter with an ageing Native-American man of knowledge, who takes Carlos under his wing and reveals to him some of the secrets of shamanism. The range of psychedelics encountered are followed up in the book, after consumption, with vivid detail of the accompanying experiences. For me, the most rememberable tale in the book is Casteneda’s transformation into a crow. It seems really strange and bizarre and perhaps fiction but for anyone who has actually had a shamanic experience, the story has a real truth to it and is a perfect example of the mystic powers that true shamen can harness. As the author weaves his tale through the years of his tuition, we get more and more familiar with th very likeable character of Don Juan. This book was written many years ago, perhaps when psychedleic drugs were only truly starting to be explored properly in the West. The eradication of shamen and ancient belief systems by the rapidly advancing modern society, perhaps makes the mere existence of such wise teachers, an absolute rarity today. Carlos Casteneda found himself a genuine opportunity in learning from a great man who had not abandonned the ancient teachings to the modern world. the insights gathered in this book, give the layman a fundamental grasp of exactly what shamanism entails. It is a literary masterpiece and should not be missed out upon.