Sheikh Burhanuddin Herrmann
Sufism and Ayahuasca
Ayahuasca is a huge mystery. The first time I encountered this holy and mysterious plant was about 20 years ago in Venezuela. It was an Indian-African witch who introduced me to its potential. After consumption, I saw the plan of my life – kind of a cosmic manual for taking advantage from what we call incarnation. I realized that Ayahuasca liana has an unbelievable effect on humans. It can reveal to people what they are. The witch told me the most important element of the Ayahuasca ritual is the person. Our communication was nonverbal, in living pictures.
Despite that, we were aware of it and it was real. This characteristic of Ayahuasca – i.e. enable telepathic communication of two and more people – was noted by the first scientists that researched the effect of this forest liana. The effective alkaloid isolated during laboratory analysis was called TELEPATIN. This was absolutely a great discovery, comparable to the invention of an airplane or combustion engine – for the first time in history, the scientists had something that was able to change the method of our communication. It was found out later that TELEPATIN is identical to an alkaloid that was discovered earlier, HARMINE. This alkaloid was isolated from a different holy plant, Peganum harmala.
This was very interesting for me because this plant also showed up under extraordinary circumstances in my life, far earlier than Ayahuasca. During my study of biology, I traveled on research trips to Central Asia, where I encountered the traditions of Islamic mysticism, mainly Sufism. Islamic mystics told me that to induce conditions during which they are able to leave their body, fly above the landscape and read minds, they use the Harmala plant. They owned special formulas for the preparation of this – for them holy – plant; sometimes they used only the Harmala and sometimes also other supporting additives, mainly one type of local nettle plant.
At the time when I gained such knowledge, I was able to spend time in territories that were normally non-accessible and where old mystical traditions and “abilities” had been preserved. Unfortunately, a few years later were, I heard that these mysterious mystical schools had been literally swept away following the accession of the Taliban. Also at the time when I tried the effect of a Harmala drink called “SUOMA” by Islamic mystics, there were only a few old masters left who guarded this secret. SUOMA was consumed at night in tearooms in the middle of the desert. These tearooms – in reality, a sort of meditation center – were built in special places where field lines crossed. In the Koran, it is written the following about the Harmala plant: “after every leaf stands an angel” – it is considered very powerful.
The Amazonian Indians say that Ayahuasca was made by the gods with the aim to enable humans to leave the prison of their own bodies and the world where they have to live. Also Islamic scientists believed that Harmala, resp. SUOMA, is a present from Allah’s messengers and should serve as a gate from the earthly prison. It is possible that there is a global principle enabling a human being to exceed mass – and it is hidden in the use of a particular type of key in the form of particular alkaloids. If there really were architects of the worlds, why couldn’t they incorporate keys into the system of our reality and if those keys are found and accurately used, they would open gates into our reality and enable us to enter the world of cosmic freedom?
There are many myths about Ayahuasca. This is mainly because the majority of original experts on Ayahuasca technology were killed. A lot of distorted information about Ayahuasca comes mainly from Brazil, where the original inhabitants were fully eliminated (they represent only small fragment of current inhabitants). Without the shaman knowledge, it is very difficult to work with Ayahuasca and prepare it. In Brazil, many modern sects took possession of Ayahuasca and, in this context, its use significantly differs from use by the Indian shamans.
When I was young, I stayed a long time at one center of an extensive Ayahuasca sect in Acre, Brazil; this was a great experience. I was able to study the misuse of strong and holy means for purposes of hierarchy, power and ego. This reminded me what the witch in Venezuela had said: The most important element of work with Ayahuasca is the human being. Ayahuasca is neutral – like the power of an engine. The engine enables movement of an ambulance the same as it does the movement of a tank. Ayahuasca is, without a doubt, one of the greatest powers the human race has encountered – and this statement is not exaggerated. I feel that in future it will be used in our culture, and it might become of the most important tools for change.
What is Ayahuasca? The name AYAHUASCA is related to liana from the Malpighiacea family, a plant from Banisteriopsis caapi specie. It is a beautiful, very strong liana reminiscent of a huge jungle navel cord. To some people, it is reminiscent of a DNA molecule. Nowadays, we often hear the statement that for production of Ayahuasca, one needs two plants – Banisteriopsis liana and Psychotria viridis bush. These opinions originated mainly in relation to the activity of Brazilian “Ayahuasca” sects. In reality, there are hundreds of functional formulas for preparation of Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca sects have no shaman knowledge – their attitude to initially wise use of this holy agent is illustrated by the words of the shaman from the Apurina tribe whom I met a long time ago in Brazil: “These people stole our treasure, but they don’t know how to use it. It has no use for them. They can endanger themselves and other people.” Indians – as I gradually realized during my expeditions into the Amazon forest – originally used only clear Ayahuasca with no additives. Shaman tradition says that people noticed that sick panthers would eat the Ayahuasca liana – i.e. Banisteriopsis caapi. Many tribes in the Amazon derive their origin from the panther and consider it their mythic forefather. Thus, they noticed the behavior of this most holy animal. Afterward, people allegedly imitated the panthers and chewed the bark of this plant. And they found out that Ayahuasca quickly helped them from many health problems. Indians realized that Ayahuasca rids them of annoying parasites in their body.
Ayahuasca really is a great antihelmintic – it removes all worms and other intestinal parasites from the body. Currently, soldiers from the Peruvian army located in the jungle must drink Ayahuasca, simply to be able to survive there. Ayahuasca increases our vitality, and so naturally those Indian tribes were selected with the widest knowledge about Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca moreover improves vision, supports the development of muscles and – probably the most important – increases intellect. However, it is necessary to know how to use it. The shamans always used Ayahuasca to enable their pupils to enter deep into their minds. If Ayahuasca is used in this way, new routes of information transfer originate in the brain and intellect – emotional and all other types of intellect – really grows.
If Ayahuasca is misused as a tool of a modern sect when people are after its consumption made to sing “religious songs,” worship some sort of symbol, move collectively, etc., the opposite happens. The subconscious doesn’t create new routes that make one free, but a few “robotic” routes are engraved into it and that resembles manipulative hypnotic techniques. The state into which one falls after consumption of Ayahuasca is physiologically very similar to deep hypnosis. One is aware of what’s happening but new contents can be inserted into one’s consciousness or, on the contrary, one’s consciousness can be cleared. If an experienced shaman controls the ritual, nothing can happen. But if one falls into the hands of a religious sect in this state – in the state when entry to your consciousness is wide open – then “may God be with you.”
We have to realize that Ayahuasca is mainly a very powerful tool for “opening” ourselves. To work with Ayahuasca, we should proceed with the same responsibility and caution as to physical surgery. Thus, only a specialist should be present; no one else. Shaman training takes several years. It is very demanding. Shamans choose adepts for this very difficult study only among children with special abilities. One could say that those children are clairvoyant. And despite that, these adepts have no guarantee that they will “complete the study.” The pupil of a shaman undergoes several proof tests and periods of a sort of absolute asceticism. I had the opportunity to become partially acquainted with the shaman training. I know nothing more demanding. During the training, one cannot cheat; all is taken very seriously – in principle, one moves between life and death.
For example, spending repeated weeks, months or years alone, without fire or food reserves, in the jungle is a matter of course. A young shaman adept must e.g. speak to no one for two years, refrain from sexual intercourse and eat only rootlets they are dig able to up…. But the results of such “training” are unbelievable. A real shaman sees through other people. He scans your organs, bones – he is even able to see – without a microscope, of course – what is happening in your blood and your cells. It is interesting that Amazonian shamans knew the DNA molecule long time before us. A shaman is a super-physician and a super-therapist. That’s a fact. Shamans emphasize that drinking Ayahuasca is a very serious matter. If you are accompanied by someone who really sees and perceives what is happening with you and in the energetic organs of your biofield, nothing can happen to you. Even scientists and physicians who have researched effects of Ayahuasca for a longer time rather employ the old Indian shamans if they use Ayahuasca for therapeutic purposes.
An example of responsible use of Ayahuasca is e.g. the therapy executed by Dr. Jaques Mabit at the Drug Dependence Treatment Centre in Tarapot, Peru. This French physician has studied Ayahuasca for 30 years and, in spite of that, every treatment ritual is executed only in the presence of Indian shamans. Thus, during a ritual, shamans are present as representatives of a thousand-year-old functioning system of self-recognition and treatment – and physicians as representatives of our tradition including technology and science. I personally think – after all my experiences gained during my work with Ayahuasca – that this is the only acceptable model in terms of safety and meaningfulness. If we want to utilize the real potential of Ayahuasca, we have to find a REAL SHAMAN, and I personally think that also a physician should be present during rituals. A real shaman won’t mind.
It is necessary to observe a basic diet as dangerous contraindications can exist when drinking Ayahuasca. A physician should regularly measure blood pressure and, if you suffer from any disease, your health condition must be continuously observed. Ayahuasca contains no toxins or dangerous substances, but it evokes a powerful process in the body and mind, and these processes must be monitored. When Ayahuasca works, one is literally OPEN. Open in all considerations. Your cells are deeply opened; your body is very sensitive. Things that are not normally toxic – e.g. alcohol or mould contained in some foodstuff – become very toxic. The active substances of Ayahuasca are indole alkaloids – besides TELEPATIN (or HARMINE) also secondary alkaloids such as harmaline, tetrahydroharmine and other. All these alkaloids are among the so-called “MAO inhibitors.” These substances have, without a doubt, a very curative effect on your body but, at the same time, they make it very sensitive. At least 24 hours before consumption of Ayahuasca, you should drink no alcohol, eat chocolate, legumes or cheese.
The same applies 24 hours after completion of the Ayahuasca ritual with a shaman. If you don’t observe this, you let high doses of toxins inside your cells – mainly nerve cells. It is horrible that some Ayahuasca religious sects, AFTER CONSUMPTION of Ayahuasca, organize “feasts” where they serve cheese, chocolate, etc. This can damage the brain and the entire body. And the founders of these sects that misuse Ayahuasca (mainly in large Brazilian cities) declare that the course of their ceremonies is “dictated by spirits.” I don’t think the spirits are so stupid that they wouldn’t know that they can seriously damage human health? Again, I advise against the use of Ayahuasca under conditions when safety is not ensured. Ayahuasca is like a chase plane. During the ritual, you need someone who will ensure a successful start and flight. And, of course, also the landing. The paradox is that currently, Ayahuasca is misused mainly by religious sects. Religion legalizes Ayahuasca in this crazy world. Many of these sects openly say: “Do you want to drink Ayahuasca? The only possibility is to drink it with us.” And when one drinks it, they make one sing their songs, worship various persons, etc.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the information that I received from trustworthy sources was true – i.e. that these Ayahuasca sects are often established or supported by secret service agents to globally discredit, over a longer time period, the use of Ayahuasca. Recently in Japan, a member of one sect that declared Ayahuasca for the incarnation of Virgin Mary went and after a brain-washing ritual set a Buddhist church on fire. I advise everyone who wants to try this great substance to read all the available literature first and then travel to Peru or Colombia and find a TRIBAL SHAMAN. Learn to speak Spanish, and search outside the cities. Avoid commercial organizations that drain money from naive tourists, e.g. Peruvian Iquitos – here, you won’t find a real shaman. You have to go deeper into the jungle. And take a physician with you.
I believe that soon, specialized Ayahuasca centers will be established in the entire Amazon. And these centers won’t have anything in common with religion or superstition; they will be elite and perfectly equipped workplaces where clients will cooperate with Indian shamans, physicians and researchers. I also believe that this is the only meaningful way of further expansion of Ayahuasca as a therapeutic and transformation substance. It is also the only way of expanding Ayahuasca as a medicine for the people of our culture who want to participate. Ayahuasca has a huge curing potential. I am convinced that if it is used on the basis of research and treatment centers, many – even seriously – ill people who might not find another way of treatment will be successfully cured.
These treatment centers should also closely cooperate with native inhabitants in the matter of preserving original biotopes. It is logical that if the forest is destroyed, there won’t be any Ayahuasca and thus no therapy. The money acquired from patients and maybe even from international organizations that could support this treatment (the work of Dr. Mabita is supported and financed by the French government and the EU) must be partially invested into protection of the Amazon. The original inhabitants represent an untapped power for achievement of long-term ecological protection of forest. Young Indians can, after confrontation with civilization, become a wreck without roots, work for wood merchants for a few dollars and end up with alcohol intoxication, OR they can be organized into ranger groups and protect the jungle.
This type of work is what the Indians were born to do and what they would do very well. At the same time, schools must be established where children of Indians will be regularly informed about what is happening in their territory. The aim of the mission “schools” – i.e. brain-washing – is for Indians to stop being Indians, to lose their culture and give up “without problems” their territories to wood merchants and petroleum merchants. If these two things were financed – Indian ranger groups and schools where young Indians can learn biology, ecology, etc. – then Ayahuasca has a chance to survive. Ayahuasca treatment centers should also create funds enabling Indians to gain education in key areas – mainly in legal areas. I think that the Amazon is waiting for these centers, and their establishment would be a huge turning point for development in this part of the world.
Back to the Ayahuasca formula – I said that I don’t agree with the very simplified statement that Ayahuasca is “made” from a mixture of two plants. The results of my visits to tribal shamans bring something new. Ayahuasca is Banisteriopsis caapi liana. Shamans are aware of the fact that it is much more difficult to prepare an effective drink “only” from this liana rather than from a mixture of more plants. But real Indian shamans know how to do it. I stayed a longer time with the Aguaruna tribe and had the opportunity to become acquainted with various means of effective liana collection. An old shaman feels that a PARTICULAR liana wants him to make a drink out of it. The time of collection, the part of plant chosen and other factors also play an important role. The shaman has the feeling that the right plant “whistled” to him or attracted him. Shamans also have “their own” lianas in the jungle; for years, they come to these lianas, breathe smoke on them, communicate with them…
I am convinced that if someone should prepare Ayahuasca and to really use all its potential, they have to have a really special relationship with the plant. It was the same with other tribes that lived in close relation with nature. Somewhere – for example, among the Shipibo Indians – Ayahuasca is prepared by so-called “grandpas” – very old shamans specializing in the preparation of a drink from Ayahuasca; one could say that they live in real symbiosis with the plant. These grandpas don’t even come out of the jungle and often don’t even speak to anyone to prevent the drink from “contamination” during its preparation. Besides the biochemical dimension of the entire process of Ayahuasca preparation, Indians also count on energetic influence that could affect the process. The preparation of Ayahuasca takes a long time; it is prepared repeatedly and alone. Old Aguaruna Indian shamans who revealed to me the process of its preparation never used any other addition; only the Banisteriopsis caapi liana. And despite that – or may be thanks to that – the drink they prepared was the strongest Ayahuasca I have ever tasted. A number of people who have deeply researched Ayahuasca identify with this.
Ayahuasca is not just what e.g. the Brazilian Church Santo Daime offers its members (because they don’t know traditional Indian medicine, they offer only one formula, i.e. Psychotria viridis plus Banisteriopsis caapi). The base of the Ayahuasca drink is the liana, and it is possible (but not necessary) to add other ingredients. There might be more ingredients (e.g. Psychotria bush); the shaman can use dozens of other plants and add them to Ayahuasca. In the territory of the Marañón River, koka is added into Ayahuasca; nobody uses the Psychotria bush. In the valley of the Andes, Ayahuasca is enriched with a strongly psychoactive cactus, San Pedro. In another area, they use mimosa as the main accompanying compound of Ayahuasca. Different areas, different formulas. One can add dozens or hundreds of other plants to Ayahuasca to direct or “color” its effect. Anyway, what we sometimes read in books – that the Amazon Indians discovered two plants that cause the Ayahuasca effect – is just a modern fairytale.
Ayahuasca is just a liana – earlier chewed, later cooked. Some tribes that possess a minimum of ceramics and continuously move through the jungle allegedly only chew Ayahuasca – mainly the bark from its roots. Even when consumed in such a way, Ayahuasca is strongly psychoactive. After consumption of liana, a state of changed mind occurs. According to Indian shamans, the more sensitive and “clean” a person is, the stronger the effect. Ayahuasca might even not work the first time. Or the second time. I knew one American anthropologist who wanted to feel the effects of Ayahuasca, and it worked after only the 20th trial! The shaman laughed at him that Ayahuasca wanted to test him if he really wants it that much.
“It’s a female,” laughed the shaman. But in most cases, Ayahuasca works on the third trial, but it’s never guaranteed. In this sense, Ayahuasca is a big mystery. It is probably the strongest psychoactive substance on the planet, but you might drink it and effect is similar like after consumption of common tea. This mystery has roots in the actual difficult process that Ayahuasca activates in our brain and body. Ayahuasca is the key you turn in the lock. And this lock is inside you – in your brain. Everyone is different, and our brain chemistry is directly associated with our emotions, our lifestyle and psychology. Ayahuasca reaches really deep inside us – and moves something. Not everyone is ready to allow this movement deep inside of themselves. And again, we come back to the statement of the old shaman woman – the most important element during Ayahuasca ritual IS YOU. Ayahuasca is just a tool for freeing or curing yourself. And only we can use this tool. One must have self-discipline and ability to become fully immersed in the entire process.
Several researchers, e.g. Stafford in his work from 1992, Schultes in 1996, Greef in 2007 and Gable in 2007, realized that only the Banisteriopsis caapi liana is needed for production of absolutely effective Ayahuasca (especially when its is made by an experienced shaman based on old tribal formulas); in 2006, Bussmann also expressed this opinion in the magazine Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. The fact that Ayahuasca (infusion from B. caapi liana) works psychodynamically is also demonstrated by Freedland and Mansbach in their work from 1999, Ai Ming in 2003, Iurlo in 2001 and by many others. The fact is that the Banisteriopsis caapi liana contains alkaloids whose effectiveness was demonstrated by Chilean psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo when he isolated them from the liana and consequently injected them into test subjects. The results of his study are very distinctive and, in terms of conventional science, only hardly explainable: all subjects – without knowing from where the tested substance comes from – experienced strong plastic visions of PANTHERS, PUMAS, ANACONDAS and other animals that represent traditional Amazon totems.
We have to come to terms with the fact that we know very little about Ayahuasca and its effect on us. There is increasingly more evidence that the effects of Ayahuasca cannot be limited only to biochemical processes. And all Amazon shamans knew that. For this reason, they really take care of “energy hygiene” during production of the drink from the liana. I remember one funny situation during one Ayahuasca ritual where Indians from the Ashaninka tribe were present. A young shaman’s scholar participated in the preparation of Ayahuasca. This young man wanted to have the shoes he saw some time ago in one village by one merchant. This was enough for several people (including me!) to see again and again huge shoes flying in the air during the ritual… because Ayahuasca awakens particular elements of clairvoyance, the delinquent was easily detected, and the Indians shouted at him: “Who should watch your fucking shoes?” And the young Indian after the ritual confessed that he had tried to not think about the shoes… but as much as he tried, he thought about how nice it would be to walk in them as he mixed the drink. People consider themselves rational; it would be rational to confess that we know too little about the mind’s working and physics. Why couldn’t thoughts be material or physically real? Why couldn’t they be transported from one nerve system to another? And why couldn’t the molecular structure of Ayahuasca alkaloids somehow connect forms of thought? I have no other explanation for the previously mentioned experience.
It is very important with WHOM you drink Ayahuasca, WHY you drink it – and WHERE you drink it. Shamans always make sure that Ayahuasca is consumed in a “clean” place. It should be a place where no one has been killed – not even animals. It should be a place where nature is not disturbed. In an ideal case, it should be so called “place of power,” an exceptional locality thanks to a high concentration of healing and positive energy. This place originated by the crossing of energy earth-paths – it’s kind of a smooth bundle on the body of Earth. Shamans like to drink Ayahuasca in caves – they can drink Ayahuasca during the day, and strong energy is often accumulated there. Anyway, the place where you consume Ayahuasca must be clean and energetically protected. Besides that, shamans also create special energy protection.
They should be able to create such protection anywhere, but this is difficult in energetically negative or unclean environments, and they must invest lots of their own energy into the creation of special energy shields and networks. Because shamans want to direct their attention to the patient during the ritual and not on repelling negative energy, they strongly prefer really clean places. During Ayahuasca rituals, we are spoken to by the Earth on which we lay, the trees around us, and we feel every rock and landscape that surrounds us… we become extremely sensitive against the energy of objects whose emission we wouldn’t have noted before. Sometimes such sensitivity can grow into a level of direct psychometrics – i.e. the ability to “see” the history of objects we touch. Ayahuasca activates unbelievable abilities in us.
You hold a coin, and you can see pictures of all the people who have held it before you. If you want, you can see past lives of these people. You feel like a metal that has rested for millions of years deep in the ground, and you sense the “feelings” of this metal when it was melted and transformed into the coin… Simply, Ayahuasca shows you that there are no borders. No borders. You suddenly see that there is only one consciousness – and everything, including yourself, is part of it. You take it as the most evident matter and wonder how you could forget. Ayahuasca is tutor of ALL – but most of ALL, of responsibility. You suddenly know that if you hurt someone, you hurt yourself.
If we want to allow Ayahuasca to really awaken our clairvoyance – literally to awaken our mind – we have to approach it with huge respect and devotion. Not to worship it as some God – that’s not respect but ridiculation of this cosmic tool. Ayahuasca is not God. It is intelligence or more exactly said – a freeing intelligent PROGRAM. Even computer programs can be used in many ways. But it is you who use it. Some people after consumption of Ayahuasca see scary creatures or threatening masses of energy. They see what they are supposed to see at that moment. They see themselves, what contaminates their mind and biofield. During the ritual – commonly with the help of a shaman – they get rid of these creatures and visions. Afterward, totally different visions can follow – one reaches “heaven.”
Because the heaven represents our cleanliness. Shamans say that every Ayahuasca ritual is something like “trial” death. They say that what we experience during the Ayahuasca state is very similar to what we experience after we die. If a person doesn’t purge from his burdens, he experiences unpleasant things and is “captured” in dark and gloomy dimensions. Nobody punishes him; according to the shamans, the universe never punishes anyone… But a person stays in these dimensions alone. When a person transforms themselves – changes own standpoints and energy structures – they can proceed further. They come to the light, become inhabitant of empire of indescribable pleasure and real absolute love. And the same often happens during Ayahuasca rituals. Shamans in this case can also help the given person to get rid of his burdens faster.
Thus, a person cleaned by the work of a shaman can after physical death proceed directly “above” to the vicinity of the absolute, into the world of understanding. If, according to shamans, a person wasn’t cleaned by means of Ayahuasca during their life, they are “too heavy” after physical death and “won’t get high.” Anyway, Ayahuasca ceremonies shouldn’t be understood only as preparation for death. Also during physical life, one can live in “various worlds.” If one gets rid of their blocks and burdens through Ayahuasca ritual, they are transferred to a different, much better world during their life.