• Corina Ray Bogart

Complementary Contradictions: Paradoxical Implications of Globalized Ayahuasca

As the ayahuasca industry grows and strives for legitimization as a viable therapeutic resource in Western societies, the world ayahuasca diaspora reveals itself as a highly charged interplay of paradoxical variables, where the factors facilitating the spread of ayahuasca also degenerate and hinder its potency. Within the dualistic dance of Amazonian and Western cosmological confluences, larger societal patterns of sexual abuse, environmental and indigenous exploitation, Western ideological hegemony, and commodification are revealed as deeper issues of humanity to be addressed and thereby reconciled.

Since the early colonial period, ayahuasca has been traditionally utilized by Amerindian people for hunting, sorcery, to attract love, cure numerous ailments, and communicate with the spirit world. Today, the psychedelic tea composed of the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and most often the chacruna shrub (Psychotria viridis), is renowned for inducing visions of spiritual and religious splendor, while healing a myriad of physical and psychological wounds (Brabec de Mori, 2011; Luna, 1986; Bustos, 2008). With the advent of curanderos (healers) traveling abroad, the expansion of Brazilian ayahuasca religions, and the interaction of Western influences, the use of ayahuasca for personal exploration, religious praxis, physical and emotional healing has proliferated worldwide (Labate & Cavnar, 2014; Gow, 1996). The Western paradigm of post-modern scientism gave rise to the contrasting New Age values of environmentalism, aversion to industrialism, anti-consumerism, and the quest for mystical reconnection. Capitalism provides a means for individuals to encounter ayahuasca-induced holistic healing, transformation, and knowledge by traveling to Amazonia, or participating in a Western ayahuasca ceremony. Yet, the capital-machine by which the contemporary world operates devours the very cure the Westerner seeks to rectify modernity’s unbridled consumption. The fetishization of indigeneity, post-colonial hegemony, and imbalanced economic prosperity have aided in the worldwide expansion of ayahuasca while simultaneously degrading the very cultures and ecosystems the ayahuasca economy relies upon. As the ayahuasca industry grows and strives for legitimization as a viable therapeutic resource in Western societies, the world ayahuasca diaspora reveals itself as a highly charged interplay of paradoxical variables, where the factors facilitating the spread of ayahuasca also degenerate and hinder its potency. Within the dualistic dance of Amazonian and Western cosmological confluences, larger societal patterns of sexual abuse, environmental and indigenous exploitation, Western ideological hegemony, and commodification are revealed as deeper issues of humanity to be addressed and thereby reconciled.

The phenomenon of capitalism is built upon a long exploitive history of colonial power relations that contributed to hierarchical Eurocentric knowledge systems. The positivist science-based economy extracts its wealth, and thereby power, by manipulating indigenous peoples, the poor, minorities, and the natural world. According to French philosopher Charbonnier (2013), scientific and technological innovations, colonialism, politics, and the evolution of the individualized Western self are considered seeds of global capitalism. Through the technological and philosophical revolutions of the Enlightenment, the subjective self succumbed to moral and spiritual restructuring within a perpetually objectified reality. Values of self-reliance arising in the Protestant Reformation compounded with scientific objectification, solidified the ascendency of modern individualization and self-responsible independence. The Western ontological lens defined reality as existing without the subjective experience, the mind separate and superior from the body and spirit (Taylor, 1989). The inability to perceive the basic unity of organism and environment, coupled with the rejection of the mystical experience, creates a dangerous alienation between humans and nature (Watts, 1968). Therefore, perceived objects of the world, including the Earth, biota, and human beings, are rendered available for industrious utilization, creating a perilous tension between humanity, economics, and the commodified cycles of nature.

The constraints on individual behavior inherent in a balanced relationship with the natural world were liberated by the Industrial Revolution, cementing the ascendency of humanity’s instrumental conquest over a mechanized universe (Charbonnier, 2013; Taylor, 1989; Watts, 1968). Accordingly, the trinity of time, labor, and capital are conserved through bypassing stewardship for nature and the workforce. Wealth is then accumulated by the depletion and degradation of natural resources, the exploitation of human labor, culture, and knowledge (Bromley, 2019). Thus, the evolution of capitalism has selected a hierarchical structure of “money managers” that profoundly control the lives of millions, determining who has personhood, and what constitutes as valuable (Bromley, 2019, p. 1), leaving modern society dependent on a system of never-ending production that is destroying the environment and eroding humanity’s primordial connection to spirit.

Centuries of participating in an extraction economy has left the West shrink-wrapped and individually packaged: commodification affects nearly every aspect of the Westerner’s life from healthcare to education, shelter to transportation, and nourishment to spirituality. There is a contemporary sense of urgency gaining momentum to address destructive consumption and its myriad of consequences such as climate change, mass extinction, racial inequality, poverty, human rights violations, and the hollowness of an atrophied spirituality in a highly secularized state. The New Age subculture’s search for alternative healing comes from an earnest effort to rectify the “self-destroying course of industrial civilization” (Watts, p. 81). Nevertheless, the very action of Westerners soliciting a cure to the dire contemporary predicament aggravates the concurrent problems being addressed. The phenomenon of ayahuasca globalization elucidates the unsustainable and exploitative patterns of commodification and its unintended consequences. Nearly every aspect of the ayahuasca experience has become commodified: the ceremonies, teachings and trainings, the plants and admixtures of the brew, paraphernalia such as mapacho (Amazonian tobacco), rapé (tobacco snuff), agua de florida (flower water), chacapas (rattles), smudges, visionary artwork, indigenous textiles and beadwork, and even seemingly unrelated activities catered to tourists such as bird-watching, hiking, and sightseeing that are included in South American tourist adventures. Various additional indigenous medicine traditions, such as san pedro, peyote, or kambo ceremonies, are combined and sold as prepackaged ayahuasca experiences (Peluso, 2017; Aya Advisors, n.d.). Exoticized and advertised as an “ancient” and “magical” visionary medicine, ayahuasca gets a four-star Yelp review with the power to radically transform a person’s psyche and heal their emaciated relationship to nature.

The explosion of ayahuasca entrepreneurism fosters an environment for Western individuals to develop a relationship with the enigmatic medicine that has shown to facilitate profound healing and transformative experiences. On the one hand, the West’s loss of a spiritual connection to nature created a fecund environment for rediscovery: societal dissatisfaction with the status quo of instrumental scientism, ecological devastation, and spiritual deprivation provided the impetus for Westerners to embark on a quest for the radical, consciousness-altering medicine. The 1960s countercultural movement aroused the imagination of the seeker, the artist, the academic, and the spiritually impoverished with a vigor to venture into the unknown thick darkness of the jungle, drink the bitter visionary tea of the natives, and undergo profound metamorphosis under the powers of a “primeval” indigenous tradition (Homan, 2017; Taussig & Wilson, 2002; Peluso, 2017). Although the movement broke trail for contemporary seekers to embark on their own journeys of self-actualization, stimulated South American economics, and re-opened the Western mind to radical psychedelic transfiguration, the movement also delegitimized the use of psychoactive substances as a safe therapeutic modality, spurred a wave of neo-colonialism, and aided in further ecological destruction. The over-indulgent recreational use of psychedelics and tumultuous social upheaval contributed to the cause for the 1970s War on Drugs campaign, and the subsequent criminalization of entheogens as harmful Schedule I substances (Dyck, 2005).

The countercultural fetishization of indigeneity remains an exoticized image emblazoned onto the popular imagination (Peluso, 2017). Brabec de Mori (2011) proposes that Westerners continue to connect indigeneity with “old” and “ancient” with “precious.” Concurrently, the concept of “new” is negatively associated with “invented,” “constructed,” or “copied” (p. 27). The New Age perception that “old” equates “good” is a pendulum swing away from the modern glorification of novelty. However, placing indigeneity within a static box of tradition is a truncated and harmful understanding of cultural fluidity. When encountering an ancient tradition within contemporary temporality, one’s phenomenological experience remains situated in the modern epoch. The tradition may be thousands of years old, yet the expression of the praxis is undeniably embedded in modernity. Ergo, the obsession with “returning” to indigenous ways of life is a misguided attempt to summon the qualities of interbeing, ecological harmony, sustainability, compassion, and de-centralized self-conceptualizations that are deficient in the Western paradigm. In fact, today’s Amerindians, mestizos, and Westerners are not practicing an ancient form of Amazonian shamanism, but a contemporary manifestation of indigeneity that continues to evolve and hybridize within the globalized economic market.

The authenticity accredited to indigenous experiences can cause indigenous groups to embrace a language that promotes ayahuasca’s perception of antiquity, even when said groups have only recently learned to drink ayahuasca (Peluso, 2017). A vast quantity of what the West considers traditional in Amerindian contexts is, in actuality, a response to 16th-century colonialism (Heckenberger, 2005; Brabec de Mori, 2011). Circumstantial archeological evidence of ayahuasca’s pre-Columbian use is wrought with assumptions. The discovery of small ceramic vessels in Ecuador dating back to 2400 BCE is hypothesized to have held ayahuasca for ritualistic use without having artifacts alluding to the mixture’s presence. Although the evidence of the alkaloid harmine found in ancient Chilean mummies’ hair matches the harmine found in ayahuasca’s main ingredient Banisteriopsis caapi, harmine is also evident in botanical hair dyes within the region, and can additionally be found in many Amazonian florae (Brabec de Mori, 2011). Therefore, the archeological findings supporting thousands of years of ayahuasca consumption remain in the realm of theoretical ideas.

Through the delicate tracing of linguistic migration correlated to ayahuasca use in Peruvian Amerindian tribes, a comparative study of historical data from missionary and traveler reports, and an analyzation of specific icaro (ayahuasca song) structures, Brabec de Mori (2011) hypothesizes that the exposure to colonialist Christianity was in part, an impetus to indigenous forms of ayahuasca rituals. The uniform structure of the icaros from the Peruvian lowlands indicates a relatively recent introduction of the ceremonial music, whereas high variations in musicality between indigenous and mestizo groups would suggest a long period of time to facilitate the evolution. Brabec de Mori’s research arrived at “a number of indications that point towards a rather recent distribution of ayahuasca use in the south-western Amazon” by multi-ethnic missionary and rubber camps (p. 43). The establishment of Christianity throughout western Amazonia and the relocation of indigenous peoples provided the critical conditions for the expansion of ayahuasca shamanic practices (Homan, 2017; Brabec de Mori, 2011; Ott, 2011).

Christianity has also shaped the cosmologies of Brazilian ayahuasca religions that have largely contributed to legitimizing ayahuasca in Brazilian political, and Western scientific spheres. Santo Daime founder Mestre Irineu replaced the Amerindian shamanic power ethic with traditional Christian values of unconditional love and a veneration of Catholic holy saints (MacRae, 2004). The indigenous perception that ayahuasca is a tea connecting the imbiber to plant spirits was transformed into the Christian sacramental blood of Christ (MacRae, 2004; Labate & Assis, 2017). The hierarchical and rigorous restrictions of the Santo Daime churches, provided the evidence needed to overturn a short prohibition of ayahuasca use in Brazil, the largest predominately Catholic country in the world, and the second largest country of practicing Protestant Christians (Labate & Assis, 2017). A Brazilian research campaign reported that the members of Santo Daime lived orderly and according to accepted Christian societal values, establishing a sense of authenticity for the psychoactive brew by aligning the entheogen with the holiness of a sacrament, and the religion’s followers synonymous with the “civilized” Christian world. Compounded with ayahuasca’s lack of detrimental health effects, ayahuasca has remained legal in Brazil, and continues to uphold religious exemptions, and blurred lines of legality in several countries across the globe (MacRae, 2004; van den Plas, 2011; Hanegraaff, 2011). According to Labate & Assis (2017), Santo Daime’s relationship to the Christian church and state has created “a paradigmatic example in national and international discussions over the medical and legal status of ritually used psychoactive drugs” (p. 57).

Perhaps Santo Daime’s forthright ties to Christian ideology has aided in its miscibility with transcontinental legality, more so than indigenous practices such as Peruvian vegetalismo where the cosmology may appear too “native,” “savage,” or un-Christian. Even in Peru, where ayahuasca is a legal substance, shamanic practices continue to be demonized: the Catholic church, evangelical groups, and municipal officials systematically condemn the practice of ayahuasca drinking (Peluso, 2017). Contrastingly, national and international tourist interest in the brew has prompted locals to perceive it as valuable (Peluso, 2017); therefore, ayahuasca entrepreneurism, instead of the church, has assisted in the acceptance of the medicine. Christianity contributes to the delegitimization of shamanic forms of ayahuasca culture although the initial advent of Christianity in Amazonia more than likely procured the Amerindian praxis of ayahuasca drinking, and imprinted the tradition with elements of Christianity. In the West, where Christian theology, Greek rationalism, and modern science compose the foundation of the Western mind, the role of altered states of consciousness is minimized as genuine and reliable sources of knowledge. America’s conservative Christian roots continue to condemn psychedelics as a demonic possession of the devil (Hanegraaff, 2011), and although the average American may not believe such egregious assertions, nevertheless, the stigma surrounding psychedelics remains an underlying hindrance to legalization policies and mainstream normalization.

The widespread idealizations of ayahuasca shamanism and its connection to an ensouled universe conflicts with the increasing reality that Amazonian biodiversity is being exploited. It is common for ayahuasca drinkers to report an awakening of ecological awareness, and a reconnection to the Earth (Suárez Alvarez, 2015), and ironically, many of those who are seeking a closer and harmonious connection to nature perpetuate the consumption of indigeneity, and the desecration of the environment. Gas consumption, heightened travel to remote environments, and increased development of rural areas all impact the biodiversity of the Amazon. Like any commodification, popularity of a product equates to an increased demand: the proliferation of ayahuasca use causes more consumption of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, therefore, aiding in the destruction of the very source of the medicine. Deforestation and a decreased population of Banisteriopsis caapi has been observed in correlation to both Brazilian ayahuasca religions and shamanic-based forms of ayahuasca harvesting.

ICEFLU, a branch of Santo Daime, has developed plantations of Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis to reduce the church’s dependence on the wild harvesting of ayahuasca ingredients. Notwithstanding, in spite of their reverence for the spirit of ayahuasca as the “Queen of the Forest,” it is still common for all manifestations of Santo Daime to enter the forest and harvest wild vines and the leaves required to produce the sacrament (MacRae, 2004). “As a result of the severe deforestation occurring in the region, and the growing demand for the ayahuasca ingredients, the gathering expeditions must now go increasingly further afield” (MacRae, 2004, p. 16-17). The phenomenon of overharvesting ayahuasca is synonymous with the ecological damage occurring across the South American continent, where extractive pressure is extremely intense, causing clear cutting of the vine where harvesting takes place ever deeper in the jungle (Suárez Alvarez, 2015).

Preferred ayahuasca vines take a minimum of five years to mature (Kilham, 2019), therefore, with the globalized ayahuasca market requiring an exponentially increasing quota of vine, mature ayahuasca is disappearing and younger vines are unsustainably harvested. Although it is growing difficult by the day to obtain wild grown Banisteriopsis caapi, the vine’s extinction is highly unlikely due to the plant’s ability to easily spread, the immensity of the Amazon rainforest preventing harvesters from penetrating its most difficult reaches, and the systematic planting that occurrs at retreat centers and by Santo Daime daimistas (Suárez Alvarez, 2015; MacRae, 2004). The tension inherent with an extractive economy is revealed through the rapid harvesting of old vine and young vine alike, exerting pressure on those who are economically dependent on ayahuasca to perpetually harvest more and more. The microcosm of ayahuasca entrepreneurship distinctly illustrates the commodification pattern that is observable in a plethora of other extractive industries (fossil fuels, timber, mining, factory farming, and fashion). When human beings commodify the natural world, greed perpetuates in the insatiable consumption of the environment and local communities, thereby proliferating the dynamics of inequality, ecological destruction, and human ascendancy over nature.

Modernity’s neo-colonialism systematically intensifies dynamics of inequality and extraction. Local people are disadvantaged in the competitive economic environment, and find it difficult to engage with the industry by modalities that do not compromise the integrity of their ayahuasca practices. The strain to remain authentic can be traced to the phenomenon of local curanderos working with tourists, traveling abroad, or due to an abundance of undertrained self-appointed curanderos who have not undergone the rigorous training to become effective healers (Peluso, 2017). Curanderos of all backgrounds, whether they be Amerindian, mestizo, or gringo, proliferate in response to the Western demand for ayahuasca, while the consumer-oriented landscape shapes the very expression of the medicine. This results in a sanitized variation of ayahuasca shamanism, stripped of all “negative” aspects, augmenting Amerindian cosmology to fit into the New Age’s ideology of healing modalities. It is more palatable for the average ayahuasca tourist to bypass an enema-administered ayahuasca ritual, or to disregard the perceived “darker” contexts of sorcery with its harmful virote (darts), and manipulative love rituals (Luna, 1986; Homan, 2017), and rewrite the Amerindian cosmology as timeless and uninfluenced by Christian ideology or the violent history of colonialism. The popularized image of the humble old medicine man blowing tobacco-laced prayers over the bitter brew is why the foreign neophyte has travelled great distances and spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Thus, the economic landscape caters to tourists: the shamans, ayahuasqueros, and curanderos who curate the sanitized and high-demand exoticized experiences are the ones who receive financial success, rather than providing less profitable medical care for local indigenous and mestizo patients (Peluso, 2017; Brabec de Mori, 2011). The commercial and visionary oriented use of ayahuasca substitutes the former system of pragmatic curing.

The Western dollar dictates the form of ayahuasca rituals and selects the cosmological components that are perpetuated, resulting in a capital-driven ceremony with subsequent white-washing and dilution of indigenous culture, while simultaneously stimulating local South American economies, improving infrastructure, and in some instances, strengthening or renewing ayahuasca traditions due to the heightened demand for ayahuasca (Homan, 2017). Capitalist ceremony can provide the opportunity for shamans to travel abroad in order to facilitate workshops and ceremonies, thereby increasing their income that can be funneled back into their communities, and invested into the creation of their own ayahuasca business ventures (Peluso, 2017).

Although the new influx of ayahuasca entrepreneurism has the potential to financially support local South American peoples and customs, ayahuasca entrepreneurism concurrently exacerbates relationships of power, control, and inequity, producing a form of neo-colonialism by favoring the Western client and entrepreneur over the host society. This economic advantage resting within the curation of shamanic tourism, creates the tendency for wealth to flow from the globalized south to the Western world. As ayahuasca entrepreneurship grows, economic prosperity increases unevenly across all sectors of society, maintaining detrimental colonial patterns of ascendancy that indigenous peoples and their lands have suffered for millennia. Correspondingly, the growth of the ayahuasca industry creates safety problems for its participants in the form of sexual assault and manipulation through the intersection of cultural differences, abuse of power, and deficiently trained curanderos to meet the industry’s needs (Peluso, 2017; Homan, 2017). A dangerous power dynamic arises when indigenous traditions are idealized and romanticized: revered as the keepers of sacred knowledge, shamans are inadvertently moralized and are unconsciously expected to act within the bounds of Western ethical codes (Homan, 2017; Peluso, 2014). Women are sexually abused by neo-shamans, mestizo, Amerindian curanderos, and leaders of Santo Daime churches alike (Peluso, 2014). From a broad Western, local, and indigenous perspective, sexual conduct during ayahuasca ceremonies is viewed as an egregious abuse of power, and unfortunately, as the popularity of ayahuasca ceremonies surge, sexual abuse also becomes more prevalent (Homan, 2017). Although the shaman or spiritual leader is highly idealized or respected, they can be individuals in need of healing as well, projecting their erotic fantasies on participants, manipulating client inebriation, or abusing relationships of trust through sexual misconduct (Peluso, 2014). Cultural misunderstandings, economic inequity, and obscene perversions contribute to the dangerous dynamic between healer and participant. The exploitation of power and responsibility to indulge in harmful sexual acts is not limited to local South American curanderos, but also occurs in the interactions between South American women and South American healers, as well as Western women and Western healers (Chacruna Institute, 2019).

As the Western mind enters states of open-receptivity, expanding their neuronal gateways of perception, serotonin floods into their brains and creates new neuronal pathways (Garcia-Romeu, Kersgaard, & Addy, 2016). Notwithstanding, the old ingrained patterns have a propensity to resist the change, elucidated in the Westerner’s attempt to control the process of transformation. Prompted by safety concerns, organizations like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) target their efforts toward the well-being of Western clientele rather than the Amazonian communities from where ayahuasca traditions originate. MAPS portrays themselves as being concerned with the local South American communities, yet financially benefit outsiders through certificate and training processes that legitimize those who can afford the service (Peluso, 2017). Therefore, the organizations filter indigenous cosmological components that are agreeable to the Western paradigm while favoring privileged Western neo-shamans who have the wealth to engage in the white-washed accreditation.

The pharmaceuticalization of ayahuasca’s compounds is yet another attempt to control the power of ayahuasca, to bridle her unyielding power for human manipulation. Erotic irony lies within the duality of yearning to return to a harmonious enchanted way of living and interacting with the world that has consequently resulted in the consumption of indigeneity, desecration of the environment, and perpetuation of colonial displays of domination. Thus, the modern’s pilgrimage takes conquest over the curative wild they pursue for healing. Shepard (2017) explicates the dynamic between ayahuasca and modernity’s spiritual instinct:

It is perhaps the very intensity of the cognitive, bodily, and spiritual disassociation produced by ayahuasca that calls so desperately to the structuring powers of ritual, ideology, and social control to impose order, provide meaning, and even extract advantage from the boiling foam of ecstasy. (p. xvii)

The extraordinary, complete sensory experience of drinking ayahuasca summons the narrowed vision of modern scientism to expand its ontological horizon, while simultaneously stimulating the paradigm’s mechanism for domestication. Fotiou (2020) notes “several psychological studies suggest that ‘inner,’ spiritual or mystical experiences can be scientifically studied.” From the positivist perspective springs rational reasoning to harness the essence of what makes ayahuasca a viable therapy (Labate, Rose, & Santos, 2009). Pharmacological reductionism distills the substance into its visionary alkaloids, stripping away the jungle, extracting the medicine from a situated Amazonian cosmology into a quantifiable pressed pill. The curative powers of pharmahuasca, the pharmaceutical version of ayahuasca, have no relation to the lineage of Amerindian curanderos, to the Amazon and its exponential environmental pressure, no ties to the bloody history of colonialism, or local communities who have lost medical care to the ayahuasca tourist industry. The profound healing qualities are thereby attributed to the constituent chemicals (Fotiou, 2020), whereas the indigenous use of ayahuasca specifically establishes a relationship between everyone involved in the experience: unseen entities, jungle animals, the plants, the stars, and the participants. A stark contrast is formed when envisioning the ingestion of a pill created by scientists in a sterile laboratory. The “medicization” of ayahuasca will render the substance more available to a wider Western population, but at the same time, medicization may develop diluted yet profitable forms of psychedelic-assisted treatments dictating the conditions, and populations who have access to the medicine (Noorani, 2020).

Calavia (2011) stated, “Ayahuasca, (is) a result of the interaction – and not just the sum – of two drugs” (p.). A vine and a shrub; two opposites work together in a way that profoundly augment human beings’ perceptions of reality. Through the interaction of complementary agents, tremendous dualities are revealed within the individual human psyche and broader societal contexts. Shepard (2017) proposes that the contemporary relationship with ayahuasca’s duality is perhaps a way of “having it both ways,” that society refrains from choosing tradition over modernity, the spiritual over the scientific, altruism over the narcissistic (p. xviii). In Shepard’s view, society attempts to hold the dichotomy all at once in a sort of noncommittal juggling of contradictions, aligning with one aspect whenever deemed to be beneficial. Conversely, the polarized ayahuasca phenomenon points to the very paradox of reality.

The chemical relationship between Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis acts as a bio-chemical dialectic, where the ayahuasca vine’s monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor harmine removes the physical barriers within the body to receive chacruna’s dimethyltryptamine (DMT) induced visions (Garcia-Romeu, Kersgaard, & Addy, 2016). The interplay of the medicine’s complementary chemicals creates technicolor visions of ecstatic heights and startlingly horrific visceral purges. It is within the intersection of light and dark, pleasure and pain, right and wrong, where ayahuasca unapologetically holds a mirror to humanity’s individual and collective truths. For example, the ayahuasca landscape attracts many participants in search of healing from sexual abuse who are, in turn, sexually abused in the ritual setting. Sexual perpetration is a profound global problem, where one in three women are sexual victims in their lifetime (World Health Organization, 2017). Therefore, the egregious sexual actions of certain South American and Western curanderos awakens the collective awareness to humanity’s relationship to femininity, sexuality, and supremacy by means of ayahuasca ceremony. The global expansion of ayahuasca creates a fertile milieu for individuals with incredibly variant epistemologies, histories, and experiences to encounter one another, creating a bricolage of intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and cultural systems ripe with contradictions (Peluso, 2014). The convergence of contrasts elucidates ayahuasca’s ability to amplify the contradictory nature of humanity; as C. G. Jung (1945) posited, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious” (p. 265). The uncomfortable confrontation with individual and societal detriments through the interplay of paradoxical patterns bestows humankind with an instrument of reflection to aid humanity in radical transformation.


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