Ayahuasca is a powerful tool for transformation, that more and more Westerners are flocking to drink in a quest for greater self-knowledge, healing and reconnection with the natural world. This formerly esoteric, little-known brew is now a growth industry. But why?
Ayahuasca is a psychoactive tea that has a long history of ritual use among indigenous groups of the Upper Amazon. Made from the ayahuasca vine and the leaves of a shrub, ayahuasca is associated with healing in collective ceremonies and in more intimate contexts, generally under the direction of specialist - an ayahuasquero. These are experienced practitioners who guide the ceremony and the "drinkers'" experience.
Ayahuasca has gained significant popularity these days in cities around the world. Ceremonies happen nightly and Hollywood stars, Wall Street players and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs now drink the brew. Why? What effect might ayahuasca be having on our culture? Could it be the LSD of our time? Does the brew, which seems to inspire environmental action, simplified lifestyles and more communitarian behaviour, act as an antidote to frenzied consumerist culture?
In When Plants Dream, Pinchbeck and Rokhlin explore the economic, social, political, cultural and environmental impact that ayahuasca is having on society. "Part One" covers the background; what ayahuasca is, where it is found, and its cultural origins. "Part Two" explores the role and practices of the ayahuasquero in both Amazonian and Western cultures. "Part Three" examines the medicinal plants of the Amazon, looking particularly at the ingredients in ayahuasca and their therapeutic qualities, covering the most up-to-date biomedical research, psychedelic science, and psychopharmacology. "Part Four" looks more closely at how ayahuasca is perceived and used today, covering law, the drug wars, media and money. Lastly, in "Part Five", Pinchbeck and Rokhlin question the future of ayahuasca.
When Plants Dream is the first book of its kind to look at the science and expanding culture of ayahuasca, from its historical use to its appropriation by the West and the impact it is having on cultures beyond the Amazon.
Change is going to come no matter what, so it behooves us to engage our imagination toward the kind of future we want. We need to go deep into what truly makes us happy. Pinchbeck is advocating nothing less than the need to embrace our responsibility for understanding what’s happening and play an active part in caring for the world. Even though the ecological data are frightening, he looks at the situation as an opportunity, as a kind of potential for global awakening, and an initiation that could shift humanity from its present self-involved, ego-based state to something more inclusive and transcendent.
He emphasizes the need for good ideas to be in place in this unfolding planetary crisis, and reminds us of Milton Friedman, who has said that when a crisis comes the ideas that get applied are the ones that are lying around. Pinchbeck says of emerging social structures, “If you look at the history of evolution, biologists talk about how cooperation is more successful than competition.” He also outlines many present models of cooperation and he feels that this time in our human history can serve as our initiation to the next level of consciousness: ecologically, socially, politically, and spiritually. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)