Hallucinogens And Archetypes

In the preceding chapter it was suggested that visions of jaguars, anaconda snakes, and the like are expectable images in a tropical forest setting. After all, one would hardly expect psychedelic visitations from Asian tigers or African lions among the Tukano; they would be even less likely here than in the urban slums of Amazonian Peru, where healers called ayahuasqueros employ the "vine of the souls" in the psychotherapeutic curing of super-naturally caused illnesses, especially those associated with witchcraft. Such emotional or psychosomatic maladies are a common complaint among the culturally and economically uprooted and psychologically disoriented Indians who have left, or been displaced from, their traditional lifeway in the forest (cf. Marlene Dobkin de Rios, The Visionary Vine: Psychedelic Healing in the Peruvian Amazon [1972]).

There is nevertheless a distinct possibility that harmaline and other alkaloids are biochemically involved in the formation of what Jung called archetypes, and that to this category belong big cats of whatever species happen to be familiar to the individual. Claudio Naranjo makes precisely that case in The Healing Journey and some of his previous writings. As it happens, such a thesis, which has a psychological as well as biochemical basis, is not inconsistent with what has been written by Harner, Reichel-Dolmatoff, Koch-Grunberg, and others about the effects of harmala alkaloids on the Indians, by Harner (1973) about his own experiences and yaje as a transcultural phenomenon, and by Naranjo himself about non-Indian subjects in experimental settings. All this is obviously important enough, not alone in the specific context of Banisteriopsis, to warrant some consideration here.

Harner (1973:154-194), lists the following common themes in the yaje experiences that have been collected over the years from Indian informants in different parts of Amazonia:

(1) The soul is felt to separate from the physical body and to make a trip, often with the sensation of flight.

(2) Visions of jaguars and snakes, and to a much lesser extent, other predatory animals.

(3) A sense of contact with the supernatural, whether with demons, or in the case of missionized Indians, also with God, and Heaven and Hell.

(4) Visions of distant persons, "cities" and landscapes, typically interpreted by the Indians as visions of distant reality, i.e. as clairvoyance.

(5) The sensation of seeing the detailed enactment of recent unsolved crimes, particularly homicide and theft, i.e., the experience of believing one is capable of divination.*

* This sensation explains why one of the harmala alkaloids of Banisteriopsis caapi was originally called "telepathine."

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