It’s always difficult to speak of the world of spirits as a reality—the cultural leap is gigantic. I like Romuald Leterrier’s concept best of all: the visions of spirits are the linguistic bridge between plants and humans. Which is to say that we don’t necessarily see them in their own forms; it’s simply that they manifest that way because we are humans, in the same way that a plant imitates perfectly the posterior of a female bumblebee so that the male will fertilize her and thus pollinate the plant. Perhaps jaguars crunching ayahuasca see the spirits of the plants in the form of a beautiful female jaguar and the powerful demons as human hunters?

Each teaching plant has its spirit and its world. I’m not going to list them, but I will speak of the recurrent ways in which we can see the world of spirits in an inner vision. In general they are pictures that can have some depth or they can be flat. And they are in movement. The world of spirits moves slowly. Spirits appear to you. They can present themselves or present their worlds (towns, hospitals, nature), or they can take you on a journey to the stars. You may be able to watch one scene after another as in a cinema; in this case, the spirits are not looking at or paying attention to you. You can see them in human form, animal form, or a mixture. Note especially that the same spirit can manifest in various forms. A spirit can be a kind of totem slowly beating feather-covered wings. Or yet again you can be in the presence of helmeted samurai or the chaiconis (the plates of armor are feathers or motifs). Or you can see the spirits of plants from your diet or ones that the curandero calls.

In general, the corresponding state is very gentle. During the encounter you feel light, vibrant, airy. Your breathing takes place in little puffs, and the air seems perfumed. The ending of the encounter will set in motion a transmission of knowledge or a treatment. If the encounter is deep, the continuation of the journey will be more turbulent!

Remember, the further you move up, the further you will come back down! If it’s not during the same journey, it will happen the following day and the following year.

Pablo Amaringo
“Los Grados del Curandero” – By Pablo Amaringo

Nonterrestrial Spiritual Worlds

After the religions come the extraterrestrials. You’re frowning? Okay, once again, apologies for losing the little bit of credibility I might still have with some readers. In spite of that I have to continue. During the ceremonies it can be that you will find yourself in relationship with visions that seem extraterrestrial. I remind you that if you are in the presence of high technology in your visions, it could be because of your own language (the plant speaks to you that way because you are a technology freak, or a science-fiction devotee), or because of certain spirits in the worlds of the medicina who have technology, or because of spirits or beings from other dimensions or coming from nonterrestrial spaces—thus, extraterrestrials. Let’s talk about it that way, as visions that might be extraterrestrial. And, once again, remember that some of them are healers and teachers, but others are less well intentioned.

In concluding and in giving my opinion on the subject, if I think of these visions today, so real and so incredible, it’s because I’m writing this paragraph; otherwise, they are never present when I take ayahuasca, nor in my life, nor in my everyday discussions or thoughts. I have personally had very few contacts of this type, and when I have it’s always been with Kestenbetsa. In the book Visions: regards sur le chamanisme he speaks for example of the “regulators,” beings who don’t have, or no longer have, a home world and who travel through the cosmos to balance planetary forces. For me, this is a beautiful, poetic reality.

Be forewarned then, for you too can brush up lightly against the energy of the great creator-regulator of the whole system of reality beyond time, space, matter, and energy. Watch that you don’t grasp at your thought and thus lose your footing.

Outer Visions

Visions external to you belong to the world of the healer and the apprentice, but if you have them, that doesn’t mean you are one! It just means you can see it. In general, they happen with a very strong intoxication. At the beginning you think that you’re going to die; fear of a new, unknown state appears with the vibration of your body under the skin. There can be a high-pitched, whistling sound in the mind that becomes very strongly concentrated, driving thought out of consciousness and driving out the perception of your organs—as if you were becoming translucent, as if you were being passed through a slow scanner that leaves you naked. There you are, the nausea just behind the lips, and your vision moves all of a sudden to the outside, while the state is maintained. You need to remain calm in this state, which of course takes years and requires long diets.

Forms, thoughts, and energies emerge from other people, dark or luminous. They arrive and are suspended in the maloca. The maloca can become a temple that is covered by motifs. The healer seems to be on a seat, face and body covered in motifs.

If the healer is doing a treatment, one or several medicine spirits position themselves alongside. Motifs can descend from the mouth of the spirit onto the top of the healer’s skull; the song of the curandero can be seen as a vision. For example, a great, colored serpent comes out of the healer’s mouth and begins to cleanse the body of the patient. Or the motifs come and place themselves on the shoulders of the patient, or yet again the patient is in a sphere in which birds are flying around. Or, more frightening, the song of the healer sends out terrifying bumblebees and big flies that buzz around the patient. The most terrible is seeing the death mask or demonic forms emerge from the patient and circle around until the healer is able to drive them away. Everything depends on the healer’s work and, of course, on the patient. If I’m telling you all this it’s because if it happens to you, you can quite quickly fall into a hole. We are really very ill prepared for this type of experience. So, move through it and don’t think about it too much the next day.

Ah! I almost forgot the big songs for the group. You can also see, for example, the roof of the maloca dancing in the form of slow waves made up of bats harmoniously nestling together and moving with the song. In the end, they move aside, making room for great luminous modules, a kind of module of white energy that descends from the sky to form a dome. In esoteric language, we say that it’s the opening of the low astral in order to bring down the high astral. In terms of the medicina, we say that it’s the call to protection space before treating the patients. Understand that it’s difficult for me to define that with our words and our knowledge.

ayahuasca visions gone

As soon as I have a vision, it disappears right away. Why?

In general, a vision disappears because it has been grabbed by a thought, this happens often at the beginning. The process is simple. You have a strong vision. Your mind reacts. Thought jumps in, “Hey! Wow! I’m having a vision!” Your body tenses instinctively. The vision disappears. It seems that, except with a strong intoxication, either you’re thinking or you’re having visions. What’s needed then is to be in a meditative state and to try not to seize your vision with the thought right away. You need to concentrate on breathing, a quiet state of perceiving the body as a whole, thus limiting the hold that thought has on the overall consciousness of the self. Stay on your slow automatic description of the event.

I see a serpent that wants to swallow me. Help! What should I do?

All is well! Let it happen. Healers say that if a serpent shows up and if your mouth really opens, it’s the spirit of ayahuasca that wants to enter into you. You will feel it descend and coil up in your stomach. (I can share with you that this happened to me on my third ceremony with Guillermo.) If the serpent swallows you, a variation is that it’s a possible journey: the serpent becomes the vehicle, you enter its stomach, and visions start to unfold.

I see incredible things. What should I do with that?

The hardest thing: don’t try to theorize, you’ll just tire yourself out. Conceptualizing all of life’s experiences is our apprenticeship mode, so it’s normal that this kind of thought will rush to the surface. Thoughts about the trees that surround you, nature, yourself, life—in short, thoughts directed in the morning toward the material world. Try to be in the felt sense. Only emotions and sensations remain connected to the experience. If this is really important to you, take brief notes before going to bed or on waking up—a memo that will serve as a link for you to each experience. After several ceremonies memories of the first ones can begin to fade; simple notes will allow you to think about it again much later, when you are back in your own world.

ayahuasca visions plant

The plant seems to be speaking to me. Should I listen?

Yes, but be careful, it is sometimes difficult to be discerning. For example, if the plant says to you, “You must live here with us,” don’t make any decision; let a few months go by in order to reflect about these messages. If the plant says to you, “You are turning into a great healer, you need to learn,” be careful also, because sometimes your ego is going to transform a message that should have been, “Your relationship with the plants is good, you can advance more deeply in this medicine.” In this case too you have lots of time to think about it. Always remember that these are plants of power and that they have their own intentions. The objective is to come to agreement in a relationship that balances the two parts for the good of the whole.

You need to know that it is a good and positive thing to work for the vegetable kingdom in exchange. Cultivate, plant, protect, and communicate. And that can be done with ayahuasca’s cousins—radishes and tomatoes. You can think of several such types of activity. You need to beware of prophetic or pseudoreligious desires; on the other hand, it is good to work with an NGO (nongovernmental organization), a community, or to spearhead an initiative, even in our world, to slow down the massacre of the Earth by modern agriculture. In short, nothing esoteric, just practical things! Remember also that it’s the indigenous world that maintains a connection to this knowledge and that our culture tears that connection down a little more every day. See what you can do if the desire is there. Otherwise, you came for a treatment, you paid for it, and therefore the exchange is complete. No problem; that may be enough for you.

Sometimes, with a very strong intoxication, you experience an account of what you have done as an individual for the Earth and for the ecosystem. These accounts are given to you for yourself.

A very beautiful spirit wants to enter into me. Call for help?

Be careful, it’s not because he’s beautiful that you need to invite him. Stay neutral and don’t call upon the spirit but upon the medicina. Do that in a concentrated way and not precipitously. Ask him inwardly why he has come. Be wary of suggestions of making a pact. “I can give you power, strength, and such things.” In such a case, you are certainly with a cunning spirit in the pejorative sense of that term. Respond calmly, “I am not interested. You can return home. I am here for the medicina.

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Ayahuasca Visions The article is an excerpt by Jan Kounen, from Ayahuasca Visions: A Manuel for Therapeutic and Spiritual Journeys.
© 2014 Park Street Press with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions.
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Jan Kounen

Jan Kounen

Jan Kounen is an acclaimed filmmaker. He directed the blockbuster "Blueberry" (2004), which featured ayahuasca shamanism as a central motif. He is author of the book "Visionary Ayahuasca: A Manuel for Therapeutic and Spiritual Journeys".
Jan Kounen