Saturday, September 6, 2008

Meeting God on Ibogaine

When I lived in Los Angeles for a couple of years, my favorite counter-cultural rag was The L.A. Weekly which borrowed the style and format of NY's Village Voice. This rag had the edge of leftist journalism with tons of ads touting the west coast music scene and hip youth-oriented shops, with the obligatory escort services and skin trade crap.

Way back in 2003, The L.A. Weekly published an article by Daniel Pinchbeck, the author of "Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey Into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism". I know this was a while ago, but this was an article with a decidedly spiritual bent that I felt was important to share.

Daniel Pinchbeck reminds me of John C. Lilly, inventor of the isolation tank and author of one of my favorite psychedelic spiritual accounts, "The Center of the Cyclone". Lilly took pharmaceutical grade (99% pure) LSD and went into his tank for hours to have profound metaphysical experiences as a self-proclaimed "psychonaut".

Pinchbeck sought out the ibogaine experience, traveling to Gabon, Africa to participate in the sacred native Bwiti initiation ceremony that uses a huge dose of raw botanical iboga root to induce a psychogenic hallucinatory state.

Pinchbeck writes: "It was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, experiences of my life. I had heard the substance described as "10 years of psychoanalysis in a single night," but of course, I did not believe it. As the African tribesmen played deafening drums and sang around me until dawn, I lay on the temple's concrete floor and journeyed back through the entire course of my past up to that point, witnessing forgotten scenes from childhood. The experience lasted more than 20 hours. At one point, I was shown my habitual overuse of alcohol and the effect it was having on my relationships, my writing and my psyche. When I returned to the U.S., I steadily reduced my drinking to a fraction of its previous level — an adjustment that seems to be permanent."

Years later, he traveled to Mexico for his second ibogaine experience, but this time something unexpected happened. As described by many others, he had an encounter with "the spirit of Iboga" in the form of a Black man.

"I saw a black man in a 1940s-looking suit. He was holding the hand of a 5-year-old girl and leading her up some stairs. I understood that the girl in the vision was me, and the man represented the spirit of iboga. He was going to show me around his castle."

He asked this man many questions about his life, what he saw during his experience, and the spirit voice resonated in his head with emphatic and succinct statements, like shouted exhortations. He was taken on a spiritual journey and met God or Buddha or Mohammed. The spirit told him he had once taken human form -- "ALREADY DID THAT!"

I want to admit that I have never taken ibogaine. Not that there wasn't an opportunity to do so; there were many. I have never had any addictions nor any destabilizing traumas that inflicted deep psychological wounds needing to be healed. No, I simply befriended Howard and Norma Lotsof at NYU in the 1970s and saw an opportunity to help Howard and, in so doing, help others as well. So, I've set the record straight. I am an observer, not a participant, when it comes to the ibogaine experience. I hope you feel this does not invalidate my wanting to write about and promote the use of a psychedelic substance that has the power to liberate people from themselves, their own inner demons.

I urge you to read Daniel Pinchbeck's article, "Turn On, Meet God, Get Straight". It's one heck of a ride well worth taking.

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