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Beginnings

The study of psychedelics is often misunderstood and/or not taken seriously withing the academic community. However, as our social world changes around us, so do the drugs and their use. Attention is and must be given to new and old drugs because significance for their being is undeniably important. I would like to begin this community, my journal, with an article from Marlene Dobkin de Rios. A scholar and healer whom I find very influential.


ANTHROPOLOGY
OF CONSCIOUSNESS
SOCIETY FOR THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Copyright•O1993 American Anthropological Aoociation. All righo reserved.
Volume 4, Number 1 March 1993
Twenty-Five Years of Hallucinogenic Studies in Cross-Cultural
Perspective
Marlene Dobkin De Rios
University of California, Irvine
and California State University, Fullerton
At a recent meeting of the European Congress of Consciousness
Studies in Gottingen, Germany, I presented a talk focusing on my
research on hallucinogens over the last 25 years. The substance of
the talk is presented in the following pages in the hopes that certain
areas of research that I have pursued and often published in a nonanthropological
literature may be of interest to the readers of this
newsletter.
When I was a graduate student in medical anthropology,
through serendipity, I found myself in the coast of Peru in 1967
studying traditional Mestizo folk healers who used a plant
hallucinogen, San Pedro (Trichocereus pachanoi), to treat
psychological and emotional disorders. Since that time, I returned
to Peru several times during the 1970s to work in the Peruvian
Amazon cities of Iquitos and Pucallpa, studying the use of ayahuasca
(various Banisteriopsis sps.) as they were incorporated into urban folk
healing.
Over the years, I have published three books and numerous
articles dealing with plant hallucinogens and culture. My first book,
Visionary Vine (1972), was my doctoral dissertation and chronicled
my work in the urban slum settlement of Belen, in Iquitos, where I
worked extensively with about 10 ayahuasca healers and their
patients. In 1970,1 worked at the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington, DC, as visiting scientist, to help prepare an exhibit on
"Man's Use d Drugs." At that time, I gathered data which was
eventually published in the report of the U.S. 2nd National
Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. This formed the basis
for my second book, Hallucinogens: Cross-cultural Perspectives (1984),
which is a theoretical attempt to understand the important role that
plant hallucinogens have played in human history and pre-history.
A recent book, Amazon Healer (1992a), examines the life and times
of one urban ayahuasca healer, don Hilde, in Pucallpa, Peru, where I
spent two periods of fieldwork in 1977 and 1978-9. As I studied folk
healers and psychological issues from the inception of my career, it
seemed logical to put this knowledge to use to serve others.
In 1982,1 began a second career as a psychotherapist,
returning to university for further training and becoming
fully licensed in California in 1988- I am now active in the
Department of Psychiatry at the University of California,
Irvine, to develop transcultural psychiatric curricula for
residency training and I work in hypnotherapy and pain
control at the teaching hospital.
In this article, I would like to highlight my findings in a
diverse number of disciplines. The areas that my research on
hallucinogens have touched upon include the following:
cultural evolutionary process, symbolic behavior, psychiatry/
psychology, ethnobotany, art history and prehistory,
parapsychology and postmodernism. 1 would like to
summarize and highlight the main findings within these
different areas. I suggest that hallucinogens have been always
viewed in human cultures as a two-edged sword. On the one
hand, they have been utilized by different societies over time
and space because of their perceived ability to access spiritual
realms. That is to say, if we change our body chemistry, we
can ascertain realms of being that are not ordinarily available
to most human beings. The obverse of this, of course, is
simply a "faulty wiring" hypothesis which argues that the
plant chemicals deceive and trick. In a Euroamerican
rational world, there is no spirit realm to access, so we are
merely left with tricks of the mind. The second major
finding that I have to report derives from a recent
publication in the Journal of Drug Issues (Grob and Dobkin
de Rios 1991) which examines the role of plant hallucinogens
as a tool, or psychotechnology (in the words of Charles Tart
1975), that allows tribal elders to manage the altered states of
consciousness of their adolescents through hypersuggestibility.
In this way, they can brainwash their youths in
the service of survival (see Dobkin de Rios 1992b).
Cultural Evolutionary Process
Anthropologists and archaeologists who work within a
paradigm of cultural evolution look at the vast array of
human societies in terms of the historic changes from simple
to complex structures, and they view culture as adaptation to
distinctive ecological niches. Such scholars distinguish
between specific and general evolution and see individual
societies in terms of their ability to survive in hostile
environments as well as the particular adaptations they must
make to do so. Over time, of course, societies tend to move
in the direction of more complexity. The model looks at
hunter-gatherers, incipient agriculturalists, intensive
agriculturalists, and the rise of the state. In a paper with Dr.
David E. Smith (1977), founder of the Haight Ashbury Free
Clinic in San Francisco, we argued that as societies become
more complex, access to drug-induced altered states of
consciousness has become part of sumptuary laws, as fewer
individuals were permitted entry to these states. This
contrasts with societies of hunters and gatherers, for example,
where, as Siskind (1973) found in a community of 80 people,
as many as 25 adult men might use ayahuasca twice a week or
more in ritual ceremonies. With the rise of ancient
civilizations where hallucinogens were employed, abrogation
of such drug access was no doubt related to the supposed
power of the hallucinogenic state and the "power" believed
to be conferred upon the user to control or harm others
through magical means or witchcraft. Thus, we see a
movement from exoteric rituals, open and accessible to all
adults, to esoteric rituals, much like the Eleusinian mysteries
written about by Wasson, Hofmann and Reuch et ai. in
ancient Greece (1977). Unauthorized drug use under these
circumstances may have become a crime against the
commonwealth. In a state level society, if a peasant shaman
were permitted to use drug plants and if beliefs existed that
such a person could bewitch a state administrator, legitimate
power would have been viewed as in jeopardy. Once
usurpation of hallucinogens by higher ranking segments of
society occurred, we find the quick demise of drug knowledge
predictable if there is culture change in the form of
conquest, colonialism or bureaucratization. Esoteric
knowledge did not diffuse to the folk level again from
whence it surely originated. As fewer and fewer individuals
were involved in the drug experiences, many of the beliefs
connected to such drug use were coded in the religious art of
these societies. With social change, these belief systems
disappeared and could only be retrieved in contemporary
times through an analysis of their art. For example, in my
work on the ancient Maya (1974), and with Emboden on the
ancient Egyptian (1981), we found that the common water
lily, Nymphae ampla and N. caerulea, was present respectively
in these civilizations, and this fact led us to suggest esoteric
drug rituals were practiced. Independent verification of the
hallucinogenic properties of the Maya water lily was made by
Diaz (1976), who analyzed the rhizomes via gas
chromatography. He found the presence of aporphine, an
opiate similar in structure to apomorphine. We argued that
the psychoactive properties of the Water lily merged well
with the high value placed by both societies on ecstatic states
as a vehicle to communication with supernatural forces. The
plant, in turn, played a major role in transformational
shamanic activities and in healing. The Mayan shaman,
priest and artist knew of the properties and these were also
known at the folk level in pre-Classic times. Among the
Maya, there are various mythic associations connected with
the water lily. They include death symbols and mythic
beings as the source of the plant, including a long-nosed
serpent or rain god. Other associations include the jaguar,
and anatomical sources associated with the water lily at the
top of the head, ears, eyes, mouth, hands and neck/nose
regions, which is suggestive of the psychoactive effects on
sensory modalities. There is also an association with a toad
(Bufo marinus) and reclining human figures.
Shape'shifting, or morphing—the transformation of
human beings into animals—is also found associated with
this plant drug, where shamans are metamorphosed into
animal familiars. This may symbolize the power source of the
individual who calls upon his animal familiar to do his
bidding. In ancient Egypt, we see similarities to the Maya,
based less on trans-Pacific contacts and more on the intrinsic
Marchl993 Hallucinogenic Studies in Cross-Cultural Perspective 3
properties of the hallucinogens and their production of
similar altered states of consciousness. Water lilies were a
decorative motif in ancient Egyptian civilizations, and as
early as 1828, Descourtilz reported that the water lilies of the
Antilles were narcotic and able to replace opium (cited in
Emboden and Dobkin de Rios 1981). Egyptian civilization
was highly stratified as was the Maya, and by the Fifth
Dynasty, temples were occupied exclusively by a priestly caste
with no access to worshippers or supplicants. Secondary cults
developed for the common man to venerate real or imagined
heroes and deities. A daily ritual on the part of temple
priests which was extremely uniform in divergent temples,
linked the king with Osiris whose death and resurrection is
symbolized in the blue water lily (lStymphae aurulea). There
is further symbolism of water lilies held by propitiates'
mouths as they approach the mortuary temples and the same
flower appears on unguent jars in the tombs of pharaohs.
There is one important papyrus of Ani in the Book of the
Dead, dated about 1500-350 B.C., with a magical shamanic
transformation scene in which Ani wishes to be transformed
into the blue water lily, the favorite of Ra, and an emanation
from his sacred person. Emboden provides many more
illustrations.
Symbolic Behavior
As the result of my research on cross-cultural
hallucinogenic use for the 2nd National Commission on
Marihuana and Drug Abuse, I found a series of universal
cultural themes linked to hallucinogenic ingestion in tribal
societies, including ancient civilizations like the Maya- It
may be that the action of indole hallucinogens on the human
central nervous system gives rise to a patterned series of
themes in one of the most personal human experiences—
namely the drug state. I will briefly review some of these
themes.
The first theme is the perception of time and
hallucinogenic drug use. As Eliade (1958) wrote, one of the
major characteristics of the sacred realm in traditional
religion deals with the way that human beings experience
time. The circularity and reversible elements of time, in
which an eternal mythical present exists, the so-called in illo
tempore, which is periodically reintegrated into the religious
rites of tribal peoples is one example- One of the foremost
characteristics of such hallucinogenic drug use entails the
perception of time which slows up almost to an imperceptible
flow, or else is experienced as indescribably fast (Ludwig
1969:13-14).
A second theme deals with that of animals who appear
to have played a vital role in teaching or revealing to human
beings the properties of the plant hallucinogens. Evidence
has grown that animals seek out psychotropic experiences
(Siegel 1989) and it is significant that several societies that
utilize plant hallucinogens have reported learning about drug
plants from deer, reindeer or wild boars in their environment.
Despite the apparent non-adaptive aspects of such animal
behavior, this is widespread. This may point out the
antiquity of hallucinogenic use in human society since
hunters and gatherers may have been the ones to observe
animal plant use most carefully and imitate this behavior.
Perhaps in some way this is implicated in the totemic
relationship between kinship groups and specific species of
plants qua plants.
Spiritual animation of hallucinogenic plants is another
theme of interest. Many tribal groups believe that animated
spirits of hallucinogenic plants exist which are said to be
either miniscule or gigantic in size. Barber (1970) has called
these micropsia, or macropsia, and in his opinion, they may
be related to a physiological phenomenon where pupillary
activity is altered in complex ways. We find reports of the
yage men (small people of the mushroom), tiny hekula spirits
and so on in various cultures.
A major relationship found in the research literature has
to do with animal familiars and plant hallucinogens where
shamans are transformed into their animal familiars, aided by
potions of hallucinogenic derivation. We see this
particularly in the New World, although Emboden and I
have argued for this among the Egyptians (1981). The
shaman is believed able to control and beckon a series of
familiars for his own personal use in curing or bewitching.
The concept of morphing, a phenomenon where one image
remains in the mind's eye while a second is superimposed
upon it, with the first then fading away, can be cited to
explain this common occurrence. Nonetheless, throughout
tribal societies, the importance of the animal familiar as an
empowering element cannot be underestimated.
A third theme of interest has to do with the role of
music and hallucinogenic use. Music is deemed by healers or
sorcerers to evoke stereotypic visions. The music, which is
generally of a percussive nature, may be viewed as necessary
for the individual to attain certain cultural goals, such as
seeing an individual responsible for bewitchment, to help in
healing, to foresee the future, etc. Sudden access to the
unconscious by means of hallucinogens, despite the aesthetic
and expressive dimensions, is a dangerous space for human
beings to enter. Psychodynamically oriented researchers
stress the emotional response to such entry in terms of
somatic stress registered by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,
tachycardia, and high blood pressure. The role of music,
with its implicit structure, may be to provide a substitute
psychic structure during periods of ego dissolution. Music
seems to have more functions than merely to create mood
within the drug setting. Given the change in ego structure
and the anxiety, fear and somatic discomfort attendant upon
unexpected access to unconscious materials, the shaman
guide also creates a corpus of music which Katz and I (1975)
have called the "jungle gym in consciousness," whose
intrinsic structure provides the drug user with a series of
paths and banisters to help him negotiate his way during the
actual experience. Shamans themselves claim that the music
created by their guidance provokes specific, highly valued
patterned drug visions, which permit their clients access to
particular supernatural entities, to view the source of
witchcraft, to permit contact with ancestor forces, etc. No
doubt synaesthesia is at work here as well.

Antecedent Variables
Biological
• body weight
• physical condition
• special dials
• sexual abstinence
Psychological
• set (motivation, altitudes)
• personality
• mood
• past experiences
Social- Interactional
• group/individual participants
• nature of the group
• ritual performance
• presence of a guide
Cultural
• encukuntion and shared symbolic system
• expectation of visionary content
• nonverbal adjuncts, such as music and pleasant odors
• belief systems
• values
Death and
resurrection is a fourth
theme also commonly
found in drug using
societies. This may be
connected to the
dissolution of ego
boundaries under drug
ingestion and the unitive
or mystical experience of
oneness, often symbolized
by means of the
death and resurrection
motif which can be
provoked under high
dosage levels of plant
hallucinogens. This
experience may be
culturally programmed by
shamanic activity in
traditional societies of
the world.
Finally, the last theme of interest is that of paranormal
phenomena and plant hallucinogens. While this is a near
universal theme linked to hallucinogenic plant use, we see
that the belief exists that these plants have power to bestow
divinatory success. There are no scientific paradigms that are
useful in this area but in my recent book, Amazon Healer
(1992a), I argue that the key element here is the belief that
patients hold about the prophetic powers of the healer, be
those beliefs true or not. These beliefs can facilitate
exceptional emotional states in the shaman's clientele and
thus can be marshalled by him in the "biology of hope" so
necessary in his treatment of the psychosomatic and
psychogenic illnesses provoked by interpersonal and
environmental stressors effecting his clients and his
enhancement of his clients' immune systems (see Cousins
1989).
Before leaving this area, and as introduction to the
implications of my research on psychiatry and psychology, I
would like to speak for a moment about the importance of
cultural variables such as belief systems, values, expectations
and attitudes as they contribute to the structuring of the
hallucinogenic experience. In 1975,1 published a paper,
"Man, Culture and Hallucinogens: An Overview," in which I
looked at antecedent variables as they determine the nature
of the drug effect. As the result of my cross-cultural research
for the U.S. Commission, I found that stereotypic visions
were common. The idea that drug-induced hallucinations
are culturally patterned may appear to be something of an
anomaly since in the West, we usually find idiosyncratic
reports (Ebin 1961). However, individuals who are reared in a
society where hallucinatory drugs have been used
traditionally, enter the drug experience with certain
expectations about the content and form of drug-induced
visionary experience. I have published data on the Siberian
Herdsmen of the Altaic Peninsula (Dobkin de Rios 1984a),
Consequent Variables
Effects of the Drug
for example, fynes
depersonalization,
psychological and
somatic chances
A Theory of Drug Effects
Table 1
Schema of Drug-Induced Visionary Experience
Mestizos and tribal
peoples of the Peruvian
Amazon (Dobkin de
Rios 1972,1984a), the
Kung Bushmen of the
Kalahari Desert
(Winkelman and
Dobkin de Rios 1989,
Dobkin de Rios 1984c,
1986), and the
Hopewell-Adena
Mound cultures of
North America
(Dobkin de Rios 1976),
to cite a few diverse
cultures. Table 1 is
useful in examining the
antecedent variables as
they interact with the
consequent relations of
the drug to help us
predict the drug effect.
Stereotypic visions as predicted in this Table may, indeed, be
related to the music created by the guide during the
hallucinogenic experience itself, when all these other
conditions are met.
Psychiatric/Psychological Implications
From a psychiatric point of view, we are looking at the
relationship of the individual to the social group. What I am
suggesting is that at a most private and personal level of
being—the hallucinogenic experience—cultural membership
determines the nature of the visionary experience.
Another area of interest is the ingestion of hallucinogens
as a means that adults have to manage young peoples' state of
consciousness for explicit societal goals. The hallucinogenic
experience is extremely unusual and out of the ordinary, in
that it is expressive in nature—almost theatrical. As I wrote
in 1977, there is an internal thespian flavor of the
hallucinogenic journey which can never be sensed by an
impartial observer. The drug has the power to evoke
expressive experiences equal in force and drama to the best
theatre available anywhere. However, the journey is
different from theatre, since the imbiber is actor, playwright,
costumer and make up artist, even musician. Fast moving,
brilliant kaleidoscope of colors, geometric forms, patterns,
and movement are among the most unique things that most
individuals see in normal waking consciousness. These arc
produced entirely from within the individual's psyche. The
shaman, however, is the stage manager, and through music,
chants, whistling or percussion strokes, he evokes patterned
visions that have specific cultural significance.
In a recent paper by Grob and myself (1991), we
examined the way in which hallucinogenic plants have
historically played a major role in the transformation of
addlescent boys and girls into fully participating members of
adult society. We look at the way in which legal constraints
Marchl993 hallucinogenic Studies in Cross-Cultural Perspective 5
on drug use in Euro-American society contrast with
ritualistic use of such plant drugs in traditional tribal societies
of the world. We were able to delineate the role of what we
call "managed altered states of consciousness," which are
arranged by tribal elders for their adolescents, both male and
female, as a culturally accepted, didactic device to prepare
these youth for new adult roles. We looked at group or
individual initiatory rituals at puberty among the Australian
Aborigines, the Tshogana Tsonga of Mozambique and the
Chumash Indians of Central California. Plant drugs utilized
include pituri (Duboisia hopwoodii), Datura fatuosa and
toloache (Datura metebides). In all cases, the hallucinogenic
plants were used to create hypersuggestible states of
consciousness so that the adolescents were socialized with a
fast-paced educational experience deemed necessary for their
survival. The psychedelic states heightened the youths'
learning and created a bonding among the cohort members
with the result that individual psychic needs would be
subsumed to the needs of the social group. The cohort
identity was fostered by the austerities and painful
consciousness changes of the rituals which included genital
mutilation, sleeplessness and beatings. We found a type of
aboriginal "boot camp," where a youth would share and
identify with his or her cohorts upon whom survival success
might often depend. The use of some hallucinogens like
pituri, containing scopolamine, created an amnesiac state
which heightened a death and rebirth experience, served
cultural goals of joining people together to be of one heart
and created an individual who dies in his role as a child only
to be reborn again as a fully participating adult member of
society. He or she can now procreate and be fully productive.
The hypersuggestibilty of the plants were very central to this
process. In the altered state of consciousness managed by
adult tutors, adolescent behavior patterns were framed by the
elders and the religious and secular values, and the emotional
patterns appropriate to the culture would be inculcated and
modeled for the youths by their elders. The use of
hallucinogens certainly is one way that a culture has
available to it to ensure conformity patterns in young people
that will contribute to group survival and harmony.
Fernandez (1982), discussing the Fang of Gabon, documents
the manner in which youth are given more and more of the
plant hallucinogen, Iboga, until they have the culturally
desired vision. Should this not occur, some youth have been
reported to die from overdoses if they do not measure up to
their culture's expectations of their ability to experience the
preternatural.
Simon (1990) in an article focusing on a mechanism for
social selection and successful altruism argues that human
docility and bounded rationality is implicated in the
evolutionary success of altruistic behavior. Docility—
receptivity to social influence—contributes greatly to fitness
in the human species. The use of plant hallucinogens to
create docility states in adolescents for the purpose of
maturity preparation is a powerful psychotechnology
implicitly utilized in tribal societies such as the three
mentioned above, and without doubt, many others in the
anthropologicarrecord.
Another area of interest to psychiatry and psychology
concerning the anthropological approach to hallucinogenic
drug use may be found in a series of issues raised above with
regard to death and resurrection and that relationship to
human sexuality. I have studied the art history of the ancient
Moche of Peru (ca. 800 A.D.) in the coastal region where
San Pedro is utilized in contemporary plant hallucinogenic
curing rituals (Dobkin de Rios 1977). This article produced
evidence of continuing plant use over millennia despite Inca,
Spanish and modern influences. A number of ceramic
vessels depict sexual themes with skeletal materials that are
difficult to interpret, although there is little doubt about the
use of plant hallucinogens such as San Pedro in the culture in
continuing curing rituals which access the supernatural
(Donnan 1976). The co-occurrence of themes dealing with
fecundity, death and sensuality appear at first blush to be
diametrically opposed, as death and reproduction seem to be
far apart. In a brilliant book, Bataille (1986) argues that all
forms of eroticism are the blending and fusion of separate
objects that lead up to death and through death to
continuity. I would point out here that one of the mystical
effects of the hallucinogenic state commonly reported upon is
the unitive experience, or what Freud has called the Oceanic
experience, which we can liken to Bataille's concept of
eroticism which in his words "opens the way to death."
Thus, the mystical experience confers upon us a sense of
continuity and this continuity links the individual with
everything that is. We could argue then, that death,
eroticism, and hallucinogenic experiences are existentially
connected in the continuity that they symbolize.
Finally, with regard to a modern anaesthesia, I would like
briefly to summarize work published in the 1970s with a team
from the University of California-Irvine Burn Center where 1
direct multicultural programs. For many years, ketamine has
been the anaesthesia of choice for debridement procedures
because it is a safe and efficacious drug that creates a
cataleptic anesthetic state with a state of muscular rigidity
and loss of willful movement. However, there is a 12-36%
adverse effect in patients who suffer distressing emergence
reactions characterized by agitation, vivid dreams,
hallucinations and bizarre impulsive behavior, particularly in
a post-operative setting. The head nurse and the Burn
Center Director realized that antecedent variables
interacting with the pharmacologic properties of the drug
and took measures to control the patient's reaction to
ketamine hallucinogens by instituting measures to make the
drug experience less frightening or psychologically damaging
(see Martinez, Achauer and Dobkin de Rios 1985). Patients
were prepared for the experience by the nurses and
physicians, who gave them unstructured informal discussions
of the procedure and reiterated the likelihood that positive
thoughts on the part of patients would result in pleasant
experiences for them. Patients placed more credence in the
advice of the physicians than the nurses with regard to
expected Outcomes of their ketamine experiences, without
doubt paralleling the shaman's power in tribal situations.
6 Anthropology of Consciousness 14(1)]
Ethnobotanical Findings
I have already discussed the independent verification of
the hallucinogenic properties of the Water lily among the
ancient Maya, which I published in 1974 and which was
independently verified by Diaz (1976) a few years later.
Working with Dr. Oscar Janiger, the Director of the
Hofmann Foundation in Los Angeles, we published several
papers on the hallucinogenic properties of tobacco (1973,
1976). In particular, harmala alkaloids—harman and
norharman—were isolated from cured commercial tobaccos
and its smoke; they are members of the chemical group, the
Beta carbolines, in which several closely related members
with similar pharmacological properties have been found to
be hallucinogenic. In the papers concerning tobacco, we
reviewed the material on American Indian use of tobacco
and in the words of one botanist we saw how "tobacco
literally knocked the Indians out." My most recent work on
don Hilde of Pucallpa (1992a) has included discussions of the
plant hallucinogens and other medicinal plants that this
prototypical folk healer utilizes in his practice. I estimate
that healers like don Hilde represent some 66% of the world's
healing, as most peoples have little or no access to
biomedicine. It continues to be important to understand the
role that such plant hallucinogens play in South America,
Africa and Asian healing contexts.
Postmodernism
A recent paper I just completed examines some areas of
contemporary drug use in Europe and the U.S., as part of the
new World Capitalism, where the economic model of human
beings as producers has been replaced with human beings as
consumers (Dobkin de Rios 1992b). In an another paper
(1992c), I examine drug tourism in the Amazon. From a
postmodernist perspective, I look at the commodification of a
drug-induced consciousness state. I focus on Cushman's
(1990) work on the "empty self of the post World War II
period, a self that is soothed and made cohesive by becoming
filled up by consuming food, consumer products and
experiences. This is historically critical, given the loss of
family, the significant absence of community tradition and
shared meanings that characterize the modern world. The
individual self in the West is on a never ending search for
self-actualization and growth and the resultant psychological
states such as low self-esteem, values confusion, drug abuse
(the compulsion to fill the emptiness with chemically
induced emotional experiences), and chronic consumerism
(the compulsion to fill the emptiness with the experience of
receiving something from the world).
I look at the relatively recent postmodern phenomenon
of drug consumerism where cognoscenti are toured in small
groups to the Peruvian or Brazilian Amazon with a tour guide
from Europe or the U.S. I have written about a phenomenon
that Seguin (1979) has labeled "charlatan psychiatry." There
is a long tradition in Peru and Latin America of nonauthentic
folk healers with malicious and fraudulent
intention who provide psychedelic plant drugs in ritual
settings for personal gain. Internal tourism in Peru has been
widespread over the years, with troubled men and women
traveling great distances to seek out healers who administer
potions made from powerful plant psychedelics to enable a
patient to have a vision that identifies the cause of their
illness, natural or witchcraft-derived. Drug tourism with
foreigners from other countries promoting special trips to the
Amazon can be dated from the early 1980s (see also Kraiick
1992).
Wasson, too, wrote about drug tourism in 1980 in his
work on a Mazatec shaman, Maria Sabina of Mexico,
deploring tour groups seeking magic mushrooms to ingest. In
my paper on drug tourism, I talk about the instant healers
who provide tourists with mixtures of 10 or more
hallucinogenic plants to help them become embedded in the
universe and to provide mystical experiences for them in a
way that has never been done traditionally. This is done
under the disguise of native shamans (read drug healers) who
are actually individuals of middle class urban background
who are erstwhile salesmen or vendors of some sort. Drug
tourism has become so flagrant since the mid-1980s that one
writer, Valadez (1986), in response to ads appearing in the
same issue of the magazine, Shaman's Drum, inviting readers
to take guided tours to remote villages of traditional peoples
or sacred places of power, argued that this is one of the most
deadly weapons that the Western world possesses to
contribute to the extinction of traditional peoples. The
Huichol Indians themselves are concerned over the
difficulties that tours now pose to their people who
pilgrimage to the peyote desert 300 miles away, now that the
Mexican government has cracked down on the Indians
because of the involvement that some Huichols have with
outside tour groups-
Using Cushman's model, the tourist to the Amazon may
be compelled to fill his empty self with the experience of
receiving something from the world in the form of a mystical
experience of oneness with the universe or access to native
spirits, particularly the jaguar. These are upscale tourists,
well-read, devouring a large popular literature on
psychedelics and ethnography, who are spurred on by
charismatic instigators to experience tribal drugs. Who
profits from this kind of mass tourism? In Pucallpa, bad drugs
have been driving out the traditional ones in the region and
individuals under 30 years of age had less knowledge and
personal experience of ayahuasca than those over 30 (Dobkin
de Rios 1981). Healers like don Hilde are being asked to treat
youth who exhibit antisocial behavior and engage in crack
cocaine abuse. While Amazonian ayahuasca plant use is
linked to a matrix dealing with the moraj order, with good
and evil, with animals and humans and health and illness,
this has little correspondence or sympathy with the
experiences of people in industrial society.
There is an evil, exploitative aspect of the drug tourism
that needs to be discussed. The new, so-called native healers
are drug dealers who provide an exotic setting and prepare
the tourist to have a supposed authentic personal experience.
A quotation from Laura Huxley's writing about her husband
Aldous is useful here. She was asked if he ever administered
Marchl993 hallucinogenic Studies in Cross-Cultural Perspective 7
LSD to a person other than herself or acted as a guide for
someone. She replied, "A guide becomes a person of great
power, like a warlock, a witch or a shaman. We always
thought that being a guide required a very high ethical sense
because of the ways one could take advantage of people"
(1991:3).
Conclusion
It is, of course, hard to summarize one's long term
research activities in a few pages, and much of what I have
said here is schematic. However, in conclusion, I would say
that there are two major areas I find fascinating in all of this
research. The first is the refusal of Western scholars to
acknowledge the important role of plant hallucinogens in
human history and expressive behavior. In my studies of the
ancient Maya, I was reprimanded by scholars such as J. Eric
Thompson that "their Maya" would not take drugs. Years
after my publications in this area, major archaeological
findings show that the water lily was utilized in a complicated
agricultural mulching system that supported large populations
among the Maya. Yet, no acknowledgement of the drug
properties of the plant are accorded by working scholars,
even in light of evidence to the contrary. Hallucinophobic
Westerners see in the hallucinogens the forbidden and
irrational. Yet in tribal societies, access to supernatural
power and the unitive experience was highly valued.
Psychedelic plants were used to enhance perception and
intuition and played an important role in healing. The
second area is the enormous potential of these plants to
create hypersuggestible states that can be used to control
youth while contributing to the survivability of the social
order (Dobkin de Rios 1992b).
There are many issues that I have not touched upon for
lack of space, including the role of women in hallucinogenic
ingestion and shamanism, the role of such substances in
recreational and self-development activities for Westerners,
and their important role in psychiatry. Nonetheless, I do feel
privileged that I have been able to participate in
understanding a complex and compelling area of human
behavior.
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