Introduction by Ralph Miller
Sometimes unrelated events occur in your life in clusters that cause you to notice something you would not otherwise really pay attention to.
Several weeks ago I saw the film Avatar with my children. To tell you the truth, the thing that impressed me the most was how the idea of connecting back to nature had been presented with the Na'vi's neural connection through their tails. The Na'vi could link to any other living thing on Pandora via this connection. I thought it surprising that this concept was thrust into mass consciousness so simply in such an exceedingly beautiful film. I have often returned to the film in my thoughts since seeing it.
Just recently I traveled to Brazil where I was invited to give a presentation about ayahuasca to a group of doctors and scientists. My lecture was well received.
Most of the delegates were from Germany and Switzerland and there were a few others from Brazil. There were some really interesting people, many of whom I am sure I will see again. But the best thing that happened on this short trip was a very heart-felt friendship that I made with two new Brazilian friends.
The morning after my lecture I was sitting at breakfast with one of my new friends whose name is Alvaro. He commented about what I had said in my lecture, about the way that ayahuasca connects us back to the natural world. Definitely one of my favorite subjects! The re-connection to the natural world is one of the fundamental lessons from this sacred ancient medicine. I have spoken and written about the need to re-connect to nature for years. (see The Natural World)
We talked for a while and at one point in the conversation he said, “You know, what you were talking about connecting to nature reminded me of the same concept that was presented in the film Avatar.”
Having seen the film a few weeks ago, I agreed with him, “Yes, in the film every living thing had a tail or some means of connecting to every other living thing. The connection was real and vital and natural, that’s the way ayahuasca is. Ayahuasca is like the Na'vi tail – it’s an interface.”
Upon my return home, after a few days had past, several things happened in quick succession all in one day. My friend Alvaro told me about his passion in creating some very special photo images and he sent me an image of orchid flowers that he had made. He described it as experimental photography and said it showed the energetic patterns within the plant.
The same day I noticed a marked increase in visitors to the heartoftheinitiate.com website and checked for the source of the increased traffic. I discovered pretty quickly that someone had put in a link to our website from the Avatar Forum … it was a pretty long post called, ‘Avatar, Eywa, and Ayahuasca healed my soul’. In the post there was a link back to our site referring to a specific page containing the shamanic music of our shaman Warinei Wanare.
Somewhere else on the forum was a link to an article called ‘Aya Avatar’ written by Erik Davis. I really liked Erik’s article.
I fired off quick emails to both Alvaro and Erik to ask if I could re-post their respective creative works and share them with our audience. I received an enthusiastic ‘yes’ from both of them within a few hours. So I am happy to share Alvaro’s beautiful image above and Erik’s insightful article below. I hope you enjoy them.
This all brought my awareness of the human-nature connection to a whole new level. The fact is we ARE connected! Nice how some things happen … What a system!
Update 02/03 - Deleted Scene!
My interest in the film Avatar was further piqued today as I read a portion of the film’s script that recently found its way to the internet. You can read it for yourself, but there were a number of deleted scenes from the final film.
This particular scene dealt with Jake Sulley’s avatar participating in a sacred visionary ceremony. According to the script, the ceremony using a ‘psychoactive alkaloid’ was an initiation and it was Jake Sulley’s intention to ‘become one of them’.
This is particularly interesting to me as the ceremony involved eating a special worm and then immediately being stung by a scorpion type insect. Apparently the visionary effects of the ceremony required two separate components.
Of course this mirrors exactly the pharmacology of ayahuasca. The psychoactive component from the chacruna bush of ayahuasca is dimethyl-tryptamine or DMT which is also identical to the human neurotransmitter produced in the pineal gland. DMT when ingested orally is destroyed by the digestive stomach enzyme monoamine-oxidase or MAO. However, the ayahuasca brew contains a 2nd plant called caapi, which contains strong but temporarily acting MAO inhibitors which allow the DMT to pass from the gut to the brain.
The mechanism of inhibiting MAO was not discovered by Western science until 1952. The discovery happened ‘by accident’ while researchers were attempting to develop a new drug for treating tuberculosis. Ayahuasca has been in use among indigenous tribes for over 3,000 years we know of. Incredibly, simple tribal shamans have incorporated this fairly sophisticated process millennia before its discovery in ‘modern’ science.
Talk about intelligence in nature!
Drink the Jungle Juice
by Erik Davis (www.techgnosis.com) January 7, 2010
In paradoxical and altogether predictable terms, James Cameron’s ravishing Avatar sets a blue man group of mystically attuned forest dwellers against the aggressive and heartless exploitation that characterizes the military-industrial-media complex, with its virtual interfaces, biotech chimeras, and cyborg war machines. The paradox, of course, is that a version of this latter complex is responsible for delivering Camaron’s visions to us in the first place. To wit: before a recent screening of the film at the Metreon IMAX theater in San Francisco, we hapless begoggled ones were barraged with military ads, not to mention a triumphant techno-fetishist breakdown on the Imax technology that would soon transport us to the planet Pandora almost as thoroughly (and resonantly) as the handicapped jarhead Jake jacks into his computer-generated avatar body.
But those are behind the scenes ironies. With its floating Roger Deanscapes and hallucinogenic flora, the manifest world of Avatar instead spoke another truth: that the jungle pantheism that now pervades the psychoactive counterculture has gone thoroughly mainstream. Of course, noble savage narratives of ecological balance and shamanic wisdom have been haunting the Rousseau-mapped outback of the western mind for centuries. That said, Avatar represents some important twists in that basic tale. The most important of these is that the Na’vi’s nearly telepathic understanding of their environment is grounded not only in ritual, plant-lore, and that earnest seriousness that now afflicts PC Hollywood Indians, but in an organic communications network: the fibrous, animated, and vaguely repulsive pony-tail tentacles that not only allow the Na’vi to form direct control links with animals but also, through the optical filaments of the “Tree of Souls,” to commune with both ancestors and the Eywa, the biological spirit of the planet whose name resonates with Erda, our own Earth.
Call it ayahuasca lite. For while Avatar features nothing like the South American shaman lore and stupendous aya visuals that litter the otherwise very bad 2004 Western released here as Renegade, the film does suggest that the bitter jungle brew, and ideas of ecological wisdom now attached to it, is having a trickle-down effect. The banisteriopsis caapi vine that gives ayahuasca its name (though not its most hallucinogenic alkaloids) is also known as the “Vine of Souls,” which echoes the Na’vi’s Tree of Souls. And when Sigourney Weaver attempts to establish the efficacy of the Trees through a neurological discourse of electrical connection, the corporate tool Parker asks what she’s been smoking—a backhanded way of acknowledging how much Avatar’s visionary take on ecological consciousness is grounded in psychoactive consciousness.
After all, beyond a thriving and in many ways damaging ayahuasca tourist market in Brazil and Peru, clandestine aya circles manned by South American shamans and all manner of Euro-American facilitators are are now well established throughout the west. Among the professional creative classes who make up a sizable portion of West Coast seekers—for spirit and/or thrills—ayahuasca could almost be said to be mainstream. So it no longer matters whether Cameron or his animators have themselves drunk the tea; its active compounds are already swimming in the cultural water supply. Eco-futuristic dreams are now indistinguishable from the visionary potential of media technology itself. Indeed, whether you are talking form (ground-breaking 3D animation) or content (cyber-hippie wetdream decor), Cameron’s visual and technological rhetoric is impossible to disentangle from hallucinogenic experience.
OK, maybe I am the one smoking something. But if there is an aya-Avatar connection, it would explain one crucial way in which the film differs from conventional “noble savage” mysticism. Rather than ground the Na’vi’s grooviness in their folklore or spiritual purity, the film instead presents the vision of a direct and material communications link with the plant mind. Which means that Eywa (aka Aya) does not have to be believed—she can be experienced. After the temporary fusion with the Tree of Souls that fails to prevent her death, Weaver’s chain-smoking left-brain doctor happily confirms Ewya’s existence. Like the Vine of Souls now wending its way through the developed world, the Tree of Souls becomes a kind of bio-mystical media, a visionary communications matrix that uplinks the souls of the dead and the network mind of the ecosphere itself.