Saturday, March 18, 2017

Zen as Fuck Part II: The Church of Ayahuasca

In Which Claire Briefly Considers the Healing Powers of Psychedelics

The other day I was watching an interview with English singer and songwriter Natasha Khan on YouTube, where she talks about relatively predictable subjects -- modern love, hitting her sexual peak in her thirties (ignore if you are past your thirties, and still feel you haven’t left it)...and drugs. Apparently all the “hip” people in entertainment are trying ayahuasca these days.

As she described traveling to the US for a Native American ayahuasca cleansing ceremony, my mind immediately jumped to the sweat lodge scene from the early seasons of The X Files. Somewhere, I was sure, whether it’s in an Indian sweat lodge or behind the military barbed wire surrounding Area 51, lie the answers to the haunting contradictions, conspiracies and questions of American existence -- from what happened to the Anasazi to the shooting of JFK. There is one person who might know the answers to these questions. He lurks in the shadows, smoking Morley cigarettes. “Cigarette Smoking Man” is Agent Mulder’s arch-nemesis, and mine.

"Cigarette Smoking Man" 

As a fictional character, whose identity is surrounded by conspiracy theories that aren’t even confirmed by the “official canon” of a fictional series, Cigarette Smoking Man embodies an important metaphorical character in my life. Simply put, he is every person, usually an older man, who has claimed to have access to some unique, hidden knowledge or truth. The reason I may not be able to see or remember this knowledge, myself, possibly results from past abduction and subjection to highly secretive medical experiments, by aliens and clandestine government agencies.

Cigarette Smoking Man understands Rule Numero Uno of Neurohacking: the subject wants to believe. The agile manipulator realizes that by exploiting human vanity, insecurity, gullibility and desire to be told what to do; you can achieve limitless power, wealth, or, on a more humble scale, fuck above your pay grade.

Cigarette Smoking Man is sui generis, sprung like Athena from head of Zeus. Unlike Athena; however, his wisdom is often false. He fiats his revelations out of nowhere, or borrows them, wholesale, from other sources, then re-packages them, via categorical statements, as universal truths. There is only ONE kind of truth, beauty, thing worth having in life, and he is going to tell you what it is. Depending on his ulterior motivation, “Cigarette Smoking Man” tells us various things about ourselves, but most often he conveys one message: You don’t measure up. Cigarette Smoking Man has an infallible nose for insecurity, and when that fails, his modus operandi is to take whatever advantages the subject might possess and turn them into a disadvantage.

Rule Numero Dos of Neurohacking: Define and become gatekeeper of The Standard. Then tell everybody else how they don’t measure up. Clever people, when confronted with standards that don’t favor their abilities or attributes, realize that it’s far easier to take control of the Standard than personally measure up to it, oneself. What more perfect revenge on one’s more talented or attractive peers than make them beg for your validation.

Rule Numero Trรจs of Neurohacking: The Standard must contain a hierarchy. No matter how high the subject can jump, remind them that there is yet another pinnacle they haven’t reached. This way, you can put them in their place, keep them on their toes or make them earn their way up to the next rung. For this sort of man, the beautiful female companion is an object to be possessed and her value, like that of the flashy sports car, resides chiefly in her ability to excite the jealousy of and demonstrate his dominance over other men.

Sometimes they meet the companions they deserve. These women (or better yet, gay men!) remind would be suitors:

“My last lover flew in from Europe for a date / sent me his private plane to pick me up / built me a replica of my family ancestral home / gifted me a lifetime annuity in a box of chocolates...I’m not immune to those little romantic gestures.” Unlike Lady Chatterly, they have standards: “I don’t fuck management consultants or Sales. Doctors or lawyers either.” In other words, The Help.

Rule Numero Quatro of Neurohacking: The Standard should sound quasi-rational, but in reality be a bit arbitrary. This way you can remain in control. The last thing you want is a Standard so reasonable that the subject can develop a one-to-one relationship with its interpretation, or God forbid, subvert it. In the theology of your own Crazy, it is imperative to be the Pope and reign supreme over a priestly hierarchy of your appointees. If the system is too rational or predictable, the subject may escape your control. The texts must be obscure and random enough that they need you to interpret them. If the subjects get too uppity or complacent, throw in an extra dimension or higher level of truth, involving...wait for it...Aliens.

Closely related are the men who tell you within the first (and, in many cases, last) date:

“Are you capable of the self-control of not texting, not calling...and there is one other thing. Whatever you do, don’t fall in love with me, or it's over!
“I’m really going to enjoy making love to you, but you’ll have to fall in love with me first.”
“I fell for you. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it took me forty years to find you and only two hours to lose you.”

Mermaids and Sirens

Regardless of what they say, these men all looking for the same thing: mermaids. The only problem with the mermaid fad, as Iliza Schlesinger explains only too well, is women saying that, despite their education and other accomplishments, their highest aspiration is to be a fictional fuck toy for horny sailors.
There’s another version of the mermaid myth. Before Hans Christian Andersen and the mermaid who mutilates herself for love, or the sanitized (and therefore far more dangerous) insipid Disney version, there were the Sirens. These mythical creatures lured sailors to their death with their intoxicating voices and music. No man who listened to them could resist the desire to join them and hurl themselves into the watery depths. Only Odysseus escaped, and then only because he heeded the advice of another enchantress, Circe (Silly men, do you really think it takes a woman to turn you into swine?)

I find the Sirens far more interesting than mermaids. Maybe, it's because no matter how hard I try to be good, something will happen. It gets the better of me and I wake up with blood dripping from my mouth, sleeping on a bed of entrails, as I learned from listening to Natasha Khan’s Siren Song and watching her interview.

Ayahuasca Ceremonies

Natasha Khan describes ayahuasca as a way of getting rid of psychic baggage (and incidentally, I read elsewhere, all the contents of your stomach). Apparently it’s not fun and something she only had the desire to do once, recognizing that for many people it simply becomes another addiction that takes the place of previous ones. My American self, loved the quickie approach to self-enlightenment and getting rid of toxic psychic baggage. A few hours of incantation, visions and vomiting and it’ll all be gone. I know what all my flaws are. The only problem is that I’m quite attached to them, so much so that I’m not even convinced they are flaws. My flaws have been more loyal to me than many friends and often helped me overcome quite a few challenges. Who would I be without them? Who wants to wake up one day and realize that they aren’t a knight, and all the giants they have been fighting are windmills. Worse yet, windmills of their own invention?

In my brief flirtation with the idea of finding a one-stop shop for facing, and then puking out my demons, I discovered the only legal way to do this in the US is through a church. As such, they claim ingesting ayahuasca to be part of their “Native American” rituals and this right is protected as a religious freedom. However, to escape the possibility of people signing up for their ceremonies for less than “pure” reasons, you have to join their church, which is how I wound up with daily gems like this one in my inbox:
Life is a mirror.
What you get "out there" is nothing but a reflection of
your internal state of being.
That means, if you're having problems in life -
Challenges with finances, stressful relationships,
heartbreak, a lack of clarity, purpose or direction...
It's not "life's fault".
You can't blame people, or circumstances, for what you
are experiencing.
The difficulty, the hardship, the challenge...
YOU are creating it.
Yes, I'm sorry to say.

Trinity de Guzman, Church of Ayahuasca, Your Highest Truth, Inc.

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