Take Me to the Other Side
A couple of years ago I worked with a Danish intern who told me about a substance used in Amazonian healing rituals – a brew of hallucinogenic plants and leaves, among other natural plants – called Ayahuasca. He told me a captivating story about a man whose life had changed after he had gone into the Amazon and taken the brew with indigenous Peruvian shaman.
I have since read some literature about ayahuasca, including studies by scientists who believed the brew might not only help people with depression, anxiety, drug addiction and other mental illnesses, but help us to understand ourselves, and even, to some extent, humanity and its place in nature.
So, when I heard that a well known biophysicist, who had researched and taken ayahuasca, was living in Chiang Mai I wanted to meet him. Dr. Feelgood, as he would like to be known, is a serious and galvanic kind of man whose bright blues eyes hardly ever shifted from mine. He delineated to me over a long lunch in a kind of circular fashion how I, we, might make ourselves feel…good, and how I, we, are threatened by toxic food products laid-on to us by unscrupulous corporations. Amazonian healing rituals and food corporations may not seem congruous topics, but they will turn out to be very close relatives, belonging to a somewhat dysfunctional family.
“It’s God’s anesthetic,” Feelgood tells me when I mention ayahuasca, “the spirit molecule is released naturally from the pineal gland when we die, give birth and are born; some say it’s the link with the God-head.” A couple
He explains that ayahuasca, a brew made out of the Banisteriopsis caapi plant’s roots and leaves, has been around for thousands of years. Through trading routes, it made its way from the Amazon into Hindu and Zoroastrian societies. In the 50s and 60s William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg introduced much of the literary world to ayahuasca after the pair had travelled into the Amazon in search of the brew. Their account is detailed in the book, ‘The Yage Letters’. Over the last 20 years ayahuasca has become known to the TV populace due to celebrities such as Sting, Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, Terrance McKenna, and Bruce Parry telling the media about their life-changing, spiritually transformative experiences.
“It’s a remedial substance for most of us,” says Feelgood, “it doesn’t cure you…there’s an overuse of the word cure, we aren’t cured, ever, we have remission from disease at best. We all wither and die!”
Although how we live and how we die, Feelgood believes, can be considerably improved by making responsible decisions. He talks about how modern food and modern medicine increases the amount of acidity in the body, and it is the high level of acidity that causes illness in the first instance. “Many people die fighting pain and disease by paying pharmaceutical companies lots of money for drugs that have benefits in the short term but combined with a negative side effect in the longer one,” says Feelgood. He explains that many people nowadays live unhealthy sedentary and convenient lives, lives that are determined by what they eat, how they choose to live and what they think about. In our present western system many people are stressed with high expectations and demands to buy the things they think they need but which don’t benefit them. People then sweeten their lives by eating comfort foods wanting a ‘quick fix’. “The substances in these foods,” he says, “they don’t reduce the acidity in the body, they produce more. Sugar is one of the major causes of acidity.”
“It’s rare these days that we will die at home in relative peace, but a peaceful death can happen. Indigenous people, they mostly live healthily, but when they change to a western diet they get sick easily, and quickly,” says Feelgood.
The FDA, he says, allows certain harmful preservatives to be added to various food stuffs in spite of controversy surrounding some of these substances. “For 15 years I’ve been looking at the effects of a diet with less sugar, less gluten, less dairy, and reducing meat products. Simply, most low grade meats, gluten, and dairy products cause acidity and disease,” says Feelgood.
The pharmaceutical industry is at the same time prescribing patents with drugs that are sometimes harmful, so while our food is making us sick, the drugs we take to combat our ill health can also weaken us. “Antibiotics (meaning ‘against life’) strip away our essential bacteria, good and bad, therefore people become immune suppressed which compromises the ability to fight disease. Hill tribe people in the past didn’t take antibiotics or vaccines and often they lived long lives due to strong immunity and a healthy way of life.”
Though he agrees that “antibiotics have their place and have cleaned up some nasty infections” he believes we rely too much on drugs and just as we have modified many of our food stuffs to become toxic and devoid of nutrition, we are also modifying our bodies to becoming devoid of what it essentially needs to be healthy and strong.
“Disease has different frequencies,” Feelgood says, adding that “we may have eradicated small pox by vaccines, which is an incredible science, but then something else fills its place; we don’t have remedies for the major diseases like TB and common flu virus, while other new diseases like HIV, H1N1 and MRSA are all drug resistant. I’m not saying all modern medicines, agro business and food stuffs are sinister, but a lot of money is being made from these patents; it’s a tidy arrangement the FDA have.”
He talks about the corporate giant Monsanto who creates GM foods and puts properties into food stuffs despite reams of evidence that says genetically modified food causes damage to humans. In what is being called agricultural monopoly, companies such as Monsanto are developing patented genetically modified seeds and sowing them worldwide. “Look in your 7/11,” says Feelgood, “none of those products are doing us any good, they sustain us at best.” He also points out how Thais, who in the past ate mostly locally home grown products, have had their food market monopolised by Anglo-American corporations, as have many other countries in the world. India, he says, has turned to using refined sugar in huge amounts with the knock-on effect of the largest rise of diabetes globally. “Sugar is known to cause diabetes and myriad other health problems,” he explains “but the medical industry are busier than ever and happy about it.”
“We tend to think the biggest addictions on the planet are to smoking, caffeine, heroin or cocaine, but it’s not, it’s fricking sugar!” exclaims Feelgood. “Stevia,” he continues, “grows easily and is the sweetest leaf on our planet,” though because the refined sugar business _ that he describes as a powerful and sinister industry _ would suffer from a stevia outbreak then it remains closeted and not researched. “I met the head of Coca Cola in China who told me that they want to get FDA approval to make Coke with stevia, but they are thwarted by the sugar industry.”
“Back in the 80s we were offered the supposed healthy diet and sugar free products ‘aspartame and sorbitol’ [sweeteners] that have been patented, but these are known to cause free radical damage and are known neurotoxins. These were licensed products by the FDA! It was Donald Rumsfeld who was responsible for getting those approved.” Even healthy alternatives are “full of misinformation and delusion” says Feelgood.
It was while looking for healthy alternatives that the doctor came across ayahuasca.
“Ayahuasca is legal in many countries because it is a religious right, it’s our God given right to take things naturally. This is mainly because of the Santo Daime,” says Feelgood. The Santo Daime is a Brazilian spiritual practice that incorporates shamanism, Catholicism and animism, which uses ayahuasca for ritualistic purposes. They presently have churches of ayahuasca all over Europe.
Feelgood explains that because for many years the substance has been used in religious ceremonies to bring people closer to God, passing legislation against it has been difficult, except in the UK where, “they have set a precedent against ayahuasca ceremonies” and made it illegal on the grounds it contains the banned hallucinogen DMT, and also because of exaggerated claims by the leader of the ceremonial group concerning its remedial properties.
DMT, explains Feelgood, is insufflated and taken for recreational purposes, unlike ayahuacsa which is taken for ceremonial purposes: “You can’t have a powerful DMT experience like that and then just go about your normal day,” he says. Prior to taking ayahuasca a person should fast for at least 5 days, cleanse the body entirely of intoxicants, sugar, meat, dairy and gluten. The substance DMT is presently being used as a kind of fast food version of ayahuasca, giving the user a short, extremely powerful trip. Ayahuasca itself has fallen prey to exploitation and modification
Dr. Feelgood is rightly concerned about using his real name. In most western countries ayahuasca, if not protected by the covenants of religious freedom, cannot legally be used for therapeutic purposes. Legal battles concerning ayahuasca are presently being fought in many countries throughout the world. An enlightenment of the public, Feelgood has been inferring all along, is not in the interests of some big corporations.
“Belief is the first and most important thing, belief is more powerful than medicine,” says Feelgood, “it’s like the placebo effect, if you believe something can work, it can, it’s the first step. It’s the business of the pharmaceutical industry to take out the placebo effect in humans,” he says, meaning that business does not profit from us believing in our ability to take control over our bodies and lives. “I’ve seen about a thousand people take ayahuasca in ceremonies and in only one case did it not remedially help them, but it didn’t harm them either. I’ve seen heroin addicts take ayahuasca and they have had such a profound experience they quit heroin. I’ve had unreal experiences with the remedial tea myself,” he says, “words are limiting…extraordinary experiences which have changed my way of being.”
He would advise those to take it in ceremony only, purging up to five days beforehand, and have a strong intention about what you are doing it for. “I don’t advise those with liver/renal issues to take it as some of the isotopes can be harmful if the brew is not created properly, but pretty much everyone I’ve seen has benefitted hugely from the challenging experience,” he explains.
“It made the world a better place,” Feelgood says. “Global Inc., they want to make the world a harder place. They want us to work harder, and then buy lower grade products to sweeten and sicken our lives. They want us to feel fear, to feel guilt, anxiety,” Feelgood says with a kind of vigorous discharge of contempt towards his nemesis, but he adds, “I don’t feel angry anymore, I didn’t feel angry at ‘them’ after I took ayahuasca. I know my limitations, I know what I can do to help myself and I realise most of them don’t know any better.”
It’s nigh on impossible to get out of this system we’re in, he says, but you can do the best you can while in the system. “People can live in their own divine way, growing their own food and living more sustainably. But following a way of life is in our DNA and RNA, we need some sort of structure, we crave it and love our convenient lifestyle, but we can choose to change, and it’s long overdue. We, in a way, encouraged the Global Inc. But we can change our own buying habits and keep it organic. I was a sugar junkie once, now I know better. In Chiang Mai we have all the essential products.” He motions over to the counter at Salad Concept where we are eating, “Look at what happened here. Two daughters based a restaurant on the fact you can eat healthy food, food they gave to their dad when he was seriously sick, and he got better.”
Ayahuasca won’t make people happy or 100% healthy, he says, but it will enlighten most, it will help people to open their eyes and see things clearer. “Things exist to support us, to help us to see outside of the box, ayahuasca is one of these things. We are just a blimp in the universe, a part of the primordial soup. When we realise this we become less possessive, less egoistic and live more in harmony with our natural environment. It helps us to realise who and what we really are.” “Back in the 80s we were offered the supposed healthy diet and sugar free products