The information on this website is intended to promote awareness of the use and risks attached to ayahuasca and/or other psychoactive plants & substances. We make no claim to providing full, absolutely correct information. We do make every effort to qualify our opinions and provide references for statements. On this website we promote our own ceremonies and workshops, but the information presented here is not intended to encourage contacting us with all your questions. This site cannot possibly provide all possible answers. What it aims to do is provide rudimentary important information that can help you formulate relevant questions. Hopefully, this will help you establish a basis for your quest for wholeness, liberation, fulfillment and meaning.
On this website we allude to both the utility and limitations inherent in the use of psychoactive plants and substances and the related traditions and practices whether they be healing, therapeutic, religious / mystical, recreational or even magical. AOS aims to provide a forum for critical reflection on issues related to the consumption of entheogens and the integration of awareness about the effects and significance.
Specifically, we aim to support and encourage those interested in psychoactive substances and related practices to critically assess the relevance of these things in relation to “healing” and “religious/mystical” experience. It is our aim to demonstrate that healing and religious or mystical experience are not strictly separate experiences but rather overlapping phenomena. The overlap between these phenomena can be clarified by understanding the relationships between human biology, physiology, psychology, consciousness and culture. By way of practical example, consider the ways that the circumstances of birth shape cognition, sense of self, sense of worth and sexuality and how in turn these things shape our development as individuals, and how they predispose society and culture towards specific behaviours and outlooks. The idea that the physiological circumstances of birth predispose us both physically and mentally towards certain types of perceptions and behaviours and that these subsequently become, through religious practice, faith, ethical outlook, convictions about the meaning and purpose of life, thus laying the foundations for social and cultural institutions is a constant thread on this website. It is both relevant to understanding the therapeutic utility of psychoactive substances and to understanding society and its institutions. Consequently, I do not discuss ‘healing’ without also touching on questions about the nature of society. Healing is, in this sense, not merely a matter of the realignment of something within the individual but also a ‘political’ act, involving questions about the individuals place and role in society, power, authority and history.
Another important premise that distinguishes the information on this website from other sources about the therapeutic and religious significance of psychoactives is that we seek to explain these phenomena without recourse to supernatural acts or metaphysics. Instead we employ the term ‘majic.’ In the documentary Mindscapes by Alan Moore, Moore refers to magic as a phenomenon grounded in language (to cast a ‘spell’). The basic idea is that language is deeply implicated in the way we see the world and that a critical examination of our statements and narratives about the world can occasion profound transformations, including healing. One question this raises is how psychoactive substances might interact with the language and narrative constructs that generate the ‘realities’ we experience as real or meaningful, including mental illness, and perhaps physical malfunctions as well?
It is in this sense also that the information provided here is an open invitation to get involved in critical reflection and to improve critical thought and perception. Another basic premise underpinning much of the discussion on this site is that progress cannot occur in the absence of critical thought, that critical faculties are absolutely crucial to the type of self-correction that we need in order to pursue self-knowledge, an improved understanding of ourselves and the world, without becoming trapped or stagnant. Thus, once a lesson has been learned and integrated it remains important to test our new ‘hypotheses’ and evaluate them against the results we experience, as well as to consider the relevance of our beliefs and outlook. Do the solutions we see for ourselves work for others as well? Are we being selfish? What use are the choices we make for others? Are we harming others or do our choices also make the world a better place for them?
It is my firm conviction that these critical questions do actually lead to a deeper sense of self and purpose and therefore to spiritual wellbeing. I also firmly believe that we will never find solutions to the crises of humanity if we are not able to discover or acknowledge who we truly are in the grand scheme of things. But I find religious claims to have solved these problems long ago misleading. The key to answering all the truly important questions is within us, not in the external realm. Discovering who we are in relation to ourselves and others challenges us to question ourselves, to explore who we are, to question what we believe and why. Psychoactive substances offer interesting tools that can further this investigation, but of course, like all such tools they can also become obstacles. What prevents them from doing so is precisely our critical faculties.