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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

My last psychedelic journey was on ayahuasca. I was invited to join a circle of women who gather every three or four months to work with a legendary guide, a woman in her eighties who had trained under Leo Zeff. (She in turn had trained Mary, the woman who guided my psilocybin journey.) This journey was different from the others in that it took place in the company of a dozen other travelers, all of them strangers to me. Befitting this particular psychedelic, which is a tea brewed from two Amazonian plants (one a vine, the other a leaf), there was a considerable amount of ceremony in the shamanic mode: the singing of traditional icaros, prayers and invocations to “the grandmother” (a.k.a. the “plant teacher” or ayahuasca), bells and rattles and shakapas, and the blowing on us of various scents and smokes. All of which contributed to a mood of deep mystery and a suspension of disbelief that was especially welcome, inasmuch as we were in a yoga studio a long way from any jungle.

As has been the case with all of my journeys, the night before had been sleepless, as part of me worked to convince the rest of me not to do this crazy thing. That part was of course my ego, which before every trip has fought the threat to its integrity with ferocity and ingenuity, planting doubts and scenarios of disaster I had trouble batting away. What about your heart, pal? You could die! What if you lose your lunch or, even worse, your shit?! And what if “the grandmother” dredges up some childhood trauma? Do you really want to lose it among these strangers? These women? (Part of the power of the ego flows from its command of one’s rational faculties.) By the time I arrived for the circle, I was a nervous wreck, assailed by second and third thoughts as to the wisdom of what I was about to do.

But, as has happened every time, as soon as I swallowed the medicine and slipped past the point of no return, the voice of doubt went quiet and I surrendered to whatever was in store. Which was not unlike my other psychedelic experiences, with a couple of notable exceptions. Perhaps because the tea, which was viscous and acrid and unexpectedly sweet, makes its alien presence felt in your stomach and intestines, ayahuasca is a more bodily experience than some other psychedelics. I did not get sick, but I was very much aware of the thick brew moving through me and, as the effect of the DMT (ayahuasca’s active ingredient) came on, imagined it as a vine winding its way through the curls and convolutions of my intestines, occupying my body before slowly working its snakelike way up to and into my head.

There followed a great many memories and images, some horrifying, others magnificent, but I want to describe one in particular because, although I don’t completely understand it, it captures something that psychedelics have taught me, something important.

Because there was still some light in the room when the ceremony began, we were all wearing eye masks, and mine felt a little tight around my head. Early in the journey, I became aware of the black straps circling my skull, and these morphed into bars. My head was caged in steel. The bars then began to multiply, moving down from my head to encircle my torso and then my legs. I was now trapped head to toe in a black steel cage. I pressed against the bars, but they were unyielding. There was no way out. Panic was building when I noticed the green tip of a vine at the base of the cage. It was growing steadily upward and then turning, sinuously, to slip out between two of the bars, freeing itself and at the same time reaching toward the light. “A plant can’t be caged,” I heard myself thinking. “Only an animal can be caged.”

I can’t tell you what this means, if anything. Was the plant showing me a way out? Perhaps, but it’s not as if I could actually follow it; I am an animal, after all. Yet it seemed the plant was trying to teach me something, that it was proposing a kind of visual koan for me to unpack, and I have been turning it over in my mind ever since. Maybe it was a lesson about the folly of approaching an obstacle head-on, that sometimes the answer is not the application of force but rather changing the terms of the problem in such a way that it loses its dominion without actually crumbling. It felt like some kind of jujitsu. Because the vine wasn’t just escaping the confines of the cage, it was using the structure to improve its situation, climbing higher to gather more light for itself.

Or maybe the lesson was more universal, something about plants themselves and how we underestimate them. My plant teacher, as I began to think of the vine, was trying to tell me something about itself and the green kingdom it represents, a kingdom that has always figured largely in my work and my imagination. That plants are intelligent I have believed for a long time—not necessarily in the way we think of intelligence, but in a way appropriate to themselves. We can do many things plants can’t, yet they can do all sorts of things we can’t—escaping from steel cages, for example, or eating sunlight. If you define intelligence as the ability to solve the novel problems reality throws at the living, plants surely have it. They also possess agency, an awareness of their environment, and a kind of subjectivity—a set of interests they pursue and so a point of view. But though these are all ideas I have long believed and am happy to defend, never before have I felt them to be true, to be as deeply rooted as I did after my psychedelic journeys.

The un-cageable vine reminded me of that first psilocybin trip, when I felt the leaves and plants in the garden returning my gaze. One of the gifts of psychedelics is the way they reanimate the world, as if they were distributing the blessings of consciousness more widely and evenly over the landscape, in the process breaking the human monopoly on subjectivity that we moderns take as a given. To us, we are the world’s only conscious subjects, with the rest of creation made up of objects; to the more egotistical among us, even other people count as objects. Psychedelic consciousness overturns that view, by granting us a wider, more generous lens through which we can glimpse the subject-hood—the spirit!—of everything, animal, vegetable, even mineral, all of it now somehow returning our gaze. Spirits, it seems, are everywhere. New rays of relation appear between us and all the world’s Others.

Even in the case of the minerals, modern physics (forget psychedelics!) gives us reason to wonder if perhaps some form of consciousness might not figure in the construction of reality. Quantum mechanics holds that matter may not be as innocent of mind as the materialist would have us believe. For example, a subatomic particle can exist simultaneously in multiple locations, is pure possibility, until it is measured—that is, perceived by a mind. Only then and not a moment sooner does it drop into reality as we know it: acquire fixed coordinates in time and space. The implication here is that matter might not exist as such in the absence of a perceiving subject. Needless to say, this raises some tricky questions for a materialist understanding of consciousness. The ground underfoot may be much less solid than we think.

This is the view of quantum physics, not some psychonaut—though it is a very psychedelic theory. I mention it only because it lends some of the authority of science to speculations that would otherwise sound utterly lunatic. I still tend to think that consciousness must be confined to brains, but I am less certain of this belief now than I was before I embarked on this journey. Maybe it too has slipped out from between the bars of that cage. Mysteries abide. But this I can say with certainty: the mind is vaster, and the world ever so much more alive, than I knew when I began.

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