17 Nov 2023

Not Like a Trip Away:Proper Relationship With Plant Medicines

Not Like a Trip Away:Proper Relationship With Plant Medicines

By Tyson Yunkaporta 

Excerpt from: How Psychedelics Can Help Save the World edited Stephen Gray

MAPS Bulletin: Volume XXXIII Number 3 • 2023

Most Indigenous cultures have traditions of assisting or enhancing cognitive transformation with plant medicine for important purposes. You must have plant medicines that you’re in relationship with, within totemic and biological kinship. You do that for a purpose and you go over to another place while you’re still strongly tethered in this world. It’s not like a trip away. And you really only need do that once, or at most once every fifteen years or so, like with some people who are really transcending into deeper and deeper levels of knowledge at different stages of initiation. For most of us this is achieved with the psycho-technology of ceremony and does not require chemical assistance.

A lot of people today are tripping balls once a week, because they aren’t in right relation and are stuck in an ecstatic loop of entropy. They have no tether to a place, no kin, and no purpose for the work, so no work is delegated to them. I was introduced to my overseas brother San Pedro cactus about fifteen years ago when I needed to act above my pay grade and access higher cognition for a task I’d been given. That was before I met Old Man Juma, the man who gave me symbols to share with as many people as possible. I saw them first with San Pedro years before I met Juma, in preparation for receiving that ritual technology. I had to change my hardware to run that software. It was very hard on me. The trip lasted about twelve hours and I went through all of the pains of labor so that I could appreciate the importance of motherhood and the sacrifice that women make, to understand the centrality of the kinship pair of mother and child for any sustainable society.

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I also saw a symbol that shows a model of time. I saw that entity of how time-place works, and I looked at that for eons. But basically, I only needed to do that once and I’ll probably never do it again because I’m still working with everything that came through that ceremony. I’ve got a lifetime of work to do from that one experience. I don’t want to jump back in; it would be more than I can handle, not to mention greedy. There aren’t enough hours in the day in my whole lifetime to work through all that. Again, if you’re going in and saying, “Oh wow! I’m a child of the universe with cosmic consciousness!” and then you feel you’ve got to go in again shortly after that, you’re probably not doing it right. You probably need better story.

Ancestral Mind and
the Importance of Story

Story is a collection of metaphors that puts you into a state of optimal cognition when shared. That doesn’t mean telling a fable, or invoking a legend, or creating a film synopsis, or anything like that. It’s not that kind of narrative. It’s like a collection of metaphors where there are different layers of meaning. This brings you into a relationship with place and entities of place. You might not be connected to all the same entities that the storyteller is connected to, but they’re bringing you into that universe. It’s working on you as a listener, but it’s also working on all the natural and spiritual systems associated with that story.

For example, if I start talking about Brolga (crane) story, that’s connecting to water lily and other kin, but then that’s connecting to Emu and the tension and conflict between enemies, between those two different ways of being, almost two different ontologies. But it’s bringing you into an association with place and a series of places from the coast up into the river country and along the savannah. And then it’s connecting you to a series of totemic images that are related, like a black cockatoo, a mud shell—which is a mangrove sort of shell—water lilies, a whirlwind, and an ironwood tree. There are all these entities and totems, even body parts, that are totems in that relation, like knees and shins and feet and hands and blood and urine.

You’re using metaphors to bring somebody into relation with another ontology, and with the ontologies of every entity within that system, because each entity has its ontology of what it knows to be real in its universe. But it has to be suprarational. It’s bringing you into an ancestral mind space. Yarning is the English term we’ve taken up for this practice, which can be quite casual, day to day. But then it can be a bigger, more ritualized thing as well. Yarning has that exchange, that flow that you find in self-organizing systems. But it’s also highly ritualized and it brings you into that state. It brings all these ontologies together and forms a lot of different viewpoints looking at the same universe. That gives you a more holistic point of view where you are all-thinking-feeling together with one belly/mind.

You get into that state, like when you’re engaged in a conversation with a group of people, and it’s really flowing. That really energizes you. You come into that ancestor mind state. But you’re sharing it together collectively and creating a larger mind on narrative maps of place. That mind can do amazing things. That’s what informs your ­collective ­decision-making and your collective governance. Thus it’s quite an important action. And story is an integral part of that.

Stephen Gray is a teacher and writer on spiritual subjects and sacramental medicines. He has worked extensively with Tibetan Buddhism, the Native American Church, and with various entheogenic medicines. He is also a conference and workshop organizer, leader, and speaker. The editor of Cannabis and Spirituality and How Psychedelics Can Help Save the World, he lives in Vancouver. https://www.stephengrayvision.com/

How Psychedelics Can Help Save the World by Stephen Gray © 2022 Park Street Press.
Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions                   International. www.InnerTraditions.com

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Tyson Yunkaporta 

Tyson Yunkaporta is an Australian aboriginal academic, arts critic, and researcher who belongs to the Apalech clan in far north Queensland. He carves traditional tools and weapons and works as a senior research fellow at the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab at Deakin University in Melbourne. The
ideas and principles discussed here are fleshed out in Tyson’s brilliant and necessary book, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World.