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Reichel-Dolmatoff - On ayahuasca



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

G Reichel-Dolmatoff – The Cultural Context of an Aboriginal Hallucinogen Banisteriopsis Caapi [1972 from Flesh of the Gods]

According to the Indians, there exist essentially three stages of Bannisteriopsis intoxication.

Shortly after the ingestion of the drug, after an initial tremor and the sensation of rushing winds, harmaline produces a state of drowsiness during which the person concentrates with half closed eyes upon the luminous flashes and streaks which appear before him.

The first stage is characterised by the appearance of small star shaped or flower shaped elements which flicker and float brilliantly against a dark background, in repetitive kaleidoscope patterns. There is a marked bilateral symmetry to these luminous perceptions which sometimes appear as clusters of fruits or feathery leaves. Grid patterns, zigzag lines and undulating lines alternate with eye shaped motifs, many concentric circles or endless chains of brilliant dots …. The person watches passively these innumerable scintillating patterns . After a while the symmetry and the overall geometrical aspect of these perceptions disappears and the second stage sets in.

Now figurative, pictorial images take shape; large blots of colour will be seen moving like thunderclouds and from them will emerge diffuse shapes looking like people or animals or unknown creatures. The Indians interpret these images as mythological … which to them bear witness to the essential truth of their religious beliefs

In a third stage, all these images disappear. There will be soft music and wandering clouds, a state of blissful serenity

The source of the experience

South American shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items


Activities and commonsteps