By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
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By LA Weekly
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By Simone Wilson
I asked Mr. Iboga what iboga was. I was told simply:
“PRIMORDIAL WISDOM TEACHER OF HUMANITY!”
Later, my personal faults and lazy, decadent habits were replayed for me in detail. When I asked what I should do, the answer was stern and paternal:
“GET IT STRAIGHT NOW!”
This ideal of straightness, uprightness, kept returning during the trip — a meaningful image for me, as I suffer from scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. When other faults were shown to me that seemed rather petty and insignificant, I tried to protest that some of these things really didn’t matter. Iboga would have none of it, insisting:
Iboga told me that I had no idea of the potential significance of even the smallest actions. I reviewed some events in my life and my friends’ lives that seemed bitterly unfair. Yet in this altered state, I felt I could sense a karmic pattern behind all of them, perhaps extending back to previous incarnations. Iboga affirmed this, dictating:
“GOD IS JUST!”
Delivered with great force and minimalist precision, these insights might have been manifestations of my own mind, but they seemed like the voice of an “other.” Generally, I never think in such direct terms about “God,” and “primordial wisdom teacher” is not my syntax.
During the night, I had numerous visions and ponderous metaphysical insights. I seemed to fly through the solar system and into the sun, where winged beings were spinning around the core at a tremendous rate. Up close, they looked like the gold-tinged angels in early-Renaissance paintings. At one point, I thought of humans as an expression of the “Gaian Mind,” the Earth’s sensory organs and self-reflective capacities, at the planet’s present state of development. If we are changing quickly right now, I considered, it is only because the Earth has entered an accelerated phase of transformation, forcing a fast evolution in human consciousness.
The loud buzzing sound that ibogaine produced seemed to be something like a dial tone, as if the alkaloid was in itself a device for communicating on a different frequency from the usual one. Thinking of my girlfriend and our child, I realized that I was lucky — “YOU ARE LUCKY!” Iboga echoed. I felt tremendous, tearful gratitude that I had been given a chance to live and love, to explore and try to understand so many things.
As I do so often these days, I pondered the terrible state of the world — wars and terrors and environmental ruin. I saw sheets of radioactive flame devouring cities, huge crowds reduced to cinders. I asked Mr. Iboga if this was going to be the tragic fate of humanity. The answer I received was startling — and reassuring:
“EVERYTHING IS SAFE IN GOD’S HANDS!”
This message has stayed with me; it has alleviated much paranoia and anxiety. While tripping, I decided that Mr. Iboga was a form of enlightenment, like a Buddha, who had chosen a different form, as a plant spirit rather than human teacher, to work with humanity, imparting a cosmic message of “tough love.” I asked if Iboga would consider incarnating as a person, and the answer I got was, basically, “ALREADY DID THAT!” — implying that, in some previous cycle, he had passed through the perilous stages of evolution we are now navigating. I also came away from this trip with the suspicion that iboga was the original inspiration for the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” in the biblical tale. The plant’s placement in equatorial Africa, cradle of humanity, would support this idea, as well as its sobering moral rectitude. The “good and evil” iboga reveals is not abstract but deeply personal and rooted in the character of the individual.
Late in the night, I retched and vomited out bitter root-bark residue. I put on a CD of African drumming. Closing my eyes, I watched a group of smiling Bwiti women dance around a jungle bonfire. After that, the visions died down, although it was impossible to sleep until late the next night.
My friend in recovery had a less visionary experience than mine. His faults were also paraded in front of him in repetitive loops that seemed endless. At one point, I heard him scream out, “No! No! No!” He saw a possible future for himself if he went back on heroin — becoming a dishwasher, sinking into dissolute old age with a bad back and paunch. He asked what he could do to help save the world. He was told:
“CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM!”
Meditating on his experience, my friend quipped, “ibogaine is God’s way of saying: ‘You’re mine, bitch!’”
Daniel Pinchbeck is the author ofBreaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey Into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism.
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