Benny Shanon is Professor of psychology at the Hebrew. University of Jerusalem (Israel). His main foci of research are the phenomenology of. Benny-Shanon-The-Antipodes-of-the-Mind-Charting-the-Phenomenology-of-the- ciepredengunsee.ml Added almost 2 years ago by. 1 Benny Shanon The Antipodes of the Mind Charting the Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, , pp.
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Benny Shanon The Hebrew University. This paper is part of a comprehensive research project whose aim is to study the phenomenology of the special state of . Benny Shanon. Entheogens. Reflections on 'Psychoactive Sacramentals' 1. In our Western culture psychoactive substances are usually regarded as 'drugs'. Ayahuasca and Creativity Benny Shanon, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University PDF version of this document.
The plates seemed to be metaphor for The Antipodes of the Mind, frame of reference within frames of reference, each part structured by the whole, while the whole is changed by the activity of the parts. In the Prologue, Shanon tells the story of his first encounters with the Ayahuasca brew and the questions that brought him to begin his mammoth research project.
In his first experience of any consequence he had visions that included jaguars and snakes. But he also underwent horrible visions of human cruelty throughout history, including what must have been especially wrenching, the Jewish Holocaust.
The anguish or fear evoked by unexpected and shocking presentations of evil must be the gate that has turned away many other first-time drinkers from further pursuing this course. He knew he had to further study this vine and its power, but how?
It seems he first had to accept who he already was, an accomplished cognitive psychologist; he confirmed this identity by ending his self-analysis and beginning his journey to other realities found through Ayahuasca and then a long critical, objective, and categorical analysis of the Ayahuasca 5 experience.
This book is the fruit of his labours. Shanon set the time aside, returned to the Amazon, underwent prescribed purifications, and became a dedicated student of the School of Ayahuasca, a mystes into its mysteries. He travelled to gatherings among the three churches two Christian inspired, one an offshoot of the Umbanda movement in Brazil that use Ayahuasca as their sacrament and participated in their organized sessions.
Later, as he began to master his visions, he journeyed with few others among accomplished shaman-healers. He shared the brew with experienced users in urban settings, and, when he felt ready, flew solo. Each session was summarized at its conclusion.
Beyond that, he read everything he could find on the brew, from early reports of missionaries or explorers to current extended scientific analyses. None combined scholarly analysis with extended personal experience. The bulk of the book consists of prolonged exegeses, enumeration and elaboration of steps, systems and subsystems, categories of subcategories within supercategories, and lists of effects and affects.
I will not summarize here his structural program, central to his topic as he deems it to be. Strange to say, I rarely found this approach tedious. For one thing, as noted above, the objects of his classifications are confrontations and participation with other realities, so there is a veritable tale of wonders interwoven within the data. It may be, however, that Shanon needed this comprehensive organization as a grounding for his more ultimate revelations.
Indeed, the final stage seems to involve gaining the power to engage many worlds or realities simultaneously, but also the power to act in this world in ways never previously attained or attempted, such as the expressive arts or guidance and healing.
The third course of my schooling was primarily concerned with healing and disease. The grades that followed focused on the sacred and involved powerful spiritual experiences. Then I had a long period—coupled with my partaking of Ayahuasca with traditional Amazonian healers—that focused on shamanism.
The subsequent course Such hubris, as myths have taught us, may lead to the pride that goes before a fall. He mentions that now he feels his role has become more performative than explorative as guide, hierophant, and something of an ayahuasquero himself.
In terms of wisdom, he states his conviction that the most expressive gesture of ontological truth is found simply in songs of praise for all creation, in the Hallelujah of his ancestors. As to the ontological question of what exactly is being so praised, Shanon avers it is not anything at all but the joy of the eternal dynamic process — neither God as an entity or any other form of the supernatural , nor is it humanity or nature, as such.
Creation is what the name implies, an ongoing unfolding of the infinitely potent creative core of all things, including ourselves. Furthermore, even the path to the edge of this unspeakable awakening is one not of ordered signposts and structured roads but of intuitive knowledge, well beyond categorical reasoning. After all his phenomenological analysis, Shanon at last confesses that …very poignantly, I realized how limited the scientific approach is.
It was evident to me that [in] pursuing this stance, there are realms of knowledge that can never be attained. I further comprehended that there are levels of knowledge that demand one to let go and relinquish all critical, distanced analysis. In this respect, despite all its limitations in terms of sociological power and cultural permanence, the indigenous stance has the upper hand p.
Perplexities I continue to be perplexed about several things hinted at in this tome but not fully explained and I outline them here. My perplexities are mainly to do with the world of light and truth revealed to the author and apparently to other experienced Ayahuasca drinkers.
Either the dark side is less real or it plays a smaller role than I had imagined. Shanon makes it clear that when faced with a personal crisis under the intoxication one must soldier on, dealing with fear and related negative emotions in as grounded and unperturbed manner as possible. Elsewhere he notes that a mental breakdown is real possibility. Yet not in Antipodes or anything else I have read to do with Ayahuasca experiences is such a breakdown recorded.
Is it bad-trip free?
Is the Supreme Light without shadow, or what? I wonder also about the dark side of the initiatory process, especially shamanic initiation. In the pattern of the ritual death-rebirth cycle, there must be a dark night of the soul before the dawn of revelation.
Shamanic lore especially emphasizes the almost universal experience of death and dismemberment5 apparently the death of the everyday self before the shaman returns, being one with death yet remaining alive. On the one hand he notes commonalities in his visions and those of many others as well as intriguing parallel reactions to these visions, especially amongst the Ayahuasca cognoscenti.
As noted, it was in fact these inexplicable similarities that set him on his quest in the first place, professionally speaking at least.
Does he then think his structural analyses is revealing the universal latticework of creation, or at least of the Ayahuasca experience? Or is he himself creating such a latticework to place over the chaos of creation? Neither, it seems, or both. Shanon is well aware of the ambiguities of his project and how boundaries in the realms of visionary experience seem to shift or even, with a wink and smile, disappear altogether.
In a universe in which the only constant is creative dynamism itself, it is impossible to distinguish between that which one discovers and that which one projects.
This is a slippery metaphysics with which we are left. Shanon lays his detailed phenomenological analysis upon the creative essence with some ambiguity, it seems to me, like placing the picnic blanket on the lake.
They are as real as anything else that seems to just be 9 there, in one place, here and now. Does this leave his categories and structures and patterns with a ground on which to stand? Probably — at least temporarily. In fact, his studies prove beyond much question that certain visionary and experiential patterns reoccur across cultures and in times far apart.
So, in his interpretation, neither Platonic ideas nor Jungian archetypes will do. To account for the reality of Ayahuasca experiences and by implication, all experience , he posits a creational reality in which our own creativity participates but which ultimately exceeds our personhood or existence.
Yes, indeed, but the originality of this position is where perplexity arises. Creativity as the core can also be found in some form in both Bergson and Whitehead. In his later years, Jung wrote a good deal about the objective psyche, meaning that the collective or transpersonal unconscious is the very world with which we engage and which is our source.
Shanon refers approvingly several times to the somewhat similar notion of the anima mundi World-Soul as source of the real, both subjective and objective.
The Jung-inspired archetypal psychologist James Hillman brings us to the point where Jung meets Shanon when he proclaims that every perception, cognition, or memory is fantasy-laden and not possible without such imaginative elaboration.
These are questions I would love to sit and discuss with the author; no doubt the inadequacy of my understanding would soon be made plain. I should even apologize for critiquing the few hints of ultimate matters that he deigned to mention, for he himself admits they have not yet been fully thought through. Personal Reaction After reading Antipodes with great pleasure and new discovery each time over several careful readings, I retain two reactions that are probably mine alone.
Put simply, I doubt that I have the strength of character it took for Shanon to advance from audience member to conductor of the orchestra. In part, my reticence arises from my tendency to wander off and become thoroughly lost in the aforementioned psychedelic era, sidetrack to sidetracks. It is my understanding — faith, if you will — that cognition, rationality, and analysis are themselves particular cultural fantasies.
When one give intuition primacy, one tends to wander as way leads on to way. In fact, to the extent that it is possible, he has done just that. However, I fear I would become an Ayahuasca drifter, lost in other realities, but with no wish to return and nothing in order at all. The second reaction was not one I had expected.
The Antipodes of the Mind gave me, first dimly then with increasing illumination, hope, suffusing me generously with that unfamiliar but uplifting emotion.
I had pushed aside visions or encounters that threw into doubt the solid finality of day-to-day reality so I could join the grim march through the lifespan toward dusty death. It is not just poetic license but a fact of consciousness-limited awareness that we walk about in worlds unrealized.
So I wish to end this book review with appreciation rather than criticism: Thanks, Benny. Hallelujah to you and your important book. A place or region on the opposite side of the earth; also, any two places or regions so opposed; as, Australia is the antipodes or at the antipodes of England. Those who live on the diametrically opposite sides of the earth; as, our antipodes sleep while we wake; the two nations are antipodes.
Former senior writer at Scientific American and noted science writer, Horgan takes a similarly skeptical show-me approach, even to his own ayahuasca experience. He errs, however, when he states that, after his journeys, Shanon remained an atheist, except in the most narrow definition of the term.
Shanon downplays the extreme digestive tract disturbances that have been widely reported, occasionally resulting in projectile vomiting. With experience, Shanon found he could avoid bringing forth such unpleasantness by bringing forth spontaneous song instead! Such universality all universality for that matter remains highly controversial in academic circles. It would be most intriguing for Shanon write a phenomenological cartography after experimentation on LSD trips.
Knowing the differences and similarities would tell us much about the status of visions. Do they arise from specific drug, personal idiosyncrasy, or have they a transpersonal status? References Horgan, J. As pointed out by mystics in many traditions for pertinent information and discussion, see Forman , , being in this state, one feels immersed in the very ground of all Being. There, neither language nor reflection apply, and hence no semantics.
Thus, the realm of the Ideas both specifies meaning and transcends time. Several informants with academic education explicitly told me that with Ayahuasca they felt they contemplated the Platonic spheres.
Observations along similar lines were also made by Huxley in conjunction with his experiences with mescaline. Interestingly, the association between atemporality and meaning is also encountered in Amerindian mythologies.
Overing a, b reports that in the cosmology of the Piaroa, a tribe from the Orinoco basin of Venezuela, in the world of the Gods relationships between beings is defined in a manner that defies ordinary logical and temporal relationships. Overing explains this by noting that in this world relationships pertain to the world of meaning. Analyzing the cosmology and metaphysics of the Piaroa, Overing also noted that the world of the shaman, and that of the Gods, is outside of time.
Indeed, instead of being defined by linear temporal contiguity, this world is defined by relationships of meaning. Overing a further reports that according to the Piaroa there is a realm which is before time in which the special powers of the Gods are guarded in boxes of crystal. Inter alia, these powers include rationality and the words of songs. It shall be noted that the knowledge pertaining to this realm is directly associated with plant-induced hallucinatory experiences in this case, however, not Ayahuasca.
The child or the young enamored couples that appear in them are long, long dead. Yet for the reader or the viewer the persons in question are forever children, adolescents or young adults. Babyhood, adolescence and adulthood are not just moments in biographical chronology, they are also chapters in a story. It is the story of human life, that which we all enact in the course of our own individual lives.
The particular manifestations of this story evolve in time, but the basic patterns of the script transcend the contingencies of the temporal. These pertain to the domain of eternal meanings. With Ayahuasca, similar appreciations are gained on a much larger time scale - that of human history.
The very encounter of such states counters the general statement with which this paper opened, namely, that human psychology is grounded in time.
This also contrasts with my own basic view of cognition. Indeed, for me, the discovery of the atemporal was intellectually most unsettling. Throughout my professional career as a cognitive psychologist and a philosopher of psychology, I have come to maintain that human cognition is embedded in time and that all cognitive performance is achieved through action temporally unfolding in the real world.
This, I have argued see Shanon, , is not merely a technical constraint but rather it is an essential, most fundamental, feature of human cognition.
Theoretically, one could perhaps envision intelligent systems that operate in a different fashion, but these would be radically different from the human one. Ayahuasca revealed a totally different picture to me: It presented me with a cognitive mode which, in a fashion, defines a world outside time.
The question as to how to reconcile these new discoveries with my general view of cognition perplexed me quite a bit. Full discussion of this question is outside the scope of this paper. Here, let me confine myself to a brief summary statement.
It could be suggested that human beings have the ability to operate, and exist, in two different states. Metaphorically, these may be conceived in terms of the shifting of gears. The first state is the ordinary one, and it is fully grounded in time.