Transformation requires novelty and difference.

According to the “tradition” of some African indigenous peoples, women should be excised as children; but, under Spanish law, excision is a crime. Therefore, tradition is not necessarily something constructive: it can be a crime as well; many traditions actually are. One shouldn’t respect tradition to death or sacralise it just for being so.

Within the world of the shamanic medicine there is a great cultural influence based on unconditional respect for traditions. For those who have a clear point of view about how things should be done within the work with Ayahuasca, supported by traditions, I would like to share a number of ideas so that they can solve the rejections or sentencings towards all those not relying on traditions.

The principles of Transcultural Shamanism (Core), investigated for more than 50 years and developed by Michael Harner, are not tied to any cultural group or any specific perspective; they are composed of the universal and common features of shamanism, including traveling to other worlds, working with spirits of compassion to increase knowledge, alleviating suffering and curing using all kinds of master plants to access nature’s healing power; all this according to what they have discovered in different shamanisms born in Africa, Russia and the Amazon.

This is an example of a movement that transcended culture and therefore tradition. Culture and tradition are like sisters, mutually protecting each other, even without much support or solid arguments to defend themselves. But this union gives them greater strength and sustainability so they can perpetuate themselves over time.

This moment, in which new, fresh and spontaneous approaches are needed to handle soul healing, and for the emergence of an authentic spirituality adapted to human reality, requires us to leave behind the old models to propel us to the discovery of the new without interference from traditions that only want to survive.

Traditions are like water: they enable us to swim through life without having to do anything; for example, we no longer have to invent, each time, a way to celebrate the great moments of our lives. It would be very hard for many of us to lose collective memory and to have to reinvent Christmas, New Year’s Eve, the Three Kings and all the rituals that make up winter holidays celebrations each year.

Religions are supported by tradition so they can perpetuate through the practices that are imposed. Therefore, to a greater or lesser extent, we all bundle up in tradition, because it makes life easier, safer and more comfortable. We cannot reinvent everything every year, it would force us to think and create.

Tradition means “to transport”. It’s like copy pasting. Repeating a million times the way we do something. Rite means repeating. The repetition of any human act sleeps consciousness, clouds intelligence, cancels creativity; it automates and transforms the human being into a machine that does not think; but it also gives a certain importance to what is performed according to a tradition, because it is based on the fact that many generations have done the same; and although these practices can have a meaning of preservation of the ways so there is no distortion in the rituals, this stubborn preservation of the forms can also distract us from the essential and prevent us from connecting with new depths.

Ayahuasca may be given after the tradition of a particular tribe or ethnicity, inherited from different parts of the Amazon. One could also mix all traditions and create a new cross-cultural model. In fact the shamans of the Amazon syncretically mixed Catholicism with indigenous traditions and they are not accused of betrayal at all; you can hear them recite the Our Father before taking Ayahuasca for example. What is the problem?

I have taken many times with Catholic shamans and I accepted their religious practices together with their indigenous cultural heritage. I never thought of explaining them that since the Spanish invasion they lost or distorted their ancestral culture. I just accepted their work, devotion and wisdom to enjoy and make the most of what they gave me with no judgment.

Similarly I can tell a story, make a philosophical, existential or therapeutic reflection before taking Ayahuasca to give an evolutionary approach from the expansion of consciousness. What is the problem? For me and for all people who come to our REUNIONS there is no problem; on the contrary, they live it as a surprise, but for many advocates of radical tradition that’s a big problem, they live it as a disrespect or betrayal.

Coincidentally “tradition” and “treason” come from the same word “tradere”. Could it be that tradition is a betrayal of spontaneity?

On the other hand it is also possible that those who are transcending traditions are also betraying those who defend and respect it at all costs. If you feel this way, we ask for forgiveness, but we want to clarify that we are not disrespecting traditions, but that we are creating something new, disconnected from the past, without any cultural or religious load to give rise to a new, fresh, original and more in line with this time healing energy.

This is the main reason why students join our European School of Ayahuasca, since in the training program, we teach to leave behind all what’s old to turn the page to what’s new and unknown; otherwise, it is not possible to access the mystery of life.

Many people claim that it was better in the past, they thus dedicate themselves to criticizing those who commit to innovation. They are wary that the new replaces the old, without even realizing that any future time could be much worse if we don’t abandon the past as soon as possible.

This is a fundamental law for both evolution and healing: CLINGING TO THE PAST PERPETUATES TRAUMAS, LIMITS POTENTIAL, AND BLOCKS EVOLUTION. BUT IT’S SOMETHING VERY DIFFERENT TO FORGIVE, FORGET, LEAVE BEHIND AND TURN THE PAGE WITHOUT RESENTMENT TO START A NEW LIFE. This premise, that unites healing and evolution, revealing a significant overlap with the functioning of life, is unfortunately not in any tradition.

Tradition wants to protect itself while preserving their own ways. But life protects itself shedding models and opening up to new and mysterious ways. It is the key and great secret of evolution.

These days, shamans of the Colombian Amazon visited us, and did show great inner evolution because, although they maintain their tradition, they told us: “The way you are doing things is fine, we did not come to impose how things should be done, but to observe and support the work you do; we have our way but we don’t we want to change yours.”

When other’s methods are accepted, a deep channel of communication opens enabling integration, communion and thus the evolution of the parties that respect each other.

Alberto José Varela

Founder of the European School of Ayahuasca

[email protected]


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