Stephan Beyer, Ph.D.
“Ayahuasca, Cognitive Psychology, and the Ontology of Hallucination”
There is no doubt that the sacred plant ayahuasca can produce hallucinations under just about any definition of the term — visual experiences that are solid, detailed, three-dimensional, animated, interactive, and embedded in ordinary perceptual space; auditory experiences that are immediate, external, directional, locatable in space, and often coordinated with visual experiences. These experiences are similar in striking ways to lucid dreams, DMT journeys, scopolamine overdose, out-of-body experiences, false awakenings, waking dreams, apparitions, eidetic visualization, and active imagination — what we can call “visionary experiences,” all characterized to a lesser or greater degree of presentness, detail, externality, and three-dimensional explorable spacefulness. We will discuss what contributions current cognitive psychology can make to our understanding of these experiences, and the ontological implications of the ability of ayahuasca to collapse the boundary between the real and unreal, the world and the imagination.
Stephan V. Beyer, Ph.D. — scholar, adventurer, and expert on both jungle survival and plant hallucinogens — is the author of Singing to the Plants, “the best book on ayahuasca yet” and “the most comprehensive examination of Amazonian shamanism ever written.” Steve studied wilderness survival among the indigenous peoples of North and South America, and sacred plant medicine with traditional herbalists in North America and curanderos in the Upper Amazon, where he studied the healing plants with doña María Tuesta Flores and received coronación by banco ayahuasquero don Roberto Acho Jurama. With doctoral degrees in both religious studies and psychology, Steve lived for a year and a half in a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas, and has undertaken numerous four-day and four-night solo vision fasts in the desert wildernesses of New Mexico. He has studied the use of ayahuasca and other sacred plants in the Amazon, peyote in ceremonies of the Native American Church, and huachuma in Peruvian mesa rituals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.