Friday, January 11, 2013

Iquitos, Peru: Ayahuasca (Part 13.2)

Interviews with Shamans, Part Four.

Interview with Ron Wheelock, Part Two.

Meeting Ron Wheelock, Gringo Shaman

Most houses in the area outside Iquitos are cobbled together from scrap wood, discarded sheets of corroded tin nailed, more or less, into something boxish to create a family dwelling space, something the residents can call home. Some times the roof is braided palm fronds laid like shingles, one length overlapping the other, to keep some of the rain out, to keep birds from dropping in from the sky, to keep out the direct sunlight. More or less. The walls are sometimes mud brick, the mortar oozing down in sharp-edged clumps one must be careful to avoid for fear of cuts and infections, if not to worry about disturbing the nesting places of spiders and lizards and small black parasites that squiggle madly when they drop into ones soup, waterborne creatures that live forever undrowned yet unable to climb out of the bowl and back into niches and crannies in the darkness. Who knows what one steps on or steps in as one makes ones way across the dirt floor trod continuously by men and beasts and birds and bats and bugs. Rat droppings, dead bug shells, piss, mosquito-breeding pools in dim-lit corners, moldy blankets, discarded food the dog chews on and tosses up only to eat it again, and garbage. All enclosed in a cozy, homey house of boards yanked out the mud and hastily nailed up on the sly before anyone comes to claim them, long red thick boards and thin short white boards, and broken ended unpainted boards, it don't make no nevermind when one is providing ones family with a home off the roadside dirt-track of massive wide and imagination deep pools of creamy mud that sucks ones shoes from ones feet and mud that clings like leaches to the skin and hair and clothes one destroys in walking. This mud eats, as surely as any predator in the selva; and it eats concrete quick. There so few stones, so little gravel, that all is soft and gooey and slick as one make ones way from the dust to the greasy mud to wherever; and surrounding it all, sprouting from every sliver of space is the green of growth, vegetable exiles of the jungle trapped in close cracks between bricks, huddled in clumps by deep tyre tracks, trampled over beside doorways, locked out from the greater green. Comes the darkening sky and the pelting rain and the rise of the water in flood and fury running down and grooving and sweeping away all that falls till at last there stands in silent defeat the heaps of the dead and long forgotten in muddy biers rotting under reproachful black wood trees and screaming lime leaves. One mounts the ridges between tyre tracks in hope of remaining upright on the slick mud path to the house where the Gringo resides, a different kind of place, a different kind of man, house resident rather than one living there like the trees and the snakes and the vines all twisting toward the light. Squeezing between cracked shacks slumped in the muck and plodding gentle down dark ways in the tangled wood one comes to the light space surrounding the house of curandero Wheelock. The light shines on the paving stones and the broad tree datura leaves and household wares stored up side the house. The house's thin wooden frame door invites a knock. Wheelock calls to enter in. A look. A glance. This man's house and home. My mother would approve.

In the jungle of overgrowth and decay and constant death and striving for food and life and space one enters in to Wheelock's home to find a space so at odds with the shacks of the villagers' razor thin rays of light passing between them, one place fair mingled with another as if to be a foot apart is fear itself, one finds in Wheelock's living room the wide open spaces of Kansas, the flat floor tiled earth tones, the hand-hewn beams painted startling white and shiny. No partitions, no high rising impediments to sight, no crammed jumbles of hoarded goods piled and forbidding. There are no obvious hidden things in secret places. One could rollerblade in Wheelock's living room and have space to fly and fall and land in large leather overstuffed chairs and couches spread apart so far one has to shout across the spotless, dustless, clear clean distance from man to man. This is Kansas in something of a nutshell. Kansas as Wheelock is fly-over country in something of a nutshell.

Wheelock's living room is close to 40 square metres of polished tile and wide open spaces that opens into the kitchen organised for convenience and practicality and good use, like a fine farmhouse. Jars of stuff I don't inquire into, pots sparkling and spotless, cupboards closed and clean, a bright, a nice, a middle class place for an American man to live in peacefully. And beyond the kitchen, at the far other side, almost out of sight, a low space enclosed, a light shining through the chicken wire cage wherein are roosters or chickens or some such birds, penned and safe from predators, or laying eggs or some farm thing I can't no longer recall 'cause the chef does my cooking and I don't know anymore about stuff like killing to eat. Having peeked to see enough, having used the small and deliberate bathroom functional and clean and nary a trace of self-indulgence but to be clean, I enter again the domain of Wheelock, taking my seat away from him in a large black leatherette armchair, easy to clean in this humidity, my own leather jacket mouldering daily, wiped and shined and next day grey and damp and sickly.

I spoke with Wheelock, let him do the talking as I listened without taking notes that would give away my devious game. I am not a journalist, though, not committed to my crusade to tell the whole awful truth on a daily basis and to hell with the damned by their own words and my righteous indignation as I silently cheer my scoops and their devastation. Wheelock said and I listened and I remember. I remember cringeing as he spoke and told the truth and how the truth he told flopped like flightless birds at the snake pit at Quistacocha zoo where anacondas lazed in the gloom till they struck stricken chickens. He told me things I can't believe he told me. I'm not Wheelock's babysitter, and I cannot protect him from those who would, given any chance to feast, strike at him and wrap his words in their suffocating grip to drown and devour. Wheelock is on his own; but I am not a snake, last I looked. I know what he said, and better yet, I know the language he used and what it means. Better yet still, I know the kind of man and what the man he means to me. I won't say what he said because twisted men would twist his words and make him suffer for it before they dragged him down to drown. I'll tell the truth about Ron Wheelock.

We sat in overstuffed black chairs under a sparkling white wood beam ceiling, our feet resting on golden brown tiles running on to pristine clay brick walls that make this house whole, and talked about home.

I've spent my life among books and blood and gibbering idiocy and universal genius; I've traveled from Jerusalem to Damascus, from Alaska to Manhattan; I've known Bach and Kant and Weil and Novalis. I've known love as screaming bleeding hungry hatred; and life as nothing more than a moment ended in shuddering agony and the long grief of soulless survival. Wheelock smoked a lot of pot. He rode in cars with laughing buddies and saw the spider web cables of sheet lightening spread for miles across the black Kansas night, empty beer bottles bumping against each other on the floor of the back seat, and the hypnotic hum of the road and the white lines of the Interstate Highway passing barbed wire fences nailed to gnarled, withered posts atilt on the slopes of the treeless prairie berms to take pizzas to Joey's house to get high and screw some girls and play electric guitars till the sun comes up and sleep descends till it's time to get up and make the bed and I know you don't care that you live like dogs but this place looks like shit and you should have some respect for yourself, and to wash up the dishes and sweep the floor and make some money tending the pot plants till it all comes crashing down and ends in prison and a record for life. I look at Wheelock and I see my grandfather's face, gentle and peaceful and somewhat wondering but not too much because there is work to do. I cannot for the life of me spot a printed word in Wheelock's house. He speaks, and I hear the driven boy hearing the driven professor say: “You're smart enough, but you're illiterate.” Wheelock talks, and his words are those of those I left when I left the mountains for the world and lost my home.

'If'n ya don' know what the fuck, then please shut the fuck up,' as I see myself walking across the room of the third floor of the apartment at the university where a tall blond from my department has thrust her luxury coat at my wife and left the girl standing there embarrassed as I take it from her hand and toss it out the window where it hangs out of reach caught in tree branches below and everyone stares and the blond says, “It seems I've made a faux pas,” a general laughter forced across the room very quietly among the stunned, the blossoming career of Dr. Dag as hung up in the trees as any old rag upon a stick. 

Wheelock says: “I said I would.”

He says: “I paid off my house.” “I kept my word.” “I worked....”

He says: “They say we come from the land of the free, but Ah ain't never got nuthin' for free. Ah hadda gotta pay for ever thang Ah ever got. Ah gots ta pie for mah VEE-hickle...” and so on it goes, and I go home, back to the mountains where I gots to pay for stuff or I don't get none, and that's the truth where I come from and where Wheelock lives, though this is a foreign nation to some homosexual vegetarian animal rights activists who might be able to talk about Peter Singer, a fool I spoke with at great and deep length and whom I know too well. “If I ain't got the money, I wait and save it up till I gots it.”

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. I think America is gone off the map and that we live in a jungle somewhere.

Wheelock told Walker about stuff about family things, and you don't have any right to know. I know, and that's likely why he told me. If you know, then I don't have to tell you.

I could hear every word Wheelock said, though we were very far apart, his chairs spread wide across the room, and he told me about a boy from back home come to visit and out at a restaurant where the boy burped and farted and every time he did he's say “eshucha.” Wheelock finally got fed up, he said, as people all turned to hear the boy, and he told him that because the word might sound like the Spanish version of “excuse me” it means instead, “Listen.” I could hear it coming because I know that kind of joke. In turn I told a joke I wrecked so badly that there were no survivors among the litter of words that fell half dumb from my mouth. Could write it out, but it would take another page and it would likely only appeal to those who get elaborate puns in Attic Greek, not those who write AUTOCHTHONOUS,* (a neologism (1845)) rather than the word any self-respecting Classical Athenean intellectual** would use instead, chthonic, for example. But this is not Wheelock's world, a world where he bought his mother a VEE-hicle, (which I pronounce as he does and I don't care) that he insisted be in his name as well as hers so his step-brothers don't take it if anything should happen to the mother in her eighties because Wheelock paid for that vehicle and they ain't go no right to take it that ain't they'ern.

There are those who don't get it what “Mine” means. They don't know.

And about those fighting chickens? I never asked, but Wheelock felt compelled, though he had no idea why I would wonder, to tell. I waited till he told me.

I will write this about the fighting cocks Wheeler goes to America to buy and brings to Peru to train to be fighters, his training as good as one can give, his desire to have not only the best but to make money from winning, to gain respect for his effort and skill, much as he needs to get money and respect from making the best ayahausca in Peru. So there it is. There's nothing to add.

Wheelock told and I listened and here I report some of what I heard. Others might tell what I won't, and Wheelock might well tell. I'm not a babysitter. Wheelock is on his own.

I haven't hinted at the kind of man Wheelock is: it's as clear as a summer Kansas sky. This is not to suggest that it will make any sense to those who don't know what America is about. This is not to say that more than half of Americans won't be bewildered by the man. More than half will see nothing but a man they would attack and harm for being the kind of American they think they are supposed to hate. I do think it more than passing strange that those who would hate Wheelock and harm him are those more likely to want ayahuasca from him than those who would sit as guests in Wheelock's living room and chat up the man for hours with next to no interest in drinking ayahuasca at all, not with him or any other shaman of the jungle at Iquitos, Peru.

About the man, I said what I said about what he said about stuff about him, his life, his family, our nation; and I keep much of the rest locked away 'cause it's much about him as it's much about me because we are very much alike, him and me, and you ain't got no right to know it if'n you don't know it.

There is more to this story than what I've told so far. It might be that I won't be welcome back to Wheelock's house again because of what I've written so far. If, though, the man will have me in again for conversation I hope next time to write at length about Wheelock the shaman and the best ayahausca on earth. “It's not always only about the ayahuasca,” he says, “It's also about the person who leads the ceremony.” Now we know the man. Or we don't.

Next, Wheelock's ayahuasca.

* AIDESEP worker December 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm

 **For a lengthy discussion of the term intellectual and the concept of, please refer to my upcoming book, A Genealogy of Left Dhimmi Fascism, Vol. V: "Intellectuals, Nazi Intellectuals, and Plato." (2013)


A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Iquitos, Peru: Ayahuasca (Part 13.1)

Meeting Ron Wheelock, Gringo Shaman

I can kind of see that if one were to sit in a totally dark room with a bunch of strangers in a country far from home where one is then further isolated from the familiar by being in a grass-roof hut, sitting on a thin mat in the Amazon jungle, and one is determined to drink a sludge of boiled vines and leaves that are meant to make one puke ones guts out and then shit everywhere, all this for the sake of going psycho for about four hours hallucinating about being attacked by giant snakes and demons and thinking one is dying, then yes, this might make one fussy about who one chooses to lead one through this “ceremony” of sickness and madness as one is more or less helpless and incapacitated and at the mercy of anyone who cares to be aggressive and hostile and harmful, one who might call himself a shaman or a curandero, the leader of the ayahuasca drinking session so dearly paid for and done in high hopes of an interesting, even life-altering encounter with ones inner self. The thrill of an altered state of consciousness that leads so many to ayahuasca is better done with some experienced baby-sitting, the general concensus insists, and one needs think through who that babysitter might be. A bad shaman, a bad trip. Drinking ayahuasca leads some women to being raped, some people to being robbed, others to being abused psychologically to the point they return in a state of terror from the experience. If one chooses to take ayahuasca, then one must choose wisely who ones babysitter will be during the period ones own self-parent is absent. But, hey, it gets a bit gay for me, this talk about the shamans who are so enlightened and spiritual and wise and who are so this and so that to the point one wonders why anyone ever voted for Obama when these other folks are so available. If the shaman of choice doesn't rape you, rob you, kill you, or mind-fuck you beyond repair, the rest, it seems to me, should be up to the individual seeking an altered state of consciousness, the shaman's role being limited to standing by with a cell phone to call for an ambulance if needed. But such is not the case, from what one hears of shamans. They aren't just special, they are special special. I've met some but I'm not yet a groupie. Maybe I just haven't met the right one so far. This all leads to meeting Ron Wheelock, the Gringo Shaman of Iquiots, Peru. 

Ron Wheelock is from southern Kansas. He's a fifty seven year old American. He first went to Peru on 7 March 1996 for a brief visit and returned for a longer period 7 Nov. 1999. He currently lives just outside of Iquitos, Peru.

In an interview, he says of himself:

I mean, I'm still the same person I always was. But I've changed a lot, and when I go back and visit my old friends that I've been around for most of my life [in Kansas], I just don't resonate good with ‘em. I can visit ‘em, but after a short while I wanna go. They're still in the same place, they haven't changed. And some of ‘em's been judgemental to me, like Ron, you've changed so much. Do you not remember where you came from? And yes I remember very well where I came from.

Whatever else one might say of Wheelock, it's clear from the start that he's semi-literate and what some would call a hillbilly. “He's known around town as the Trailer Park Shaman,” said one long time resident of Iquitos. It's not surprising, then, that such a man would raise killer chickens for fun and profit. It's not surprising that such a man, surrounded by people attending him as shaman, would fire a pistol in the dark of night while high on drugs. Call it medicine, then. The man is what he is. What is this hillbilly about? Who is he? I decided to find out for myself. If one is to sit in the darkness alone and entirely vulnerable to the mercies of a stranger when ones life hangs in the balance and one must depend on the character of the babysitter one has chosen, then one must hope one has chosen as wisely as the situation itself allows for. If one is comfortable with a middle aged man who makes his ayahuasca brew by running the woody vines through an industrial wood-chipper “because it makes a finer brew” than the result of rising first thing in the morning to hammer the vines to bits and hope, then one if fine with man and the result, even if both destroy any pretence of high Romantic, suicidally sensitive young Werther or a Rilkesque sensitive poet type. If not for this curiousity of mine and this desire to meet a “type” for the sake of rounding out this look at shamans, i.e. to meet a shaman from America who is, on top of all else, an outsider even at home, I wouldn't nod at a man like Wheelock if I saw him on the sidewalk. But I decided to meet him anyway. What better way to club the drug tourist thrill seekers from home who come to the Amazon to be cooler than cool and to love their vanities evermore deeply than before they drank ayahuasca in a “ceremony” with a man the would despise at home than to meet and write about this trailer trash old guy backwoods hippie who cons the urban affluent out of lots of money and then laughs at them as he counts his money in the jungle? 

This German girl I am so mad about could very well sit as I take her out for dinner and tell me how she would like to strip me naked and duct tape me to a plain wood chair and torture me with a propane torch and a dull edged rusty spoon and a bottle of vinegar; and as she described the horror of my torture I would love every word she spoke because she is lovely and I feel good about her talking about anything at all. Except not exactly. She said once that I look like Ron Wheelock's older brother. She has mentioned this a number of times. I respond with a friendly grin and tell her to bring on the needle nose pliers. I can take it like a man. Recently she said Wheelock and I are much alike, the same kind of person in many ways.... And I am a gentleman and I say step on my wounds, I can deal with the screaming. She goes on about Wheelock and me, and I have happy visions of my knuckles being crushed and my ears being cut off so I don't have to clench my fists and listen to more of this beautiful woman tell me I have anything in common with Ron Wheelock. As it turns out, Ron Wheelock and I have much in common, but not the important things.

Ron grew up in small town Kansas, the kind of place some fool wrote a book about called, What's Wrong with Kansas? meaning everything is wrong with those hillbillies living in rural places the intelligentsia in coastal cities refer to as “fly-over country,” as if those who live in the centre of the nation and live private lives are fools who don't know stuff, idiots, fools, bigots, racists, and greedy, stupid pig people. Why do we cling so bitterly to our guns and religion and other
Ron Wheelock
out-dated and dangerous ideas when all we have to do is ask the cool people in the resort areas of California or New York how we should think and how we should be grateful for the wisdom doled out by the Left elite. I meet the leftard minions at least once a week, usually a girl in her mid-20s, bright, smooth-faced, clean, pretty, and so full of self-assurance that one feels a need to step back and let this princess float past as she turns and bestows a benign smile at those standing worshipful on the sidelines of life. Sometimes stopping briefly to drop some words of wisdom on such as we ignorant peasants, she will tell us about the healing powers of ayahuasca and how general use would end all wars and bring women to places of empowerment from where they could create a more perfect union of the cosmos and womanhood for the happiness of all, particularly Mother Nature, the loving earth, and the matriarchy in waiting. They come to Iquitos to take “medicine” with shamans, to expand their awareness of the good, to find their inner goddess, and so on. At home, rather than working with NGOs in remote villages where they teach the locals important life skills that thousands of years of history and simple living have failed to convey, they are, nine of ten so far, waitresses. The boys are gentle things, delicate and lovely. They play guitars and write music and draw and paint in little hardcover notebooks, and they are pretty and sweet and kind to old guys. Mostly they work in restaurants. They aren't educated much, not like the girls who all have undergraduate degrees. The boys, though, are almost always gentle and smiling. Ron Wheelock is not like that, and he comes from the wrong place to be like that, and it shows in almost everything he does and when he speaks and when one sees him. He's south rural Kansas. Poor white trash.

Ron Wheelock

For this discussion of shamans I wanted from the beginning a range of shaman types, a local who lives in the jungle and has little contact with the modern world, Modernity, someone naïve and isolated and “authentic” in a sense Modernists can call the real thing; and I wanted a woman included because in spite of what women in Modernity might claim and do, women are not a better version of men at all, they are women, unique and strange and not men; and finally, I wanted an American hippies, someone so different from the expected, and yet so typical of what we would all assume a hippie in the jungle to be that he would be some cartoon caricature of a hippie shaman. I found one of each, and now it's Wheelock's turn to grace these pages. I called him up and made arrangements to meet him at his home, telling him nothing about myself, leading him to believe I am a curious person interested in ayahuasca, but not more about the man I am or what I do. He met me, I entered his home, we sat in his living room, and we spoke for hours. He would have spoken about ayahuasca all that time and more, but I guided the conversation away from that so I could find out about the man who is the Gringo Shaman of Iquitos. I wanted to know Ron Wheelock, guy in living room at home.

In a generation or so it will be near impossible to convey the reaction of most middle class white Americans toward a man like Wheelock back home. He is despicable to most successful people in that he has little to no formal education, can't speak about social concerns that obsess the majority of well-heeled middle class people, seemingly has no clue about sophisticated philosophers of rights like Peter Singer. He would be in jail if most had their way; and they world. Or, they would were Wheelock not perhaps exempt because he lives in the Peruvian Amazon and is a shaman dealing with ayahuasca. He is now world-famous as a man to be reckoned with in the Arcane. Without that, he would be abhorred by those who now adore him. There is no blanket absolution, of course. There are the leftard religious fanatics who can't stop till everything is pure beyond purity. For them, all must burn. For them, Wheeler would be high on the list. Wheelock probably wouldn't be able to explain the frenzy that drives the Left Savonarolas; and though it's too clear the latter can't explain themselves either, they do have their doctrines, and it is that that would leave Wheelock baffled. He hasn't rejected Modernity in favour of a more sophisticated post-Modernity. The world left Wheelock behind decades ago, and he has caught it only by chance, a figure of awe and wonder among the haters only because the Mystik is strange and those people who would hate his type love the man in spite of themselves. Mostly.

Gart van Gennip February 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm

[A] fraud like Ron Wheelock. This man claims to be a shaman, but in reality is nothing but a greedy charlatan. He uses a woodchipper to produce large quantities of ayahuasca, which apparently he sells to buyers abroad, thus raping the local culture and the spiritual essence of ayahuasca. Apart from that, this fool organizes cock fights -which are illegal in his own country for very good reasons!- and breeds pitbull terriers (god only knows for what purpose). In my humble opinion, people like Ron should be tarred, feathered and run into the Amazon River.

[The above quotation and following are from the blog:]

I get concerned when religious fanatics spout off about violence they would do to others, especially when they claim they are only emoting under the pressure of the moment. They are willing to cleanse the world of those they dislike, and they wait only for the mob to join them so they have the power of righteous fury en masse to back their rage with a veneer of legitimacy. They are not harmless. The Righteous Angry Prophet lurks in dark places and rises up in blood when the mob gives him permission. He has, he does, he will again. 

[Apart] from [being] an openly gay atheist, I am also a vegetarian. I haven’t eaten any meat or fish since 1984 and I am a strong believer in animal rights. If people don’t stand up to defend animals against other people, then who will? 

The writer above devolves into illiterate idiocy when he finds he cannot tell the truth about himself directly. His purity announced for all to admire, he then claims that he must “stand up” to defend the weak; but will not write this openly. He writes instead some dishonest rubbish because he won't admit his longings to be the strongman at the head of the violent mob. “If people....” If I, G. v.G., do not....” He will not say. “I can’t stop Ron Wheelock or anyone else from doing what they do,” he writes, and he makes me nervous. He can't stop others, but the desire is there in the wings waiting its cue. The fascist mind flutters like the falcon in the fist. Who, then, is Wheelock, and why the covert frenzy against? I'm curious about the man. I want to know about the person himself, but also about the limits of shamans. Who is, and why?

Gennip continues:

Gart van Gennip February 17, 2011 at 9:32 pm

[A]yahuasca is considered a sacred teacher plant. It is part of a very old tradition and culture. It has huge spiritual significance to many people, locals as well as visitors. The way Ron Wheelock produces ayahuasca and sells it at great monetary benefit is nothing less than an insult to this cultural and spiritual significance. It is void of even a shred of cultural and spiritual sensitivity.

I don’t get how anyone who takes ayahusaca seriously can even consider supporting this guy with their money, let alone recommend him to others. To me, it is shocking and offensive.

If you really want to have a true ayahuasca experience, there are countless of alternatives; ayahuasqueros, healers, who offer an authentic, traditional ceremony, maybe even at a better rate as well. But if it is just the power of the brew that matters to you, then why don’t you admit that you just want to get high, and that the rest of it is a load of bullshit.


I like to think that a true shaman lives a holistic, spiritual lifestyle, has respect for Mother Nature and doesn’t care too much about money. I haven’t seen or heard any evidence that these things apply to Ron.


[H]ow can anyone who engages in despicable exploitation of animals for fun and monetary gain be a good shaman? I am already far beyond Ron Wheelock as a person or a shaman,


At Bill Grimes blog a further comment quotes an interview: 

Andy Metcalfe April 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Steve: There is a tendency — and I talk about this especially in relationship to María Sabina — to romanticize and to spiritualize shamans generally, and shamans in the Upper Amazon in particular. I think that does them a disservice. It takes away the depth of their humanity.
Howard: And their suffering, too. This is another important aspect of Singing to the Plants. You show that life in the Amazon is harsh, and in no way is it a soft and easy reality. The tragic death of doña María illustrates this. It is candid and direct, and no attempt has been to make the Amazon world romantic or “cosmic.” In my experience the shamans are not cosmic. They work to help everyday people in their suffering, their illnesses, and their protection. It is about the nitty-gritty of survival, and that’s one of the impressive aspects to your book.
Steve: Shamans are people who are engaged in dealing with envy, resentment, jealousy, disease, sickness, marital problems, business failures, interpersonal conflict. These are people whose job it is to deal with mess.
And they have their own sometimes messy lives. They have the dirty, difficult, and dangerous job of trying to make sick people better. And I think we do them a disservice when we spiritualize them, romanticize them, and try to turn them into some kind of religious icon. They deserve better than that.

Gart van Gennip December 3, 2011 at 6:08 pm
I apologized to Ron for writing my inflammatory comments during a friendly conversation we had during the recent shaman’s conference. I also found Ron to be a genuinely nice and decent guy; modest, friendly and sincere. I found I had been misinformed about some of the things I accused him of, particularly by an annoying young video-documentary maker who had interviewed and spent a lot of time with Ron, and who I thought at the time was a reliable source. Turns out he was a flake!
So, I was wrong to fly off the handle and I was wrong to write what I did about Ron.

There is more at the link. As well, there is something left to be said about G. v.G.s moral, what we have discussed earlier as philobarbarism, sentimentality, and what I write of extensively, the reactionary longing of the primitive fascist for the return to an imaginary Golden Age of pure perfection as neo-feudalism; the love of poverty as if it were ennobling; what I and others have termed “povertarianism.” The poligion of scientism and Romantic reaction scream out in every sentence of G. v.G. He is not unique. He is legion. He is so particularly in the areas of ayahuasca Irrationalism among anti-Modernist sympathisers of the German Revolution. This obscure reference is important only in light of other works I write, some of which I hope will in time come to light in the world. For now, I simply put it on the record and leave it at that. What we can take away from the dialogue above is that some people claim to be purer than others in the same ayahuasca field, and those like Wheelock are shunned because of their “hillbilly” ways by ayahuasca elitists. To know about ayahuasca and those who use it, those who administer it to others, those who promote it, I looked at as well-rounded an array of possible shamans as I could. Wheelock is at one extreme of the spectrum. About ayahuasca, more later. For now, what about the man in the living room who causes so much frenzy among his fellows? My feeling is that it is a resentment from peasants who live in the Modern world and cannot accept the idea of equality of Man. I mean by this that there are those who pass as ordinary Modernists in all ways but the essential ones, men and women who live in the Medieval economy of scarcity, privilege, and entitlement. They are, thus, generally unconscious adherents of the German Revolution, those who follow unknowing the State socialism of Bismarck, those who would create the perfect Prussian state of aristocratic rule by Philosopher Kings for the good of all others. Modernist seeking ayahuasca utopia are the very people who seek the Golden Age of heroes and grand sacrifice for the glory of self and everlasting nothingness, to flame out in a Grand Gesture of Romantic death. They would take us all with them in their mad longing for gnostic godhead. Where does a hillbilly from Kansas fit in? Where does an uneducated middle aged drop out belong in this pantheon of ayahusaca-dispensing demigods fit in with the hippest of cool elitists who despise him and all he otherwise stands for? He's from fly-over country. How can he take up the titles of the elite? How can he justify having anything more than the miserable life of a starving peasant? How can he presume to live like a noble, a man with a title, i.e. a titled man, in this case shaman or curandero? He's a hillbilly. He's not our kind. Ergo: the man must be a fraud.

A reputable shaman lives, as we have seen, in a hut in the jungle and he takes a chicken in payment for his services as intermediary battling spirits in the vegetable aether on our behalves. Like our general understanding of holy men, he has taken vows of poverty because he is not really of this world of dirt and shit and puke at all, the stuff noble people do not have or know about because they are spiritually above it all. Nor do they care about stuff in general, like giant flat screen televisions and shiny black electrical toys and guitars and electricity and an automobile and cell phones. they might have loads of money, it's true, as much as the most noble of politicians and their multimillion dollar yachts they move from state to state to avoid paying taxes on while they lecture the little people about burning too much electricity with wasteful light bulbs in their apartments. Of course the noble are rich, and it's good because they are so far above it all we can see that to them it doesn't mean a thing. They treat wealth like the worthless bauble it is, pissing away fortunes the low among us cannot begin to dream of. They do it all for us to teach us that poverty is good.

The reputable shaman is poor, like all good people are, with the notable exception of those born to privilege, those entitled, i.e. those with titles, titles such as Executive Director of Sharing and Caring for the Poor at X quango.  Or, better still, think political figure who battles for the rights of the poor. Think of the ever-golfing multi-millionaire current U.S. president who is often on vacation at today's equivalent of Versailles. He is a great man, a lover of the poor, and entitled to his perks because he carries the suffering of the world on his broad shoulders. Who is Ron Wheelock to have small toys in imitation of such great men? The man is a hillbilly, and thus must be a fraud. He is not an elite member of the ruling class; and worse, he has no class. He's from Kansas. Rural Kansas! A fraud! He should be pure and poor. "I am already far beyond Ron Wheelock as a person or a shaman."

I got on a local chicken bus to see the man for myself. I do honestly hang on every word homosexual animal rights activist vegetarians say about anything at all, but still, I figured I'd see Wheelock myself, me being a worthless kind of guy with lingering doubts about what others say about almost everything. A every right-thinking person knows, this kind of spiteful questioning of the anointed shows me to be a fascist. I should probably be killed for this, but so far there is no mob of Conformity Hippies to assist the Righteous Angry Prophet in ridding the world of me. There is always tomorrow.

"Wooden Bus"

It doesn't seem to have occurred to Wheelock to have a limousine to carry his guests to his home. A real shaman of the American type so successful as to be among the elite, the true Al Gore type saviour, would have an airport for private jets arriving. For Wheelock, it's come by chicken bus-- or walk.

Decal of middle finger salute, fingernail sporting a scorpion, hand with naked woman and marijuana plant growing out of her foot; stuffed monkey hanging from rearview mirror; cross on chain; and a pile of coins; all the things that truly matter in the jungle life.
I sat on a huge tyre at the back of the bus because the last seat was vacant, meaning it wasn't there, and I had to squat on the tyre or stand for an hour as the bus jolted over and in and through endless giant watery, muddy, sticking holes in the jungle road toward the village where Wheelock has his place. It was that or walk. Which is OK with me because I left my private jet at the cleaner's.

Wheelock kind of blows the authentic by living too close to civilization, and one can more or less get a ride right to the path that leads to his front door, no need to buy a really cool wardrobe of jungle attire so one can follow behind the train of baggage carriers to his place like other, and up-scale, places do for you. Wheeler just lives close to a Third World shit-hole village in the Amazon where a deaf person's television on Main Street is blasting a Lima-based soap opera across the distant river from an open doorway. 

The Road to Wheelock's House

I stopped in the centre of the village with the idea of bringing a surprise breakfast from McDonald's to Wheelock's place, but damn, there isn't one downtown. Insrtead the locals live on a very healthy and natural diet of rice, potatoes, yucca and cane sugar booze they make fine with human spit. Where is the Amazon rain forest going? Cane fields to make a low-life version of aguardiente de caña. Hiss, McDonald's. Hurrah, cane fields where once was jungle.

Downtown at Ron Wheelock's Place

Not knowing any better I took the chicken bus from close to the Plaza de Armas to the terminal at the edge of town and paid 1.5 sole, about $0.50. I then hired a mototaxi for another 1.5 soles to take me into the village of Delfines, at the back of which lives Sr. Wheeler. By the time I arrived my kidneys were killing me and I needed to take a piss to rid my unhealthiness of the morning's cup of coffee. I stopped in the bushes to relieve myself only to have some ten year old kid pop up and tell me I was lost and he would personally  take me to the Gringo Shaman's house. For this I paid another sole. The mototaxi drivers downtown Iquitos told me it would cost me 15 soles to the exchange at Delfines. Now I know I can take a bus from Belen the whole way for 1.5 soles and walk on my own to Wheelock's house without a guide, pissing as I please along the way. I call this enlightenment.

The Road to Wheelock's House

I got to Wheelock's house, deep in the remaining jungle, and knocked on the door, not knowing if I would again be attacked by vicious pit bull dogs like I was when the geriatric beast at the German girl's place tried to eat me. I knocked and waited for the sound of fangs and slobber. Instead I heard a gentle but masculine voice asking me to enter in. Ron Wheelock's place. I stayed and talked for the next three hours.

The next installment is going to piss off anyone expecting to read about ayahuasca. I talked to Wheelock about being Ron Wheelock. Now I know stuff about the man. That's next.

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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Iquitos, Peru: Ayahuasca (Part 12/2)

Ayahuasca 12.2

In Iquitos, Peru there is now an association of shamans, not just those who deal in ayahuasca but those who work with other plant medicines, each one local to the shaman, some dealing with exotica that brings scientists from around the world to study with them in the hope of learning something not known before, and perhaps in the hope of finding a miracle drug like asperin or quinine or barbasco or any number of other marvel in the Modern that we take for granted now and can't imagine a world without. But there was a time, and not so long ago, that Amazonian medicine was hidden from the rest of the world, and for some shamans, that's just the way they would like to keep it. But most know such is not possible, that the world encroaches, that the shamanic world must make way for “progress,” such as it is, even when it destroys local village life. And thus there is an association of shamans who have elected Rossana to deal with the outside world of lawyers and government officials and tourists and other shamans making noises about this and that that brings Rossana to village after village oft times by canoe in the wet season when there are no roads at all but the water ways. And Rossana brings some sort of healing with her in the form of talk. Over and over she mentions “prudence,” a feminine way of dealing with the rough and tumble of a man's world that women have to cope with as well as they can. The village elders chose her, and the shamans work with her. It has been so for ten years, since the previous woman died, some suspect murdered by poison and a blow across the back from a club. Prudence only goes so far in the world. Slowly, slowly, little by little, and still there are stories of shamans murdered wholesale in the area of Yurimaguas, a story I find little evidence to support it, but now folk loric and true to the those who live the village life and shamanic profession. In this epistemological realm a death is caused, it doesn't simply happen of its own accord, doesn't come from a mindless force that we call nature. For the shamanic and the villagers who live in the worlds of plants, it is the power of the spirits of plants that do all things. That's why there are shamans and various sorts of plant doctores. Without them, people would be helpless against all harms. With them, life is frightening and bitter and short. Not all shamans are good guys. Some are witches. All shamans though are part of the matrix of plants and thus are all bound by the same rules of awareness of the realities of life.

Sitting in Rossana's sparsely furnished room with toys scattered around one can sense the village life still in her conversation and the look in her eyes when she talks of life outside the bustle of the city. Though we sit mere feet from the window on the street I don't hear any sound but Rossana's voice as she talks about tribal warfare, murdered shamans, raped babies, and demonic shamans sabotaging each other for the sake of gaining power over rivals. The shamanic world is a closed world, not only to me as a Westerner and modern world man but to others not initiated and trained in plants and lore. I have some sense of the village life as I hear my grandmother talking to me about the clans across the way, of the raids and the spirits of the glens and dales, the tors and the bens. I know the village life as well from the closed mind and the adamant refusal to speak further about some plain fact my grandmother will not accept, it being in contradiction to her life in the blistering north of poverty and toil and want. It's the jungle life, one of superstition and irrationality that one cannot change in the person living it. I remember it.

I'm not a science guy. I have little sympathy for the myopic cutters. My love in life sees grand narratives of high vision and the Moral in literature. It don't hardly include spirits living in trees and weeds. Like us all, however, I have a sense of the whole, and that is what the selva shaman in the Amazon provides along side the lab-bound molecular physicist and the Orthodox rabbi ducking bombs in Sderot, and the leftard conspiracy theorist sleeping in his mother's basement in Bumfuck, Colorado. We all of us search for a grand story that makes sense of what the world is and why we live in it as we do, well or ill. I look to Sophocles and Aeschylus and Shakespeare and Milton for reality and meaning; others look to the jungle and beyond, to the avatars of plants. Some look to the stock market, and some look to the Golden Age of the distant past in the hope of finding the way to the future perfect. Surprising to some, there are doctors of novels; and equally surprising to others, there are doctors of ayahuasca. What is? How do we know? What is the Good? I asked these questions over and over during the hours I spent talking with Rossana. Each time the answer came back to prudence. The story becomes clear if one hears the voice of a female shaman speaking as a female first and as a shaman second. Don't recklessly destroy things in haste and aggressive competition and pride. The story is grand and it needs many to make it clear, not the super shaman with the greater power, but all shamans working slowly and locally to make things good for those around them in need. Prudence. Don't, don't, don't.

Don't go to the shaman to ruin him for selfish needs, Rossana said, those sick people who want to die of the effects of ayahuasca and then leave their troubles at the shaman's door. Then followed too many examples of tourist who come to die. Don't come to seduce the shamans, I heard examples of, because some of them will go for it and some will retreat ever further from the world of outsiders from fear of demonic possession. And please, which made me choke on my coffee, please do not send us hippies, not people from Argentina, but especially not the worse of all, hippies from Chile.

Hippies came in the sixties and in various guises they come today to strip the selva of shaman, turning the original 50 or so lodges meant for jungle sightseeing into a massive industry now that harvests shamans and places them in modern luxury where they make the tourist happy and reap small rewards, often cheated so badly that the time came when Rossana and others were outraged to the point of starting an association to protect the professionals from further harm. Prudence. Get along, be careful, take a few drops of ayahuasca first to see if it might give on heart palpitations or even kill. Gently, gently. And do no harm.

Rossana gave ayahuasca once to three strange men, men she didn't know. Shortly thereafter at church she saw the same three men-- all of them Catholic priests. She went to her own priest and asked if now she would go to hell for her actions. The priest said no, that it is important that they know what it is the locals experience, knowing as well as they can the lives of others, those they hope as well to tend.

To know life and make people able to live it well without pain or fear is the good in the story of being Rossana tells. It's a girl's story. There is another story to tell that Rossana only hints at, a dark and frightening story of katawa and the family of poison drinkers.

I don't know, and the young Italian lad doesn't know, but someone might, and someone might tell the story of the attack on the boy that has left him terrified by his ayahuasca experiences, close to 20 and all benign at least and uplifting till the last when he was invaded by a bruha, the witch who came to destroy his mind and capture his soul.

“I don't know anything anymore,” he told me, sweating and frightened and sleepless as he sat on my bed and fairly begged me for answers I don't have to give him. “I thought ayahuasca was good. But now I don't know. I am afraid I have lost my mind.” I sat and smiled and listened and said nothing much because there are answer I don't have to give him. I know a little more, having looked a little deeper. Maybe I could tell him, but I don't know that he would understand. There are mysteries I don't quite get and don't want to waste time with fools pondering. There are evils too that one might want to ponder even if they attack the simple badly. I see him now in my mind's eye. I've seen some things, now I know I can tell. I thought he was a goof. Now? Well, now I don't know what to think about the lad. I've come back a changed fellow.

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Dag Walker, American Writer, Goes to Prison, Iquitos, Peru (Part Two)

But prison is my destiny in Iquitos. I swore that I would be back and that I would go to prison if it was the last thing I ever did. My life might be easy, but I can make it damned hard when I want to. Prison or death, I said to myself. I will return. I will go to prison.

And so I did, this time with a man who should know the ropes, the familiar face around town for those “looking for something?” I went to El Penal with Juan Maldonado.

To read the rest of this story, please turn to the following link;

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
And here are some reviews and comments on said book: