Imagine this story appearing in the news headlines in the near future:
“Once, not too long ago, psychoactive substances were seen as a threat to society; now, scientists are scrambling to find out how a traditional African psychoactive medicine called ubulawu can open self-knowledge and intuitive capacity. This in the face of an epidemic of LSIS (Loss of Self Identity Syndrome) that has become a pressing issue for scientists and health care professionals to understand and manage.
While dismissed by global governments, there are serious calls by various academic institutions to address this syndrome, which some researchers are saying is the reason that depression is now the leading cause of disease in Western society. The researchers state the signs of LSIS have been developing over the last 25 years, and include: an inability to engage in personal emotions; disconnection from the natural environment; continuous stress and depression; the inability to visualize, imagine, and story-tell; and the inability to experience joy. The scientists are suggesting this is a result of an overwhelming dependence on the use of artificial technology, producing constant stimulation and stress, combined with overriding consumerism and a loss of connection from natural surroundings. It is argued that the rapid acceleration of the use of artificial technology has led to the progressive inability to self-reflect and engage one’s personal narrative; in effect, becoming a robot!
Many researchers are alarmed at how this new syndrome appears to be affecting learning, with school children in cities demonstrating the highest absenteeism in recorded history, with virtual and gaming technology platforms occupying 50% of students’ waking time, in recent studies. Yet, now, a multi-disciplinary team of botanists, healers, and pharmacologists are demonstrating that people can recover from this type of syndrome and its related depression by using a traditional form of plant medicine that reawakens one’s ability to engage with the self on an emotional and visualization level. Could this be the beginning of using psychoactive traditional medicines beyond their specific use in treating addictions to a more general use in health and wellness; a returning home to a traditional way of using plant medicines?”
Is this story very distant from where we are now?
We live in an increasingly disconnected society; disconnected from ourselves—from our deeper and higher selves—through the myriad distractions playing off fear and desire in our consumer culture. Simply put, modern day busyness (consumer culture, the time-money-success model and artificial technology) appears to be increasingly distracting people away from themselves.
While emotions are targeted in our consumer culture around products, I have observed in my healing practice that many people find it difficult to access visualization (to visualize a story, an object, etc.), and to acknowledge disturbing emotions in themselves. Psychoactive plants, when used ritualistically in process work, can help us access and work with emotions and creative imagination; an under-developed faculty in modern consumer culture. In my own experience, I have found that, while I had a very lively and creative imagination as a child, this was rapidly eroded by the school system of rote learning; something the industrial consumerist focused system appears to produce, along with the pathologizing of the magical relationship to life, enchantment, and one’s relationship to nature.
It is a strange phenomenon that while advertising messages in our culture speak of rest and relaxation, and provide so much visual stimulation, the actual values driven by the consumer culture do not promote these said behaviours or imagination. It is as if advertising messages are there to lull us into a false sense of security. That is advertising espouses relaxation and rest but the work ethic and reality is that 95% of ones time in the 9-5 job model is spent working with little time for yourself – so that “holiday” is in fact nor very real at all. The messages also say be creative but creative thinking is not taught in most schools and smart phones capture so much of our attention that don’t have to imagine anymore!
It is my hope, through my work, that the role of nature, and plant medicines (organic technology interfacing) in enhancing and opening sensitivity and intuition can be recognized in the West and applied to the path of seekers of self-knowledge. Yet, to get to that point, wider society needs to be educated that not all substances that affect the mind are drugs, and that there are psychoactive plants that have been used for thousands of years as effective tools for self-enquiry, self-knowledge, and growth. We appear to be at the beginning stages of a syndrome like LSIS and therefore, more than ever, we need tools like traditional medicine and nature to help us to access the primary state of consciousness, in the form of feelings and images that we are fast leaving behind in the race towards reliance on artificial technology.
This has inspired me to initiate the Khanyisa Healing Garden Project, the purpose of which is to study, integrate, and sustainably utilize and apply the wealth of traditionally used medicinal plants into broader society in terms of health and wellness.