Like the Santo Daime in Mapia, Brazil, Gnostisismo Revolutionario de la Concienca de Krishna is an example of a spiritual community based around the use of a psychoactive sacrament as an inspiration and teacher. Combining beliefs from various cultures, Gnostisismo Revolutionario de la Concienca de Krishna is a growing shamanic community which began fifteen years ago in the Putamayo and Caqueta regions of the Colombian jungle.
In the name, 'Gnostisismo' relates to the groups association with the gnostic movement. 'Revolutionario' refers to a (non-violent) "revolution in consciousness as a means of changing the world to a place where the people live in equality and freedom as brothers and sisters". 'De la concienca de Krishna' comes from the affinity of the community with the spiritual traditions of India and Krishna. The group is also very ecologically and politically motivated, campaigning for the human rights of the campesinos who live in the jungle, and initiating ecological projects. Ayahuasca (known as yaje) is drunk in twice weekly ceremonies. It is revered as a teacher and spirit guide and seen as a spiritual path which can be followed to gain access to the realms of healing, divination and inner knowledge, as well as for maintaining an intimacy with the immediate environment and the planet. The community is led by a shaman named Vasudev who has been living in the jungle and working with Yajé for 17 years during which time he has studied with a number of indigenous shamans from Caqueta and Putamayo.
Those who live in the community follow a number of disciplines such as preparation through diet and the practice of tantra in their relationships. Menstruating and pregnant women are not permitted to drink yaje, but the children in the community do participate in the ceremonies. Menstruation is seen as a sacred time for inner quiet, rest, purification and artistic expression. The women spend this time away from the rest of the group, in a 'women's hut' (Ranchito).
Members of the community undergo an initiation when they feel ready to accept the Way of Yaje as their spiritual path. The initiates head is shaved and he or she is given a spiritual name in a ceremony in front of the yaje altar. The ritual signifies the commitment of the initiate to yaje as their spiritual teacher.
A number of English people have visited this group and are now setting up a project with the aim of studying and making available information on the shamanic wisdom of Colombia and raising awareness about ecological and social issues arising from the abuse of nature and the world wide oppression and exploitation of people, their land, communities and cultures by the prevailing capitalist and imperialist forces. They also aim to promote awareness of the use of sacred plants for healing and spiritual purposes and initiate a cultural exchange between people in Britain and the community. They plan to give more people access to the experience of yaje by organising group journeys to Colombia.
Robert Maclaine is one of the founders of this project. After two visits to the community he became an initiate and committed himself to working with the medicine on a long term basis. Here is his account of his first yaje ceremony with the group.
"On the day of my first ceremony we had a herbal purification wash and had fasted since breakfast in order to prepare our minds and bodies for the ritual. After dark everyone changed into their white ceremonial clothing and gathered upstairs in Vasudev's house. Some of the women gathered Coca leaves from the bushes outside and placed them in baskets on the floor for everyone to help themselves; chewing the leaves of the Coca bush gives a gentle clarity of mind and strengthens the body in readiness for Yajé.
After a while Vasudev went to the altar to begin the ritual. A bowl of burning Paulo Santo (an incense for purification) was brought into the room and we all stood to pray for protection and guidance in the ritual.
After drinking we chew some more coca and then lie down on blankets which have been laid out on the floor.
I begin to feel an energy moving in my body. It feels as if some giant being is waking up and filling the house.... Something is happening, I see shapes in my minds eye, swirling patterns, colours, and then I am by the river near to the house. I am trying to cross it - I see Vasudev's brother, Marcello. His voice is in my mind "So you want to be an Indian?" I feel the presence of the other men and I feel like a frightened little boy. There are more voices and intense images crowding in on me, challenging me, laughing at me and all of a sudden I don't want to be here, I am panicking inside, I don't feel I'm up to this, I must have been stupid to think I was. But it doesn't end, it only gets more intense. I see little devils appearing and disappearing, taunting me, jumping in and out of my vision, there are doorways, stairs, different levels.
By this time the others have started chanting again but I am unable to move, paralysed by fear, so I listen and the chanting seems to help me focus. I feel stronger and slowly I raise myself to a sitting position. I look in the direction of Vasudev just as the chanting is stopping and I see him presiding over a portal, a kind of window into other worlds. Then, to my surprise, he turns and looks directly at me; "There are many forces." he says.
Someone puts some music on, Sufi chanting, and I shut my eyes in meditation. There is a beautiful light everywhere. I sit watching this beautiful expanding light flowing everywhere. I breathe it in and listen to the music feeling like I've just woken up in an entirely different, and yet somehow familiar, world. I see a huge sun slowly rising, Sufis facing it in deep prayer. Then, I am above the Earth. I can see it spinning. The sun travels across it. I glide down over the Amazon and see Indians in a clearing dancing to the sun as it sets.
I am feeling quite nauseous and dizzy by now until eventually I have to get up to go and vomit. I make it outside just in time as streams of liquid come shooting out of my mouth and nostrils and my stomach wretches violently. I look up and the plants are surrounded with colours, vibrating with life and, what's more, I can sense their consciousness. They seem curious as if they know that I am new to this place. I look down at the plant nearest to me, a very delicate looking herb which grows close to the ground. I can see it growing, stretching its leaves toward the sky. I look closer and I can see hundreds of little silver and violet lights moving all around the leaves and along the stems busy building - I can see them building the form of the plant. At this moment I see the lights as little beings, and the plant as their palace/temple. I look upon this scene with astonishment, feeling deep in my heart the miracle of life. For a while I gawp at everything. It seems that I have returned to the state of innocent wonder which I felt as a young child.
My experience continued for hours after this with many more visions and insights not to mention a good deal of time spent crouched over a hole emptying my bowels. Eventually I went back inside the house feeling like I was returning from a long voyage. The atmosphere inside was relaxed, peaceful and focused, the people talking quietly in the candlelight and music playing in the background. I spent the rest of the night listening to and talking to the people. Later guitars and drums were brought out and we played and danced until the dawn light in joyous celebration."