Iboga in Gabon

This spring I travelled to Gabon, in central Africa, to be initiated in the Bwiti tradition using the sacred wood Iboga. Here are some pictures of my journey.

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An Iboga Vision

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Last winter I had my first journey with the sacred root Iboga. While laying on a couch in a living room somewhere in the north of Holland, I was taken on an odyssey not unlike the one described by Dante in his Divina Commedia. It makes one wonder about the use of visionary plants in medieval Europe. I was shown both the underworld, the illusionary hell realms sustained by the machinery of fear and the indescribable realm of light that is both our origin and destination.

In the Iboga experience, visions can come and go at an incredible speed; hundreds, thousands of ephemeral images paralleling a highly increased spiritual combustion process. But then there are also visions of a very different kind, much more stable, and of a phenomenal clarity and depth.

One of those visions, and one I will never forget, was that of our planet earth, the blue sphere nobody ever saw directly in its breathtaking entirety, except for the handful of astronauts who ventured far enough in space, the very planet on the surface of which you are sitting at this moment, whirling in an elliptical dance around this other absolutely mind-boggling phenomenon we call the sun.

In my vision I saw the earth from a distance far enough to enable me to  see it as a whole, majestically hanging in space, surrounded by millions of stars. A truly awe-inspiring sight.

I always found the joining of immensity and stillness to be something absolutely sublime. Like the jaw-dropping enormity of a snow peaked mountain range, resting in deep stillness, totally unaware of our awe. Seeing the sheer vastness of this luminous blue jewel that is our planet earth, imbedded in the absolute stillness of space, was like the culmination of every solitary exaltation I ever had in the Alps or Himalayas.

But the way the vision unfolded drove my awe to a peak. What came next was both the most powerful as the most gentle thing I ever witnessed : slowly, starting with a delicate glow of the atmospheres edges, the Sun, Taita Inti, the central Symbol, came rising from behind the globe, shedding its golden light like a blessing over the surface of the earth.

Obviously this vision wasn’t just about my little life. I was in a realm way beyond the personal. The deeper we go within ourselves, the more we come in touch with what connects us all. We are all branches on the same tree. If we go within to explore our inner worlds, we will first encounter our personal subconscious, that which relates to the specific history of the little twig that we are in this lifetime. If we go deeper, we will encounter the branch we share with other twigs. If we go deeper still, we will see that this branch is in its turn attached to a bigger branch, etcetera – until we arrive at the trunk and the roots, our shared being, that which carries and sustains us all.

During the experience I had a very distinct feeling that this vision of the sun, rising above our planet, was a dream of the whole tree, so to speak, coming from deep within the collective unconscious, and as such a message that is addressed to us all.

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Imagine that tonight, in a sudden blast of cosmic fireworks, every single star in the sky would explode into an infinite multiplicity of itself, transforming the night sky into one big radiating sea of light. If that would happen, it would still take many years before we would be able to see the change with the naked eye, considering that the light of even the most proximate star takes years to reach the earth. Centuries after the cosmic blast into which all the old constellations disappeared without a trace, humanity would still live according to the old order and see darkness where in truth everything is illuminated.

The further we venture out exploring the inner realms, the more we realise that there is no end to them, that the human soul is as deep and infinite as the cosmic space surrounding us. We could think of outer space as a reflection of inner space, and vice versa, relating to each other like two opposing mirrors, thus creating a seemingly infinite depth. Just like occurrences taking place in far-off galaxies need time to reach the earth, just so do occurrences taking place in the depths of our soul, need time to reach the surface of our consciousness.

Entheogens have been compared to instruments to enhance our perception, like microscopes and telescopes. To expand on the metaphor : telescopes not only make it possible to see in the far distance, but also in the future, seen from our relative point of view. Through a telescope, we can witness the birth of a star, the light of which has not yet reached the earth and will only be visible in the sky as seen from our earthbound perspective many years later. In a similar way entheogens enable us to perceive events so deep within the inner space, our psyche, that they have not yet reached the surface of our everyday experience. By the use of entheogens, we become psychonauts, travelling way beyond the boundaries set by the default setting of our perception, thus enabling us to perceive what is yet to come within the dimension of time, but has, in the bigger picture, already happened.

Some of the constellations we see in the sky today, consist of stars that died millions of years ago, but due to the time the light of those distant stars needs to reach our eyes, they still appear to be there. Imagine that all suffering we perceive in ourselves and in the world is like that, an echo of something that since long is over. Imagine that it is only due to its own inertia that it still seems to be a determining factor in our world and that all that is needed for it to disappear is our awakening to the truth.

Imagine that everywhere we perceive darkness, there is in truth nothing but light. Imagine that we never really left the symbolic garden of Eden, that we are still there, right now, but with eyes closed, dreaming  of a darkened sky while the sun is shining on our faces.

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‘We are at home in God, dreaming of exile.’   Acim