This project proposes allegorical images of the modified states of consciousness reached through the use of entheogenic plants, embodied in portraits of shamans and healers who worship and work with plants of the gods. The path to the interior they open, which leads back to our most sophisticated neurochemical mechanisms, is always flanked by sages or guides, trained for generations in the understanding of the depths of the soul. Only shamans know the secrets of entheogens and men. Psychopompos are the bridge between both worlds, and these images are a tribute to their ancestral wisdom.
The intimate relationship between the plant world and the human organism is manifested in particular in that some plants produce substances that can influence the depths of the human mind and spirit. The marvellous, inexplicable and even frightening effects of these plants clarify how important they were in the religious life of ancient cultures and the veneration as magical and sacred drugs with which they are treated even by certain native groups that have preserved their traditions.
However, the benefits that could be obtained from the correct use of the active principles of these plants to alleviate human suffering have not yet been fully assessed. Some plants contain chemical compounds capable of altering visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory perceptions, or of causing artificial psychosis, which have undoubtedly been known and used by human beings since their first experiences with ambient vegetation. The surprising effects of these plants are often inexplicable and mysterious.
It is not surprising, then, that they have played such an important role in the religious rites of ancient civilizations, and that they are still a motive for veneration and fear, as sacred elements... What more direct method to allow man to free himself from the prosaic limits of his worldly existence and temporarily enter the fascinating worlds of indescribable wonders that hallucinogens opened for him?
Although most hallucinogens come from plants, some derive from the animal kingdom (toads, frogs, fish). Their use dates back to prehistory, so that it has been postulated that the very idea of divinity arose as a result of the supernatural effects of these agents.
Richard Evans Schultes
Plants of the Gods
But what about our minds? Here we´re not sure anymore. To take a leaf or a flower and use it to change our experience of consciousness suggests a very different sort of sacrament, one at odds with our loftier notions of self, not to mention civilized society. But I´m inclined to think that such a sacrament may on occasion be worthwhile just the same, if only as a check on our hubris. Plants with the power to revise our thoughts and perceptions, to provoke metaphor and wonder, challenge the cherished Judeo-Christian belief that our conscious, thinking selves somehow stand apart from nature, have achieved a kind of transcendence.
Just what happens to this flattering self-portrait if we discover that transcendence itself owes to molecules that flow through our brains and at the same time through the plants in the garden? If some of the brightest fruits of human culture are in fact rooted deeply in this black earth, with the plants and fungi? Is matter, then, still as mute as we´ve come to think? Does it mean that spirit too is part of nature?
There may be no older idea in the world. Friedrich Nietzsche once described Dionysian intoxication as "nature overpowering mind"- nature having her way with us. The Greeks understood that this was not something to be undertaken lightly or too often. Intoxication was a carefully circumscribed ritual for them, never a way to live, because they understood that Dionysus can make angels of us or animals, it all depends..."
The botany of desire