Abstract Details

Animism, the use of psychedelic plants and fungi by Amerindian populations, its rejection, and the Anthropocene. Cultural-historical considerations.  Luis Eduardo Luna (Wasiwaska Research Center for the Study of Psychointegrator Plants, Visionary Ar, Florianopolis, Brazil)   PL6

The astonishing scientific and technical achievements of humankind have boosted the feeling of superiority of our own species in the web of life on this planet. But this has been tempered by the current ecological crisis we have been collectively creating. More than ad hoc possible technical adjustments to avoid the seemingly inevitable future catastrophe, we need radical reappraisals of our own recent history, the crucial period initiated in 1492, when Europeans first set foot on this continent. The conquest of the Americas was the fuel that made possible European world domination. A recent geologically-based hypothesis advanced by Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin suggests the year 1610 as the onset of the Anthropocene, when a clearly detected global drop in carbon dioxide may be considered a golden spike that ushered in a new epoch. This was putatively caused by CO2's reuptake by the forests that replaced the abandoned agricultural fields of the nearly disappeared Amerindian populations. Deforestation then took over, fueled by plant and animal monocultures that replaced the emphasis in biodiversity of the Amerindians, exemplified by the extraordinary varieties of basic crops such as maize, potatoes, manioc, beans, and so on, now nearly replaced by the few varieties obtainable through profit driven market forces, and by dependency on a few Eurasian animal species. At a conceptual level, animism, the recognition of personhood in non-human plant, fungal and animal species, was replaced by monotheism, or by non-theism, both conceptions considering humankind as the only cognizant organism on the planet. Plants and fungal species considered sacred by Amerindians because of their simultaneously medicinal and consciousness altering properties, were banned or criminalized, further severing the connection of humans with the biosphere and the rich outer and inner universe in which we are embedded. The abandonment of such tools for transcendental experiences may have contributed to the adoption of a worldview grounded to a great extent on exploitation, deceit, militarism and consumerism, a guaranteed recipe to ensure our demise. The nefarious process that began in 1492 is far from over. It included depopulation and the consequent loss of a great part of the knowledge accumulated during millennia by a continent separated by great oceans. It also included the impoverishment of biological and cultural diversity. We need to revise our presuppositions, humbly learn from those traditional societies that in spite of persecution, missionization, and dispossession, still act as guardians for some of the forests and other sanctuaries of the natural world. They are in closer contact with many of the other species with which we share this extraordinary planet. In some cases they also preserve the knowledge and techniques of their ancestors regarding how to navigate non-ordinary states of consciousness.