Metamorphosis : Spiritual Healing with Ayahuasca !

'Metamorphosis' is a documentary film by Keith Aronowitz, who traveled to Peru to try Ayahuasca for the first time at the Blue Morpho Lodge. The ceremonies proved to be profound. “It was an incredible experience and it forever changed my life, says Aronowitz.” He also happened to have brought his camcorder along and recorded some of the ceremonies and interviewed some of the people who had also journeyed to drink Ayahuasca. When he shared his footage, the response was enthusiastic, so he thought of making a documentary film !

Metamorphosis follows five Ayahuasca tourists on a nine-day retreat at the jungle lodge maintained by Blue Morpho Tours, where they participate in five ayahuasca ceremonies. The lodge is run by Hamilton Souther, who has been practicing shamanism for about seven years. “The spirits came along,” Souther says in the film, “and they said to me: You have to go into the jungle and drink ayahuasca.” Souther apprenticed under Don Alberto Torres Davila and Don Julio Gerena Pinedo, and they now all work together leading ceremonies at the lodge. The film tells Souther’s story, incorporates his explanations of the ceremonies, and portrays the physical, emotional, and spiritual changes through which he guides his guests.

The film does not flinch from depicting the sometimes overpowering physical and psychological effects of the drink. “Everybody who comes here suffers,” says Souther. Aronowitz puts this into his own context. “Fear is not the only thing that takes place,” he says. “You experience divinity. Universal knowledge through visions. Oneness. Love. Your heart opens. You feel connected to everyone and everything. I feel like I had to go to hell in order to get to heaven.”

Blue Morpho Tours specializes in what it calls all-inclusive shamanic workshops. The lodge is relatively comfortable, at least compared to the amenities available in local villages, and has hosted not only tourists but also journalists who have described their ayahuasca experiences in such widely read publications as the Houston Chronicle and National Geographic magazine.

Perhaps because of its success, Blue Morpho Tours has attracted both criticism and defense, largely concerning the commercialization of indigenous spirituality and the effect of ayahuasca tourism on local communities. “Blue Morpho is a unique place,” Aronowitz says, “because one of the shamans is a westerner. He left his life in America in order to learn this healing tradition in the middle of the Amazon. So he’s a conduit to helping other people heal through this tradition.”

As per a more recent update (As seen here), there have been some major changes at the Blue Morpho Lodge. Hamilton has kind of disavowed his title as Master Shaman and while Don Alberto still practices there occasionally with traditional medicine ceremonies, many of the retreats are now centered around 'universality' instead of the traditional shamanic lineage based medicine. The prices for ceremonies have since skyrocketed suggesting over commercialization of Ayahuasca tourism.

Someone commented on the Ayahuasca thread on Reddit, highlighting reasons behind the changes at Blue Morpho ...

" Hamilton and another master shaman wanted to push their mastery of the medicne to the limit so did 30 Ayahuasca ceremonies in 30 days..."The big 30" as they called it. Shamans drink fairly regularly but with gaps, so 30 days straight is a lot Ayahuasca.

Basically, during that experience he found another path. He discovered that the dualistic nature of traditional Amazonian shamanism (spirit world/real world) is artifice built out of tradition, but isn't necessary for healing, and is therefore an illusion so not useful. The path he discovered is about unification/universalism, where there are no divisions. He wanted to continue doing ceremonies with his 'updated' understanding of the medicine, but his new approach wasn't compatible with the traditional shamanic worldview so after a bunch of discussions with his Maestro (Don Alberto) he retired the title he had earned within the traditional apprentice/master lineage system.

So he's still doing Aya ceremonies, but they're using the "universalism" framework rather than a traditional one. Don Alberto still holds traditional ceremonies there too though, so when you book a tour you can choose which you prefer.

BM was my first aya experience years ago and it was a whopper. I've been back to peru a few times to drink but never at Blue Morpho again. Hamilton is (was?) a grade-a Shaman though, so whatever he's doing now is interesting and useful, I'm sure. If I could afford their tours now I'd be tempted to go back just to check it out.

Here is a short excerpt from an interview with Keith Aronowitz ...

" At one point during the film, one of the shamans says, "Everybody who comes here suffers," and the film is really about facing fear, I think. To what extent is an ayahuasca ceremony about fear? Are there other aspects of an ayahuasca ceremony?

Aronowitz : That's a good question. Fear is definitely an element of the ceremony. It's a daunting task to drink ayahuasca in the jungle. Anybody who gets in there has to have a lot of courage. Every night I saw the people going into ceremony to face their fears. I was inspired. For most people who go to drink ayahuasca medicine, nothing else has worked, or they are looking to really challenge themselves. That's kind of what it's all about, in a way. But fear is not the only thing that takes place. You experience divinity. Universal knowledge through visions. Oneness. Love. Your heart opens. You feel connected to everyone and everything. I feel like I had to go to hell in order to get to heaven. I'm not saying that's always how it has to be for everyone else, but that's how it was for me. I had to straighten out my energy in order to see love and to feel love. It was really hard work, but that's what I was there for.

And at the end there's a lot of laughter, relief, some good flatulence. Whew, I made it. We made it! Hopefully I'll be ready for the next ceremony. And you grow and learn. "

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