Jan Kounen's doc on Shipibo shamanism.

Why would Jan Kounen, director of “Dobermann,” want to do a documentary on Shipibo Shamanism?

My film “Dobermann” allowed me to express my visceral anti-establishment convictions with a joy usually reserved for bad, little kids. After that, I started thinking that the time had come for me to examine the reality of what has so far been my joyfully chaotic existence and to ponder my place in the universe‚Ķ

Where would I begin ?
Boxed in by our senses, we only see a single dimension of reality. Our eyes only allow us to perceive a minor part of the light’s reflection of the specter of what matter truly is. Our other senses restrict us in exactly the same ways.
I’ve always held the conviction that other dimensions exist, and that our brains and our central nervous systems function as filters for our consciousness. These filters are necessary to grasp the material world, but their makeup is all too often weighed down by cultural, moral and scientific doctrines that provide us with a much too limited image of the Universe.
So I was continuously plagued by the question: “Can we tear away the veil, just for one second?”

Shamanism
With the exception of Buddhism and the Tibetan Dzogtchen tradition, which include terribly constraining techniques, current religions offer little in the way of approaching the “Invisible.”
So I then delved into reading the scriptures by the mystics.
Along the way, I came across Shamanism.
As I read their scriptures, I came to learn about the lives of these men, these Shamans who use plants, meditation, chants and rituals to journey into the Invisible. In contrast to what I had read previously, I learned that Shamans do not provide answers. All they do is record their observations and, based on their own experiences, establish their belief systems. Their role is simply to guide souls on their own, personal quests.

Our Western sensibilities tend to make most of us scoff at Shamans or to consider them with fear or amusement. They are nothing more than witch doctors who use powerful drugs to induce trances, and can not function in reality. Despite all this, I set out to meet them in Mexico. High up in the sierra, I sought out the Huichol Indians, widely known for their active Shamanism and its sources which go back several thousand years.
This gave me the opportunity to frequent Shamans and share their peyote ritual.
This initial experience left me disturbed, but unsatisfied.
We had not bonded on a personal level.
So I set out again. This time I went to the jungles of Peru, where a powerful form of Shamanism exists, using the sacred plant, called the “soul’s creeper.” Following several encounters and experiences with “curanderos” (healers) and “brujos” (witch doctors), I met “Questembetsa.”

Shipibo-Conibos
Questembetsa is a Shipibo-Conibo Shaman, who enabled me to experience Shamanism from the inside. There are 45,000 Shipibo Conibos living together along the Amazon River in Peru. Questembetsa is the spiritual guide of all Shipibo Conibos. He is the Master Shaman who trains all of his people’s Shamans. Questembetsa enabled us to film a summer solstice ceremony, which lasted for three days and three nights. This traditional celebration has never been recorded on film, and justly so. It has not occurred for 70 years and has obviously been seen by very few “non-Indians.”
Using night-vision cameras, we were able to immortalize the shots of these unique moments.

Under Questembetsa’s protective watch, I participated in ceremonies and experienced what can be characterized as a “near death experience.” For me, this was a powerful consciousness experience, where I crossed over, to the other side of the mirror. Once my initiation began, it would continue for over a year. Having experienced this journey of initiation and learning, I am now able to speak about Shamanism.

A consciousness technology
Conceptual thinking is a limited tool when one truly attempts to develop one’s consciousness.
Indeed, human consciousness has a natural tendency to identify with thoughts and reason – stopping there. Shamans use a technology or an outside element, generally consisting of sacred plants. Using powerful psychotropic substances, the Shamans guide individuals, enabling them to “peel away” consciousness from thoughts and reason. The subconscious is gradually unveiled. During these experiences, a different reality appears and is observed through the prism of our consciousness.
Are we remembering who we are, or are we simply discovering who we are?
Without words, this reality is sometimes expressed through terror, suffering and tears. At times it comes in the form of beauty and tears of joy inspired by the magic.
It comes from within one’s being, in the form of archetype images.
Each and everyone’s personal history and culture individually determine this reality.

We all share a universal mythology, which serves as a source for the visions.
Each and every one of us is an infinite universe, where angels and demons make up our thoughts, emotions, memory and our body. My journey deep into the jungle continued when I met scientists from the “Aton Institute” in Norway. The Aton Institute studies consciousness, quantum physics and the molecular chemistry of sacred plants as well as past civilizations.

Sacred plants or drugs ?
Psychotropics are drugs or narcotics. In our culture, the word “narcotic” is synonymous with decadence. In past civilizations such as the Incas or the Egyptians, these hallucinogenic plants were considered instruments of knowledge, magic plants or “master plants.”
Scientists agree and have demonstrated through modeling that the key lies in the DNA, genetic programming, the pineal gland or the famous “third eye,” located between the brain’s hemispheres. They believe that the molecules of the Ayahuasca plant are a molecular nano-technology that activates the consciousness. Angels and demons are the archetype contacts with the negative and positive encoding of our DNA. Presently, Shamans know how to use the Ayahuasca plants. The Shamans consider these plants as instruments made available by the Universe for men to be able to pass through the Invisible and enter into contact with the Universe.

Developments for the documentary

This documentary film will be the testimony of a personal and subjective adventure. It will also show the dangers and risks involved in Shamanism: (1) losing yourself in the light or the darkness of your recently awakened emotions or (2) misinterpreting the feelings or visions. This could lead to schizophrenia in the event these journeys not be guided by competent Shamans or compliant with an unyielding discipline and strict diet.

The film will primarily show the therapeutic power of the Shamans and their plants. This power is a type of ancestral psychoanalysis or human psychotherapy backed by 4,000 years of experience and practice.
The film will allow the Shamans to speak for themselves. It will show how their cultures and their belief systems culminate from their knowledge of the Invisible.
CGI sequences will reproduce the power of the recurring visions and the unfolding of the poetic story I witnessed. We will also convey the humor and terror I felt while experiencing these visions. The film will include investigative interviews with therapists, ethnologists and specialists in molecular brain chemistry. In the interest of understanding the invisible interaction between a Shaman and a “novice,” we will record the brain-wave interaction between Questembetsa and myself during a ceremony this spring. This will enable us to identify them and study their meaning.
Finally, the December 1999 interviews, with Western individuals in therapy, will be repeated. Over a year later, we will compare the results of these two sets of interviews.
My personal experience will be told on the parallel of selective testimony, somewhere between Western science and Indian therapy.

Only recently has Western culture reluctantly come to recognize that Tibetan Buddhism has garnered knowledge of the spirit. The objective of this documentary is to impress upon viewers that these little-known Indians developed veritable cognitive technology through their own sciences of the spirit, thousands of years ago. To me, these men are warriors in the battle to unlock the mysteries of consciousness. Shamans consider the greatest ally and the worst enemy of every individual to be one and the same‚Ķ himself or herself. In conclusion, I personally guarantee this film will not turn out to be a new age Sermon on these Indians and their culture. All “Other worlds” are not worlds of light‚Ķ

Jan Kounen

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in JTHomesteader.com with Stephanie Smith.

2 thoughts on “Jan Kounen's doc on Shipibo shamanism.

  1. Pingback: Mental Health Update

  2. Pingback: Vrije Wereld » Documentaire v/d week (Aflevering 75) – Shamans of the Amazon

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