In comparing Iboga and Ayahuasca the most difficult part is finding any common ground at all. They are as different as two experiences could be, though each of them are master medicines in their own right. The Iboga experience is completely unique in the realm of psychedelics, almost to the point where it should be a part of a different category. The intense stimulant effect of the Ibogaine alkaloid is largely responsible for the separation. Whereas most psychedelics either heighten normal senses or make them seem to disappear altogether, during the Iboga experience you are acutely aware of the physical discomfort of the body. Rapid heart rate, persistent nausea, intense dizziness, buzzing in the ears, and the stern voice of the Truth–This lasts for 24 hours strong. There were some people who didn’t sleep for 3 days after taking Iboga. Contrastingly, Ayahuasca arrives with a warm buzz, brings the fireworks, a purge, and then 8-10 hours later a peaceful connectedness that allows you a full night’s sleep. Looked at this way, Ayahuasca may seem preferable. However, the sheer psychobytes of content downloaded from Iboga is unrivaled, and part of what makes that medicine so incredibly powerful.
Going Farther vs. Going Deeper
The Ayahuasquero shamans speak of going father–To explore dimensions beyond our own, and this may well be a function of the DMT. With the strong correlation between natural DMT release during physical death, DMT seems to be a gateway to the realms beyond the physical. I experienced several of these dimensions in an epic Ayahuasca journey and can attest to the ‘otherness’ of these realms. Those who smoke DMT also generally report the feeling of seeing something far beyond one’s self.
The Iboga Bwiti shamans speak of going deeper, not farther. They believe that their medicine accesses the infinite nature of the soul inside of us, and that soul’s infinite knowledge that extends all the way to the beginning of time. In my entire 24 hour encounter with Truth, there was never the feeling that I was accessing anything outside of myself. It is simply that the self I was accessing was virtually omniscient and had our best interest at heart!
In the Ayahuasca experience content is delivered to you largely through images or encounters with other beings. The images then can lead to greater introspection, but it takes some insight at times to understand what the medicine was trying to tell you. Perhaps this is because there is a translation issue between the dimensions. How does the non-physical dimension communicate with the physical mind? As the brain scrambles to form its own Rosetta stone to translate the input it is receiving, strange imagery is often the result.
In the Iboga experience there is no translation issue because it is you talking to yourself. If you can’t understand yourself you are in big trouble. People have called Iboga your ‘stern father’ and this is due to the nature of what Iboga tells you. It will very bluntly explain to you how you have been fucking up, and tell you to shape up! And for many of us, that may sound like our father, but really it is just your true self trying to get your mind in line with what would be best for your destiny.
Lasting Effects (Stickiness, Retention, Aftermath)
One of the problems with the Ayahuasca experience is that it is entirely dream-like in its presentation, and almost every ceremony takes place after dusk. So after you finish your dream-like journey it is about 2-3 AM, at which time you fall asleep and have actual dreams. So by the time you wake up the next morning the lines between reality and the dream state becomes blurred. You start to wonder, was that really real or just some drug induced dream? This little window allows our old enemies doubt and fear, or what Steven Pressfield calls Resistance, to creep in your mind and start to undermine your experience. But what is working in your favor with Ayahuasca is that you feel fucking GREAT the next day. You feel connected, clean, happy and strong. These feelings on their own battle fear and doubt, as you can simply ask yourself “when have I ever felt this good?” Anything that makes you feel that good must be real. I felt like I was on a spritual high for several weeks after my Ayahuasca journeys.
The Iboga is the direct opposite experience. First of all, you are awake for AT LEAST 24 hours from the onset of your journey. Often times people are awake for 48 hours. So there are no pesky dreams to confuse you. But the experience is so lucid and non-dreamlike anyway that I doubt even if you did find a way to sleep that you would have the blending effect that takes place with Ayahuasca. The problem with Iboga however is that staying awake and being under the influence of such a heavy stimulant temporarily crushes your serotonin, GABA and adrenals so it is easy to feel agitated, sad, and weak on the comedown. Those feelings are breeding grounds for fear and doubt, so you have to be careful not to undermine your own experience out of weakness. Once you recover some sleep it is very easy to assimilate your new wisdom into your life, but that lasting high that I experienced from Ayahuasca wasn’t present. People wouldn’t be able to ‘sense’ a change in my aura, but those who know my behavior will certainly notice that I have changed my self destructive and self-limiting habits.
The Physical Cleanse
Both of these medicines have remarkable claims of physical healing. While I cannot speak first-hand to any miraculous cures, the mechanism of action seems to make a lot of sense. Both medicines are purgative, although seemingly quite different. The Iboga makes you want to vomit, but it really felt to me more like my body was just trying to vomit up the Iboga as much as the anything else. With the Ayahuasca you feel like there is a little clean up crew at work in your organs, squeezing out all of the bad stuff, the decay, the bacteria, and then pushing that back into your bowels and stomach to be disposed. Sometimes you vomit, but always you are going to have some foul diarrhea. With Iboga there was no diarrhea, and actually to the contrary, it may have led to some mild constipation. But what Iboga does is completely re-tune your physical body. They say that cancers, viruses and illnesses have a different frequency than healthy cells in the body. This makes sense, as these pathogens are rapidly dividing and devouring at a hyperactive rate. If your entire body is forced to adapt to a new frequency, the disruption may cause enough of a weakness in the invaders that the immune system can get the upper hand and fuck shit up like it is supposed to. If I had to pick one thing that made me feel healthier though? Ayahuasca wins.
Preparation & Pageantry
“Dieta, dieta.” I can still hear Maestro Orlando repeating this word to me over and over. For the Ayahuasquero diet is a crucial element of the medicine. What you eat prior to the ceremony, or as importantly, what you do NOT eat plays a huge role in what you receive from the medicine. No dairy, no sugar, no red meat, no alcohol. Those are the basic rules with some variations in between. For Iboga, other than skipping dinner the night of the ceremony and staying away from other stimulants like coffee the day of, you are pretty much free to do what you wish.
As far as setting intent, the medicines not surprisingly also have different approaches. For Ayahuasca one is encouraged to think about two or three topics that you would like to explore, or teachings you would like to receive from the ceremony. Generally, one way or another you will almost always find that you receive what you are looking for, though it rarely comes to you in a direct manner. For the Iboga ceremony you are asked to write a list of specific questions of unlimited length that will be read to you for answering at the start of the ceremony. The answers come from your own voice of Truth and are direct and literal.
As far as ritual and pageantry there is nothing that quite compares to the transfixing magic of an Ayahuasca ceremony. The music of Ayahuasca is the Icaros sung by the shaman himself. They are sometimes haunting, often beautiful melodies passed down from generation to generation, taught initially by the plants themselves they say. The shaman works with rattles made of leaves, tobacco, cinnamon, rose water, and pours his energy into the ceremony, carrying you to the realms beyond death, partly by the sweat of his labor. His physical manipulations throughout the ceremony have a direct and dramatic effect. You feel indelibly part of something mystical.
The iboga ceremony is simpler, quieter, longer. The Bwiti music played has an incredibly high BPM which is somehow soothing for the hyperactive mind. It is almost like having music at such a hectic pace helps the mind to think more slowly… Or at least it entertains the manic, fidgety side of our brain. The shaman’s interaction is more verbal, talking to you during the ceremony in a straight forward and non mystical manner. However, at the beginning of my ceremony, Moughenda, a 10th generation Bwiti shaman, tapped something in the center of my forehead (third eye) that made a tangible impact. It sounded like two nuts slamming together, but whatever it was helped send my mind on the journey of its life. Also prior to the ceremony we had what was called a spiritual shower at the river,that had more heartfelt intent than many of the ceremonies of the Laika shamans in the sacred valley of Peru.
Million Dollar Question: If I have to choose, which should I do?
First of all, I think the question should be, which should I do FIRST? Because if you are going to make the commitment to explore the depths of your mind, soul, and the infinite universe, both of these medicines are the best things you can do for yourself. But time and money are obstacles, and I realize that it may be several years before you can save up enough of both to complete even one of these journeys. So here are some practical guidelines.
1. Do you have an addiction problem, eating disorder, or self-limiting mental issue? If the answer is Yes, then Iboga for sure.
2. Would you prefer to know the answers to your questions, or feel & see the answers to your questions? To know, choose Iboga—To feel and see choose Ayahuasca.
3. Do you want an experience unlike anything you can find in the physical plane. Something wholly other? Choose Ayahuasca.
4. Do you want to make peace/communicate with deceased family members/friends? Choose Iboga.
5. Is your mind the root of your physical illness or your body? For mind, choose Iboga, for body choose Ayahuasca (except in the case of physical drug dependency, for which Iboga is an expert)