Plants - Drugs Mind - Spirit Freedom - Law Arts - Culture Library  
Full Review
book cover
The Hummingbird's Journey to God: Perspectives on San Pedro, the Cactus of Vision
by Ross Heaven
O Books 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 1/12/2011

Andean legend has it that the condor would daily travel across the skies and space to deliver people’s prayers to God. One day the hummingbird, with its insatiable desire to know God directly and to see God’s face, stowed away in the condor’s wing feathers.

Upon arrival, the hummingbird was told that, in fact, he had always been expected, and that his fervent love of God had earned him an exalted position, to know all of God’s secrets, and to carry His wisdom in his soul. Author Ross Heaven, in his latest book, connects the power and energy of the hummingbird to the spirit of the San Pedro cactus, which has been used as a sacrament by indigenous Americans for thousands of years.

Compared to that of other spirit medicines, literature on the San Pedro cactus is fairly lacking, so this is a welcome (and well-written) book. The author describes several psychological and spiritual breakthroughs that he and others have experienced with the cactus; he also details the cactus’ cultural history, from prehistory to the present.

San Pedro contains mescaline as its primary active chemical. But the contribution of other alkaloids within this cactus may elicit additional effects, creating a unique “signature” for this plant. Several parts of Heaven’s book concentrate on the cactus rituals of those in the Cuzco area of Peru. Of special note are the ceremonies of a female shaman christened “La Gringa” by the locals—due to her Caucasian (South African) background. She and several other shamans are currently refining and redefining the use of San Pedro—literally “bringing it into the light” for contemporary users. In a number of the “old school” rituals, ceremonies were held only at night, and involved rigorous and physically trying conditions (such as beatings and cold water dousings). However, with the approval of some of the elder shamans, ceremonies are now often being held in the daytime, and without so many of the physical trials.

In contrast to ayahuasca’s traditional association with darkness, San Pedro is considered to have an energy synergistic with the sun, and it is thought to provide more “direct” messages to its users. It is believed to have an energy that taps one into and allows one to appreciate the immediate physical world, unlike ayahuasca, which takes one more into an internal realm. San Pedro does not create visions, so much as it magnifies that which is already present. A large portion of the book concentrates on using the power of the mind to heal illness. Another recurrent theme is that of the cactus enabling one to be in greater touch with the Andean concept of winds—or people’s thoughts—that can affect our daily lives for good or for ill.

The author tracks the experiences of twelve people, including himself, who have had the San Pedro experience. He notes that all those involved had some kind of self-healing, whether involving actual disease (even cancer!), relationship problems, or psychological issues. Most, in addition, came away with an increased sense of the beauty of nature, of truth vs. fear, of the importance of love, and the realization that “reality is what we make it”. Ross Heaven’s own descriptions of his experiential visions are worth the price of the book alone, especially the one where—with the help of Peruvian shaman Raphael—he attempts, like the hummingbird, to meet God. In part of this epic sequence, Raphael interprets the author’s vision of an old man living in a cave by responding, “THAT God quit a long time ago!”

Carefully researched, this book is as much on spirituality and psychology as it is on the history and science of the enigmatic San Pedro cactus. The fact that this book works on so many different levels makes it a true pleasure to read and reread.

Fatal error: Uncaught TypeError: count(): Argument #1 ($value) must be of type Countable|array, null given in /www/library/review/review.php:699 Stack trace: #0 {main} thrown in /www/library/review/review.php on line 699