Iboga tourism in Central Africa (An account of my Bwiti initiation in August ’99) by Nick Sandberg

March 21, 2012


Introduction to Iboga Toursim

Travelling to Central Africa to take part in a bizarre and perilous tribal ceremony – the Bwiti initiation ritual – might seem an unlikely vacation choice to many. But for some in the West it is proving an increasingly alluring proposition. The idea conjurs up romantic images of adventure in faraway lands for some. For others, iboga’s reputed ability to interrupt drug-dependence or clear emotional blockages is what draws them to make the trip.

I made the journey in August 1999, where I undertook initiation at the Assumgha Ening chapel, near Yaounde in the Cameroun. And this piece includes an account of my experience and also a little background information relating to the ritual and the area of the world concerned. The reader should note that I have never been to the Gabon, the other country where Bwiti initiation is available to Westerners, so have restricted most of my comments about the region to the Cameroun.


The Bwiti

The Bwiti are a Central African religious group whose usage of Tabernanthe iboga, the plant source of ibogaine, forms an integral part of their society. The rootbark of the Tabernanthe iboga plant contains approximately 12 different iboga alkaloids of which ibogaine is only one.

The word ‘Bwiti’ refers both to the religion – ‘the Bwiti religion’, and the group that practice it – ‘the Bwiti’. There are estimated to be approximately 2-3 million members of the Bwiti religion scattered in groups throughout the countries of the Gabon, Zaire, and the Cameroun. Most are from the two principal tribal groups of the region, the Fang and the Mitsogho. The origins of the religion are obscure, but most writers seem to believe Bwiti is essentially derived from pygmy religious traditions which have been modified and adapted to suit local tribal tastes. Bwiti has thus become a highly synchretic religion, drawing from a multitude of sources, and interpreted slightly differently by each group that practice it.

The rootbark of the Tabernanthe iboga plant is usually referred to as ‘iboga’ or ‘eboka’ and it has two principal uses within the group. Firstly, small doses are used as a stimulant, principally when hunting and as an aid to ritual work. And, secondly, a much larger dose features as a central element of the ‘Bwiti initiation ritual’ – a powerful ‘rebirth’ ceremony that group members typically undergo before the commencement of their teenage years, and is a requirement for group membership. Both sexes are initiated and the ceremony typically lasts three days, beginning on a Thursday afternoon and ending Sunday morning.

Iboga is eaten on the first night of the initiation ceremony and may be further consumed on subsequent nights should it be deemed necessary. The consumption of iboga is supervised by the ‘nganga’, a senior priest of the religion whose knowledge of iboga’s effects on the body and mind is such that he or she is aware of when the initiate has had sufficient. The overall objective of the ritual is to allow the initiate to enter deeply into the subconscious mind with the intent of emerging ‘reborn’. In the depths of this inner realm, he or she is expected to actually ‘meet’ the original Bwiti, the founders of the religion, in the form of primordial male and female figures. But this can only be achieved once mighty terrors that lurk before them have been overcome.

This ‘inner journey’ is analogous to that undertaken by many ‘hero’ figures in classical mythology. And, in more Western terminology, it might be said that the usage of large doses of iboga here is intended to remove the effects of accumulated trauma or conditioning on the system. And further facilitate access to archetypal figures located within the Jungian concept of the ‘collective unconscious’.

Once initiation is completed, the person becomes a full member of the Bwiti religion. And the act of having confronted the fears of those who went before means the individual may now be regarded as an adult.


Central Africa

The Cameroun is one of three Central African countries where the Bwiti religion is widely practiced, the other two being Zaire and the Gabon. Zaire has now become so politically unstable that it is simply unsafe to venture into the country unless a person’s contacts are very strong. Leaving the Gabon and the Cameroun as the two remaining possibilities for someone seeking Bwiti initiation.

Gabon is likely the easiest option for the would-be Bwiti initiate from the West. Being relatively wealthy, by Africa’s standards, it is considerably less dangerous than its cousin slightly to the north and facilities are of an improved standard. In addition, it is well recognised that the Bwiti religion has been longer established in the Gabon. Camerounian Bwiti, however, claim that whilst they are newcomers to the religion, their relative poverty as a nation has drawn far more young people, and that Bwiti is therefore more vibrantly practiced in their land.

Finding a Bwiti group willing to initiate Westerners may pose several problems and should really be undertaken prior to leaving for Africa. Initiation ceremonies typically require the presence of the whole group and so would usually be planned considerably in advance. Many groups are unwilling to initiate persons from outside their immediate locale, so are not going to be interested in initiating someone from another continent. Groups that are will almost certainly only be doing so for a large sum of money. And so the individual should expect to be treated principallly as simply a ‘cash source’ for the duration of their stay.

There are currently a couple of people who specialise in organising Bwiti initiation for Westerners. And this certainly presents the easiest route, though the individual should be aware that the person organising will be merely a ‘go between’, likely having limited control over the situation that will confront the would-be initiate in Africa.

The other option would be to try and organise it oneself by contacting Central Africans living in your home country, or by flying to the region and trying to find someone willing to initiate you. This latter approach is highly perilous and is in truth likely little more than a invitation to be held up in the Cameroun, shot in Zaire, or at best mildly exploited in the Gabon.

Once you have found your Bwiti group, you will need to make arrangements to travel to Africa. At least two weeks should be allowed for initiation. Preparation, for Westerners, will likely last several days. And it is important to allow at least a week afterward to stabilise and process the experience.

Getting to Central Africa presents a few minor problems. Only a couple of airlines fly there and the fare from Europe is typically around £1,000 round trip, (~US$1,600). Neither Yaounde nor Libreville, the capitals of the Cameroun and the Gabon respectively, are major destinations, so heavily discounted fares are unlikely to be found. Visas will almost certainly be necessary for both countries and yellow fever jabs mandatory.

French is the national language of both countries, and those not familiar with it will likely have some difficulty being understood. (Areas of the Cameroun close to the Nigerian border are English-speaking, but my information is that there are few Bwiti groups in this region.) Details of accomodation and travel within the country can be found in a guidebook. (2)

Whilst at the time of writing, (May 2000), Gabon could be considered to be relatively stable, the Cameroun, like many of its neighbours, is a much troubled country. Governmental corruption in countries like the Cameroun is now at such a level as to provide a significant hazard to safe movement around the country. Hold-ups are common-place, both on the streets or in open countryside. Moving around pretty much anywhere at night, if you’re not Camerounian, is risky.

In addition, pilfering is rife and should be expected. Most Camerounians are acutely poor and the temptation to relieve Westerners of their possessions will prove overpowering for some. One possibility to counter problems of this nature would be to check into a respectable hotel in Yaounde, and leave your valuables in the safe prior to undertaking initiation. Alternately, American Express or DHL offices may offer safe-keeping facilities.

Another annoyance relates to the changing of money. Travellers cheques, at the time of visiting, attracted such a ridiculously high commision as to render carrying them simply pointless. The principal currency is the Central African Franc. But the French Franc is also very widely accepted and would seem an ideal choice of currency to carry into the country.

These points mentioned it should be said that Camerounians in general are incredibly warm and friendly characters. They seem by nature hospitable and generous and my personal opinion is that the problems the traveller may encounter during his or her time in their land have their roots elsewhere.

Iboga Initiation in Cameroun

In the Spring and early Summer of 1999 I had assisted a Bwiti initiate in Marseilles translate his fascinating website on the Bwiti into English. (3) I got a French-speaking friend to do word-for-word translation and then attempted a rendering into reasonable English.

Not much has been written about the Bwiti in English and so I had previously little knowledge of their beliefs and activities. (4) But, being a former French colony, more material on the religious group could be found scattered around various sources in French literature. (5)(6) In translating accounts of Bwiti creation mythology and ritual practices, I found myself increasingly drawn into their world. And was especially intrigued by the way that the vision of the world I’d slowly begun to formulate from my own iboga experiences seemed to correspond with aspects of Bwiti cosmology.

In addition, I had become increasingly aware over the previous couple of years that I was suffering the considerable effects of trauma from the events of my early childhood, having been detached from my natural parents shortly after being born. This was making my emotional life an utter misery, and had been the real reason I had used iboga a couple of times in the UK. It seemed to me that a large dose of the drug in a ritual setting might provide a useful breakthrough. So I decided to ask the owner of the French site if he could use his contacts in the Cameroun to help sort this out. This he did and it was arranged for me to go to the Cameroun on August 10th. for initiation on the 12th.

Despite my desire to know more of this intriguing religious group, and considerable need for emotional healing, I was still initially a little concerned at the prospect of travelling alone to Central Africa to take part a bizarre, drug-assisted ritual in the bush. But this apprenhension dissipated with an incredibly positive ibogaine experience in mid-July. And from then on I was literally counting the days, believing that with the completion of this ordeal I would finally be freed from my past. As the day neared I also learned that another Westerner, Adam, was going to be present as well, which further deepened my sense of security.

I flew out from London on the 10th on Air France, stopping at Paris, having a seat booked on the return flight two weeks later. Adam joined the plane in Paris. At Yaounde we were met by a young man in a pick-up and taken out to the chapel, about a 20 minute drive away. The Cameroun was not as hot as I had anticipated, and I immediately regretted not bringing a little more clothing.

The Nganga, the man who would lead the ritual, was waiting for us at the chapel. He was slightly perturbed as he had thought that we were to be arriving Tuesday morning, and had already protested that even two days preparation for the initiation was inadequate. Seeing us turning up with the sun already down, he was concerned about the lack of time for preparation. He sat us down in the dwelling next to the chapel and we spoke a little.

We were shown our living quarters for the next couple of nights, prior to the ritual’s commencement – a room at the back of the chapel itself, with an old piece of foam to provide as a bed for the pair of us. I had been hoping to get a good nights rest, having arisen at 2.30 that morning to get my flight, but as we joined the activities going on in the main body of the chapel I soon realised that this was unlikely to happen.

The chapel was laid out much like the one whose floor plan I had previously studied for the French website. (6) We sat on the benches on the men’s side with a young Camerounian who was to be initiated with us, and the guy who had driven the pick-up, whilst a full dress rehearsal of the ceremony took place. There were about 20 group members present, most aged between 15 and 40, with just one elderly-looking female figure present. The ritual went merrily on for several hours, and we eventually retired to the rear of the chapel at about one o’clock with it still in full swing. It continued until morning, and I found it difficult to believe that this was just a rehearsal. What would the real thing be like?

Having spent a sleepless night, we struggled up at around seven the next morning. Breakfast, an assortment of fire-roasted root vegetables, with a boiled egg thrown in for good measure, was served. Adam wasn’t too impressed, but I didn’t much mind and ate most of his. After this, I busied myself exploring the area, so much as was possibl.

The Assumgha Ening chapel is located about 3 miles outside of Yaounde, down a untarmacked track that became virtually unpassable when it rained. We were pretty much surrounded by light forest so I didn’t stray far and endeavoured to make better contact with the group members. There was a bizarre energy to the place, though this didn’t seem to be due to our presence. I sensed that perhaps some sort of major dispute had recently occurred, which was being covered up whilst we were around, everyone needing the money we had brought in.

The Bwiti group were very keen but somewhat crazed, to say the least, and very grasping. They had already been up several nights and I was amazed most of them were still standing. The Yombo, the head woman, seemed to be in charge of everything that wasn’t actually ceremonial, and she certainly made the most of her office. She looked about 35 – 40 and was a fearsome woman who reminded me of the character of Seargent Croft in Norman Mailer’s ‘The Naked and the Dead’. She was absolutely unrelenting in her driving of the younger members onward, refusing to allow anyone any sleep, and flying off the handle at the slightest provocation. It was clear that everyone, even the Nganga, was deeply wary of her temper.

The whole set-up reminded me of a tale I’d been told by an elderly hippie friend many years before. He had travelled to the heart of Nepal, overcoming great hardship, to visit a group of monks who lived on top of a mountain only accesible for a few months of the year. When he finally reached his goal, he was filled with great expectation believing he would be one of the first Westerners to ever make contact with this renownedly devout and enlightened sect. But, on arrival, he discovered that the monks spent much of their time making a strong alcoholic drink which they were currently consuming in great quantities, it being the month of a festival designated for this purpose. They roundly abused him verbally and he returned back down the mountain a different man.

This tale stuck in my mind as bit by bit I began to realise this was no isolated and devout religious sect in whose presence we found ourselves. The barely restrained rifling of our possessions, and our constant treatment as a potential source of enrichment, rapidly dispersed the romantic notions of initiation I had allowed to build in my imagination. In truth, I personally found this more reassuring than anything else. I come from a relatively financially secure background in the UK, but have for years gravitated naturally toward ‘street’ culture. And like most such people am suspicious of anyone I consider as having excessively ‘spiritual’ pretensions.

The slight harshness of our treatment; the piece of foam with smelly blankets that served as a bed for two, and the lack of concern as to our welfare; was also a little disturbing. Though personally I found it effective at breaking my natural resistance to healing, much in the same way that candidates for Primal Therapy and similar find their ego routinely under attack in the initial stages of the treatment.

What I found particularly odd was, that whilst all the group members were manic, most manic were the two head figures – the Nganga and the Yombo. It was difficult to decide if they simply enjoyed weilding power or were genuinely concerned for the correct development of those beneath them. The Yombo would literally scream her head off at any group member unfortunate enough to invoke her displeasure and the Nganga seemed frankly completely obsessed with materialist concerns. Rightly or wrongly, I had formed the impression over the years that devoting ones life to serious religious or shamanic endeavour would require at least a modicum of asceticism. But the Nganga here seemed quite besotted with the material world, and I spent much of my time with him expecting him to break suddenly into a chorus of Janis Joplin’s “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”, in between his other devotions.

My French is not particularly strong and as the second day commenced it seemed a good strategy to allow it to disintegrate entirely, less I be constantly pestered with demands. This rather selfish act left the Nganga and the Yombo to interrogate Adam, who had already let it be known that he was fluent.

Only one person, the driver of the pick-up, appeared even slightly settled. And we soon learned that he was the only person present who wasn’t actually Bwiti, and who therefore had never taken iboga. I asked him why this was and he explained to me he was afraid. From my limited experience of this group I didn’t blame him.

Despite the attitude of the group members, I was still determined to make some effort at communication. Wednesday afternoon I helped decorate the temple and took time to speak to the old woman who was preparing the iboga. A fertiliser sack full of roots had been purchased that morning, and she was keenly scraping off the rootbark. I asked her why she was discarding the outer layer of bark, this reputedly being where the active ingredients were concentrated. She explained that it was unhygenic to eat this part, and that she might make a tea out of them later. We spoke a bit about Saint Michael, a central figure in Bwiti mythology, and the significance of the ‘mobakaka’ – a loud crack of wood striking wood that symbolised the commencement of ‘dissoumba’ – the Big Bang, the creation of the universe. I also attemped, rather unsuccessfully, to play the Bwiti harp, the melodic instrument whose music plays a central role in Bwiti creation mythology.

Our meals had been pretty unspectacular. But on the evening of the Wednesday we were suddenly invited to partake in a large feast of roast chicken and fresh bread with one of the women and her daughter. This was consumed in great haste, which was just as well, for when the Nganga later found out what was going on, he proceeded to remonstrate with the woman, furious that the process of making us physically pure for the ritual had been so hijacked. And possibly a little concerned that attempts to steal away his meal ticket were being made.

Twenty four hours before the commencement of our initiation we began another process of cleansing. This consisted of us having to perform a ritual personal washing every three hours for twenty-four hours with a bucket of leafy liquid accompanied by a candle which should not be allowed to go out. (Mine did on several occasions, unfortunately). This we managed without too many problems.

On the morning of the initiation, Thursday, we were required to drink large quantities of a foul-tasting brown, brackish liquid to purge our bodies of any remaining pollutants. Adam vomitted quickly, but I found it harder. Eventually, when I had so much of the stuff inside of me I felt I might explode, my system gave way and I vomitted merrily into the bucket provided.

In the afternoon we were required to write out a ‘confession’. This was to be a list of all the bad things we had ever done, to be symbolically burnt before our initiation. I’d previously joked that I would need longer than an afternoon for such a task, but once I got down to it I managed to fit most of it on a couple of sheets of foolscap. I was aware of the symbolic value of such an exercise, so did take it seriously. When it was done we had to read out each item on the list, alone, in front of two large harps, placed in one corner of the temple. This done we burnt the confession.

This done, we settled down to await the commencement of the ritual which was scheduled for late afternoon. The Nganga had been called away to attend another initiation in the area, but was expected back in plenty of time. Suddenly the weather changed and it began to pour with rain. We sheltered in the back of the chapel on our piece of foam and awaited the Nganga’s return as the hours passed by. He eventually got back quite late in the evening, the weather having made some of the roads impassable. With him was a young Swiss guy with a heroin problem who was thinking about doing the treatment and wanted to see what was going on.

The ceremony was convened in great haste. We were led to the rear door of the temple and then had to stand outside in the rain, near naked, waiting for the Nganga to wash us. By this time we had become a group of three, the young Camerounian guy from nearby having joined. He didn’t seem at all keen to undergo initiation, and I assumed his parents had forced him into it. Adam was complaining as the Nganga left us freezing in the pouring rain wearing only our underpants. But, being the contrary soul I was, I refused to give the Nganga any sign that I was remotely inconvenienced. He had made constant references to how tough the ceremony would be, especially for us pampered Westerners. And I was determined to show no trace of discomfort whatsoever. And remained standing straight up, as he fiddled around with other things, making us suffer.

I had read that the ritual washing would require us to crawl through the legs of the women of the group whilst they stood in a local stream, thereby symbolically recreating the path taken by the sperm en route to fertilisation. Sadly, this didn’t take place, for some reason. Possibly the lateness of the hour.

After about an hour of having the Nganga fiddle around, still muttering about how the initiation, “c’est dur”, and me rebuffing him, saying that this was childsplay and I could stand here all night if I felt like it, we embarked upon another bizarre ritual. This involved us having a sacred plant bud placed in our mouth, which we then had to swallow. Now dressed again, we had become a group of five, two young girls from nearby having joined in as well. One looked about eight, and the other ten. Neither seemed too keen on undertaking the ceremony, hardly surprising given their youth. I was 38 and was no longer feeling quite as keen about my initiation as I had been.

Eventually all five of us were back inside the chapel, again in the rear area where we were lined up on the ground like marmite soldiers. We were back in undergarments whilst assorted greenery was draped around us, presumably symbolising rebirth. Five plates were produced. And five measures of the powdered root measured out. I noticed that, being the eldest and largest, myself and Adam got the largest portions.

We commenced chewing. I had eaten iboga before about eight months prior. At that time I’d just taken about 5g, a test dose, to see what happened, from a sample I had obtained from Southern Africa. I found out then just how foul this stuff was, and had mixed it with honey, before gulping it down with warm water. Here no such refinements were available. I was expected to just take pinches of the stuff with my fingers and just stick it straight down my throat. The Yombo – the head female – stood in front of me demonstrating the technique whilst merrily nodding her head. It was OK for her, I thought. She didn’t actually have a plate of the stuff in front of her.

Words cannot express just how hideous this stuff was. I don’t know if my senses were particularly heightened from what was happening, but I can only say that, right now, that I would rather eat my own excrement than eat this stuff again. What made it worse was that the Nganga had mixed some of the iboga leaf in with the rootbark, presumably to weaken its effects for us iboga-novices. In my increasingly distraught state, I was sure this was making it taste worse and I found myself inwardly cursing his stupidity for not simply giving us less.

After about a half an hour of this torture, we were led outside for another ritual. We were taken around the spiritual ‘head’ of the chapel – a small iboga plant placed some yards in front of the entrance, (a spot symbolising the ‘crown chakra’, the chapel being, amongst a mass of other symbols, a representation of the Hindu energy centres of a person lying down), and a cockerell was brought out and left tied to a small stick. We circumnavigated the iboga plant three times, whilst singing took place in the chapel. Then the Nganga’s brother appeared with a knife. Hands held it firm whilst its head was cut off and the blood allowed to spray out over the plant. This done, we were ushered back to our spots in the rear of the temple and instructed to continue eating.

All of us were having trouble getting the iboga down. I was desperate to try but it was just too foul. The Yombo kept coming in and whispering to me, “Comment tu vas voyager si tu ne mange pas d’iboga?” How are you going to ‘travel’ if you don’t eat iboga? As though sticking this stuff down my neck shouldn’t present any problem at all. Anxiety was rising steadily, not helped by the fact that we were all freezing cold and expected to stay here for at least the rest of the night.

My only real problem with everything at this time was the taste thing. I knew if I could just find some way of getting enough of the stuff inside of me, once the drug took effect I would have no concerns at all.

Adam had not experienced iboga before. He wasn’t looking too happy right now and decided he’d had enough. I can recall him spending about an hour arguing with the Nganga and his brother, who were determined he should stay. Eventually, after much frenzied discussion, he settled for going to the toilet, but even this concession took an age. The three Camerounians were all pretty distraught as well. But they all seemed to know they had no choice but to go through with it. They were vomiting regularly into the various vessels left at our feet for the purpose. Suddenly I could feel myself being overwhelmed by anxiety. I was mad to be lying here all night like this in the freezing cold! I would catch my death. Why, I could already feel my body becoming chilled!

So I started remonstrating with the Nganga as well. This seemed to break his resolve. I think he had already decided, from my repeated childish refusals to show pain or fear, that I was some ex-military type and seeing me now protesting so vocally about my treatment did actually cause him to worry a little. He called in the Yombo, who was having none of such behaviour. She began to perform her eating gesture again, clearly believing that my problem was that I was somehow unaware of how to consume iboga.

Then I suddenly remembered, from my previous iboga experiences, that anxiety was a quite normal effect of the drug coming on. And that this was why the Nganga and his brother were trying to get Adam to sit down again and continue eating. Suddenly I felt quite ashamed at my behaviour. I had been doing fine not showing any emotion for several days, (several decades, in truth), and had now ruined everything with my outburst. I lay back down, decided there was no point in trying to explain to Adam he was likely just experiencing the normal effects of the drug, and once again tried to consume the iboga.

It was still foul, but I managed to just about get it down and finish the plate with the aid of some water that had now been provided. I lay back awaiting the visionary stage of the experience when suddenly the Yombo rushed up and poured me another plateful. Followed by another series of eating gestures performed in front of my face whilst her eyes urged me onward. I don’t think my heart has ever sunk so low so quickly. I knew deep inside there was truly no way I could handle another plateful. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Looking back it seems strange that something as minor as a taste sensation could provide such a barrier to me experiencing a much-awaited release from near 40 years of emotional misery. In fact, to help get me through the first plateful I had repeated told myself I was pretending it was too foul to eat because, at a subconscious level, I didn’t truly want healing. This steeled my resolve at the time, but no such ploys were going to work now. I tried to eat more, but soon found myself reduced to undertaking the popular childhood pastime of pushing the stuff repeatedly around the plate in a desperate attempt to convince the Yombo I was eating.

Then, suddenly, a ray of sunshine appeared. Someone in the group must have said, “Why don’t we give them the ‘automatic'”, for a large bowlful was brought forth. Seeing the ‘automatique’ transformed me. This was the liquid extract of iboga which, while still quite unbelievably foul, was at least fairly concentrated and drinkable if taken rapidly. The problem with the rootbark was that it was so weak. I knew I would have to consume platefuls of it. Now I was being given another option, and I can recall thinking salvation had finally arrived. I put the plateful to one side and started on the automatic. It was still unbelievably foul-tasting, but at least it didn’t have the texture of the rootbark and drinking a cupful was the equivalent of consuming a whole plate of the other. Despite my efforts to please, and the knowledge that I must have already taken a fairly hefty dose by now, the Yombo was still not impressed. Her exhortations to ‘drink more’ continued unbroken. I must have been a couple of hours in at this point and the drug was definitely taking a hold. And there suddenly arose in me the desire to prove to her that I was worthy. Looking up at the Yombo standing over me, an idea came to me. I took several large cupfuls and drank them down one after the other. Her face changed and she nodded approval, which surprised me considerably. I felt like I’d really achieved something. Sadly, this was the last feeling I was to have as Nick Sandberg, a 38 year old British visitor to the Cameroun, for some time.

When I awoke it was sunny. The sunlight had a strange quality to it. I had no knowledge of who or where I was and it didn’t occur to me to think about these things. But I knew the sunlight was different. There were people around me staring. I am sitting on a doorstep when a man comes over and looks at me. I don’t know who he is but I don’t like the look of him. I start shouting and he walks off. I am in a room with chairs and sofas. Then I am in another room, lying down on a mattress. There is some liquid in a bottle. I taste it. It tastes of orange. People come and people go. I don’t recognise them and frankly the world that I journey to when the strange sunlight stops and I fall through a hole in my mind makes more sense to me. But I keep coming back to this world. A pretty girl comes in occasionally`and talks to me in one of numerous languages I can now understand. She wants me to take her away somewhere. I’m not sure where this place is she’s talking about.

I was staying in the building next to the chapel, but I had no recognition of this for some six days. On the seventh day, I remembered my name and that I’d come to the Cameroun to take iboga. And that I was very hungry. For something like a half of the intervening time I was experiencing a bizarre series of dreamlike visions in the first person. Some of the environments they occurred in I could at least hazard at guess at recognising. But most are frankly beyond my descriptive powers.

Iboga visions are frequently pretty tedious reading for the outsider, their prophetic quality usually simply a symbolic message relating personal work that needs to be undertaken. But I shall put down a little of what I’ve subsequently recalled, so the reader can get a rough idea of the kind of thing: Somewhere early twentieth and then mid-ninteenth century England. I ride a motorbike in the former and am a right jack-the-lad. I’m doing some kind of risky couriering job and am besotted with a blonde girl who seems a vision of working-class beauty. I think she gives me a cigarette lighter. / In the latter I’m a Dickensian style loner. / Late nineteenth century US. Perhaps. I’m an European immigrant and I start a small business on the fringes of legality with my brother. We’re very successful. I also seem to have magical powers / Ancient Africa – bizarre crocodile-like power groups ruled over us in an ancient world that lay along the banks of an African river. / Time reversing as living rock forms join together to form an ancient source from which power sprang. / Ancestry revealed as a series of bizarre deer-like heads mounted on a wall. / Underneath things, trying to interpret what was going on around me. / Multi-dimensional environments peopled with incomprehensible beings. / Millenia of history of some insect race that spent all their time fighting and felt sticky. / Future visions of a Chinese factory that produces a strange device like a thin metal folding table. You put in on your roof and your TV reception improves and the price of your electricity goes down. Millions of people in the Southern USA buy them, then one day a scientist discovers that they are having a terrible effect on the earth’s ionosphere and 99% of the human population are about to die. The Americans are mightily upset with the Chinese and start bombing. But it’s too late. The world is strangely calm afterward. It’s scorching hot and there’s not much to do. / The world ends a multitude of times, each in a different way. One day a scientist discovers we’ve got only 11 days left. We’re about to be sucked into another dimension and there’s nothing anyone can do. People read about it on the front page of their newspapers and panic considerably. There’s a strange graph of the effect included with the story. The universe just disappears. Nothing left, nothing at all. In one instant a billion years of history are just sucked away. Not even vapourised. Everything simply ceases to be. Or ever have been.

It was now about the 19th of August and I spent the next few days in Cameroun’s capital, Yaounde, staying in a hotel with Adam. I had lost about a stone in weight and looked dreadful. It seems I neither ate nor drank anything much for about a week. Yaounde didn’t appear to have much to commend it. And the lack of streetlighting added to its reputation for being dangerous at night. We travelled to the centre of Cameroun for a couple of days with the guy who was scared of taking iboga and visited the ancient city of Foumban. On the 24th we flew back to Europe.

I started feeling ill almost as soon as we got off the ground at Yaounde airport. Adam and I split up in Paris and by the time I was back in London I was feeling really weak. There’s no time difference between the UK and the Cameroun, so I knew it wasn’t jet-lag. After four days of having my temperature rocket then dive repeatedly, I finally decided there might actually be something wrong with me and called the doctor. He said it sounded like malaria and told me to get down to the Tropical Diseases Unit. I could barely walk upright by this time. They took a urine sample and booked me in. There were bugs in the sample and it turned out I had falciparum malaria at 7.2% in blood, a fairly dangerous level. I spent four days on quinine, drips then tablets, then checked myself out of hospital. About a week later I was pretty much back to normal.


Epilogue and Conclusion

Although my experience of iboga initiation will no doubt appear pretty grim to some readers, in no way do I regret doing it. It didn’t achieve any of the things I had hoped for, at least not immediately. But perhaps there were elements of some form of spiritual initiation in it. And I did some months later begin to make some progress unravelling my emotional problems and begin to release some of the pain trapped in me from my childhood, principally through practicing Holotropic Breathwork and getting involved in group therapy.

The malaria was a bit of a hassle, but had no lasting deleterious effect on me as far as I can determine. And I no doubt would not have been infected had I bothered to take Larium, or similar preventative medication.

My treatment by the group might seem a rough to some, but in fairness to them I simply underwent what each of them had undergone. No special arrangements were made for the fact that I was a Westerner and I can see nothing wrong with that. It is a ritual of initiation and the ‘banzi’, (Bwiti word for the initiate), is expected to overcome severe trials on his or her route to adulthood. I’m not quite sure whether I passed yet, but I figure I at least made a little progress.

The Nganga’s keeness for material wealth doesn’t necessarily in any way diminish his spiritual prowess. Except in the eyes of naive Westerners like myself. And the Yombo’s ferocity and dogmatic attitude I later discovered to be quite normal for senior women in the religion. I still get occasional letters from the pretty Camerounian girl who came in to attend to my physical body whilst I was ‘away’. She relates that “meme que la distance que nous separe”, she still thinks of me. Usually followed by a request for funds to help save the life of an ailing relative. I write back declining politely.

With each month that passes I recall a little more of what I ‘saw’ during my week of visions. I haven’t got to the bit where I am reborn and get to start my life anew yet. But I figure it’s coming up soon.

References

(1). Recommended is the “Lonely Planet guide to Central Africa”. (Lonely Planet Publications, 1995)
(2). http://perso.club-internet.fr/ideesun
(3). A notable exception being “Bwiti: An ethnography of the religious imagination in Africa”, James W. Fernandez, (publisher and page details unavailable)
(4). “Péril blanc”, René Bureau, (publisher and page details unavailable)
(5). “La naissance à l’envers”, André Marie, (publisher and page details unavailable)
(6). http://perso.club-internet.fr/ideesun/efgtmple.htm

Nick – Initiation in Cameroun (August ’99)

March 21, 2012

 

Subject: Iboga in the Cameroun
Date: Tue, 7 Sep 1999 08:32:04 EDT
From: Nick Sandberg
Reply-To: ibogaine@ibogaine.org
To: Multiple recipients of list

Posting a brief account of recent 2 week trip to the Cameroun to both do Bwiti initiation and research iboga further.

Left London for Yaounde, the Cameroun capital, on Tues Aug 10th. Overall journey time was about 12 hours, including stops at Paris and Douala, (Cameroun’s second city). The flight was Air France and cost about UK£850 return. Air fares to Central Africa from Europe are invariably about US$1,500 return, which seems fairly pricey to me.

Yaounde was cooler than I’d been told. We went straight to the Bwiti chapel, which I believe was called Assumpta Ening, or something similar. The chapel was conveniently located about 10 minutes drive from central Yaounde.

We sat in on Bwiti rituals that night which went on until sunrise. They were quite well carried out in my opinion. The same Wednesday night, with a lot of fairly spectacular fire rituals. There were about 20 Bwiti initiates present of varying ages. Nearly all looked under 40. Many under 20.

On the Thursday we were asked to write a “confession”, detailing all our various transgressions from our previous years. Later in the day, the confession is to be read out in front of two large harps (!!), then later symbolically burnt.

The initiation ritual started quite late on Thursday evening. It was conducted by a guy called the Abbe Bessala. There was a bit of ritual washing outside the temple followed by a few blessings and similar. There were five in total to be initiated. Three locals, (two girls aged about 10 years and a young man of about 15), and two of us Westerners. In addition, a young Swiss heroin addict was treated the day after.

We started eating the prepared iboga which was foul as ever. I had noted earlier in the day while observing an old woman preparing the stuff that she discarded the outer rootbark. I asked her why this was and she explained it was unhygenic. After a fair bit of eating, it was evident to me that the iboga was not particularly strong, no doubt partly because of the way the part of it where active ingredients were most concentrated was discarded. There was some “automatique”, (an alcohol/water extract of iboga rootbark), around which I decided to move onto. It was foul, but not as bad as the rootbark powder. Everyone else was vomiting merrily, but I managed to hold out. I must have drunk numerous glasses of the “automatique”, prior to passing out.

After this I don’t remember a great deal for about 6 days! I did a fair bit of dreaming over that time and had no real idea of who I was or where I was. I seemed to be spending a fair bit of time in some kind of multidimensional environment which is pretty difficult to describe save to say that the extra dimensions were represented in my mind by specific feelings. I’m fairly certain I encountered a character who I later recognised as Njoya – an early 20th century Sultan of a central kingdom of the Cameroun, renowned for his wisdom and occult activities.

[Bits are coming back to me slowly as the months pass. During one approx 36 hour solid REM dreamstate I experienced at least a couple of interesting life histories seemingly set around 1850-1920, one maybe US, the other likely UK. Don’t know whether they were my own, but the central characters seemed familiar. My opinion of ibogaine visuals in general is that they are frequently a “mish-mash” of emotional memories, cognitive memories and possible past-life, archetypal or future experiences. I had a strong vision of the “forging of nations” circa 1000AD in Scotland, a lot of which came back to me whilst North of the Border with Dr Mash in November 1999. In the dreamstate I could feel the texture of stone as though it were alive.]

On the sixth and seventh days after consuming the iboga, I began to remember who I was and similar useful pieces of information. And on the seventh I left the chapel and its surrounding buildings and went to stay in a hotel room in Yaounde.

Overall I can’t really say much about my session with iboga as I consumed so much of the stuff, I simply can’t really remember. I think it’s generally better to take iboga or ibogaine, for spiritual or psychological reasons, in a more controlled environment. I guess I must have consumed something in the order of about 10g of ibogaine, regardless of the other actives present in the rootbark, though this is just an estimate based on what I recall and how long I was out of it for afterward.

Back in Yaounde, the young Swiss drug addict who’d taken iboga the day after seemed much recovered. Though I’d only met him briefly prior to his treatment, he’d seemed to me a fairly typical young male European h addict, (if such a term has validity). He now appeared notably more mature. And told me he was experiencing no desire to use.

My overall opinion of treatment in Cameroun, bar one consideration, is that it is particularly suited to the treatment of drug addiction. Especially for those addicts who’ve had little success with other treatment modalities. It seemed to me one particularly significant consideration here is the so-called “pilgrimage factor”.

By this I mean the pschological effect on the addict once they’ve booked their ticket to this remote environment. They can see themselves travelling to a place far detached from the West, taking part in a bizarre ritual involving a life-changing psychoactive substance, and thence commence upon a new life – one free from hard drug usage.

This is a very significant factor in trying to achieve long-term drug abstinence, in my opinion.

For those seeking some kind of spiritual experience, or relief from psychological maladies, I’d say it’s better to experiment with iboga, in whatever form, nearer to home prior to trying something like this.

There is one negative factor to be mentioned when discussing treatment in the Cameroun.

This concerns security, on both a local and national level. Cameroun, in common with much of Central Africa, is both an extremely corrupt country and also not a particularly safe one. The people I was with did not like walking around alone in Yaounde at any time. And whilst I personally felt quite safe during the daylight, once dusk falls it’s a generally accepted wisdom that wandering the unlit streets is a definite “no-no” for non-Camerounaises.

There are also concerns with pilfering, which seems endemic and is an issue which needs to be addressed prior to departure. Cash and valuables will disappear from pretty much any place. Carrying travellers’ cheques seems a good idea – until you try and cash them! If you succeed in finding a bank which will accept them, you are unlikely to be much impressed by the rate. (Ffr 1,000 in banknotes typically gains about CFA 97,000. In T/C the same sum gains about CFA 65,000!!)

One idea to counter problems of this nature would be to arrive a day or two earlier in Yaounde, check into a halfway decent hotel, and leave your valuables in the safe. Alternately, American Express or DHL offices may offer safe-keeping facilities.

Anyway, to sum up, treatment in Cameroon is reasonable value at about FFr 7,500, (~US$1250), especially when compared to other options. (Though flight costs to this region are high). And, for addicts especially, Central Africa scores high on the “pilgrimage factor” scale. Unless you’re used to travelling in Third World countries, Westerners would be advised to go accompanied, either by another addict or a friend. Some considerations as to how you’re going to keep your money safe during your trip should be taken prior to leaving. A guide book, such as Lonely Planet’s Central Africa, is also a good idea.

Happy to answer any questions anyone might have.

regards

Nick

Subject:
Re: of iboga and Gabon
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 1999 12:40:30 +0000
From: Nick Sandberg
To: ibogaine@ibogaine.org

HSL wrote:

How do you own memories of Gabon sit with you now Nick?

Hi Howard,

My memories of Gabon are somewhat limited, as I have never been there! I recall going to Cameroon, however. Which was interesting for a number of reasons. I participated in a Bwiti “initiation” ritual, which was fairly well conducted, in my opinion, though not in the opinion of other Westerners who attended.

Much of the preparation resembled that for Primal Therapy, the regressive psychotherapeutic technique pioneered by Dr Arthur Janov in the 60’s and occasionally still enjoying bursts of popularity. Notably, the lack of sleep allowed prior to commencement, the writing of the confession of one’s misdoings and the general atmosphere of abuse and maltreatment – all of which serve to break down the body and mind’s defences and potentially allow the release and reintegration of early “deferred” pain, (ie. pain resulting from experiences deemed too traumatic by the body to be felt at the time of experience and so held within the system awaiting a safer time for release).

The problem for me was that as the iboga came on and the constant exhortations to eat more, (comment tu vas voyager si tu ne mange pas d’iboga?), started to seriously get on my nerves, I decided I was going to consume a truly monumental dose of the “automatique” – the less foul tasting and more concentrated iboga brew – and proceeded to do just that.

I lost consciousness and when I came around could not recall who or where I was. I was actively very hostile to the people around me, who I seemed to recall were not my friends, and spent the next six and half days, lying on a mattress in a side room, drifting in and out of periods of intense REM activity sometimes for days at a time, bits of which occasionally return to me. Around the morning of the seventh day, I started to recall who and where I was.

My experiences while I was “away” were very similar to those described by people doing Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork. That’s to say, there appears to be a lot of apparently “past-life” material, which arises and is slowly reintegrated into the psyche, mostly, in my case, apparently set in late 19th C USA and early 20th C London. Also some older stuff relating to the “cleaving and forming of nations” around 1000AD in Scotland – some of which came back whilst I spent time visiting Stirling Castle with Dr Mash, (as did some NDE type stuff as she endeavoured to negotiate roundabouts in a hired Skoda), in which I could feel the rock as living texture slowly rending with time.

There were also a whole host of truly weird multi-D experiences I couldn’t begin to realistically put into words.

My opinion now would be that the experience was quite interesting, but that dose levels of this magnitude with iboga are pointless. I believe the brain on becoming aware of the impending psychedelic onslaught simply directs the flow of energy up and away from the parts of the psyche where deferred pain is held, and into some kind of mystical land of weirdness. There may be some level of symbolic interaction with the trauma, but I doubt if permanent abreaction and resolution of trauma can occur like this, the effect being more like the sense of temporary calm we have after a deep dreaming session.

My best experience with ibogaine was with the HCl. I took 750mg and had a painful and very visceral journey into the tortured mind. This is what you need. Actual cognitive, emotional and bodily release of pain. Journeys into the Spiritual Land of Oz may calm the troubled mind and boost self-esteem, but they don’t actually deal with the problem. Spiritual experiences are in some ways the body’s means of copping out, of saying the pain is too intense to be dealt with yet and opening up another channel that we may view it differently. Just as the mind seems to know what experiences need to be deferred for fear of causing excess damage to the psyche, so it also seems to know the time and place when this stuff can be safely released. In short, you need to gently tweak those receptors just right, not flood them, or you’ll be talking hippy nonsense for the rest of your life, which may be considerably shortened, should the health issues surrounding trauma not be being addressed.

Anyway, that’s my opinion for what it’s worth. Avoid high doses. Work up. Use other methodologies in between ibogaine sessions to help soften up the subconscious. Don’t keep hacking away with ibogaine if it’s not giving you a result. And don’t go thinking you’re the next new-age prophet just because you’ve been jettisoned into the land of mystical weirdness for a few hours – it’s just your body’s way of telling you you’re not ready yet.

Best wishes

Nick

Xavier – iboga experiences (November ’99)

March 21, 2012

Subject: Trip Report 1

Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999 03:22:16 -0800
From: “xavier liberti” liberti@nomade.fr

Here comes the report of the two eboga trips I made during october 99. I wanted to make a detailed report, so it is quite long and I have to post it in two parts. Therefore this post is the first one.

First I have to say that I am french and live in France. So I didn’t break any law because nor iboga (the plant itself) neither ibogaine are forbidden or restricted in France. Although conclusions of this report are extremely favorable to the ibogaine, I don’t encourage anybody to contravene laws of his country if this one regulate iboga. Otherwise my English is quite limited , so I apologize if certain parts are not expressed very clearly. I made my better in the limit of my means. This report has first been written in French then translated in English by myself, so if some of you are interested by the French version, they can contact me privately by E-mail.

Contrary to what seems to be here most of interest for people, I am not really interested myself by the anti-addictive properties of iboga. I am not really an addict, although since some years and particularly these last months, I used to drink alcohol (sometimes strong doses) and to smoke tobacco or cannabis regularly, but I always held myself aside from the hard drugs because I knew very well that my psychological problems could have made very easily of me an addict. I am what one calls a “self-primaler”, that is someone who use to practise on himself the primal therapy (if you don’t know what the primal therapy is, make a tour here: http://home.att.net/~jspeyrer / . It’s the best site to start a search about this topic. I discovered here the existence of the ibogaine, since its effects rejoin objectives of the primal therapy).

I underwent an extremely traumatic childhood and I passed my adult’s life (I am 42 years old) to try to heal of it to me. I worked a lot and many progressed, especially these last years since I know the primal therapy. I arrived to solve problems a lot, but by far not all, because I could never have gone up again to the source, that is my first four or five years where I never succeeded in making reappear the traumatic memories that remained there, emotions that were associated with, and therefore to repair damages that they caused me. Merely these first years appeared me little by little, as my therapy went on, like a huge black hole full of something vastly frightening and painful, but I definitely could not go in it, I just could sense that there were essential and terrifying things here. Also, when I discovered the existence of ibogaine and began to accumulate knowledge about this topic on internet, I quickly understood that it was the right tool for me to progress in my recovery, the tool that would permit me to dive in the black hole to face what can be found there and delete it.

Finally I got 60 grams of rootbark that, according to my supplier, contained 5% of pure ibogaine, what had to correspond to a quantity of 3 grams and therefore to be more that sufficient for my experience. My girlfriend and I left to isolate us in a small house close to the sea, quiet and suitable to my experience.

My trip was foreseen for Sunday 3 October in the morning. On Thursday 30 September, I tested the rootbark while absorbing about 2 grams. It made me nearly no effect. I felt a little bizarre, but hardly. So on Friday morning, I redid a test while absorbing this time pretty much 4 grams. Was this the effect of heap with the root of the day before? I ignore it, but as true that the two grams of the Thursday made me feel nearly nothing, as true that the four grams of the Friday made me a very powerful effect. More or less one hour and half after the ingestion, I had to go in bed and lie down. I wanted to vomit, and I felt on this point of view that I better should remain immobile. Besides, all things turned around when I moved the head or tried to stand up, my vision and my muscular coordination didn’t function correctly anymore, lightnings occured in my peripheral vision. So I decided to remain stretched out without moving and with closed eyes. I began to have some colorful visions in 2D, then hallucinations without personal abstract, but with more and more rich and varied content and in 3D. At the end of a quite long time I began to have metaphors with personal content according with my philosophical or metaphysical ideas, but nothing by the way of my personal history or the black hole. Excepted this physical uneasiness like a seasick, it was enough pleasant and interesting. All this ended in a bizarre way: I was lengthened therefore on the back, on the bed. This one appeared to me gradually like a launching pad, or rather like a flying saucer on a launching pad, that would get ready to take off over with me. My eyes were still closed and, at that moment, visions represented the room but greatly enlarged and imposing, as if I was inside a cathedral. An opening occured on the top of the cathedral, and I felt that I was just about to take off. It was as if, in my back and under the saucer, reactors switched on. I had the sensation that the bed rose up in the air and rose skywards. Then all stopped, reactors died out progressively while the saucer land again. Visions stopped. I had the very strong feeling at that moment that all this stuff had only been a metaphorical preparation to the true trip, a general rehearsal in a way, intended to verify the right working of the machinery until the ultimate instant of the departure. I was sure at this time that all was OK, that I was ready for the big departure on Sunday. All this had lasted between three and four hours. From this instant I didn’t have any psychological effect, vision or other, on the other hand the physical effects lasted all day long, until the evening, attenuating progressively. I even had some vision problems with lightnings the following day morning on awakening, but they vanished very quickly.

On Sunday morning toward nine o’clock, I rose and, with empty stomach, began to ingest the iboga. It took me pretty much one hour and half to swallow 35 grams thereabouts, before the ibogaine begins to make effect, and then I had to lie down. It happened pretty much as on Friday, with the same progression in visions, then the impression that I was going to take off and that reactors ignited in my back, ready to propel me. But this time there was not a cathedral: I saw a tunnel opening in front of me where I felt advanced, on a progressive way, to very big speed. I had in head since the beginning of my researches on the ibogaine that this one had to dive me in the black hole, so I had the idea that this tunnel was the way that finally would allow me to reach this, that I was going to appear somewhere inside it to start my work there. This moment that I waited so much finally happened, I felt ready and determined, although naturally afraid by these mysteriously terrifying feelings that always seemed to me emiting out of here. But suddenly, it was as if an immense iron curtain rose up in front of me, against which I came to stumble (something like a metallic curtain in front of a shop window when it’s closed, wich prevents all intrusion). Of course it interrupted brutally my race in the tunnel. Something or someone derided me, this something or someone that made the curtain appear, and meant me that I could not go in, that I could not go where I wanted. I harassed the curtain while trying to find a crack, a flaw, a hidden door, whatsoever where to slip through. It was the first phase of my trip that lasted until the following day early in the morning. During this time, I didn’t sleep at all. I remember it as an immense fight. First of all, I harassed the curtain without success. Of course this was not a true curtain, similar to those in the real life. It was a complex and changing object that proved to be animate, living, accompanied by rhythmic sounds. It was something extremely heavy and massive, metallic, powerful, harmful and without mercy. The jerky sounds that emanated from it were violent and strident, they tore eardrums and at the same time it was like steps of a giant that hammered soil and made all tremble around me and in me. In the beginning I remained myself and fought against the curtain that was like an outside element tempting to collapse, to grind me, to destroy me to stop me from entering; but gradually it became me and I became it, I was an element of the curtain, it was as if it tried to absorb me, to dissolve me while taking me in its movement and its fury, in its uproar.

It is a very difficult experience to describe with the common words, so I am going to use a metaphor to try to explain you what I felt: imagine that you are a sailor and that you go to the sea. But hardly gone out of the harbor an immense wave arrives, raise you and carry you away, as to reject you on the beach. In the beginning you try to keep your balance while operating your boat and try to tame the wave to cross over. But imagine that the wave is too much strong and makes you fall while dragging you in it, fall on you with clash, ejecting you of your boat while pushing you toward depths, imagine an enormous wave, several kilometers high, imagine its weight and its strength when it falls on you, imagine that once it collapsed on you and attracted you toward its depths eddies it lasts not some minutes or some hours but an eternity during which you only have an idea in mind: survive while fighting to go up again to the surface to breathe the rare times it is possible, and that during this time you felt your body laminated, jagged by this immense strength, imagine the clash of these tons of water falling on you and of whirlwinds that follow, try to imagine all this, indeed, and you will have a small idea, very attenuated, of what happened to me.

In the beginning therefore, I tried to cross over the obstacle by all means to continue my progression. But after my fall, my only stationary idea, my obsession was merely to survive. At the end of this eternity, it was as if this wave that dragged me had finally rejected me on the shore, where I stood stretched out in a pathetic state. It was Monday morning, the phenomenon stopped, I was again in my bed, exhausted and laminated. I had the feeling to have missed everything, to have failed in my tentative to go into the black hole, I had the sensation of have beeing repulsed violently and, in spite of all my efforts, not to have been able to get over the doorstep. In fact it was only a false impression, I would see it later, because everything that I had lived since the day before was actually an essential part of the black hole. But at this moment on Monday morning, I didn’t realized it at all, I was persuaded to have failed completely, persuaded that my ibogaine experience was missed irreparably, that therefore the black hole had remained inaccessible to me, that probably it would remain so for evermore, that I will ever go farther in my therapy nor heal completely, that all this was hopeless, definitely hopeless. I felt deeply unhappy and desperate. By this way I entered the second phase of my trip that was also, although I didn’t realize it at all on the moment, another important, fundamental part, of the black hole’s content. I felt therefore completely distressed, unhappy, unhappy, unhappy, with a feeling of solitude and nothingness, of absolute abandonment, of infinite despair, of total and definitive defeat. When my girlfriend came to see me on Monday morning after her awakening, I asked her to remain with me and sit next to me on the bed. I felt so shattered that I needed to confide in her, to confide her my misfortune. It is what I made with difficulty because I had difficulty speaking. But very quickly I began to cry, to sob while tightening me to her. I cried for a long time like a child, and I believe that I cried the same way every time that she camed to see me on that day (she came approximately every hour). In the meantime I often sobbed alone. I didn’t have any vision, no memory bound to my childhood, no intellectual reflection, nothing else that this absolute disaster feeling and this immense pain that made me cry, a need to cry oceans of tears. I was just invaded, swallowed by these feelings and I felt painful and extremely tired. I thought that my iboga trip was finished on this failure, that nothing more could happen. In my mind, it seem to me that I would just need to wait for one or two days so that the physical effects of the iboga disappear and that I can rise -but for what to make? My life appeared me done definitely.

This second phase lasted until Monday evening, late in the evening. Finally I fell asleep for a part of the night, and this sleep constitutes the phase 3 of my experience. I haven’t much to say about it, because I was really asleep. I woke up somewhere to the middle of the night, and there I realized that during my sleep important things did happen but I wasn’t able to remember precisely what. I had had visions, and in these visions I remember that there were two big icons, a bright one and a dark one that seemed to symbolize the goodness (or at least something protective and kindly) and the badness (or at least something destructive and malevolent). It seemed to me that I had entered in contact with these two principles, that I had met them and had exchanged with them, maybe also that themselves had consulted, as if negotiations had taken place between us, that things had advanced, that decisions had probably been taken, I don’t know precisely. I am nearly sure to have seen and understood a certain number of these things rightly to the instant of the wakening, but they vanished very quickly, leaving me only the picture of the two icons and a general impression. It is quite the same impression that one sometimes has to the wakening on the morning, just on the output of a dream, when one remembers vaguely about this dream but this memory fades away nearly immediately, and that one doesn’t manage to recover it anymore.

After that I fell asleep again, and occurred then phase 4 of my trip that is the most intense and most prominent psychological experience of my life, wich I will never forget. It took place under the shape of a conscious dream wich was characterized by a length, an intensity and an appearance of reality that was properly extraordinary. I felt myself like a very young child in a child’s body (I don’t know precisely how old I was, let’s say between three and five years). The decor resembled greatly home where I was for my eboga trip. All happened as if these surroundings represented my child’s mental universe, expressed my interior universe. So I was this child and I was alone, unhappy and apprehensive. The scene around me was dark, the ambiance of the house, the atmosphere surrounding was unhealthy and seemed dangerous, contours of objects were menacing and frightening. What I lived in fact was the production of this universe where my child’s life took place, day after day. This unfriendly reality was lived, as haunted by a multitude of other universes that opened up before me when I approached of certain places or objects, or when my look met some silhouettes. It was at that moment as if doors opened up in space-time and that other universes were either revealed to my approach to my look, like hypertext links taking to other inclusive realities in the first. These universes are impossible to describe with the human and Cartesian words, it was completely non-Cartesian universes populated of bizarre, ludicrous beings that didn’t resemble at all on rational earth’s beings where we live, that didn’t depend on neither the same physic laws nor the logic ones. They were completely unbridled universes, populated of stranger creatures the some that others. These creatures and these realities had a common point: the one to be tortured, morally anxious, sick, bad, frightening, destructive, pitiless -it had all nuances, all tonalities that one can imagine the negative side of the mind and a total absence, everywhere and in everything, of whatever that can be connected to a positive, quiet, soothing or beneficial side.

Thus the decor was filled of a multitude of universes, that varied according to hours of the day or the night. Universes of the night were the more awful and terrifying, most destructive. In the beginning, I was merely successively snatched to live there, in these universes, there to participate as a being integral part. I traveled thus for a long time, a very long time from a reality to an another one as being submitted evidently to its rules and all its dark, negative sides. It is as if were represented there all facets of the hell that I visited the some after others, came back there then there came back again, in which I was absorbed and burnt, consumed and often physicaly crushed. It really lasted an incredibly long time (I will come back later on this notion of time lasting the different stages of my trip). But gradualy an important change occurred. From the beginning I was snatched by these realities, was submitted to their rules, was only a victim that didn’t have any means to either fight to escape. Then progressively, I tempted and arrived to come closer psychologically of all creatures that lived them, they became day after day nearer and nearer, then became my confidants, then my friends, and at the same time I became their confidant and their friend. It was as if I tamed them progressively while they also tamed me. Day after day they were less afraid of me, I was less afraid of them, we were less afraid of eachothers. I remember of long discussions and long confidences, of whispered secrets, of mutual confessions and so, slightly walking on the edge of time, of mutual appeasement. Every time that peace was thus definitely established between one of them and me, that all had been said and alleviated, then one by one each of these universes vanished, completely and definitively disappearing.

At the end of my dream I was always a small boy, I had not aged but I had changed internally as my around universe had changed. I watched everywhere, approached all but no universe opened up under my look or to my approach. There was nothing but a soft light, a comfortable, quiet, reassuring house -and I felt myself, as a small child, quiet and reassured, and smiling. I felt delivered. It was like a newborn dawn after had left the night and its ghosts. My dream ended thus in a last circular look where I noted and especially felt that all these universes and all these ghosts had left definitely, that nothing was henceforth more haunted. It is the moment I woke up.

It was on Tuesday, very early in the morning, it was still dark, and it was the fifth and last phase of my trip where I thought on everything that had arrived me, valued it and understood it. It lasted some hours.

What struck me most was first how I felt. I felt deeply changed. I had the impression that my body was more thin and light, a lot less massive, less stiff and better lubricated. My head seemed to me unbelievably light, quiet, and especially without the painful pressure that I felt there before my trip. It seemed to me that my brain only occupied a very small part of the space in my skull, as if this one was filled of emptiness – not a negative emptiness, on the contrary it was very pleasant and positive, relaxing. I felt marvelously well, and delivered as I was in my dream. And I understood that all had perfectly well functioned, that Mother Iboga had accomplished a fantastic work.

Here is in summary everything that I understood during this phase 5: When I was a child, I have ever been liked either respected, protected, pampered. I never knew what meant tenderness or affection. My mother was cold and distant, my father was demanding, hard, violent, sadistic. So I progressively developed a feeling of extreme solitude, suffering and misfortune. Psychologically I felt vastly desperate and torn, filled of screaming and tears that I could not express because I wasn’t allowed to cry, under any circumstance. My first years were thus, for me, years of absolute despair, of a feeling of incontournable defeat, of impossibility to escape an implacable destiny. I believe that it is this psychological bruising that encouraged the emergence, by the weakening of my immunity system, of very numerous illnesses of which some serious (I had a parameningitis and the poliomyelitis). All these illnesses in my first childhood caused numerous and deep fevers accompanied by deliriums, where were gradualy crystallized all features of my real life. Thus I created inside myself one mental universe where all sufferings and violences of my reality were embodied of imaginary and symbolic way. These “parallel realities”, extremely gloomy and malevolent, arose and developed all along my numerous fevers, then the night lasting my innumerable nightmares, and went up to invade my days while distorting the reality of what I saw and heard. I lived in a world where the real and the imaginary confounded themselves, where the pain and the danger resided more and more everywhere. I lived in a perpetual terror and a permanent destruction feeling that I felt in my mind as in my body. That is probably what men name the lunacy, and that is what I designed, without knowing what it was, as the black hole.

I left to explore this black hole while using the ibogaine, with in mind a certain number of ideas on work that I had to make, a certain type of strategy. I had prepared my trip minutely with a list of questions, of questioning to solve on my father, my mother, my environment. I had recovered a certain number of memories or elements of memories on which I wanted to concentrate, to focus to manage recovering much more things and understanding them, solving them. I had brought childhood photos that could have used like springboard to dive in myself. I wanted to enter my unconscious, the black hole in it, with a plan of attack that characterized himself by the fact that I was concentrated on the personal reports with my family surround, and I thought that the origin of my problems and therefore the solution was there. I was mistaken completely. What made me so fear the black hole, what was in my head that made me feel without stop under pressure to such point that I had these last months the permanent impression that my skull was going to explode -as if a volcano sped up inside, that threatened to every instant to enter in eruption -, the origins of this were deliriums caused by my fevers and my nightmares, were all these ghost universes which arose from, wich had grown in me and were still in me, still alive and active.

Ibogaine unearthed all this stuff, brought back everything to the surface and in short treated him -and the whole to its manner that is symbolic and emotional, while completely short-circuiting the strategy that I had elaborated. Phase 1 of my trip was only a reproduction, a production of what really were my deliriums and nightmares lasting of long years. Phase 2, this feeling to be so deeply unhappy, lonely, without hope, quit by the destiny, this cosmic despair way, that was my child’s daily feeling. These tears and these sobs that I could also have expressed during this phase 2, it was my child’s tears and sobs that I could never have expressed until this day and that were therefore still in me. In fact, phases 1 and 2, that was, precisely, the black hole, exhumed and put in stage of suitable symbolic way to circumstances. And this long conscious dream that I did during the phase 4 was a symbolic production, invented and led by the ibogaine to take care of me, to heal me of these ghosts, these violences and this suffering.

So it was Tuesday morning, I felt at the same time psychologically free and physically much better in a way, but completely exhausted. I had the sensation to have spent a phenomenal energy in this adventure and to be completely unloaded, out of power, so weak. Physically, the ibogaine effects were not yet gone away, I had still lightnings and all turned around when I tried to rise. So I remained in bed all day long, trying to relive and to fix in my memory everything that had happened. My trip ended thus.

(Beginning of the second part)

I spent the two following days taking strengths again. I restarted to eat progressively. In the beginning foods or drinks seemed to me cold and metallic, not good at all. I went for some short walks at the seaside, that made me feel really better. I had difficulty walking, my girlfriend had to sustain me. I was indeed very weak but it didn’t disturb me because I felt my body and my mind free of the pain and the pressure that filled them before, and it was a very great feeling. My head continued to be unbelievably light and aired. It was as if I had been cleared from thorny undergrowth and after that as a cool and healthy ground was soon ready to be sowed. Within two days it seemed to me that new seeds began to take roots, I restarted to have desires, to project me in the future, to consider of the concrete projects -all things that existed no more before ibogaine. I felt therefore very satisfied and very confident.

It is alas the moment when I had problems with my friend, who from her side, for reasons that I won’t develop here, felt really bad because my experience had disturbed her. So she left and, from Thursday evening to Sunday evening, I had to stay alone. It was very hard for me because her presence to my side helped me a lot, I felt the desire of a human heat on which to lean to carry out my come-back, I felt still fragile, as newborn, and it was as if her departure made me fall again in the rut of which I had just taken out hardly. I restarted to feel pain, I had the impression that my interior seeds had been trampled on, and that they were dying. When she came to look for me on Sunday evening to bring me back in Bordeaux (it was foreseen since the beginning that this Sunday would be the last day of the stay here), I had restarted to drink and to smoke whereas I didn’t feel the desire of it anymore until her departure.

Therefore I would have to be alone at home in Bordeaux for the week, quite distressed because I had hoped a lot in the ibogaine, I waited for the end of my problems and the opportunity of a new departure, I had believed one moment to have gotten this objective and I felt losing it. That is why I decided to take ibogaine again, hoping that this second dose would make me rise again, going on again on good bases. It remained me thereabouts 20 grams of rootbark that I decided to absorb on Wednesday morning. I knew for having read it here and there on the net that to ingest some ibogaine a short time after a first taken was not recommended, because long terms métabolites seemed to block its effects. However, as I felt really bad, I thought that I didn’t have anything to lose trying this, and anyway, I didn’t wait to make an as strong and powerful experience than the first one, I just wanted to start again rightly, switch on again the process of recovery.

This second experience was extremely negative. I had the same physical effects that at the first time, or nearly (in fact a little bit less): deformed vision, lightnings, desire to vomit and impossibility to rise alone. But I had much less psychological effects. Things were brought to my conscience but were not solved. I felt for example that an important part of the black hole had been removed, probably the more essential and most painful, but that it remained lot of problems to solve that had a more classic aspect, a lot more in accordance with the strategy that I had in mind while incoming my first trip. About this topic I remembered a pair of elements of my childhood; I remember to have met my mother in dream and to have spoken to her, asking her questions about my early childhood. I remember to have felt a very deep feeling of sadness, witch made me understand that many negative feelings and tears remained inside of me, but made of a quite different nature than those having been treated before. This kind of feeling was made with absolute and deep sadness that invaded every part of my body and my mind. I felt that I was entirely made, build with sadness. In the same way as the skeleton of each one is composed largely of calcium, it was as if my “mental skeleton” was composed of sadness. The big difference here with my first experience was that then an important material had been brought back to the conscience and treated, so after this I felt cleaned, washed from this stuff. This time these things were only brought back to the surface, but weren’t treated. Thus today they appeare to me merely conscious and I have to live with, without the possibility to solve them. It is like ibogaine had just shown me the work that remained to do, or a part of this work.

Another important part of this second experience was like a general review of my life in its entirety. I saw who I was and who I had become, with immensely of acuteness and precision, without indulgence and even without mercy. It was like a passage to the X radiuses, a scan of my whole life and all facets of myself. I experimented the same thing concerning people I ran along in my existence and that took a meaningful part there. It was a very important and very prominent experience where I was able to see, with an acuteness and a bigger lucidity that ever, the futility and the smallness of the existence, the pathetic and even miserable character of all human being, including myself. This was not indeed a discovery because it is rather a usual way for me to see. What changed here was the intensity, the size, the depth of this look, as if a multitude of things, of beings, of feelings that I had seen until then separately and chronologically were then reunified “here and now”, as if I saw them for the first time together and simultaneously. It was a rich and deep but negative and moving experience.

These were the only things that occurred during this second trip with ibogaine, during Wednesday and Thursday. My sleep was not affected, I normally slept during the first night, then the second and others. Nothing special happened, apart this second night’s dream where I remember to have met my mother and have spoken to her, but it didn’t especially touch me nor didn’t apparently modify whatever it is. If the psychological effects were very moderate, on the other hand the physical consequences of this second trip were stronger. I felt more tired, more “out of power”, and it took a long time to recover (in fact, until Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week where I physically felt put back definitely ).

Today, about fifteen days after the end of this second experience, here are my reflections and commentaries:

– I think that the ibogaine is really and definitely a great curative tool. It did a gigantic work in me, making me clear of what made me feel so badly and handicapped me so much. Do you know this? :

” So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night
An infant crying for the light
And with no language but a cry “.
Alfred Tennyson: In Memoriam

It summarizes what I was before the ibogaine. Since I don’t cry anymore in the night for the light, my language is finally becoming something else that a shout, I can run another dream -simply because I am not haunted anymore. And I know, and I feel, that it is definitive. I am especially impressed by the symbolic strength of the ibogaine that allowed me to treat the most pressing, the most painful and handicapping part of my problem, but to its manner and not at all the way I had imagined. I am absolutely astounded by the strength of what I lived -the strength of pictures, of sensations, of emotions, of universes in which I have been dived, by the as much creative than curative strength of such a process. That such a gigantic work could be accomplished such a radical way and in such a short time seems to me amazing. As “self-primaler” since some years now, I know from experience how it is long and difficult to extract and to treat emotions and events that are bound with. On this point of view, iboga is an atomic bomb that destroy selectively only bad things.

– But I also understood that ibogaine is not a wand -just a tool, a great tool. Thus it only treated a part of my problems. It remains a lot to accomplish before cleaning me completely of my childhood, thus I will have to do other iboga trips -I don’t know how much. I believe the reason of this fact is the quantity of traumatisms that I had to undergo during my early childhood, and therefore to the necessary work quantity to solve the whole of these problems. It cannot be done in one trip, all the more since it is absolutely exhausting. Our reserves of energy, then the amount of work that we can provide, are limited, and the ibogaine cannot make miracles on this point of view, just a really good work, in the limits of each other’s means.

– The fact that I relapsed after my first experience shows evidently that the ibogaine is only a tool that must be considered in a global process, like an essential element but only an element of a whole therapy that must include the psychological and material preparation of the ibogaine ingestion, the material and psychological environment of the trip himself, then the accompaniment and the support after the experience. It is a process in three stages where each is as important one that the other, where the iboga is only the necessary but no sufficient element of the whole. It is a conclusion that rejoins a lot of points of view that I have read here or there on internet. Ibogaine doesn’t accomplish anything by itself: it makes things possible. The success of an experience depends on the capacity of each one to manage the best way this possible. Circumstances, coincidence, luck or misfortune take an obvious place there. If I have been able to cry (and this permitted me to be delivered of an enormous weight that remained enclosed inside of me since my childhood, and contributed strongly to my new well-being), it is thanks to my girlfriend who knew how to be there, available and reassuring. I would never been able to cry alone, or with a no-familiar. But if I relapsed then, it is because of my friend who could not remain with me, available and reassuring. Circumstances… The success or the failure of an eboga trip seems to me to depend on the quality of these circumstances to the center of which is the human relation quality exchanged with the people who watches over you. It is why I doubt, for example, about the value of a clinic environment, maybe sure on a medical point of view, but what about human heat? It is why I doubt about the value of a bwiti “initiation”, whose doubtful circumstances have been brought back lately on this list.

– What also appears to me astonishing, is the distortion of time dragged by ibogaine. Indeed during my first trip, ibogaine began to produce its effects toward 11 o’clock on Sunday morning, to probably end on Tuesday morning toward noon, what makes about fifty hours. That is the real, objective time. But in my interior space-time things were quite different. The phase 1 appeared me to last an infinitely long time, but I cant be more specific because I didn’t have reference mark of time at all -say: days or weeks. For the phase 2 I have more reference marks because my friend came to see me pretty much every hour, and I had each time the sensation that several days had flowed out, so I always asked her what day it was. Of course she inevitably answered me: Monday, so I used to ask her for exact time – and I found every time incredible that so little time passed since her last visit, whereas it seemed to me to have flowed out several days. So the whole Monday appeared to me to have lasted several weeks. For phase 3 I just can’t evaluate anything. Phase 4 was the longest, because every time that I brought in in an universe, it was to install my life here during several weeks or several months, the necessary time to be adopted there and to become intimate with its inhabitants, to side then with them and finally to see this universe vanishing. As there were several ten or several hundred of these universes, I don’t know anymore, I can affirm that I lived there at least the equivalent of a long life during some hours. I affirm otherwise that this interior life was materially as real, concrete and palpable, sensitively or emotionally, than every day’s life we share you and me, including the conscience of passing time. This time dilation is indeed a very important point, and very impressive, of the full iboga experience. During my second journey this time dilation didn’t occur.

– If you have soon read a lot of other reports on eboga trips, you surely noticed that my experience is very different in its shape than most of them. A supplementary detail is to note on this point of view: a lot of people note a reduction of their sleep need lasting several weeks, or even several months after the ingestion of ibogaine. For me until now, it is precisely the opposite. Before, I needed about 6 hours of sleep to feel rested. If I slepted more, I felt less well. Now I feel the need of more sleep, seven hours and a half to eight hours seem to be necessary, seven hours are a minimum under which it is me anyway impossible to descend. Maybe this is due to the fact that I have the very clear feeling, without being able to explain it however logically and rationally, that my brain is rebuilding itself currently on news bases since the two experiences, that day after day important underground restructurings take place, and that therefore my inner work with ibogaine didn’t stop as physical effects stopped two weeks ago. Only the visible aspects stopped, but something is still acting in backstage. Don’t ask me what, I just don’t know! I just can say it has something to do with the sensation of new seeds wich are growing in background. It’s much less clear than the first time but apparently working. If theories on the paradoxical sleep (REM) and its role in the structuring of the brain are exact, the important modifications generated by the ibogaine in my mind could explain this increased need of sleep.

– Something that greatly hurt me on a physical plan is the absolutely disgusting taste of the rootbark, or of the excerpt that I had prepared according to Howard’s recipe. It is the most awful mess that I ever had to swallow, and I confess that I don’t understand how so many people can support to swallow several ten grams (or several glasses for the excerpt) for their trip. Fortunately after my first test on Thursday morning, I understood that I never will be able to ingest sufficiently of this barbaric shit and I procured gel caps, which permitted me to absorb the necessary quantity on Sunday. So if I have an advice to give to neophytes on this point of view, it is very simple: don’t prepare an extract, don’t foresee to swallow the rootbark as it is naturally, but prepare the necessary quantity in big gel caps -even if you have to ingest lot of them, it will be anyway much less laborious to swallow than pure rootbark or extract. In my opinion, the fact not to feel this repugnant taste at all decreases both the physical uneasiness and the risk to vomit during the first hours. That is what happened during my second experience where I swallowed everything in gel caps, I was not therefore embarrassed at all by the taste of the root and I felt less nauseating after.

– By the way of uneasiness and possible vomits lasting the first hours of the trip, I have two very useful advices for those that intend to take iboga. The first is to concentrate, to focus in thought on visions and all psychological effects that come with them. One is very quickly and very easily absorbed by this psychoactive aspect of the trip, and then one forgets his body and its possible uneasiness, one doesn’t feel sick at all. If one lets go to think about his body and his bodily sensations, the uneasiness and the desire to vomit amplify automatically. The second is to use an urinal for his physical needs. So it avoids to rise to go to the toilets, what is a dangerous and risky test about vomiting. The urinal is very easy to use and without risk, one can nearly use it without moving. It is sufficient that the one that surperwise your trip empties it for you regularly. Really simple and convenient.

I will finish this posting putting two questions that more especially are addressed to Howard and all participants of the next conference of NYC -of course everybody’s help will be welcome:

– Don’t you think that the visions induced by ibogaine, whatever is the name that one gives to them -visions, dreams, hallucinations – and the shape that they take, is an essential part of the treatment and recovery process, and that wanting to suppress them is as absurd and dangerous as to want to suppress dreams of the nocturnal rest? (I put this question by the way of this Howard’s posting on the ibogaine list, about the conference program and objectives:

Discrimination studies: Drug discrimination studies offer a possible approach to the issue of ibogaine’s mechanism of action, and the question of the possible resolution of ibogaines therapeutic from its hallucinogenic effects.)

It seems to me that all these ” visions “, as are dreams, are the natural expression mode, the language of the unconscious, and that wanting them to shut up is not the best way to hear what they have to tell us… It seems to me that it is also the operative mode of ibogaine, and that removing its main tool is not the best way to guarantee its efficiency… Well, I’m just curious: why is the presence of visions so disturbing??

– How to determine, after having done an iboga trip, the moment when supposed long-term métabolites will have disappeared and when it will be possible again for someone to redo a new trip while benefiting from ibogaine with 100% effects? On the net, one can read here or there that one has to wait for some weeks or some months. But how can an individual know this delay precisely for himself?? Are there objective signs of whatsoever nature that permit to answer to this question with a minimum of certainty? (I suppose that everybody will understand the sense of this question. Personally I will have to take ibogaine again, and I want to make it as soon as possible, without waiting more that necessary the time that it recovered its efficiency. But how to know when the moment will have come??)

Well, I hope my testimony will be useful.

I thank all the people here and there who helped me providing useful informations and advices.

Love to them all.

Best regards,

Xavier