Emerging artist incorporates ancient wood carving technique that was shown to him in Amazonian Plant Teacher ritual bringing visions from a magical realm into material reality
The work of Chris Isner stops you. Stops you from everything else and makes you feel it, the same way a breathtaking landscape does. Understanding what you are witnessing is not something to be taken lightly.
Chris went into the Mariri, the sacred healing dimension that you can travel to using the most powerful psychedelic and entheogens in the world — Ayahuasca — and came back with a vision on how to manipulate wood in a completely magical way. When you see his work, your brain cannot understand how these visions came to life in wood, you rational self immediately wonders if it’s not plastic or ceramic.
Isner visions are the embodiment of Ayahuasca. Just like a intergalactic explorer that came back with a sample meteor from other worlds, Chris brings into our reality the magical visions of Madre Ayahuasca — so you can touch them, feel them, own them.
How did you get into doing this?
I’ve always had fiddly hands and an obsessive disposition and then five years ago I scratched up enough cash for airfare and went to the Peruvian Amazon where some truly amazing things happened. It changed me. When I got back, I quit my hated job painting houses, downsized to a backyard Ted Kazinsky shack, collected a pile of scrap wood and never looked back. It was a hungry struggle but I was determined to never work a job again. It requires suffering, true, but we’re all going to suffer in life anyway, so we might as well suffer for what we love rather than for jobs we hate.
Your art is gorgeous, like nothing else I’ve seen.
Thanks. I think that’s due to its genesis which was magic, pure and simple, the result of drinking magic potions in the jungle and seeing visions in which I learned a very ancient technique, perhaps even one of the earliest. This was within the context of ancient pagan healing science still practiced today, science that was never eradicated by invading Christians. There are many places in the world where such powerful science still exists but they’re becoming more and more remote.
You say science?
Sure it’s science, quite enlightened science in my opinion. The problem for us is that it was developed within completely different paradigms from our own, so it may be impossible for us to even begin to comprehend it or recognize it as science in the first place given that our cognition was developed within such a vastly different paradigm.
If 10,000 years ago someone observed animals eating certain plants, then observed them acting very strangely and thought, “I wonder if I would have a strange experience as well if I ate them,” then experimented with dosages, additives, preparation and indication within various sets of conditions, and meticulously recorded the results through oral tradition in an unbroken lineage of intensive training and practice spanning millennia, well, that’s some pretty thorough science. Add spiritual teachers into that mix and it transcends modern comprehension.
A profound paradigm shift seems necessary to even consider it.
Entheogens seem to do that pretty well.
Agreed. I think it’s far more likely than not that all religion begins with entheogenic visions. Anyone who has tried ayahuasca, for instance, wouldn’t bat an eye at someone else’s trip report about talking to the Angel of God in a fiery bush that didn’t burn or seeing many-winged Angels with the heads of humans and lions and oxen, or high thrones of lapis lazuli and wheels within wheels in the sky.
I would point out that there is a distinct similarity between the fractal geometry found in Middle Eastern art and that of Amazonian tribes. We know for a fact that Amazonian geometry is the result of entheogenic visions, so I think it safe to assume the same for Middle Eastern motifs given that similar plants are plentiful throughout that region. Wahid Azal turned me on to a very good, scholarly study, which purports to identify the sacred plants mentioned in ancient Vedic texts and the Quran. Of course, they are ayahuasca-analog plants that Bedouin tribes-people still use today.
So, hey, Jesus fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and being tempted by Satan himself with visions of world domination? No biggie, happens every day. Although the Bible makes no mention of the projectile purging from both ends simultaneously…
Who is Wahid Azal?
Oh, Wahid is an Iranian Sufi mystic and also an ayahuasca practitioner (an ayahuasquero). He’s the guy who single-handedly convinced the Ayatollah to issue a fatwa [religious edict] permitting Muslims the use of hallucinogens under proper conditions. The book I mentioned, Haoma and Harmaline, was central to the evidence Wahid compiled. The religious argument was that these plants are a gift from Allah which is why He created us with receptors in our brains to utilize the chemicals these plants contain, so how can they be haram [forbidden]? The Ayatollah accepted that not only should they not be forbidden, but that we are meant to use them for healing — physically, mentally and spiritually.
I recommend doing a search for “harmine oncology” or “harmine beta cells” to see just how potent these alkaloids are, not to mention the current psychedelic revolution underway in the field of psychiatry which is showing phenomenal results.
Are you really saying that all religion is merely the result of drug-induced hallucinations?
Haha! No, no, that might be just a wee bit offensive to a few billion people. What I believe is that entheogens allow access to other realms of existence, divine realms and others, higher and lower realms, depending on one’s terminology. And in these realms people encounter entities, or at least our constructs of them. With worldwide cross-cultural accounts of fiery demons and Jinn, angels of the air, earth elementals, plant spirits, water fairies, dragons, fantastic beasts and the rest, I think it all originates with the use of these biochemical conduits.
Why is the entire world awash in tales of mythical beings and monsters? The simplest answer is that people saw them and they saw them because somehow, somewhere, they exist. I’m just pointing out that we went through the trouble of evolving receptors for these plant chemicals which would otherwise have had no effect on us and which coincidentally allow us to experience some of the same things we’ve spoken of for thousands of years.
Are you religious? What do you believe?
Yes and no. It depends on how you look at it.
First of all, I would say that there is no such thing as a true story given that everything we experience is a construct, even our own sense of self, so it’s imperative to maintain an open mind and be receptive to new information lest we become prisoners of sensory perception which is exponentially subjective. I think that ancient cultures enjoy a far more inclusive and elastic capacity for belief and this elasticity allows for the acceptance of contradictory propositions or even the ability to both believe and disbelieve simultaneously. This is far more in line with reality in a universe where matter both exists and doesn’t exist simultaneously, or exists only as a “haze of probability” and I think a good part of this elasticity comes from thousands of years of cultural entheogen use.
For example, I don’t at all believe that I ingested a ridiculously powerful entity in the jungle that zipped around through my body and mind, diagnosing organs and systems, rifling through my memory banks and emotional Rolodex, taking my sensory perception for a test drive, etc, and then healing me — because to believe that is absurd according to my modern thinking — yet I also have no doubt whatsoever that this is precisely what happened because that was my distinct experience of events. At some level it isn’t absurd at all but perfectly rational and I am oddly comfortable operating under such a glaring contradiction.
Chris, why did you start making religious altars?
The short answer is that I was asked to. But the reason I love making them and want to make many, many more is that I’m interested in supporting in any way I can those who wish to free themselves from the constraints of our destructive culture. I think the increasing interest in paganism, occultism, shamanism, etc, is in part due to the rejection of a civilization that is killing us and everything else. The work I’m able to do seems to be deeply significant for for my clients, helping to inspire increased devotion and conviction, or so they tell me. I myself am keenly interested in different systems of belief and my commissions require me to research and learn about so much that I would have never thought to explore otherwise.
So, making altars to help people disengage from Western culture, why are you so down on it?
I’m convinced that modern western civilization is the moral and intellectual equivalent of a zombie apocalypse decimating all life on Earth. Fortunately there are other choices and, hopefully, I can inspire a few people to explore those choices with my art.
It really is miraculous that someone like I was can do what I now do. Really, I had become an unpleasant character, just a thuggy-looking kind of guy with a lot of scars who never even went to high school, drunk and homeless far too long, PTSD, depression — a miserable mess. But I was healed and transformed. We drink the Vine of the Dead and so we die, not to be reborn but to be replaced. And that’s fine, I never liked that guy anyway. But now I know that there are worlds within worlds within worlds, far more in Heaven and Earth than was dreamt of in any philosophy.
So, how does one commission one of your amazing shrines?
Contact me through my website www.isnervision.com and we’ll get to work. I have no idea what the synergy of our minds will manifest, but whatever it creates, I promise that nothing like it currently exists in this world.
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