'The Night Doctors'
by Tim Parish
ink on paper
from the exhibition 'Visions of Mu'.
Somewhere between midnight and dawn, in a small room on the border of Thailand and Laos my friend Cassandra told me about a vision she had had in the Amazonian jungle a few months earlier.
'I felt as if all the creatures of the forest, the insects, the snakes, the creatures of the night were surrounding me and ripping my body to pieces" she told me matterof factly. "It wasn't painful, but there was no escaping the fact that my body had been torn to shreds and I had to confront the reality that I was no longer alive..." - and that was only the beginning of her eight hour long Ayahuasca journey.
The image of a churning, infested darkness from which the soul was pulled into a vision of the afterlife remained in my mind quite clearly. I later learnt from the writings of my friend and colleague Rak Razam that this was a common vision, and the the shamans of the Amazon even gave name to these creatures as the 'night doctors'. Ayahuasca is a healing medicine utilised by the witch doctors of the Amazon for thousands of years, and the visionary insight which it gifts is one that is said to trascend the physical world, and in doing so, the mortal coil. I realised that these 'doctors' of the night, which come to deliver the soul from it's psychic attachment to the body are therefore part of the journey beyond fear and toward the dissolution of the ego that accompanies the apparent near death experience and subsequent dissolution of the ego which people often seem to undergo. I became to conceive of them not so much as demons or nightmarish creatures then, but as gatekeepers of a certain realm through which we must pass in this state in order to let go of the trappings of the material world.
It was not until I after had experienced the plant myself whilst travelling in Japan many months later that the visions I had been told of materialised in the form of this painting. Although I didn't experience the same destruction of my body, there was an intricacy to the visions which seemed to communicate a different kind of language to me. A visual language that spoke directly to my soul and transformed some part of my own way of seeing. Also, the process of journeying through the darkness of my own fears made sense and was perhaps expected as I had been forewarned of it in advance by my fellow travellers.In Christian theology, people speak of 'the dark night of the soul' which precedes illumination and I feel that this shamanic journey could equate with that concept also. Upon returning I was inspired to communicate my visions into visual language and this painting was one of the pieces that I created.
That is the story behind this painting.