Plotkin talks about studying under Richard Evans Schultes (“the father of ethnobotany”), biocultural conservation (the main point of the ACT), Covid-19 and the possibilities for cures in the Amazon, how ayahuasca news can always be viewed as both good and bad, how indigenous people often know much more about their environment and plant medicines than we realize, and how not all ayahuasca is created equal.
They mostly talk about the purpose of the ACT- using ethnographic mapping to help indigenous people take control of and protect their own land from their government and mining or logging interests, all while trying to bring a focus on respecting and protecting the environment, culture, and traditions encompassing the Amazon and its many people.
“The race is on. Protect the forests, protect the shamans, protect the frogs, protect the plants, protect the fungi, and let’s learn what these people know before that knowledge disappears because the knowledge is disappearing much faster than the forest itself.”
On the ACT: “When we set up the Amazon Conservation team about 25 years ago, the idea was that you had groups like the World Wildlife Fund (where I had been working) that was focused on protecting rainforests, and you had groups like Cultural Survival that was focused on protecting indigenous culture, but they really didn’t talk to each other. And so we wanted to help create a discipline now known as Biocultural Conservation because those of us who work with indigenous cultures (whether it’s in the far north of Canada or it’s in the Amazon) know that there is an inextricable link between traditional shamanic cultures and their environment. And nobody was addressing that.”
“There’s a great saying… that the rainforest holds answers to questions we haven’t even asked. So who knows if the answer to Covid-19 or SARs or the next virus which is coming at some point is in the Amazon, and the answer is- nobody knows, and nobody’s really looking for it. So why not protect this treasure, steward it better, look for these answers, and keep the earth a rich and wonderful place?”
“The medical office of the future, if we get it right, is going to have a physician… a nutritionist… a pet therapist… a music therapist… a dietitian… a shaman… a massage therapist. Because there’s no one person and one way that’s going to embody all aspects of healing at the same time.”
“We all go to the grocery [store and ask]: ‘I want to buy organic stuff.’ How come nobody ever asks where the ayahuasca comes from? Is it harvested sustainably? Was it grown organically? You know how many times I’ve been asked that question? Never. If we’re having raised consciousness, why the hell aren’t we asking these questions? So my challenge to all of our like-minded colleagues is: Let’s make sure we’re getting this from a sustainable source. Let’s make sure it’s being replanted when it’s harvested. Let’s make sure it’s benefiting tribal communities or peasant communities that are respectful of nature and shamanic processes and things like that because I don’t understand why anybody would go to the grocery store and want to get organic grapes but will buy ayahuasca off the internet without knowing where it came from.”
“It’s not nice to screw mother nature either, because, you know, mother nature always wins. And thinking that we can get away with this and make a few bucks or eat a few weird dishes and not pay the ultimate price is foolish… It’s us [who are] following our nests… abusing indigenous cultures… abusing forests… and mother nature is ultimately going to have her revenge.”
Dr. Mark Plotkin is a renowned ethnobotanist who has studied traditional indigenous plant use with elder shamans (traditional healers) of Central and South America for much of the past 30 years. As an ethnobotanist—a scientist who studies how, and why, societies have come to use plants for different purposes—Dr. Plotkin carried out the majority of his research with the Trio Indians of southern Suriname, a small rainforest country in northeastern South America, but has also worked with elder shamans from Mexico to Brazil. Dr. Plotkin has a long history of work with other organizations to promote conservation and awareness of our natural world, having served as Research Associate in Ethnobotanical Conservation at the Botanical Museum of Harvard University; Director of Plant Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund; Vice President of Conservation International; and Research Associate at the Department of Botany of the Smithsonian Institution. Dr. Plotkin is now President and Board member of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), a nonprofit organization he co-founded with his fellow conservationist and wife, Liliana Madrigal in 1996, now enjoying over 20 years of successes dedicated to protecting the biological and cultural diversity of the Amazon. ACT has been a member of the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 Roll of Honour since 2002, and was recognized as using “Best Practices Using Indigenous Knowledge” by UNESCO, the United Nation’s cultural organization.
The Council for the Protection of Sacred plants is “an initiative of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines that endeavors to advocate for the legality of sacred plant medicines among indigenous peoples and non-indigenous communities, encourage legal harm reduction practices that protect those who use them, educate about conservation of plant species, document relevant legal and social issues, and consult on legal cases including possible litigation. ”
3 Key Points:
The Psychedelic Liberty Summit is a gathering on legal, cultural, and political issues around the emerging psychedelic renaissance.
Accessibility is not just about whether or not people can afford psychedelic therapy, people cant even afford regular therapy, the whole healthcare model is an issue.
A lot of churches get a bad name, but really most churches are built around community. Psychedelics can help revitalize churches.
Rob Heffernan has been involved in the Peruvian curandero tradition and the Santo Daime for the last 16 years. He was a member and chairman of the North American Santo Daime Legal Committee for a number of years. He has been engaged in independent research and active in ad hoc groups promoting legal clarity and ethical integrity in the Ayahuasca Community. He is also a certified Integrative Sound and Music Practitioner; Shamanic Breath Work Facilitator; and a long time student and practitioner of Buddhist Dhamma. He has a BA in Communications and Social Studies from Fordham University, and works in the AV/IT communication industry.
In this episode, Joe interviews Cody Swift from the Riverstyx Foundation. In the show, they talk about Peyote and the troubles for Native Americans and their church not having access and preservation of Peyote.
3 Key Points:
RiverStyx is a small family foundation that funds projects that demonstrate the potential for healing and beauty. RiverStyx has funded the preservation of land to protect the sacred Peyote plant.
The Portugal Model shows that decriminalization works. Portugal faced unprecedented overdoses and drug abuse, typically with heroine, and when they turned to decriminalization and treatment, overdoses and incarceration dropped significantly to almost none.
The Native American churches have held onto their ceremonial practices very tightly, and they struggle to find legal and sustainable access to Peyote, their sacred plant medicine.
RiverStyx Foundation attempts to lessen human suffering caused by misguided social policy and stigma, while advocating enhanced opportunities for healing, growth, and transformation in such areas as drug policy, criminal justice, and end-of-life care. The Riverstyx Foundation believes in the human potential for healing, growth, and transformation. The Riverstyx Foundation works to provide a bridge to the relinquished parts of ourselves, our society, and our ecology, to ease those fears and prejudices by funding projects that demonstrate the potential for healing and beauty, when life is embraced in its fullest expression.
Ayahuasca is a psychoactive tea traditionally used by indigenous communities of the Amazon rainforest for its powerful healing, purgative, divinatory, and visionary properties. As of late, and with the rise in use of DMT itself, ayahuasca is becoming majorly popular for the intense visions it induces, and which are usually attributed to DMT.
Although the brew’s potency is often recognized by its DMT component in the West, the plants that contain this compound are really just admixtures. The core ingredient of ayahuasca is the vine Banisteriopsis caapi, whose name in the indigenous Quichua language is actually aya waska (meaning “the vine of the soul” or “the vine of the dead”).
There are a number of scientific and cultural reasons why this vine is central to the ayahuasca brew. In this article, we will look into its potential as a healing agent and its place in the Amazonian indigenous lore.
Ayahuasca’s Rising Popularity
Ayahuasca has a wide range of ethereal applications: it’s used for diagnosis and healing, learning and training, social bonding and rite of passage rituals, creating hunting and agricultural strategies, finding missing objects or people, and various other kinds of shamanic activities. Its mystical properties have drawn a number of ethnobotanists and psychonautical enthusiasts to explore and chart the indigenous use of this powerful potion since the mid-20th century.
All the incredible documentation of Amazonian master plant healing practices has brought about the rise of ayahuasca tourism – the phenomenon of Western people visiting indigenous communities in order to take part in ayahuasca rituals.
After decades of development in tourism infrastructure and at a time when viral online information sharing is a highly prevalent means of communication, the brew’s unparalleled popularity can largely be attributed to the wild visions it presents its drinkers with.
Many believe that the source of these visions is the dimethyltryptamine molecule, the major active component in the admixture plants that go into most standard ayahuasca preparations. However, that’s all DMT is – one potential, but well-established additive to an already powerful healing and divinatory potion.
Ayahuasca is more than just DMT. To really understand this, it’s important to learn about the core constituent of this sacred brew – its primary ingredient dubbed the Vine of the Soul.
The Heart of the Brew – the Vine of the Soul
The most common ingredients that make up a typical ayahuasca brew are the vine Banisteriopsis caapi and the DMT admixtures: the shrub Psychotria viridis (also known as chacruna, meaning “mix” in Quichua) or, less commonly, Diplopterys cabrerana (also known as chaliponga or chagropanga). Although traditional brews will vary in their ingredients, all of them will contain B. caapi.
B. caapi contains three indole alkaloids with β-carboline structure: harmine and tetrahydroharmine (THH) in high amounts, and lower amounts of harmaline.
P. viridis and D. cabrerana contain DMT, known worldwide as The Spirit Molecule. DMT’s incredible psychoactive properties are likely the result of its role as an agonist at the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor.
The alkaloids in B. caapiare reversible MAOIs – they inhibit monoamine oxidase enzymes in our bodies, which normally metabolize orally ingested DMT before it can pass through the blood-brain barrier. With this inhibitory activity, DMT remains intact and can access the central nervous system.
The inhibition of both the MAO enzyme and serotonin reuptake systems as a result of ingesting harmine, harmaline, and THH causes a rise in the levels of serotonin and other monoamines. Ayahuasca’s highly potent antidepressant effects could be (at least in part) attributed to these neurochemical processes.
Aside from their effects on MAO enzymes and serotonin receptors, the β-carboline alkaloids in the B. caapi vine have been found to have antiparasitic and antimicrobial functions, as well asa host of other beneficial effects. A recent comprehensive scientific synthesis explains in great detail all we know so far about ayahuasca’s neurobiological workings and its actual and potential therapeutic and clinical implications.
When consumed on their own, harmine, harmaline, and THH have quite distinct and powerful effects.
According to a report from an experienced psychonaut, “Harmaline is a very mentally stoning drug, causing a foggy dreamy state of mind and making you a little shaky and a little disoriented at moderate doses. Harmine is more stimulating and more clear headed, not as disorienting, but otherwise quite similar to harmaline. Both cause a peaceful emotionally detached feeling. […] tetrahydroharmine feels almost completely different. Its main effect is mood enhancement and pleasant orgasmic tingling all over.”
Many other anecdotal reports available online confirm these characterizations.
Traditional preparations of ayahuasca
Furthermore, in traditional indigenous practice (i.e. in the preparations of the Napo Runa, the Sharanahua, the Tukano, and the Waorani, to name a few), the ayahuasca brew would often be made solely from the B. caapi vine, and it was only after the popularization of DMT’s effects among westerners that the DMT admixture plants became a universally present ingredient. The development of ayahuasca tourism brought about the need for facilitators of ayahuasca ceremonies to basically guarantee the visionary effects that have become well-publicized by their past visitors, and a yearning of their future ones.
Knowing about these therapeutic and psychotropic properties of the alkaloids in B. caapi, it’s no wonder that this vine has long been revered as the actual healing agent that catalyzes ayahuasca’s spiritual experience.
According to Terence McKenna, who popularized ayahuasca as not much more than “orally active DMT” in the first place, “[T]he action of the Banisteriopsis, as far as the visions are concerned, is to prevent the Psychotria from being neutralized by gastric enzymes” (Calavia, 2011:131). However, DMT-containing plants are just some of the 80 different plant species that have so far been identified as admixtures to traditional ayahuasca recipes (that number is estimated to be much greater in reality). Each plant modulates or enhances the total or partial effect of the brew, and B. caapi is a visionary plant in its own right.
An interesting fact is that many different varieties of B. caapi itself are used in ayahuasca preparations throughout the Amazon basin. Depending on the strain availability in their respective location, and the desired effect, different indigenous communities will use different varieties. These strains are often botanically identical, and the distinctions are only visible to well-trained eyes familiar with the vegetation in that specific part of the jungle.
Some of the commonly distinguished strains include:
red ayahuasca (ayahuasca colorada) – used almost always by shamans alone to exacerbate their ability to heal others;
white ayahuasca (ayahuasca blanca) – used to facilitate light or dark magic (brujeria), such as projecting spiritual darts (tsentsak) or defending against them;
yellow ayahuasca (ayahuasca amarilla) – widely cultivated and used strain, known for its gentle, but powerful healing properties, and crisp visionary aspect; often given to inexperienced drinkers;
sky/pink ayahuasca (ayahuasca cielo/rosada) – also a commonly used strain, but stronger than yellow, for more experienced drinkers;
black ayahuasca (ayahuasca negra) – very strong and not very visual – most of the visions are said to be drowned out by a thick black fog; intensely healing and purgative;
thunder ayahuasca (ayahuasca trueno) – only given to experienced drinkers, brews made with this ayahuasca cause intense bodily shaking and a violent purge;
Indian ayahuasca (ayahuasca india) – an ancient and extremely powerful strain which is only harvested from white sand rainforests and is not cultivated;
There are dozens more strains in use. Each has its role in the lives of the indigenous peoples who employ them, and their unique systems of beliefs about the spirits of the rainforest. Their names are given based on their purpose, but also based on the color of the plant (the flowers or the vine when the bark is scraped off), or the shade it gives to the visions.
As these strains belong to the same plant species, no scientific distinction has been made in terms of their chemical composition. However, knowing what we know about the individual effects of the β-carboline alkaloids, it’s safe to assume that the indigenous nomenclature may correlate with the alkaloid level ratios in different strains.
B. caapi has for centuries been revered by indigenous Amazonians as an omnipotent Master Plant – it’s their healer, their medium, their knower. Meanwhile, our knowledge about its components and effects is being broadened faster by independent psychonauts than by academic researchers. Western science needs to step up its inquiry into the vine’s therapeutic properties and substantiate the centrality of B. caapi in indigenous healing practices.
Xavier Francuski: With a background in research psychology and apprenticeships in ethereal worlds, Xavier tries to reconcile the astounding nature of the realms beyond with what sense we can make of them in this one. Xavier writes for EntheoNation.
In this episode, hosts Joe and Kyle interview Hamilton Souther, Shaman of Blue Morpho. In this episode, they cover Hamilton’s incredible journey from Western life into becoming a Shaman and the spirit teachings that he experienced along the way.
3 Key Points:
Hamilton Souther, a Shaman of Blue Morpho, shares his experience from living a normal Western life to his journey of his calling, learning and training to become a Shaman. He shares amazing examples of connectedness and spirit while living amongst the natives.
A common concept that comes out of an Ayahuasca ceremony is that the plants care for you. The teachings that come from the plants are peace oriented and resolution oriented and opening of creativity and problem solving.
Shamanic training is a long and extremely difficult journey. Training comes to the people that feel the deepest calling, because you have to commit your whole life to it.
He had some near death experiences and accidents when he was younger
The year after he graduated from college he would go into spontaneous awakenings and altered states of consciousness while totally sober
He would have really intense visionary experiences in those states
Those experiences were so powerful which led him into training and into his Ayahuasca experiences
He felt without purpose and gave himself up to something greater
He turned to shamanism to try to explain the nature of those experiences
Kyle mentions that this can happen, that substances are not always required for an ‘awakening’
Hamilton says he wanted to connect to something other than himself
The path took him to Peru, and there was a possibility of meeting people with Ayahuasca
He was being called to it and knew they were real and it led to his ‘apprenticeship’ as a Shaman
It wasn’t by accident that he was there, he had visions that he was supposed to stay there and to learn
Coming from a scientific background, he demanded (from the spirit guide) that the process be practical and grounded in reason and logic
He used doubt in a way that he was able to use a lot of proof and truth toward his belief system rather than just being naive and believing these messages too early
He couldn’t envision how to evolve from the vomiting, defecating human on the ground to the composed shaman in the room
Even though he spoke the language, he couldn’t understand what the people were saying when they shared their stories
It seemed like a different world to him
The first few years were learning how to survive in the jungle and learn how to live off of the food
He says it was like reliving his childhood, he had no idea how to walk through the forest like he knew how to walk down a street growing up
The first house he lived in out of college was one he built himself with locals
These experiences were so far from what he grew up in
Toward the end of his apprenticeship, ceremony started to look less impossible and more of something he would dedicate his life to
In the indigenous communities, everybody sees spirits, especially at night
And not just in the Ayahuasca culture, its everybody. They thought the jungle was literally alive with spirits
They would say things like “call me if you need me” and they meant it telepathically
Hamilton says “sure enough, they do answer when you call”.
He was in Southern Peru at a pizzeria, and they were in ceremony, and they started to call to him
He had to excuse himself from the table and go outside and sit with himself and went into an Ayahuasca vision and the two men in ceremony said to him in the vision “we just wanted to call to say hi”
So Hamilton, using his doubt, wrote down the place and the time of when this happened, and when he returned from his travels and got back to the community, the two men gave him the coordinates and time where Hamilton was when they called him. It matched perfectly
He realized then and there that they had a very different understanding of the forest and of space time and they were tapped into another kind of knowledge and wisdom
That’s what he was looking for when he came down to the Amazon in the first place
“The mysteries of consciousness are really unexplored and are not studied by science at all” – Hamilton
For Westerners, reality and how it is experienced is just a tiny slice of total consciousness
“When you’re in the amazon, and you’re living in the forest and you’re participating in these visionary experiences, you see the interconnectedness of life.” – Hamilton
“Globally we’ve all agreed that education, literacy and participating in the economy is worth it. I think it’s worth it to really address on a massive scale what were facing collectively. It’s a part of our natural evolution.” – Hamilton
The plants have a very specific role to play, and that they care
That’s a common concept that comes out of an Ayahuasca ceremony, that the plants care for you
The teachings that come from the plants are peace oriented and resolution oriented and opening of creativity and problem solving
Especially with the environmental crisis, people who turn to Ayahuasca start to care for the environment
Psychedelic plants have a huge role to play in global life, individual growth and collective change
Its a center that Hamilton and the shamans that he works with created
They did a ceremony to talk with the plants to make sure that this was okay to use as an offering to everyone
It started in 2003 and evolved over the years to practice traditional ceremony and now San Pedro
People come from all over the world to visit them
The majority of the people are really coming for the right reasons, with clear intentions for transformation, growth, exploration and personal healing
Over 17 years they have focused on bettering services and professionalism and they believe they have truly succeeded
Ayahuasca is just one aspect of Amazonian plant medicine
There are hundred of plants with medicinal healing properties
The Dieta is a period of time where you go into deep individual isolation and connection to a specific medicinal plant where you create a relationship with a plant
Then you go into the Ayahuasca ceremony and Icaros are sung and you drink the Ayahuasca
Then the Dieta is a time where there are restrictions such as abstinence, no alcohol, strict food diet, no medications, etc. and you go into a meditative state for healing for a time of a few days, to weeks to even months
Training comes to the people that feel the deepest calling, because you have to commit your whole life to it
Then, you find a lineage of shamans that are willing to accept you (if you aren’t born into a lineage of shamans)
It’s a journey, and you have to find a group of people open for training
It’s different from any kind of training from the western world, it’s a tremendous journey, and it could take years to decades
Its meant to be a test, and incredibly difficult
When Hamilton trained, he was told that 1 out of 100 make it to be actual shamans
It’s really a job of service, not an exalted one
The reason the training is so incredibly difficult, is so that you can sit with people, who are going through extremely difficult, and transformational experiences and you can be there for them and love and support them unconditionally with the strength gained through the training process
“Its a role of service, you have to be able to deal with any form of suffering that people come to you with.” – Hamilton
Stay open minded
He warns about a dystopian world
We need to be the change makers, and there is a lot we can do
We are incredibly powerful, especially when we are united in common goals
Whether they are about human rights or the climate
Hamilton focuses his work on Universal Spiritual Philosophy. He is bilingual in English and Spanish, has a Bachelors degree in Anthropology, and has studied shamanism in California, Cusco, and the Amazon. Hamilton was given the title of Master Shaman by Alberto Torres Davila and Julio Llerena Pinedo after completing an apprenticeship under Alberto and Julio. He guides ceremonies and leads shamanic workshops, in which he shares Universal Spiritual Philosophy.
This is an edited transcript from a podcast that was recorded live in Bolten Valley, Vermont for a MAPS Psychedelic Dinner event in May 2016.
When I met Albert Hofmann, I introduced myself to him by telling him my birthday, which was April 17, 1943. He burst out laughing.
– Lenny Gibson
There are three modern turning points in the modern history of psychedelics. The first one being when Albert Hofmann had the experience that led him to realize the psychotropic properties of the substance he had synthesized. The second one was when Gordon Wasson and his wife, Valentina, connected with Maria Sabina, who was a curandera who used mushrooms. This event resulted in the introduction of psilocybin, in addition to LSD. The third turning point was when Hoffman and Wasson were together, and Hoffman synthesized psilocybin. Psilocybin became readily available, instead of having to go to some obscure place in Mexico to beg people to find somebody who knew where to get the mushrooms.
The use of substances in providing transcendent experiences goes back beyond the beginnings of our written history in the west. The shamanic tradition in Greece led to the development of the tragic plays – The great tragic plays of Sophocles and Aeschylus. The Greek word tragedy, literally means goatskin, because in the festivals of Dionysus, who was the god of wine, when the new wine was decanted everybody got really high on the new wine. It gave people permission to act like goats and as you know Dionysus was portrayed as half man and half goat. Dionysus had also been to the underworld and back, like Orpheus, another person that comes out of the shamanic traditions and into, what we call, the Greek Mystery Religions. The most prominent of the Mystery religions was one called the Eleusinian Mysteries, a mystery not in the sense of Ellery Queen, but a mystery in the sense of mystical. That rite goes back beyond recorded time and lasted for, at least, two thousand years. It was a rite built around the myth of Demeter and Persephone.
Persephone was out picking flowers in the meadow on a spring day and Hades came along and grabbed her, took her down into the underworld. Demeter, her mother, was distraught but Persephone was gone. Demeter appealed to the other gods for help getting Persephone back. It was of no use. So finally, Demeter since she was the goddess of agriculture and growing things, decided that she would stop everything growing. Clearly a symptom of depression.
It didn’t bother the gods because they lived on Ambrosia. But then it occurred to them that if the human beings starved to death there’d be no one to worship the gods. That got to them and they agreed to help Demeter and prevailed upon Hades to let Persephone come back, but she had sampled maybe one or seven seeds from a pomegranate. The way those myths work, she couldn’t be completely freed of Hades and had to, ended up spending half her time in Hades and half with her mother. Thus, the variation of the seasons. So the myth is about going into the underworld and coming back, basically, about death and rebirth. It appears to have involved an ergot-derived substance, a psychedelic. We don’t know exactly because the Eleusis were sworn to secrecy and the secret was never revealed – two thousand years. All of the major people, all the intelligentsia, many of the regular people of Greece were initiates. They could do it once. Pindar, the famous poet, who was also an initiate, along with Plato and Xenophon and the whole, even to the Romans, Cicero was an initiate. Marcus Aurelius was the last Roman Emperor, was an initiate. The whole thing [The Eleusinian Mysteries] was killed when Calvin Constantine converted the Roman Empire to Christianity. Pindar says, not revealing a secret, but says of the right, it was an experience dying before dying. But as I said, Constantine saw the Ring of Fire and decided that the Roman Empire should become Christian, they should stop persecuting the Christians and become part of it. And so Christianity doesn’t have a very good track record with substances other than wine and Eucharist, which are psychedelic for a very limited group of people who are intensely into the sacred technology of the mass.
Huxley and Humphry Osmond
So the middle ages is a kind of, in the west, it’s a kind of desert, as far as psychedelics are concerned. And we don’t really find anything of interest until we jump up to the 19th century. Havelock Ellis took peyote on Good Friday, 1897. He wrote it up for the British Journal of Medicine, they rejected it – too fantastical. His other major work, which was in The Psychology of Sex, seven volumes – sold very well. He gave some peyote buttons to William Butler Yates, who realized that we’re all slouching towards Bethlehem.
Humphry Osmond worked a little mental hospital up in Saskatchewan and began experimenting with LSD [and mescaline]. Aldous Huxley somehow learned of this work and said, “If you’re in LA, come by and see me.” Osmond didn’t think it would ever happen, but in fact, there was a bureaucratic problem at the hospital. They needed to reorganize and move Osmond up and get rid of the guy that was above him, and so while they were doing that, they sent Osmond off to an APA convention in LA – where he got in touch with Huxley. They went to a few sessions of the APA convention and were bored to tears. So they adjourned back to Huxley’s place and Osmond turned him on. It took about 90 minutes before it really hit him and then it blew his mind. Huxley was the author of Brave New World andApe and Essence. Huxley was one of the major intellectuals in the 20th century and an enormously successful author, half blind, but intensely intellectual. He was part of a circle of people that stretches back really to Havelock Ellis and Hermann Hesse [Who wrote Siddhartha andThe Glass Bead Game ], and Carl Jung.
But the psychedelic experience was restricted to a very small elite. Huxley, upon trying the mescaline, called it the most extraordinary and significant experience available to human beings this side of the beatific vision. (The Doors of Perception, he produced as a result of it.) In there, he mentions CD Broad, a British philosopher who characterizes the brain as a cerebral reducing valve. Huxley’s first theories here was that psychedelics eliminate some of the filterings of the brain. Fairly crude though, we have a lot more sophisticated stuff now. Robin Carhart-Harris has advanced that considerably.
Huxley was also friends with a fellow named Gerald Heard, who was again, a major intellectual personage in the early-mid 20th century. The two of them eventually came into contact with a guy named Al Hubbard, nicknamed Cappy, because he was the President of the Vancouver Yacht Club and also the Uranium Corporation in Vancouver. He is best described as a kind peripatetic imp. He rode off to Sandoz and got a huge supply of LSD and I guess carted around the world turning people on but kept it limited to a very small group of people like this.
There’s Gerald Heard, there’s Oscar Janiger, who was a psychiatrist in Beverly Hills, who found out about LSD, got a large supply of it and a group around him Huxley, Heard, Hubbard, Janiger, Sidney Cohen, they were involved in a salon in the LA area. Their recording secretary was Anais Nin. Janiger also obtained DMT and introduced that into the whole thing.
Humphry Osmond first proposed the term psychedelic at a meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1957. He said the word meant “mind manifested” from the two Greek words for psyche and delos, which means clear. Huxley had sent Osmond a rhyme, which went, “To make this trivial world sublime, take a half a gram of phanerothyme. Thumos means spiritedness in Greek. Osmond wrote back, “The fathom hell or sore angelic, just a take a pinch of psychedelic.”
Now until Tim Leary came along, the psychedelic usage, although it was a growing circle, was pretty much limited to a fairly elite circle, a circle of intellectuals and a few housewives, as you saw before. But then Timothy Leary got a hold of psilocybin and this is a major turning point because Tim Leary couldn’t contain himself. And, in some ways, he advanced things enormously and in other ways, he set them back terribly. But certainly, and there you see him in some of his many guises.
The basic issue was he had started out doing reasonable research at Harvard and he couldn’t keep it in and started spewing it out. So you get the stuff starting to come out into settings that are not conducive to people getting the best out of it. And he became involved with these folks – Good old Alan, William Burroughs, some of you may know he was heir to the Burroughs fortune, the Burroughs adding machine.
So, here we have these guys, Kerouac, On the Road, and Alan Watts, who was a great talker. So East Coast, we’ve got Tim Leary, and West Coast we got, Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, coming out of on the road.
There’s the bus, the first acid tests, which morphed into the trip festivals, which morphed into Burning Man. The first Human Be-In and down there in the corner is one of the sponsors, Augustus Stanley Owsley III, who had a girlfriend who was good at making LSD and he produced zillions of doses really cheap.
But we have some problems here, the war. Psychedelics and the anti-war movement started synergizing each other and the government got really scared.
They (the government) had been interested in LSD early on. There was a guy named James Moore who accompanied Wasson (Gordon and Valentina) to Mexico under the pretext of being the photographer on one of those CIA plans. He (Moore) brought psilocybin back to back to the CIA. They were interested in it because it having mind effects – they discovered when they gave it to the spies, those hardened spooks ended up over in the corner weeping and crying about brotherly love. Other than the ones that ran frantically out of the room and had to be chased down in Virginia where they were found under a fountain talking about those terrible eyes and the monsters that were insulting them. So, it didn’t work out for the CIA.
Prohibition – California criminalized LSD on October 7th, 1966 and that’s when things started to head down because it drove it underground and that’s the worst thing you can do. I mean, prohibition, it’s like, “Will we ever learn?” We tried prohibition with alcohol. When I lived in Oklahoma, one of the lines there was, “It was so dry.” There were some dry counties in Oklahoma in the 1970’s, and the line was, “They would remain dry as long as the Baptists and the bootleggers could stagger to the poles.” It (psychedelics) went underground and at the same time proliferated.
Sasha Shulgin, wonderful man, wonderful, wonderful man. He could give a lecture on chemistry that was just if you didn’t know a bit about chemistry you would be fascinated. And there he is with his wife Ann and immortalized by Alex Grey. And there’s one of his “dirty pictures” down there in the corner, he called them dirty pictures, the molecules. There’s a great video on YouTube about Sasha called, Dirty Pictures, wonderful video.
And here are other folks – Richard Alpert, of course, was with Tim Leary at Harvard early on, but they diverged, India took on Alpert but it didn’t take on Tim. And we see Alpert in an early phase down there in the corner, we see him in his post-India phase when he turned back into just an ordinary transcendental. We have the intellectualization of Ken Wilbur, and we have a leprechaun fully as filled with impishness as was Cappy, Terry McKenna. That book (Be Here Now), I remember going to the church in LA after Ram Dass had come back from India and it was lovely and there were robes and beads and flowers and it was just fun. They were passing out this thing that says, “If you want a copy of this book we’re gonna publish, fill out one of these cards.” We were going, “Oh, these hippies, I’m not gonna bother filling out the card, ’cause it will never happen.” But it did and it’s still in publication.
As the glorious phase was being dampened by the criminalization and all, there came from Czechoslovakia, the Stanislav Grof, where Stanislav Grof had been, when I was graduating from gymnasium (Gymnasium is like high school/junior college). The summer after gymnasium Stan wanted to become a cartoonist, he liked to draw cartoons. He was headed for the Saint Animation School. He had put in his application because you go right from gymnasium to university or professional school. Then a friend of his came by who had found a copy of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. (Freud was forbidden literature in community culture, Czechoslovakia, behind the iron curtain at the point). The friend was very excited about the book, you know try to get a college kid today to read the Interpretation of Dreams, it’s impossible, but tell them they can’t and boy!
Stan picked up the excitement and begged to borrow the book and he said he stayed up all night reading it. Stan then withdrew his application to film school and put in one to become to medical school. He wanted to become a psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst, which he did. Stan trained underground, doing his residence at Charles Hospital in Prague where they were working with the Sandoz Corporation in the development of some of the new major tranquilizers (Mellaril is what they were working with). Stan said, “You know when you work on a pharmaceutical company they’re always sending you stuff,” and they sent something to the program he was, and there appeared a box of ampoules of LSD from Sandoz Laboratories. They started a research program that was totally the opposite of what Tim Leary’s operation was. The communist country, people lay things close to their chest – amazing research. Curing, curing! It was not suppressive like most of the psychotropics, the tranquilizer drugs. They cured the people of profound depression.
In his book, (now called, LSD: Door to the Numinous, It was called, Realms of the Human Unconscious originally), Stan shares a story of a fellow who was severely catatonically depressed for a long time was given LSD. Their practice was to give a small dose of LSD at first, but he didn’t get anything from it so they had increased the dose and kept increasing it. They had got this guy up to 3500 micrograms before they got the first reaction. The guy got up out of his room, went to the kitchen, made a bologna sandwich, and then went to the day room and played chess.
So, Stan got out of Czechoslovakia to this country (USA). Stan said he came out with two suitcases, which contained his notes and two shirts. He then fortuitously hooked up with a man named, Walter Pahnke, who had Timothy Leary in his still relatively stable phase as a dissertation advisor and engaged the famous Good Friday experiment. Walter Pahnke was a physician who had taken a sabbatical to go to divinity school, and then went back to Johns Hopkins and began working with cancer patients on whom the oncologists had given up because they were beyond any help. They were in pain, they were in despair, they were scared, and they were using LSD with these patients. All the videotapes have gone, the last little bits of videotape burned when Stans house burned down some years ago.
Most astounding videotape is a guy who was a stevedore on the docks of Baltimore, in his 60’s, metastasized melanoma, they couldn’t give him anything orally and they had to inject him with dipropyltryptamine. Stan is sitting for him and in the course of this session, this man goes from a sort of Neanderthal with like maybe a vocabulary of 600 words, half of which are profanities, but mostly grunts. His family had abandoned him and in the course of this session he is transformed and he’s lecturing the great doctor Stanislav Grof about the “great recycling yard in the sky.” I cried. I’ve been through throat cancer myself. I’m with people who are cancer survivors and who are still facing terror and with 35, 40 years we could have been making it better. But we’re getting there, finally. I never thought it would happen.
Here’s Stan with Christina, when they were young and in love. They always were in love. There’s Stan with Albert Hoffman. He and Stan were good buddies.
The John Hopkins research fell apart when LSD became criminalized. Michael Murphy and Stan fortuitously hooked up and Murphy invited Stan to Esalen as scholar-in-residence. After a few years Stan needed to produce an income for Esalen, so he put together the technique called, “Holotropic Breathwork.” When I was telling Stan for the second time, the reason I decided on holotropic breathwork training was that I had an experience with holotropic breathwork that was identical with the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had with LSD. Stan said, “That’s what convinced me too.” It’s not like taking a pill and you don’t have any choice, ’cause you gotta work at it, that’s why it’s called breath work – but you can get to the same place.
Rick Doblin was part of the first Holotropic Breathwork training. There were two parallel groups of trainees of Holotropic Breathwork in the mid-80’s. Rick Doblin was in one of them. Rick got it that Timothy Leary wasn’t the way to go. The way to go was to start, get the credentials, go slowly, and slowly, and slowly. (It’s effective). Through the Holotropic Breathwork training, it’s brought people together that have an interest that was disappointed as the 60’s began to fade. A fellow named Michael Mithoefer, who became the lead researcher for MDMA. So, the Holotropic Breathwork stuff really has been the leverage that’s kept things going, where we actually have hope now that we’re going get this (psychedelics becoming legal as medicine).
I was saying to Stan, “Isn’t this great that Michael’s doing the MDMA research.” And Stan says, “Yeah, but you know, that’s all been done, it’s all been written up before. It’s all there. It’s just been forgotten. The real potential is creativity.”
And indeed, from counterculture to cyberculture. Rick has been working in the psychological realm and some of the other people that came out of the 60’s, Steve Jobs, among them. The future looks bright to me. And I’m sure happy I’ve lived long enough to see it.
Are you looking for a basic introduction to psychedelics and harm reduction? Check out this mini-course!
In this episode of Psychedelics Today, host Joe Moore and Kyle Buller interview Matt Pallamary, and have a discussion with him about his writing, research, and ayahuasca experiences. He also shares his concerns about self-proclaimed gurus and some issues that have been emerging because of the popularity of ayahuasca.
3 Key Points:
Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury was a mentor of Matt Pallamary.
There are pros and cons to ayahuasca shamanism in Peru.
The more in touch with the natural world you are the more balanced you are.
Matt Pallamary was part of the early psychedelics podcast scene.
Matt grew up in Dorchester near Boston, and he began early experiences with sniffing glue, weed, and getting acid from a chemist from M.I.T..
He has almost 20 years experience with ayahuasca.
Too many people have a couple of ayahuasca experiences and claim to be a guru.
Famed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury was a mentor of Matt Pallamary.
Everything is energy—the whole universe exists between our eyes.
Matt labels shamans as the first storytellers, the first musicians, the first performers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and first performers.
Being in touch with the natural world makes a person more balanced.
The boundaries between your conscious and subconscious are blurred, overlapping your visions, dreams, and waking life.
When going through an ayahuasca experience, you have to be in a safe place where you can be vulnerable and around people you can trust.
For ayahuasca experiences, be sure to get references from people that have successfully worked with a group.
Author, Editor, and Shamanic Explorer Matthew J. Pallamary is an award winning writer, musician, and sound healer who has been studying shamanism all of his life. He incorporates shamanic practices into his daily life as well as into his writing and teaching. He has over a dozen books in printthat cover several genres, many of which have been translated into foreign languages.
Matt has spent extended time in the jungles, mountains, and deserts of North, Central, and South America pursuing his studies of shamanism and ancient cultures. Through his research into both the written word and the ancient beliefs of shamanism, he has uncovered the heart of what a story really is and integrated it into core dramatic concepts that also have their basis in shamanism.
How can we use our mind, intellect, or heart to diffuse or address the origin of our problems that arise from the same place?
Iboga, Ayahuasca, Kambo, and 5-MeO-DMT have wandered from their origins and into our western culture during an ominous time for humanity – a time that is naturally calling for healing and metamorphosis. At Oka Center, it is our privilege to work with and integrate these medicines with their traditional uses into our lives and the lives of all who come here. Each guest brings benefits to all who are involved.
For us, the traditional use of entheogens is just as important (or more) as the recently developed ideology and protocols created by western doctors, scholars, and laypeople. Westerners have only recently started using these medicines significantly within the last 50 – 60 years. Traditional indigenous use is centuries old – perhaps older according to many – and comprises the vast majority of experience with these powerful medicines, not to mention their original discovery. Generations of use has naturally given rise to refined protocols, beautifully disarming spirituality, sublime music, and just the right amount of humor. We include standardized western medical guidelines to ensure safety which is imperative, but not intrusive. Particularly with ibogaine, it is of utmost importance to have medical prescreening, monitoring, and supervision before, during, and after the treatment.
We are grateful for the research and empirical data that has helped to assess the risks and benefits of Ibogaine and other entheogens, particularly from Ken Alper and the late Howard Lotsof. At the same time, the new trend in attempting to fit entheogens into the framework of the western medical schema is questionable.
Since there are enough anecdotal reports that suggest so many applications and benefits of these entheogens, it makes sense to try and “legitimize” them in order to make them available in our healthcare system. However, we need an honest review of our healthcare industry – especially within the mental health sector – to gauge how genuine a reference point our system is for validating or practicing any medicine or modality, especially for plant-based medicine which is off limits for patenting.
The enormous profit margins of the healthcare industry would be significantly reduced if lifelong prescription medications were no longer considered final solutions to common mental “disorders.” You need only do minimal research on the ruthless financial methods and ethics of the healthcare industry to come to some disturbing conclusions. In our experience, many people coming to Oka Center have reached a point at which their ongoing use of prescribed medications has provided no change or only damaged their situation further.
For those of you who want to get off hard drugs and have heard about the medicinal value of plant medicine like ibogaine, you might not see the relevance of its traditional use. Perhaps you have come to ibogaine because of its ability to alleviate opiate withdrawal or interrupt addiction, or your friend of a friend got off dope with ibogaine and it was miraculous.
While we do not force our ceremonially based protocol on anyone, almost everyone – including those coming to get off hard drugs – respond very positively to it. In the end, it is embraced and appreciated as an important element of the healing process.
Ruptured spirituality is common to everyone that comes to Oka Center – drug use or not: We are broken, tired, angry, bored, confused, stressed, frustrated, and oftentimes infinitely sad. Reflection, prayer, song, and dance may seem frivolous at first, but these things are much needed in our lives and are important in respecting the medicine and for laying the groundwork for your experience.
In many ways, our western culture has separated itself from nature. As individuals, we have lost an innate intelligence or awareness because of it. What might have been awe and wonder has been replaced with sarcasm and cynicism. Although our advancements in technology and industry have paved the way for practical efficiency and comfort, the downside is that it is getting increasingly easier to forget where we come from and where we are going. It is normal for us to feel alienated and unhappy in such a competitive, indifferent society built with concrete, computer chips, and suffocating ethical standards and expectations. Hard drug use is an appropriate response as any attempt to get through each day with a smile on your face.
Whether it is drugs, alcohol, gambling, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, or whatever else we have adopted or suffered from in the attempt to get by, somewhere along the line we realize discomfort, harm, and despair. Naturally, this is when we look for a way out of these negative cycles.
Beyond a certain point, to truly view and examine ourselves deeply and objectively in waking life can be almost impossible. The attempt at doing so most often ends up being more of the same self-deception. How can we use our mind, intellect, or heart to diffuse or address the origin of our problems that arise from the same place?
This is one of the main reasons why we advocate for the use of entheogens. The incessant internal rapport we have with ourselves never allows us to look beneath the masks we have created which project the flawless versions of ourselves we present to the world. Entheogens have a way of blasting our masquerade into pieces. With any luck, we are left with a beautiful nightmare that shines a light on our humanness: our fallibility, our fragility, our innate goodness, and our capacity for softness and empathy toward others because at the very root, we all share the same capacity for madness and beauty.
About the Author
David Stetson‘s passion has been Bwiti since his Iboga initiation in 2007. David is extensively well-traveled in Gabon, Africa where he is known as Okukwe. During his time in Gabon he learned Bwiti traditions, music, and ceremonial practices and is proficient on both the moungongo (musical bow) and ngombi (harp) instruments. David views Bwiti and Ibogaine as a lifeway that champions communion with others while also empowering the individual. His approach to working and healing with others starts with the awareness of alienation and isolation as common and appropriate responses to our western culture, and is based in non-judgement. Learn more about Oka Center here and check out David’s podcast interview with us here.
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