Expanding Minds: Ayahuasca & Awakening


Eric Davis

Date of original publication

Jan 5, 2014


Welcome to another edition of Expanding Mind. I'm your host, Erik Davis, and we're continuing our explorations of the cultures of consciousness.

We're going to be talking about Ayahuasca and intense psychedelic experiences because we're interviewing Rak Razam, who is the author and filmmaker behind Aya Awakenings, which is a new really terrific movie we'll talk about in a second. But one of the things that keeps me coming back to the language around psychedelics the representations, the art, the music, the literature, the conversations that surround this fascinating topic is for the same kind of reason.

There's something fundamentally elusive, non-linguifiable,  to coin a term, in the experience that nonetheless produces this incredibly rich kind of attempt  to express /understand, communicate, share, experience. And there's something about that balance that I think keeps us really honest if we're staying true to both the ineffability and overwhelming qualities of not just psychedelics but of intense states of experience, of insight, of uh... ecstatic wonder of all uh... these kinds of intense basis, they pull on our language they pull on our expressive tools and uh...

That said, of course a lot of the discourse around these things a lot of the material and media are always particularly interesting: you get the talking head phenomenon a lot where you see if you're watching a documentary about crazy states of consciousness, it’s often like, bearded white guys telling you something and another guy telling you something and I really have to uh... command Rak on Aya: Awakenings, which is I think, just beginning to be available for stream on-demand online and is making its way through film festivals in the United States over the next couple of months. But it's a wonderful film, and it's wonderful because it's one guy's story, someone who knows something, but not a lot at the beginning...

So we kind of go with him, go with Rak as he explores these worlds with pretty great cameramen. And then later on they used a lot of wonderful post-production some excellent, excellent animation to capture his own experience. So we go with him as he drinks the brew.

We go with him through the night, the screen darkens. We see only slight traceries of light. And if people are familiar with the Jan Kounen film, Blueberry as it was in the Europe and Renegade here in the States, there were remarkable ayahuasca computer animation visuals at the end and this film, you know, matches that quality and really draws us into a story in a way that's a lot more engaging I think, than the talking heads at this point. So it's very worthwhile and I'm looking forward to talking to Rak.  

ERIK: Thanks for joining us on "Expanding Mind." Are you there?

RAK: Hello, Erik. There we are. Good. Wonderful. How are you doing? I'm pretty good. I'm very pleased to be here.

ERIK: Yeah. Wonderful. I know it's nice and bright and early over there. What is your immediate surroundings? I imagine you in some jungle in Queensland. Am I wrong? I know you're calling from Australia.

RAK: I'm sort of very close to a suburban jungle on the outskirts of Mullumbimby, which is the unofficial psychedelic capital of Australia. And yeah, it's sort of subtropical forest, and it's very hot here.  

ERIK: I'm just going to say thanks for taking the time to be with us. The first thing I want to start out is like looking at, you know, you wrote a book and shot a documentary of essentially one journey you took in 2006 to Peru. And I'm curious before you left on that journey, how deep were you into these issues, how interested you were in the culture, how much of your narrative of discovery really was based on your own you know, sort of initial exploration into the realm.

RAK: That's a good question. You know, there's a few constraints that sort of converge in the answer here. I was basically rebranding myself that year and getting more into writing again and coming out of some corporate work, actually. And I branded myself to Australian Penthouse, which with you know, the Australian franchise of the men's magazine, as a gonzo journalist. And I've been over to cover Albert Hoffman's 100th birthday symposium in Basel, Switzerland, for that publication and for some mainstream papers.

And, you know, I had the skill base to write about, but what I was really interested in was alternative counterculture, fringe culture, consciousness, spirituality. And, you know, what happened is I went to my second assignment in Peru. And when I say assignment, you know, it's  freelance writing, so I was covering the whole thing on my own back. But, you know, it's quite amazing when you set your intent on a path and then you know, the path manifests. And I had a lot of support from very unlikely circumstances to go to Peru. And things really wonderfully manifested.

It seemed like there was some strange attractor drawing me there. But I went with this journalistic, fresh sort of journalistic integrity that what I discovered in Basel, Switzerland you know, is really about, in its experiential sense, in its gonzo journalism sense, becoming part of the story, like really immersing myself in the culture, learning about it, and being open to it.

And in that sense, you know, you were talking at the front of the show about language and the ineffable and this ability of, you know, trying to convey in language, some of these transformative states. So, in Peru, as well as the entheogenical, the spiritual dimension I discovered with Ayahuasca, was also a very fresh culture. So I was really happy to be in that as a Gemini. One of my favorite things is fresh information or fresh material.

So I was in this hyperkinetic journalistic, gonzo journalistic mode where I was just writing down notes and audio recording, and taking pictures, and really data mining the experience of everything around, including the Peruvian culture and the people and the environment, and all the little nuances because all those little nuances really, in a tactile sense they aggregate into our experience of what we're going through.

And so I was very blessed in a way to have this freshness to approach, not just Peru, but to approach the ayahuasca scene and to approach what I was calling the business of shamanism and exploring in 2006 in Peru at that time what the mythic archetype of the shaman or the curandero as they call them in Peru, and what they really meant to our culture. I knew there was this second annual shaman conference that Alan Shoemaker put on every year, which was a great snapshot, a great introduction. I've been introduced to different curanderos and also to the tourists, to what I discovered in context feel more like seekers or pilgrims in an archaic sense, as well as thrill seekers. But there's this clash of cultures where, you know, the capitalism and the ability to buy an experience is very much fueling the supply and demand of the rise the shamanism in Peru.

So I was thrown into this culture clash in this whole world and I was just really happy to have this. No matter how difficult the circumstances get as the book goes, it will resonate quite, quite vividly.

I was there in the aya ceremony as the light would go out, scribbling my notes and, you know, in the dark, taking notes and even in some of the big 5-MeO-DMT experiences. When the ego was dissolved I would find it was like bungee jumping into sort of, into like the Godhead is my shorthand for it. And as my ego would dissolve, the last little scericks of consciousness would fully melt back into the ocean.

And then those scericks of mind would come back and congregate again, and I'd be writing it down. So, you know, really amazing why I feel honored to actually just to have that intent and that consciousness to be able to capture what I felt was happening in these experiences culturally on the business of shamanism and as well as sort of metaphysically the experiences.

ERIK: Yeah, I mean journalism can give you a wonderful set of skills. I mean I find that as well having had the opportunity to do a lot of very interesting stories where I was in underground scenes or foreign situations or really powerful subcultures and developing the intent and the discrimination to be able to pull out small little details like you mentioned those small little bits of information that might seem very kind of peripheral at the time but then when you collect them and you start to weave it together you realize that's one of the ways the story is being told

And that's something that came through really well, in the film and in the book, for example, you like many journalists do when you're writing a piece, a profile, you describe the clothes of people, but you pay really close attention to it, exactly what the mix is. So one of the curanderos you sit with you describe how his clothes are already mirroring the kind of transformations of ayahuasca shamanism. I mean, he's He's got a sort of crazy print shirt. He's wearing sneakers but he has traditional feathers. And there's this way in which your clarity of description, that kind of journalistic skills, it's really very, very helpful.

And then I think even more so when you go into the more subtler spiritual cosmic implications of the things, having a little bit of that grit and some of that ability to step out and record and look at yourself. It's a really rich way of being, even if one is not creating a book or a film. I mean, it's something that I think it really helps out in these kinds of situations and that comes through.

But it also sounds like this was actually something you were going through kind of in your own life. You're coming out of corporate work, you're going, "Hey, I don't want to do this rest of my life," but it really is a kind of fresh it was a fresh discovery for you as well, say, the idea that taking psychoactive substances could be as profoundly spiritual as it clearly was for you.

Even that seems to be something that was a fresh discovery. It's not like you were coming there already with a sort of agenda, "Well, I'm going to find this, and then I'm going to find the cosmic thing, and I'm going to find nature spirits." It feels like it was in that very experience, was an unfolding for you as well.

RAK: Yes. Very much so. It was very much an organic unfolding, and I think that's part of you know, remaining on the path of integrity and not trying to force things. You know, they're playing magical work, and especially also with ayahuasca in the room, these sort of altered states, consciousness is everything. Consciousness is the driver.

And so, you know, if an attachment can open either way or stand or change the path that we're unfolding onto, it's very good. You know, many people over generations now I guess, have used psychedelics both recreationally and as a work, as a spiritual practice, and you know, both have developed functions to them. But it really does help.

And part of the experience of Ayahuasca is not just the scientific effect, it's really the cleansing and it's really the dieta. And it's the preparation you make and the change that you make in your life leading up to a ceremony.

And so the big employee was wonderful because it was outside my normal Western setting and that setting which has all those dynamics involved and it allowed me to have that space to really 110 % commit to the experience of experiencing I guess, in a way. And so going into those organic realms, those psychic realms that I was to open up, with the journalistic sort of mind frame, so really some part of my consciousness was still really switched on to being open to the detail and to whatever the detail was while the other half was totally uncommitted to any outcome.

So, I went to write a basically only 3 ,000 -word article and by the time I got to my first two weeks of drinking with about 14 different curanderos and all these ceremonies I had so much material, I thought, well, it's obviously bigger than an article and it could be a book. And what I didn't realize at that time was it was totally free -form, it was totally free -form in the sense that I had some idea of structure of who I was drinking with next and the connections I was making on the ground and one thing would lead on to another on the gringo trail of the soul as they called it. And you know, what I discovered as well, was obviously when I was on the journey it became much more than just the reportage and much more than just something I was doing for a periodical.

It basically revealed to me that I was on my own initiatory journey and that the universe had basically I had through this conceit that I was going to be a journalist, which I was and I was fulfilling that, but it was very much an initiation for me as well. And I think I was, in some senses, probably looking for that unconsciously, but it was quite amazing.

You know, they say that life mirrors art and art mirrors life. And one of the framing sequences I use in the book is Joseph Campbell's "Hero’s Journey." So there's the departure from the norm; there's the initiation; and then there's the return. And so I use that structure in the book across about 24 different journeys with curanderos all over the Amazon, in Iquitos and Contamana and up the Amazon on this crazy mission, and back to Iquitos.

And so what I discovered is happening is really–we've been talking about intent again– in consciousness it's a magical act of consciousness itself because the more I'll get to the end of one experience with the curandera and I'll be aware that I was sort of writing this book and it was freeform. And I was like "I wonder what will happen next?" And it  was following the archetypal pattern, but I really need something like this to happen, you know,  and then boom, it would just manifest. Like I'd bump into someone and they would turn me on a journey and I'd meet someone else.

And I'd look back and I'd realize that the whole book was really guided in a very inexplicable way. I was getting taught the end of the book or my travels, which were going to be the end of the book and I had to sort of sum up things and add some conclusion and some final statements, and I was only wondering what was going to happen. And then I had a final ceremony with a Western curandero, Kevin Furness, and I had some of the strongest visions I've ever had to this day.

And I witnessed, and again, in my representation of this archetypal wizard, wise and old Shipibo woman who was sort of like this archetypal representation of Madre Ayahuasca and she talked to me and I was like, "What a brilliant ending. I couldn't have written it better myself." So this whole idea of art, life mirroring art was very pronounced, it was uncannily just y 'all get what I made and what I needed in the narrative sense as well.

ERIK: Well, one of the things I really appreciate about the film also is that you show some of the more, how would I would you say, kind of intense details of the experience. For example, there's this, one of my favorite sequences in the film is where you finally have to purge your, you know, it's the middle of the night, you stumble out and you find your way and you talk about the guides you're helping you find your way to the toilet and, you know, this one is actually pretty snazzy comparatively so there's actually a porcelain toilet there and you see the toilet sort of in the film and then there's this description of your vomit and there's a description of the vomit and the vomit turns into just like a magic mirror which is something that is reported in the anthropology of Amazonian shamanism for way back where there's this kind of magical substance and you're sitting there looking at this thing and what I liked about that is that there's so much gritty detail there it's kind of exotic, it's kind of repulsive, It's kind of amazing, and you described it very well, and you were drawn into the intimacy of it, but you weren't really kind of reveling in the weirdness or the grossness of it.

I'm thinking of, for example, if Vice Magazine had been doing that story, that would have come through with a different kind of quality so you were able to not whitewash the weirdness of the situation uh... and the intensity and yet and uh... the physical intensity of it but at the same time you you didn't sort of uh... didn't sort of revel in it but that said that what what what was it like for you, to decide to share to that degree of intimacy your own experiences.

And I'm also thinking of later in the film when you you smoke 5-MeO-DMT and you have quite an expressive reaction let's just say that for the, you know, I don't want to spoil it for people, it's kind of wonderful. And yet that's, you know, there you are, you're on this journey and you, you know, you're recording it, you're having to go out to all these people you're writing about it. Talk a little bit about that, about that degree of the Gonzo, where you're really getting your own very intimate experiences as sort of objects to share for you know, tens of thousands of people.

RAK: Yeah, thank you for that comment, it's very nice. With the keyword you said there, which I totally agree with, it's a very intimate film. And the very interesting thing for me, we're talking about this magical sort of, you know, energy around it as well, is that the, pretty much the book has all the original notes I was taking raw; it was only lightly copy-edited and hardly much at all. So the immediate emotional reaction I had in 2006 in my experiences with ayahuasca and DMT in the jungle, was translated to words and we were saying before about these nuances and to find the right words and I had this journalistic sort of headspace.

But beyond that, I really had a heart space. I really had a very, very open, intimate heart space to find the right words. And I was even learning about language because I was in this sort of feedback loop in these states.

It was openly up to what language was really about and how we encapsulate in language energy. It's in the vibration of code because I was learning about vibrations of the curandero about their Icaros or magic songs, about how they really heal. And it's not just about the physical and neurochemical structure of ayahuasca , the adjunct plant from the brew. They're all there to sort of open up the pathways that they use sound.

It's the power of sound and vibration and channeling the different sort of vibrational codes of other plants that they then infuse into the patient's vibrational field of their energy body with their healing.

So all of this was sort of in my world, you know, an understanding of opening up to the power of language, while I was also opening up my heart. And so it was a very intimate account. And the book the written descriptions in the book are those raw experiences. Like, I think something anchored in that, like something really directly anchored from the experiences to the book. And when we came around to making the film we had to condense down, you know, on the most a 500 -page book, 30 chapters to basically the broad overarching strokes of what this is about, the thrust of the themes about the global shamanic resurgence, introducing ayahuasca, using my journey, the catalyst for the collective journey for this generation of western seekers who are engaging with plant medicines, and ayahuasca is just one of them.

And that's all there in the narrative of the film, but we actually use the exact narration from the book, like all the words you hear in the film are directly lifted from the book. So in some sense it's a more difficult way to make a documentary film. It's very much, I'd say, it is non-fiction, it is a documentary, but it's so far beyond even those genre labels – it's really an experiential gonzo narrative documentary that really anchors these experiences. So using the narration from the book has that emotional intimacy that anchors it to the original things that were happening.

And so, you know, I did have to choose what I was showing, but I didn't want to whitewash it at all. Many people have some type of sensitivity around, you know, vomiting and purging and that's one of the key things around ayahuasca. Not everyone purges, but it's one of the most common reactions, but it's a bodily cleanse. It can be a bodily cleanse and that's also an energetic cleanse and you're helping clean in some, maybe lodged in your energetic system or your emotional body and that can be coming up in the vomit as well.

So you know, it needed to be represented and so, in a way, you know, using the narration from the book and that key sequence from the Jungle Fever chapter with curandero Percy Garcia – That was one of my introductory ayahuasca experiences and it was when I was first in the jungle. I was first in that great green womb, going back to the great mother, and being embedded within this ecosystem of energy which is so alive and so vibrant, and so to do ayahuasca in that environment really brings a charge to the experience.

That sequence shows the purging, and there's some other touching sequences later because well, frankly, you know, that's what happened. Every Ayahuasca experience I was in with other Western seekers on the Gringo Trail as well was a very intimate moment. And, you know we have to cut it back a bit, you know, but the book goes into more detail about it. You can see that Ayahuasca seekers each share when you're in ceremony together. And I find it, for me, it opens up my sensitivity and I'm completely open. So someone coughs or someone, you know, mirrors or usually in the sound they make there's an energy and, you know, some people can make some type of a sound and it's the vibration of that sound which carries like a carrier wave of their energy.

And in ceremony the sensitivity of people in ceremony is so open that energy can be transferred, so it happens a lot, and it is a very intimate zone and I feel that we all share an intimacy and a togetherness once we've shared a ceremony together, people in ceremony.

So, you know, I think that's a plot for the film. I think, unlike most of the other ayahuasca documentaries that you've said which have, in some sense, a talking head, an interview, and a talking about the experience, and they've got maybe some beautiful footage, and they're all you know, they are all fantastic and beautiful other films out there but "Aya: Awakenings" is actually a shamanic art of science. It anchors these emotional states. It anchors these trans -dimensional states and translinguistic states, and it makes it real. We take the viewer on the same journey I went on and it's a very, very big journey. Like, it does meet people. We've done test screenings in Australia, and we've had people that have had basically vibrational flashbacks who have had medicine, and it really brings that energy back on again in their energetic bodies. And people who haven't experienced anything like this, it is the closest they're going to get to the experience without the experience itself.

And just a last thing we're talking about, one of the key, I guess the climax of the film at least energetically, is an experiment, which was, again, it was just in the organic unfolding one day there in 2006, we went out to see a very beautiful man, Ron Wheelock, who's a western curandero who's been on the path for over a decade now, and he was also experimenting at the time with smokeable 5-MEO-DMT, which was legal at that time, you know, throughout the world.

It was only kind of legal, I think, in around 2009, after the "Tryptamine Palace" book made it a bit more public more public knowledge, but that was a very, basically it was one of my two or three deepest spiritual experiences of my life, and we were just very lucky at the time that the media crew I was traveling with were filming and so we filmed the outside flesh body, and that's all it is. There is a very dynamic reaction at the end of that sequence, but as I try to say, we were filming the outside flesh body But the true miracle was on the inside, you know, the true miracle was with this translinguistic feeling.

It was the archetypal white light tunnel experience, but again, it's all in the words you know. It's all in the ability to sift meaning and to sift emotional meaning and then to be able to convey that. So I was very, very lucky at that time to have done a half a dozen or so ceremonies. I felt very energetically clean, and I was very sharp journalistically, and then I went into a very, very powerful 5-MeO boom to a light tunnel experience.

It's full consciousness, and so it was like a dreaming, and so I was totally conscious of the whole thing to the point of, you know, it felt like some, you know, super -hadron collider of the soul where as I was merging as I dropped into the ocean, the ocean was actually revealing in an equal way the carrier wave of energy that it was within me, and it always been within me and it was animating me. And when I'm in these states, with that part of my mind that I've been deconstructing and analyzing the journalistic sense, it feels like truth to me.

And I'm doing my best to convey that truth with these little words, these little meanings I call them, these little children, these little vibrational echoes to the emotional experience and to convey that in the baseline world.

So that's why the Neo -sequence is definitely, you know, it is definitely pretty out there because we captured the whole experience on the outside and then we recreated on the inside with some beautiful organic unfolding fractal imagery that empowers the director mode and from the electric shape but it's very fresh. It's not a very Hollywood -topic special effects, they're very organic and very natural and unfolding.

ERIK: Yeah, I was going to say, again, the special effects really make a difference on this one because they do communicate something not just in the visual zowiness of it all, but the patterns and the sense of an organic unfolding. It communicates really deeply to the viewer on another level.

Now, you had the good fortune to be able to drink with many different curanderos during your voyage as well as some gringos. And I'm just kind of curious, one, just what did you learn about the whole ayahuasca culture the whole transformative experience, the whole healing culture, by seeing so many different fellows mostly do their do.

In terms of different personalities how much does the personality of the shaman create this space? Their singing, their brew, how various is it? Because it's something that a lot of people even people who go down there want to have this experience like how would I find someone who's there to do that so could you reflect a little bit about the sort of the all these amazing characters you met and how they kind of shaped your own experience you know it's a uh...

RAK:  it's a big question actually but it's not going to happen because i could even see then… i think my short hand in the book was it was like Goa you know, the beachside town in India, where the trance scene became really big. But it was like Goa just before it broke. And that was exactly what happened, actually, because in 2006 the tourism was increasing.

And you know, there's a lot of cultural issues embedded within the ayahuasca tourism industry. And number one, in a case of supply and issues that you know, I was told by many people in the period of Indigenous Shamanism in Peru, was in danger of sort of falling away because it's such a rigorous path and people usually chose either the hereditary route or a route through sickness and initiation through sickness and then it felt consuming.

As a life path, it really takes a lot of isolation and of giving up a lot of things in life to attain the sensitivity to be able to hear and communicate with clients and to learn all the healing abilities and developing that.

So a lot of the Indigenous youth, at least around Iquitos and ayahuasca areas of Peru, were not wanting to take up that path and this was because at the same time there was some globalization happening and youth were focused on moving to the city and getting on with it.

But then at the same time that happened, then all these westerners started to trickle and then suddenly become a bit more of a flood. And so the interest in shamanism also returned. And so there's been many many lodges now that have set up over the last 20 or so years now and they're catering for westerners, which is great in some senses because without that, it's a very rigorous and hard path. So in some cases it's made it more accessible, but it's also, there's been this cross -pollination of cultures where the curanderos to a very large degree, they're giving the customers what they want, a safe environment so they have a nice catered food and they're all really good here and there.

You know, this is the cultural sort of trade -off. So what I learned in 2006, it was quite invaluable that I did drink with 24 or more different curanderos, just to really not attach to anyone and not be in this position. I think in some senses I was wanting to find to find the one. There's all these metaphors which sort of are where they're made between ayahuasca and love in a way you know, romance or maybe even the sexual sort of quest, because we're all looking for the one and then it's like this peak experience and then to a large degree, the curandero can be idolized and it's a brujeria sort of energy around them.

And you know, a number one warning, which isn't really in the film because the film had to accurately portray my experiences at the time, but since that time the industry has really grown quite a lot and a lot of people in Peru are setting up shop and calling in the shamans and say they might not have a very deep relationship with the plant so if you see with the plant that there's just such a demand that the money that that's bringing is sort of upsetting the social apple cart, that everyone is really wanting to satisfy the Western demand.

You know, I tell you in the book that you know, Peru has seen booms before. They had the rubber boom at the turn of the 19th century, then they had an oil boom in the mid -20th century, and now they've got the ayahuasca boom. And in each time, Western interests have gone down with the money and extracted the natural resource.

But there's a lot of issues around that as well, and the sustainability of ayahuasca is continuing, and a lot of our work is now being exported out of the Amazon to Westerners who you know, have been down there and are continuing their practice. So there's so many cultural issues. It's really, I feel like we're the generation who need to integrate the learnings and to anchor this shamanic revival that's happening and make it palatable and make it sustainable.

But my experience in drinking with the different curanderos was invaluable because I could see different styles of practice. To a large degree, most of them in the Peruvian tradition, there's one main tribe the Shipibo tribe. And they do ceremonies in the dark and the curandero steers the energy that's created in the group circuit in the ceremony.

And it's singing basically, vibrational codes in songs. And so there will be quite a lot of songs that I would hear from many different curanderos who were the same, or they've been transmitted through the plants to them through the same doctores, the plants to the curanderos. And it's such a beautiful vibrational imprint I've got from that pure energy of those songs.

I like that better than since I've just come back, you know, in the New Age style of aya in many towns in Western ceremonies, which are quite all wearing white or doing barjan spiritual songs or Western medicine tracks with English lyrics.

And it creates a very different dynamic with candle lights or lit. There's a very different dynamic to that and each modality has its pros and cons and the evolution of the art form of holding safe ceremonies and facilitating the growing of people and all of the ceremonies needs to mutate in a way, needs to retrofit the different communities around the world.

ERIK: Absolutely. One question I have for you is I know less about shamanism or ayahuasca cultures in Peru. I knew about the Shipibo and some of the indigenous work, but when you turn to Brazil, it's like, in a way, the expression of ayahuasca culturally in Brazil is as much about mestizo culture as it is about indigeneity, like there's a lot of indigenous youth, yes, but there's also extremely important long -lived forms of mestizo youth. We have mixtures, people who are rubber trappers people who come from cities, goes into cities.

So There's, even before, you know, Euro -Americans become interested in ayahuasca and Brazil, there's already this wide range of responses which we see even in the major groups that we know about. I'm not sure if that's as much the case in Peru in general, but one example of that that you do find are these old gringos who go there who have gone there, you know, whatever, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, who'd been going for a long time and really went for it, this kind of like these characters who just plunge right in.

And I'm wondering if you from their experience, are getting to know them or other forms of mestizo ayahuasca use in Peru, whether you have some more glimmerings of how this culture will evolve as it moves out of an indigenous context for better and in some cases for worse into a global world where there's much more interchange and communication between different times and spaces?

RAK: I totally do. And thank you, Erik. It's a very good question because, you know, this film and the book are basically the crest of the last seven years of my life in documenting what I went through and what I learned, but on the ground in the last seven years in the relationships I've been building, I've done a coast to coast tour of the states and talked with ayahuasca and shamanic practitioners all across the world.

And that's really what I see. That's sort of the conclusion of the book in the film that there is basically what I call the global shamanic revival part of you know, I guess, Terence's idea, Terence McKenna's idea of the archaic revival, which contained a multitude of different things, but this core concept of having a spiritual practice through entheogenic plants and it's not just dialogue, it's become the most popular and most accessible, partially because of the legality all through South America, and it's still leading many parts of the world, developed a gray area of the law that hasn't specifically been legislated against.

But what I see happening, I do a podcast too called "In a Perfect World" and I interview a lot of people over the years who are shamanic practitioners and all of my friends and acquaintances that I meet at all in the shamanic world.

And there's so many beautiful people and I meet these metaphor of seeds in the book and the film and I really feel that these seeds are being awakened to what we have within ourselves. And what we - there's a need you know, the planet I believe is producing or excreting these psychoactive substances specifically for, you know, humans to consume them.

It's like they're designed to fit with their, you know, neurological systems and to open up these expanses of the mind and of the soul within us. And we all know that you know, Richard Nixon started the war on on drugs 41 years ago. And before that, though, that's just the latest iteration, because there's been a war on, basically plant -based shamanism for at least a lot of 500 years, or so, as Western culture and imperialist culture have gone out to the indigenous tribes around the world where they retained indigenous plants like the San Pedro cacti or the ayahuasca and things like that that still have in the mushrooms these cultures would never encounter the weapon into the church.

The Christian church pioneering that, there's been inquisitions, there's been these pogroms where basically Western culture and mechanical -dominated culture in its quest to dominate, in its quest to really control the physical baseline reality and resources and the money in the empire. At the expense of the soul.

Now, another conclusion of the film in the book is that we don't necessarily need an entheogenic plant to connect us to our soul, right? The old part leads to the same central source in the end.

They're all valid in what works for one person and not what for another. But if we incorporate the remembrance of the planet itself as a living entity, as its giant sort of entity, And we incorporate the fact that she does excrete these what both McKenna and Bear Owsley, the famous 60s acid chemist, called exo-pheromones, they suggested that the planet is secreting these substances because the human species is at a stage where it's like a puberty or initiation.

We need to be initiated and we need to remember what is within us. They've done recent studies with psilocybin mushrooms in the UK and the US where they prove that what the psilocybin is doing is it's shutting off the default back brain mechanism (Mode Network) and the experience you're having on the psilocybin mushrooms isn't necessarily caused by the psilocybin it's shutting off a part of the brain and allowing the mind at large to connect with, you know, the etheric sort of cosmic ecosystem that's out there.

And so people like the shamans of the Amazon and the medicine people across the world who have retained the knowledge of these plants is striking and is very necessary because they've been the guardians of the threshold.

And now, you know, comically, in a really wide way, after hundreds of years of dominator culture trying to sever the connection we have with the plants and through the plants of the planet, we have this generational resurgence of people they're interested in shamanizing them and again it's really about the psychic build -up where the battery farm of of of western culture at the globalization and culture across the world with all the free trade agreements and all the top theory measures the heartache that it's causing at the paradigm to pick it up to the real people in the world it creates an imbalance and it creates an equal and opposite reaction and for this i feel that it is a build up of soul ache for remembrance and reconnection to soul and to spirit and to meaning in people's lives.

And all pathways are valid, but the planet is specifically giving up these tools all across the planet, not just ayahuasca, but every landscape and every ecosystem has its own specific entheogenic sacrament and medicine people that remember how to use it.

And now they are reaching out to this generation of listeners, of all age groups, and all genders, and all sorts of social economic backgrounds, because everyone who feels the cultured spirit is answering.

ERIK:  I wanted to ask about another element which is that there is a, pardon the phrase, a dark side of shamanism. And what I mean by that is not the fact that some, there are some people who call themselves shamans even people who are legitimately shamans who are not good people. And maybe, and there's some, you know, some heinous stories of excesses and cruelties and violence in South America.

But that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is how in the world view itself, the world view that has this sense of a connection with the other mind of nature with the other minds of animals, of other plants, this sort of woven web work of integration of human and non human, the balance, the idea of balance between forces et cetera, et cetera, that within that world there's also a strong tradition of, you know, essentially witchcraft or black magic or brujeria or using that kind of that world for psychic battles. And you know, that's in the anthropological logical lore, it's in the experience of people who go down and spend a lot of time there.

Shamans will talk about it. It's out there. It's an important fact. And so what I wonder about is when you think about the positive role that this most likely is playing in the awakening and the soul food for human beings who are stuck you know post -industrial nightmares, you know, all the positive force that's coming through, how do you see the role of that side of things the sort of the shadowy or sinister side of the space, the practices, the traditional communities? I mean, I'm not trying to like overplay that but I do think it's a really important question to ask as we, you know, think about how the West is changing these substances in these cultures and kind of mapping its own kind of shamanism.

RAK: You know, I totally agree. I mean, this is a thing like all of these substances are tools. And of course, with any tool, it can be used to harm or to heal.

And so I i trained with– the curanderos I sat with you could say that they were good – like seventy percent good, thirty percent dark, but i don't know their full stories. Most of these medicine figures, in a sense they're a bit more real because they're coming from the jungle, coming from this environment where you can die.

But bruijeria is a very immediate concern in the ayahuasca communities in South America. It basically turns light into negative into negative intent. It's like magic but it can be the smaller thing. It could be gossip. It could be the way you spread a rumor about somebody to hurt them or that you've said something negative.

When I satg with Don Juan Tangoa Paime, for instance, from his statements, he was continuously under attack by brujeria shamanism: every time he drank ayahuasca and there was obviously something that had gone on in his past and i think he'd been involved with the oil company and he was a tracker and he'd been had a history but basically the more power they believe, the more power they had with the curanderos as they sit  on the astral and they can become a target. So there's this cultural conflict where trying to bring everyone down again, or to steal their power, or take their power and in some ways it reflects the jungle itself, that each will be eaten, type of idea. And so it's very much about power in the world of the shaman in Peru, even if you don't believe in it.

Pablo Amarindo is a famous Visionary Painter. He trained as a curandero, and he stopped on his path of shamanism as a curandero, because he said he could not kill. And what he was being asked to do to survive in the dynamic of the, you know, the competition of shamanism with the other curanderos, is that they would throw these astral dark-colored virotes or astral darts, which have negative intent in them, and they can manifest a illness or kill. And he knew that he would have to face other curanderos and kill or be killed, and he refused to do that so he stepped away from the path.

Now all of that is sort of whitewash or greenwash when the ayahuasca is getting commodified in a physical sense, but also culturally is getting commodified. It's the great mother and the healer, which is all true. But it's a tool that has a legacy and it has a connection to its origin point.

And the ability for people to do brujeria here, I think, is just starting in the West because we haven't had that initial set and setting where we've in competition with other curanderos, but the business of shamanism is such that you know, there's obviously energetics around that. And eye -locking can be used either way, you know. It's a tool that opens up this astral dimension, and then once you ring that dimension it's up to the integrity of the person to travel in that or to do what they will, whether that's with you or not. And so, you know, people need to understand it. People need to not mythologize as much eye -opening experience as it mutates in the work.

And as we bring it into new settings, it may be that we have a bit of fresh, virgin sort of astral landscape where I don't know exactly how it works. Like if the astral is non -local and geographically non-local if ayahuasca could build as a force on the astral, it could look like a virtual world, yes. Like it's like colonizing second life or something. I mean, if we become two obvious out there on the astral.

We could be bringing the ire of the shaman to jealous or even other entities. I was at the MAPS conference in San Francisco in April last year and we had an ayahuasca community meeting which discussed among other things, the fallout from the teenager who died at the Chimbre Lodge in Peru in 2012, and yet the need for immediate care; these lodges in the community in general and the need for autonomous self-organization and ensuring that people are looked after and all these industry-type practical things that really need to be done and are being done.

ERIK: That's great. I'm sorry, we're going to have to wrap it up here and I wanted to give you a chance to tell people about where they can find out more information about upcoming events but before I let you do that, just one comment is that I really appreciate your comments, particularly right now, because I think these things are very important as well and that there is, whatever you want to call it, the passion going on and I encourage you to continue the journalistic side of your work as well in drawing attention and making sure that these dialogues continue to happen in a very strong way as this process continues.

So good luck with that. And good luck with your tour.

RAK: Thanks so much for talking with me, Erik. I really appreciate it. Thanks very much.

ERIK: All right. From Erik, it's all you out there. Keep your minds open.