Planetary Medicine: Ayahuasca and You


Jonah Bolt

Date of original publication

Aug 27, 2015


All right, what's up, Spaceship Earth? Thanks for tuning in. You know what time it is, Starseed Radio. Time to hear the colors and see the music. I'm your host, Jonah Bolt, the Arcturian Starseed. Today is Thursday, August 27th, 2015. We've been having an awesome week at Starseed Radio. 

Rak Razam has been on the show before, but we'd love to have him always back on when you talk about ceremony, indigenous people, indigenous medicine, because it is very important for the transformation of what's happening on this planet.

Rak Razam has also done some groundbreaking work in the actual science and the awakening that's happening with Ayahuasca. He has a book out and a DVD, and he's also involved with many other types of plant and indigenous medicine ceremonies, which we'll talk about in the show.

He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Aya Awakenings, A Shamanic Odyssey, and the companion volume of interviews, The Ayahuasca Sessions. Today on Starseed Radio, we're going to interview Rak Razam. He is one of the world's leading experimental journalists, writing about and helping shape the emergence of the new culture paradigm in the 21st century. Those are definitely the guests we love to have on the show.

So with that, Rak, thank you so much for coming back on. How are you today?

Rak: I'm really well thanks, Jonah. How are you?

Jonah: Oh, doing good. Excellent. So we've had you on the show before, Rak, but just give a little background for the listeners who don't know your story. And I mean, when was your first awakening towards medicine, indigenous ceremony? Was this something you were brought up with as a kid? Is this something you found? Or did you have an awakening that sort of shifted you in this direction to experience more of the indigenous plant medicines?

Rak: Well, I guess we could go with that question in a few different ways because I'm pretty archetypal-westerner.

I am from Australia. I grew up in a pop culture bubble, which is very indicative of many of us who live within the Western paradigm, TV, culture, mainstream news, and that real sort of, you know, mainstream underscoring. Understanding of the way the world works and things work with a Roman Catholic background. So it's really straight out of the box. I first explored Ayahuasca when I was a freelance journalist in 2006 and went down to Peru.

Learn more about Amazonian hallucinogenic shamanism

Before that, I'd had my own, you know, experiences with the, what we call in Australia, the doof scene, which is like electronic music and festival culture as, I guess, you know, the modern down-under equivalent of what flowered from the whole 60s generation of this alternative lifestyle and altered chemical sort of states of mind but you know that understanding that the western culture had an example and a grounding of what could be a spiritual culture or a culture that was interested in spirit and altered states and what was the bigger picture.

But it wasn't really until I went down to the Amazon in 2006 that I was able to ground that understanding in, you know, an Indigenous culture which had an unbroken lineage of working with plant medicines and understanding the right relationship of those medicines for usage and for how they connect us to the planet and to what value they can be for us moving forward.

Jonah: So when was your first ceremony, or was you pierced through the veil, if you will? Like me, I was a wild teenager and I experimented with mushrooms and acid and things like that and really expanded my mind, not understanding what I was seeing or what was going on, but those are my first days when I started experimenting through the higher dimensions, if you will. So when was it for you? you? Was it in ceremony? Was it as a teenager? Was it in the dance scene, like you just explained?

Yeah, I mean, as I said, in 2006, I went down to the Amazon to work on an article that became the book Aya: Awakenings, and I was introduced to the curanderos or the shamans of the Amazon, and to both their lineage and their cosmovision, their understanding of the world, and the different dimensions within that world how not just Ayahuasca, but all the different plants are, in their view, sapient to the degree that they exhibit consciousness and can be interacted with to learn from, and that the whole earth itself is an organism which we can learn from and can engage with in communication on some levels for knowledge and for healing.

And so, in the ceremonies I underwent in 2006, I quickly discovered that there was something to this, you know, there was a tangibility to these experiences which went beyond, I guess, my early 20s psychedelic experiences.

It feels like, you know, the psychedelic experience in the West is very valid, but it's been a stepping stone and a learning curve of our culture, which is still a very young culture in terms of both spirituality and understanding the energetics of what we're embedded in.  

 We've had a few thousand years of what's become Western culture over time, which has distanced itself from nature and has denied, over the course of many centuries, ever-increasing sort of denials of spirit.

And even if you say God, the whole God is dead type thing... And as the materialist movement has increased in Western culture, we've reached this apex of a global civilization dominated by the Western template which has really put us out of balance and has put us out of balance in the way we're in relationship with the world and our consciousness in the world and even our ability to see what we really are and to nurture those bits of ourselves including the mind-body-spirit and having those right relationships with ourselves and others.

So it's a long-winded way to say, you know, back in ceremony in the jungles I really rediscovered I guess my spiritual nature in some senses and also what that meant of being in the jungle being you know surrounded by a living vibrant ecosystem which was alive. I could feel my connection with this real resurgent idea to get beyond our individuality or seeing ourselves just as individual beings or units within a larger system is that we are manifestations of nature and that nature doesn't end at the tree line, you know, it's like something which incorporates and is interdependent with us as beings. We're working in units and with nature and that every breath we take of the in breath and the out-breath we are connected to is a part of a dynamic machine of creation itself.

That we can influence nature as we do–usually for the worse–but we can be influenced by nature and influence nature because we're in a dynamic relationship with it. There is not just a western materialist sort of point of view where I'm saying we can influence nature by knocking down trees or even planning a garden. Still, we can energetically feel the tangibility of the transference of energy as nature works through us and is us and that type of tangibility has been a direct result of some of my ayahuasca experiences.

Jonah: Yes, I asked a question, Rak, because when I was in Peru last year in '14 and we went down to Ayahuasca with the Shipibo tribe in the Amazon, it was definitely a life-changing experience and out of the 15 participants that we had, nine of them, eight or nine of them never had any psychedelics or even smoked marijuana or anything like that, and I bring that up because a lot of people when they hear about ayahuasca and plant medicines, they immediately think, "Oh, they're drug addicts or they're druggies or they're smoking DMT," and they don't really associate that these are healing, intelligent plant medicines within a consciousness that are there to really teach us.

So I want to drill that home for the listeners that even if you've never done any drug or drank alcohol in your life, this type of medicine, Ayahuasca and other ones we're going to talk about today are really medicines to help heal many different aspects of one's life.

It's not a drug where a lot of people go down and just, you know, I'm going to go to Peru and get, you know, messed up on Ayahuasca for a week. It's not using that sense at all. I don't, you know, it is around the world, but I know that us and the group that went down there, our intention was not to do that. So I just want to make it clear to listeners that these are sacred, ancient medicines that shamans have used for thousands of years for teachings and lessons, as well as for understanding the cosmos and piercing the veil.

So that's why it's important that you say that when you do ceremony, you do it with the elders and the people who hold that space to do so. You don't want to be doing big ceremonies and Ayahuasca with shamans or people that aren't holding the correct space, and we can get into that rock. I'm sure you've experienced some ceremonies, maybe, or I know I have that some of the shamans were not up to par, if you will, with holding the energy in the space of the circle of everybody.

And that's also very important because I think they're getting mainstream rock. I'm sure you see this as well people are asking in and learning more about Ayahuasca. Still, I think the sacredness of it has to really be drilled home and to to go in with the pure intent to really take it as a ceremony and as a learning lesson really what are your thoughts on that.

 Rak: I've led ayahuasca retreats in Peru for the last year. It's been a direct culmination of my eight, nine year journey and work with Ayahuasca, doing the book and the film, being engaged with different curanderos in the community around Ayahuasca globally and documenting that. And I think it's very true. You said that so many new people are coming to Ayahuasca and they're not the average people who might have come from other pathways like electronic music, festivals, or the drug culture.

They're everyday people who have heard and seen the diverse and wide mainstream report on Ayahuasca. You know, everyone has reported on this now from CNN to 60 minutes to Time to like every major western media outlet has reported on Ayahuasca because it does work.

It works because it is, as you say, a very sacred medicine and the West is coming to it with a bias. It's coming with this misconception of what medicine really is because in Western culture and especially in countries like America where they have big pharma where medicines basically mean pharmaceuticals and they mean something that you pop, you pop a pill and it does the work for you.

What people have to understand about this approach to the Ayahuasca is of medicines and indigenous culture is that you have a relationship. You are a spiritual being that has a relationship and that they believe that sickness and illness and this idea of dis-ease or not being at ease and not being an optimal equilibrium with your own mind, body, spirit, unified body, mind and soul, that is the root of sickness. 

You have a spiritual being, and then there is an energetic body and that these things or things that come out in the body are sort of the last resort. It's like when things aren't addressed, the emotional instabilities or repressed traumas or things like that, the body itself and the mechanism of the mind-body-spirit is designed to be healthy.

And it's like we come to the indigenous peoples to experience Ayahuasca, many people with a misunderstanding of what medicine is, and they can often expect Ayahuasca to be healthy.

Something that is like you know, a medicine in the Western sense that you take it and it will do the work– you sit back and it'll do the work for you. It's nothing like that really you have to actually engage with the process of your own self-discovery of discovering that you have the power not only to heal yourself to a degree you have the power to be responsible for yourself and that Ayahuasca is basically acting as a physical medicine as a purgative. On one level you often purge and vomit up physically but you're often purging energetic things. You're releasing traumas, you're releasing buried emotional you know things that have happened to you.

You're having awarenesses and you're having illuminations of your own history. It's very idiosyncratic and very individual to the person. On a neurochemical level that they've discovered that many of the the entheogens and psychedelics turn off what is called the default mode network of the brain, these regional clusters of the brain that are often involved in shaping this idea of ego or identity. And when they're switched off, the rest of the brain's mechanisms are receiving more signal of the unconscious coming up.

Discover the inner landscape
of the visionary state

In Ayahuasca's sense, in a typical ceremony, you will go through a whole journey where you, you know, you rediscover yourself and things that have been suppressed and buried come back up to the minds.

Jonah: So now I know you're off traveling, just went through Mexico and other places. Let's talk about some of the other plant medicines you've experienced. What are they, and what are some of the benefits from doing a ceremony with them?

Rak: Well, yeah, I mean, this is the thing. Ayahuasca's been getting a load of attention: it's a very powerful and sacred medicine, and the indigenous understanding of medicine is something which basically helps reconnect you to your own healing. It connects you to yourself and what you really are, which is not just an individual node in the network, you are the network. You are part of a planetary ecology, connected to that, and a divine being in human form. To plug blacking back into the planet, we can look at it from the context that the planet secretes, like exo pheromones, which secrete many psychoactive substances. And they engage with humans, mammals, and different higher species to change our consciousness.

And it doesn't just change our consciousness recreationally, randomly. They flood us with information and turn off the brain's default mode networks and open out receiving mechanisms of the brain to the signal, which is always being brought to us from the the Gaian matrix. Which is, that it's alive and there's so much density of stuff always occurring that we filter it down for the human experience in the individual, you know egoic state.

So the the planetary entheogens are pathways. They're almost like browsers on the vegetal Internet. You know, there are different platforms you can engage with to plug back into the planetary matrix and receive the information that is always present and can be tuned back into.

So Ayahuasca as a healing mechanism is receiving a lot of the attention around the planet at the moment. For the last 10 or 20 years it's been building a popularity in the West as people relearn this indigenous medicine and its lineage.

They've been relearning about the sanctity of ceremony and ritual and right relationship as well as it's idea that this is a medicine and not just a drug. Now one of the first substances which came to the West in the mid-1950s was the psilocybin mushroom, what became called in the West the magic mushroom, which Gordon Wasson popularized.

That is probably one of the most sustainable entheogens available on the planet. It's now spread out from Russia and Siberia, and different strains of the mushroom are all over the planet as a fungus. As a sort of mycelial network, it has a lot of potential for healing. There's a lot of tests being done with Western science at the moment for psilocybin in helping heal anxiety and helping induce, I guess, spiritual or numinous experiences.

Also, you know, it connects, it re-flushes the brain, and it has this neurogenetic effect of neurogenesis that helps refresh all the neural sort of pathways and it can be a profound visionary experience where you can learn a lot of information in a translocal sense beyond yourself.

I know a lot of practitioners that are working both from an indigenous perspective in Mesoamerica and in the West who are working with the psilocybin mushroom in a healing ceremony. The idea of ceremony itself is coming out from the ayahuasca culture. This idea of sitting in ceremony with others and participating with a facilitator, whether a shaman or just a facilitator who holds space and mushroom circles, is popular now.

I know people who work with 5-MeO-DMT. I've just come back from Mexico in Hermesillo around that area in Sonora where I've been working with a Mexican shaman Dr Octavio Retig; he works with a sacred Sonoran desert Toad, which is the bufo alvarius toad. It is secreted in different glands on the body. It has mixtures of bufotenine and 5-MeO-DMT, which again is one of the tryptamine chemicals, the DMT tryptamines, which are in the human brain itself.

It is an incredibly powerful and healing experience both on a somatic body level for flushing any anxieties and traumas and wounds and holding on in the body, but also one of probably the most powerful experience I've ever had in connecting to the white light and the sort of the unity consciousness, the field, the source of all things and that experience of the numinous which some people call God.

Still, I'm seeing 5-MeO-DMT on the rise again in the West in a ceremony setting with facilitators who are taking on their shamanic role and basically what I'm seeing through connecting and reporting on as a journalist all these different modalities and the usage in the West is that there is a rise in this generation of global shamanism and of global shamanic practitioners. 

You know the whole word shaman is a bit of a loaded one that's been constructed by the West but it really is this idea of the medicine man and women who is returning to the global village.

This idea that people don't necessarily need to be stuck inside the illusion and the Babylonian system of big pharma giving them these medicines and these pills which are only suppressing their problems and causing all these side effects is that these planetary medicines secreted by the planet and facilitated by a trained practitioner and holding space for you in a healing ceremony connects you to the web of life and connect you back to the Gaian matrix.

And in revealing yourself and your true multi-dimensional self, there is a massive amount of opportunity for healing and not just for healing but for optimization for this idea of you don't have to be sick or in this like, you know, sense that some of the Western NGOs who are pioneering this reclamation of these medicines back into the Western medical system constrained by the FDA and by legalities to only be experimenting with these substances with people who are terminally ill or have cancer or are dying.

It's that you don't need to be just dying to have these things or even sick in a sense. It's the ability to open these pathways and reclaim our human birthright and our knowledge of what we really are, what we're embedded in, what the planetary matrix really is, how tangible it is, and how interdependent and connected it is, that these substances reveal our true potential.

So there's a huge optimization movement and understanding going on at the moment that these things are part of the true knowledge and the full knowledge of what it means to be human. And in the spectrum of life, this full spectrum consciousness to be really aware of our full potentials. And that changes the whole ball game.

And I'm seeing this slow burn which is becoming a really fast movement across the world of not just Ayahuasca and not just 5-MeO or psilocybin mushrooms or salvia divinorum or iboga or San Pedro cactus or morning glory seeds or sacred tobacco.

Discover the inner landscape
of the visionary state

There's this incredible wide spectrum of plant medicines and animal medicines and human medicines, and it's basically this idea of this shamanic resurgence on a global scale, which is happening and permeating down into mainstream culture and we're seeing people come into these avenues and pathways of healing through things like Ayahuasca but it's really just a tip of the iceberg. And for me what I feel is all these things are modalities which are teaching us how to be ourselves again in the web of life and that our true potential you know, lies within and that these are sort of stepping stones and training wheels really for the full human being that I believe we are very dynamically on the path of becoming.

Jonah: Oh, well said. I totally agree. I think these experiences and ceremonies are universal in teaching and educating at all levels. And I think people should experiment and try them out. We've seen lots of documentaries and people that talk about Ayahuasca and they're purging and they're throwing up and they're vomiting and then they're still like, that was the greatest experience of my life. It's like that is the type of experience you can expect when you try and experience some of these ceremonies is ground-breaking universal truth as well as inner work, like you said, and purging up these energies because as we learn from even science now, now, energies are attached to us. Energy is real. The other side of the veil is real.

 What are some suggestions Rak that you can suggest to people? People and listeners who are listening right now haven't done any plant medicine or anything like that? What would be a good first stepping stone to listeners out there that haven't done anything, they want to try Ayahuasca or they want to try some plant medicine? Would you recommend diving in and trying Ayahuasca first or are there other medicines that maybe ease the way into having such a radical experience?

Rak: Well you can understand that these things are going to be a very you know, eye-opening and transformative and challenging experiences because they open up potentials that are within ourselves that have been denied traditionally by Western culture of the last few centuries and so this dimension of being which has been atrophied and retarded in the in the human experience.

And so it's not just any one of these that better or worse than the others, it's that when it reveals these dimensions of being within ourselves, that itself is the spiritual sort of breakthrough moment, the aha moment, where it's like, "Oh my God, wow, I am this, I am feeling all this stuff, I am connecting to this moreness that I never realized was there." I would suggest a better way.

Do their research, and as I was trying to emphasize at the start, the idea of these things as medicines is that they aren't just what we've come to understand in the West of you take something and it does this thing to you.

What these things do is that they open our own ability to connect to these spaces. Like we are multi-dimensional receivers and transmitters of information, and we've had a block on our receivers for so long. So when the block is open to you, take enough, you are the one who is responsible ultimately for, you know, what's happening in some levels. Having said that, it's really important as well I feel to have a trained facilitator or practitioner or shaman, whoever you define it, helping guide you in some of your experiences. And so that is traditionally not easily found in the West. You have to go back to indigenous cultures. That can embroil us in all the dynamics of spiritual tourism and the pros and cons around that.

But it really does help because when you take off the veils and you're opening up, you're opening up to basically an ecology, an actual or cosmic ecology, which is full of creatures and full of entities and full of beings and full of energies. And you don't want to necessarily, it's like basically the shorthand, it's like having unprotected sex. You might be okay in the first few ceremonies if you do it on your own.

Or just do it in you know, your comfort of your home whatever but you're opening yourself up to a whole astral ecology which is full of other beings and so you're going to engage with those beings on some level and without the training and without the forethought and without the preparation you don't want to be taking on unwanted energies and you want to be really sort of in control of your journey or at least safe around those journey dynamics. 

So what I'm saying is: don't do these things without the right preparation, this right set and setting, having thought through and researched, you know, the browser you are about to take, the sacrament and understanding what it means to be medicine and taking self-responsibility.

And then on top of all that, I would advise trying to do that with a trained facilitator, the curandero, shaman, whatever level, and even with that, you know, there's been a lot of feedback from the spiritual tourist movement across the world is that, you know, you've got to think through what the repercussions of your actions are to those communities you're going to, to the energy around it, to the idea of money and spirituality, and to the quality of the shaman that you're engaging with because the momentum of this cultural sort of movement has been that the money has been a corrupting force on a large level to different aspects of the community and to the shamans often being corrupted by that energy or to the fact that maybe they're not really shamans and they put up their shingle to do business because they see that there's such money to be made.

There's all these different levels and you know it's up to you to navigate your journey.

Maybe you know how to connect with some of the online communities and do your research. There's quite a lot of really great Facebook support groups and different sort of testimonials and platforms there where people can learn a lot of information and engage with other people who are on this path as well, because this is a path which contains many paths. It's a spiritual awakening and I am getting to the understanding that it's not just about Ayahuasca, it's not just about plant medicines or earth medicines, it's about us and it's about our relationship with the universe and taking sovereign responsibility for the cosmically aware beings that we can be.

And so we have to navigate that with a certain amount of trust but also with a certain amount of discernment. So think wisely, act wisely and do as much research as you can and then be brave. Step up and give yourself permission to go through this experience. And if you have done your research wisely and got the right set and setting and are in the right space, then trust that even though this is an ego-dissolving experience quite usually, and that you may feel like you're dying at times, it's, you know, parts of you are dying or parts of you are transcending and that you will survive this, you will come back from this, and you will be bigger on the other side of this experience.

Jonah: What are some other resources you can recommend on some of the other plant medicines, iboga, San Pedro, are there any websites or books you can recommend to listeners or documentaries that have sparked your interest in Ayahuasca or have made an impact on your journey on what you've seen or read. Any recommendations?

Rak: There's a lot of good organizations. One of the key ones which deals with psychedelics and antigens as well as maps, maps .org. That's the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies. They're pioneering a lot of different scientific work in the medicine field in reclaiming these substances for healing.

There's also They work with Ayahuasca and iboga globally in pioneering different studies and different support sort of mechanisms around the world.

There's many different films as DMT, the spirit molecule which has been out for quite a while but that was pretty much a watershed one that introduced the idea of dimethyltryptamine to mainstream audiences across the world.

My own documentary, Aya: Awakenings, is out there. There is quite a diverse selection now of different entheogenic films and documentaries being made. The awareness is rising quite a lot.

There's dozens and dozens of hundreds of Facebook groups and things out there. So just do a Google search on these substances and look for yourself, because there is a lot of information out there, and things are really taking off.

This is a global shamanic culture, and it is one that is needs to be approached responsibly and with the right integrity towards the medicines and towards yourself as you go forward, but it's growing so exponentially. If you just look at stats on social media for a lot of these groups, just in the last two years or so things are doubling and trebling and the community is coming from what used to be the mainstream.

People are really awakening on so many levels and they're hearing about these substances and the experiences people have, it's a real boundary transgressor, they're going beyond the idea of drugs and going beyond the idea of pharmaceutical medicines and they're coming to this understanding that these things have always been part of the planetary ecology, part of the toolkit the planet has given us and that indigenous cultures all around the world have used for millennia and have been caretakers for and they've retained these plants and these medicines and what is beyond the gateway of what they reveal, this relationship with the planet and with ourselves and this idea to be in the right relationship with it.

So more and more people are joining this global shamanic movement every year and it's really interesting where that is going to go because I know that the authorities on many levels don't want to see this framed in the language of a sort of planetary religious movement or even if if people don't like the word religious spiritual movement, but the idea that there is some solidity to it and then it's happening all over the globe and the people are re-engaging with these planetary medicines, not recreationally, but for their own healing, their own understanding and their own self-growth, it is some type of spiritual religious movement.

You know, it's not necessarily a localized cult in any sense, but you've got to remember that cult itself is in the root of the word, you know, culture. It's like what used to be, you know, Western, culture is dying. It's dying. And what is being replaced with all across the globe is this fresh and vibrant resurgence of shamanic culture, which is helping people tune back into their own spiritual beings.

And then from that point, then they get to go out and create a new planetary culture, which is not about the sacraments or the shamanism per se, but rather about the but these things are modalities helping us rediscover ourselves to be the people who inhabit the new global paradigm. And that's why I'm excited about it, and I say, join us.