Shamans of the Global Village is an independently produced web documentary series focusing on indigenous psychoactive medicines and the Western shamanic resurgence. The following is a conversation between the show’s director, artist & filmmaker Niles Heckman, and host and writer Rak Razam. The two created the show together in 2015 and the pilot episode was released on October 1st, 2016 at the official site www.shamansoftheglobalvillage.com. The interview below appears courtesy of Rak Razam:
Niles: What is shamanism and specifically what is shamanism in the 21st century, my good man?
Rak: Shamanism is something which has been around for millennia. It is basically not just the world’s oldest religion, it’s the most direct form of spirituality and of engaging with the intelligence and the spirit of the Earth itself in all its forms.
There have been practitioners of shamanism–and of course this word ‘shaman’ is a western conceit–it’s a construct by western anthropologists. It comes from the Siberian tradition of their ‘šaman’, of their medicine person.
But there are medicine people all around the world in many different cultures. They work with psychoactive and mind altering plants with trance, with dance, with different ways of spirit, with the drum, with breath work and with ways to get “out of the body” and to engage in a spiritual level — in a spiritual ecology, it’s almost like the astral level, where in an animist tradition the world is full of intelligences and entities and spirits.
And those energies affect us and the medicine person traditionally works on behalf of the health of the tribe and keeping people not just healthy individually, but mediated in “Gaia” [in the planetary ecology] to be in balance and to be in right relationship with all the species, so that energy can flow through and everything is in accord.
That’s what I believe the role of the medicine person is. And that’s what the role of the shaman has been in many different cultures across the world. This is what has been lacking in the West as we have dominated and conquered, raped, and pillaged the planet as well as thrown the world out of balance.
This is why it is so vital and so important that the role of the medicine person, the shaman, comes back to the West and comes back to leading us into “right relationship” and to unity consciousness and into an ecological and spiritual awareness of the Earth as a whole organism, which we are part of and in relationship with.
And as this need for a spiritual rebalancing is happening, at the same time the global political networks and tribal networks of nation states are sort of disintegrating. There’s this reclamation and this resurgence of spiritual anchoring that’s happening all across the world and it is a global village and we do need these Shamans of the Global Village.
Niles: What are the various modalities of shamanism? You mention medicines, why do you call these things ‘medicines’ and what are the different ways that shamans work?
Rak: Indigenous cultures around the world have understood that the earth secretes these many substances and food is a medicine and these psychoactive plants are a medicine because they connect us to a deeper understanding of what reality really is.
It’s only from the 19th century that we’ve started to commodify and have an understanding of ‘drugs’ and this comes from pharmaceuticals that are more of an assembly line sort of paradigm which is separate from the natural environment.
There are many different aspects of shamanism and pathways to the divine, whether you use trance or dance or tantra, etc. There are many different organic pathways that can be developed. But primarily, many different tribes around the world have used psychoactive (mind altering) medicines.
When we consume them they reveal that we are part of a larger ecology and that the individual “I” and the ego which has been out of control in the industrialized first world is participant in this dominating culture which has been attacking the Earth.
The individual ego is released and subsumed back into the Gaian or planetary ego or intelligence and we “come back home.” This has been a real threat to many power structures but the role of medicine people and shamans has been of gate keepers of these sacred substances.
Terence McKenna actually believed that psychoactives were “exo-pheromones” or substances which were secreted by the planet to be “species mediators”, to actually control the evolution or the awareness of species like humans on the earth and to bring them back into the fold. It’s a complicated and a large conversation around these different pathways that different shamans use.
Niles: Great, that leads me into the next question, which is: why this is all so important?
Rak: Ten years ago I went down to the Amazon and I had one of my first ayahuasca experiences in the jungle, or the “lungs of the earth”, in the Amazon. One of the most beautiful things that happened to me was not any personal healing, but it was this reconnection to the planet and to the jungle and to the web of life. I could hear the animals and the monkeys and the birds, and feel the wind and the trees. I wasn’t just using my five senses, something opened within me and I was what I heard.
There was no separation between me and the Earth and I became one with it. When we come back into this awareness of our relationship with the Earth and know that it’s not separate, it is like saying, “I’m just one finger on a hand and there’s a whole body and we’re all connected. And we’re all one organism.”
That awareness is what we used to have on the Earth. It’s what many indigenous cultures that lived sustainably used as the compass to navigate how they worked on the earth, how they lived on the Earth, how they loved on the Earth.
That’s what we have lost in modern culture around the world and it’s what is needed because we are currently in an ecological catastrophe. We are at a crisis point. We are undergoing the sixth great species extinction across the world at this moment which we are largely, as humans, responsible for.
I do believe that there are larger “seasons” of consciousness and the reason we have fallen out of this unity state, like the fall of consciousness, is because we’ve basically gone down to a “one bar signal” of this awareness. This signal of our relationship and our place in the universe.
And that in the seasons of consciousness, it’s coming full circle and now we are seeing an incredible global shamanic resurgence of working with the plants to heal individuals and to reconnect them to the web of life and to the awareness of who they really are and what our relationship is.
This reclamation of our consciousness which is being mediated by medicine people and shamans is not just for the shamans, it’s for everyone. It’s for everyone to have this capacity to remember this within themselves and to be plugged into the mother, or Gaia, or mother Earth.
That essentially, is the emergence which is the opportunity of the emergency. The planetary crisis we are undergoing, is said by many commentators, that it is the opportunity for a species evolution and it happens regularly over large tracts of time.
Niles: So in terms of the actual title, the “global village” is a term that Marshall McLuhan coined, correct?
Rak: Yeah, Marshall McLuhan was a media commentator and analyst who coined the term ‘the global village’ and it’s incredibly apt. We are an interlocking network of small localized communities. In a “village sense”, we are nodes within a network and the network is what we are all about.
The interconnectedness of everyone is essentially what the psychedelic or entheogenic experience can reveal. It reveals the unity of all things that other cultures in the world like the Hindus, might have called the “Indra’s Net” or what Pierre de Chardin called the “Noosphere.” There’s been these concepts before but the global village is what we are on the physical level. A village is essentially bound together by an experience.
Indigenous cultures are born onto the land. Their commonality is they live and die on the land together in unity and they rely on each other. They rely on the earth and the land that they are in partnership with it. So if we truly are a global village, as Marshall McLuhan said, we have to come back to the Earth and we have to come back to our spirit.
We have to be a spiritual global village that embodies what it really means to be custodians of the land. We have to be the gatekeepers for these higher dimensional realms which are part of the Earth. To me, a shamanic global village is what we are really becoming.
Niles: Let’s talk about how we got the initial beginnings of the first episode going.
Rak: Episode one of Shamans of the Global Village focuses not just on the medicine but on the practitioners and the role of the shaman in the 21st century. The people that work with psychoactive materials or sacred medicines which connect them to the earth and connect them to the shamanic realms.
I have been initiated by Dr. Octavio Rettig, a Mexican physician, who is authorized to work with the medicine of the Sonoran Desert toad, the Bufo Alvarius or Bufo Incilius toad. In the parotid glands of the toad, when squeezed, dried, and smoked, it contains the incredibly potent medicine 5-MeO-DMT.
It has been described to me that all the entheogens are like baubless on a Christmas tree, or maybe the tree of life, and that the star or the light at the top is 5-MeO-DMT.
It is, as far as I know, the most potent psychedelic or entheogenic substance available in nature and it occurs endogenously in our own brains. The tryptamines are very interesting–they work on the serotonin pathways and are almost a neurotransmitter. They’re all throughout nature and it seems to be the backdoor access that nature has put into us to connect to the divine realms.
Niles: Alright, let’s do a call to action for the community to support the series.
Rak: Yes, Shamans in the Global Village is an online documentary TV show.
Our aim is to not just document these substances but to document the people that are working with them and to see the patterns within that. To see how the role of the shaman in the 21st century in the West or in modern culture is connected to indigenous cultures and from indigenous cultures to the plants and the planet themselves. To see this unbroken thread that is resurging now.
We are making sacred media, taking a lot of steps to hold the integrity of the message and to document authentically and transparently what is going on. We want to talk about the shadows as much as the light. The teething issues, the commodification, the commercialization, the joy, the sacredness, and the reconnection.
So this is your show. If you are part of the shamanic movement, it’s all a larger movement. This is a larger awakening of a species so I get pretty big picture with this.
We are holding space for you and we ask you to join us to support the show because we are doing this on our own. We are doing this without the support of any larger network or any other vested financial interest. By downloading the show, by streaming, by watching the show and supporting it with your financial support, you can ensure that next episode will get made.
It’s a bit of a Herculean journey to do 12 entheogens, and 12 shamanic practitioners all across the world from Africa in Gabon, Peru in the Amazon, or in Iran with Haoma, etc. All around the world these substances exist and they are switching us on and the gatekeepers who are the medicine people are the ones who are bringing this to the community. Join us!