Welcome to the Jungle: A Talk with Rak Razam

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While it’s doubtful that any movie will ever be quite as impactful as a deep psychedelic journey, Rak Razam’s new documentary Aya: Awakenings comes incredibly close. Adapted from Rak’s 2009 book “Aya: A Shamanic Journey,” it chronicles the Australian journalist’s uncanny experiences with ayahuasca and DMT in South America. Accentuating Razam’s narration with lush, vivid visuals and all-enveloping audio, the film is a multisensory, multidimensional mindblower, leaving the viewer stunned, invigorated and filled with reverent awe for the Great Mystery.

Aya: Awakenings makes its U.S. debut on Wednesday, April 17th at San Francisco’s Clay Theatre. A panel discussion featuring Razam, Richard Meech, Vance Gellert, James Oroc, Taylor Marie Milton and Robert Forte will follow the movie.

Rak sees the film’s screenings as shamanic experiences in themselves. “We usually do smudgings as people arrive at the cinema,” he explains. “The medicine is actually the film, and at the end, we have this panel which unites people to integrate their experiences.”

For those in need of reassurance that some part of us will remain after we outgrow our bodies, Razam’s trip reports can come as powerful medicine indeed. Here are some well-articulated insights from a man who has managed to sneak a peek under the skirt of existence.

Have your ayahuasca and DMT experiences affected your views on whether or not consciousness continues after physical death?

Oh, absolutely. That’s sort of the starting point for any of these experiences. Of course, it’s very difficult to translate [the essence of these experiences] into scientific fact. The closest we came was in the chapter [of Aya] where Dr. Juan did the brainwave experiment and had the skull cap and the EEG readings [during a DMT experiment at a house in Peru called La Rosacita, which translates to “The Rosy Cross”]. We were filming that, but of course, we could only film the outside flesh body, and the miracle is as fresh as a new day on the inside. It’s all on the inside where these things happen, and science can do the MRI SCANS, they can do the EEG scans, they can measure electrical activity, they can tell whether you’re in alpha or theta or beta or gamma, but that’ s nothing. That’s just the shell. Until science can reconnect with the heart and feel what it feels like to be in theta, then it’s just missing the boat. And so I have been there, and I have felt consciousness beyond the body; consciousness returning to the source, to the Godhead, Overmind, mother-matrix union or whatever we might call it. They’re all labels, but I have felt what it feels like to be a spiritual being returning to the Source.

I thought it was incredible that the name of the site of that DMT trip translated to “The Rosy Cross.”

I know. I know. These are what we call synchronicities, [but] we need to have a deeper language for the way hyperdimensional time and space really work, because when that’s called The Rosy Cross… and funnily enough, that chapter in the film, and also in the book, was probably one of the two or three most sacred experiences I’ve ever had in my life. We captured it on film on the outside, and that’s why I hope the narration guides people through the understanding that it is a very sacred experience, no matter what the entry point to it was. But for that place to be called The Rosy Cross — I mean, it was just perfect! Everything is just perfect. I trust the universe as it unfolds, and I see the perfection.

Why do you think westerners are embracing the ayahuasca experience at this point in history?

You know that saying that every culture gets the politicians it deserves? I like to think that every culture also gets the sacraments that it needs, as well as deserves.

If we look at what’s happened in the west in the last few generations, we’ve had to go through the lab, because the western, white-picket-fence, 1950s mentality after World War II was so entrenched, and it was such an apex of dominator culture, as Terence McKenna used to call this. Ours is the culture that extinguished our connection with the earth; it extinguished our connection with the tribal peoples that it subjugated, with all the cultures that had active sacraments, like the indigenous people of South America when the conquistadors overran and subjugated all their connections with the magic mushrooms or the power plants.

Not coincidentally, we had Albert Hofmann in the labs in Basel, Switzerland, working on the ergot rye derivatives, which is natural plant material. LSD came out of the lab, and it reconnected millions of people to a different way of seeing the world and to spirituality in themselves. A generation or two after the ’60s, we had ecstasy in the ’80s, and that really opened the heart chakra. And then in the Naughts, we’re having this resurgence of plant entheogens. But I see a gradation in culture over time: I feel that the planetary intelligence or the intelligence in nature Herself wants to reconnect with the humans and get us back into a synergistic, sustainable balance.

We’re out of balance as a species. And the plants are secreted by the planet. Many different plants, but including the psychoactive plants, are specific tools to engage our consciousness to connect with the larger Gaian matrix. But we wouldn’t have been able to go back to the garden if we hadn’t gone through successive waves of encounters with different chemicals which had to come from the lab to tune in enough of the populace to be ready to go back to the garden. So I think ayahuasca is coming to fruition now because of what’s gone before, and because things are coming full circle, and because people around the world really want something that’s an integral medicine, not a drug. They want something which has had that lineage to it, which has been held by indigenous people as a sacred substance. We’re ready for it.

I like the idea that the culture first needed a synthetic substance that could speak its language.

Well, you’ve got to be careful about that. We’ve got to step outside the box. What is a synthetic? I mean, LSD is one molecule away from LSA, which is morning glory seeds, which is completely, 100% natural. Albert Hofmann discovered this in the 1950s when he did a bio essay on the ololiúqui, which are the morning glory seeds. You look at the whole Middle Ages and St. Anthony’s fire and the hallucinogenic properties from when the bread would go off — hallucinogenic plants, properties and chemicals are in nature, and we are made from nature. And when we say “a lab” — sure, it’s a sterile western concept, but if we step back and look outside the box, everything is nature, including the lab. We’re making an artificial distinction because of our cultural bias. I understand that there is a distinction, but ultimately, everything is made by nature, through nature, with nature’s tools, including humans, and I believe there’s a planetary intelligence behind everything.

Absolutely true. These are our beehives and our birds’ nests. But human intervention seems to throw a wrench in the works somehow. One obvious example would be the difference between organic foods and processed or genetically modified foods. So I think there’s some distinction there.

Well, there is. There is. But remember, Albert Hofmann was a meticulous chemist, and there’s something about the mythic role of the alchemist that is just as mysterious as this role of the shaman. Because the west didn’t have the shamans, we still had the alchemists. All the way back through the Middle Ages, there was this idea of the magic person who would transform the base materials like lead into gold, or in the spiritual pursuit as well. It still trickles down today to the people who make certain sacred substances. We still look at them as alchemists, and it’s their intent and their integrity of how they approach their work which produces the purity of the substances.

Yes. Well said. Back to the garden: when shadow material from a person’s past arises during an ayahuasca session, do you think there’s a danger of re-traumatizing?

Well, yes and no. Even in psychotherapy, they say that when you relive it, it doesn’t mean that you have to attach to it. You can be aware of it, and in doing so, you can look at it from a different vantage point and let go of the material. It brings up one of these issues that many people ask me: is it OK to drink ayahuasca on your own? And I say, “Well, yes and no.” It’s like saying you don’t have a license to drive a car, but you know the car is there. Sure, you could take it for a joyride, but if you don’t know how to drive, not only is it dangerous, but you might not know where to drive, or you might not be able to see the best locations.

So with ayahuasca, these shadow materials can come up, and I also believe that on a different level, it’s like this Jungian analogy where there’s a level of our own unconscious — the day residues, things we go through in the dreaming — and then there’s a collective unconscious, a second, deeper level, where all of our thoughts and dreams overlap. And then there seems to be a third, even deeper level, which is like the canvas upon which these collective consciousnesses rest.

And on that deeper level, the shamanic realm or the shamanic experience shows us that there seem to be independent consciousnesses or entities, and there seem to be realms that exist independently of our own consciousnesses. And if in your journey you were to overlap and to go deep into those realms, it could be dangerous to be in that shadow realm, which is outside of ourselves as well as within ourselves. So it’s good to have a trained facilitator, especially a curandero, who knows the territory.

Or even just in a western psychotherapy sense, if this stuff comes up, it’s good to have a facilitator there to help guide you through it or to be present with you to invoke the right responses, so you don’t get bogged down again in the same experience, but can be talked through it and learn to let go of that material.

Along that line of thinking, do you think it’s best for westerners to drink ayahuasca in the same types of ceremonies that the people of the Amazon do, or do you think it would be better for westerners to devise their own ceremonies?

It’s a bit of both, actually. This is the thing: there has to be a mature appraisal of the cultural dynamics going on. Westerners have a predilection to having a pick-and-choose ideology, especially with spirituality: “I’ll take on board that bit, but not that bit,” or “That bit’s too much hard work,” and “Do we really need that?” So I think we have to be really careful of our own insecurities and weaknesses when it comes to this potpourri spirituality.

I think the indigenous tribes hit on a modality which worked for them, and there’s a lot of wisdom in their structure. I think we need to take on the fact that there is structure.  That’s the number one thing. The different groups that use ayahuasca in South America — the Mestizo churches, like Santo Daime or União de Vegetal — have grafted on a syncretic Christian structure to the medicine which is very different from the indigenous tribal way that it’s done, and it works for them. And that’s the thing to remember: they’ve created a structure.

What we’re doing is creating a container to hold the experience. When we look at the Shipibo style, for instance, which is the one I learnt in — that’s still my preferred style, and in the west I’ve been part of many medicine circles which are done very differently: they’re done with low lighting or candles; everyone wearing white and singing medicine songs or holy songs. They’re all very good, but it’s not as deep as the indigenous method. I find the indigenous method understands it a lot deeper and practices it a lot deeper.

They do it in total darkness, because they understand that the dimethyltriptamine is in some senses negated by light. It travels down the melatonin pathways, and there’s a day/night thing happening there. And they’ve had so much deeper cultural contact with this substance, and with the spirit in the substance as well, that they understand the nuances. And the western modality is sometimes in danger of being almost like an Ayahuasca Lite: like a version which has elements of the depth, but not the full depth itself. So I think we need to retrofit what is needed in the cities and in the western mainframe, but we also need to do it in an integral way, and stop and think about it. Just because we might experience western-led circles that already exist, maybe we could look into: is this the best way to do it? Is this the most integral way, or is it just the easiest way?

What’s your opinion on TED banning Graham Hancock’s talk about ayahuasca?

I think it’s unfortunate, but in every crisis, there’s an opportunity. It’s been good, in a way, to see Graham really respond in an integral way. He often comes under attack for his work with other professionals in the arts and in the academic world, but he counters the arguments.

Like with the TED censorship issue, he went through, took their concerns and took it apart line by line and showed that that’s not what he was saying. I think TED had this issue about their own scientific integrity, and there’s an issue between TEDx and TED and what they were licensing with the talks. But what it created was a flashpoint about this censoring information about the war on consciousness, and I think on some level, that’s been great for people to have that discussion and to see that there’s this sometimes very subtle censorship culturally, and sometimes more dynamic censorship, like with the TED issues.

All of it helps to springboard wider community discussion on the war on consciousness itself. We’re really at a tipping point when there are so many A-level politicians and leaders like Richard Branson and Dr. David Nutt speaking out on the war on drugs and this war on consciousness that it really needs to shift. We need to let go, because it’s a war on people themselves. So hopefully what happened there with Graham’s work and with Rupert Sheldrake’s talks is that it draws more attention to the talks themselves, and more people can discover what these authors and these leaders have to say on the issue.

I think it’s quite negative to think of it as a war. When they say “a war on drugs” or “a war on consciousness,” it creates this black-and-white duality, when in fact what’s happening is this awakening. The subtitle of my Aya film is Awakenings, and really, people are waking up. People are getting informed; people are getting knowledge about these substances and about the way they’ve been used traditionally and how they can help heal ourselves and our connection to the planet. It’s a consciousness awakening, and any media stories will create a gravity around them which is helping this process of awakening happen.

Image by jdrorer, courtesy of Creative Commons license.

Psychedelic Resources

Psychedelic Mushroom Guides

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How to Grow Magic Mushrooms: Step-by-Step
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DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine)

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How to Store DMT
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What Does 5-MeO-DMT Show Us About Consciousness?
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How to Smoke DMT: Processes Explained
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How to Ground After DMT
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How To Get DMT
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How DMT is Made: Everything You Need to Know
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Having Sex on DMT: What You Need to Know
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Does the Human Brain Make DMT? 
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How to Use DMT Vape Pens
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DMT Resources
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Differentiating DMT and Near-Death Experiences
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Microdosing DMT & Common Dosages Explained
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Changa vs. DMT: What You Need to Know
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5-MeO-DMT Guide: Effects, Benefits, Safety, and Legality
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4-AcO-DMT Guide: Benefits, Effects, Safety, and Legality
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LSD Guides (lysergic acid diethylamide)

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Ayahuasca Guides

The Ayahuasca Experience
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Trippy Talk: Meet Ayahuasca with Sitaramaya Sita and PlantTeachers
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The Therapeutic Value of Ayahuasca
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Microdosing Ayahuasca: Common Dosage Explained
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Ayahuasca Makes Neuron Babies in Your Brain
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The Fatimiya Sufi Order and Ayahuasca
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Consideration Ayahuasca for Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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Brainwaves on Ayahuasca: A Waking Dream State
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Cannabis and Ayahuasca: Mixing Entheogenic Plants
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Ayahuasca Retreat 101: Everything You Need to Know to Brave the Brew
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Ayahuasca Helps with Grief
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Ayahuasca Benefits: Clinical Improvements for Six Months
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Ayahuasca Culture: Indigenous, Western, And The Future
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Ayahuasca Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
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Ayahuasca and the Godhead: An Interview with Wahid Azal of the Fatimiya Sufi Order
Wahid Azal, a Sufi mystic of The Fatimiya Sufi Order and an Islamic scholar, talks about entheogens, Sufism, mythology, and metaphysics.


Ayahuasca and the Feminine: Women’s Roles, Healing, Retreats, and More
Ayahuasca is lovingly called “grandmother” or “mother” by many. Just how feminine is the brew? Read to learn all about women and ayahuasca.

Ketamine Guides

What Is the Standard of Care for Ketamine Treatments?
Ketamine therapy is on the rise in light of its powerful results for treatment-resistant depression. But, what is the current standard of care for ketamine? Read to find out.

What Is Dissociation and How Does Ketamine Create It?
Dissociation can take on multiple forms. So, what is dissociation like and how does ketamine create it? Read to find out.

Having Sex on Ketamine: Getting Physical on a Dissociative
Curious about what it could feel like to have sex on a dissociate? Find out all the answers in our guide to sex on ketamine.

Special K: The Party Drug
Special K refers to Ketamine when used recreationally. Learn the trends as well as safety information around this substance.

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

Ketamine vs. Esketamine: 3 Important Differences Explained
Ketamine and esketamine are used to treat depression. But what’s the difference between them? Read to learn which one is right for you: ketamine vs. esketamine.

Guide to Ketamine Treatments: Understanding the New Approach
Ketamine is becoming more popular as more people are seeing its benefits. Is ketamine a fit? Read our guide for all you need to know about ketamine treatments.

Ketamine Treatment for Eating Disorders
Ketamine is becoming a promising treatment for various mental health conditions. Read to learn how individuals can use ketamine treatment for eating disorders.

Ketamine Resources, Studies, and Trusted Information
Curious to learn more about ketamine? This guide includes comprehensive ketamine resources containing books, studies and more.

Ketamine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to ketamine has everything you need to know about this “dissociative anesthetic” and how it is being studied for depression treatment.

Ketamine for Depression: A Mental Health Breakthrough
While antidepressants work for some, many others find no relief. Read to learn about the therapeutic uses of ketamine for depression.

Ketamine for Addiction: Treatments Offering Hope
New treatments are offering hope to individuals suffering from addiction diseases. Read to learn how ketamine for addiction is providing breakthrough results.

Microdosing Ketamine & Common Dosages Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing ketamine.

How to Ease a Ketamine Comedown
Knowing what to expect when you come down from ketamine can help integrate the experience to gain as much value as possible.

How to Store Ketamine: Best Practices
Learn the best ways how to store ketamine, including the proper temperature and conditions to maximize how long ketamine lasts when stored.

How To Buy Ketamine: Is There Legal Ketamine Online?
Learn exactly where it’s legal to buy ketamine, and if it’s possible to purchase legal ketamine on the internet.

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?
How long does ketamine stay in your system? Are there lasting effects on your body? Read to discover the answers!

How Ketamine is Made: Everything You Need to Know
Ever wonder how to make Ketamine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how Ketamine is made.

Colorado on Ketamine: First Responders Waiver Programs
Fallout continues after Elijah McClain. Despite opposing recommendations from some city council, Colorado State Health panel recommends the continued use of ketamine by medics for those demonstrating “excited delirium” or “extreme agitation”.

Types of Ketamine: Learn the Differences & Uses for Each
Learn about the different types of ketamine and what they are used for—and what type might be right for you. Read now to find out!

MDMA / Ecstasy Guides

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

MDMA & Ecstasy Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to MDMA has everything you want to know about Ecstasy from how it was developed in 1912 to why it’s being studied today.

How To Get the Most out of Taking MDMA as a Couple
Taking MDMA as a couple can lead to exciting experiences. Read here to learn how to get the most of of this love drug in your relationship.

Common MDMA Dosage & Microdosing Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing MDMA.

Having Sex on MDMA: What You Need to Know
MDMA is known as the love drug… Read our guide to learn all about sex on MDMA and why it is beginning to makes its way into couple’s therapy.

How MDMA is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make MDMA? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how MDMA is made.

Hippie Flipping: When Shrooms and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Explore the mechanics of hippie flipping and how to safely experiment.

Cocaine Guides

How Cocaine is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make cocaine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how cocaine is made.

A Christmas Sweater with Santa and Cocaine
This week, Walmart came under fire for a “Let it Snow” Christmas sweater depicting Santa with lines of cocaine. Columbia is not merry about it.

Ultimate Cocaine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
This guide covers what you need to know about Cocaine, including common effects and uses, legality, safety precautions and top trends today.

NEWS: An FDA-Approved Cocaine Nasal Spray
The FDA approved a cocaine nasal spray called Numbrino, which has raised suspicions that the pharmaceutical company, Lannett Company Inc., paid off the FDA..

Cannabis Guides

The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Bioavailability
What is bioavailability and how can it affect the overall efficacy of a psychedelic substance? Read to learn more.

Cannabis Research Explains Sociability Behaviors
New research by Dr. Giovanni Marsicano shows social behavioral changes occur as a result of less energy available to the neurons. Read here to learn more.

The Cannabis Shaman
If recreational and medical use of marijuana is becoming accepted, can the spiritual use as well? Experiential journalist Rak Razam interviews Hamilton Souther, founder of the 420 Cannabis Shamanism movement…

Cannabis Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to Cannabis has everything you want to know about this popular substances that has psychedelic properties.

Cannabis and Ayahuasca: Mixing Entheogenic Plants
Cannabis and Ayahuasca: most people believe they shouldn’t be mixed. Read this personal experience peppered with thoughts from a procannabis Peruvian Shaman.

CBD-Rich Cannabis Versus Single-Molecule CBD
A ground-breaking study has documented the superior therapeutic properties of whole plant Cannabis extract as compared to synthetic cannabidiol (CBD), challenging the medical-industrial complex’s notion that “crude” botanical preparations are less effective than single-molecule compounds.

Cannabis Has Always Been a Medicine
Modern science has already confirmed the efficacy of cannabis for most uses described in the ancient medical texts, but prohibitionists still claim that medical cannabis is “just a ruse.”

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