The Sociology of Ayahuasca Healing

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Ayahuasca is a complex phenomenon.

I don’t just mean the mystery as to how indigenous people of the Amazon figured out how to combine two plants (out of 40,000) whose very unique and specific phytochemistry produces such a profound neurochemical and experiential effect. Nor do I mean the incredibly rich subjective terrain ayahuasca takes us through.  Nor do I just mean the mystery behinds the massive rise in worldwide ayahuasca use.

I mean all of these things as well as the environmental and economic impact of overharvesting ayahuasca to feed a world market; the rampant presence of dangerous charlatans, pretending to be shamans, targetting travelers looking for the brew; and the hundreds of years of genocide, ethnocide, and resource extraction the modern ayahuasca phenomenon sits upon.

Furthermore, I also mean to associate ayahuasca’s complexity with the complex nature of the mind and the personal mind’s enmeshment within the society in which and by which that mind was forged. Combine all these things with the vast use of ayahuasca as an agent of healing mental illness, and we have ourselves quite a complex phenomenon to explore. One that we explore in this episode of Adventures Through The Mind, with our guest, Samantha Retrosi.

A former Olympic athlete, Samantha Retrosi is now a PhD student investigating the sociology of culture, structural inequality, gender politics, and political economy at George Mason University Department of Sociology and is writing her dissertation based on qualitative social research conducted over a five-month period at an Ayahuasca retreat center in Peru.

She is on the show to talk to us about healing with ayahuasca –what that means, how it happens – and the importance of understanding that healing and illness go well beyond the individual and extend into relationships, society, and politics.

We start out exploring her journey from the Olympics into severe bulimia and eventually into working with ayahuasca before we dive into the sociological factors informing the multiple of civilizational crisis we are facing in the modern world and the role ayahuasca might play in a positive healing process.

Featured Image is “Sacrament For The Sacred Dreamers”, courtesy and copyright of Cameron Gray. Check out more of his art here!


Originally posted on jameswjesso.com


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Episode Breakdown

  • From the Olympics to the Jungle
    • The psychological damage of the elite athlete training of children
    • The connection between mental health crisis and concussions (TBI)
    • How her elite training turned into bulimia after the Olympics
    • How ayahuasca saved Samantha from bulimia
  • Psychedelics as a path of empowerment — increasing personal agency
  • The internalization of society and its connection to personal illness
  • The big profit markets of medical treatment and illness
  • Do psychedelic agents have agency?
  • The self-destructive arrogance of deep criticism
  • Samantha’s research at The Temple Of The Way Of Light
    • The 5 main registers of social illness and the 5 main desires people have for healing
  • Is Western society fundamentally traumatic?
  • Developmental trauma comes from beyond the family
  • Re: ayahuasca — What is healing and what exactly are we healing from?
  • The skill of suffering and the consequence of having lost it as a culture
  • The ayahuasca fetish and the risk of an unhealthy fixation on ayahuasca
  • The limitations of personal growth
  • The political influence and potential impact of psychedelics on political identity
  • Is it politically responsible to drink ayahuasca given the historical context of genocide, ethnocide, and resource extraction in the Amazon?
  • What makes the difference between the people who get lost in their own bullshit and those who genuinely heal and become better people
  • The importance of guidance and integration when working with psychedelics
  • It’s not just about our own, individual healing

Relevant Links

More about Samantha Retrosi (Cosmic Sister)

Other Content from Samantha:

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