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Rocketship into the Void: On Aya Awakenings

Watch an online screening of Aya Awakenings tomorrow, January 8, and join in for a live Q&A session with Rak Razam, Dennis McKenna, Mitch Schultz, Richard Meech, and director Tim Parish. Click here to purchase tickets. Be sure to use the coupon code “AYA” when checking out for a discount (this offer ends January 7 at midnight PCT). 

With his book Aya: A Shamanic Odyssey, and his new documentary Aya Awakenings, Rak Razam has successfully redefined what it means to be a “gonzo” journalist. Whereas the early psychedelic authors (Leary, Thompson, etc.), managed to get caught up in the thralldom of celebrity status, often publically displaying extraordinary egos that were in stark contrast to the supposedly unitive ego dissolving experiences of the psyched out 60’s, Australian citizen Razam displays a rare vulnerability and humility that I have been honored to witness in both his work as well as in personal, time traveling Skype conversations. Rak utilizes a cutting edge hands on approach to entheogenic research, placing him amongst the premier visionary writers of his generation. His new documentary Aya Awakenings is purely the product of this new wave 21st century post-internet, entheodelic culture.

This point is best demonstrated in the beginning of the hyper intense 3rd act, when Razam straps on a cyberpunk-esque helmet that scans his brain as he is “surfing God’s wave”while under a potent 5-MeO-DMT concoction—a  rare entheogen that may be organically extracted from the even rarer bufo alvarius toad.2 The viewer sees the interior of the visual psychedelic phantasmagoria as it cascades into infinite waves of gorgeous next level Final Cut fractal magicka. Meanwhile, the exterior of Rak’s frantically bewildered mortal form explodes into the primal ur-language of shamanic glossolalia.

This 15 minute synthetic, rapid-fire, out of body experience scene, more in line with the tripped out transhuman glitch of Schpongle, is in stark contrast to the typical naturalistic group setting of Ayahuasca, that is something more akin to Beethoven in both organic length and slow building collective instrumental orgasm. The techno-savvy, pop culture rich poetics of Razam’s narration, combined with the dreamy Peruvian photographs mold the film into a slickly edited psychedelic music video—which is in some ways the intended opposite of Jan Kounen’s stark European realism in Other Worlds, another excellent ayahuasca documentary released in the same year as his fictional movie Renegade (2004). These two films also incorporate intense experimental digital visual recreations of the kaleidoscopic spirits that inhabit the sacred vine.

This crucial contrast of 5-MeO-DMT and ayahuasca represents the current cutting edge in daring entheogenic research underway by Razam and others for a forthcoming volume on DMT, and is also mentioned in James Oroc’s mind-blowing book Trypatmine Palace.

Oroc controversially believes that 5-MeO-DMT is superior to nearly every other known entheogen around, on the basis that it bypasses the familiar astral like phenomena of intense translucent visions in favor for “taking a rocketship into the void.”3

This is in line with how Pablo Amaringo eloquently describes the world in the mystical three world cosmology in the film, extending from matter to the realm of pure spirit. Oroc asserts that with 5-MeO-DMT you skip the 2nd visual level altogether to go straight to the boss man G/d (as he playfully redefines), who is hanging out close to the edge of the 3rd causal plane, in the zero point field of pure non-dual Spirit, beyond the Great Mind itself.

Oroc also provides evidence that 5-MeO-DMT may date back to ancient antiquity, highlighting the influence the artistic depiction of the venomous glands on the sacred bufo alvarius has had on Mayan and Inca art, which stretches back to the conservative estimate of 2,000 BCE.4

Being an immense fan of Aya: A Shamanic Odyssey, I was of course saddened by the necessary editorial omissions that could not make the film, such as the ghostly Maccu Picchu encounters, or the nightmare-esque mis-fire on hooking up with the wrong shaman in the alien-like back alleys of Peru.

Nonetheless, Razam’s shockingly intimate and spiritually rejuvenating shamanic artifact remains the most stimulating multimedia account of the sacred medicine to date. It is simultaneously critical of the inevitable globalization of ayahuasca and the imperialistic tourism of Peruvian shamanic culture—while also embracing its positive medicinal and non-addictive spiritual application in the potential future of Western based plant medicine healing.

While Aya Awakenings may not have any definitive answers about the future entheodelic culture, the probing questions it poses, especially to the younger generation, will most certainly influence the underground counter-culture, visionary art, and the mainstream in the many years to come.

1 Aya: A Shamanic Odyssey, p. 115.
2 It should be mentioned that while 5-MeO-DMT was legal at the time of Razam’s ingestion in 2006, it has now become a class I illegal substance, at least in the United States.
3 Tryptamine Palace: 5-MeO-DMT and the Sonoran Desert Toad p. 81
4 Tryptamine Palace p. 108. 

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