Fed up with his 9-to-5 engineering job, Armand Daigle quit, joined a fledgling media production company, and wrote a memoir called Thank Earth You about his personal transformation. His story contains two incredible psychedelic experiences, one with mushrooms and one with ayahuasca, which propelled him to continue in his new direction. Armand has a way of revealing both the deeply personal and deeply psychedelic in a compelling, readable, and very funny way. Anyone who has questioned the rat race and the trappings of modern culture will relate.
I’ll be publishing two full chapters from Thank Earth You in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here’s an interview with author Armand Daigle. You can buy the paperback here, and read the first chapter for free on Armand’s website.
At the beginning of the book, you’re dissatisfied with your engineering job, “choked red by the chains of cubical slavery.” But you reach a breaking point, quit your job, and chart a new course. What triggered such a dramatic change? How did psychedelics figure into that decision?
Over my short engineering career, I saw nice, young engineers grow irritable, impatient, and any care—outside of small monetary gains—that was once in them had all but left after just four or five years. How prevalent this was in the various facilities I visited, especially in my last year, had a lasting effect on me. I saw the crushing power particular jobs can have on people, and I wanted no part of it.
In 2011, I formed a bond with a dear friend that evolved from talking over beers to living together to studying the same books to, not two years later, participating in the ayahuasca ceremony of Thank Earth You. In that time, we found the same appreciation and wonder for the unseen phenomena around us, both scientifically and psychedelically. Moreover, we saw that psychedelics would be powerful, global tools in the future, but there was and is this mountain of work to be done in correctly nurturing their transition back to mainstream life. And we both wanted to be a part of this movement.
The sharing of these experiences gives us a framework, a thread to follow, to achieve resonance in one’s grasp of reality or to learn about something one hasn’t experienced. Sharing prepares, teaches, informs; it validates.
My first psychedelic encounter (psilocybin) was not the most powerful, but my earliest awareness of that deeper world unfolding for me will always be salient. An orange sat in a glass bowl in front of me, and after a while, Aldous Huxley’s “reducing valve” to my brain opened just a few turns; instantly, I lived in a more creative realm. All kinds of words, concepts, and views that were once separate from the orange were conjured and became interlaced in its meaning. The entire world lay there in that bowl. After you see that possibility, that warm and reassuring connectivity, decisions become simpler. Coupled with the advances in technology, the DIY movement, TED Talks, Peter Diamandis and his future of abundance—I couldn’t help but see this century being one in which anybody could freely achieve her/his dreams.
I had been frugal, too; I saved enough monetarily so that a career change could be a slow and steady process. And I had a very supportive group of friends. All this is to say, it wasn’t an easy decision by any means… but it wasn’t all that hard either.
The book describes two key psychedelic experiences in your life, occurring within one week of each other. Did you have much experience with these substances before that? Why do you think these particular experiences were so profound and life-changing?
This agreement on the appropriateness of mouth noises by the collective consciousness may offer a glimpse into how our ancestors first developed language.
As far as the mushroom experience, I was at a psychologically hungry time, maybe the most I’ve ever been, and I was completely free as well: I had just been accepted into a progressive, new film company, was single with no children, and was ready to release five years of stress and energy from cubicle life. “Come on, Revelation, give me all you got.” I was also beginning to fine-tune set and setting and was learning how to work with mushrooms on a different level. The pack I was with and the reading of the armadillo medicine card were crucial as well.
In regards to ayahuasca, it’s so inherently potent once you cross the very trying, initial barrier that I think it would be hard not to have at least one life-changing vision. I went into the ceremony with little specific knowledge, which may have assisted in my surrender to the brew, but I had the specific intention of letting the hidden beauty in the world come out so that I may share it…. And then it flowered for me, however briefly. Ingesting the “power-ups” at the campfire was the most intense night I’ve ever had, but for an hour of the ayahuasca ceremony, man, the sum of all my experiences and memories was mainlined into my heart and I could do nothing but face and process them in the context of all the outer brilliance and tragedy in this world.
It’s often said that if you haven’t had a psychedelic experience, no words can communicate it to you. Yet in trip reports, forums, and your psychedelic memoir, we keep trying! How closely can language map the landscape of one’s consciousness? Is it important to try to capture these experiences and share them, or is it futile?
It is extremely important to keep capturing and sharing the psychedelic experience, like any other phenomenon. I can try to convey what it feels like to hit a fastball with the “sweet spot” of the barrel, and how much better and solid and clean it is compared to the horrible, hitting-your-funny-bone-like vibration sent down your fingers to your elbow when the ball contacts the middle or the end of the bat. But the individual events and the difference cannot fully be understood until you feel both firsthand. However, the sharing of these experiences gives us a framework, a thread to follow, to achieve resonance in one’s grasp of reality or to learn about something one hasn’t experienced yet or will never be able to experience. Sharing prepares, teaches, informs; it validates.
The sum of all my experiences and memories was mainlined into my heart and I could do nothing but face and process them in the context of all the brilliance and tragedy in this world.
In terms of how closely language can map consciousness, we’ve made some great attempts in the present, but publically-sanctioned psychedelic research can only aid in closing the gap. And as said before, language evolves with consciousness, so there may always be a gap—language may never catch up to expanding consciousness—but the dialogue will always benefit the global community, along with informing those that have not partaken yet or those that are not able to partake.
Another key component to sharing these experiences is using the creativity and expanded view obtained in the psychedelic realm to advance industry.
Many people, especially those who participate in traditional ceremony such as ayahuasca, believe that the spirits or entities they encounter are real, autonomous beings. What are your thoughts on ‘La Madre’ and other spirits or ‘plant teachers’?
A few months ago, I was between sleep and wakefulness, and I swore that in the corner of my eye a tall figure stood at the edge of my bed. I was scared and waited a few seconds while the figure remained, then, once I got the courage to fix my eyes on him, he vanished…. I think there is some truth to the central concept of Stephen King’s The Shining—that inanimate objects and places take on the energies of the previous inhabitants, the residues of past souls. It’s the same concept when people claim they can taste the love put into food by a cook. Keeping in this vein, the earth transfers energies to the plants and fungus that grow from it, and a select few act as a conduit from the earth to whatever ingests them. And thinking of how Cormac McCarthy often alluded to war waiting for man in certain landscapes like desert wastelands, the way Peru’s terrain was formed might have made the jungle a special healing and teaching energy point of the earth. Banisteriopsis caapi then figured out how to draw from its power, and “La Madre de la ayahuasca” could be a conglomeration of the different women inhabiting the Peruvian jungle over its later history.
Why would we not tune into these channels to help us dissolve boundaries and change our world for the better?
Near the end of the book you talk about how psychedelics will change the world and facilitate the convergence of all fields of study. That’s quite a claim! Could you elaborate on that?
In every field, innovators have drawn inspiration from nature and used it as a rough guide to help design various components or structures, physically, mentally, socially, etc. You see it everywhere: early flight designers looked at the wings of birds. Plant burrs inspired Velcro. I’m a firm believer that, with the right precursory knowledge and an altered or expanded mind, one can look at the complexities of a tree long enough and trigger a thought that could lead to a cure for cancer. And entheogenic plants and fungi have grown in the dirt of this planet—the same dirt that has sprouted all life as we know it—absorbing and witnessing millions of years of information that homo sapiens hasn’t. As edible links to that long chain, how could we not learn from these gracious gifts? Why would we not tune into these channels to help us dissolve boundaries and change our world for the better?
As we advance in quantum mechanics, spirituality, medicine, nanotechnology, psychology, etc., I think a holistic approach only makes sense. It’s the fractal behavior of nature: as above, so below. On the cosmic fabric, all points big and small are related and inform each other. And psychedelics can serve as the lubricant, the black light, the magnifying glass. But most importantly, the psychedelic experience can uncover those compassionate parts of our brains that need to be at the forefront as the power of the individual exponentially increases over this century. Imagine if 50 to 100 of the world’s most powerful people were given multiple sessions of entheogens, especially ayahuasca, in traditional, spiritually-guided settings…. The world would change overnight: Countries would listen to each other. Money wouldn’t be the enormous wall it is now between us and the salvation of our planet. Dogs and cats would live in harmony. Empathy would rule.
Thanks Armand! Readers, tune in next week for a free chapter of Thank Earth You.
Liked this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed to get much more!