aya-awakenings

The vine has spread her tendrils across the world and a genuine archaic revival was underway. My bags were packed, South America beckoned, and the ancient mysteries of the rainforest awaited. I wanted in on it…

Rak Razam

rak_razam-photo squsare

I sat down with Rak Razam, the writer, producer, and main subject of the new film Aya: Awakenings, for a 45-minute interview covering everything from the legacy of Terence McKenna to the intense 5-MeO-DMT trip that occurs at the climax of the film.

The documentary, an adaptation of the book of the same name, covers the ayahuasca tourism phenomenon through the lens of Rak’s personal experiences in Peru.

 

The Interview

Stream it here or download the mp3.

Rak describes his film as an etheogenic journey for the audience:

There’s this synesthesia that happens in the film, where because of the narration taking you on the emotional left-brain journey, and the soundscapes and the visuals, it hits all the right spots of our sensory modalities and triggers a shamanic reaction.

If this is your introduction to Aya: Awakenings, check out the enticing trailer below for a whiff of its heady brew.

 

Prefer text over audio? The highlights of the interview are printed below, with minor changes for brevity and grammar.

 

Terence McKenna’s Distributed Consciousness

Art by Tim Parish

Art by Tim Parish

“Here’s my theory on McKenna. [...] His memes are viral. He has so much content that survives his physical form on the Internet that I believe Terence has become a distributed consciousness. […] He carved out the paradigm and his language has influenced a whole generation—or two, now—of psychonautical explorers. Even if we don’t realize it…we’re still basically riffing off the territory that McKenna first sketched out. [...]

You have memes, and then you have clusters of memes called memeplexes, and memeplexes are nodal points where aggregations of ideas form together to form an ‘-ism.’ And McKenna has really anchored the psychedelic ‘-ism’ and the tryptamine experience, and helped popularize the ayahuasca experience all through the 80s and 90s.

LSD opened the mind in the 60s. Ecstasy opened the heart in the 80s. And a generation later, ayahuasca is connecting to spirit.

[..He is] like an anchor in linear time for something which is beyond linear time. His memeplexes and his clusters of ideas help anchor the psychedelic experience and the entheogenic experience in a way that has really laid the bedrock for this generation of explorers.”

 

DMT and Ayahuasca Sacraments

It was my most sacred experience and I offer it up, I offer it back to the tribe. It’s me and God and you, the audience.

“DMT is well-known by some tribes in the Amazon and is still in use to this day, and is no less a sacrament than ayahuasca. It’s just that there’s been this synergy between the Western desire for reconnection [...] and a power plant like ayahuasca as the catalyst. And this romanticism around the quasi-religious nature of the vine – the madre, the mother, the feminine energy of it, the healing of it – has catapulted ayahuasca to prominence. But other tribes throughout the Amazon do use DMT and it is a sacrament.”

“LSD opened the mind in the 60s. A generation later, ecstasy opened the heart in the 80s. And a generation later, [...] ayahuasca is connecting to spirit. And we wouldn’t be where we are now if we hadn’t gone through the previous psychedelic culture generations. It’s wave after wave.”

A photo of the boiling ayahuasca brew taken by Rak Razam.

A photo of the boiling ayahuasca brew taken by Rak Razam.

 

5-MeO-DMT — “The Experiment at La Rosacita”

In the climax of the film, Razam smokes 5-MeO-DMT in the heart of the jungle while an EEG skullcap reads his brainwaves into a computer. He calls it “The Experiment of La Rosacita” in reference to the name of the shaman’s lodge where the experience took place.

La Rosacita, the home of "gringo shaman" Ron Wheelock

La Rosacita, the home of “gringo shaman” Ron Wheelock

There are many, many different levels on normal DMT. All of those feel like the beach, and 5-MeO-DMT is deep into the ocean.

“In 2006 when I first met [curandero Ron Wheelock], he was working with a Western scientist who’s called, in the film, Dr. Juan. Dr. Juan was from the University of Washington and his specialty was QEEG, which was Quantitative Electroencephalography scans. He put a skullcap on [you] and he’d wire the skullcap with gel and electrodes, and the skullcap would be connected with a bus cord with the computer, and the computer had software to read your brainwave states.

So Ron and Juan were teaming up in this synergy of science and shamanism, the archaic and futuristic. [...] Ron was still holding space as the shaman, cleansing the area and holding space for people to go deeper. It’s still a very sacred, shamanistic ceremony – but it was smokable 5-MeO-DMT.”

 

The Super Hadron Collider of Hyperspace

“Now 5-MeO-DMT is a denser experience than normal n,n-DMT or some of the other tryptamines. [...] DMT can take you to many different astral geographies, there may be a mapping of the DNA or some genetic memory, or you can go into different levels of hyperspace and [explore] a sort of alien language. [...] There are entities, there are geometric insectoids, [...] there are many, many different levels on normal DMT. All of those feel like the beach, and 5-MeO-DMT is deep into the ocean.

It’s the archetypal white-light tunnel. When you go in that deep, you’re going into a giant, organic, white-light, womb-like space.

It’s the traditional, classic archetypal white-light tunnel. My linguistic shorthand for it is [...] a Super Hadron Collider of Hyperspace. You don’t encounter any of the entities or any of those lower levels. You’re going about, let’s say, twenty levels in. When you go in that deep, you’re going into a giant, organic, white-light, womb-like space. But it’s definitely a tunnel and there’s a roundness to it.

I went in after having done a dozen or so ayahuasca journeys and was very vibrationally clean. I did the meditation going in, I had an eye mask on me and we did a ten-minute alpha meditation to bring my brainwaves down [...] I had no resistance. I was fully being, I was present in a meditative sense.”

Dr. Juan affixes the EEG skullcap to Rak Razam.

Dr. Juan affixes the EEG skullcap to Rak Razam.

 

Bungee Jumping Into the Godhead

My whole being was disassembled and read like a laser in a CD drive.

“What I was experiencing was pure presence. I was merging, I was the drop rejoining the ocean. […] But in that white, womb-like Godhead of oceanic vibration, [...] my consciousness and my whole being [...] was being opened and disassembled and read like a laser in a CD drive. It felt like that whole tunnel was the drive reading my vibrational wavefront and revealing me. I was slow-motion hurtling into it, just bungee jumping into the Godhead. Like astronauts when you see them floating along in space, but in inner space, into this white-light tunnel.

The blessing was that the only thing that remained of my consciousness was the journalistic left-brain bit which was witnessing and deconstructing. Taking it in and having no other thoughts but what the experience was. Sorting it, putting language to it. [...]

It was relentlessness of Being, so all I could do was be in the moment and get it. Because I was open to it, [...] I emotionally, intuitively got it – and I got that it was basically God. Or whatever label you want to give it. I like the Sufi term Godhead. [...] Call it the Super Hadron Collider of Hyperspace if you like, or whatever – if you’ve been there, you’ll know.

I was the drop rejoining the ocean. I was slow-motion hurtling into it, just bungee jumping into the Godhead.

I was also witnessing around the circumference of the tunnel very slight fluctuations of the white. It was like in a snowstorm, there was light blues and yellows but very very slight – energy fluctuations that were basically alive. They were like subprogram routines of the deeper Godhead – could call them angels I guess – and they were reading me. [...] My whole wavefront was cascading off me and it was like they were reading my memories. I was being read by the Godhead.

The more I opened to it, the more it filled me. But it didn’t just fill me from outside, it revealed that it was me all along. [...] In that moment there was this total samadhi recognition that I was It and It was me.

It’s unique. Nothing like it has been done in Western cinema before.

It was my most sacred experience and I offer it up, I offer it back to the tribe. It is in the film. [...] We call it “The Experiment at La Rosacita.” It’s unique. [...] Nothing like it has been done in Western cinema before. [...] It’s me and God and you, the audience.”

 

 

Psychedelic Elders and the Legacy of “Recreational” Drug Use

“We are still developing a framework in twenty-first century entheogenic and psychedelic culture for initiation and elder guidance. We do have elders in our culture now who lived through the 60s. They had to invent it from scratch.

This whole idea of escapism or ‘recreation’ – that was basically a whitewash because it was a political threat to the Establishment. Because the LSD revolution was a revolution of consciousness. So we’ve been left with this legacy of these things only being used as recreation because they don’t want to give us any other linguistic framework. [...] Ultimately even things made in a lab are part of nature. Nature has made us. We’re all embedded within a natural matrix. [...]

We need for people to step up and explore these dimensions as psychonauts or shamanauts, to map the emotional terrain, and to bring back something of value.

We do have an intergenerational relationship with LSD after all this time. It’s a very accessible sacrament, if used sacramentally.

I encourage people to find the others, to set up their entheogenic or psychedelic support groups, and to work on these things. It’s the work – ayahuasca’s often called “the work” because it’s not recreation. You vomit, you purge, and you do a lot of psychic work on yourself. [...]

Even within what we might consider recreational drug use, I believe that we have a need for people to step up and explore these dimensions as psychonauts or shamanauts, and to map the territory, to map the emotional terrain, and to bring back something of value.”

 

Communicating the Ineffable

When I ask about the difficulty of communicating his experience of communing with the Godhead, Rak replies:

The time has never been better to “language-ize” the translinguistic experience.

“I liken it to levels of the bardo, to use an Eastern philosophy phrase. This is McKenna’s riff, that these realms are translinguistic and we need language for them. It’s not impossible to describe them, but we need to polish and perfect our ability to “language-ize” the egoless states, the inner realms. [...] That was my joy, actually, my joy and my privilege to do so in the book and in the film. [...]

aya book 180We’ve had a whole generation and a half of trippers and trip reports and dissemination of these spaces to draw upon. [...] We now have a culture which can understand not just old school things like upload / download; we can understand mesh networks, we can understand parallel processing, we can understand cloud computing. All of those are getting very close to how nature herself works with consciousness in the species. So we have an enhanced vocabulary already to describe those paradigms and those systems, and to bundle that to the entheogenic experience. So I believe the time has never been better to “language-ize” the translinguistic experience. [...]

In the book, I anchored so many translinguistic experiences, it became second [nature]. In the really deep ego-dissolving experiences, you can’t describe it – say, the 5-MeO-DMT presence of the Godhead – but you can linguistically sculpt around it. [...]What happens is you cluster towards an emotional truth without being able to name the thing itself. Language does fall off the translinguistic like water – it flows around it, but you can still carve out a channel. I really encourage people to find the words. You can sculpt with words, sculpt the experience and communicate the truth of the experience even though the experience itself is beyond words.

You can sculpt with words and communicate the truth of the experience even though the experience itself is beyond words.

My favorite analogy for this is deep sea diving. You can go on the top of the water, you can go just under the water, you can scuba dive. You can deep scuba dive if you’ve got the air tanks. And if you’ve got the tanks filled with nitrogen you can adjust what you’re intaking and you can go miles down into deep-sea crevices where no human has ever explored before. That’s basically what we’re doing. So by sharing the sign posts and the maps, you can prepare in advance.

 

For more information and to buy a copy of the film, head to aya-awakenings.com.