Albert Casasayas teaches Spanish and Latin American Studies at Santa Clara University in California. He admits he’s a newcomer to psychedelia or, according to Juan Carlos Usó, who wrote the book’s prologue, a “neo-convert.” This fresh look at psychedelics is one of the book’s greatest strengths. The book is not intended to be academic, but rather a “middle-ground” perspective, distinct from those deeply involved in the psychedelic community but also beyond the “very biased mainstream media with its anti-drug discourse.”
Speaking via Zoom from California, Albert is preparing for the imminent academic year while continuing to delve into the complex, fascinating, and often paradoxical world of visionary drugs.
The botanical classification only includes two species of ayahuasca, the famous Banisteriopsis caapi and the lesser known Banisteriopsis inebrians, a gnarled vine that is also used, less frequently, to make the Amazonian medicinal concoction. However, traditional indigenous peoples contemplate a wide range of ayahuasca vines, not only in terms of colour and morphology, but also in terms of their effects.
The taxonomy of Amazonian plants by indigenous and mestizo healers and shamans is no less precise or “scientific” than that offered by botany. In fact, more and more researchers are trying to build bridges between traditional knowledge and the western Cartesian vision, two complementary approaches with the same objective: the attainment of knowledge.
“For me, the Amazon is the last frontier, a mysterious universe where the power of nature can be felt like nowhere else on Earth. Here, there is a forest that stretches to infinity and contains a tenth of all existing plant and animal species. It is the world’s largest natural laboratory,” writes Sebastião Salgado in the foreword to his new book ‘Amazonia’, which has just been published by Taschen.
Marc Aixalá, psychotherapist, holotropic breathing facilitator, founder of the ICEERS Support Centre and now also a writer, has just published a book that looks set to become an instant classic: ‘Integración psiquedélica’, published simultaneously in Spanish by Eleftheria and in English by Synergic Press (with translation by Adam Aronovich), was born “as a ‘self-reflection’ to clarify in writing the ideas of what I had learned in these years”, as Marc explains to us in this interview, which you can watch and listen to in full here:
The influential Anglo-Saxon historiography places the first contact between the white man and ayahuasca somewhere between the 19th and mid-20th centuries, that is, during the career of two great scientists: the English naturalist Richard Spruce (1817-1890) and his namesake, the American Richard Evans Schultes (1915-2001), who some consider to be the first white man to take the sacred drink of the Incas and the Amazonian peoples, specifically from the hand of the taita Salvador Chindoy.
However, it is doubtful, to say the least, that the thousands of Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors, missionaries and settlers who lived with, subdued and tried to Christianise the ‘Indians’ did not get to know ayahuasca and other indigenous remedies centuries before the aforementioned scientists.
Ediciones La Llave published in 2021 ‘El viaje sanador’, the first edition in Spanish of a classic book by Claudio Naranjo: ‘The Healing Journey’, published in English in 1973 and, nevertheless, very topical, now that the taboo on therapeutic research with psychedelics, a field in which Naranjo was a pioneer, is finally beginning to be broken.
We spoke to David Barba, editor of La Llave, member of Fundación Beckley Med,and an advanced disciple of Claudio. Through his words, David brings us not only snippets of the master’s wisdom but also his own, after decades of deep personal work with Gestalt, Buddhism and, of course, psychedelics, including ayahuasca.
The journalist, novelist and documentary filmmaker Alfonso Domingo(Madrid, 1959) tried ayahuasca for the first time in the late 1980s in the Amazon. He had a transformative experience, which was followed by a phase of proselytising, trying to convince others to try this marvellous mixture. Now his attitude is very different: the abuses and “spurious uses” that are being made of the sacred drink have made him adopt a much more discreet attitude, close to mutism, with regard to ayahuasca. In transit, he has published a book about his experiences in the Amazon, ‘La serpiente líquida’ (Punto de Vista Editores, 2018) and a documentary of the same name. In them, ayahuasca is not the protagonist, although it is a constant thread running through Domingo’s story, as if it were the snake of the title.
We chatted with Domingo about master plants, extractivist capitalism, the first steps of ayahuasca in Spain… and about Alfonso Graña, the Galician adventurer who was chieftain of the Shuar Indians in the 1930s and about whom we will talk soon.