This living document will grow, over time, to encompass as much material and books as I have the energy to review. I invite you to offer information about books on this subject you have read in the comments below and I will do my best to include it in this document.
Spirit Plant Medicine are those plants, or combinations thereof, which possess naturally occurring substances that, when ingested by humans and other nature beings, provide a catalyst to non-ordinary realities. That is, just as you might have guessed, a gateway to wonderous visions, feelings, and insights unattainable by most other means. Although, we understand that there exists synthetic variations of these naturally occurring substances, we are speaking specifically about plants and substances which occur naturally, in nature.
To all of you who have used synthetic equivalents like psilocybin and MDMA, or other substances which were created in a laboratory, like LSD, I invite you along for the ‘ride’, as this document applies equally to you. To align this subject properly with the delicate meanderings of those individuals who are spearheading the use of MDMA and synthetic psilocybin for the treatment of metal illness, I will refer herein to all of these substances as psychedelic medicine.
With the resurgence and, dare I say, acceptance of psychedelic medicine in the political and medical forums there has been a plethora of books written on this subject. A nod goes to all of those forerunners who caught the psychedelic wave of the 50s and 60s and went on to write about it. We will be looking at those books as well.
A caveat – The books I have chosen are a direct reflection on my own healing journey and my quest for True Happiness and Unconditional Love. I have suffered a lifetime of depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, memory loss, and mild dyslexia, among other things and these books where specifically selected to help me address these many and varied adverse conditions. Your mileage may vary.
So, where to begin?
I have always loved Carlos Castaneda’s first 3 books; THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN; A YAQUI WAY OF KNOWLEDGE, A SEPARATE REALITY, and JOURNEY TO IXTLAN. These books were written while Carlos was an Anthropology student at the University of California. Carlos writes about his training in shamanism while under the tutelage of the Yaqui ‘man of knowledge’ Don Juan. As we follow Carlos on his journey to enlightenment we are gifted many precious drops of wisdom, some of which I have used.
Although it is now largely agreed upon that these were actually works of fiction, these books are nevertheless beautifully written and full of adventure in psychedelic medicine and ancient wisdom.
If you have not already read any of these books, do yourself a favour and grab any one of them from your local library, snuggle up with a big cushion, and follow Carlos into the beautiful and mysterious non-ordinary landscape of psychedelic medicine. Authentic or not, they are an exciting and captivating read.
Fast forward to 2001, when Dr. Rick Strassman’s wrote DMT The Spirit Molecule. This bold, dynamic, and radical work examined the clinical use of DMT for the treatment of non-treatable PTSD when most of of the medical community was still afraid to talk about anything psychedelic for fear of losing their license. The war on drugs had left its indelible mark upon society and a potential of 50 years of healing was lost to politics and poor judgement.
This captivating book is full of case studies of patients who were given DMT intravenously and were then assisted by Rick and a qualified nurse throughout their healing journeys. A sizable portion of this book examines the history of psychedelic medicine, the use of same for treatment of alcoholism and other stubborn psychological ailments, the eventual abolishment of all such practices, and the underground movement which persevered. An entire chapter is dedicated to a description of the hoops Rick had to jump through to legally acquire and then use (human grade) DMT for the treatment of PTSD. Fascinating.
DMT, one of the ingredients of Ayahuasca which provides the light in this powerful healing psychedelic medicine.
In 2008 Dr. Gabor Mate wrote a monumental book entitled In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts– A Close Encounter With Addiction. In this work Dr. Mate examines the origins of our addictions to; substances, sex, shopping, or anything else which we are driven to repeat but which provide no benefit to us.
Dr. Mate is a retired physician who was practicing medicine on the lower east side of downtown Vancouver. As such, he is an authority on this subject and is routinely asked to speak to audiences all over North America. On a more comic note, Dr. Mate cites his own addiction to Classical Music CDs on which he spends a small fortune yet never listens to.
If you are plagued with one or more addictions, and who isn’t, you would be well advised to acquire a copy of this book; be prepared for an eye opening revelation.
One of my more recent acquisitions, on the literary front, is a book entitled Psychedelic Healing – The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development written by Dr. Neal M. Goldsmith Ph.D.
In this book, Dr. Goldsmith establishes a concrete connection between psychological healing and the spiritual (psychedelic) experience.
Dr. Goldsmith says, “We call people neurotic when, in reality, it’s not a medical illness they are suffering from, but spiritual immaturity. We must redefine spirituality, too, not as supernatural, but as simply the natural unfolding toward the wise, mature end of the normal curve of human development psychology.”
This is in-line with what Snatam Kaur says about raising our internal vibration, through song, to be inline with the vibration of the Universe. And, based on the law of attraction, healing must thereby occur.
If you needed any support on your inner healing journey then this is a great book to read.
“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” George Santayana, philosopher.
Beginning in 1970, after my 2 year stint in the regular Canadian Armed Forces (another story altogether), I spent the next 8 years self medicating with all manner of substances; LSD, various forms of Cannabis, Crystal Meth, Angel Dust, masculine and peyote, MDA, etc. Interestingly enough this list does not include alcohol as I never cared for the ‘high’ one got from drinking booze. Although these were among the more ‘trendy’ substances I ingested, I was not above drinking cough syrup or taking Valium, codeine, or any of the other prescriptions in my mothers’ possession.
I tried to stay ‘high’ because I was mentally ill and I often felt a better inebriated. In addition, I sincerely believed that ingesting psychedelics would help me find a way out of my misery. However, these limitless Segways out of my ordinary reality did nothing to help find a way out of my sickness.
It wasn’t until 45 years later, while on my spiritual healing journey, that I discovered that LSD and other psychedelics, when administered in the proper setting, with the proper guidance can, indeed, help the patient overcome addictions and other metal illness. Enter Dr. Albert Hofmann and his book, LSD My Problem Child, originally published in German in 1979.
Dr. Hofmann was a German chemist who, in 1938, synthesized LSD while working for Sandos Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland. He was working on a ‘circulatory and raspatory stimulant (an analeptic)’ but, when his discovery of lysergic acid diethylamide 25 proved to be a ‘failure’ he would shelf it for another 5 years. For the next 5 years Dr. Hofmann considered LSD 25 ‘rather uninteresting’. Imagine that! And, it wasn’t until 1943 when Dr. Hofmann, again, synthesizing LSD, that he happened to get some on his skin. This led to the famous ‘bicycle ride’ incident.
This books goes into detail about how LSD 25 was being used, before Nixon declared ‘the War on Drugs’, to successfully treat psychological illness such as alcohol addiction. ‘The War on Drugs’ is now considered an abysmal failure, with more people obtaining and using illegal substances than ever and the suppliers of these substances making more money than ever. Never mind the 50 odd years that has been lost and all the poor souls that have suffered needlessly because legal psychedelic medicine and treatment were not available.
I have had the distinct pleasure of listening to Dennis McKenna speak both on line and in person. Dennis, brother of Terence, is a capable orator and an accomplished ethnopharmacologist who has been focusing on plan psychedelic medicine for over 40 years.
In his new autobiographical book entitled “Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss” Dennis lays out his life with and without Terence in some personal experiences which may surprise you, as they did me.
“Here, for the first time, Dennis gives his account of the ideas, adventures, and anguishes he and Terence shared – and some they didn’t. ‘Surely our lives were destined to be unique in many ways, as all lives are,’ he writes. ;And yet I’ve also realized how much Terence and I were the products of our age, our minds and dreams shaped by the cultural influences that touched so many.” This sweeping account will appeal to anyone interested in Terence McKenna, of course, but ultimately it is the story of two men, and two fates, that only Dennis McKenna can tell.
Dennis speaks regularly at our very own Spirit Plant Medicine Conference held annually on the grounds of the UBC campus.
Christopher M Bache, Ph.D. is another entheogenic traveler who is destined to live on in the chronicles of history as a forerunner in the direct application of psychedelic medicine for the purpose of gaining spiritual enlightenment. ‘Subjecting’ himself to 73 high dosage LSD (600mics) journeys, Christopher puts to task the will of the spirit in his unquestionable desire to ‘find god’. In his monumental book ‘LSD and the Mind of the Universe – Diamonds From Heaven‘ Dr. Bache examines, in excruciating detail, his entheogenic experiences.
“Journey alongside Professor Bache as he touches the living intelligence of our universe – an intelligence that both embraced and crushed him – and demonstrates how direct experience of the divine can change your perspective on core issues of philosophy and religion. Chronicling his 73 sessions, the author reveals the spiral of death and rebirth the took him through the collective unconscious into the creative intelligence of the universe. Making a powerful case for the value of psychedelically induced spiritual experience.”
Christopher can regularly be heard speaking to a large group of guests of the SPMC, held annually on the UBC campus.
A truly fascinating, albeit sometimes difficult to read, account of most of the entheogenic journeys of someone who has ‘been there’ and ‘done that.’
For anyone who is interested in a book on the practices and benefits of Ayahuasca, written by an insider, there is ‘The Shaman & Ayahuasca – Journeys to Sacred Realms.‘ Written by Don Jose Campos, this extraordinary book shows a way toward awakening our respect for the natural world, and thus for ourselves.
“Internationally respected Peruvian shaman Don Jose Campos introduces the practices and benefits of Ayahuasca, the psycoactive plant brew that, according to the latest finds, has been use for healing for as long as 70,000 years. Ayahuasca is called a plant teacher because it can heal physical, psychological, and emotional blocks. Through vivid visions, Ayahuasca takes the patient to other realms and dimensions, providing profound insights into human beings’ true nature and place in the cosmos. This book also includes the last interview (and the artwork) of internationally renowned visionary painter and former shaman Pablo Amaringo.”
Then there is the more specific account of all things Shamanism in John Matthews book entitled ‘The Shamanism Bible – The definitive guide to Shamanic thought and practice.’
“This evocative guide to shamanism takes you on a fascinating journey from its origins in Europe, North America, Siberia and the Artic Circle through to contemporary rituals to try today.”
Largely a very interesting ‘picture book’ there is little to no attempt made to explain the meaning or the heart of the practice of shamanism. For that, you will have to attend an apprenticeship.
Before venturing off, we must acknowledge Michael Harner’s book ‘The Way of the Shaman.’
“This classis on shamanism pioneered the modern shamanic renaissance/ It is the foremost resource and reference on Shamanism.”
Included is a detailed explanation of Michael’s expereince in shamanic initiation in 1956 on the slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes with the Jivaro [Hee-varo] Indians. Noteworthy, Michael dedicates a goodly portion of his book to the practices of the shamanic practitioner. Practices such as ‘The Journey to Restore Power’ and ‘Extracting Harmful Intrusions’ are explained in great detail to the end of providing a teachers account of these proceedures.
‘Be Hear Now‘, the first book written by Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert) was originally published in 1971 when, incidentally, I was introduced to Ram Dass and meditation. Now, in it’s 43rd printing (!) and available on Amazon.ca, this book has changed little since its first edition if only to add a mountain of interesting history and useful references.
It begins “Journey… THE TRANSFORMATION… Dr. Richard Alpert, Ph.D. into BABA RAM DASS”
“It’s easy to dismiss Be Here Now as the relic of a whacked-out ’60s acid tripper. Paging through the center section of the book, with its inch-high print and psychedelic drawings, you come across lines like:Magic Theatre
For madmen only
price of admission
Then you turn to the first page of the book, and you are suddenly sucked into the story of a Harvard psychiatrist who has reached the pinnacle of success, discovers the mind-expanding powers of acid, and ends up trooping through India with a 23-year-old holy man from Laguna Beach, California. “
Haven’t experienced Ayahuasca and want to get you feet wet, you can do worse than to pick up a copy of Chris Kilham’s book ‘The Ayahuasca Test Pilots Handbook – The Essential Guide to Ayahuasca Journeying.’ Also known as the Medicine Hunter, Chris scours the world looking for psychotropic and other medicinal plants.
Chris is very active in the virtual psychedelic and other Spirit Plant Medicine spaces as well and offering routine talks at forums such as the SPMC. I have had the pleasure of rubbing elbows (literally) with Chris as we were partaking in the spirit of Santa Maria in preparation of a sacred cannabis ceremony in front of one of the great gathering halls of UBC.
The next book The Heart of the Shaman, ‘takes you on a deep and meaningful transformative journey.’ The core group of fundamental principals may be intuitive to many readers; however, the mechanics or implementation of same may be elusive. When one walks The Medicine Path these principals become more obvious and second nature. Here they are now –
- Dreaming the world into existence
- The 3 Giveaways
- – Speak Your Truth
- – See Beauty Everywhere
- – Love
- Everything has light
The author, Alberto Villadom, speaks about his encounter with the shaman of the Andes and what they taught him about the history of the Inka civilization and the Spanish Conquistadores. I was surprised to read that the shamen do not hate the Spanish Conquistadores but, rather, they appreciate what was taught to them.
If you are far enough along your Medicine Path then you will surely enjoy this read and the wonderful things this book teaches you.
Elemental Shaman by Omar W. Rosales is a true and engrossing account of one man’s journey into the world of four shamanic traditions: Toltec, Cherokee, Maya, and Buddhist.
“In his travels around the globe, Rosales witnesses the powerful channeled spirit Nino Fidencio, receives messages and healing from a Toltec shaman, and experiences a dramatic soul retrieval from a Cherokee spiritwalker. Rosales travels to Guatemala, where he meets a Mayan high priestess, or a’j’r’ij, and the secret brotherhood called cofradias, whose mission is to guard Maximon, the last living Mayan god. Rosales’s last journey is to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, where he spends time with a holy man.”
Awakening to the Spirit World – The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation by Sandra Ingerman & Hank Wesselman is both an explanation of shamanism and how this ancient homage to spirit is relevant today and a ‘how to’ book on how one can journey to the hidden worlds to connect with their helping spirits.
‘The word Shaman means “the one who sees in the dark.” To practice shamanism is to open your vision to a world that is hidden from normal view and to enter the deeper reality of the unseen universe. With Awakening to the Spirit World, Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman bring together a circle of renowned Western shamanic elders to present a comprehensive manual on the oldest and most reliable human technology for accessing the realms of spirit.
The core of shamanism is the experience of direct revelation – to communicate firsthand with your spiritual allies and discover your own power. Awakening to the Spirit World takes you through each step of developing a personnel connection with your helping spirits to receive wisdom, insight, and healing energy. From and overview of shamanism, to your first journeys and encounters with your power animals, to expanding your skills and insight through long-term practice, … ‘