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Seven Reasons why Capitalism is an Affront to the Soul

At first sight, this might seem like a strange title to appear on a blog mostly devoted to la Madre Ayahausca. However, after six and a half years now of working with the medicine, what follows has been a growing realization and arises from the experiences I have had with La Madre.

She not only wants us to cure ourselves but to heal the planet. Actually she shows us that healing the planet is healing ourselves. We are not separate.
Read more…

Entering the Spirit of the World

Between 21st and 24th April this year, I attended the conference ‘Climates of Change and the Therapy of Ideas’ held at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, California.

The conference featured a number of philosophically and psychologically oriented speakers who have featured before in this blog such as Richard Tarnas from the California Institute of Integral Studies as well as political activists like Chris Hedges and Vandana Shiva.

Part of my reason in travelling so far to this conference from the Peruvian Amazon was to continue to pay homage to James Hillman, who I refer to as my ‘intellectual hero’ and mentor.

James Hillman is perhaps the key inspirational figure behind the work at Pacifica, alongside Paolo Friere, Marion Woodman, and Joseph Campbell. I had the good fortune to attend what I think was the last workshop he ran at Pacifica on The Puer and the Senex in 2010. (For a good interview with him, see here.)

Hillman is perhaps the most original and radical thinker I know. His great capacity, which he put forward in his important book, ‘Revisioning Psychology’, as a key competence for psychologists, was to see through received ideas and perspectives on the world.


As Richard Tarnas noted in a series of lectures about him, which used to be available on YouTube but sadly are no longer there, he never gave the same talk twice. Each time he ran a workshop or gave a lecture at a conference he engaged freshly with the material. Being with him was a great privilege as you felt that you participated with him and accompanied him in his process of thinking.

He has been, along with C.J. Jung and Rudolf Steiner, a great influence in helping me understand the experiences I have had with Madre Ayahuasca. One of the key moves he made in psychology was to write about the ‘Anima Mundi’ or soul of the world in an extremely elegant and intellectually rigorous way. This was part of his project of getting psychology away from an excessive individualization and interiorization of problems and out into the socio-political world, which was co-creating those problems.

tres figuras

Painting by Shipibo artist Lastenia Canayo of the three spirits of the humming-bird, the tree huairuro and the old fallen-down house.

Influenced especially by Hillman, I saw many of the experiences graced to me by Madre Ayahuasca, such as my visits to the mosquito spirit king and my communion with the bats, as participating in the anima mundi. Of course, indigenous people, like the Shipibo, have always believed that the world was ensouled, enchanted and full of spirits. Colonialist, racist psychology and anthropology saw this as evidence of their backwardness and explained it away as a phenomenon of human projection onto the world.

Hillman is one of the intellectual figures, alongside contemporay anthropologists like Vivieros De Castro and Eduardo Kohn – who has written an interesting book called: ‘How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human’  – that are helping us re-understand animism as part of a sophisticated and valid indigenous worldview and not as a primitive precursor to the scientific worldview.

In fact, our tragic inability to perceive and experience the enchantment of the world is part of our legacy from the limited scientific, materialist, rationalist wordview that has dominated our culture for the last four hundred years.

Returning to the conference, two sessions had a particular impact on me. One was by Dr Mary Watkins, who teaches at Pacifica, on ‘Psycho-social Accompaniment’. (For an excellent paper written by Mary Watkins on this concept, see here). Mary’s session helped me re-frame the work that the non-profit, Alianza Arkana, (for whom I am the Director of Intercultural Education), as moving from aid to accompaniment. For those of you interested in this, I have written another blog about this here.

quote from-care-of-the-soul-

The other session was by Thomas Moore. Thomas, a former Catholic monk, rose to fame through his beautifully written book ‘Care of the Soul’ which became a NYT best seller in the 1990’s. In this book, Thomas made accessible the ideas of his friend and teacher, James Hillman, to a wider audience.

Thomas Moore’s session was called ‘Animus Mundi’. The distinction between animus and anima is taken from Jung. Wikipedia says:

“The anima and animus are described by Jung as elements of his theory of the collective unconscious, a domain of the unconscious that transcends the personal psyche. In the unconscious of a man, this archetype finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of a woman it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.

The anima and animus can be identified as the totality of the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a man possesses or the masculine ones possessed by a woman, respectively. It is an archetype of the collective unconscious and not an aggregate of father or mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or teachers, though these aspects of the personal unconscious can influence the person for good or ill.”

animus mundiKnowing perhaps that he was treading controversial ground by referring to the ‘animus mundi’, especially in a lecture room where a twenty or so foot high poster of James Hillman was bearing down on him, Thomas Moore tentatively, but convincingly, set out a case for the idea of the ‘animus mundi’.

Beginning with Jung’s idea of the animus, which he showed to be flawed in some ways, especially as it was applied to women, Moore associated it with traditional ‘masculine’ qualities like thought, opinion, will, desire, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and hope.

The animus is our capacity for thought and reflection which becomes a logos, in contrast to anima which opens our psyches up to eros.

I listened to all this fascinated. These ideas strongly resonated with me. I have seen over the last few years that Madre Ayahuasca has been working with me to develop my resolve, discipline and sustained focus. In a recent ceremony, she said to me: “You have had enough visions for two or three lifetimes. It’s time you learned to properly concentrate.”

I have had ceremonies in which I have been instructed just to listen to the icaros as a way of disciplining my errant mind. As any beginner in meditation knows, it’s extraordinary when you do this to realise how the mind can spin its endless loops and how distracted one can get doing what appears to be a very simple task.

Moore helped me to see that Madre Ayahuasca has been working with me on my animus. I wrote about this very recently in terms of developing the leadership capacities through dietas to help run Alianza Arkana.

800px-Anatomical_ManLikewise, Moore argued, the fact that the world has its logos, that it is intelligible, that it has order and meaning, that it has its story, is an indication of its animus.

We do not live in a random, senseless universe.

The signs are there for us to read them – what is required is the training, and discipline to see and appreciate the signs and to unlearn the limited ways we have been taught to understand the world.

Bat Medicine

As I indicated in my last post, I have recently completed a seven-ceremony, sixteen-day dieta. This dieta was held in a beautiful, new maloka about 30 kms out of Pucallpa, just off the only road out of Pucallpa which leads to Lima.

The maloka is situated at the end of a peninsula that leads into a small lake, which is a fish farm. After ceremony, it is possible to sit on a verandah overlooking the lake, gazing upwards to the stars and downwards to their reflections in the water. Read more…

Ayahuasca, Dietas and Work


It is over three months since I last posted on this site. During this time, I was in England for six weeks over the Xmas and New Year period to visit my new grandson, and, since coming back to Peru at the end of January, I have been very busy with my work as Intercultural Education Director for the Peruvian-based NGO, Alianza Arkana.

At the same time as working intensively, I have completed one dieta of seven ceremonies over fourteen days with my Shipibo Maestro and am just about to finish another dieta of seven ceremonies with a good friend here who has studied for twelve years in the same shamanic lineage as my Shipibo Maestro. Both these dietas have been with the extraordinary and rare tree, Noyarao (translated from Shipibo to English as ‘flying medicine’), also known, in Spanish, as Palo Volador. (For new readers, I have written before about dietas in general here and specifically with this tree here.) Read more…

Macbeth: Magic and Witchcraft

Last Monday evening, whilst in Lima recovering from dental surgery, I went to see the film ‘Macbeth’.

This is the new version directed by Australian director Justin Kurzel and starring Michael Fassbender as Macbeth and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth. Read more…

Seven Good Reasons NOT to drink Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca vision by Paulo Jales

Ayahuasca vision by Paulo Jales

As one of my most visited posts is Seven Good Reasons to drink Ayahuasca’, I thought I should complement it with this new post ‘Seven Good Reasons NOT to drink Ayahuasca’. Read more…

Falling in Love with the Earth

falling in love with the earth

It’s the third ceremony, mid-way through my last ten-day dieta. My Shipibo maestro is at least half-way through the long opening icaro he sings to protect the space. My mareación is at its least manageable stage. I’ve spent most of the time lying down trying to concentrate on the words of the icaro and practice synaesthesia, that is trying to convert the sounds of the icaros into visual images. Read more…

“I was Expecting to See a Disaster”


I toyed with three titles for this post. The one above, but also: “This plant medicine really works” and “Seeing through a glass darkly”. Hopefully the meaning of all three will become clearer as you read the post.

The story begins a couple of months ago when I was swimming and wearing goggles. I noticed there was a distinct smear in my field of vision. Thinking that the goggles were dirty, I cleaned them, and continued swimming. But the smear persisted and I realized that the smear was in my eyes not on the goggles. Read more…

Learning and Lineage

image found on icss site

image found on:

Another period of two months has passed since I last posted. The reasons for this are manifold: partly I want to free myself from the self-imposed tyranny of feeling I have to write new entries; partly, I have continued to be very, very busy; and partly I have not felt I have had anything I want to say – though this latter point is conditioned by an almost exclusively external focus on helping lead the NGO I work with, which does not facilitate the internal, more reflective creative space I need to be able to write.

So having carved out a free morning from my schedule and turned off the phone, I start this blog not knowing what I plan to say. Read more…

Friendship and Awakening

For the last ten days, I have been participating in a forum which is part of the online learning community that I have helped set up for donors to the Peruvian-based NGO (non-profit), Alianza Arkana, located in the Amazonian city of Pucallpa. The idea of the learning community is to help engage individual donors more with our work, and also offer them regular online discussion-based forums led by outstanding teachers in fields relevant to the work of the NGO. Read more…