When Western medical researchers wanted to unlock the healing properties of plants they asked Amazonian shaman. Simon Green is doing the same.
Remarkable healing stories.
Interview with Simon Green healer and founder of Quantum Life Bodyworks on Shamanism and healing work with plant medicine.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Simon Green about his Shamanistic practices and the healing properties of plant medicine:
Alex Tsakiris: Maybe we need to add a little Yankee imperialism into the mix too and say, “ayahuasca… it’s DMT… I’ll figure out a way to crush it down, crank it out, give it to people, and lo and behold, they have a lot of the same kinds of experiences.”
Simon Green: …that’s a very common troupe in stories about ayahuasca but in fact, ayahuasca is called “ayahuasca” because of the vine ayahuasca which is not the tryptamine-containing compound or plant.
Alex Tsakiris: It’s the blocker, right? It’s the one that blocks it in your stomach so that it doesn’t run through so you can process the DMT?
Simon Green: Correct. Exactly. At a biochemical level but in fact you can take ayahuasca without any DMT admixtures and have a similar experience. The visions aren’t as bright. The DMT containing plant gives brightness to the visions but it’s the intelligence of the ayahuasca, of the vine; that plant that contains the MAOI inhibitors that allows for the oral application of DMT. They’re not the same thing and as you mentioned, Rick as I recall, many of his subjects were extraordinarily confused by what they encountered or surprised to say the least. I think this is one of those instances where we can say well there’s that pharmacological attitude of taking the constituent chemical saying, well that plant works because of the constituent chemical and not looking at the bigger picture and saying well, there’s a relationship between the human and the plant they’re envibing. And we could’ve gone to those people who have a longstanding with those plants and say, what do you think about DMT versus MAOI inhibitors?
Read Excerpts From The Interview:
Simon talks about the challenges of measuring the processes taking place in healing ceremonies and the importance of historical experiences–[7min.51sec-10min.38sec]
Alex Tsakiris: We were chatting before about the conversation I had with Paranthroplogy journal editor, Jack Hunter, who is taking an anthropological approach to saying as we look at how these extended consciousness experiences are happening, how do we really nail down what’s happening scientifically? As you and I were talking about, is it a ritual doing it? Is it the spiritual doing it? Could you do this just as well with a Ouija board to somehow access these spirits? Or with a psychic or a medium? And it really raises the question of, we’re playing around with not only these substances but we’re playing around with these spirits in a way that we really don’t understand. What are we getting into when we do this?
Simon Green: I think we get ourselves in many cultural backwaters. I’m thinking for example of all the technology that we’ve adopted in modern western culture. We adopted without question mobile telephones or tobacco cigarettes; or all of the new chemicals that come on to the marketplace that are fantastic. They’re going to change everything and then we discover that they weren’t as great as we thought and we have all of these problems. We’re not a thoughtful culture in terms of let’s sit back and ask the questions that you’re asking now. With that being said, I think there’s some of that going on in terms of this recent boom in information and interest in these plants. But I think that we’re coming into it from a perspective where there is an existent relationship. And we can actually take the historical information with the people who have had a historical relationship with these plants, and use them wisely. I think the big problem is–I mentioned spirits. That’s a huge stretch for a lot of people and not very scientific in any way. But I think that you can start from the point of the people who know about these plants in this particular instance and say well, you say it’s that and we have cultural difficulty with [it], but not to discard that.
[easy-tweet tweet=”think of these plants as living technology… used in same way we use ultrasounds and MRIs — Simon green” via=”no” usehashtags=”no”]
Recounting an experience with the appearance of the Virgin Mary, Simon sheds light on the mystical aspects of ceremonial healings that transcend personal belief–[30min.9sec-34min.34sec]
Alex Tsakiris: You can see the effect of the colonial, wisdom tradition of Christianity and how it just steamrolls over and obliterates any kind of a cultural heritage that people have. It’s really hard to take from an anthropological standpoint to step back and do it but I put all that out there. A Christian would come on and tell you they’ve seen the same thing, and they could probably bring evidence for it in terms of the amazing healing power of Jesus and Christ Consciousness; and lives transformed; and healings done; and people who have healed in the name of that spirit. So what do we make of Christian healing? We can’t ignore that either.
Simon Green: No we cannot. And I agree with you, and we’re not going to sort this out by next Tuesday. And I think that’s the reason for this discernment, and the data collection, and so on. So we can have some kind of relatively solid ground to stand on. I mean the thing that one learns particularly engaging with master plants from the Americas is that there really isn’t that much solid ground. But from a cultural point of view, I think we need all of these studies and observations to try and sort wheat from chaff and work out what’s going on. You ask about Christian healing. I have a fairly hard standpoint in terms of Christianity and the mechanisms of the church–the imperialist mechanisms of the church. And I do place the Catholic Church fairly high up on that list in terms of wrongdoings. But I had a healing session where a harm had been occasioned in the ill-advised use–the un-ritually contained use of ayahuasca. And with another plant mentioned, Huachuma, we entered a ritual space in order to cure that although the causes weren’t specifically available until such time as we entered that space and could bring that particular lens. If you think of these plants as–it seems rude of me to say so–but a good analogy is to think of them as technology, although living technology, in the same way that we use ultrasounds and MRIs to do diagnostics. In the Amazon we’ll use ayahuasca as a diagnostic tool to understand the nature of the illness and then the appropriate medicines in terms of other plants. And it should be mentioned that ayahuasca doesn’t exist by itself. There’s a whole pharmacopeia of medicinal plants that g along with that tradition. But in this instance, a curing was effected and the prior wrong, righted to a degree. And then there was a visitation to the best of my understanding, the Virgin Mary.
Alex Tsakiris: Wow.
Simon Green: Now I’m an outspoken rejecter of the Catholic Church but there was ten people in that ceremonial space: the person who had the curing, and another one, and myself. And I was the one running the show and I pointed out, are you aware of what that is? And the two other people–or three people bore witness to this event’s reality. The others were unaware of that but for the person who’d been sickened by this harm, it was a tremendous healing event.
Simon describes an extraordinary experience he had in the Andes during what’s known in Shamanism as a Huachuma ritual–[39min.18sec-47min.14sec]
Alex Tsakiris: I just did an interview not too long ago with Raghu Markus and David Silver who are both followers of a spiritual teacher that I feel a great connection to, Neem Karoli Baba from India. So Neem Karoli Baba is back in the ‘60s and he has Ram Dass and Krishna Das, you know the famous Kirtan musician. And David Silver and Raghu Markus and these guys around there, all Jewish guys, that’s they’re education–[Krishna Das] is talking to them about Jesus. And he’s saying that the tears were streaming down his face as he talks about Jesus; and he says practically every Christmas I go to the church…so you have to wonder two things: Here is a guy who is a spiritual master and he’s corroborating the reality of that spiritual being. There’s no projecting, psychologizing, or any of that. He’s saying, no, that’s a powerfully, super-important spiritual being that’s out there. It’s a power. But there’s also a certain playfulness [with] it that I think is evident, at least what I hear in the work with shamans and healers too, there’s this trickster, playful kind of thing. Why is he bringing Jesus up to these guys who were raised in the Jewish tradition? It’s kind of a twist, a tweak. And they see that too. So the complexity of this I think is fun, and energizing, and exciting. But at the same time it’s challenging because I see so many potholes that we’re going to step into as we try and figure this out.
Simon Green: As do I and I think that’s why my point of focus is the immediacy of making people’s lives better. With regard to the playfulness, one of the principal healing tools in the tradition of ayahuasca use is an Icaro, a magical song that has a different quality that might bring with it the–you may not have a plant but you know the song of that particular plant. And this is not isolated to ayahuasca. But you can sing the Icaro of that plant and that plant’s doctor. Its sentience and consciousness comes and applies what’s needed for the patient who’s being addressed at the time.
Alex Tsakirs: Let me interject and make sure I understand what you’re saying here. So you’re saying that if, in the absence of the plant, if the plant wasn’t available or they didn’t have it, they could invoke the song and it would bring forth this spiritual healing from the spirit directly?
Simon Green: Correct. And this is what I said at the outset: there’s this big focus–and this is an indication of this reductionist mind–what’s the thing that makes us have the vision physically? In fact ayahuasca is embedded in this tradition of doctoring and plant doctors. And a Curandero may diet with [several] plants; other master plants that teach through dreams or however, and then they become part of their team if you will. So they can sing the song of the particular doctor that belongs to that plant that has a particular quality, or that celestial being that has that particular quality which leads me to my story: I was engaged in a Huachuma ceremony in the high Andes. Huachuma is a cactus [and] also a strong tradition of visionary Shamanisms in the northern, coastal drier regions of Peru and into Ecuador–similar to the Native American’s peyote. And so I was in the Huachuma ritual and here I lean well away from any hope of recovery in terms of how we can quantify this scientifically. Some spirits arrived and they gave me a particular Icaro, a particular song. And this is often how Icaros are given. They’re given by the plants or by the beings and then can be used later on; like a tool that you learn or a gift that somebody offers you. And they gave me an Icaro and that ceremony concluded. Some months later I was back in the jungle with a friend who was a colleague, an Ayahuascero. And she often asked me to do curings or sing at her ceremonies. And I started to sing this Icaro that had been given to me from another plant–not really in the context of ayahuasca but I sang it nonetheless. And these beings appeared and said, “We’ll be there in 15 minutes.” And I said that’s a little bit odd, a little bit human. Fifteen minutes seems a very human construct. And they said, “Just keep singing and we’ll see you in 15 minutes.” And I watched. It was a moonlit night. There were no clouds…
Alex Tsakiris: And you’re singing a song that you don’t know from memory. You’ve never heard [it] before. It’s been transmitted?
Simon Green: Well it’s been transmitted and I sung it one other time in that ceremony where it was given to me. And so in this ayahuasca ritual, the Curandera who was holding the ritual said, “Can you sing for me?” And because it was the moment I chose that song that just arose in me. So I said I’ll sing that Icaro from there. So I was singing and as I said, “We’ll be there in 15 minutes.” And I questioned this with my farmer’s mind. And over in the distance I could see a cloud; a storm front come in. And we’re in a clearing in a jungle and I’m sure you can imagine the force of Amazonian rain. And I watched this cloud front move across the landscape at about a fast human jog coming directly towards us in this clearing. And I watched it hit the edge of the clearing and I’m singing. Eventually it the side of [the clearing] where we were having this ceremony. And moving across the landscape was this wall of water at the edge of this storm front and it hit the edge of [the clearing]. And I turned to watch it come out the other side as I was singing, and it didn’t come out. And I turned back to look and there was a silver wall of water as the rain ran off the other side of [the clearing]. And I looked up in the other direction and it had stopped half way across [the clearing]. So on one side it was a beautiful, clear, moonlit night, and on the other side it was torrential Amazonian rain. And the rest of the people in the ceremony realized it, and there was this collective gasp. And then these spirits said to me, “We told you that we would be there in 15 minutes.”
photo by Nick Jewell