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Psychedelic trip as depicted in the movie Blueberry

Other Worlds – A Personal Journey into Shamanism

The shamanic/psychedelic experience is often described as being something that can only be comprehended via personal ‘communion’ with entheogenic substances. But for those not willing to kick open the doors of perception, Jan Kounen’s documentary Other Worlds may be the next best thing. Filmed as a companion piece of sorts to his 2004 ‘cowboy-shaman’ feature film Blueberry (also titled Renegade), the film has real impact because it not only shows Kounen’s personal exploration of both physical and mental space, in tracking down shamans of South America to assist him in his quest for understanding, but also uses CGI technology to try and show what the visionary aspect of the shamanic experience is like (the final 5 minute ‘trip’ is brilliantly done).

Mysticism isn’t a practice integrated into our cultures. And yet, I felt its call. I had gone to see the Indians, the shamans, witchdoctors who heal with psychotropic plants. In raising the glass to my lips I had no idea I’d embarked on a journey with no return. It was with respect that I went to meet them; those I imagined capable of facing and transcending fear of death, of exploring their psyches and decoding the mechanics of thought, to discover the invisible world. I crossed Mexico, then Peru, in search of these men. I shared their rituals, until I met Kestenbetsa, Shipibo-Conibo shaman. The rituals I shared with him took me to the frontiers of mental death, to a breaking point where my mind had to accept these experiences, to accept questioning, and redefining reality in a new way.

Another excellent aspect of Other Worlds is that Kounen talks to many experts and researchers in the field, including DMT researcher Rick Strassman, psychedelics researcher Charles Grob, and numerous others including Stan Grof, Jeremy Narby, Alex Grey, Moebius and Pablo Amaringo. For anyone interested in these topics, this is a must watch (although be advised, there are some disturbing scenes for the faint-hearted, such as the killing of a pig, as well as plenty of puking).

  1. How great to see Moebius! As
    How great to see Moebius! As someone who’s had momentary glimpses into the wholeness and oneness of our mind and matter it is difficult to put into words. The experience of connectedness one feels to all things cannot be attained through intellectualizing or by force of will. Rather the experience occurs as if by a flip of a switch or lowering or raising of a shade. It comes upon you enveloping you with its warmth, insights, love and empathy, and then it leaves and is gone leaving you feeling isolated and alone. Not alone in a room, others may be around, rather alone in the universe as if disconnected from the universal whole that is humming all around you. You are unplugged and it is lonely. As time passes the isolation becomes the norm that is ordinary reality. It is no wonder we are all so self centered and self-serving. On the occasions I’ve been blessed to access this consciousness all self-serving desires vanished and I was filled with compassion to no credit of my self. My “I” did not manifest the compassion; it manifested within and compelled me. It was the natural state with my shifted vision. I could take no credit for it and yet I was joyous to experience it.

    Psychedelics are not required though in my youth there were a total of 3 occasions in which I ingested magic mushrooms and they do work. The other experiences occurred during more meditative type states – not meditating, but similar peaceful and focused states of mind that somehow harmonized with the right “frequency” or?…and I shifted into the state of …trying to find the word and “ecstasy” comes to mind. Not sexual, just the complete pleasure and comfort of feeling universally connected and seeing all of reality in a totally different way then the normal linear isolated disconnected business as usual day-to-day grind. One experience lasted days, the other a day and then just stopped, like a switch being flipped and the lights going out. I can understand the skepticism of those lacking in similar experience, yet I urge open-mindedness for I truly am a better person while in that state and a better person from having had my fleeting experiences. Better being that when I fall into my habitual selfish opinionated judgmental guy mode, I’m able to recall the experiences and aspire to reclaim the compassion and acceptance I felt during those times. If only it were easier to access and permanently attain the heightened state of awareness – how wonderful it would be for the individual and for all of society if universally possible.

  2. Other worlds
    I was delighted to find this on DG, as I had heard about its quality and authenticity from some of the fellow ‘passengers’ I met in Peru last year, when we made our own exploration.
    I was even more delighted to find that Maria – one of the wonderful shamans working with us was depicted in the film. I have never before met individuals so clearly motivated by dedication and unconditional love and compassion.

    While ones own visions are naturally unique, the depictions in the film do convey something of the seamlessness and depth of the experience, and are admirably done.
    Wisely, Kounen does not gloss over the fact that this is not a recreational activity, can be very hard work, and requires a certain courage, as does facing the unknown in any realm of life.

    Facing the unknown in one’s own being can be traumatic, however, as is documented in this excellent production, the negativity tends to be transient, and is often the most healing process of all.

    I admire the dedication and hard work that have gone into the making of this worthwhile film.
    Well done Mr. Kounen!
    I look forward to finding a copy of the original CD.

    My own experience in Peru left me full of wonder and optimism, and I urge anyone who has heard the call somewhere in their being and has ignored it, to reconsider.

  3. from the Hippy-Craze-Dept.
    why have a need to have a special place for this experience?

    why not just acknowledge life to be a shamanic/psychedelic experience?

    i guess the Protestant work-ethic is still strong…or, like the various schools of Buddhism, there are various Ways of exploring reality that don’t work the same for everyone…

    (either way, i’m glad that the ‘net is giving people the opportunity to express their spirituality to others…)

  4. Animals are not ours to use this way…
    It is wonderful to use the wisdom plants for otherwordly sojourns,
    expansion of realities and consciousness… sacrifice the life of an innocent animal, seems to invalidate the meaning of the experience.
    Blood sacrifices, for any purpose..are barbaric..and show a great disrespect not only for the Earth, but her sacred creatures…and will have karmic consequences.

    1. Unless you’re a hawk or a
      Unless you’re a hawk or a coyote. When I was a young man I was a hawk and took the lives of animals, but I was full on in the thick of my animal nature and was playing in a game that all the creatures understood to be tragic and beautiful. i am glad I was not denied my nature. Now I am a 60 year old man who does not want to kill any more, but I had to pass through my phases.

      1. hawks..and coyotes
        Hawks and coyotes have to hunt to live..
        I understand the indigenous peoples need to hunt, however…it seems that the need to kill an animal takes the (gift) from an experience such as this.

        1. I was an animal when I was
          I was an animal when I was young, and I understood some relationships that have faded away as I get older. I “ate” everything I killed, and I don’t just mean material ingestion.

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