The plant medicine gave me little choice but to communicate what I experienced, and the writing became a central part of my process of integration. These books are, in essence, a series.
Dr. Sarah Hautzinger:
Author John Davidson has visited three separate undergraduate anthropology seminars that I teach, related to ritual and spirituality, as well as to more-than-human intelligences and relationships. In all cases, he has proved such an astute interlocutor between experience and mind on the one hand, and heart and knowing on the other, that I’d venture to say reading selections fromThe Dance and The Soul’s Critical Path, and then digesting them together with John in the course of his visits, has been among the most impactful of all aspects of these courses for these young adult students. His entanglements with the plant medicines Ayahuasca and Psilocybin are also cross-cultural encounters, and his decolonial awareness of “watching with a Western mind” that long “hover[ed] over [his] own experience” makes him a natural ethnographer of sorts. A simultaneously critical, generous, and courageous thinker, Davidson engages serious questions of epistemology, cultural influences, and consciousness with deft interdisciplinarity, yet driven by his own fervent searching, and thus unencumbered by formal enmeshment in traditional academia. He has loaned readers his shoes, and we are able to walk miles of encounters, and the way he’s digested them, vicariously. The product makes for tremendously relatable, compelling reading.
--Dr. Sarah Hautzinger, Professor of Anthropology, Colorado College, author of Violence in the City of Women: Police and Batterers in Brazil and Beyond Post-Traumatic Stress: Homefront Struggles with the Wars on Terror
Roshi Sanchi Reta Lawler:
Over the last several months, I have had the opportunity to be in conversation with John Davidson and review his work. We have explored together the role of meditation in relationship to psychedelics as well as the implications of the Amazonian and Andean traditions for Westerners. I have found John’s work to represent a unique voice amidst the rising interest in natural psychedelics. His relatively long experience—spanning twenty years—and personal work exploring the further work of integrating these experiences has brought him to a singular but absolutely relatable way of describing the implications and questions of this work for Western culture. His voice is a valuable contribution to the growing literature and discussions regarding this still new phenomenon in the West, and it represents a strong counterpoint to the perspectives that would narrow our exploration of these medicines to pharmaceutical remedies for brain-based diagnoses. His fundamental conclusion is that the medicines open a doorway beyond which Nature makes a standing invitation to humans first to mature, then partner with a living, breathing, intelligent and ensouled Nature that seeks to co-partner with humans in an open-ended process of creation. He describes how his own identity gradually shifted from an immature ego self to the soul itself, enabling the awakened and newly focused soul to lead the process of healing the fundamental wound of what he calls the “wild body”—the ontological wound of separation represented in the multiplicity of traumas suffered by humans—so that the body can turn its head, fall in love with the soul, and partner with the body to deliver the soul’s gift to the planet in collaboration with Nature. This is a teleological view, to be sure, and it is one that resonates with the heartfelt knowing shared by many humans when they begin to sense the heart of Nature. His separation of the construct of “human” into two distinct beings—the soul and the wild body—presents a fresh look not only at the tendency to reduce humans into “only animals,” but challenges the Christian view of the body as the prison of the soul. Instead, he suggests, the body is the “prism” of the soul. Human is not who we are, he says, but what soul and wild body do. By bringing individual consciousness into the construct of a “soul perspective,” the work of meditation is transformed into a listening to Nature through the sensuality of the wild body, giving the soul the capacity to navigate a constantly changing landscape over which body and soul must travel skillfully if the soul is to deliver its gift in the process of co-creation. He also introduces a way of speaking of the intelligence of the heart relative to the cognitive intelligence of the brain-mind, suggesting that the heart is not only primary but has an intelligence that operates in a way that is quite difference than the familiar cognitive processing by the brain. The heart, he suggests, is non-rational and binary—meeting each next moment and its choices with a “yes” or a “no” that suggests a direction the mind cannot assess rationally or with such immediacy. In many ways, this work is a challenge to the primary constructs of Western civilization and raises the important question how Westerners can integrate their experiences with the plant and fungi medicines without breaking with Western tradition.
The adventure of John’s book is arriving at precisely the time that our world is tilting toward its greatest spiritual challenge as well as its vastest creative opportunity. It is a fresh and valuable plunge into the wedding of core shamanic understanding with psychological integration.
For over 20 years, Sanchi Reta Lawler studied extensively with traditional maestros and plant medicines of the Upper Amazonian Rainforest as well as masters of Peruvian-Andean cosmology. She also serves as founder and Roshi of the Boulder Morningstar Zen Center.
Published in 2012, THE SOUL'S CRITICAL PATH describes how ayahuasca introduced me to the soul, how the soul evolves in relation to our wild bodies, how the soul's relation to the body is essential to healing the body's wound and how the soul discovers its purpose in collaboration with a living, breathing, intelligent and ensouled Earth.
Published in 2016, BREAKING WITH BELIEF tells the story of further and deeper experiences with ayahuasca and San Pedro in Peru, including an important insight as to how the medicine challenges the dominant epistemologies of Western civilization. In this book, I share techniques for preparation for ceremony that I began to develop out of my various trainings over many years.
As I met more young people coming to Peru for the ayahuasca, I came to understand how all of us were looking for a new home. SOUL TRIBES AND TAMBOS is a riff on the theme of home with the idea of enhancing the role of ayahuasca centers to address the need for a broader experience with the plants and deeper education about our relationship with the Earth.
THE LEFT HAND OF GOD is a compilation of early poetry, including what began to emerge with the ayahuasca. In time, the psilocybin showed me how poetry was an integral form through with the medicine spoke, and how the medicine used the poetry to speak not simply through me, but to me.