Men, This Way

Men, This Way

The Wisdom of Psychedelics w/ Dr Rachel Harris (103)

August 31, 2023

Have you ever experienced a transformational psychedelic trip?

Have you ever experienced a traumatic psychedelic trip? 

Are you curious about the world of psychedelic therapy and whether it might benefit you?

In this episode my brilliant guest is Dr.Rachel Harris, and together she & I mine these questions and more for wise insights that can make a meaningful difference in your life.

In a world where few true elders exist, Rachel Harris stands out as a genuine wise elder. She’s authored two books: “Listening to Ayahuasca” and her latest work, “Swimming in the Sacred: Wisdom from the Psychedelic Underground.” With 40 years of experience as a psychotherapist, she’s also spent a decade in academic research, publishing over 40 scientific studies and reviews. She even received the National Institute of Health’s New Investigator Award. The use of psychedelics, once associated solely with 1960s counterculture, is now becoming more mainstream, with over 30 million Americans having tried them, as per a 2010 national survey.

Renowned author Michael Pollen, who shares his experiences with psychedelic trips, sheds light on the National Institute of Health’s research into using psilocybin and MDMA for treating PTSD, addiction, depression, and end-of-life anxiety. This field is currently witnessing exciting advancements.

Rachel Harris, apart from her roles as a psychotherapist and author, is a dedicated researcher in psychedelics. In her book “Swimming in the Sacred,” she raises caution about the potential loss of wisdom as legal and medical institutions embrace these exceptional medicines. Through insightful interviews, Harris delves into the past fifty years of psychedelic use, featuring discussions with “female elders” who’ve guided transformative entheogenic journeys for inner healing and spiritual growth. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Rachel; her profound insights into the psychedelic realm, drawn from her personal experiences and extensive research, combined with her intimate dialogues with these remarkable women who’ve guided psychedelic journeys for decades, make this episode a must-listen for anyone intrigued by psychedelics.


Rachel’s Book – Swimming in the Sacred: Wisdom from the Psychedelic Underground.


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(09:23) – In an exclusive interview, Rachel described her unique lifestyle on an island surrounded by a pristine freshwater lake that stretches for a mile with depths of up to 50 feet. Just across the street from her residence lies the majestic Atlantic Ocean, lending a picturesque yet rugged ambiance to her surroundings. This idyllic retreat, however, comes with its challenges. Rachel spends her time on the island exclusively during the summer months due to the harsh winter conditions that make it nearly inhabitable.

It requires a 20-minute journey on a dirt road, followed by a 40-minute boat ride. Even after this considerable effort, the journey is not over, as there’s an additional half-hour drive to access the nearest medical facility—a small community hospital. Rachel emphasises the precariousness of the situation, given the remote location and limited medical resources available.

(15:50) – Sharing insights into her background and pivotal moments in her life, Harris delves into her family dynamics. Reflecting on her mother, Harris portrays her as someone who might not have been a traditional ideal mother but was undeniably captivating. Her mother’s involvement in a bible study group adds a layer of intrigue to her persona.

From an early age, Harris exhibited an intense curiosity about drugs, embarking on a journey of exploration through her readings. Graduating from college at a young age of 21, she entered the SLN residential program, where she not only participated but also became part of the staff, an environment that provided ample exposure to various substances.

Quoting, “The biggest impact on a child’s life is the unlived life of the parent,” Rachel sheds light on her inner motivations. Her relentless pursuit of understanding drugs and their effects can be seen as an attempt to unravel the unlived life of her mother.

(21:56) – Discussing psychedelics, plant medicines, and entheogens, Rachel emphasises their unique nature. Despite being labelled as harmful by the government, she contends that they are non-addictive and far from lethal. These substances, often referred to as mind-expanding or mind-manifesting, serve as a gateway to the unconscious mind from a psychological standpoint. Entheogens, in particular, unlock the door to the philosophy of religion.

Distinguished from substances like cocaine and opium, these drugs belong to an entirely different category. They boast a rich cultural history of sacred use, evidenced by discoveries like a burial cave off the coast of Spain. In this cave, human remains dating back 3000 years contained traces of psychotropic substances, revealed through hair analysis, shedding light on their ritualistic usage.

Bryan shares his own experiences of embarking on journeys with substances like MDMA and Ayahuasca, underscoring the transformative potential of these medicines.

(33:11) – Exploring the shifts and physiological alterations induced by plant medicines, Bryan and Rachel delve into the various categories of these substances and their corresponding impacts on the body. Bryan recounts an anecdote about his inaugural encounter with mushrooms, describing how genuine laughter emanated from the depths of his soul—a novel experience. He contrasts this with his wife’s initial foray into psychedelics, which proved to be distressing for her.

Highlighting the unpredictability of outcomes, they discuss the range of experiences these drugs can evoke, from enjoyable moments to potentially traumatic journeys. The spectrum includes everything from revisiting past lives to communicating with departed souls, underscoring the diverse and often unexpected nature of these encounters.

(44:23) -The origins and underlying causes of the DMT phenomenon have been a subject of intense inquiry for centuries. This profound question has driven a quest for understanding that spans across cultures and epochs. Despite our ongoing efforts, the mechanics responsible for these phenomena continue to elude our complete comprehension.

The intricate mechanisms that govern the occurrence of these extraordinary experiences remain enigmatic. As we delve into the mysteries of the mind and consciousness, we’re constantly engaged in the process of deciphering the intricate interplay of factors that lead to these profound states of being.

One crucial realisation is that these spiritual or sacred journeys, often associated with the use of psychedelics, don’t unfold at the beck and call of individuals. Instead, they manifest naturally, as if guided by an ineffable rhythm of the universe. This organic emergence of transformative experiences adds to the mystery surrounding the phenomenon, emphasising the deeply intricate relationship between the human psyche, altered states of consciousness, and the cosmos itself. As we navigate this uncharted territory of exploration, the quest for understanding continues to be both a scientific and philosophical endeavour that captivates the human imagination.

(51:39) – What prompted your specific emphasis on women in this context? The decision to centre the focus on women arises from the recognition of their distinctive and finely attuned relationship with plant spirits and medicines. Throughout history, women have occupied a central role in the realm of sacred healing practices, often wielding an intuitive understanding of these powerful agents of transformation. 

The intertwining of women with plant medicines is profound. These sacred medicines seem to resonate uniquely with the female experience, both physically and spiritually. The intricate tapestry of women’s bodies and their cyclical nature aligns remarkably with the rhythms of nature itself, potentially fostering a deeper communion with the plant world.

Moreover, the connection between women and nature has been celebrated and acknowledged across cultures and generations. The intuitive bond that women share with the environment, the nurturing instincts that arise within them, and their heightened emotional awareness all contribute to a synergy that enhances their receptivity to the teachings of these ancient botanical allies.

This focus doesn’t diminish the role of men in this domain but rather acknowledges the distinctive qualities that women bring to the table. By shedding light on women’s connection to plant medicines, we gain insights into the intricate web of relationships that have flourished between humans and the natural world for centuries.

(58:04) – What are the potential risks of losing something valuable in this process? The risk lies in the erosion of the profound connection formed with the medicinal agents over time. In the current landscape, much of the research gravitates towards cost-effective methodologies, prioritising brevity and efficiency in therapeutic approaches. However, this emphasis on streamlining can inadvertently strip away the nuanced aspects that contribute to the depth and richness of the healing journey.

One significant casualty of this trajectory is the erosion of quality in treatment. The sustained work with entheogens, which often leads to transformative experiences over time, is at risk of being compromised. The intricate process of how an individual evolves, how their perceptions shift, and how their inner landscape changes over the course of these ongoing entheogenic encounters can be overlooked in the pursuit of expeditious results.

In essence, the concern here is the potential dilution of the profound evolution that can occur through sustained interaction with these medicines. The tapestry of personal growth and the profound insights that individuals glean from their extended engagement with entheogens risk being overshadowed by an approach that prioritises the shortest route to therapeutic outcomes. This underscores the importance of safeguarding the holistic impact that these medicines can foster over time.

(01:02:54) – Rachel Describe “In order to safely and effectively incorporate entheogenic psychedelic practices into our society on a broader scale, when it comes to finding solace at night, and How Rachel Console herself at night Lastly, it’s worth noting that our culture, despite its relative youth, is evolving and adapting to new perspectives, including the recognition of the elevated role of women in various spheres.”

(01:04:14) – Rachel suggests that someone looking to embark on their psychedelic journey should prioritise safety. Her advice is to consider joining psychedelic communities where individuals guide and support each other. It’s crucial not to engage with anyone who hasn’t undergone a comprehensive medical screening. Furthermore, the person leading the journey should have proper medical training to ensure a secure and beneficial experience.

(01:11:09) – About Rachel’s Book

(01:12:44) -Rachel looks ahead with a deep sense of worry, particularly when she thinks about her beloved granddaughter. Her concern is rooted in her perception of a future that appears increasingly filled with uncertainty and difficulty. She contemplates the many global challenges that loom on the horizon, such as climate change, political instability, and economic volatility. These issues, she fears, could cast a shadow over her granddaughter’s life, making it harder for her to thrive and find happiness. Rachel’s concern is a testament to the profound love and care she holds for her family’s future generations, motivating her to advocate for positive change and a more secure future for all.

(01:15:15) – Rachel recognizes that the central challenge facing humanity is the delicate balance of the ego. She understands that the ego plays a vital role in our social interactions and survival, as it underpins our self-identity and self-preservation instincts. However, she also cautions against succumbing to ego-driven behaviours that can lead to selfishness and discord. Rachel believes that managing our egos, practising self-awareness, and nurturing empathy are essential to prevent our self-interest from dominating our actions. By striking this balance, she envisions a world where we can harness the benefits of the ego for effective socialisation while fostering a more compassionate and harmonious society for all.