I recently had the distinct honor of speaking to one of my very favorite culture hacking heroes Mitch Schultz, director and producer of the forward thinking documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule and champion of a new project MYTHAPI. Below is a slightly abridged version of our original audio conversation.
BR: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, my friend. What inspired you to create DMT: The Spirit Molecule? It’s really a fantastic documentary—still ahead of it’s time in many ways—and I felt it sort of gave a professional face to the culture when it came out, which was much needed at the time.
The documentary was inspired by my first smoked DMT experience, which happened a little over a decade ago now. Looking back it’s amazing how quick that has gone. But this inspiration has really been seated within me my entire life—it seems like there have been signposts leading me along this path (laughs) but, the moment I came back from that experience and sitting in my room I knew I was going to make a movie. I don’t know what it was, or that it was even The Spirit Molecule, I just knew that something changed inside me and it was a story that I wanted to tell.
It took me about 4 years to get to the point of being able to do that, but through the process of research I came across Dr. Strassman’s book and I realized quickly after reading it that this sort of psychedelic activism was very important and it was going to be the way to go.
Have you read Dr. Rick Strassman’s new book DMT and the Soul of Prophecy?
I haven’t read Dr. Strassman’s new book yet—but I am very excited to do so. I know that through his work he is starting to look at things a little deeper. I think when he first started his research he was beginning to realize that his Western mind had been tricked by propaganda. So he kind of needed to do a 180, to really wrap his head around what he thinks is going on there in the heart of the mystery.
I think there is a lot of credence to where some of this thought and research is potentially going. Entheogens are an intrinsic part of human history probably since the birth of language. They at least played an influence as far as how we began to understand metaphors and the ways in which we used those primal experiences to begin to shape the world in a different way.
Yes, the great Jean Gebser gets into this I believe, with the distinction between integral modes of consciousness and how that contrasts with archaic or the connection to the primal self typically brought on by various consciousness altering techniques—I wish that McKenna had read him!
It is interesting that Strassman seems to be delving into the ancient mythology of the West in order to uncover psychedelic prehistory use, a topic that Paul Devereux gets into in The Long Trip: The Prehistory of Psychedelia.
Could you tell me a bit about your projects Spectral Alchemy and MYTHAPI? It seems that these are media entities that are very self-aware of the popularity of the current third eye/crown chakra focus in internet/meme culture.
MYTHAPHI was birthed through piecing together the experience of DMT: The Spirit Molecule. There was a personal path that I was going through and trying to figure out what my story was in relation to reality after my experience, and also trying to understand this new world of the typical alt-type topics you begin to be interested in after this sort of experience: consciousness, quantum physics, ancient technology etc.
I felt there were a lot of people that were having a hard time explaining; what exactly was happening in these types of extreme psychedelic experiences and what are they? How do we come back into 3D reality and integrate that sort of 4-D?
So the second part of this question is; how are we living symbiotically in this 3D world? How are we growing food? How are we treating animals? How are our sustainable resources? And I think the third part is to integrate the human right to celebration in this framework, which is where the arts and your idea of entheodelic storytelling really comes into play.
So what do we really know about story, dialogue, mythology and language?
With MYTHAPI, we want to have mini-documentaries that accompany these sections/channels in an alternative media distribution outlet. There is a lot more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it.
(laughs) Yeah, some of the pitches for these projects, when you’re attempting to condense down the language, it can get very tricky.
I’ve kind of come to this in the MYTHAPI manifesto that there really is no dogma, it’s about getting people to look back and reflect upon their own story and piece that together.
How did each individual get to be the way that they are? What are the events and worldview changes that brought you to who you are? Just sort of open questions for people. I think that this gives them the opportunity to fill in the gaps.
Because we’ve really had a lot groups and leaders filling in the gaps for people for too long with mainstream media, and I think now is the time that everyone needs to steer the conversation along and put it back in the hands of the people.
It interesting, Lewis Mehl Madrona along with Joseph Campbell and John David Ebert talk about this idea of mythological narrative therapy, and how that intersects with contemplation or spirituality. Madron argues that that everything is a story and like you advocates people can find mythic archetypes within themselves and utilize those universal forces to the best of their abilities. I think it’s possible we are starting to see some of the neo-paganism revivals as a way of harnessing this kind of re-empowerment.
Do you have experience with ayahuasca? What are some of the differences between the sacred tea in comparison to smoked DMT/Changa?
I’ve been working with ayahuasca for a little over 6 years now. I actually just recently got back from Peru. With aya there is a kind of “life force”, a raw naturalistic element to it’s energy that you just can’t deny. The way it moves through your body, the way it tastes—everything has this earthy sense to it.
Ayahuasca can feel mystical and otherworldly, it definitely has something that gives you a sense of reoccurring life. With DMT I think you can get that, but there is a mechanical aspect to many of the visions. It doesn’t have as much of the soft lines and different textures of push and pull—it feels a bit hard, cold and edgy. Not that that’s a bad thing—I just feel that one is a little more refined. But because of these sort of “hard lines” that DMT has, it always feels a bit 2-D to me. Ayahuasca has a warmer, softer, and rounder feel that is closer to the life giving aspect of energy for me.
Graham Hancock in our forthcoming interview recently told me that he feels vulnerable in the raw DMT space. He said that there is a feeling of potential for sinister entity contact. With ayahuasca I’ve experienced a holographic spirit-teacher presence that has been used to navigating those realms, that can kind of guide you through them in a more nurturing way. Shamanic filmmaker Rak Razam calls it La Madre as traditional curanderos do.
Smoked DMT has a way of almost entirely resetting the hard drive of the brain. It is a hard restart, where as ayahuasca can be a bit slower. Either way, it seems that as soon as you think that you have these metaphysical experiences figured out—you don’t. Within the first 10 minutes of the DMT experience the entire worldview of Western culture is essentially flipped upside. You really are permanently changed by these types of encounters either way.
Set and setting obviously are key. With smoked DMT there is also a sense of bleeding into and out of dimensions. It’s more metaphysical. In ayahuasca ceremony the visionary world is a bit more grounded. Things can still feel otherworldly, but it’s a different and valuable lesson with both teachers, each time. I consider them equal.
It’s been really cool to see you start to post more visionary art that is original content from the MYTHAPI Facebook page. Is this art part of a larger team/project? Should we expect visionary art to be appearing there on a regular basis?
Absolutely. I’m a beauty seeker. With DMT and psychedelics in general that obviously gets heightened. Art always serves as a reminder of the sacred aspects of the experience.
Some of these spaces are difficult to interpret in the minds eye. But the artist allows us to take a glimpse in a magical way. I believe visionary art is starting to give a broader sense to our reality.
I think about how the reception would have been when Christian mystical art was just coming out and how that may have affected the culture back then. I think that parallels what is happening today with psychedelic art work. Looking at Luke Brown’s paintings going back to the 80’s, I see a kind of telepathic language happening between the painter and the viewer.
I think there is a new language emerging from visionary art that informs that way we communicate. Text, and cellphones have obviously changed the use of language immensely in the last 10 years. It condensed it, but also allowed a deepening of the conversation at the same time.
McKenna wrote about how internet language represented the rapid telepathic nature of the DMT experience. I am curious as to how the MYTHAPI meme relates to what Rak Razam has said about ayahuasca opening up the collective crown chakra. Do you see these two as interconnected?
The mind aspect is the very beginning of MYTHAPI, and each aspect has various subcategories. The first level is base awareness, for any sentient creature. The mind level encompasses science, spirituality, and philosophy.
Mind branches into sustainability, art, language. MYTHAPI is looking at reflecting a real time mythology by the users and the community. And hopefully an emergent culture can come out of that more unified movement.
I think that when you’re working real time with visual social network data in solid, big numbers—you can give a lot of people a great deal of power to change things.
Sure, and yet at the same time there does seem to be a variety of things competing for our attention all the time on the internet. The New York Times has recently published on ayahuasca and many people know if it now through Lindsay Lohan’s encounter with it. I suppose I’m glad how everyone is realizing how harmless certain shamanic or meditative tools really are, even outside of entheogens, and how powerful those can really be to treat very serious illness. It’s certainly been fascinating to watch the conversation evolve around what Graham Hancock calls the War on Consciousness.
The cultural wave that started in the 50’s is really just now hitting shore. We have an opportunity now to utilize technology to map out how certain memes began to infiltrate and begin to create this kind of new paradigm shift. But it took about 60 years to really settle in society in a way.
I’ve heard many people saying that all psychedelic experiences should be explained away by the fact that they are often classified as a form of hallucination, and therefore not able to be verified objectively.
We do know that remote viewing phenomena has been established in the context of the ayahuasca experience since the early 70’s in the work of pioneering anthropologist Marlene Dobkin de Rios. There do seem to be those that are on the reductionist side when it comes to attempting to account for ideas of non-local consciousness. Steve Beyer has also extensively documented eye witness accounts of the darker side of incidents in the Amazon, that indicates there are ways of tapping into the astral world in order to produce tangible results on the material plane.
My take on metaphysics is that if an experience is an experience; that is what is happening. I know that seems to simplify it for a lot of people. Maybe you can’t register something that is being seen or heard by another individual, but I think there are other realities and realms existing around us at all times. I’ve had profound paranormal/spiritual experiences way before I touched psychedelics that have definitely resonated with me about a great reality existing outside of the senses, outside of the waking state.
I think people encounter supernatural influences and that may scare them away from further investigation, too.
What Carl Jung called synchronicity is a good example of this kind of phenomena—something that is kind of a glitch in the matrix that makes you really pay attention, and usually when you do that, some really interesting things and connections start to happen.
I think there is something to this bigger multidimensional timepiece or clock that’s running around. I think there is a way to tap into that, with psychedelics. I guess in a way the hallucination vs. reality thing is always an either/or scenario—why can’t it be both/and?
I’m with you there. The paranormal stuff was happening long before I was ready or even wanted it, so it seems sometimes the invisible world sometimes reaches out and calls to people, rather than any deliberate looking for it.
It’s interesting that with all of the people who practice yoga and herbalism or preach about returning to a more natural way of living that there definitely is still a stigma surrounding natural entheogens. There is a misconception I think that people who are advocates for psychedelics think they are reaching instant enlightenment or something, rather than the long road of work that is more typical in what John Michael Greer calls the “green path”.
The negative stigma does feel strange, because I think it’s having a tremendous positive effect with demonstrable results. Entheogens are curing serious addictions and are really turning peoples lives around. Which is a phenomena that wasn’t very common before. Since I started pitching the doc over a decade ago, I’ve found the knee jerk reaction is not as common as it used to be. I’ve heard house moms at a bar talking about DMT and it’s kind of strange, because it was secret psychedelic lore not too long ago.
I think people also see that there have been examples of deep trauma healing from soldiers and veterans. In general we have to find a way to heal, it’s too much for our culture to bear anymore not to seek treatment for our collective illness.
Could you tell me if you have any future projects outside of MYTHAPI?
Spectral alchemy is sort of the production entity and brainchild behind it, but we have much to unravel still with MYTHAPI that I’m excited to show everyone. I think the content can be stretched out for years. It gives me the sort of AI I need as a storytelling platform that I feel really grateful to have. This is a project I have been planning for and dreaming about for years. The content encourages an active participation in the media so as to get them involved.
Ultimately I really just want to encourage people to define themselves and resist others doing it for them, and to actively participate in speeding up evolution and a responsible way to co-exist with each other.
I’m ready to get it out into the world.
[Title image by visionary artist Beau Deely]
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