Aubrey Marcus' name became well known to the public because of his regular appearances on the Joe Rogan podcast. Almost every podcast, Aubrey would recount a new harrowing and beautiful experience with some psychedelic.
Aubrey is the CEO of Onnit, a company who specializes in human optimization. They sell fitness equipment, healthy food, and supplements. Before that he ran a successful marketing company for 7 years. He also has an active blog where he recounts his philosophy on life and his experiences with psychedelics. He graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in Philosophy and Classical Civilizations. And if that isn't enough, he is the host of two podcasts: the Aubrey Marcus Podcast and the Total Human Optimization podcast.
Aubrey is a big proponent of the healing powers of psychedelics or as he prefers them to be called plant medicines. In this part of the interview (see Part 2 here), we talk about how to properly prepare for a psychedelic experience and the different kinds of psychedelic states.
"They give you a different vantage point on your life and the lives around you. You’re able to see truths that were previously obscured."
Preparing for a Psychedelic Trip
KB: You've said many times before you see psychedelics as a tool to help you improve as a person. Could you talk a bit about this?
AM: There are studies that have been done that are starting to prove that theory. There’s a study done at John Hopkins on psilocybin.
KB: Is that the one where the people who took mushrooms altered their personality for a very long period of time? [See study here].
AM: Yup, that’s the one.
KB: So how do you think psychedelics help improve you as a person?
AM: I think they alter your lens of perception both introspectively and outwardly. They give you a different vantage point on your life and the lives around you. You’re able to see truths that were previously obscured.
If done under the right guidance, you’re able to release a lot of unnecessary and unwanted psychic and emotional baggage.
KB: What is the right guidance?
AM: Let’s start with the best guidance. The best is a shaman who understands the traditions that have been used for thousands of years with a particular entheogen. In every part of the world, different shamans have worked with different medicines. There are the Ayahuasceros from the Amazon jungle. They work with Ayahuasca. There is the Ibiti that work with Iboga. Then there are the mushroom healers. That’s who the best are.
Now what is the minimum requirement? I think you need to take psychedelics in a sacred space. A sacred space is just a space where you know you are safe both physically and spiritually. Where you’re not going to have any interruptions or any weird people coming by. It's a place where you’re going to feel completely comfortable. You need to be able to hold and maintain that space.
Your guide can’t be putting off or emitting their own baggage, anything that is going to be contagious to you. They have to be a clear pool of water that can guide you while not tainting you.
KB: How long do you think the changes from a psychedelic experience last?
AM: Forever. The changes are especially prescient and dramatic right after you finish. As you re-assimilate into your life, it will slowly wear down. But your baseline is altered forever. If you get a 60 percent change right off the bat, two weeks later maybe you’re 40 percent. 2 months later, 30 percent. Six months later, you’re holding strong at 18 percent change for example. Maybe that’ll drop off two years from now to 15 percent, but you’ve changed forever.
KB: The question is what setting is the best scenario for someone to have a real long term change? So instead of dropping off from 60 percent to 20 percent, they stay at 60 percent.
AM: I think there’s no one magic bullet you can point to. It's more of a recipe. You need the right sitter/shaman and the right medicine for that person. Then the right state of mind that that person is going in with.
I think one of the key points in the whole experience is setting intent based on what you want to get out of the experience.
You also have to let go and not try to control your experience and just be a passenger on the ride.
KB: Do you have any advice for people when they're preparing for a psychedelic experience?
AM: There’s a diet and cleansing component. You don’t want to come into it with a lot of shit in your stomach, like bad food or bad medicine. You want to be as clean as possible. Every tradition has their own specific diets. But, in general, stay away from fermented food, stay away from processed foods, eat as raw and as naturally healthy as you can.
KB: Do you think that’s because you want to have the best possible digestion of the psychedelic or do you think it’s something more spiritual?
AM: It’s both. First of all, you want to minimize the tasks required by your body, while so much is happening in your mind and your spirit.
Also, you get the most out of the entheogen by taking it on an empty stomach.
"Compare a psychiatrist, who has spent a month learning the properties of each drug they’re using with a couple of days of experience giving these drugs to people to that of a thousand years of unbroken grandfather to grandson wisdom, where they’ve been treating their tribe every fucking day and taking it four, five times a week, cultivating it themselves."
The Different Psychedelic Experiences
KB: What do you think the different psychedelic experiences have to offer? What can we learn from mushrooms that’s different than let’s say Ayahuasca for example?
AM: For me, psilocybin mushrooms are a powerful introductory medicine because I feel like mushrooms are the most flexible entheogen. You can use it to enjoy physical, visual, and auditory sensations more. Or you can use it to explore the depths and gain truth from a different perspective. However, when we’re talking pure power, I sometimes find that mushrooms underwhelming for massively deep exploration. It just seems that after experiencing Iboga and Ayahuasca that when I take mushrooms, I feel like it’s like a rocket that doesn’t quite have enough fuel to pierce the boundaries of the other dimensions.
It’s something to get experience with, but also not to take lightly. You can never take Ayahuasca and go to a concert—that would be a fucking nightmare. But you can do that with mushrooms, once you know and understand them.
KB: Can you talk a bit about the differences between the multiple psychedelic experiences?
AM: The strength of Ayahuasca is that I think it's the best rocket fuel for travelling to other dimensions. I think DMT is a kind of conduit between life and death and a window to the spirit world.
Ayahuasca is by far the best way I think to take DMT. The problem I think with smoking DMT—I’ve talked to a lot of shamans about this—is that you go very deep, very fast, but get yanked back very quick. You could be right in the middle of information download and just get yanked up. The analogy I like to use for that is that it’s like when you plug your iPhone into your computer and it says ‘Seeking, do not remove’—it’s transferring information. That’s kind of what happens when you smoke DMT. You go off to another dimension and you start downloading information. You’re usually in the middle of a partial download and it yanks you back.
I'm not saying not to do it, but it’s definitely something to proceed with caution because you can get caught in the middle of some material that you didn’t have the chance to work through. It can leave you feeling pretty weak, pretty vulnerable, and pretty bummed out. I recommend it for really experienced travellers, for people who really know what they’re doing.
Now for Iboga. There is nothing more introspectively valuable than Iboga. You’re going to go on a with your personal truths and you're going to brutally review your life. If anyone has any questions like what should I do? Why am I like this? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I find love? Iboga is your answer.
I really don’t like the artificial entheogens. I think you’ve taken the spirit out of the plant. I believe that there is somehow a synergy between the natural and ourselves that provides a certain magic that can’t be reproduced by synthetics.
Synthetics can change your life’s perception. Maybe you will have a great experience, but it’s not like a guided journey. I really feel that in the right setting, with the right shaman with the right plant medicine that you can do nothing but help yourself. But I don’t think acid, for example, has wisdom built into it.
KB: In an ideal world, what do you think the modern version of these sacred ceremonies would be?
AM: In an ideal world, the modern version would be the same as the old version. Go back and do it the old way. That’s really the best way to do it.
KB: Right now, the psychedelic experience seems to be on a trajectory towards a more modern psychotherapeutic setting. What are your thoughts on this?
AM: That’s because people are filled with fear and you have to jump through bureaucratic hoops for governmental regulation. Compare a psychiatrist, who has spent a month learning the properties of each drug they’re using with a couple of days of experience giving these drugs to people to that of a thousand years of unbroken grandfather to grandson wisdom, where they’ve been treating their tribe every fucking day and taking it four, five times a week, cultivating it themselves.
KB: But it might be a necessary path in the Western world to get it legalized. You have to show that it’s effective to treat mental disorders, prove it scientifically, and then eventually the government will have to say, ‘Well, I guess there’s something here.’
AM: You could also get it legalized as a religious ceremony. The Native American Church has gotten Peyote approved for religious purposes. I think that the Church of Santo Daime in Brazil got Ayahuasca legalized.
Iboga is still legal in tons of places. Mushrooms are legal in Amsterdam and pretty much decriminalized in Mexico.
So there is some hope. I think the religious way is better than the pharmaceutical way.
If you enjoyed this interview, pair it with my interview with Charles Eisenstein, author of of Sacred Economics, The Yoga of Eating, The Ascent of Humanity, and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.
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