Ayahuasca: A Spiritual Journey Through the Subconscious - Part II
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Ayahuasca: A Spiritual Journey Through the Subconscious - Part II

An Interview with Matt McCormick

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Ayahuasca: A Spiritual Journey Through the Subconscious - Part II
Alex Grey

To describe Matt McCormick in one word is impossible. What a bank full of knowledge and experience, that guy.

I've talked to him before about the stigma behind 9/11 conspirators, the mindfulness of meditation, and Ayahuasca: an Amazonian plant mixture that induces altered states of consciousness.

We've had several conversations on his various trips to Peru for the Ayahuasca ceremonies, but his most recent experience took quite a bit out of him, physically and psychologically. Of course, I was interested in talking to him about that, but I wanted to give him some time to formulate his thoughts and get himself back on his feet, so to speak.

Last week, I texted him, asking if he would be willing to open up.

He responded: "Sure. Your timing is very good. Since I've been back, I haven't talked much about the trip, but now I am ready. Interview is good. I'm available Monday."

Here is Monday's conversation:


Matt: This place versus the other place gave me seven times as much. At least.

Brandon: I think you said before that an eighth of a pill bottle is what you took before.

Of course, me being the guy, I think I have to drink all of it. Later, I found I out – you don’t have to. It’s just a suggestion, but I took it like a challenge.

So, you went to Peru in January for an extended period this time. Where in Peru was it?

The city is Iquitos. Usually, you have to get on a boat or a bus to make it out to the jungle, but this place was pretty close. When I went to Blue Morpho before, it was about an hour away. This was about twenty minutes. It’s off the Amazon’s, a little tributary. We got there pretty quickly. A very nice place to the eye. Blue Morpho was comfortable but this place sparkled. Single bulb in the ceiling, kind of thing.

I heard a little bit about your trip from Andy and, well, pretty much just from Andy, but I want to get it from the source. Your perspective. It sounds to be like this go-around wasn’t as pleasant of an experience as the first couple. This is your third trip, correct?

Yeah, the first two at Blue Morpho, then this time at Spirit Quest. Have you met Riza?

No, I still haven’t; I know we’ve talked about him before.

Well, he did a double. Ayahuasca and San Pedro, which are two different ceremonies; two different plant medicines.

San Pedro?

Yeah, it’s called Huachuma. The modern word for it is San Pedro, which translates to Saint Peter. Anyway, seventeen days down there just beat my ass. I almost felt like I was close to death. I lost weight. I was so uncoordinated. Everything was just off. Now, since I’ve been back, I’ve been thinking, if the goal of these things is to tear you down then build you back up, one of the things that has to go is your ego. And sometimes when the that process occurs, physically, you’re torn down, too. Now, I’m back to the point where I feel like me, physically. But, what I’m looking for is some kind of like, oh, man, this is amazing. I see things differently now. I have not gotten that. A little spark here and there, but nothing that I would say, well, that was worth it!

How was the cost compared to Blue Morpho?

About the same.

So, why did you want to go to Spirit Quest instead? I was wondering if once you went to one, you couldn’t go back. I thought that was a thing.

Nope, you can go back. See, at Blue Morpho, I had that thing. I’m loud.

Yeah, yeah, did they tell you to not come back?

Well, there was some contention, there. So, I go to this new place. I got in touch with Don Howard and said, hey, I’m loud. What is your thing around that. And he said, loud is not good. And he emailed me, was very nice about the whole thing, saying it’s an internal process, you need to be quiet, you know, blah, blah, blah. And I thought, hell, I ran into this at Blue Morpho! And I go there, and this is kind of funny, and think to myself, okay, gotta be quiet, gotta be quiet, gotta be quiet. And when I was going through it, turns out, I’m still loud. This stuff compels me to be animated. It just comes out of me. And I’m thinking, I’m not being loud. But, when eight people are looking at you, saying, yes, you were. Okay, you know, it’s not in my awareness. This stuff does something to me. I bet you I’m not actually that loud, because I can hear myself. I try to control myself from being too external, but still loud. That became the joke down there.

That you were loud?

Yeah, because on the last night, we did something called Vilca, which is DMT laced. I didn’t know that. It was to replicate the death experience. Physically dying. And it could be on the continuum from not feeling anything to being very close to that experience to actually experiencing death. And we’re all nervous but he assures us that everybody will come back. This has this history of people experiencing their own death. So, he’s talking about how quiet everybody needs to be. All the lights were off. Once you took it, you would walk right back to your room, lie in your bed, and experience what you experience. He kept talking about how we needed to be quiet. He said, now, we’re going to go by apartments. The apartment that is furthest away will go first. And, of course, that was me. And everybody cracked because he was just talking about how quiet we needed to be. Everybody’s been there for three weeks; they all get the joke.Don Howard looks at me and goes, Oh, how appropriate.

Anyhow, so I went there, thinking there would be a different response to my loudness, which there wasn’t. Listening to Riza talk about his experience down there intrigued me. The San Pedro works differently than Ayahuasca. The two together are like the male and female energies, and apparently, I was only getting the male energy from the Ayahuasca. For those reasons, I gave it a shot. Nearly killed me. If a doctor examined had examined me, he probably would’ve said I need sleep. He wouldn’t have said I was near death, but, boy, I felt it. I was on my hands and knees. Physically, and mentally.

You had told me before that a lot of places advertise as Ayahuasca ceremonies, but are actually considered scams. Shamans are posers and the tea is a type of poison, I’ve heard.

I don’t know. Some scam guys do have good Ayahuasca. They personally were not Shamans. You need both. If you’re going to a basketball game, you want Michael Jordan to be there. It’s like going to a basketball camp, but it’s some just idiots who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Do you feel like this was one of those times?

Oh, no. He’s the real deal. That’s another reason why I wanted to go. If you do your research on Huachuma or San Pedro, Don Howard is the dude. Even at Blue Morpho, they are even second or third string when it comes to the stuff. Don Howard is the guy in all of South America. He’s an American from Kentucky. But, he’s the guy who’s researched it, gone to the area where they’ve practiced this for thousands of years. Gone to the Shamans and trained with them, and it’s at this place. At Blue Morpho, you have to leave. Go down to other places, because they’re not set up for it. Don Howard is. He’s spent a lot of money and time on it. He gave a two-hour speech on it one night, and I went up to him and said, you know, I’m a history major and I have never heard a better lecture than yours. Huachuma, San Pedro, and the whole history of it. He’s a real laid back guy.

So, I reread our previous talk before coming in. You mentioned an experience of no right angles, no colors, no furniture, nothing. You used the word terrified to describe that. Is that a lot of what you went through this time, being so uncomfortable with everything?

I was very uncomfortable. The purging was one-hundred times worse. The first night, I purged for two-and-a-half hours. Both ends. I wanted to quit. I just said I couldn’t do this. The next day, we huddled up and talk about the night before. I told them I felt like I was in the ring with Muhammed Ali for fifteen rounds. I just wanted him to knock me out, but he never would. He would just punch me, then I’d get back up and he’d punch me again. It was horrific.

But, you did it again.

I did all of them.

And on the seventeenth day, you did the DMT thing?

It’s ten days with Ayahuasca at Spirit Quest. Some people leave, some people show up for the Huachuma; that’s another seven days. You get three of those ceremonies, plus the Vilca ceremony which makes it four. It’s Don Howard all the way through, but when you get to the Huachuca, he’s the guy. The Shamans that live in that part of the jungle don’t know anything about it. He does. They don’t help him, because they don’t know about it.

As much as you’re comfortable talking about, what was one of the more intense experiences you had.

Well, the first night, there’s no restrooms there. If you get sick or gotta pee, you go back to your room. So, I’m sitting there after taking this big drink, thinking, hey, I’m not even sick. Maybe I’ll go…oh, shit. Here it comes! Both ends. You yell out baño! and these helpers come, because when I’m on that stuff, I can’t even walk. So, they pick me up, take me back to my room, sit me on the toilet, and, man. Both ends for two-and-a-half hours. I got to a point where I couldn’t take it. And Don Howard said if there was a point where you couldn’t take it, to let him know. So, I said, Don Howard, I need help, Don Howard. Well, these guys didn’t speak much English, but they knew what I was saying. So, they call him in, but he can’t come because he’s in ceremony. I can’t get off this toilet. I figure you’ve been in my position before.

Oh, yeah.

All of a sudden, the door opens and there he is. He takes two steps forward and he’s not there anymore. And I’m about from here to the door, there, and I see him walk in, three-dimensional Don Howard with his headband, T-shirt, and shorts. I look at him, he looks at me, takes two steps forward and disappears. Oh, it was an apparition, I think to myself. Twenty minutes later – I’m making these times up because I don’t have any perception of time – the door opens again. There he is. Oh, good. First time was an apparition, but now there he is.

Same thing.

And I’m not talking about some fuzzy kind of thing. Everything I saw was clear. A third time, maybe a half hour later, he comes in, same thing. That was a very strange experience.

So, how many times did that happen?

Three times. It’s like Groundhog Day. That’s what it reminded me of. I am telling you. It was like a Xerox copy. He was the exact same. The exact movements. Fourth time, it was him. The exact same as the last three times, but he was actually there. What’s up, Matt? And I say, I’m sicker than a dog, I need some help, what can you do? And I’m thinking, well, he’s the Shaman, he’s Gandalf, he’s gonna hit me with his…thing. So, he says, It’s gotta run its course. Turns around and walks out.

So, the sickness happens quickly, right? Just after you take it?

No. When I was at Blue Morpho. I’m sitting there twenty, thirty minutes. Hell, I’m sitting there for an hour. Not feeling anything. But, when it hit, it hit big time.

I guess my question is…what is my question? Oh, when you puke it up and shit it out, is it still in your system? Does it dampen the effects at all?

Well, there’s two answers to that: yes and no. I think the fluid is gone, because there’s nothing left in there. But they say, once you have drunk Ayahuasca, Mother Ayahuasca is always with you. That’s more of a spiritual essence. She’s there. And they’re not talking about metaphors.

Once it touches you, it’s there?

Depends what you mean by there. Physically is the Ayahuasca there? No. To them, everything has a consciousness. This desk has a consciousness. Not a very bright one, but a consciousness, none the less. These plants are very conscious. Once they’re in you, so is that consciousness. Now, you can deny it, you can work against it and not conjure it up. When I was at Blue Morpho, I said, well, how do you get it back? They said, just ask. That’s when I had an amazing experience at Blue Morpho. When I asked, Mother Ayahuasca was right there. Immediately. The way she worked that night, I was just stunned. These seemingly unconnected things are connected. She was working in the future while I was stuck in the past. She was pulling these things together for me. That night I asked for her help. Somehow, she knew this was going to happen, and set up this whole dynamic. And I’m just thinking regular, historical stuff is going on. I’m getting chills right now thinking about it. When I saw what happened, I’m thinking, oh, my god. She knew. Everything was solved that night. Everything was taken care of. There were five or six things that happened that were all tied together. They weren’t separate, accidental, not a coincidence. And they say you’ll never be able to figure her out, but, somehow, it was orchestrated for me. It was my request. But, when I was down there at Spirit Quest, I never saw her. She seemed totally absent to me. Now, under the umbrella that Mother Ayahuasca works in strange, mysterious ways, maybe her absence wasn’t absence.

Did you ask for her like before?

I don’t remember. I recall noticing her absence, but I don’t think I ever asked, where are you? Good question.

This is a little off topic, but not really. So, I’m writing this movie. All this shit pours down on this guy. His friend dies, his father is dying, he loses his job, etc. So, he decides to visit his father, despite a bad relationship. He has the choice to fly, but he decides to drive across country with his buddy to recreate the trip of Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters. You know the story, right?

I do not know. I know who Ken Kesey is.

Right. They were trying to promote LSD across the country. I think they provided acid to the Grateful Dead and whatnot.

Sounds like Jack Kerouac.

Yeah, all those books are connected somehow. But, anyway, I have a line that came to me that I want to include. It’s pretty simple. “It’s not about what you do, it’s about what you experience.” I think that holds true, because with the Ayahuasca ceremonies, taking acid, eating mushrooms, etc. you’re experiencing all these thoughts, emotions, recreating memories, all the while just sitting there, most likely. In a chair, on the floor, what have you. So, from your perspective, is that a good line?

I’m all about experience. I’m not the guy that goes on vacation and looks at the Eiffel tower and thinks, well, that was worth coming out here for. I’m wanting some internal experience that’ll help me become a better person. Now, with that said, I had to do a lot of things to get there. I guess I just don’t understand your line. What did you mean by that?

You’re experiencing all these things in your mind, but you’re just sitting there.

See, I consider that a do. You’re doing it. When I worked at Sinclair, one of my supervisors walked by and said, Matt, shouldn’t you be doing something? And I said, I am. I was meditating. That’s a doing. It’s an internal thing. She wanted me to be doing something that made it seem like I was doing something, but I was. It’s a big doing. In fact, those types of doings, since there isn’t much support, not many people are doing them, it’s hard. It’s internalized. We, as human beings, are external in practically everything we do. We’re like puppets on a string, that’s why people do these internal things. They are tired of being puppets. They want to learn to be authentic, and strong in the wind to maintain this balance as humans.

Let’s get back to Spirit Quest. Is there a moment that stuck with you that you’d be interested in talking about?

So, the Ayahuasca is over. Ten people are left, some others showed up, but our group is smaller. The San Pedro is different. So, here we are on this extremely powerful medicine, just going about a regular day. And according to Don Howard, that’s the tradition of ingesting San Pedro. It somehow helps with the process. The third day, we take it in the afternoon, but we stayed there. Around seven o’clock, it started to get dark. And they have something there called the “star deck.” It’s huge, maybe fifty feet in diameter. He built this. And, well, this might take a while. He started talking about the Chavín. Have you heard of this? They pre-dated the Incas by a thousand years, pre-dated Christ. They were in this north-western part of Peru, and this is where he got all this information about San Pedro. They had a thousand years of civilization with no wars. They had high agriculture, high art. Everything. A wonderful existence around this ceremony. And they would have these ceremonies, people would pilgrimage there so they could experience the San Pedro. One of their connections was with the stars, the Pleiades. This sword was sent from this area, and I may be messing up the story here, but it stuck into this temple and it pointed back to the Pleiades. It’s maybe ten, fifteen feet tall. Well, Don replicated this sword. So, we walk two-three hundred feet up to this star deck and you’re right there with the clouds and the stars. And when it gets to be nighttime, the mosquitos are un-fucking-believable. There was a lot of swatting.

So, everyone has a mat, and we lay down. This has been hours since we’ve done that San Pedro. And I look at my arms and I’m thinking, oh, my gosh, my whole body is just awash with cosmic energy. This yellow, silver-ish energy is running through my body. I felt like I was in a cosmic storm of energy, but the cosmic storm was my body. It was unbelievable. I could feel my legs get wet, but they weren’t wet. They say we have this energy lines, twelve major rivers running through. I must’ve been getting these lines because I would feel wet, whole body is engulfed. Energy is just pouring through me. It’s so colorful, so nice to see. Then, I lay down and look at the clouds. I see these deities, spiritual beings flying through the sky. Part of me was thinking that they were just clouds, but the other part made me think they were alive. I’m lying on my back and I see this light. It’s the most beautiful bluish, white light I’ve ever seen before.

Don Howard has this peaceful, internal feeling to him while everybody quiets down. He came out in the middle of this star deck with his rattle, and did all his songs and all that. All of a sudden, I’m in a Disney movie. Off in the distance, a flash of lightning goes off, got the CGI going on. It was perfect. I figured this out later, but I see this light on the spear in the middle of the deck, going a mile up into the sky. I’m all drugged up, I know I’m kicking it with this San Pedro, but something tells me something’s not right. He keeps talking about sending ohms to the gods, blowing tobacco smoke into the light as it goes up into the air. I just kept thinking where the hell is that light coming from? It’s just a rock! Later it turns out, it was a laser.

Ah, jeez.

He wasn’t trying to hide it; I was just ignorant to what it was. Anyhow, I finally stand up and I’m just awash with this energy. It’s powerful, but not overpowering. A little disconcerting, but just gorgeous. I look down and all I see are these mosquitos, hundreds of them on my arms, legs, everywhere. I couldn't care less. That energy was so sparkling, so alive, every hair on my body was standing on end. Somehow, I was immune to those mosquitoes. And those fuckers were not small either, just huge. I see them, I know I should be annoyed by them, but I’m not. So, Don’s finishing up his songs and what not, and I have this desire to walk towards the sword. Everyone starts to pull back. And I’ve been moving funny down there for three weeks. I’m an old man. I put my hands on this thing, and it was like a ball of energy, pulsating between me and that sword. How long I stood there, I’m not sure. There’s twenty-five of us, and I just think, okay, I’ve been here long enough. So, we go back to do the Vilca ceremony that night.

The DMT thing.

I didn’t know there was DMT in it. You sniff it, but I’ve actually smoked it before. Oh, what a trip, man. Anyway, you sniff it both nostrils, but I did it twice because I didn’t do it very well.

Was that a mistake?

Second time I felt it. A powder going up you. WOAH, I felt that one.It took right off. All the lights are off. They want it to be like the death experience. So, I have one-hundred and twenty yards to walk back to my room and I’m just walking. I get three-fifths of the way there…PSHHHHHHHHHHHHH! DMT. Lights, but it’s dark. And I’m walking. Unbelievable experience. I kept telling myself, keep walking. You know where your room is. Get there. I don’t wanna fall in the river, right there. I get there and into the position they told me. And my death experience wasn’t even close to what other people talked about. On a scale of ten being the highest, maybe it was a two. So, I’m lying in my bed and these tentacles came at me. At the end of each tentacle was a face, probably a thousand of them. These things are looking at me and the message I got from them was, you’re not ready. Then they pulled away. I had no idea how long I had been there, but there was a knock at my door. Matt, dinner! And I thought, aren’t I supposed to be dead? The irony of those two things were going on and I just start laughing. I could barely walk. First person to go into my room, last person to come out. No sense of time. All I remember are those tentacles. No death experience.

You’re not ready.

Yeah, you’re not ready for this.

So, the DMT is short-acting, but it feels like years have gone by.

It’s other, the weirdest thing. And there’s sounds to it to. This ringing.

Now, I’m told you’re supposed to take three hits.

First time I did it was with Riza. I did two and he said, take a third! I could see right through him and I said, no fucking way. I thought if I’d take a third, I’d be gone. I just fell back into my couch and watched lights with these sounds. Ten minutes later, you know, your body knows how to metabolize it. No hangover. It’s like it’s not even there.

That’s what I’ve heard. Like, you’re more clear-headed than you’ve ever been before. The three thing seems like a recurring idea. It’s interesting. A lot of drug-related things I’ve researched have that constant three about them. Triangles with LSD, the three hits, etc. I just don’t know what that’s about. It’s gotta mean something.

Who knows. I’ve read a lot about Terrance McKenna. When he would see the entities, they would say to him, settle down, you don’t have much time with us. We have a lot to tell you. If you get overwhelmed, you won’t remember any of this. Settle down. It’s hard to settle down when it’s other.

So, I came in here with the mind-set that you were scammed because Andy implanted that in my head. He told me sometimes they give you a substitute for Ayahuasca, or the guys are posers and not shamans, whatever. But, since we cleared that up, I still want to ask you: for someone who would be interested in making the trip to Peru, how could s/he be so sure that they’re going to the right one? Not just some rip-off.

Do your research. There are people who have been there, written books about it. I’ve read about people who’ve gotten scammed. Actually, somebody died one time and the shaman buried him. And, of course, his parents wanted to know where their kid was. And the shaman didn’t kill him, but they found him buried. Turns out, he wasn’t a shaman at all. He was a fake. But, there was an American down there who had been on Wall Street with all this money. He went down to that same place and had all these amazing experiences. Brought his wife down. The guy was spending millions of dollars to make life better down there. But, of course, he turned out to be a complete scam artist. When I saw this guy, he was dressed to the max, so, I wasn’t too sure about that. Then there are Shamans that take advantage of women. Some sexual problems down there. Any time there’s a big gold rush, there are going to be people ripping you off. Who knows how long it’s going to last. You know, if it becomes common place in Western society, they can probably move that information up here a lot less.

Do you find coming back to reality, though you learned things, much more boring?

That’s a good question. So, say there are other dimensions. This three-dimensional time-space reality we call now. What I think is important is that you come back and function within this frame work, because you are here. You don’t go home, gah, I gotta be back there, pining those experiences. Because you’re here. That’s how it is. I did see something the other day that was kind of interesting. This guy took his last breath and he died. I could feel that when he died. It was a movie I was watching. Right now, I saw I have no fear of death anymore. You know, moving from one body to another on the exhale. I think I actually chuckled. I just seemed natural. He didn’t fight it. And that’s what it’s all about. Don’t fight it. If you do, that’s when the difficult transition happens for wherever you’re going. If I go to my doctor and he tells me I have three months to live, I’ll probably have a different opinion. It’s easy to say right now. Easy to say.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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