Part Two | An Archaic Revival: Julian Moran on Refugio Altiplano and Ayahuasca by Rob Marsh

Happy Wednesday friends.

We are pleased to bring you part two of Rob Marsh’s interview with Julian Moran.

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity – we encourage you to read part one of this insightful article, which can be found here.

This article was originally posted at:

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Have you had to contend with adverse psychological reactions to the medicine, i.e. freak outs/bad trips, and if so how did you go about it?

It is not uncommon for people to have difficult experiences with ayahuasca, however these same experiences are often later reflected on as being the most important and most beneficial to the patient. Ayahuasca brings the sub-conscious to the forefront, which allows repressed memories, trauma and emotions to be dealt with. It is this exact mechanism that makes ayahuasca an effective modality for healing. These experiences are not what I would call ‘bad trips’, which is a term negatively associated with the psychedelic sub-culture of the 60’s and 70’s. A ‘bad trip’ can be on the whole avoided by observing tried and true strategies relating to set (state of mind) and setting. I am also of the belief that the ritualistic and ceremonial format of a traditional ayahuasca ceremony instills a sense of sanctity or sacredness that can in itself calm the patient and make them feel more at ease.

Ayahuasca is not necessarily going to be comfortable; in fact many people have expressed that it is the discomfort itself that allows for healing to occur. Having said that, a qualified shaman will have dealt with most circumstances likely to occur within the scope of an individual’s experience, and are equipped to help them through it. Feelings of being overwhelmed are not uncommon at certain stages of the experience, but they are essentially nothing to be afraid of, or deterred by.

We ensure our guests feel safe and secure while in our care, and it is through that elimination of any unnecessary fear that allows them to surrender to the experience, and essentially stop resisting.

Could you describe some of the outstanding positive experiences you’ve seen unfold at the centre?

I have seen people with clinical depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and eating disorders leave the center healthy and without suffering or reliance on pharmaceutical drugs. The center itself has a historical reputation for dealing with extensive physical illness, including cancer and Parkinson’s, and I look forward to witnessing the resolution of these issues myself, however my personal experience has been in the realm of mental illness and some digestive an immune system conditions.

Ayahuasca is a gateway to healing for a wide range of mental and emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual conditions; it seems as if there is really no limit on what can be accomplished within this treatment. That said, the healing itself depends greatly on the dedication and the intent of the individual and the consistency of the medicine experience. Despite the temptation to describe ayahuasca as a ‘cure’, I would not.

It facilitates healing but it is a unique and subjective experience. It is an incredibly powerful tool for healing, self-discovery and essentially unleashing the ‘shaman within’.

Do you think psychedelic medicine can offer anything that traditional Western medicine can’t?

Ayahuasca produces an altered state of consciousness.

This non-ordinary state is often the source of information, understanding, and awareness for an individual that can help them resolve their own problems. Western medicine does not acknowledge these sorts of states as being useful, nor do they recognise an individual’s relationship with their soul or self as being relevant to healing.

The alliance of Western therapy and ayahuasca treatment could potentially be a powerful combination in the resolution of a wide range of personal and societal health problems. I look forward to a future whereby the integration of these presently polarised perspectives are free to be used in conjunction with one another. Current research, as well as extensive anecdotal evidence suggests that once a patient commences ayahuasca treatment, their reliance on pharmaceutical drugs in the future will diminish. To me this is a very clear indicator that our present symptom-diagnosis-prescription paradigm is not solely the most effective or broad ranging form of treatment available.

Ayahuasca is renowned for allowing an individual to address the root cause of a problem, not just the physical, mental and behavioural manifestations of it.

Ayahuasca seems to dissolve the hard and fast division between subject and object, self and other. Do you think this experience of feeling or sensing that “you” are, at a fundamental level, not separate from your environment is lacking in the West, and if so, in what way?

I believe our basic ideas about who we are and how we should live in the West have encouraged a sense of separation from ourselves and our environment, and that we as a people have reinforced this sentiment over the course of many years through our schooling, our language and our authorities.

Many people feel lost, because they don’t feel that they know who they truly are. This disconnection from their higher-selves is often a source of discontentment, and may contribute to the problems that they ultimately seek to resolve via tools such as ayahuasca.

I suspect that a population that is in-tune with themselves, and in-sync­ with their environment, would be entirely problematic for societies that derive financial security from the exploitation of natural resources. Having worked in mining and resources for many years, I am aware that this sort of dialogue simply does not exist, and could not exist within the framework of what they are trying to achieve commercially.

Themes commonly experienced with ayahuasca include universal oneness, connectedness, and unity with all things. While these ideas are reminiscent of ancient religious teachings, they have lost footing in our urbanised and fast paced modern life. The current political, economic, and ecological climate reflects policies and expression of separatism, and a demarcation from the notion of unity.

What kind of an effect does ayahuasca have on a community?

Ayahuasca has the potential to help individuals resolve their personal problems, and become more positive and productive members of society. The collective impact of a population of happier, healthier and more adjusted individuals is immeasurable.

However, there are certainly a range of impacts in communities such as Iquitos, where ayahuasca has had both positive and negative impacts on the local economy, employment and tourism. It presents a wide range of challenges, and as it is an ancient practice that is not regulated; there are two schools of thought as to whether this is a good thing or not. Certainly any unchecked influx of commerce in to an area can create problems – as we have seen with scam shaman and charlatans.

How do you think our society would look if ayahuasca was legal and as accepted as, say, alcohol?

The legality of substances in Western society is, contrary to popular belief, not based on scientific or medical research, or their impact on individual or societal health. This is particularly true of the class of ‘drugs’ known as psychedelics, of which ayahuasca is a member.

Sadly, addictive and destructive and sedative substances such as alcohol are culturally pervasive and essentially endorsed by government and law makers. A Western society that acknowledged the benefit and healing potential contained within the ayahuasca experience would look very different. Ultimately, the ayahuasca experience is about surrender, it is about facing fear and looking at oneself critically and objectively with a desire to change.

Alcohol elicits a lack of inhibition in the user, and perpetuates and exacerbates their existing belief systems – which are invariably egoic in nature. While I support the safe and supported use of ayahuasca globally, I am an advocate for its use within a traditional context, in a controlled environment with trained professionals.

While it remains illogical for DMT, the active ingredient in ayahuasca to be both a naturally occurring brain chemical and illegal, its synthetic form I believe is unlikely to routinely produce the same long-lasting positive effects that are generated within an authentic ayahausca experience. Essentially, this is not a substance (read: experience) that I believe can be ‘prescribed’ by a physician operating within the current medical framework. Their referral to indigenous shaman and professionals is certainly the preference.

You’ve recently been interviewed by the mainstream media in Australia, what was your experience like and do you feel the reporting was fair and balanced?

I feel as though the mainstream media feels a responsibility or obligation of sorts to present alternative healing in a particularly disparaging and condescending way.

While I have found that the content of interviews to be mostly reflective of my comments, they are rarely published without sensationalist headlines designed to capture the attention of a population that has been conditioned to be wary and defensive towards any healing modalities that fall outside of the presently accepted ‘norm’. In the response to various articles and interviews, the public comments indicate very high levels of prejudice, ignorance, and an overall lack of education towards certain substances.

I actually believe that when some are faced with evidence that suggests that ‘psychedelic drugs’ can resolve drug addiction for instance, cognitive-dissonance kicks in and their ability to reason with logic and sense dissolves very quickly. In many cases they are confronted with realities that conflict with beliefs they have held for decades, beliefs that they see as crucial to the maintenance of a stable society.

Would you like to see information about ayahuasca spread to the world, and if so in what way?

As ayahuasca is an old South American tradition and it is currently being re-discovered by the West, there is the tendency for it to be discounted as a new ‘fad’. I really believe that this form of treatment is extremely valid, and useful as a tool for recovery, perhaps in conjunction with others, for people in need. Its ‘popularisation’ or use by celebrities etc is not at all the point. This is not an experience one has in order to emulate another.

It should be a conscious decision to enter an altered state of consciousness, so that you may learn what you need to know in order to be healthy, and a more complete human on this earth. I think ayahuasca needs more intelligent spokespeople from within the scientific and medical communities in particular, who are willing to acknowledge that the recovery rates using standard methods for treating the ailments we are discussing here, are simply not high enough for them to ‘rest on the laurels’.

We are already seeing a targeted misinformation campaign being levelled at ayahausca, so I would encourage people to share their experiences and come out of the ‘psychedelic closet’.

If there’s anything you’d like to communicate to the people of the world, what would it be?

The earth secretes certain substances through plants that have in some cases, been classed as illegal.

I would encourage people to recognise that these same substances routinely outperform pharmaceutical drugs in the treatment of mental illness, addiction and behavioural problems (to name a few). This class of ‘drug’ known as psychedelics are non-addictive and ­non-toxic. It is my belief that they exist here for the sole purpose of healing, and elevating the thinking of the human species to new heights of consciousness.

Healing can come from within, and plant medicines are a viable mechanism to bring this about.

They have a lock and key relationship with the human brain, and in the case of ayahuasca, this too is where the active chemical DMT is produced. I would draw the audience’s attention to these wise words from Terence McKenna and Albert Einstein, respectively:

“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Well ladies and gents, I think I’ll leave that to speak for itself. Many thanks to Julian Moran and his wife Angela for their hospitality and thoroughness in answering these questions, and best wishes for the future.

Interested persons can contact Julian at the addresses listen on the Refugio’s website,, where you’ll also find information regarding the ceremonies, travel arrangements and so on.

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We will be back to see you next week. Many thanks to Rob Marsh.