We’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Biosphere 2’s first mission! Hear more about it in this interview with NBC News, as Biospherian Mark Nelson describes what life was like inside of Biosphere 2 and how those lessons have shaped our thinking about future space colonization.
For a closer look at life inside of Biosphere 2, you can read more from Mark Nelson, who spent two years enclosed inside the biospheric bubble as part of the innovative experiment and discover how he developed a passion for natural solutions to wastewater recycling. As the manager of these essential systems he realized how essential the proper re-use of human waste is to the health of the planet. Join him in The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time on a global expedition of discovery, which he recounts with his characteristic humor and humility.
And for another perspective on the epic tale of Biosphere 2, turn to the legendary John Allen, who was the conceiver and inventor of Biosphere 2. Allen was first inspired when he began to learn of the sphere that supports all life on earth⸺the biosphere⸺ through study of Vernadsky at the Colorado School of Mines. Through his travels around the planet to study the many biomes that cooperate to keep earth in balance and his journeys inward through shamanic ceremonies to explore the nature of consciousness, Allen expresses the wisdom gained through a lifetime of adventure and inquiry in Me and the Biospheres: A Memoir by the Inventor of Biosphere 2.
Silver Winner in the category of Home & Garden in the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Award, 2014 Living Now Book Award—Gold Winner in the category of Gardening / Farming / Landscaping, Foreword Reviews’ 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award—Silver Winner in the category of Ecology & Environment, Finalist for the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the category of Science/Nature/Environment, and Winner of the 2015 Southwest Book Design and Production Award for Best Cover and Jacket Design
Winner of the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Biography/Memoir
Artist unknown. Shipibo Textile. Courtesy of St. Lawrence University, in Ayahuasca Reader
Ayahuasca is More than a Headline
As it becomes more widespread, more people are sharing their experiences with ayahuasca. This traditional indigenous plant medicine has been making its way beyond the its home in the rainforests of the Amazon to major urban centers around the world. An increasing number of people, including spiritual seekers, travelers and even celebrities have been coming out and sharing their experiences. As more people are trying it, more people have been sharing their stories. More major news outlets including BBC, The Guardian, New York Times, and so many more mainstream news sources are sharing stories describing the effects of ayahuasca.
Respecting Indigenous Ayahuasca Traditions
But beyond any news articles are the stories of the people who have known ayahuasca for generations. The wisdom shared by people trained in shamanic lineages is more difficult to access; most of them don’t have blogs. To hear these stories requires multiple translations and perilous journeys to remote villages deep in the rainforest.
Ayahuasca Reader includes mythic narratives and testimonies from members of the indigenous groups who use the drink, themselves: the Siona, Cashinahua, Huaorani, Desana, Witoto, Yagua, Inga and Secoya. Some of these materials have been published previously, often in difficult to find journals and books in a variety of languages. In other cases, the authors have produced their contributions expressly for this anthology.
Ayahuasca Reader has a collection of these stories with notes and insights from the editors to provide deeper understanding of the original contexts of ayahuasca use and an examination of how changing cultural circumstances are shifting its ritual practice.
The Story of a Young Shaman
The following narrative from Ayahuasca Reader is by Yagua shaman Alberto Prohaño as told to French anthropologist Jean-Pierre Chaumeil places an emphasis on ritual itself and the actual songs used to invoke the different plant-spirits. The individual performance of the shaman facilitates a social function in connection with themythic presences invoked through the act of singing. This text also exemplifies theole of ayahuasca as a milestone in the path of knowledge, following other sacred plants such as piripiri (Cyperaceous sp.) and tobacco…
Paye Candido by Jeison Castillo, in Ayahuasca Reader
Excerpt from “Initiation Experience”
On the third moon, múwa wánditu, I again drank ayahuasca mixed with tobacco juice and piripiri. At each stage, a new plant is added, with the goal of knowing them all, little by little. My deceased father and I sang the song to call the mother of ayahuasca:
mother of ayahuasca, I’m going to call you (call) yeeee yeee yeeeeeeeee mother of ayahuasca, I don’t know you (I want to know you) I still don’t know you teach me how to heal I want to extract virotes come, come, come, come, . . .
The ayahuasca takes me, drags me along. Images appear. My father questions me. I answer that I don’t see anything. He gives me another dose that I swallow. The colors dance, the lit candle appears . . . on a second plane, animals torn to pieces parade past . . . my bones come out of their joints; the creatures devour my flesh . . . But a sweet voice echoes in my head: “Look! Study! Learn about this plant. Smoke, but do not spit. Swallow all the smoke. Don’t let even a mouthful escape.” I suck on the cigar pë pë pë pë . . . a strange smell invades me, sweet and perfumed, followed by the image of a thick ayahuasca trunk. Whispering comes from below the vine, as if someone were speaking or, perhaps, singing:
eeeee eeeee eeeee I’m the mother of ayahuasca come closer and light this cigar
I take several puffs on the enormous cigar that they give me and I swallow all the smoke:
A perfume penetrates my cold body. The images go up in smoke, little by little. I’m normal again. My bones are welded together. Then they appear again . . . I’m scared . . . they calm once more only to return again. Terrifying images parade before my eyes. My bones explode . . . there are toothless monsters that fly, jump, fall, hang in the air, bite and devour each other . . . I want to leave, but a voice intervenes: “Drink a little bit more. You’ll see everything.”
This account, based on field work done in 1976 by French anthropologist Jean-Pierre Chaumeil, is by Yagua shaman Alberto Prohaño, current leader of the community Edén de la Frontera on the Marichín River. In this text, which is fragmentary out of necessity, Alberto goes over some of the most intense moments of his own initiation. At that time, he still had not reached the age of twenty (in 1976, he was thirty-five). He was initiated by his father, Xenon, who received his shamanic knowledge from his father. In the following years, Alberto practiced with his maternal uncle José Murayari, who worked to perfect the knowledge of his future son-in-law by means of the periodic ingestion of new plant decoctions.
Carrying the Wisdom of Ancient Practices
In Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vineyou’ll find myths and stories passed down over generations of Amazonian healers, personal testimonies of experiences with Amazonian cultures, a selection of hymns and texts from the religions using ayahuasca as a sacrament, writings from well-known figures in the literary world on the lasting influence of their experience, and a section of transcendental visionary color art to illuminate our understanding of ayahuasca.
Read more about these practices and dive into the deep traditions of Amazonian plant medicine wisdom. Support our Indiegogo campaign and you’ll receive your copy of Ayahuasca Reader, and you can check out the other incentives we have to take your further in your exploration of consciousness and planetary culture.
Honoring Diversity at the World Ayahuasca Conference
You can join the largest gathering of the world ayahuasca community, meeting. Come together with more than 100 speakers who will share knowledge and expertise through presentations and cross-cultural roundtables, and take this opportunity to learn more about the diverse indigenous communities participating in the conference, and to take in film, music, art… and much more.
Ayahuasca is a visionary healing plant from the Amazon used by shamans for millennia for its powerful positive effect on mental, physical and spiritual health. Learn about the mythology, spiritual and cultural importance of this healing plant, as well as what is killing the rainforests now and what you can do about it.
The newest book from Synergetic Press, Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vine, is the most comprehensive anthology of writings on the subject ever published. There is a global ayahuasca movement underway as hundreds of thousands of people are experiencing the remarkable effects of ayahuasca, but little is know of its history and how it works. The Ayahuasca Reader tells the story of ayahuasca from many perspectives. The book explores the many aspects of this healing brew, providing cultural context from Amazonian shamans, offering a wealth of scientific and medical understanding, detailing its spiritual and religious use, as well as illustrating its role in both literary and artistic expression.
Deborah Parrish Snyder
Alexander Pogzeba, anthropologist and ethnobotanist, completed his BA in Anthropology with a focus on ethnology at University of New Mexico During his undergraduate coursework he explored traditional medicine, curanderismo and ethnobotany throughout Latin America and the Southwestern United States.
Jim Gollin is President of the Board of Directors for the Rainforest Action Network which campaigns for the forests, their inhabitants and the natural systems that sustain life by transforming the global marketplace through education, grassroots organizing and non-violent direct action.
Deborah Parrish Snyder, the publisher of Synergetic Press since 1984, publishing over 40 books on the environment, ethnobotany, consciousness, and cultural anthropology. She is a Director of the Institute of Ecotechnics, a non-profit ecological think-tank, helping to manage a number of the international conferences it has hosts on global trends and in the field of closed ecological systems and biospherics.
Ayahuasca, Lore of the Amazon and Rainforest Action is sure to be an empowering and enlightening gathering!
We hope you can join us there, but even if you’re not able to attend you can still be part of the action by participating in our Ayahuasca Reader campaign.
Join us in supporting the launch of our newest book,Ayahuasca Reader, and a educational outreach initiative designed to spread awareness and understanding on this important plant medicine and visionary vine.AyahuascaReaderis the most comprehensive and authoritative source of information aboutayahuasca, a healing plant used for millenia by shamans in the Amazon basin that has in recent years been gaining popularity for its positive benefits to physical health and spiritual growth.
Untitled by Pablo Amaringo, in Ayahuasca Reader
Inside the pages of this magical text you’ll travel with dozens of adventurers, anthropologists, artists, shamans, scientists and poets on a journey to remote regions of the Amazon and to the far reaches of the human psyche.
“A wonderful book of vivid reports, illuminating every aspect of Ayahuasca‘s own world, covering all that matters about these plant spirits and their worldwide impact. This book’s poetry and scope led me to honor, as never before, the gifts we are offered from the proper use of these plants.” –James Fadiman, PhD, psychologist, researcher and author, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide
New Edition: Ancient Stories, Breakthrough Research
The new edition of the Ayahuasca Reader features many distinct voices of the global ayahuasca movement: the researchers conducting clinical studies on its healing effects, the painters depicting the ineffable experience with visionary images, the indigenous people carrying the wisdom of ancestral traditions, and the stories of how ayahuasca has opened these individuals to their connection with the natural world and their true selves.
“Ayahuasca has a very insistent message. It’s one of those universals that almost everyone who drinks the brew sooner or later reports. It’s about the sacred, magical, enchanted, interconnected, infinitely precious nature of life on earth, and the interdependence of material and spiritual realms.” –Graham Hancock from the Reader
The Ayahuasca Reader is a five-part anthology which shares myths passed down over generations of Amazonian healers, personal testimonies of encounters with Amazonian cultures, a selection of hymns and texts from the religions using ayahuasca as a sacrament, writings from well-known figures in the literary world on the lasting influence of their experience, and a section of transcendental visionary color art to further illuminate our understanding of ayahuasca. This comprehensive collection of writings has been expanded with a new section of ayahuasca inspired art and other resources to draw readers even deeper into the mythic mysteries of the Amazonian brew that has been gaining attention around the world.
Leading Voices from Traditional and Contemporary Culture
Paye Candido by Jeison Castillo, in Ayahuasca Reader
The texts chosen for this book include translations from nearly a dozen languages, representing the voices of many different Amazonian peoples and the diversity of their cultural approaches to working with ayahuasca. Contributors include legendary scholars of Amazonian plant medicine such as Wade Davis, Dennis McKenna, and Richard Spruce; cultural icons like Allen Ginsberg and recognized shamans and spiritual leaders such as Raimundo Irineu Serra, Fernando Payaguaje, and Alberto Prohaño. This new edition also includes essays from prominent visionary figures including Graham Hancock, Alex Grey, Jeremy Narby, Susana Bustos, Michael Winkelman, and others.
The Ayahuasca Reader provides a well-rounded introduction to plant medicines, Amazonian indigenous cultures, and psychedelic/entheogenic journeys, while also offering extensive information on the effects and experience of ayahuasca, the cultural context from which its preparation and use has emerged, and its blossoming impact worldwide.
“Given the plethora of publications on ayahuasca, it is sometimes difficult to know which are the worthiest. That being said, the Ayahuasca Reader is a classic.” –Mark Plotkin, PhD, ethnobotanist, Founder & Director Amazon Conservation Team
Sharing the Wisdom of this Rainforest Medicine
Synergetic Press is mounting a global publishing an educational outreach campaign about ayahuasca, because at this critical juncture in time as we are seeing a remarkable increase of interest in this mysterious and undeniably powerful rainforest medicine. More people are beginning to discover the many benefits of this traditional brew, including the treatment of conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to PTSD and depression.
But at the same time that Western doctors and researchers are taking note of its potential for humanity, the very cultures and rainforest environment where it came from continue to be threatened and we are at risk of losing irreplaceable knowledge as well as the healing plants themselves.
Thanks in Advance for Your Support!
We can’t do it alone. We’re counting on you to share this vision with us and support the movement for greater consciousness and connection with the Earth.
This year the revolutionary laboratory on earth sciences, Biosphere 2, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. The initial experiment began in September of 1991 when eight pioneering individuals were enclosed inside of its glass walls for two years. The existence of Biosphere 2 and the research conducted there continue to gain attention, as it fuels understanding of planetary systems and calls attention to the realities of our circumstances on the original Biosphere, the Earth.
In 1993, in the first moments when the human experiment was coming to a close, the biospherians re-entered the outside world after two years of stewardship in their enclosed home. Mark Nelson, who managed the wetland sewage treatment system inside of Biosphere 2, shared a few words on the experience:
Mark Nelson in the wastewater treatment marsh of Biosphere 2. Photo from biospherics.org
“We’ve come out of another world. Through that thin airlock there is another world living… What’s been surprising and profoundly wonderful is that operating Biosphere 2 has changed the way I operate my organism. To live in a small world and be conscious of its controls, its beauty, its fragility, its bounty and its limits changes who you are.”
Several recent articles have revisited the story of Biosphere 2, while highlighting the role that the facility continues to play in inspiring a new generation to be ecologically minded.
“Many older generations know of us thanks to the experiments conducted in the early 1990s,” explains John Adams, deputy director of Biosphere 2. “But we really want to engage with the younger generations.”
The experiments Adams refers to are two missions which saw a team of scientists seal themselves inside the laboratory. The first mission garnered the most column inches; four men and four women entered Biosphere 2 in 1991, vowing to stay inside the lab for two years, without any physical contact in the outside world. The team hoped to demonstrate the viability of closed ecosystems in maintaining human life, and also explore how such a closed biosphere could be used in space colonisation.
Whenever there’s an experiment at Biosphere 2, it’s a big experiment. This summer, Biosphere 2 will be home to the largest study ever conducted on how water moves through a landscape.
Photo credit: Gil Kenny
Water is clearly vital to life, but so are the minerals and nutrients it picks up as it flows through rocks and soil. This process, called weathering, underlies everything else in an ecosystem, including microbes, plants, animals, agriculture and how the landscape changes over time. . . .
“Chemical weathering is the first thing you need in order to form a habitable planet,” says Dixon. But the process is still not well understood.
Although weathering has been studied in laboratories, there is no other laboratory that can compare in providing such large-scale conditions with the benefit of being a controlled atmosphere.
. . . the University of Arizona is transforming part of the site into a “Land Evolution Observatory”—a 10-year, $5 million project to study how vegetation, topography and other factors affect the movement of rainwater through watershed to drinking water.
The substantial site provides a unique opportunity to see how water moving over the land causes changes over time on a real-world scale.
Living in Harmony at the Heart of Biosphere 2
Aside from serving as fertile ground for conducting scientific research on how water and soils operate, Biosphere 2 provides an experimental mirror for the way humanity relates to the Earth. John Allen, the inventor, conceiver and co-founder of the Biosphere 2 project provided an unparalleled opportunity to reflect on our own lifestyles. He spoke at the re-entry ceremony, when the eight people who had dedicated two years of their lives to the ambitious project emerged back into the larger atmosphere of the biosphere that we all share.
“The biospherians have shown in practice for the past two years the do-ability of a comprehensive code of ethical behavior in a new area in which we can no longer depend on the aesthetic interests of the few or the economic interests of the many to maintain proper behavior in humanity’s relationship to the very basis of our life, to the biosphere. The eight biospherians ate, slept, worked, dreamed, enjoyed and suffered, in short existed in harmony with their biosphere. Their biosphere flourished with their way of life, they recycled their food, their wastes, their water, their air. They protected biodiversity and enhanced the beauty of their landscapes. Their own bodies purified and their biosphere sparkles undimmed without a ghost-like fog of smog. They lived with high tech instrumentation and communications but in a non-destructive, ecotechnic way… Sophistication and love of wilderness blended and fulfilled their dreams. I appreciate the biospherians’ skill in operations, their integrity in research, their zest for exploration but I honor them for their ethical achievement, achieved at no small cost to their immediate gratifications, for having done what they perceived they ought to do.”
Use coupon code Bio25 at checkout from our Synergetic Bookstore for 25% off of these important ecological books!
An Architectural Overview of Biosphere 2
And to read more on history of biospherics, the creation of Biosphere 2, and its continuing legacy from an architectural point of view, check out this paper written by Antonino Di Raimo, Architect PhD, Dean of Architecture at POLIS University from Tirana Architecture Week.