In Terrence McKenna’s documentary on the culture of Amazonian rain forest tribe, the Shani, Shamans of the Amazon,, the filmmaker emphasizes how the culture of Amazonian tribes are founded on a deep relationship between a sacred realm and the tools to deepen the spiritual experience, which are found in nature. In particular, McKenna looks at how the figure of the Shaman plays a key role of wisdom in the tribe. The Shaman, however, fulfils the role of the wise man not only through his own spiritual advancement, but also through an ancient knowledge of particular herbs and plants which give a spiritual experience.

You're lucky! Use promo "samples20"
and get a custom paper on
"Amazonian Tribes"
with 20% discount!
Order Now

The documentary focuses on one herb in particular, ayhuasca, which creates altered states of consciousness and therefore is a hallucinogenic drug with a great spiritual importance for the tribe. The film also emphasizes how it is a struggle for the Amazonian tribes to protect their heritage, especially because of multi-national corporations which wish to use the rain forest for their accumulation of capital.

What stood out in the film are the importance of the sacred in the culture’s life, as well as the connection the sacred with the natural materials provided by the Amazonian rain forest. Firstly, it can be said that the religious plays a key role in the lives of the Amazonian tribes. The shaman is at the center of the tribe, not only as a wise man, but also as a warrior. Secondly, the shaman’s spiritual life is closely related to the use of hallucinogenic herbs. This is an ancient tradition, which allows access to spiritual worlds, as the film’s interviews with the Shaman stresses.

Certainly, there are many differences between this culture and my own. Firstly, the spiritual or the sacred dimension plays a marginalized role in Western culture. In the West, there is secularization and therefore a separation bewteen religious life and political life. Political life has power; the religious parts of society are essentially supposed to be private and not interfere in public life. In the Amazonian tribe’s life, the sacred plays the key role. The leader of the tribe is also its spiritual leader, the shaman. Secondly, there is a close relationship with nature. In Western culture, this is lost, above all replaced by a close relationship with technology. The Amazonian tribes live as close to nature as a Westerner knows how to use Twitter of Snapchat.

There are some similarities however. In the West, there is much drug use. It is clear that drug use is also prevalent in the Amazonian culture. But the Amazonian culture uses drugs in a ritual and sacred context, as opposed to a hedonistic context.

Certainly, this would be a culture I would like to experience. I admire above all their self-sufficiency, their knowledge of nature and their resistance to forces that are hostile to their way of life. The culture of the Amazonian tribes should be commended for trying to preserve their tradition against overwhelming odds. I am also interested in the fact that they have a spiritual center to their lives. This is something that seems lost in Western cultures and Western materialism.

But, indeed, I would have culture shock if I were to visit this culture. I would be cut off from all my familiar comforts. I would live a life that would be much more rugged and demanding. Also, although I am interested in spirituality, the spirituality of the Amazonian tribe, centered on hallucinogenics, is intimidating. However, I believe I would also be able to form a connection with the Amazonian tribe because of my respect for their way of life.