Swimming in the Sacred: Wisdom from the Psychedelic Underground


Product Details

$18.95  $17.62
New World Library
Publish Date
5.4 X 8.4 X 0.8 inches | 0.75 pounds

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About the Author

Psychologist Rachel Harris, PhD, has been in private practice for forty years and has published more than forty scientific studies in peer-reviewed journals. The author of Listening to Ayahuasca: New Hope for Depression, Addiction, PTSD, and Anxiety, she lives on an island in Maine.



"The space of psychedelic ceremony is vast -- a sacred ocean. This remarkable book is a narrative distillation of knowledge and insight informed through extensive conversation with women ceremony leaders from the psychedelic underground of contemporary Western society. It is a skillfully woven pedagogical treasure for present and future generations of healers -- a sourcebook of wisdom jewels from medicine women who operate with intuitions cultivated over decades and thousands of hours of immersive practice. A true gem!"
-- David E. Presti, University of California, Berkeley, author of Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience: A Brain-Mind Odyssey and Mind Beyond Brain

"Rachel Harris has delivered a singular book, inspired by in-depth interviews with fifteen elder underground guides, women with 'more experience with the process of working with entheogens than any of the academic research teams' involved with psychedelics today. The author brings her psychology and research background, and her study of the history of psychedelics, together with insights grounded in her own encounters with visionary realms. In doing so, she connects the wisdom of these guides with scholarship from multiple disciplines that the reader can explore for further learning. Articulating the ineffable conditions of nonordinary states -- and the unique expertise of women engaged in 'lifelong learning with entheogens' -- is no small task. With deep respect and admiration, the author interprets for the reader stories, wisdom, and guidance from these remarkable women, 'silent and unseen, ' who have been 'in relationship with these medicines for decades.' Harris invokes the 'existential reassurance' that can benefit clients who work with medicine guides and therapists connected to 'a much larger and more subtle world, ' who have centered their own healing in service to others."
-- Sylvia Thyssen, senior editor, Erowid.org

"What an opportunity! Fifteen wise women with hundreds of years of experience guiding psychedelic life-changing journeys share their stories. Rachel Harris has deftly woven their opinions, concerns, reservations, and reflections into a book-length conversation. Her own additional observations, personal experiences, and pertinent research expand the value of every other contribution. The result is a feast of wisdoms to guide the next generation, emphasizing putting healing others above all else to develop their hearts as well as their skills. This book is a treasure box of guidance and support."
-- James Fadiman, microdose researcher and author of The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys

"Ever so carefully, Rachel Harris leads us into the deep end. Her storytelling pulses with life, illuminating treasures that have been overlooked for far too long. In gratitude, she reveals the untold stories of some of our bravest navigators. Swimming in the Sacred takes us on a delightful journey through the underground of this psychedelic renaissance and brings us back to the surface, for a much-needed breath of fresh integrity."
-- Joe Tafur, MD, author of The Fellowship of the River: A Medical Doctor's Exploration into Traditional Amazonian Plant Medicine

"Rachel Harris has become an important voice in psychedelic studies. Her perspective is compassionate, balanced, informed, and pragmatic. Swimming in the Sacred is full of wisdom, experience, and nuance -- a necessary contribution to the field."
-- Jeremy Narby, author of Plant Teachers and The Cosmic Serpent

"Swimming in the Sacred brings the stories of women who serve as underground psychedelic guides into the brilliant light of day. With gratitude and openheartedness, Rachel Harris honors their wisdom and commitment, without shying away from the potential for harm. The diverse practices cultivated by women over the decades, which span the distance between the psychedelic emergence of the 1960s and the current reemergence, contribute an invaluable perspective to the field of psychedelic care."
-- Jamie Beachy, PhD, MDiv, assistant faculty in wisdom traditions and director of education, Center for Psychedelic Studies, Naropa University

"Swimming in the Sacred is an astute set of observations by a seasoned psychonaut, trained in psychology (but well aware of traditional perspectives), on the pressing questions of today's psychedelic movement. Rachel Harris offers enormous insight into the possible nature of entity encounters, psychedelic therapy (and who's best qualified to offer it), scientific and traditional metrics for assessing such matters, and other issues. This is a must-read for psychedelic explorers, coming at exactly the right moment in our collective journey."
-- Dana Sawyer, professor emeritus of philosophy and world religions, Maine College of Art & Design, and author of Aldous Huxley: A Biography and Huston Smith: Wisdomkeeper: The Authorized Biography of a 21st Century Spiritual Giant

"Rachel Harris takes readers on a personal journey to meet women of the psychedelic underground, and along the way she reveals how women have been quietly but persistently nurturing a therapeutic renaissance that is not reflected in the scientific headlines. Beautifully written, this is a compelling and intimate look at some of the unsung heroines building a sustainable psychedelic future."
-- Erika Dyck, University of Saskatchewan, author of Psychedelic Psychiatry and Women & Psychedelics

"I would like to offer my heartfelt endorsement of Swimming in the Sacred. In this insightful and timely book on women psychedelic elders, Rachel Harris weaves together her wide-ranging interviews with fifteen women who have, for decades, at the risk of incarceration, been skillfully guiding medicine journeys with others as part of the psychedelic underground. These courageous women, impelled by the keen desire to help others to grow spiritually, were willing to share their compelling stories with Harris, who in turn crafted this lucid, vivid, and often wryly humorous text as a way to honor the wisdom and heart of these gifted women."
-- G. William Barnard, professor of religious studies, Southern Methodist University

"A luminescent light shines onto shadow aspects of the psychedelic renaissance in Swimming in the Sacred. Rachel Harris provides a long-overdue recognition of women's hidden contributions to psychedelic healing, research, and sacred wisdom. Harris astutely navigates the paradox of shadow and light in the current explosion of collective interest in psychedelic medicines in the US by recounting the experiences of women healers who have traversed healing realms for decades, some underground and some in the open light. Through a Jungian lens, Harris weaves her personal experiences with the life experiences of psychedelic medicine women, including Harris's healing through indigenous Shipibo healers of the Peruvian Amazon, writing with humor, clarity, and easy-to-read flow. Her book exposes vulnerable moments in the unfolding of psychedelic healing in her life, juxtaposing her intellectual skepticism of the nonmaterial realms with her curiosity and reverence for these same invisible yet real realms accessible through psychedelic medicines and the healers. Harris shares her personal process impacted by psychedelic medicines, revealing her individuation process, while deeply honoring the lives of scantly recognized women healers."
-- Jerome Braun, MA, LMFT, IAAP, Jungian analyst; diplomate of C. G. Jung Institute, Zurich; and author of "Impact of Personal Psychedelic Experiences in Clinical Practice" in Psychedelics & Psychotherapy, edited by Tim Read and Maria Papaspyrou

"As with the women she describes, Rachel Harris's gift is her ability to straddle different worlds. Weaving together academic research, a discerning psychologist's intuition, and a deep belief in the transformative power of mystical experience, she highlights the critical importance of listening carefully to the spiritual wisdom of the underground healers among us whose work stands resolutely outside the Western therapeutic model."
-- Mark Woodbury Brown, author of The Headless Vase

"This is an important and wonderful book. It's full of surprises and revelations, facts and stories, humor and wisdom. Rachel Harris gives us an immensely helpful and necessary guide for anyone interested in the transformative traditions that emerge in all cultures from the essential symbiosis between human beings and the plants and fungi that make life on earth possible. It's the fruit of a long life lived with courage, curiosity, compassion, and a wise and critical intelligence. The voices of these shadowy figures of the sacred underground are so important for us to hear now. The lives and practices of these women provide essential context, grounding, and cautions for everyone hoping to explore the powerful healing potential of our mysterious and elusive life-giving companions."
-- Tom Cheetham, author of Imaginal Love

"I've spent twenty-six years in the Amazon jungles apprenticing with one of the last of the traditional ayahuasquero shamans. As a gringa in that machismo society, it was no small feat. Now Rachel Harris proudly brings to light the wisdom of modern women in modern settings who are keepers of the psychedelic mysteries of the feminine."
-- Connie Grauds, author of Amazon Medicine Woman

"Now that the transformative potential of psychedelic exploration is once again spoken of openly, many curious but inexperienced seekers recognize that they would prefer not to make the journey alone. For the past half century, those who have had a wise teacher or mentor to support them have been remarkably fortunate, since our social environment has made it difficult to find this kind of guidance, and dangerous to provide it. Swimming in the Sacred explores the work of a group of women whose skillful presence in the psychedelic underground perpetuates an ancient spiritual and cultural tradition that has been carefully concealed during fifty years of reprehension and suppression. Without pulling away the protective cloak of discretion, this inspiring book reveals the work of these priestesses in a way that is respectful, factual, and instructive."
-- Mariavittoria Mangini, PhD, FNP, Women's Visionary Council

"An invaluable account of medicine women, working at the edges of consciousness and societal consensus, in deep relationship to the unseen, in service and allyship to the healing forces of life. Rachel Harris has captured their voices with her exquisite narrative that draws us into the very essence of the felt sense, the tactile, the delicate, the mythopoetic worlds such work emerges from. As we are navigating the process of mainstreaming psychedelic medicines in the Western world, these voices bring a depth and wisdom that are essential for informing our ways forward."
-- Maria Papaspyrou, MSc, coeditor of Psychedelics & Psychotherapy: The Healing Potential of Expanded States and codirector of the Institute of Psychedelic Therapy

"In this poignant, inspirational, and heartfelt book, Rachel Harris takes us on a fascinating journey exploring the compassionate and dedicated work of women elders of the psychedelic community. Drawing from her life as a psychologist and a commitment to spiritual practice, Dr. Harris beautifully weaves together stories of the compassion, courage, and wisdom of these women, along with remarkable tales of the early history of psychedelic research. In these often bewildering times, this book reminds us of the essential human capacity for transcendence, meaning, and the awareness of our interconnectedness with each other and with nature, all of which are available through spiritual experience, potentially generated by psychedelics administered in safe, trusted, and supported relationships and settings. Harris elegantly reveals the ineffable wonder of human consciousness, including worlds of joy and suffering and the transformative wisdom within. Swimming in the Sacred is a gift and a refreshing delight, arriving at the right time."
-- Anthony P. Bossis, PhD, clinical psychologist and clinical researcher

"Rachel Harris shows deep admiration and respect for the powerful and accomplished women she has come to know: the underground guides who connect with the plants that are the source of psychedelic medicines for our age, as they were long before the culture of modern medicine. This book, while it may be dense to read, carries the understanding of wise women who have lived at the center of the psychedelic plant world and have made their healing powers accessible. Here you will find the experiential complement to rule-bound academic studies that cannot acknowledge spiritual dimensions. Swimming in the Sacred is an antidote to the medicalization of psychedelics that risks losing this spiritual core."
-- Dr. Roger D. Nelson, director of Global Consciousness Project