Huachuma Cactus vs. Techno-idolatry

By Sergey Baranov

Contributing writer for Wake Up World

When was the last time you saw people talk to one another on the way to or from work? Take a moment to think about it. Whether you take a bus or train to reach your workplace, most of the time you see people glued to their phones, most likely including you. In fact, it has become so bad that people are now like drunks, walking into each other, bumping into walls, street lights, cars, falling into ditches and fountains while texting. Researcher Jack Nasar from Ohio State University says that there may have been about 2 million pedestrian injuries related to mobile phone use in 2010. A Pew Research Center survey in mid-2012 found that 50% of cell owners say that they have been bumped into by another person because that person was distracted by using their own cellphone. Not to mention the growing trend of selfie deaths. If this were not so tragic, it would be hilarious!

Mobile technology has shifted from being a device for distant communication to a tool for mass hypnotism. The iPhone in the Western world today plays the role of the flute of the Indian fakir, whose sound hypnotizes the cobra. Your phone is that flute and you are the cobra. It keeps you in a constant trance while feeding you garbage news, negativity, propaganda and advertising. In modern American society, having a newer and better phone is prestigious. This form of techno-slavery is now as socially accepted as alcohol, another harmful stupefier that, like tech, creates an illusion of happiness. Technological idolatry is very naïve in its assumption that a collection of gadgets means liberation and freedom. Techno-idolatry has become a modern, transnational techno-religion, promoted by media as the means to happiness. Billions of people online have created a cyberspace identity, which is highly vulnerable for manipulation and abuse. A lack of likes on Facebook or Instagram posts causes depression in teens and young adults and requires psychological treatment.

According to a recent study, Americans look at their phones a 52 times day, on average. Shocking! If they would look inside themselves as often, with an intention to see what’s within them and self-reflect, their lives would transformed. The problem, though, is that Western culture does not teach people this vital process of self-reflection. It is simply absent from the socio-cultural narrative. This is why Eastern spiritual traditions are helpful, for they point the way inward. Of course, plant medicine is a direct approach that leads to clarity and understanding, of oneself and the world around. Still, reading the words of wise men of the past is a good start. Learning to look inside is the only way toward healing and change.

Perhaps we can suggest a new term to be added to the psychiatric manuals: social media syndrome. The problem is that cyberspace, which is a generator of mass confusion, has assumed the role of teacher and healer of humanity, thus becoming a source of knowledge to billions of people and a place from which they derive their philosophy for life. This constant rush for innovation has a serious psychological implication: that all that is new is better than all that is old.

Well, before we go any further, we can take a moment to laugh at this. Just a week ago, a friend of mine who went to South Korea on a business trip wrote me to share his difficulties getting out of the bathroom. While on the toilet, he didn’t know what button to press to flush it. A digital toilet had become a nightmare for my friend, who simply wanted to get done. 25 different buttons, all in Korean, made it impossible to conduct the simple act of flushing the toilet. Trying different ones, he got his butt blown with hot air, sprayed with warm water and germicide. To make his story more believable, he sent me pictures and video as he was trying to leave the cyborg toilet. He said, even to him, an MIT graduate, the innovation was too much to figure out. I laughed so hard that I woke up my wife up with my giggling at this digital tragicomedy. This was simply hilarious!

The iToilet Dashboard

I would never install this “smart” toilet in my house, so that it could make me look stupid. Trapped in a South Korean iToilet, my friend admitted that these people have taken it too far. Personally, I choose the old-fashioned manual toilets, just as I choose old-fashioned personal communication with people. Even in this sense, older is obviously better. I have already explained my attitude towards technology earlier. I understand its value and I use technology myself. But technology is my servant, not my God. I will never worship a machine, whether it is my cell phone, space shuttle or an iToilet.

There is a greater problem with the notion of innovation when it simply eclipses the old ways of living and thinking. It is impossible to discover in the popular thinking of our time any traces of ancient and profound teachings. Cleverness is never wisdom. These vital teachings that we need in order to live our lives in the right way have been simply deemed old, irrelevant and void by the techno-digital culture. But constantly advancing technology comes with a heavy price of alienation from self and nature. Tech culture is becoming the new fanaticism that can only offer a substitute for happiness but never happiness itself. We even now have the cult of Apple, and people take pride in being part of it. The new gods, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, are worshiped and feared. A digital hell has now been created; users are sentenced to Facebook jail by getting 30-day bans. The narrative is controlled from Silicon Valley, where social engineers have assumed the divine right to rule. They believe that this is salvation. Greatly wired but deeply disconnected, we live our lives not realizing that this separation from ourselves and Nature is the root of our human suffering. Huachuma’s sobering, problem-solving clarity is truly a blessing from nature. But in much of the world it is banned by the powers that shouldn’t be. The antidote for human madness is outlawed. What a sad, wrong truth! Meanwhile, human flesh consumption is being promoted by a behavioral scientist on TV.

The good news is that this awful reality is only one way to engage with life. People in ancient times revered Nature for its healing powers. The plant kingdom is immense and is readily available to use. There are natural ways for healing that have proved to work over thousands of years. All true connections are rooted in our hearts, and sacred plants are here to show us what’s in them. As if on a display, we can see our inner content and make the necessary changes in our life, in order to provoke our inner capacity for good and ensure the flow of the healing energy available to us. Rewired and reset by the power and intelligence of sacred plants, we are able to unlock our higher potentials for creativity and conscious living. We have to make room within ourselves for spiritual connection. Higher states of consciousness are the necessary food for our souls, which are mostly malnourished and deficient from living in the modern world. The urge towards unity is coming from the depths of our spirit, which is a part of the Whole. Huachuma medicine is this Universal connector.

Benjamim Whichcote said that “good men spiritualize their bodies. Bad men incarnate their soul.” This statement would make even more sense if we simply replace “good” and “bad” with “self-aware” and “unaware.” Incarnated in technology, our spirit has fallen ill and is heading towards the emergency room. I found Huachuma medicine to be the answer to many questions and spiritual illnesses, which get solved in the greater clarity of the mind. This, of course, irritates the impotent reductionistic scientists, who have become an idolaters of scientific dogma and the atheistic view of life. To them, the spiritual realm is a hallucination, a place in some dark corner of the human mind where only delusional and mentally ill people go. To their limited spiritual perception and understanding, the intelligence of a plant deserves no attention, for, in their own minds, it doesn’t exist. Thus both science and technology are moving backwards while sustaining an illusion of progress.

All this becomes clear when you embrace Huachuma medicine in the right way and allow yourself to see with your heart and mind. It is by the tranquility of the mind that we can transmute the false realities and pseudo-religions of the present and afterlife salvation of the future. Here and now is the only place and time where salvation is possible. From a lifelong spiritual search, I have found plant-based shamanism, Sufism and Zen Buddhism to be the ways that most stress the importance of living in the present moment. Huachuma medicine, in particular, is that messenger whose clear and direct message reaches the depths of one’s heart.

There are many conceptions of salvation, and most of them are exclusively realized in a posthumous condition. The wide-spread belief in an external agent or agency must be abandoned, for it is the major block in taking our lives and destiny in our hands. From the Messiah of the ancient times to the alien ambassadors of the New Age, humanity has been and still is waiting for a God-like figure to descend from somewhere and save us all from our own ignorance and mess. This immature and irresponsible attitude towards life is perhaps the greatest obstacle to personal and collective change. All externalized forms of salvation must be internalized. Saving ourselves from our own ignorance is a good start.

The last recorded words of Buddha were these: “Decay is inherent in all component things. Work out your own salvation with diligence.” Perhaps the greatest gift of Huachuma medicine is this very guidance toward yourself and your own salvation. It is the self-realization of the inner guru that Eastern literature prominently speaks of. At any time of human history, this powerful ally would be a blessing. But today, with the rise of mental illness in the world, this kind of experience and connection is vitally important. Buddha is right. You are your own savior.

As Mahayana Buddhism’s Sutralamkara states: “Indeed, the saving truth has never been preached by the Buddha, seeing that one has to realize it within oneself.” And this is perhaps the most important gift of Huachuma medicine. It allows you to do that, among others things. It simply opens your inner vision so you can see the illusory nature of devouring pseudo-salvations such as materialism, technology, science and religion: The worship of analytical reason on one hand and superstitious beliefs and dogmas on the other. Huachuma can clearly show you that organized religion is just a collection of dogmas and is not a safe ship to board on a voyage across the ocean of life. Same is true for scientific materialism. Both boats have holes in them and both will sink on the way. The bottom line is that awakening is no longer a privilege of the few but a necessity of the many, and it is achievable under certain conditions.

Huachuma is a gentle veil-lifter you can trust. It turns on the light in your room, where you can see perfectly what’s inside. In its bright, vibrant light, what was obscure now can be seen clearly. And just as you can see the disorder in your room when the light is on, so too in the light of Huachuma medicine you can see the disorder in your life. Seeing leads to healing and change. Self-realization is the enlightenment of the ignorant Self. Become your own light. Don’t look for an external refuge. This is a teaching you find in Huachuma cactus. And these are not merely words. It’s what you feel, it’s what you experience. And this experience is louder and clearer than any words.

I have dedicated my second book, The Mescaline Confession: Breaking through the Walls of Delusion, to the Huachuma cactus.

This book is the light dose of my medicine. If you resonate with my words, you are ready to take the next step and experience Huachuma medicine with us in Peru. There is simply no more time for prejudices. The only time we have is for healing and regeneration. But of course, it comes only with learning, deep, sincere contemplation and fearless diving inside your own self.

Plant medicine shamanism is the way to go from here forward. Words like Heaven, Nirvana, Samadhi and Enlightenment won’t take us far. If we don’t find our spiritual roots, we will simply destroy ourselves and everything around us. What we need is a direct spiritual experience of Divine Union to transform our lives. This transcendent experience is the unifier that ensures mutual thriving. No amount of political and economic planning will get the job done until we find the connection with ourselves and nature.

Please watch our new documentary Divine Cactus, which shows how we work with the Huachuma cactus in Peru.

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About the author:

Sergey Baranov is the founder of Huachuma Wasi, a healing center in The Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru. He is the author of Path: Seeking Truth In a World of Lies, The Mescaline Confession: Breaking Through the Walls of Delusion and Write Your Zen in 30 Days. Sergey’s passion for life on Earth and its preservation is the driving force behind his work.

You can contact Sergey at