Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Act Three

Over the winter holidays, Terra Informa will be re-broadcasting our three part series Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Thanks for listening!

A man hangs suspended over a cliff by ropes

Documentary film-maker Mark McGuire shared the story of the extreme physical practices of the Lotus Ascent shown in the movie Shugendo Now.

In a show recorded before a live audience, Terra Informa brings you stories of spirituality and the way it shapes our attitudes to the natural world. Act Three takes us through hallucinogens and hanging off cliffs – the physical extremes we’ll endure to have a spiritual experience with nature. This special episode was recorded live at Edmonton’s St. John’s Institute.

Download this week’s episode.

Born Again Through Ayahuasca

In Act One, Nicole Wiart told us about her travels through Peru, While there, she somehow got persuaded to try Ayahuasca… enthusiastically. Ayahuasca is translated as “death’s rope” in ancient Quechua. It’s an indigenous medicine, used 5 thousand years ago by the people of the amazon and adopted more recently by the Incans and highland indigenous groups. The tea is brewed mainly from a jungle vine, with other plants from the Amazon brewed into it. While it “is” a medicine, it contains DMT, a chemical compound that instigates hallucinations – DMT is the same chemical released from your pineal gland right before you die — why many people “see God” before they pass. She’d heard great things about it, from friends, people who had really “found” themselves after the experience. And, being 20 years old, she wondered if it might help her feel a little less lost.

Terra Informa's Trevor Chow-Fraser sharing the story of Shugendo Now.

Terra Informa’s Trevor Chow-Fraser sharing the story of Shugendo Now.

Born Again on the Mountain

Can a spiritual experience really be true if you have to do drugs or starve yourself or do something crazy to achieve it? It’s part of so many traditions. Terra Informer Trevor Chow-Fraser wanted to know why physical hardship is seemingly so important for spiritual enlightenment. It got him thinking about a Japanese ascetic practice called Shugendo. His friend Mark McGuire introduced him to it a number of years ago, because he produced a documentary on the subject called Shugendo Now.

The film shows you creative new ascetic traditions that are taking place in the mountains. And if you see the film, you’ll understand immediately how the film addresses our question about bodily punishment. Because one of the most famous Shugendo practices is called the Lotus Ascent. It’s a punishing physical ordeal, because of the climb itself and what practitioners do on the mountain. Mark McGuire explains more.

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