Blow Your Mind: The Scientist and the Shaman


(Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

It's the week of Christmas here in 2012 United States (hello future and/or international readers!), but Julie and I decided to dish out a pair of episodes about the science behind hallucinogenic, spiritual, brain-rewiring experiences.

So now you know what my post about Ebenezer Scrooge and DMT was all about.

Inspired in large part by Emory University's "For I am the Black Jaguar" exhibit (get the book here), we explore some of the common ground between psychedelically-fueled spirituality and scientific research into the effects and nature of psychedelic experience.

Here's what we have for you...

The Scientist and the Shaman:My Egoic Mind

The mystical shaman consumes a psychedelic mushroom and visits the spirit world. Meanwhile, a scientist studies the effects of psilocybin on human depression and conceptions of self. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Julie discuss the common ground shared by these two distinct disciplines. [audio http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/podcasts.howstuffworks.com/hsw/podcasts/sciencelab/2012-12-25-stbym-shaman-scientist-egoic-mind.mp3]

The Scientist and the Shaman: Hallucination (publishing Thursday)

In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and Robert continue their discussion of the overlap between shamanism and cognitive neuroscience. In particular, what sort of hallucinatory experiences do substances like DMT, psilocybin and salvia grant users? Why do humans have trace elements of DMT in their bodies? All these questions and more will be discussed. [audio http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/podcasts.howstuffworks.com/hsw/podcasts/sciencelab/2012-12-27-stbym-shaman-scientist-hallucination.mp3]

About the photo: It doesn't really have anything to do with these episodes, but the caption goes... "12th April 1973: An insomniac is lulled into sleep through watching the flowing hypnotic movements in a giant light-box above the bed."


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.