Research collaboration with Imperial College, London
Our collaborative research is a continuation of the Temple’s ongoing commitment to actively integrate the best that each system and worldview has to offer, merging tools and epistemologies of the biomedical and social sciences with the timeless wisdom of the ancestral, indigenous traditions. We see this reconnection as one of the crucial steps required for the emergence of new paradigms in individual, collective, and global healthcare, a model of wellbeing exemplified by our work.
Previous research collaboration with ICEERS and the Beckley Foundation (2015-2019) focused on the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca in relation to experiences of depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief. Ayahuasca is not necessarily a stand-alone treatment devoid of context, however. While healing retreats at the Temple orbit around the ayahuasca ceremonies and focus on individual transformation as the primary source of healing and growth, they also include many other important components that frame ayahuasca within a particular model of collective and group healing that transcends the individual.
The group processing sessions, activities, and interpersonal relationships that develop between participants provide a relational micro-cosmos of human interactions in which participants learn and practice values rooted in the local eco-cosmologies; mutual-responsibility, reciprocity, and interdependence.
Our research aims to elucidate the relational dimensions of health and healing, made visible by the irreducible role that the group setting, group activities, and interpersonal and social factors play in people’s experiences of healing and growth in the context of an ayahuasca retreat.
Although we focus largely on the human factor, this study also takes Amazonian cosmologies and their wider sets of sociability into account, expanding the social to include not only human people but also non-human beings, such as plants, trees, animals, and spirits, tracking changes in people’s perceptions of connectedness and participation in social and eco-social worlds.
The expected results will also give support to the Temple’s group context model, where retreats have an average of 23 participants. While such an approach could be criticized, our experience from over a decade of holding ayahuasca retreats for thousands of participants coupled with our preliminary results from this study show that an overwhelming majority of study participants find the group setting to be a highly positive factor, often describing it as the most healing aspect of the retreat as a whole. While dieting in isolation and working in intimate groups have their own value, many participants, who come to the Temple feeling lonely, alienated, and disconnected, find the shared experience and kinship that they discover with their fellow participants a crucial factor in their healing path.
With both quantitative and qualitative components, this study hopes to add significant value to a growing body of work, much of which emerges from the psychedelic community, that positions individual health within a much wider network of interdependent relationships that bring healing out of the individual brain and into a much wider arena composed not exclusively of neurochemistry and pharmacology, but rooted in relationships – relationships between human people and non-human beings in the wider spheres of community, society, culture, and environment.
Furthermore, it aims to bring to light many of the underlying causes of our current epidemics of psychosocial suffering, such as depression and anxiety. This study will support the growing voices that posit social alienation, loneliness, the erosion of our intimate social bonds, and the lack of authenticity and vulnerability in social interactions as primary risk factors for public health, and as immediate contributors to individual illness, adding weight to the shift away from pharmacologically-oriented, individual-focused, passive treatments and into collaborative, co-creative healing environments where people and communities take responsibility for their own transformation and growth.