Abstracts from an interview published in THE
MAGAZINE OF ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
YEAR I No 6 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 1997 SPAIN
FEATURE ARTICLE ON TRADITIONAL PERUVIAN
Dr. Jorge Gonzalez Ph.D.
Amazonian Shaman and President of the Universidad Nacional
de San Martin
By: Cesar I. De la Mota (Editor of the Magazine). We seldom
have the opportunity to travel to a faraway country such as
Peru, nor to deviate from the known tourist destinations.
And we rarely have the possibility to interview a real Shaman,
who, besides, happens to be the President of the University
in the Peruvian region of San Martin, because the combination
of academic knowledge and pure Shamanic Amazonian tradition
can only be found in individuals endowed with a great logical
mind and a very wide sense of awareness. This is exactly the
case of Jorge Gonzalez Ph.D., and we interviewed him at his
residence near the Peruvian jungle. There, among his patients
who go see him in search of a cure for their ills, he extended
us a warm welcome. The fact is that Dr. Gonzalez does not
only cure the body but also heals the soul. It is obviously
not in vain that the years spent living among the Amazonian
tribes have given him the key to open the conscious mind by
means of a sacred plant called the Ayahuasca, This climbing
vine, in the same manner as it encircles gigantic trees in
an embrace of fraternal love, also -if we allow it- wants
to hug us, human beings, in an ever escalating trip towards
the highest levels of our psyche in order to reveal the hidden
treasures locked in our enigmatic mind. This liana is the
analogic materialization of that other similarly shaped vine,
DNA, wherein lies the secret of creation. Are you willing
to come with us in our first trip within our innermost soul...?
" Can you give us some background on your beginnings
and your interest in healing? Also, can you precisely define
this term which in the West has acquired an increasingly derogatory
and disdainful connotation?.
Similarly to what happens in Europe, here in Peru and, as
a matter of fact all over South America, the term healer also
has a derogatory connotation. As far as I am concerned, I
carry the healing practice in my blood because both my parents
were also Shamans. My mother died when she was 93 years old,
and in an Ayahuasca ceremony I was able to see precisely when
and how she was going to die, which was in my arms while I
was singing to her an Icaro -which is a Shamanic chant. Ever
since my childhood, therefore, I have been surrounded by this
knowledge. After graduating from the Universities of Trujillo
and Lima, and obtaining my PhD, I traveled to the jungle (Iquitos).
I was purposely searching for the world of healing. Upon arrival
I went looking for healers and found two, a man and a woman,
who became my first teachers. Later on, after staying with
them for quite a while, and in order to increase my knowledge,
I lived with a series of tribes such as the Witotos who inhabit
the banks of the Putumayo river, the Boras along the Napo
river, the Cocamas near the Amazon river, the Shipibos from
the Ucayali river, the Aguarunas from Santa María de Nieva,
the Chancas, and many other tribes. I lived among these tribes
because I have always been convinced that knowledge must be
learned and "apprehended", meaning you have to grasp
it and cling to it with all your might or else you stay on
the surface and you cannot dive and delve into the depths
of Shamanic knowledge which encompasses empirical medical
knowledge. I got rid of all the preconceived ideas I had acquired
as a University professor and a PhD graduate because I studied
at the same time medicinal plants and the behavior of healers
and witch doctors.
" Nonetheless it is only the Shaman who practices
this knowledge, not the common tribesman. Is it only the gifted
among the group who can have access to the Shamanic knowledge?
Within tribes, Shamans have a certain status. They usually
are "curacas" that is the tribe elders, the patriarchs;
but that doesn't prevent them from being always surrounded
by young apprentices whom the Shaman needs to train and educate
so that they may succeed him. This is of the utmost importance
because otherwise the entire body of knowledge of the tribe
-medical as well as general knowledge- would be lost. It could
be seen as a story, but the fact is it is not a story at all,
it is a reality which I have put to the test in front of all
the experts in all of the traditional medical congresses that
I have attended, where I not only defend this knowledge theoretically
but where I make them partake of its benefits. Of course,
ultimately they are the ones who must convince themselves
and who must start thinking that the obsession scientists
sometimes have with their titles and diplomas is, in fact,
pure vanity. They need to experiment. That is why I had to
go live among the tribes where the knowledge of our natural
resources is alive and where there is a logically balanced
existence between nature and human society, between nature
and man. You see, the natives do not merely think of the tree
in an abstract manner, they think of the tree in its relationship
to man, that is: the tree and man, the river and man, the
fish and man.
" What is the difference between witch doctor and
A healer is a person who uses plants -and not only plants
but also animals, the power of the sun, the earth and all
the natural resources, even his own body- in order to help
others attain peace and tranquility and to alleviate their
pain and sorrow. The healer is an individual who manipulates
the positive strengths of his mind and body. The witch doctor,
on the other hand, is the opposite. It is the individual who
uses and abuses negative energy -even its negative power-
in order to earn a living and he meddles with sickness, pain,
agony and death. So, on the positive, very positive side,
we have the healer; and on the other side, which is the negative
side, we have the witch doctor. Therefore, the Shaman can
be defined as the healing witch doctor, since he must also
be a witch doctor in order to control peoples' negative forces
which cause illness and disease in his patients, and also
in order to protect and defend his own self. So you see, the
Shaman is an ambiguous character, an ambidextrous personality;
he is at the same time positive and negative, capable of manipulating
these two extreme poles, but at the same time possessing a
fundamentally essential trait which is that he is, above all,
a healer instead of a witch doctor.
" Is the Ayahuasca the basis of Shamanic culture?
Here we must make a distinction between the different Peruvian
regions. In each natural region of the country there is a
magic plant. For instance, along the coast we have the apuntia
cactus, commmonly known as "San Pedro", which also
possesses hallucinogenic properties.
" Is it as powerful as the Ayahuasca?
No, absolutely not. Comparatively, I would say it is ten times
less potent than the Ayahuasca. Also in the Peruvian coastal
region we have the entire Inca culture, whose common denominator
with the Andean cultures is the coca plant. But, unfortunately,
we all know that this plant has been misused and has corrupted
a large spectrum of society, although Amazonian Shamans continue
using it as a source of energy and we prepare an invigorating
beverage from the juice of its leaves. In the jungle, we also
have this magic plant called the Ayahuasca. Each region of
the country, therefore, has its own sacred plant. Notwithstanding
the fact that our native flora and fauna abound in princes
and princesses, the Ayahuasca for us is the queen of the lot.
I must add here that another name for us Shamans should be
" Can you give us more information on the Ayahuasca
vine? What is its real origin and its effect on the mind?
The Ayahuasca is a liana, a climbing vine containing an active
chemical substance called harmine which, when mixed with the
active substances in other plants, combines in such an absolutely
incredible way so as to achieve a purification and even an
awakening of the conscious mind. Ten to fifteen minutes after
drinking this beverage, the patient who undergoes this purge
has an experience -guided by a master- which cannot be distinctively
expressed in words, it is more of a musical experience, because
it deals with tuning in, with harmonizing our patients' vibrations
with our own positive vibrations and penetrating their inner
world. And here is the crux of the matter. We guide the patient
so as to obtain an evocation, an introspection of his or her
life. And in this process we have some incredible cases, such
as mine, for instance, in which I was even able to remember
my life inside my mother's womb. This enables many people
to remember traumatic events which happened in their infancy;
positive or negative events which made an imprint on their
lives. The subconscious awareness of these stored life experiences
begins to surface bringing with it happiness or suffering.
These events condition and sometimes even define our life.
Drinking the Ayahuasca beverage enables us to open and clear
up our minds. When we are in an altered state of consciousness,
we can vividly remember with sound and color those knots in
our consciousness, which really happened at a certain point
in our lives but which were later sent to the realm of the
unconscious where they remained hidden or filed as the source
of our great ills, happiness or sadness. This allows the person
drinking Ayahuasca to make an in-depth, though sometimes disorganized
analysis -which later on becomes logical- of his or her past
life, of what it should have been, of what it now is and what
it should not be. We help people by allowing them to project
towards their future and by teaching them what they should
do to attain it. The world of Shamanism is a world of formidable
goals, of positive objectives and of an enormous reinforcement
of our most intimate and social values. It gives us the necessary
sensitivity to "perceive" life. For instance, I
suffer tremendously when a tree is felled. We are hypersensitive
and profound environmentalists.
" When you initiate people, do you know the state
of each one of your disciples through the Ayahuasca, or does
it surface automatically with the chanting of the Icaros?
We know precisely, just as precisely as when you take a person's
pulse on the wrist or on the neck. We know exactly how we
are reaching each patient and how we can "guide"
him/her if he/she has encountered many problems. We also know
if the ceremony is being performed for people who have suffered
a lot, as it happened here in the city of Tarapoto when we
had the guerrillas. At the time, our patients had suffered
tremendously because of the guerrillas, and our ceremonies
reflected a profound feeling of pain due to the abuses and
violations people had been subjected to. We helped patients
delve deeply into those feelings in order to confront them
again more intensely, thereby strengthening their ability
to face any other type of pain.
" Is it as powerful as the Ayahuasca?
We need to drink it. I believe Shamans must always drink the
Ayahuasca when leading a ceremony, even though we can conduct
it without drinking it. I have been able to prove that it
is better to drink it because it further increases our hypersensitivity
and it allows us to more clearly perceive the state the person
is in, so as to be able to diagnose the disorder and prescribe
a remedy, whether it is a health, a family or a work related
" And also a spiritual problem?
Yes, of course.
" Are you able to detect a spiritual block that does
not allow a soul to evolve?
Yes, whenever we perceive that a patient is very "negativelly
charged", we cure him/her not only from the physical
point of view -through vomiting- but also from the spiritual
point of view so that he/she can feel deep sorrow for the
negative actions committed, can forgive him/her self and can
willingly attain redemption.
" Very interesting.
It is vitally important. It is not a matter of repenting from
something or redeeming oneself in front of somebody, it is
an internal matter with our own conscience which we cannot
cheat. Maybe we do not tell others about our deeds, but it
is essential that we redeem ourselves, that we kneel and sincerely
repent so as not to repeat the same mistakes.
" Is there always redemption for every sin, no matter
Yes, there is. I have given the Ayahuasca to a former guerrilla
chief from Peru who lives right here in San Martín, and after
the ceremony something happened -something terrible on the
one hand and wonderful on the other- because when he relived
his past life and he saw the extreme suffering he had inflicted
on all his victims, as well as the way in which he had done
it, he could not stop crying for four long hours. Afterwards,
he repented and he told me: "Do you know why I have cried?"
"Yes" -I answered- "I have seen a lot of blood
in your hands". "My victims have forgiven me"
- he said - "I feel great peace inside and outside of
" Can one redeem years of extortion in just a few
hours of crying?
That, nobody knows for sure. What is important is to suggest
-by our guidance- how to redeem yourself by provoking a change
in your life.
"What type of diseases do Shamans treat? To be more
specific, do you believe that there is a solution for cancer
and other terminal illnesses?
Here you have to be modest. It worries and even enrages me
when people say the Cat's Claw that we, Shamans, have been
using for years, can cure cancer or AIDS. This is totally
false and uncompassionate. It is wrong to traffic with people's
credibility and worse even, with their pain. We know that
the Cat's Claw has incredible anti-inflammatory properties
and that it very efficiently reduces inflammation in all organs
of the body. For the treatment of cancer in its primary stages,
we have been able to prove that there are certain tree resins
which can cure that type of cancer, like cervical cancer (cancer
of the uterus), making it disappear in two weeks without the
administration of drugs to the patient, but it must be a primary
cancer. Some physicians have asked us to demonstrate how we
do it. We administer directly on the affected area daily compresses
of Sangre de Drago and the sap of Copaíba.
" What other types of cancer could be cured?
All those which are not in their terminal stage. We must clarify,
nonetheless, that it is not a matter of recovering someone's
health, but of allowing people to have a dignified existence
and even a dignified death. What could be better for a cancer
patient than to be aware of it, so that this individual can
regain health, take the prescribed drugs, learn to cure his/her
ills and lead a normal life! When faced with disease, we must
change the psychological mindset for dealing with it so that
at the appropriate time we can attain a natural, dignified
" Are diseases in general, and more specifically terminal
illnesses, sometimes the result of unresolved psychological
or emotional problems, or could they be influenced by genetic
We believe that we are born with a predetermined genetic load
which can enable us to face certain viruses, for instance,
but also it could make us prone to alcoholism. We therefore
think that people already arrive on this earth with a certain
genetic load, but we also must be aware of the fact that we
are raised within a society which moulds us through its culture,
making us eat, sit and act in a certain way; all according
to each culture's different patterns of behavior. Also, Shamans
know that people exist within a given social environment wherein
the lack of definition of a specific "role" can
create problems. This is one of the reasons why in Amazonian
tribes we do not find homosexuals, because peoples' roles
are well defined since infancy. These characteristics allow
people to forge a psychological being, impervious to certain
trends and prone to others. As an example, alcoholism has
decimated practically the entire Witoto tribe from the Putumayo
river along the border between Peru and Colombia.
" What is the origin of that addiction?
In order to understand the origin of that addiction we must
go back to the beginning of the century, with the economic
boom created by the exploitation of the Jebe, the Shiringa,
in other words: rubber. The indians from those tribes were
mistreated, they were forced to work by being whipped and
if they did not produce the 50 kilos of latex that they were
required to produce, they were punished, their backs were
broken from the whippings, chili peppers and salt were thrown
on their wounds and they were even killed. There were many
massacres of natives who revolted against this exploitation
by so-called "civilized", people, who not only enslaved
them but who also taught them to drink alcohol. People who
have fallen into these kinds of problems start having problems
with their own descendants. Sometimes they even have children
born with physical of psychological deformities.
" What other diseases can be cured in a fast and efficient
manner by the plants found in the Amazon jungle?
We have treated all kinds of diseases without any problem
whatsoever. I mentioned to you earlier that going beyond the
traditional rigidity of empirical medical knowledge we started
using a combination of different plants; by mixing these plants
we were able to obtain polyvalent medicines which enable us
to cure stomach problems as well as liver, kidney and lung
problems. Here I would like to add that indian tribes have
absolutely no idea what AIDS is, even though they have been
affected by cancer and by different types of tumors, as well
as bronchial and pulmonary diseases, digestive and intestinal
disorders, snake bites and many other trauma induced diseases.
Some of the healers people do not trust because they do not
have Spanish traits tell us, for instance, that there are
two bones in a certain part of the body where anatomy tells
us there is only one, but their answer is that the other one
is "invisible". That is their knowledge, and the
truth is that they do their research on their own dead whom
they very much revere. There are many tribes where corpses
are mummified, first by eviscerating them, then stuffing the
insides with plants, then putting the corpse inside a kettle,
closing the lid and sealing it with mud. I have seen many
mummies in perfect state of conservation. In the Shamanic
world the knowledge we possess allows us not only to regain
lost health or the lost joy of living, but also enables us
to preserve tissues, nerves and bones.
" Coming back to the subject of plants, and to your
own personal experience when you mentioned that it is necessary
to oxygenate certain healing processes with plants, and that
Shamans explain this phenomenon by saying that the spirit
of plants descends upon the individual. Does the spirit of
plants really descend upon individuals or is this simply a
way of explaining something that is scientifically irrational?
Personally I have certain doubts because I am a University
professor, I was the President of the Universidad Nacional
de San Martín, and therefore reason always "pulls"
me a bit. But in the end the spirit is merely energy so there
is no collision here but fusion.
" Is this a Shamanic practice?
Indeed it is. It is a Shamanic practice that I relate to Chinese
acupuncture and we now always advise our patients to bring
ísulas for these diseases (the bite of these ants stimulates
the centers that we want to activate, that is the practice
of "Amazonian acupuncture".
" Is it really efficient?
Of course it is. What worries us is that the ísula dies. It
cures at the cost of its own life. It bites and part of its
abdomen stays in the sting and the animal dies, exactly as
it happens with bees. We also cure with bees.
" Where do you receive your knowledge from? Is it
true that plants themselves reveal their knowledge and teach
you how to treat diseases?
Yes, it is. I regret that one of my masters is no longer with
us. One time he was hospitalized for an operation. At night
he escaped and went to his house, he drank Ayahuasca and in
his vision he started studying his disease and he was told
to use a certain plant from his garden that he had never used
before. He told me that the plant started to talk to him and
to tell him how he should prepare it, and in what exact quantities
so that the beverage would last for the entire curing process.
He lived twenty more years with the tumor that he had lodged
in the base of his kidney. The Ayahuasca is a living plant
and its spirit comes to us in different ways, in different
shapes and we can talk to it. It even tells us how old it
is. For instance I know precisely that this Ayahuasca that
I have here is 100 years old. I found it in the Sisa valley,
behind the mountains four years ago.
" Is the age of the Ayahausca important?
Yes, the older the better.
" Is there a special ritual to cut it? Do you have
to obtain permission from its spirit? Where did the Shamans
get their knowledge about the properties of the Ayahuasca
and other plants?
Yes, indeed. The origin of that knowledge is lost in the darkness
of time. And what should interest us is how the Shamans discovered
the secret for preparing these beverages amongst the thousands
of plants found in the jungle. As far as the rite to cut the
Ayahuasca, first we go where the medicinal plants are, then
we chant songs to the Ayahuasca, we "Icarize" it.
And then we cover it with tobacco smoke. With our song we
ask it to allow us to "lower" it, cut it and transform
it into medicine to cure our brothers. From that moment onwards,
if the plant agrees to have a "conversation" with
us and to communicate, then we give the first blow with the
machete. Since the plant is a climbing vine which coils around
trees that reach 40 to 50 meters in height, if we do not ask
its permission what we get is only the piece which we have
just cut. Or else we have to climb on top of that 40 to 50
meter tree -and, in the middle of the jungle, that is a job
that can take several people, several days because the stem
is entangled with numerous trunks and branches from other
trees. But, strange as it seems, when we ask the Ayahuasca
permission to cut it and we beg the plant to let us transform
it into medicine, as soon as we pull on it this entire enormous
vine comes falling down with all its might -forcing us to
run- and forms a huge coiled heap much like a gigantic boa.
Then we must cut it in pieces in order to put it inside the
bags and to transport it with great respect. And even when
we cook the medicines, we still need to encourage the plant
, by blowing smoke on it and singing. .
" And now for the last question, from the point of
view of a Shaman, what do the masters think of the situation
in the world today?
We see this whole awakening of society when confronted with
this new consciousness of our planet and we feel the sprouting
of certain actions geared towards solving the world's problems,
not only here in Peru but also in other parts of the world.
Through seminars and congresses, people are awakening and
are starting to feel aware of the need to protect nature.
But what worries us deeply is that increasingly we see new
sawmills in our Amazon, in the jungles of Brazil, Colombia,
Peru and Bolivia. These are indiscriminately felling all species
of trees, which concerns us tremendously, particularly when
we see that among these are extinct species that are not only
good for timber but also for their medicinal properties. Because
of this deforestation, it is increasingly difficult for us
healers to obtain medicinal plants and when we also witness
the depredation of animals and the drying up of our rivers,
we are even more deeply saddened. When I came to this region
17 years ago, the waters from that river that you saw called
Shilcayo were crystalline. I use to bathe in it. And today
it is a river totally polluted with its waters so foul that
not even the ducks can bathe in it. That is why we are saddened
when we witness how the rivers are dried up, how the fish
die, and also how we have to breathe this polluted air, all
of which prompted me to move away from the city. An now, as
a closing thought and to answer one of the questions you asked
me earlier, I constantly ask myself who are the real "savages",
those who wear ties, speak many languages and live within
the technological community, or those who live within the
tribe and who, showing absolute logic, exist in perfect community
with nature? (Think and you will find the answer).