Initiated by the Spirits

Healing the Ills of Modernity through Shamanism, Psychedelics and the Power of the Sacred

Frédérique Apffel-Marglin and Randy Chung Gonzales

Illustrations by Randy Chung Gonzales

Publication Year: 2022

Randy Chung Gonzales was leading an ordinary life in his hometown of Lamas, Peru, when his employer, anthropologist Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, asked him to accompany her to an ayahuasca ceremony led by a local shaman. There, to everyone’s great surprise, Randy was initiated by discarnate entities, who instructed him and gave him healing powers. In this unique book, Randy tells his story to Frédérique, who offers cultural context and describes how she herself has been transformed from an academic anthropologist into an advocate for the sharing of indigenous wisdom and ecospirituality. Drawing on history, cultural studies and anthropology, Frédérique offers a penetrating analysis of Western science-based modernity, which has made the systematic eradication of shamanism a priority. Initiated by the Spirits argues powerfully that shamanic sacred plants can heal the epidemics of mental illness in Western societies, as well as the global ecological crisis. Randy’s shamanic initiation serves as a beacon for new ways of conceiving of the human relationship to science, spirit and our planetary home.




The loss of enchantment—that natural disposition of children, mystics, and Indigenous People to wonder and remain at peace with cosmic mysteries—may be recovered through psychedelics and shamanism, suggest Randy Chung Gonzales and Frédérique Apffel-Marglin. Not everything has a rational answer and silence itself may be needed to ground our wisdom once again in awe. This extraordinary book, written by a heretical anthropologist and an unorthodox shaman in a profound mystical and intellectual dialogue, is proof that we modern individuals are still in time to recover and practice the ancient, original, and indigenous wisdom that may heal the cosmos. Stefano Varese, Professor of Indigenous Studies, University of California, Davis  

Initiated by the Spirits offers an utterly fascinating story of transformation: the unsought transformation of Randy Chung Gonzales—the secular Peruvian assistant to US anthropologist Frédérique Apffel-Marglin—into a shamanic visionary and healer, and how this experience, in turn, transformed Apffel-Marglin personally and professionally. The book pairs a dramatic autobiographical account of shamanic initiation with a wide-ranging exploration of how western modernity has sought to eradicate shamanic practices and a sacred worldview, much to our detriment and peril. This brilliant book points toward a re-enchantment of the world and a recovery of soul in its many aspects. It represents an important contribution to the growing body of research that defies the disastrous taboo against integrating spiritual wisdom into modern scholarship. —Richard Sclove, author of Escaping Maya’s Palace: Decoding an Ancient Myth to Heal the Hidden Madness of Modern Civilization

This book explores the return of a therapeutic understanding of visionary altered states, of substances that alter psychic perceptions, and of medicines that speak to us of their potentials. Just as the Book of Job says, “Look to the Earth and she shall teach you,” we read here the story of teachings and wisdom that come from plants. —John Grim, Co-Director, Yale University Forum on Religion and Ecology

In this book, Frédérique Apffel-Marglin documents the spontaneous and deliberate development of Randy Chung Gonzales as an ayahuasquero and spiritual healer, while also sharing her own transformation into an advocate for the global acceptance of the healing power of this indigenous spiritual path. Together they help us understand how the indigenous spiritualties that have survived the onslaught of the West can help heal the world, ecologically and socially. —Dr. Michael James Winkelman, author of Shamanism: A Biopsychosocial Paradigm of Consciousness and Healing


The Peruvian forest and its healing powers come alive in this remarkable book, written in the dual voices of a western scholar and a Peruvian shaman. Presenting a scathing critique of modernist devastation, Initiated by the Spirits affirms our primal connection with the Great Mother, who reveals herself in magical ways, especially in visions that Shaman Randy Chung Gonzales draws with beauty and precision. His stories echo many indigenous accounts, heard across eons and cultures, when human hubris did not interfere with our ability to recognize the pulse of the mountain, the flight of the eagle, and the call of the medicinal plants. Initiated by the Spirits argues convincingly that it is possible to emerge from the nightmare of the Anthropocene and reinvigorate the Anima Mundi. —Neela Bhattacharya Saxena, author of Absent Mother God of the West: A Kali Lover’s Journey into Christianity and Judaism


Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, PhD. About the Author


is Professor Emerita, Department of Anthropology at Smith College and has also taught at Harvard, Wellesley, and Wesleyan University. She founded the Sachamama Center for BioCultural Regeneration (SCBR) in the Peruvian High Amazon in 2009, which she directs. She has spent years in India doing fieldwork in Puri Jagganatha and in Peru working with indigenous peoples. She has authored or edited fifteen books and published some 70 articles and book chapters. In 1993 she decided for political and ethical reasons that she could no longer engage in classical anthropological fieldwork and ever since then has been invited to collaborate with activist/intellectual groups in Peru and Bolivia and with one of them, PRATEC, has published The Spirit of Regeneration: Andean Culture Confronting Western Notions of Development. Her 2011 book based on her work in Peru is entitled Subversive Spiritualities: How Rituals Enact the World. Other recent titles include Contemporary Voices from Anima Mundi: A Reappraisal, and Sacred Soil: Biochar and the Regeneration of the Earth, co-authored with Robert Tindall and David Shearer. Find out more at:


Randy Chung Gonzales About the Author/Illustrator


Randy Chung Gonzales has been working at Sachamama Center for Biocultural Regeneration in his native town of Lamas, Peru for some 10 years and has designed its buildings using indigenous styles of architecture and materials. He is a self-trained architect and visual artist. In June of 2016 he was asked by Frédérique to go with her and two visitors to an ayahuasca shamanic ceremony some two hours away quite against his will. At this ceremony Randy was initiated by disembodied spirits into shamanic knowledge and power very much to his own surprise. Such initiation by spirits are extremely rare, the most common method being initiation by an embodied, living shaman. Since then, he has been given powers by other indigenous spirits as well as the Virgin of Guadalupe and other sacred beings. He receives regular teachings from a disembodied Ashaninka shaman, offers healing to others, and directs an ecological center in the forest called in English “The Place of the Sacred Mountain,” since it faces the mountain sacred to the local indigenous people, the Kichwa-Lamas. Find out more at:


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