ROOTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
In the summer of 2013, after completing her Biomedical Engineering Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, cancer researcher and engineer Melissa Stangl was about to begin her job in traditional corporate America when she decided to take a trip to Peru. Little did she know her pilgrimage to the jungle to partake in Ayahuasca ceremonies would set off a chain of events, eventually resulting in leaving behind the world of suits and cubicles, and immersing her Western mind into the realm of shamanic plant medicines. Just two years after that initial retreat, Melissa returned to Peru, accepting a job as operations manager for the same company she had taken that first trip with. This time, there was no going back, despite the culture shock her science-based belief system experienced upon delving into this ancient and time-honored spiritual work.
Since that first fateful summer, Melissa has participated in over 100 Ayahuasca ceremonies, multiple plant dietas, and worked with various other plant medicines such as San Pedro (Huachuma), Psilocybin, Kambo, and Nunu. As she witnessed hundreds of transformations in that time, it quickly became clear that there was more to these medicines than previously thought. Thus began the call to action as an active participant in the psychedelic movement, and an insatiable curiosity to better understand how this new world fits into the familiar paradigm of science.
We are currently riding a wave of scientific discovery about consciousness, its mechanisms, and the role of psychedelics and psychoactive medicines as important and effective parts of the healing process. But despite an invigorated search for science’s take on these things - What is it that we really know in this realm? What are the current questions being asked and the challenges and limitations we are currently facing when trying to answer them? Truly, what are the roots of consciousness? - there seems to be nothing out there that could synthesize and help make sense of it all.
Scientific literature dismisses or refuses to address the spiritual aspect of this work, while the opposite remains equally true, with spiritual accounts lacking the scientific rigor to ground their discoveries in accessible ways for a modern skeptic.
Weaving hers and others’ personal stories of transformation throughout, taking the reader through the history of both psychedelic research and traditional spiritual belief systems, Melissa takes a skeptic’s approach to get to the roots of our current understanding of consciousness: What is modern science telling us about the mind-body connection and the role of consciousness in physical health? How do psychoactive medicines and traditional spiritual practices fit into this paradigm? How can we use those lessons and methods to achieve overall well-being in a world numbed by anti-depressants and skeptical of holistic therapies?
Pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a skeptic, Roots of Consciousness bridges the gap between the worlds of science, psychedelics, and spirituality, examining each through the lens of the others, and ushering in a new era of conscious medicine.
“The task is...not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.” ― Erwin Schrödinger