Amsterdam, Netherlands

Ayahuasca Religiosity

when 18 July 2022 - 22 July 2022
language English
duration 1 week
credits 2 EC
fee EUR 550

This summer school course focuses on ayahuasca religiosity, using a philosophy of religion approach that focuses on ontology and epistemology. This five-day summer school course explores the cross pressures that result from the encounter with such radical religious alterity. On the first day, we will explore how Western discourses on ayahuasca such as “psychedelic mysticism” and “entheogenic shamanism” are influenced by what the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has called “the immanent frame”: the seemingly self-evident context that underlies Western worldviews. We discuss the gap between such Western discourses and indigenous discourses on ayahuasca. For example, in the Santo Daime church, ayahuasca is framed as “liquid divinity.”

On the second day, we explore the thought of French philosopher Bruno Latour to explain and address this gap, asking fundamental ontological questions in order to reimagine ayahuasca. We will propose a new and integrative “entangled” discourse on ayahuasca that shifts the focus from ayahuasca experiences to ayahuasca-based contemplative practices.

On day three, we will build on this entangled discourse on ayahuasca in order to discuss religious ayahuasca practices. We will approach religion as being focused on material practices aimed at cultivating relationships with superhuman beings, rather than as merely a collection of creedal beliefs in such superhuman beings.

On day four, we will zoom in on the ritual practices of Santo Daime. We will interpret such practices as a form of what anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann has described as “kindling the presence of invisible others.” We will look at how such relationships with invisible others are created by viewing Santo Daime practices as theurgical practices (practices that aim at drawing down divine action through ritual procedures) that use the imagination as an active faculty.

On day five, we will look at ayahuasca religiosity as a form of what Bron Taylor has called “dark green religion:” nature religion that aims to heal the planet by finding new ways to think about the earth as Gaia. We will revisit Bruno Latour and his book “Facing Gaia.”

Course leader

Prof. dr. A.F.M. van der Braak

Target group

This course is suitable for anybody with an interest in psychedelics in general and ayahuasca in particular. Students and PhD candidates of diverse levels and backgrounds (natural or social sciences, humanities) can benefit from this course.

Course aim

By the end of this course, students will have:

- Historical knowledge: the student becomes familiar with the history of the philosophical reception of ayahuasca (and psychedelics more broadly) in the West.
- Dialogical knowledge: the student acquires knowledges of the historical mutual interconnectivity between indigenous and Western approaches to ayahuasca.
- Hermeneutical insight: the student learns to reflect on various approaches to imagining ayahuasca from various ontological and epistemological models.
- Dialogical insight: the student acquires insight into the inevitable dialogical and comparative nature of all philosophizing.
- Diversity skills: the student learns to navigate the paradigmatic differences of indigenous and Western approaches to ayahuasca.
- Hermeneutical skills: the student learns to reflect on one’s own hermeneutical presuppositions with regard to epistemology (the nature of knowledge) and ontology (the nature of the world).
- Philosophical skills: the student learns to actively reflect on the possibility of a more inclusive global ‘philosophy of ayahuasca’.

Credits info

2 EC
25 contact hours

Fee info

EUR 550: Application fee €15. This amount is non-refundable.

Tuition fee one-week course

VU Students/PhD candidates and employees of VU Amsterdam* or an Aurora Network Partner €375
Students at Partner Universities of VU Amsterdam €500
Students and PhD candidates at non-partner universities of VU Amsterdam €550
Professionals €650

Early Bird offer
Applications received before 15 March (CET 23:59) receive €50 Early Bird discount!


VU Amsterdam Summer School offers two kinds of scholarships: the Academic Scholarship and the Photographer Scholarship. More information can be found on the VU Amsterdam Summer School website.

Register for this course
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