Spirit Walking

A remote Arizona church, whose founder communed with LSD guru Timothy Leary, offers followers peyote-induced psychedelic trips

When he was 15 or 16, Coyle ran away from home to join the military. He wanted to fight the Nazis during World War II. Too young to join the U.S. Army, which would accept only recruits at least 17 years old, Coyle enlisted in the British Merchant Navy.

"[Peyote] allows for healing of . . . deep emotional traumas," Joe Tafur, co-founder of the Nihue Rao Centro Espiritual center in Peru, says from experience. "Healing of the mind and spirit then [fosters] physiological benefits."

"The British were fighting for their lives, so they would take anybody," Kent says. "The British gave him a gun and called him a Royal Marine."

Coyle officially joined the British forces in 1944. In the last few weeks of the war, legend has it, he was sent on a mission to the North Sea island of Heligoland, where the Nazis maintained an ammunition dump. Coyle was assigned to take out a German-controlled radio tower.

The island was supposed to be deserted, but two members of the German Volkssturm still manned the tower.

"It was a knife operation, and as Immanuel got old, he would tell us, 'I see them every night,'" Kent recalls. "Sixteen and 60 [years old], two guys; he survived, and they didn't."

While he was making his way back to the boat that had brought him to the island, a bomb exploded, and Coyle was seriously injured.

"His face was rebuilt, his teeth were blown out; he had a piece of steel in his head and a piece of steel in his leg," Kent says. "Immanuel had PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The brain injury would mean that he would have blackouts and that he would be functioning but not aware of what he was doing."

Coyle recovered from his wounds and found himself back in America when he was about 19. It was when he returned to the States to an inheritance from his birth father that Coyle first learned he had been adopted as a young boy.

Learning about his biological father set Coyle—who began using his father's surname, Trujillo—on a path that led finally to Arizona, to discovering his native heritage and eventually to establishing Peyote Way Church of God (originally called Church of Holy Light).

Determined to track down his remaining family, Trujillo found several other names on his father's will: Juan Trujillo, who had died; Eugene Yoakum; and Bill Russell (also known as "Apache Bill"), who lived in Tucson.

Trujillo traveled to Arizona, where he met Yoakum outside Courtland. Yoakum then introduced Trujillo to Apache Bill, who was the medicine man for the Native American Church in southern Arizona at the time. In those days, peyote use was illegal, but the Navajo and other Native American tribes, including the Huichol, continued to employ the hallucinogenic cactus in religious ceremonies.

Yoakum and Apache Bill introduced Trujillo to the hallucinogen.

"They took Immanuel up to Redington Pass and said, 'Son, you stay here and fast for a day, and then start eating this medicine, and we'll be back on the third day.' And that was Immanuel's first spirit walk," Kent says.

Like Trujillo, Yoakum and Apache Bill were military veterans. They had served during the Philippine-American war and had participated in the massacre of 600 people in the Moro Crater battle of 1906, Kent says.

"Part of each of their hearts was shattered by the violence they had done and had witnessed. It goes with any veteran," Kent says. "They knew that the peyote helped them find some peace. And so they knew it would help Immanuel."

After his first spirit walk under the guidance of Apache Bill, Trujillo began using peyote regularly for spiritual and therapeutic purposes. He joined the Native American Church and eventually became "roadman," a leader of peyote ceremonies.

Trujillo remained a member of the church for nearly two decades, finally breaking away to establish an inclusive, multiracial church offering peyote to non-natives.

Trujillo's experience with psychedelic drugs and his promotion of the use of peyote led him and prominent Harvard psychologist/LSD advocate Timothy Leary to become friends. Trujillo introduced the counterculture icon to peyote, and Leary in turn introduced Trujillo to LSD, Kent says.

Eventually, Trujillo joined Leary's League for Spiritual Discovery, which held storied LSD-fueled escapades at Millbrook Estate, north of New York City. After police raided Millbrook, Leary and "psychedelic yoga master" Bill Haines decided to establish the Sri Ram Ashram in Arizona, with the help of Trujillo.

Kent says Trujillo located the property in Benson, where Leary and Haines started their ashram. Trujillo lived at the ashram for several years and helped establish the center as he looked for property for Peyote Way.

Eventually, Trujillo left the League for Spiritual Discovery to have a family. Leary, who famously was called "the most dangerous man in America" by President Richard Nixon, moved to Laguna Beach, and then a ranch near Idyllwild, where he lived in teepees with members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a nonprofit church of hash smugglers and acid peddlers who viewed LSD as a sacrament, as revealed in Weekly managing editor Nick Schou's 2010 book, Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and its Quest to Spread Peace, Love and Acid to the World. Leary, who mounted an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign against Ronald Reagan, was hounded by authorities and in and out of jail for years. Members of his organization faced similar scrutiny.

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5 comments
smaugusta
smaugusta

Will the reporter go on a spirit walk?

Dave Tucker
Dave Tucker

Wow, this is interesting. Leary had a rug dipped in his LSD liquid for Janis Joplin when he lived in Laguna Canyon back in the sixties . His beliefs are now in the desert in AZ somewhere. Crazy stuff. But, a informative article done with this reporter. I like how he wrote this with getting the actual history about this. Many will be "pessimistic" about this, but it's a interested read . The native Americans believed in this spiritual type of "awakening".? Good job Mr. Reporter.

Wendel Burdine
Wendel Burdine

shoot the peyote i can do without the felowshipp

 
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