Spirit Walking

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

Off on his own, Trujillo hired an Arizona real-estate agent to find him land with a water source, which is how he came to purchase the 160 acres near Aravaipa Canyon in a foreclosure deal. After purchasing the land, Trujillo focused on making pottery and establishing his church.

Trujillo and his wife, Jane, lived on the land with their 4-year-old son, Juan, while building their pottery business. Then the little boy was killed in a freak accident. As Juan and his father hauled pottery to Trujillo's kilns for firing, the boy fell off the back of their truck and was run over.

"It broke their hearts, and that was the beginning of the end of Immanuel's last marriage," Kent says. "From the time we knew him until he died, he was celibate."

Kent and Zapf outside Peyote Way
Andrew Pielage
Kent and Zapf outside Peyote Way
Peyote Way Church founder Immanuel Trujillo as a young man
Courtesy the Peyote Way Church of God
Peyote Way Church founder Immanuel Trujillo as a young man

*     *     *

Zapf and Kent were introduced to Trujillo in October 1977. They were in their mid-20s at the time and had recently married in their home state of Pennsylvania.

They arrived at Trujillo's fledgling church through happenstance. A man they had caught a ride with while traveling across the country had rescued Trujillo's elderly mentor, Yoakum, who had become trapped behind a refrigerator in his home.

"He would have died had our ride not entered his remote cabin and pushed it off him," Zapf says.

The two had been at Peyote Way, still called the Church of Holy Light, for a few days when Trujillo showed them a tray of drying peyote and offered them an opportunity to go on a spirit walk.

Soon after their first experience with the drug, the two decided to stay and join the church. They were designated by Trujillo as the "Reverend" Zapf and "Rabbi" Kent, although they have no formal affiliations to Christianity and Judaism.

Over the next several years, Trujillo, Zapf and Kent worked to incorporate the burgeoning business, Mana Pottery, and to formally found the church, which was officially registered as a nonprofit organization in 1981, according to public records.

The pottery business expanded with the arrival of the married couple. Back in its heyday, Arizona-based Goldwater's Department Store, founded by Barry Goldwater's grandfather, carried Mana Pottery. Celebrities, including former NBA star and tie-dye-wearing big man Bill Walton, collected the colorful pieces featuring images of peyote and animal figures. And the Smithsonian Institution gave Trujillo's work a place in its permanent collection at the National Museum of the American Indian.

But the road to establishing the peyote-based church wasn't without obstacles. At various times, Trujillo, Zapf and Kent each faced prosecution for possession of peyote, designated a schedule I controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

In the early '80s, Zapf and Kent were arrested in Texas while on a "spiritual mission" to purchase peyote from an authorized dealer. Trujillo was arrested at least twice, once in Denver in the '60s and again in 1986 in Globe, Arizona, for eating part of a peyote button in front of a police officer.

Trujillo was acquitted in 1966 of possession of peyote in the Denver case and again in 1987 in the Globe case. Dr. Andrew Weil, a Tucson guru of alternative medicine and health food who teaches at the University of Arizona, acted as an expert witness in Trujillo's 1987 case.

During his testimony for the defense, Weil detailed his studies of peyote at Harvard University, the drug's impact on health and well-being, and the hallucinogenic effects of ingesting the plant.

Mescaline (the ingredient that makes people hallucinate) is the most commonly known psychoactive alkaloid in peyote, but as Kent is quick to point out—and Weil attests to in the court transcript—peyote has more than 50 different active alkaloids that make it unique.

"The effect of eating peyote is due to the interaction of all of these alkaloids. It can't be equated with eating pure mescaline, and so I think that [this] creates a lot of confusion in research because most of the research had been done with isolated mescaline and not with peyote," Weil stated. "I don't think the two are equivalent."

Through his testimony, Weil described his observations of individuals who had taken peyote.

"The initial effects, if a sufficient dose is eaten, are—probably within 30 minutes to an hour—some feelings of physiological distress, nausea, discomfort, fullness in the stomach, sweating, chills," he testified. "These symptoms may last for one to two hours, and then usually subside and are replaced by . . . calmness, relaxation"—during which the psychological changes occur, he said. "The total length of effects of eating a sufficient dose of peyote are . . . in the range of 10 to 12 hours."

The dosage necessary to experience hallucinations is hard to predict, Weil continued. But throughout his testimony, he explained that most people who take the drug need to ingest more than six cactus buttons to have a measurable effect. (The 21 grams used for Peyote Way's spirit walks is much more than six buttons.)

Weil, who admitted taking peyote on at least three occasions, testified that the drug isn't harmful, particularly in the right setting.

"I think these are safe drugs if they're used in the appropriate context," Weil told the court, "much safer than many drugs we routinely administer to people for medical purposes."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
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

 
Anaheim Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...