Psychedelic Reality TV

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Michael Zapolin is a former dot-com entrepreneur and a New Age author who wants to save the world with psychedelics  — and make a reality TV show about it:

The team includes a shaman who was once the Vice President of JP Morgan Europe, a cameraman who moonlights as a Spanish voiceover artist for McDonald’s and celebrities like actress Michelle Rodriguez and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra.

The reality show we’re filming, tentatively titled Pyschenauts, is based on the group’s endeavors and already has big-time executive producers attached; namely, David Hurwitz, an executive producer of Fear Factor, and the Oscar- and Emmy-nominated producer Joe Berlinger, who just made Tony Robbins’s Netflix documentary I Am Not Your Guru. Each episode of Pyschenauts follows Zapolin’s team as it whisks away a troubled celebrity or person suffering medical trauma, administers them an intense psychedelic experience and documents their spiritual transformation on video.


Zapolin, who studies Jewish mystical cabala and co-authored a book with Deepak Chopra on the subject, became interested in master plants after reading the Hebrew Bible. “I was looking at the Book of Exodus around five years ago,” Zapolin recounts. “I was looking at the manna stuff. It says that manna was a small round thing that appears in the morning dew and if you put it in your tent, worms will come out of it and it will stink. I was like, ‘Well that’s what happens with mushrooms.’ And if you carry it over to the Jesus story, where he turned water into wine, according to the Cabalistic oral tradition, he put manna in the pots. And the people who drank it reported that Jesus’s wine was incredible, that they were connected to the angels. So I was like, I gotta call Deepak,” he says, starting to laugh. “He’s gonna tell me I’m nuts, but I had to get it off my chest. So I called him and said, ‘I think that this manna that’s described in the Bible may have been mushrooms.’ And he’s totally silent. He’s like, ‘The reason why this resonates with me is that in my Vedic tradition, there’s the plant soma, which was described as a mystery plant that would connect you to God. According to them it doesn’t exist anymore, but based on our scientific knowledge now, it’s obvious that it was mushrooms’.”


Although half of the team here in Mexico are natives of the country, the shaman, Fabian Pierkowski, is a white German national who likes to offer insight on Western-indigenous dichotomies. One of the most well-known shamans in the West, Pierkowski quit his job as Vice President of Asset Management for JP Morgan Europe in 2008 to pursue shamanism full-time. He holds around 250 ceremonies annually, reaching more than 5,000 people a year.

Pierkowski believes that what makes master plants exciting at this point in history is the possibilities for their application in the Western Hemisphere. “You have these upper class people who want to go to Peru, like Chelsea Handler,” he says in a somewhat condescending tone. “You have to understand: someone might be a seventh-generation shaman in Peru, but they don’t understand the context of a Westerner. With all due respect, they’re less fucked up than we are [in the West]. I say you need to work with someone who understands your context, which is where I come in. There are things you can do in traditional medicine, and there are things you can do in Western medicine, so you have to understand how they work together. They’re based on sacred medicines from thousands of years ago, but I’ve brought them to a standard that’s almost clinical.” As an example, Pierkowski boils his medicines for almost two weeks to remove impurities — far longer than ayahuasca is traditionally prepared, but it eliminates much of the uncomfortable throwing up the vine induces.

It is this new, 21st century fusion of Western standards-of-care traditional medicine, reality television and spiritual experiences that excite evangelists like Pierkowski and Zapolin. “In 20 years, this is going to be what yoga is now,” Zapolin says. It’s hard not to believe him; Zapolin made his fortune by predicting the future value of new technologies. It’s no coincidence that Zapolin’s peers, the risk-and-reward-seeking futurists in Silicon Valley, are some of the plants’ biggest enthusiasts.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Zapolin and his ilk are deeply superstitious and ignorant. That such rank nonsense should be promulgated and even admired proves that Western Civilization, science, and reason are dead.

  2. James James says:

    “The team includes a shaman who was once the Vice President of JP Morgan Europe”

    The reincarnation of Gordon Wasson?

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