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Psychedelic Marine: A Transformational Journey from Afghanistan to the Amazon
by Alex Seymour
Publisher:
Park Street Press 
Year:
2016 
ISBN:
9781620555798 
Categories:
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 6/19/2017

Psychedelic Marine is certainly a title that carries no confusion about the book’s subject. This is an adeptly written autobiography about a British Marine’s return to the armed services and a subsequent episode of further self-discovery in the Amazon jungles. Now, let’s face it, does the world need yet another book on self-discovery and the ayahuasca experience in South America? To his credit, the author delivers a definitely novel perspective on one man’s journey.

Overcoming some early broken-home childhood experiences, the (British) author enlists for six years as a Royal Marine Commando, undergoing insanely rigorous training from Falkland War veterans, including learning to camp in the Arctic, and routinely doing business-as-usual 30-mile hikes. After returning to civilian life and starting a family, his inherent warrior nature eventually leads him to return to active service at age 42. Having had the (smokeable) DMT experience at age 40, he enters his second combat training with an interesting self-realized purpose and new-found perspective on life.

Author Alex Seymour then goes on to write some of the most fascinating and illuminating descriptions ever of the grueling war situation in current-day Afghanistan. His first-hand accounts of being loaded up with literally 100 pounds of equipment and going out on patrols in 100-degree weather are truly almost beyond belief (and he joins the ‘300 club’ after doing this 100 times). Crawling like a turtle through both desert terrain and vast opium poppy fields, while never getting more than four hours of sleep at a time, are all part of the daily routine, and this doesn’t even touch on the constant threat of Taliban attacks and enemy improvised explosive devices (IEDs). An intense male bonding experience in the face of inconceivable hardships is also very well expressed and explained in the first half of the book.

The second half of the author’s journey is his sojourn to the Peruvian jungles to get his head and spirit back together with two different ayahuasca groups, one well established, and one more ‘renegade’, led by a westerner with almost cult-like methodologies. Here are the oft-touched-upon descriptions of spirit possessions and healings, colorful personal insights, and the experience of nature as a temple. Seymour is an engaging writer, and expertly immerses the reader in the moment.

When all is said and done, the author also discusses some interesting approaches to entheogenic use within the Armed Forces, namely, that it would behoove a soldier to have a psychedelic experience not only after combat experience but beforehand as well, as a means to confront fear and death. Not surprisingly, he is also a staunch advocate of the use of MDMA as an effective means of PTSD therapy.

Psychedelic Marine is a good solid read, and, like I say, his descriptions of combat on the Afghan battlefront are essential reading. Come for the aya, stay for the war.

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