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The Green Labyrinth: Exploring the Mysteries of the Amazon

by Sylvia Fraser

The Green Labyrinth is a continuation of Sylvia Fraser’s previous book, The Rope in the Water, in that she is still following her curiosity about non-Western healing and spirituality into remote corners of the world. This time, the beaches and meditation retreats of India have been replaced by the jungles of Peru and the shamanic drug ayahuasca. Like the earlier book, The Green Labyrinth eschews tedious introspection for the breathless style of an exploration novel.

It is difficult to judge a book on the healing value of hallucinatory drug journeys on anything other than its subject matter – the temptation is to decide whether the facts hold, and leave it at that. But The Green Labyrinth forces the reader out of this perspective by making us realize the value of pure experience – whether Fraser’s hallucinatory insights come from her subconscious or from visions into another realm becomes beside the point.

Fraser seamlessly combines the factual and the personal with a style that makes the work intriguing: rather than seeking to “find herself ” or write a treatise on healing, Fraser wants to see what adventures will come her way if she keeps an open mind. She indirectly teaches the reader by telling the story of her adventure – including the intellectual adventure of researching ayahuasca before her trip – instead of simply explaining what she learned along the way.

Near the end of the book, Fraser recounts her frustrations with a shaman she suspects of being in the retreat business for the money more than the meaning. Speaking to another guest of the retreat, Fraser eventually realizes that her indignation serves no purpose – a frustrating situation can still be a learning experience if she doesn’t let anger overtake her. The Green Labyrinth similarly shows that excessive Western skepticism is not always the best way to approach alternative philosophies – we can learn from others, even if we don’t fully believe.