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Tangentially Speaking

460 – Niles Heckman (Documentarian, Photographer, Essayist)

By February 10, 20213 Comments

Niles is a documentary photographer, filmmaker, and essayist who’s work focuses around themes of ageless wisdom for our modern times. Sharing insights in his films, spoken-word essays, podcast “An Infinite Path,” alternate media appearances, street photography blog “Philosophical Photography,” and in mentorships with others. He is the director of the feature film Transmutation, the documentary series Shamans of The Global Village, the shorts Balanced Opposites and Mystery of History, and a collection of short-form documentary narrations. (from

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Intro music: “Brightside of the Sun,” by Basin and Range,“Slow Down,” by The Grid; “Smoke Alarm,” by Carsie Blanton.


  • Very interesting discussion, and I would definitely like to check out Niles’s show.

    I have only experimented with psychedelic substances twice in my life. On both occasions, I deliberately sought to try them under traditional ceremonial conditions ministered by a Huichol marakame (shaman) during the winter solstice, at an undisclosed location that is just a stonethrow away from the pyramids of Teotihuacán. I wrote about the first of those experiences for the Daily Grail:

    Even though in both occasions I failed to attain a true psychedelic altered state–I’ve had ‘trippier’ events when I wake up in the early morning and see kaleidoscopic imagery I attribute to endogenous DMT secretions– I still consider them valuable learning experiences just by having made the decision of leaving my comfort zone and daring to try something new. The people who participated in those ceremonies were all very friendly and open; yes, most of them were probably affluent middle-class ‘mestizos’ and not members of the Huichol tribe, but one thing to consider is that –according to the Huichol themselves– the peyote plant ‘told them’ they needed to open up their sacred ceremonies to outsiders.

    And yeah, both of these ceremonies involved ‘cleansing rituals’ although nobody was forced to confess their ‘sins’ to the circle of people gathered for the ceremony. We were told instead to take a tree branch or piece of wood and throw it into the fire as a way to symbolize our getting rid of the psychological baggage we didn’t want to carry for the next year. You are also asked to do other stuff, like sewing a color thread around a big wax candle that supposedly symbolizes your life. Everybody took all these instructions seriously and with proper respect –no preliminary ‘diet’ was asked; in fact, prior to the all-night ceremony we had a dinner of tacos and cerveza, and the next morning bottles of Tequila are also passed around. The only restrictions imposed by the shaman is the consumption of marijuana during the ceremony –apparently cannabis inhibits the effects of mescaline– and they also ask people about any medication they are taking to prevent potential health risks.

    There was a span of a couple of years between my two psychedelic experiences, and on the second time I did wake up feeling a strange dissociation between my mind and my body. It was definitely something weird trying to climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun in such a state –weirder still when I drove back home, because I felt as if I was playing ‘me’ as a digital avatar in a videogame!

    Alas, I lost contact with the group of people who organize those ceremonies, and even though I wouldn’t mind giving a try to the old ‘jícuri’ one last time (despite the fact it tastes like hell) I would probably prefer to do it under different circumstances. I didn’t mind the cold or the constant drumming and chanting at all, but the fact there was only one tiny bathroom shared by way too many people probably had a heavy influence on why I was never able to relax enough to ‘surrender to the medicine’ as it were –that tiny bathroom ALWAYS ended up as a true horror scene the morning after those ceremonies!

    • Russ England says:

      Always look forward to the podcast, have listened to everyone, most twice, this one to me felt disappointing, self indulgence back slapping. From the kick-off he showed his subservience to Chris, sorry guys.

  • SaltyHater says:

    Niles Heckman is a little grabler

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