Actor Zachary Quinto on the Two Life-Changing Weeks He Spent in Peru Doing Ayahuasca

"Oftentimes, the most brutal lessons are the ones you need to learn the most."

Photo by Juliane Spaete, courtesy of The Talks.


Photo by Juliane Spaete, courtesy of The Talks.

Star Trek fans know him simply as Spock, but do a quick online search for the 37-year-old actor and you'll discover that, at the moment at least, the Internet knows him better for his shirtless selfies on Instagram. But as we found out within minutes of meeting him, there's a whole lot more to Zachary Quinto than landing major Hollywood roles and hitting the gym.

Are you a religious person?

I grew up Catholic, and my mom remains to this day really motivated by her religion. I ascribed to that through high school, and I was pretty active, but when I had the ability to make my own decisions, I realized that I would rather explore a sense of being spiritual than religious, and that started to clarify for me through college.

Looking back, would you say that it was beneficial for you to be at least exposed to religion at a young age?

I think it's important to have an awareness from a young age of what people grasp on to in order to feel some sense of foundation in their lives. Because if you don't have that, then I think you're potentially more likely to grab on to other things that are just distractions. At least if you have that seed that's planted, you can allow it to grow for yourself. My dad died when I was young, and I think that also enhanced my awareness of spirituality.

Because you start to think with more perspective when you lose somebody so close to you?

Exactly. When you lose a parent or you have a trauma at a young age, I think it's inevitable that you're going to think bigger and deeper than you would otherwise. But I think my mom was always a little disappointed that I wasn't more moved to Catholicism, that I didn't absorb that path.

But the church is a difficult, very judgmental organization.

It just seems so counterintuitive that any organization that predicates itself on the teachings of Jesus would be so aggressively exclusive of people or judgmental or hateful towards people in certain ways. And then all of the underlying hypocrisy and straight-up scandalous scenarios that are rampant in the church, it just feels really unintegrated. And I want to be an integrated person. I do think that I can draw on my exposure to those teachings when I was younger to some extent, but there are just too many discrepancies that I can't reconcile for myself. And I'm not interested in it. I'd rather pursue my own path.

Is that how you ended up going on a spiritual retreat to Peru? A lot of people who have gone there to take ayahuasca in a traditional ceremony under the guidance of a shaman have had life-changing spiritual experiences.

Yeah, friends that had been to Peru told me their stories, and I was at a place where I wanted to dig deeper in my own experience, so I started to do a lot of research, and I ended up there basically by researching a place that felt both safe and in line with what I wanted to tackle in myself.

Did you go by yourself?

Yes, and I had an incredible time. It feels to me like the kind of thing that, once you engage it and realize what's possible, it feels like a through line for me. I want to revisit it, I want to go back.

Would you describe ayahuasca as medicine or as a drug?

I really feel like if you enter into this experience with a kind of openness, I really think it can be tremendously healing. I think it is a medicine. I don't think it is a drug. I think a drug is something you do for fun. Ayahuasca really physically, as well as emotionally, has the power to heal. And I experienced that in a lot of ways.

Did you meet yourself when you were younger? I've heard of a lot of people having that experience.

Yeah. Well, we were there for two weeks, and so we did seven ceremonies while we were there. Each one was very different, and I met many different versions of myself. [Laughs] And my younger self was one of them. It's incredibly powerful, but the lessons can also be brutal. You have to be open to it and let it guide you and be available to what it has to teach you. Oftentimes, the most brutal lessons are the ones you need to learn the most.

Read more of The Talks With Zachary Quinto.

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