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Wizard of the Upper Amazon Paperback – January 27, 1993

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Editorial Reviews


"This is one of the three or four best books I have ever encountered."
—Peter Warshall, The CoEvolution Quarterly

"A rare glimpse of the private life of a Peruvian healer."
—Andrew Weil, M.D., author of the The Natural Mind

About the Author

F. Bruce Lamb was born in Colorado in 1913 and holds B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan. He has traveled widely, in North, South and Central America, as well as Africa and Asia, and has held many posts and consultancies in the field of forest engineering, specializing in tropical forestry. He has published two books and numerous articles in this field. Married and father of one daughter, he lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is retired Technical Director, Forest Resources for Champion International Corporation.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books; New edition edition (January 27, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0938190806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0938190806
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19, 1999
An authentic account from the early twentieth centry of villiage life in the Amazon jungle. Told in a simple and direct manner, one is captivated by the sophisticated and complete social life of the Indian people. Since it is a first hand account , non-anthropological, one gets a glimpse of a way of life rich in religious, cultural and human acheivement. It offers insights into the way of life of the Huni Kui people, and into the Western way of life, both complete and wonderful in their own right, but utterly seperate. The civilization of the Huni Kui people is hard to relate to the animalistic, instinctual slavery of the greed driven capitalist world, where everything is reduced to its financial worth, as oppossed to its intrinsic value. Although the Huni Kui people are ultimately pragmatic about the world they live in, their intellectual integrity allows for recognition of the interdependence of all life. This is explored in the book through enjoyable tales of hunting trips, religious ceremonies and villiage incidents, revealing a taste of the satisfaction of an integrated way of life, apart from the materialistic fantasies engaged in by the machinistic,beurocratic Western worldview.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Darshan Baba on February 6, 2010
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A delightful glance in to a way of living which most of the world has forgotten. An experience of living in a tribe deep within the rain forest, this true story is never dull or slow but continues to keep the reader entranced until the end. One of those books where you feel at least a little sad that the book is over, wanting to keep reading/living this story of life in the rain forest according to the way that people have been living for thousands of years, and to this day still live deep within the refuge of the rain forest.

This book also provides glimpses into the magic or the amazon and her people, with amazing plant medicines, especially but not limited to yage, with her magical visions teaching higher levels of perception, clairvoyance, deeper harmony, and knowledge of the forest and all creatures.
This book is recommended to anyone and everyone who feels the sacred calls of the spirit of the Amazon...
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By K.S.Ziegler on February 1, 2006
This is a second hand account that is written with beautiful clarity. The story, which was related by Manuel Cordova to the author, unfolds in an entirely believable way. It tells of Manuel Cordova's kidnapping when he was a teenager working for rubber cutters in the Amazon in the early 1900s. He was forced by a group of Indians to undergo a long march through the jungle, several hundred miles to a very remote, primitive Indian village. These Indians were of a fierce hunting disposition, and had fled into the interior because they refused to give into the slavery imposed on them by rubber barons.

Cordova must learn how to adapt to primitive, tribal conditions where a Chief must control his people's impulses enough to keep the tribe from spinning apart. The Chief must also assure that his people are able to thrive as hunters in a hostile environment, where a dense jungle covers almost everything and dangers lurk. Success as a hunter requires a lot of knowledge, and that knowledge is acquired not only through experience but through ingesting Ayahuasca (See "DMT, the Spirit Molecule" by Strassman). Cordova relates the extraordinary sessions that were very carefully planned and taken very seriously. By the use of chants and cues given by the Chief, the particpants experienced in unison non-ordinary sensual perception that brought them in touch with the life of the forest.

Although I felt some sympathy for these Indians, who had the wits to evade forces greater than themselves, I got the impression that they were basically an unruly, impulsive bunch easily influenced to the point of being motivated above all by vengence. The violence of their hunting lives seemed to supersede in large part a sacred regard for their environment gained from their shamanistic experiences. That was my impression anyway. For his part, Manual Cordova put his shamanistic experiences, his knowledge of native plants, and healing ability that he acquired to good use.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hopeful Mover on May 14, 2012
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I could go on and on about this important book and what it has meant to me. The intelligence of the tribal chief and his ability to lead and teach his members is incredible. His method of tribal dispute resolution is fascinating. The approach to diabetes is very interesting. This story is one of the great stories of the 20 century and is not nearly well-known enough. An important read for everyone, especially those of college age, as this "kid" received a triple PHD between the ages of 15 and 22 that I actually envy, and am glad it happened to him and not me. It really even goes into the value of this type of hands on education without ever mentioning it although the author is an important educator of the academic type himself.
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In the late 1960s, F. Bruce Lamb was doing a forest survey in eastern Peru and was introduced to Manuel Córdova-Rios, who accompanied him as a guide. As they got to know each other, Lamb learned that Córdova had been kidnapped by the Amahuaca Indians at the age of 15 and had spent seven years living with them in an isolated region in western Brazil, until he escaped and returned to his family in Iquitos in 1914. The book is the story of his captivity, during which he learned the language of his captors, was adopted into the tribe, was trained in the arts of healing and divination, and eventually became their chief.

The book acquired some notoriety when it was published in 1971 because of its descriptions of hallucinogenic sessions the Amahuaca (they called themselves the Huni Kui) used to communicate with the spirit world. Although these beautifully described sessions are important events in the book, there is much more here--marriage and funeral customs, hunting techniques, and an elegant depiction of life in the forest for an indigenous people who had little contact with westerners. Córdova’s own personal evolution from a frightened adolescent into a skilled hunter, shaman and tribal leader is the true story here, and his eventual decision to leave the tribe and return home is full of anguish. In a sequel, "Rio Tigre and Beyond," Córdova describes how his love for the forest led him to become a healer and an advocate for all its people, plants and animals.

This is an amazing story, engaging and suspenseful; a vivid glimpse into a way of life that has vanished. Córdova does not idealize the Huni Kui, who are sometimes violent and treacherous, but he leaves the reader with a new appreciation for the forest and those who live in it.
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