Giovanni Lattanzi’s Reinvented Toltecs, Science, and Dislocution: Critical Discussion of the Monograph Kambo and Iboga (2016)


This article scrutinizes Giovanni Lattanzi’s 2016 monograph about kambo and iboga, two “entheogens,” i.e., substances traditionally believed to bring about, if consumed in an appropriate setting, experiences of the divine as well as beneficial effects on a spiritual and bodily level. Lattanzi draws upon indigenous practices and beliefs, but he pioneers the two substances’ simultaneous application in shamanic ceremonies. A major role in Lattanzi’s narrative is played by “Toltec” doctrines that he reinvents by drawing upon controversial sources like Carlos Castaneda’s books and by constantly linking Toltec doctrines and achievements with modern and “scientific” ones. After a deconstruction of Lattanzi’s Toltec narrative the paper shows, through textual analysis, that his discourse well exemplifies what the scholar Andrew Dawson, in his analysis of Santo Daime (another contemporary, entheogen-based religious movement originating in Latin America), defines as “dislocution.” It is argued that dislocution (i.e., a simultaneous attitude of verbal rejection and practical acceptance towards modernity or one of its elements) is interesting ethnographically, but it does not constructively contribute to the understanding, on behalf of scholars and laypeople alike, of entheogens and their effects, nor to the more general debate over religion and science.

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  1. 1.

    I use the term somewhat loosely, while in chemistry what is meant are compounds.

  2. 2. (Last accessed November 19, 2017).

  3. 3.

    Recent scholarly literature about Bwiti does not seem to abound. A comprehensive work referred to by Lattanzi is Fernandez (1982).

  4. 4.

    The situation is complex and fluid. For an updated overview of ibogaine’s legal status the world over, see (Last accessed November 19, 2017).

  5. 5.

    For a discussion of Santo Daime’s tenets and practices, see also Barnard (2014).

  6. 6.

    The author of the present pages is a native speaker of Italian.

  7. 7.

    The specific chapter about Erspamer (Lattanzi 2016, 76–92) is authored by Lella Antinozzi, who has also written the Preface to Lattanzi’s monograph (Lattanzi 2016, 15–20). Lella Antinozzi, as she states herself, is an art critic (Lattanzi 2016, 15).

  8. 8.

    Lattanzi reports for instance that Tesla “possessed strong telepathic capacities, he received his discoveries through dreams and visions, and he was able to talk with the spirits of the dead […]. In the dark he was as sensitive as a bat, and he could recognize objects from a great distance by feeling a tingling in his forehead” (Lattanzi 2016, 166).


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Correspondence to Stefano Bigliardi.

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Bigliardi, S. Giovanni Lattanzi’s Reinvented Toltecs, Science, and Dislocution: Critical Discussion of the Monograph Kambo and Iboga (2016). Int J Lat Am Relig 2, 142–155 (2018).

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  • Bwiti
  • Carlos Castaneda
  • Dislocution
  • Entheogens
  • Iboga
  • Kambo
  • Giovanni Lattanzi
  • Medicine
  • New religious movements
  • Santo Daime
  • Shamanism
  • Toltecs