Medical Doctor, University of Medicine and Medical Techniques, Nantes (France), Diploma in Tropical Pathology (IMT-Anvers) and Naturopathy (Uni Paris XIII).
After a first experience in Africa in health projects with the Belgian Technical Cooperation and with the “Brothers of Men” association, he arrives to Peru in 1980 to lead the Lampa Hospital (Puno) as head of mission of "Doctors without Borders". This experience will awake his interest in Peruvian traditional medicine systems and practices, whose efficacy is verified by him clinically every day. This orientation is later consolidated (1984-1985) when he assumes other medical missions for NGOs in countries of Asia and Africa. He decides to study these ancestral resources in primary health starting from 1986, as an associated researcher of the French Institute of Andean Studies (IFEA). Then he went through many years of traditional medical learning in different regions of the Peruvian Amazon.
In 1992, he founded the Takiwasi Center where intercultural medicine is practiced, nurtured by native traditions and modern knowledge. Between 1996 and 2001 he served at the National Institute of Traditional Medicine of Peru as Director of the San Martin region. Because of his research he has been appointed as honorary member of the Association of Psychologists of Peru, and as Extraordinary Professor of the Southern Scientific University (Lima). He participates in the board of the Transcultural Psychiatry Department of the Peruvian Psychiatric Association and was elected a Fellow of Ashoka Foundation in recognition of his encouraging work as a social entrepreneur. He is an associate member of the European Psychoanalyst Association (2014) ad has been co-founder (1986), vice president (1986-1989) and president (2012-2016) of the Inter-American Council on Indigenous Spirituality (CISEI).
The Encounter with Traditional Andean-Amazonian Medicine
In 1980, at age 25, Jacques Mabit arrived in Peru and had a first contact with traditional Andean medicines. Sent by Doctors Without Borders to take charge of a small rural hospital in the village Lampa, in the highlands of Puno, he very quickly faced grave technical and logistical shortages on the one hand, and on the other the cultural inadequacy of Western medicine for the local culture. By necessity he came into contact with the world of traditional medicines. Without a doubt it was also out of curiosity. Bonesetters, obstetricians, midwives and healers: in the Andes he met and worked with several traditional doctors. However, they explained their experiences and knowledge through the use of arguments and concepts that did not correspond absolutely to a cultural framework and a way of conceiving the world according to the Western vision.
When asking Doña Felipa, an old indigenous midwife who spoke only Quechua, about how she had acquired her knowledge, she told him that one day, while she was grazing her sheep and llamas in the highlands, a storm started and she was struck by a lightning. Several animals died at her side, she lost consciousness, but she did not die. When she woke up, she knew how to heal. This proven knowledge did not come from tradition, it wasn’t inherited, it came to her all at once. Jacques was interested to see how these people used the resources of their ancestors, the traditional medicines and therapies. He studied with several practitioners and was quite surprised to find that they had knowledge and ancestral remedies that achieved amazing results, whether for physical problems, like broken bones, for example, or for more psychological or spiritual problems. And this medicine was also easy to use and very cheap, among other things.
He then continued his research in the Amazon rainforest reaching the city of Tarapoto where he was invaded by the certainty that "he had arrived home." In the first months he visited some Amazonian healers and after talking with them the conclusion was always more or less the same: "The only way to learn is to take the plants, which are the ones that teach”. So in 1986 he settled here and in the six following years he worked with several healers in this region of the Amazon rainforest, to see to what extent he could integrate this knowledge. He was like a student in the school of healers, and in order to learn it was necessary to experience it.
He began to take ayahuasca with a local healer and this projected him into a totally unknown world. It was a founding experience for him and later for Takiwasi. In the first session, fear actually blocked the experience. In the second session he met a giant black boa that started to fight with him and to entwine him. This distressing and terrifying experience lasted what seemed like an eternity, until leading Jacques to a feeling of acceptance, a kind of obvious evidence that the world did not need him and could live without him. This boa was the spirit of the ayahuasca, which led him to this combat with his ego and to this important awareness. He was able to understand more things in a single night than in all the previous years of life, studies and reflections.
That was the first encounter with the spirit of ayahuasca. A strong medicine that encompass the body, the mind and the spirit, the meaning of life and death.
The Takiwasi Center
Through his apprenticeship with vegetalista doctors, Jacques had visions and dreams that indicated that his destiny was to work with drug addicts, and that he needed a place to do it. This is how Takiwasi was born. It emerged from the indications received during this apprenticeship.
He continued taking ayahuasca and in his eighth session, he had another founding experience for Takiwasi. He saw himself in the jungle, standing in front of 12 characters sitting in a semicircle. They spoke to him, saying "We are the guardian spirits of the jungle." He had never heard of them before. They asked: "You, why are you drinking ayahuasca?" Jacques replied that he wanted to learn this medicine. They consulted among themselves and finally he who was in the center, the representative of the group, said: "You are authorized to enter this territory", that was the exact phrase that remained engraved in his memory, "You can enter, but your work, your path, will go through this", and then he saw himself taking care of drug addicts. It was a total surprise because it wasn’t something he had thought of doing or was especially interested in the subject. Neither had he used drugs, nor taken alcohol nor smoked tobacco. He also had no problems of addiction or alcoholism in his direct family.
The whole project of the Takiwasi Center has been the result of these experiences. For example, when he was looking for a place where he could establish this center, he visited different places. Among them there was an abandoned lot, near the center of the city of Tarapoto and on the banks of the Shilcayo river. In a session the ayahuasca said to him: "This is the place". Then he went to see the owner and told her he wanted to buy the land, but she answered: "No, it's not for sale, I do not want to sell it." It seemed to contradict what he had heard during the ayahuasca ceremony. 2 months later that same lady looked for him and told him she he had been offered to buy a pharmacy in Lima, an interesting business that she did not want to lose, but she didn’t have enough capital. The only thing she had left was to sell the land. And in a few days, Jacques had it. The confirmation of the facts demonstrates the coherence of all these inspirations.
The Takiwasi Center was founded more than 25 years ago by a group of doctors and psychologists led by Jacques Mabit, and by his wife, the Peruvian physician Rosa Giove, as a result of this research work in the practices of the traditional medicines started in 1986, in an area that at that time was the first region in the world for the production of coca leaf and consumption of its toxic derivatives. Since 1992, the Takiwasi Center has been dedicated to improving the health conditions of the local population and to the conservation of the environment, developing innovative techniques and intervention models that rescue and preserve traditional Amazonian knowledge and articulate them with modern science and technology.
Takiwasi offers a unique and innovative world-class, low-cost and efficient therapeutic protocol to address drug addiction and mental health disorders with great results. This protocol, based on the combination of modern psychotherapy with traditional Amazonian medicine, has made of Takiwasi an international reference and pilot model that has inspired several similar initiatives. Its multidisciplinary team is composed by Western and local indigenous and mestizo experts that guarantee a holistic approach to the human being. Takiwasi has also promoted the sustainable development of the Amazonian indigenous communities through the implementation of a BioTrade model that has been recognized by the UN. Mabit works tirelessly to create a true dialogue between Western and Indigenous world, especially by co-founding the Inter-American Council on Indigenous Spirituality (CISEI) and organizing several international events. He regularly gives lectures at conferences worldwide and is the author of more than 50 articles published in journals and books.
Main publications, interviews and conferences
- Chakaruna, a vital encounter between Andean-Amazonian and Western tradition - Interview with Dr. Jacques Mabit by Ricardo Chirinos Portocarrero, Unay Runa, 2018.
- Towards a transcultural medicine: Reflections and proposals based on the experience in Takiwasi - Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2013.
- Ritual Ayahuasca use and health: an interview with Jacques Mabit - The Internationalization of Ayahuasca, 2011.
- Itinerary and testimony of Dr. Jacques Mabit, Physician and Shaman – Interview by Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, Interculture, 2007.
- Ayahuasca in the treatment of addictions – Psychedelic Medicine (Vol. 2): New Evidence for Hallucinogic Substances as Treatments, 2007.
- Blending traditions: using indigenous medicinal knowledge to treat drug addiction - MAPS Bulletin, 2002.
- The evolution of a pilot program utilizing ayahuasca in the treatment of drug addictions - Shaman’s Drum Journal, 2006.
- Ayahuasca Use in the New Age Context - International Transpersonal Conference, 2017.
- The Takiwasi way of treating addiction - World Ayahuasca Conference II, 2016.
- The Interface Between Drug Addiction and Traditional Amazonian Medicine – Psychedelic Science, 2013.
- Ayahuasca and Amazonian Traditional Medicines in the Treatment of Addictions - LHFORUM, San Patrignano 2014.
- The Three Sources Of Revelation - Interview with Jacques Mabit by Nick Polizzi.