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Ian Baker

Ian Baker craves discovery of the unknown, and the uncharted. As a historian and cultural anthropologist, Ian Baker travels the world to study cultures of the indigenous, and is considered an expert scholar in Tibetan Buddhism, Tantric Yoga and Himalayan communities. In this series, Ian travels to new lands, exploring the semi-immortal powers of Burmese Alchemy, Ancient Greek Galenic Medicine dating back to the Roman Empire, the mysticism of earthly paradise, Shangri-la, and the sacred, spiritual powers of the Mandala.

“Ian Baker’s journeys inspire others not only to venture into unknown lands on a geographical level, but also to discover the inner realms within which our own deepest nature lies hidden.”
– His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

About the show


About Ian Baker

Ian Archbald Baker is an anthropologist and cultural historian with a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, a Master of Philosophy degree in Medical Anthropology from University College London, and a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Oxford. He engaged in additional graduate work at Columbia University in Comparative Religion and earned his Bachelor of Arts in Art History at Middlebury College, Vermont.

He was honored by National Geographic Society as one of seven ‘Explorers for the Millennium’ for his ethnographic and geographical field research in Beyul Pemako, the ‘hidden land arrayed like lotuses’ in Tibet’s Tsangpo Gorge region and his resolution of a century-long riddle concerning the existence of the fabled Falls of the Tsangpo, the highest waterfall on any major Asian river and the geographical source of the legend of Shangri-La.

He was presented with the Presidential Award of the Explorers Club in 2016 and was further awarded in 2018 with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who’s Who, the world’s premier publisher of biographical profiles, for his “prestigious achievements, leadership qualities, and academic and professional distinctions” in anthropology and exploration.

He is the author of seven critically acclaimed books on Himalayan and Tibetan cultural history, environment, art, and medicine including Tibetan Yoga: Principles and Practices, The Heart of the World: A Journey to the Last Secret Place, Celestial Gallery, The Tibetan of Art of Healing, Tibet: Reflections from the Wheel of Life, and The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple: Tantric Wall Paintings from Tibet, a collaborative work with His Holiness the Dalai Lama that illuminates advanced meditation practices. His book Dragons Milk: Alchemy and Altered States in Colonial-Era Burma, based on his doctoral research, is forthcoming. He has also contributed chapters to academic publications in the fields of Himalayan sacred geography (Hidden Lands in Himalayan Myth and History: Transformations of sbas yul through Time, Brill 2020), yoga and physical culture in Vajrayāna Buddhism (Yoga in Transformation: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, Vienna University Press, 2018), and entheogenic substance use in Buddhist Tantra (Expanding Mindscapes: A Global History of Psychedelics, MIT Press, 2023). He has also written for National Geographic Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, and other popular periodicals.

He served as lead curator for London’s award-winning ‘Tibet’s Secret Temple: Body, Mind, and Meditation in Tantric Buddhism’ exhibition and was co-curator at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum for a scheduled exhibition on the interface of art and science in esoteric traditions of yoga and Vajrayāna Buddhism.

Additional information is available on his website www.ianbaker.com

The Heart of the World

The Heart of the World

Ian Baker documents his journey to find two undiscovered lands of the mythical Shangri-la, an extraordinary pilgrimage to some of the most inaccessible places on earth and the heart of the Tibetan Buddhist faith. Along his journey, Baker explores the semi-immortal powers of Burmese Alchemy, Greek Galenic Medicine dating back to the Roman Empire, the mysticism of earthly paradise, and the sacred, spiritual powers of the Mandala.

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Additional Resources

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A Journey to the Last Secret Place

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Principles and Practices

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