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Ian Baker’s essential research into the most captivating stories of exploration and discovery and extraordinary journeys to some of the most inaccessible places on earth.

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The Heart of the World

Journeys to the Last Secret Places

The myth of Shangri-la originates in Tibetan Buddhist beliefs in beyul, or hidden lands, sacred sanctuaries that reveal themselves to devout pilgrims and in times of crisis. Ancient Tibetan prophecies have declared that the greatest of all hidden lands lies at the heart of the forbidding Tsangpo Gorge, deep in the Himalayas and veiled by a colossal waterfall. Several failed and fatal attempts over the last 100+ years to find this waterfall left explorers to believe this mysterious sanctuary was nothing but a fantasy. Ian Baker was determined to defy the odds and discover the Tsangpo Gorge despite doubt.

After several years of encountering dangerous terrains, sheer cliffs, impassable white water, and dense jungles, on the last of a series of extraordinary expeditions, Ian Baker and his team of explorers reached the depths of the Tsangpo Gorge. They made news worldwide by finding the 108-foot-high waterfall, the legendary grail of Western explorers and Tibetan seekers alike. In this series, Ian Baker travels again to be the first to uncover two more hidden access points, as told by the Shangri-la ancient myths. 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.

The Heart of the World is one of the most captivating stories of exploration and discovery —an extraordinary journey to some of the wildest and most inaccessible places on earth and a pilgrimage to the heart of the Tibetan Buddhist faith.


About the show

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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

Season 1

Episode list coming soon.

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