From the Author
While psychedelics are demonized and repressed in the US today, the visionary compounds found in plants are the spiritual sacraments of tribal cultures around the world. From the Bwiti in Gabon to the Secoya in Ecuador, the psychedelic plants are sacred because they awaken the mind to other levels of awareness. They are gateways to a spiritual – or multi-dimensional, or holographic – vision of the universe.
Breaking Open the Head is a passionate inquiry into this deep division. The book follows two tracks. On the one hand, I tell the story of the encounters between the modern consciousness of the West and these visionary sacraments – by thinkers and self-proclaimed avatars such as Antonin Artaud, Walter Benjamin, Allen Ginsberg, and Terence McKenna. This culminates in an analysis of the psychedelic chaos of the 1960s, which I describe as a failed mass-cultural voyage of shamanic initiation. But interest in psychedelics did not vanish with the 1960s. Outside of the mainstream, the psychedelic gnosis has been pursued into the present by brilliant botanists, chemists, psychonauts, and philosophers.
The second track of my book is a scrupulous recording of my own investigations into these outlaw compounds. For the book, I went through a tribal initiation with the Bwiti, a tribal group in the small West African country of Gabon. The initiation involved eating iboga, a psychedelic which lasts for thirty hours. I visited the master shamans of the Secoya Indians in the Ecuadorean Amazon, who sing to the spirits throughout all-night ayahuasca ceremonies. I found a psychedelic utopia in the barren Black Rock desert of Nevada, where the Burning Man festival draws 25,000 people each year for a shamanic revival crossing the Ancient Mysteries with Pop Art spectacle. I visited a Mazatec shaman in Oaxaca, Mexico, and tried the super-potent hallucinogen DMT at a conference in Palenque. In the process, I had experiences that convinced me, beyond any doubt, of the limitations of the current paradigm of “rational” materialism.
Thus, Breaking Open the Head charts my personal transformation from jaded Manhattan journalist to grateful citizen of a multi-dimensional cosmos. Today, I strongly suspect that mysticism – the archaic “spiritual technologies” lost to the West – will be the applied science of the New Aeon.
From the author’s website – http://www.breakingopenthehead.com.