Breaking Open the Head Breaking Open the Head Breaking Open the Head
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Breaking Open the Head Breaking Open the Head Breaking Open the Head

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  1,897 ratings  ·  149 reviews
"A dazzling work of personal travelogue and cultural criticism that ranges from the primitive to the postmodern in a quest for the promise and meaning of the psychedelicexperience.
"While psychedelics of all sorts are demonized in America today, the visionary compounds found in plants are the spiritual sacraments of tribal cultures around the world. From theiboga of the Bw...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published August 6th 2002 by Crown Publishing Group (first published 2002)
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The least insulting thing I can say about this book is maybe that Pinchbeck was too young to write this when he did. It's a complicated topic and he deserves some credit for addressing it's intrigue. In general, I got the feeling he wrote this to enhance his hip, New York bachelor, image. Pinchbeck's background is in journalism, and that style is expressed pretty grossly here. He travels around being the witness, relaying different accounts of psychedelic or shamanistic encounters without expoun...more
Nina  L
Reading through Pinchbeck's incredibly well-documented experiences with various plant substances such as iboga and ayahuasca, along with his quest for knowledge in understanding the dwindling shamanic culture of the rainforests was a thrilling way to live vicariously through someone's most intimate and trippiest moments. He's just that good at getting it all down on paper. But the best part of this book is the message that really gets driven home to the heart of who we are, the potential of what...more
Shivam Beniwal
Actually, the Hebraic-Babylonian concept of God is very premature. They imagine God as an object, a person, and not as a quality. And that's why Jews claim God's official name is Yahuha and Muslims claim God's official name is Allah. They describe God as a mighty Emperor.

In the Eastern religious traditions, God is a quality, not an object. They believe God is within the universe and the universe is within God. God is not God but godliness - and godliness has to be found first within ourselves....more
I enjoyed this perspective on modern/ancient psychedelic experiences. The author has a frank honesty about the rationale for his drug use and seeks out spiritual experiences throughout this novel for his own personal fulfillment. I enjoy books that suggest other authors for me to check out and point back to an author's reading experience and journey as a learner and this book was not short on those suggestions. This book seemed to me to be the evolution of perspective that one might have on drug...more
Wow, I have rarely seen such an arrogrant prick writing so lazily. If the subject matter hadn't been absolutely fascinating, It would have gotten 1 star. Because of the subject matter, I only hated it (or more precisely, the author).
Since November of 2007 to present day August 27, 2009 I have read an estimated 160 books. Daniel Pinchbeck is a voice that speaks to me more than any I've encountered along my self-developmental path. With a supreme command of the English language, Pinchbeck accounts the history of his and many great minds of the "Beat" generation while venturing into unfamiliar cultures, ritualistic initiations, and transcendent states of being and alteration through a number of organic substances and synthetic...more
Jack Barten
This was a refreshing book to read when it came out and the fact that it seems a bit dated now is an indication of how much has happened since then, in terms of use of research chemicals and the expansion of festivals, than a reflection of the book.

It journals a mans journey from that of a cynical hack to a new age neo shamanic enthusiast, via assignments to the jungles to take shamanic potions and also via the use of research chemicals. Those descriptions are a touch navel gazing but better th...more
Jeff Phillips
I came across this randomly in a bookstore and was intrigued, partly by the hallucinatory cover. But I'm glad I did. I've always had a fascination with altered consciousness, particularly with a more spiritual slant to it, as though the hallucinations represent a different world altogether. I appreciate books that change the way I think to a degree, and this book did in the fact that I do look at plant life differently. At times his tone seems like it pushing too hard to open one's mind to a psy...more
Jan 05, 2008 Susan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susan by: Colin Mortensen Sánchez
It's an intriguing, educating and inspiring read. Don't get discouraged by the overdone literary analysis at the beginning (or just beyond the beginning) of the book; there's some good stuff in there but if that's not your thing just keep going and he gets back on his psychedelic journey where he accesses parallel dimensions and his ethical reflections on human life on this planet. For me it was one of those books that sort of changes your whole perspective on things, or better put, it brings yo...more
Pinchbeck is the type of person that gives psychedelics a bad image. While the book starts off with a rational Pinchbeck, one can already tell his rationality is more of a misplaced materialism. By the end of the book Pinchbeck appears to have lost all rational inquiry as he comes to believe he is a modern day shaman. Highly disappointed...first time I've ever really disliked a book.
Derek Pegritz
Apr 30, 2008 Derek Pegritz rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone interested in hallucinogens.
Shelves: psychedelics
Daniel Pinchbeck is a complete fucking idiot. And a tool. However, this book *does* contain some very interesting material on psychedelics in contemporary society. Too bad it's filtered through the POV of a complete and utter idiot.
I have long thought that if I were to experiment with any kind of drug it would be with hallucinogens. I like reading about trips and the rituals surrounding hallucinogens in various cultures throughout history. So when I saw this book at my local Barnes & Noble, I had to sit down and take sample.

The thing I liked most about this book is how Mr. Pinchbeck combines his sources - scholarly, historical, philosophical, esoteric and personal - and provides a much more detailed perspective on hal...more
Natalie Armstrong
There's really no arguing that Daniel Pinchbeck has many illuminating ideas, just sometimes I see him slip completely into absurdity in his writing and he gets hard to take seriously among his egotistical lapses. His accounts of Antonin Artaud, DMT, plant life, and general psychedelics were fun for me, but as when I was reading 2012 the Return of Quetzacoatl I couldn't help but hate the author on occasion.
I found Daniel Pinchbeck's account of his hallucinogenic escapades to be overly romanticiz...more
Diann Blakely
Though Daniel Pinchbeck’s name will doubtless gain familiarity with the publication of this book, heretofore he has been known mostly to the younger literary cognoscenti who comprise the target audience for OPEN CITY, the literary magazine he began with the late fiction writer Rob Bingham. Since Bingham’s untimely death from a heroin overdose in 2000, Pinchbeck has continued OPEN CITY, publishing, among others, poet/musician David Berman. But his new book represents a personal quest that at firs...more
“In contemporary life we do whatever we can to deny intuition of the invisible realms. We clog our senses with smog, jam our minds with media overload. We drown ourselves in alcohol or medicate ourselves into rigidly artificial states with antidepressants. Then we take pride in our cynicism and detachment. Perhaps we are terrified to discover that our “rationality” is itself a kind of faith, an artifice, that beneath it lies the vast territory of the unknown.” — Daniel Pinchbeck, Breaking Open t...more
Marija S.
I am ambivalent about this book. Experimenting with drugs is not my thing, however Pinchbeck's insights and posed questions do have a merit. It is clear that the author is a well read erudite, a man who travels a lot (which I admire) and is either brave or crazy enough to put his sanity and life on line in order to try and dig deeper under surface of reality, which makes the book a fun and educative read.

I do not know what to make of that. I am certainly not compelled to try out psychedelic drug...more
Simon Cleveland
Pinchbeck’s Breaking Open the Head is my first exposure to the long term effects of the psychotropic drugs on the human brain. I’m not saying Pinchbeck is a pot-head, but in my opinion he is a connoisseur of selected mind altering drugs that have the power to diminish prefrontal cortex functioning (although it did inspire me to seek Terrance McKenna’s counter culture’s lectures, that are quite thought provoking). And the returns of this prolong investment has the potential to produce abstract wo...more
Patrick Riley Graham
Having eaten shrooms, dropped acid, and smoked the ole DMT I am very excited to see how this books pans out. Shrooms were my first dabbling into a psychedelic awareness expansion and were taken with no intention, hence no spiritual growth occured. Acid and DMT found me around 22 and 23 years old so it was less of a 'can't wait to try this' and more of a focused 'journey'. The fact that the author is getting a readership of people who apparently would never touch a psychedelic, out of fear or som...more
May 31, 2014 Jared rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Individuals interested in learning about other's experiences with mind altering plants.
An interesting account of one author's personal journey through experimentation with entheogens. Pinchbeck shares his experiences with Iboga (African psychotropic ritual substance) and Ayahuasca (South American hallucinogenic tea) in a manner that is very personal and immersive, thinking out loud about his reliance on alcohol throughout life and how these substances have effected his permanent consciousness. I found the continual speculation about the meaning of "life, the universe and everythin...more
Ashley Pauley
This book took well known and cultish drugs and took them through their cultural roots, and how they have impacted the author's life. I found this book eye opening (one could even say head-opening). I was really fascinated to learn about the traditions of the native people who used these substances for different purposes than we use them in modern society for escapism. Regardless, I have a greater respect for natural substances and how they should be treated with respect because you don't know w...more
An honest and extremely informative account of the development (and repression) of psychedelic medicine over the past century. Daniel presented strong intrinsic evidence accompanied by entrancing personal experiences to take the reader on an educational journey. Highly recommend if you are interested in learning about a variety of different cultural histories and visionary catalysts.
This is much more than a cultural history of psychedelics. It is an argument for 21st century spirituality, which Pinchbeck claims is necessary to regain different levels of consciousness lost to the Western world. Towards the end, the book takes a rather bizarre turn but until then it's a good read. As a person who had previously only taken psychedelics for fun, Pinchbeck's book really made me reconsider the possibilities of these drugs and what other realities could be out there. It could have...more
travis lawrence
pinchbeck has made a name for himself
every group has a pinchbeck
its the cool guy of the group
the one who knows how to talk to people
the one who knows how to get people to listen by tweaking into their interests
pinchbeck is the hipster of the modern entheogenic shamanic movement
by far, he isnt the next leary (thank god)
in fact he devotes time in this book to express the fanatical flaws of leary

breaking open the head is an account along the lines of narby's cosmic serpent
in this case it isnt a rev...more
Taylor Warner
Fascinating subject matter, but it's mostly just a white journalist kid who goes out, gets deep for a second, then goes back home to write a zine about it. I can empathize--he's the son of Joyce Johnson and those are some big, hip shoes to fill.
Teri Dluznieski
This is an excellent book about altered consciousness. I particularly like the fact that it instills a need for respect and integrity when working with the invisible realms. Too many people approach drug use, getting drunk and getting "high," casually. This is dangerous. Daniel Pinchbeck's writing and stories illustrate and emphasize this reality very clearly. I also like how the book is broken down into paired chapters. A first chapter on a particular substance will be historical, anthropologic...more
Noel Ullery
Nov 13, 2008 Noel Ullery rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: psychonauts
Recommended to Noel by: Ryan Lawrence! A good friend
I've gone back to this book time after time because there is so much valuable information in it from several perspectives - including Pinchbeck's own subjective eyes, historical, cultural, and scientific.

A MUST READ for anyone who has ever taken psychedelics, or is considering taking psychedelics. I recommend this book to everyone I know because it sums up so much of what I believe...if everyone were to read this book, I believe that our culture would be a more accepting place for those who res...more
Tim Cusmano
Pinchbeck seems to think fairly highly of himself, and I'm not exactly sure why. He's a third-rate McKenna at best. That being said, this was an entertaining read for the time it came out. Then came the 2012 bullshit...
Way weirder than I was expecting. His sections about the history of psychedelics and other psychedelic thinkers and scientists are pretty good, and his trip reports about different drugs are interesting. But man, this guy comes to some strange conclusions towards the end of the book. He kind of goes off the deep end into the occult, and I'm not sure what to make of it. Even though I think he's a little bit nuts (stop with the 2012 apocalypse predictions and other pseudoscience, man!), I still en...more
p. 291 When modern civilization finishes draining the world's resources, when this house of cards collapses, we will see ourselves stripped down to our essence and whimper for forgiveness like third-grade bullies caught by our teachers, unable to comprehend what went wrong. Against the floods, genetic pollution, bacterial onslaughts, radioactive infernos unleashed by human stupidity or aggrieved nature, our technologies will pop like toy guns. Watch the fun as the stock markets continue to seek...more
I felt that reading Pinchbeck's book really broke open my head to the world of psychedelics. I have always felt a spiritual connection to the mushrooms I took when I was younger and reading this book about his experiences and references of others who have taken the drug as well, I felt a connection with what he was saying and describing. while the book is informative and intriguing I felt that sometimes it was a little over my head. The plant based hallucinogenic trips he went on really intrigue...more
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Heathens, Pagans ...: August / September 2012 - Breaking Open the Head 10 23 Sep 18, 2012 12:34AM  
  • The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens & the I Ching
  • Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers
  • The Archaic Revival
  • The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge
  • DMT: The Spirit Molecule
  • LSD My Problem Child: Reflections on Sacred Drugs, Mysticism and Science
  • Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind
  • The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead
  • Pharmako/Poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft
  • Pihkal: A Chemical Love Story
  • Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Bollingen)
  • Liber Kaos
  • Chaos, Creativity, and Cosmic Consciousness
  • Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD and the Sixties Rebellion
  • Prime Chaos: Adventures in Chaos Magic
  • Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult
  • Rational Mysticism: Spirituality Meets Science in the Search for Enlightenment
  • Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream
Author Daniel Pinchbeck has deep personal roots in the New York counterculture of the 1950s and 1960s. His father was an abstract painter, and his mother, Joyce Johnson, was a member of the Beat Generation and dated Jack Kerouac as On the Road hit the bestseller lists in 1957 (chronicled in Johnsons bestselling book, Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir). Pinchbeck was a founder of the 1990s literary m...more
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“In shamanic cultures, sychronicities are recognized as signs that you are on the right path.” 11 likes
“The plants that produce visions can function- for those of us who have inherited the New World Order of barren materialism, cut off from our spiritual heritage by a spiteful culture that gives us nothing but ashes- as the talismans of recognition that awaken our minds to reality.” 7 likes
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