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Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey Into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism

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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 psychedelic experience.

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 the iboga of the Bwiti in Gabon, to the Mazatecs of Mexico, these plants are sacred because they awaken the mind to other levels of awareness--to a holographic vision of the universe.

Breaking Open the Head is a passionate, multilayered, and sometimes rashly personal inquiry into this deep division. On one level, Daniel Pinchbeck tells the story of the encounters between the modern consciousness of the West and these sacramental substances, including such thinkers as Allen Ginsberg, Antonin Artaud, Walter Benjamin, and Terence McKenna, and a new underground of present-day ethnobotanists, chemists, psychonauts, and philosophers. It is also a scrupulous recording of the author's wide-ranging investigation with these outlaw compounds, including a thirty-hour tribal initiation in West Africa; an all-night encounter with the master shamans of the South American rain forest; and a report from a psychedelic utopia in the Black Rock Desert that is the Burning Man Festival.

Breaking Open the Head is brave participatory journalism at its best, a vivid account of psychic and intellectual experiences that opened doors in the wall of Western rationalism and completed Daniel Pinchbeck's personal transformation from a jaded Manhattan journalist to shamanic initiate and grateful citizen of the cosmos.

336 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2002

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About the author

Daniel Pinchbeck

68 books203 followers
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 magazine Open City with fellow writers Thomas Beller and Robert Bingham. He has written for many publications, including Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, The Village Voice, and Rolling Stone. In 1994, he was chosen by The New York Times Magazine as one of Thirty Under Thirty destined to change our culture.

Pinchbeck lives in New Yorks East Village, where he is editorial director of Reality Sandwich (www.realitysandwich.com). He writes a column, Prophet Motive, for Conscious Enlightment publishing (www.cemagazines.com), which appears in Conscious Choice (Chicago), Conscious Choice (Seattle), Whole Life Times (LA), and Common Ground (SF)."

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