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Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy

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A healing path using the power of dreams, theater, poetry, and shamanism

• Shows how psychological realizations can cause true transformation when manifested by concrete poetic acts

• Includes many examples of the surreal but successful actions Jodorowsky has prescribed to those seeking his help

While living in Mexico, Alejandro Jodorowsky became familiar with the colorful and effective cures provided by folk healers. He realized that it is easier for the unconscious to understand the language of dreams than that of rationality. Illness can even be seen as a physical dream that reveals unresolved emotional and psychological problems.

Psychomagic presents the shamanic and genealogical principles Jodorowsky discovered to create a healing therapy that could use the powers of dreams, art, and theater to empower individuals to heal wounds that in some cases had traveled through generations. The concrete and often surreal poetic actions Jodorowsky employs are part of an elaborate strategy intended to break apart the dysfunctional persona with whom the patient identifies in order to connect with a deeper self. That is when true transformation can manifest.

For a young man who complained that he lived only in his head and was unable to grab hold of reality and advance toward the financial autonomy he desired, Jodorowsky gave the prescription to paste two gold coins to the soles of his shoes so that all day he would be walking on gold. A judge whose vanity was ruling his every move was given the task of dressing like a tramp and begging outside one of the fashionable restaurants he loved to frequent while pulling glass doll eyes out of his pockets. The lesson for him was that if a tramp can fill his pockets with eyeballs, then they must be of no value, and thus the eyes of others should have no bearing on who you are and what you do. Taking his patients directly at their words, Jodorowsky takes the same elements associated with a negative emotional charge and recasts them in an action that will make them positive and enable them to pay the psychological debts hindering their lives.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1995

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About the author

Alejandro Jodorowsky

635 books1,670 followers
Also credited as Alexandro Jodorowsky

Better known for his surreal films El Topo and The Holy Mountain filmed in the early 1970s, Alejandro Jodorowsky is also an accomplished writer of graphic novels and a psychotherapist. He developed Psychomagic, a combination of psychotherapy and shamanic magic. His fans have included John Lennon and Marilyn Manson.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 186 reviews
Profile Image for Lee.
71 reviews35 followers
June 10, 2012
I'll be processing this one a while. Completely changing the way I think of healing, art and the unconscious mind. His approach to healing takes Marinetti's statement "Poetry is an act" to the most fascinating extreme. His idea of the 'panic party'...the importance of a positive effect of art (something I would have scoffed at before)...I could sum it all up as, "Better living through metaphor." Really excellent to read as a companion to Jung's Psychology and Alchemy, which I read earlier this year.

God how I wish I had read this when I was actively studying the craft of poetry. For anyone interested in creativity, the appendix on creative processes is priceless.

Some of my favorite quotes:

"At every moment, the capacity of the unconscious exceeds the limits of our reason, whether by way of dreams or by involuntary acts. With that in mind, shouldn't there be a way to make the unconscious behave voluntarily, like an ally?"

"The same advice given at the wrong moment will not have the least effectiveness...Similarly, when a person lets their guard down a bit, I often try to kick a psychological goal. We understand well that anyone who is prey to a vice continually maintains a position of defense. The ego refuses to yield. I must then seize or provoke a moment of distraction so as to let an order pass through the line of defense, into the unconscious. In order for the client to adopt the advice, it is important to penetrate his stubborn 'I' and to touch the much more impersonal zone of the self."

"Every day we should carry out a free act, a little thing that serves others, like giving a chocolate to a child, simple things. I have come to true depravity in searching for goodness. Sometimes I put cash in the pocket of a sleeping homeless person, so he thinks he has good luck. I invent miracles. Even if you don't believe in miracles, you can do little things to help others."

"The most difficult thing in the world is to create sublime art. Very few people have achieved this. But I could cite Rene Daumal, who learned Sanskrit and was a student of Gurdjieff; he achieved it. Federico Garcia Lorca is an opposite case: he could not achieve it, he did not know how to...When you read 'A Poet in New York,' it makes you sad...I remember some artists who said this world isn't worth anything, that it is a pigsty, that we are going nowhere, that God is dead, and all those things. Bad literature is this. To expose your navel, to tell how you drank your morning coffee amid general disgust, with everything around you rotting. While the world is dying, I drink my coffee. Or I perform my little sex acts. This is old-fashioned. One must cross this neurotic curtain. I, for example, confess that I cannot read Marcel Proust. He's too sick for me, and his neurosis can contaminate me. Every day I see neurotic cases, why would I want to read others? Nowadays Franz Kafka is on the loose everywhere! I go to mail a letter, and I find myself with Kafka in the post office: an employee full of problems."

(!!! As a sometimes-depressive who has alternately been completely in love with Kafka and Proust, I laughed out loud at this.)

"A healthy person can read Emil Cioran or Michel Houellebec and laugh a lot."

"In an unguided way, the true master lets wellness slip in and subtly introduces knowledge that can raise another's level of consciousness."

"The plant, the rocks, the joke: they are sacred, these things are consecrated."

"Throughout life, prejudices are not fixed, but beliefs are. I remember that at thirty years old I did something fundamental: I took a notebook and told myself, 'I am going to write down all the ideas I have in my mind. What do I believe in?' I wrote it, I did it to pick the ideas off, like fleas. And then I told myself, ' These ideas are not me; they may end up being useful, but they are not me.'"

"Behind every illness there is a book, be it the Qu'ran, the gospels, the Old Testament, Buddhist sutras...All books, if they are interpreted through fanaticism, produce illnesses."

"Psychoanalysis notes the dreams and interprets them in light of reason; it goes from the unconscious to the rational. I go in reverse. I take the rational and capsize it in the language of dreams, introducing dreams into the language of reality."
Profile Image for Simon.
367 reviews71 followers
May 28, 2022
I got the impulse to read this book after getting into the work of James Hillman. Hillman started out as a discipline of C. G. Jung, but ended up rejecting the "integral traditionalism" school of thought Jung belonged to. Where Hillman ended up instead was reconstructing psychology as an occult system treating individuation as an alchemical process of transformation... which happens to be a recurring theme in the films, comic books and stage plays of Chilean-French renaissance man Alejandro Jodorowsky. This made me curious about finding out what a combined system for occult practice AND psychotherapy by Jodorowsky looked like.

In my review of Hillman's Re-Visioning Psychology, I call it one of the strangest reading experiences which I have come across in a long while. Well, Jodorowsky's "Psychomagic" makes Hillman look conservative in comparison. Much of the page count in the early chapters is taken up by anecdotes from Jodorowsky's career as a playwright, where he describes how he attempted to resolve his childhood psychological trauma in allegorical form in his stage plays - in particular one that required butchering live geese on stage for each performance. Jodorowsky also describes his lifelong interest in lucid dreaming and waxes nostalgic about the various Chilean poets that inspired him in his youth - in particular Gabriela Mistral, whom I finally started reading as a result of "Psychomagic". One of the most important chapters in "Psychomagic" describes Jodorowsky's meeting with Carlos Castañeda. Castañeda is a curious figure, the fans of his I have encountered have all gotten useful insights from his books after finding out they were hoaxes. Jodorowsky concludes that while Castañeda's books about his meetings with the old wizard Don Juan Matus were hoaxes in a literal sense, they were hoaxes that a lot of work went into: Which included developing a working knowledge of several different philosophical and religious traditions from all over the world as well as finding a way to combine their insights in a coherent new system.

In my estimation, that is the most important insight in how Jodorowsky developed his "Psychomagic" system: The recognition that not only does something not have to be true in the literal academic sense in order to contain useful insight, but there are some insights that can only be gleaned from things that are patently untrue and worthless from a scholarly definition. For example, literary hoaxes like Castañeda's. Notice that Jodorowsky spends much time dwelling on how little Castañeda as a person looked, acted or thought like a typical academic anthropologist but more like an average Mexican truck driver. (Jodo's exact comparison)

When Jodorowsky finally gets around to describing his Psychomagic in detail, complete with case studies about several of his patients, he basically recommends that they carry out acts that have some type of symbolic significance to traumatic memories in their lives which Jodo figured out through psycho-analysis. This analysis is usually done according to reasoning and symbolic basis that does not make conventional logical sense to anyone else than Jodorowsky himself, for the most part relying on his own extremely eccentric interpretations of outdated Freudian/Jungian theories and often striking me as reckless if not dangerous in the practical world when taken at face value. To the point that if the patient does anything the slightest different than Jodorowsky recommended, the therapy does not work.

However, the important part is that the Psychomagic acts that Jodorowsky prescribes actually do achieve the desired results in the vast majority of cases - and only when done exactly as he recommends. I think that says something important.

There is more interesting information to be found in here, such as Jodorowsky's thoughts on the religious uses of hallucinogenic drugs. (I just reviewed a book focusing on that topic, Ayahuasca: Hallucinogens, Consciousness, and the Spirit of Nature by Ralph Metzner and Dennis McKenna) Jodo finds them useful for SOME purposes but only a narrowly defined set, and only in VERY STRICTLY controlled conditions. Make of that as you will. He also discloses that he makes a point of avoiding art which promotes a pessimistic or negative message, even when he admires it on an aesthetic level as in the case of Michel Houellebecq's novels. Near the end Jodorowsky also goes into detail about his studies of the Tarot, which he finds useful as a narrative map for spiritual development - as expounded further on in The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards.

People who are either fans of Jodorowsky as an artist and want an insight into his personal philosophy, or are just interested in both alternative psychotherapy and occult practice, would do well to give "Psychomagic" a read.
Profile Image for Samantha Verdin.
43 reviews6 followers
April 27, 2013
Tengo que confesarlo. No terminé de leerlo.
Me parece ridículo tener que leer tantas páginas de un tipo tan ególatra como Jodorowsky.

Sí, creo en la Psicomagia y en su poder sanador... pero por la forma que escribe hace parecer que solamente quiere afirmarse a sí mismo ante todos! Qué molesto.
Profile Image for Autumn Christian.
Author 16 books306 followers
April 23, 2019
I wasn't a huge fan of this book, as I was expecting something that was more of a guidebook and this was more of an extended interview - Jodorowsky is obviously brilliant, but it was dripping with that whole "I say I don't have an ego, but I have an ego," kind of vibe. There are some fascinating stories of magical spells, - but I don't have much patience for anyone who claims to be magician and doesn't take into things like account confirmation bias or placebo effect. Perhaps Jodorowsky is merely on a higher level than I am. The power of creativity and ritual is something we don't quite fully understand but I believe is indeed powerful in certain instances.

There was a part of the end that really did end up helping me though - the idea that the spell was merely a thing to arrange the mental imagery inside of you. That creativity was the magic that we possessed. I actually ended up conducting a spell of my own with some positive results. But changing the architecture of your mind is a complicated thing, and this book was one of many pieces.

Profile Image for Oxiborick.
82 reviews8 followers
April 14, 2013
Quería conocer a Jodorowsky porque mucha gente tenía comentarios polarizados sobre él: unos decían que era genial y otros que era un charlatán.
El hombre no es un escritor, sus libros son un compendio de entrevistas donde Jodorowsky explica sus teorías, pone ejemplos (muchos muy jocosos, explícitos, interesantes, divertidos) y comparte su punto de vista sobre temas como el perdón, el rencor, la voluntad, el amor, el dolor, etc.
La psicomagia es un invento de él, mezclado con teorías psicológicas reales y maneras de trabajar de chamanes y brujos... y el libro gira alrededor de la presentación/explicación/aclaración de esa técnica ecléctica.
Un libro muy interesante, fácil de leer, quizá uno de los mejores para leerle por primera vez si uno no lo conoce.
No coincido con algunos de sus argumentos, pero terminé por respetar al señor. Incluso puede que en algunos meses busque algún otro libro suyo.
Profile Image for Blair Emsick.
55 reviews3 followers
November 14, 2016
Jodorowsky is a hoot! This book isn't to be taken lightly, but also neither too seriously either. Naturally after reading it everything has changed for me. Some very strange things happened to me while reading this (I literally had my head busted open!) Some of my favorite bits from the book: wanting to heal other people is egotistical. Yet, if you don't share your knowledge with others it will die. Interpret your life like it's a dream. Drugs take you from the cellar to the roof instantaneously -- with a sober mind one must climb. In a world amongst machines, we take ourselves for machines (existing for a specific purpose) this may not always be so. Extinguishing fears.... I haven't felt this fearless in YEARS.
Profile Image for Merl Fluin.
Author 6 books43 followers
June 4, 2022
DNF, wearily abandoned on p. 212.

I adore Jodo but this – a ragbag of interviews and ramblings – is beneath him. The interview questions are often banal, the replies border on platitudinous, and ye gods, does the publisher really not have any competent translators or proofreaders on its books?
Profile Image for Ricardo Acuña.
128 reviews13 followers
April 9, 2018
I discovered a new way to understand what is behind most of our physical or emotional illness: unconsciousness, reality as dreams extensions. All ideas exposed converge at some extent to spiritual teachings about self development. A must read book.
Profile Image for Esmeralda Vorewer.
67 reviews9 followers
April 3, 2021
Non si possono mettere quattro stelle perché non si condivide proprio tutto, ma lo voglio precisare. Come libro inoltre è impegnativo, parecchio. Ma è bello.
Profile Image for Fernando Suarezserna.
Author 12 books57 followers
August 9, 2017
If you're willing to go through the hard-to-believe stories of Jodorowsky, this book will give you great insight on creativity.

Many people don't like Jodorowsky because they believe he's a weirdo. And he definitely is. I don't believe any critic reader will stand on Jodorowsky's side at all times, so his books turn into a kind of active reading, where you have to discern which ideas work for you and which ones don't. If you're willing to do that kind of reading, you'll get A LOT out of his books, at least from a creativity point of view.
Profile Image for Shawn M..
Author 1 book1 follower
September 16, 2020
Fantastic and no other book is quite the same.

Yes, this book is nuts but its done so well. The man is trying to teach us something really deep. I laughed at some bits, wowed at others and raised an eyebrow to some fucked up shit.

It's a hard book to recommend to a normal person, but like any other magick book, it finds itself in the hands of those that would appreciate the information.

I myself loved it. Like everything Jodorowsky, the man's mind is a work of art.
Profile Image for G.
43 reviews
April 17, 2021
Classic Jodo. Paint a picture with your shit and piss and you're gonna heal your traumas and increase your creativity. I have only one question: why the fuck not? As long as it works..

It's a very entertaining and inspiring read and it clearly shows Jodo is master of communicating with the unconscious. It also shows Jodo can spit out lot of drivel as well and pretend to know what he's talking about.

But I still love him and his work.

Profile Image for Rommel.
31 reviews6 followers
July 29, 2011
If you don't know who Jodorowsky is, you may recognize the name from movies like "El Topo", and "The Holy Mountain", which are surreal, mystical, some may say crazy movies about humanity that debuted in the 60's and 70's.

In discovering art throughout his life, Jodorowsky went on a journey to learn about poetry, public art, directing films, Tarot, Shamanism,the subconscious mind, among other things, and from all this work he concluded that the subconscious understands in metaphors.

In this book Jodorowsky shares how Psychmagic came into being. Psychmagic is the art that Jodorowsky has developed over many years of study to heal people from simple things like smoking, to all types of neurosis and other illnesses.

Jodorowsky to this day practices Psychmagic to liberate people from all kinds of problems. He claims that most of society's problems today are based on limiting beliefs that we have produced in this world and that most of our personal problems were developed by experiences in our childhood. He analysis family trees and the history of the consultee, and after coming up with an analysis, he recommends an act of psychmagic which can range from the simplest of forms to what many may consider outrages acts. Nevertheless, the accounts of people who have been cured from performing these acts are numerous, to the point where Jodorowsky is one of the most popular artistic healing figures in Latin America today.

The whole book was an interview that was recorded and then transcrived into a book. I found this format to be easy to follow because it breaks down all the topics discussed in the book in short form.

If you are interested in learning about something new from someone with a really open mind, I would recommend this book, just don't go trying any psychmagic acts without first consulting a psychmagic artist like Jodorowsky.

Good reads!

Profile Image for Bobparr.
976 reviews64 followers
April 14, 2021
Libro affascinante, come la biografia di J. nella sua interezza.
Ovviamente, si prende un poco con le pinze il tutto, ma ci sono periodi di grande profondità ed elevazione. L'incedere domanda su domanda rende il testo molto fruibile e bisogna ringraziare la capacità degli 'intervistatori' Gilles Farcet - discepolo di Desjardins, di cui apprezzo tantissimo gli scritti - e Javier Esteban - di cui nulla sapevo ma che vedo in analoga funzione con Claudio Naranjo, ahimè tradotto solo in spagnolo - per aver proceduto con vigore, sano scetticismo, pura curiosità.
La lettura è sempre illuminante: a volte un po' troppo mistica e di dubbia utilità; a volte sbalorditiva nella sua semplicità - ma ho il timore che sia allo stesso modo disutile, semplicemente letta.
Andrebbe ascoltata, ricevuta, creduta, vissuta.
La lettura non rende giustizia.
Gran libro ugualmente.
Profile Image for Aydin Mohseni.
35 reviews65 followers
June 4, 2011
This book, for me, tugs mischievously on two chords:

The first, that it compels me to laugh at myself, knowing that possibly only a year ago, I would have dismissed it out of hand for its 'belligerently irrational' premise.

The second that it provides such delicious and irresistibly applicable inspiration for ways to expand the domain of my social and psychological play. >:D

When I think of acting and theater, Jodorowsky along with Daniel Day-Lewis exemplify two of the azimuths of its unique and profound potential.
Profile Image for Amie.
209 reviews7 followers
July 7, 2012
Some of the stories told in this book seem to be absolutely insane or unbelievable but right there on the edge of "this could actually happen". I am not a huge fan of Jodorowsky's films - mainly because I haven't seen them except for one (Santa Sangre) - so this review is not coming from a film fan of his. I am merely a magical worker interested in different approaches and this surely fit the bill! Now, if you are wanting a step-by-step guide of how to do psychomagic, you are not going t get it here. Not in plain print, anyways. Instead, Jodorowsky details how he came about with this method through many years of artistic, magical and practice with the psyche. The next section of the book he tells stories of psychomagic works he has prescribed and the resulting letters from those who came to him for help. Through these tellings, you can figure out on your own if this is something you believe you could add to your practice and even glean how to do so. But he doesn't explicitly give detailed instructions. In fact, he does say that psychomagic is not a practice just anyone can do. It is an entertaining and interesting read regardless.
Profile Image for Paola.
726 reviews115 followers
October 21, 2014
Vade retro Jodorowsky! (et voilà la psicomagia siore e siori)

Dalla prefazione pag.1:
"Per l'inconscio è più facile capire il linguaggio onirico che il linguaggio razionale."
Oh signur!
Jodorowski che mi stai a significare?
L'inconscio, datosi che è inconscio, non è conoscibile, lo dice la parola stessa, e tantomeno possiamo influenzarlo con atti o parole o altro di "psicomagico" alfine di fargli "capire" non importa cosa.
Piuttosto è l'inconscio attraverso la sua espressione onirica che cerca disperatamente di dirci qualcosa. Se ne abbiamo voglia e tempo possiamo provare noi a capire cosa ci dice. Sennò no.
Giá la prefazione me le ha fatte girare a elica, non voglio pensare al resto. Infatti non ci penserò proprio e sto libro qua finisce nella carta straccia. Inutile rimetterlo in circolo, é uno di quei libri che secondo me fa solo danni, come tante altre scorciatoie psicoqualcosa in circolazione. Il cambiamento, l'aumento di consapevolezza, l'allargamento della coscienza è un lavoraccio duro, difficile, impegnativo, costa lacrime e sangue, va fatto seriamente, non giochicchiando allo psicomago.
Profile Image for Jason H..
10 reviews1 follower
March 4, 2011
I really enjoyed this book. It's a collection of interviews and lessons in accessing creativity through the madness of our dreams from the director of El Topo, Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre. He talks about assisting a famous Shaman in Me...xico in various gory procedures and his own bizarre and at times extremely taboo healings that he collectively terms psychomagic. He makes use of the language of the subconscious to examine deep rooted genealogical hang-ups that slowly alienate the individual from the collective consciousness of the world..
Author 2 books1 follower
August 1, 2016
Weird and wonderful, aggravatingly unscientific, refreshingly absurd, it's a New Age book for people who cringe at the mention of "New Age" anything.

I adore Jodo. He's an absolute treasure and the book does a great job of capturing his style.

If you loved The Holy Mountain, check this book out.

If you hated The Holy Mountain, you'll find even more to hate here.

Either way, required reading.
Profile Image for Danielle Herrera.
3 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2020
Profoundly important read for non-traditional therapies that serve from a place of poetry and theater as opposed to science and western pathology. Magnetic to the soul of all in their own paths of healing, becoming, being.
Profile Image for Huber Castaneda.
6 reviews1 follower
February 7, 2017
Definitely a great book to expand on thought and imagination. Looking forward to read more of Alejandro's books to keep thinking outside the box.
Profile Image for Shae Cornelius.
16 reviews
April 14, 2023
i dont know what to say. there’s a lot going on. obviously really weird but that’s the point i guess. jodorowsky seems to want to intentionally transcend our intellectualism to appreciate a more subconscious wisdom - that that makes quick work of symbols, to access each synaptic flash and observe its bounce across brain hemispheres. in reading this i did come into my spirituality more: much like approaching political belief, we are welcome to pluck what works for us from different factions to make our own pastiche of spiritualism. imagination exercises were cool i do forget that my experience is just the raw material to be colour graded by my mind which is very hijackable. it was just a lot
Profile Image for Amber.
173 reviews
March 30, 2020
Psicomagia está lleno de magia, poesía, arte y amor 💓, Alejandro Jodorowsky es un maestro de maestros. Hay tanta experiencia en sus historias, sean ciertas o no, ha creado la psicomagia de un arte y la ha convertido en terapia directa al inconsciente.
13 reviews1 follower
June 7, 2021
Profile Image for Paola Caraveo.
16 reviews
November 18, 2021
¡Vaya libro! A ratos me parecía una locura pero con mucho sentido.
No dimensionaba lo poderoso y catártico que puede ser un acto poético hasta que me animé a hacerlo y quedé sorprendida, liberada.
Muchas respuestas a preguntas que ni si quiera sabía que tenía.
El único “pero” que le pongo a éste libro es que las reseñas e introducciones (en ocasiones hasta él mismo) pretenden enaltecer a Jodorowsky como una especie de ser superior que me pareció de mal gusto y contradictorio, fuera de eso lo disfruté mucho.
Profile Image for Lorena.
72 reviews
March 13, 2022
Noioso, poco illuminante e per nulla vibrante. Forse la terapia panica di Alejandro non fa per me...
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