Open City editor Pinchbeck's book debut is a polemic that picks up the threads that Huxley's The Doors of Perception, Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and counterculture idealism left in the culture. Charting his gradual transformation from a cynical New York litterateur to psychedelic acolyte, Pinchbeck uses elements of travelogue, memoir, "entheobotany" ("the study of god-containing plants") and historical research to ask why these "doorways of the mind" have been unceremoniously sealed, sharing Walter Benjamin's melancholy about the exasperating nature of consumerism: "We live in a culture where everything tastes good but nothing satisfies." Pinchbeck travels the earth in search of spiritual awakening through tripping, from Gabon to the Nevada desert. At happenings like the Burning Man festival or a plant conference in the Ecuadorean jungle, Pinchbeck meets "modern shamans" and tells their stories as they intersect with his. In his reporting, he manages to walk a difficult tonal tightrope, balancing his skepticism with a desire to be transformed. He thoughtfully surveys the literature about psychedelic drugs, but the most exhilarating and illuminating sections are the descriptions of drug taking: he calls this visiting the "spirit world," which is "like a cosmic bureaucracy employing its own PR department, its own off-kilter sense of dream-logic and humor... constantly playing with human limitations, dangling possibilities before our puny grasps at knowledge." There's little new drug lore here, but Pinchbeck's earnest, engaged and winning manner carry the book.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
In this firsthand account of the world of psychedelic substances today, Village Voice and Rolling Stone writer Pinchbeck weaves elements of his personal life, including vivid descriptions of his reactions to the substances he takes, with larger topics, such as the history of psychedelic substances in the modern world and the foundations of shamanism. To aid his inquiry, he participates in visionary rituals around the world, e.g., taking iboga as part of a tribal initiation in Gabon. He also discusses key figures such as Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and Terence McKenna. Pinchbeck repeatedly decries the rationalism and destructiveness of Western culture and the shortsightedness of completely outlawing psychedelic substances. The book is not an extended diatribe, however. The author offers various viewpoints on how certain drugs should be used and on whether a modern, Western shamanism is possible. Pinchbeck posits a universe that may be difficult to accept, but his book will be of interest for public and academic libraries.
Stephen Joseph, Butler Cty. Community Coll. Lib., PA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The book begins fairly well with often hilarious (and as another reviewer pointed out, sometimes unintentionally so) accounts of the author's various psychedelic dabbling with... Read morePublished on Oct. 11 2010 by Kieran Fox
This book is an absolute must have for anyone interested in shamanism, psychedelia, or anything of the sort. Read morePublished on April 27 2009 by Donovan
definately an interesting subject, however, i didn't enjoy it much. the author, a self described neurotic, seems to be empty and searching for something, and the book seems to be... Read morePublished on July 19 2004 by gcon
Okay, so he ain't Wittgenstien, but neither was Ludwig. Pinchbeck deserves a decicive clap on the back for his feverish, foolhardy romp into the unknown. Read morePublished on Nov. 3 2003 by Christopher B. Murray
Daniel Pinchbeck's Breaking Open the Head makes an earnest attempt to persuade its audience that a variety of natural hallucinogens provide users with a genuine glimpse into the... Read morePublished on March 18 2003 by The Wingchair Critic
Pinchbeck's journey into the unkown is one of the best adventure stories I've ever read. Our culture's disregard for the reality of unseen beings and dimensions, it's... Read morePublished on Feb. 28 2003 by J Doyle
We can now speak of an entheogenic renaissance and this book is part of the growing literature of that movement. Read morePublished on Dec 23 2002 by Thomas M. Seay
Though I have doubts about any kind of spiritual trancendence, I do find the other worlds or states of mind induced by psychedlics to be an essential experience in learning more... Read morePublished on Dec 20 2002 by Michael A. Parodi
I highly recommend this book to anyone who in interested in exploring the metaphysical realm and has existential angst. Read morePublished on Dec 5 2002 by "briechee"