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Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism Paperback – Aug 12 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (Aug. 12 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767907434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767907439
  • Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 13.3 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #48,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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First Sentence
"The Bwiti believe that before the ceremony, the neophyte is nothing," Daniel Lieberman told me on my first morning in Gabon, as we took a cab from the Libreville airport. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kieran Fox on Oct. 11 2010
Format: Paperback
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 modern-day 'shamans' and other, more dubious purveyors of mind-altering drugs. But it fairly quickly slides downward into Pinchbeck's narcissism and drug-induced paranoia. The early portions of the book exude a kind of youthful optimism and well-meaning if naive interest in mind-altering drugs and what they, and cultures that have used them for thousands of years, might have to teach us. But Pinchbeck seems to find fault (quite justifiably, it seems) in all of his 'shamanic teachers' while at the same time advocating that a return to some kind of shamanic usage is the best path. He also blasts Timothy Leary for promoting open-access for these drugs for everyone, while it is almost certain that Pinchbeck himself would never have encountered these drugs had it not been for Leary's proselytizing. By the end of the book Pinchbeck is convinced that a psychedelic substance has released a 'poltergeist' in his New York apartment, and that a friend he met at the Palenque conference had developed telekinetic (or something) power over the weather... where did the questing spirit of critical inquiry go amiss??? Somewhere between ibogaine, heroin, ayahuasca, and blow, apparently.

Certainly entertaining, but ultimately kind of vacuous and disappointing.
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By Donovan on April 27 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is an absolute must have for anyone interested in shamanism, psychedelia, or anything of the sort. Pinchbeck walks the reader through a winding trail of spiritual enlightenment that will lead you across the globe.
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Format: Paperback
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 more of a justification for him doing psychotropic drugs than a look at the role of the drugs in modern shamanism. the book is quite well researched but is sluggish and at times overbearing or pretentious. at one point he turns into a green peace rain forest advocate, which i don't see as having anything to do with shaman practice. if the subject is of interest to you, and this isn't the first book you have on the subject, there probably isn't anything new here for you. if you want to hear about his personal experiences, then buy the book.
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Format: Hardcover
This book, like all good books, expanded my consciouness without the use of any psychedelics- psychonauts please think on these words.
Anyway, I found that the most important idea explored in this book to cover in my review is that human beings have many, perhaps infinite doors into different states of consciousness within the human mind. Whether or not we choose to deny these completely different worlds, we must understand that current "rational" theories about the world, and about consciousness in general could never be true or complete without exploring these worlds; if you see them you know that many are just as true as "rational" reality. Those doors are there for a reason, or they simply wouldn't be there. Interestingly enough, not only are the doors there after millions of years of evolution, but many keys to open these doors are naturally occuring in thousands of diverse life-forms all over the world (Some of which Mr. Pinchbeck describes wonderfully). Considering psychoactives, I find it particularly interesting that (for example) although the brain has a receptor for THC found in the soft drug marijuana which kills 0 people a year (themselves from use), alcohol- the legal alternative- poisons the brain to intoxication and kills countless brain cells, users and non-users a year. It is also important to note that in general natural psychelics cause no physical addiction or damage (quite the opposite), as the brain is wired specifically for their use. I don't necessarily support the habitual use of drugs, as I find that the mind can be explored to a great extent without them, but they are tools on this earth which we are obviously meant to use- if you don't agree, read this book, as I found it very convincing.
Don't forget to explore EROWID.ORG!!!
One Love
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Format: Paperback
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. To those who pooh pooh him, I ask--what have you done for me lately? This is Kapucinski meets Casteneda in a dread-laced Holographic Universe, and if you feel that intellectual rigor is lacking, or that the author relies too much on Benjamin's politics, I ask you when you last met the splinter-faced god of the forest? I feel that Pinchbeck is earnest and refuses to pose as a guide when he is in fact nothing but a balsy, intellectual Brooklinite who grew bored with chatter-mouthed literati and with himself--so he decided to cast the eternal dice and record his findings with talent and intelligece that may not be first rate, but are, nevertheless, uncharateristic of our time. In sum: a pip.
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By J Doyle on Feb. 28 2003
Format: Hardcover
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 reductionistic polarization into secular vrs. theistic worldviews, and the hegemony of the rational among the educated are highlighted. But Pinchbeck's book is no polemic attack on these failings; instead he comes across in the best journalistic sense, thoughtfully open and humble- he reports simply where his journey has taken him, and what he has learned, however easily ridiculed or dismissed. I loved his blend of head and heart as he explores the jungles of Mind.
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