An interesting follow up to the unrelated book Fire in the Head that I read in 2003, while I sat on a couch in some London ‘summer’ waiting for work to come my way, about the Shamanic journey around the world. Unlike Fire in the Head, which is a study of the shamanic journey in many different cultures, Breaking Open the Head studies the psychedelic journey of shamanism.
When my boyfriend was reading this book I was really interested in borrowing it after him. All the way through he kept looking up to read me interesting passages about the effects and experiences certain drugs had on the characters in the book. Unfortunately, once I started reading it I realised I had been given the trailer of somewhat more involved book. It’s focus was more on the shamanic journey whilst taking certain drugs and how they are connected to indigenous people around the world and their role within those societies.
Still an interesting book, but sometimes hard work. I will confess I didn’t fully enjoy the book until I reached part 7 (the book has a total of 8 parts), but it does open up the possibilities one might not always be aware of or have heard of about drugs and their association with supernatural beings, worlds and dimensions. It also goes into the scientific studies of drugs like LSD by governments and how it was used in psychiatry during the 1960s and 70s, but is all but lost in such professions these days.
This book is neither pro-drugs nor anti-drugs, but simply provides a view of the history of their use and other people’s experiences. If you’re interested purely in the history of drugs and their effects, like I was, I’d say skip this book. But if you’re interested in how drugs have been used in the shamanic journey this would be a very interesting book for you to read.
Snapshot of Daniel Pinchbeck’s experience while taking mushrooms:
“Personally, I was not aware of what I was losing until I took mushrooms. During those early trips I realised I was trapped in a state of deferred expectation and compulsive self-distancing. I had a neurotic intellectual’s habit of constantly trying to observe myself from some imaginary point of objectivity outside of myself, and this impossible effort sapped my energy and kept me from connecting to the present. Mushrooms did not cure me of this—for a long time only alcohol could obliterate the division, and it took me some years to resolve the problem—but the bits of dried fungi made me aware, for the first time, of exactly what I was doing wrong.”