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Breaking Open the Head Paperback – 2 Apr 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; (Reissue) edition (2 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007149611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007149612
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 1.7 x 12.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 202,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘As mind-expanding as the chemicals it chronicles, “Breaking Open the Head” is the most artful and provocative investigation of psychedelia since Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception”.’ Stephen Johnson, author of ‘Emergence’

‘I much admire “Breaking Open the Head” for being the account of an authentic quest for enlightenment in jungles, up rivers, in deserts, and hardest of all to access, the human mind and heart via the one of the oldest thoroughfares on earth, mind-expanding drugs. This is a serious and illuminating journey.’ Paul Theroux

‘By the end of this highly readable report, Pinchbeck’s head has been broken into so often – by ayahuasca, magic mushrooms, DMT and other drugs – that you might expect him to install hinges. Yet there is a seriousness behind his self-experiments and while the drug tales are gripping, and funny, he is at pains to put them in the context of his search for meaning.’ Guardian

‘A modern Odyssey, a search for spiritual revelations, a success.’ Independent

From the Publisher

This is a brave book. Brave because it accepts, as matters of fact, realities that cannot co-exist peacefully with the standard American Myth. That the discussion of these issues avoids both New Age glitter-speak and standard psychedelic hoo-ha makes it all the more provocative. It is also brave for its unflinching willingness to bare the less expanded parts of the author’s psyche. And it is brave, as it is always brave, to attempt to speak clearly of that which can’t be spoken. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marv on 3 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is the account of New York writer Daniel Pinchbeck's investigation into the world of Shamanism and the use of natural psychedelics - Ayahuasca, Iboga and others - as a tool in the healing process. Eschewing the formalities and limitations of detached academic case-studies, Pinchbeck provides us with some gripping first-hand experiences of Shamanistic healing rituals led by indigenous tribal elders in places like Mexico and the jungles of Peru. This a brave and mostly dignified call for a re-appraisal of the significance of the presence of psychedelic substances in our world. Pinchbeck repeatedly makes a case for the responsible, guided use of psychedelics in the process of becoming a happy, wholesome, integrated human being. His experiences tell of the 'primitive sophistication' of indigenous tribes, who place their connection with spirit before worldly concerns. This book takes these venerable and truly vital spiritual processes and re-introduces them to a contemporary audience. Parallels are drawn between the wisdom of the ancients and the modern young person's innate yearning for mysticism, adventure and vitality (as manifested in the recreational use of drugs like LSD and MDMA, and gatherings like The Burning Man Festival in Nevada). 'Breaking Open The Head' will speak loudly to younger people who've experimented with drugs for the sake of overcoming personal barriers, or those who've looked into alternative healing processes as an antidote to contemporary malaises. Sometimes Pinchbeck goes a little bit too far in trying to convey his own instances of synchronicity, and his arguments come across as being a little repetitive and scatter-shot at times. But all in all, this is a very spirited and admirable stance from an articulate and intelligent New Yorker who ventured far off the beaten track in order to remind us of the forgotten possibilities held within psychedelic substances. Contemporary Shamanism anyone? See you out there. .
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
Pinchbeck throws himself so completely into his subject that this book could have been the senseless ramblings of some burnt out hippie that has done too many psychedelics.
Thankfully it isn't, and instead, contains stories of meetings with remarkable people from both from the ancient world and the modern west. Pinchbeck ties this together with some real insights about the role of shamanism and how it can rescue us from our destructive lifestyles.
Everyone I know that has read this book has been changed by it. I myself have started taking what I dream very seriously.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mr. R. J. Alexander on 26 May 2003
Format: Paperback
I will not go into a synopsis of this amazing journey, but a more intelligent and insightful detailing of one man's search for the ultimate Consciousness I have not come across. Here is Truth, Wisdom and Belief, stripped of all the distractions and nonsense of organised religion. The author has been to places we cannot even conceive of, but he has returned, sober, sincere and humbled, to tell us of what he has found. The messages he brings back are searing, unequivocal, and would shake the belief-systems of any open-minded person. This book should be required reading for all our leaders, lawmakers, politicians, scientists, anthopologists, priests, rabbis and anyone who has the slightest interest in what it means to be human and self-aware. My first instinct, after reading this book, was to start at the beginning again, this time with a red pen, to underline and mark all the myriad points of interest and profundity that cascade through the pages.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Fenton on 1 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
I first encountered Daniel at the launch of his book, via Strange Attractor magazine, held at the Horse Hospital in London way back in Febuary 2003.

Now I must be honest from the moment the place filled up my concerns started. I am neither a stranger to mind altering chemicals or to supernatural events, and have much experience of those linked to either and indeed both. It quickly became apparent that the bulk of the audience were quite simply what I would call 'druggies' and burnt out hippy rejects, not the etheogenic shamans of which the book was relating to. Unkind perhaps but you had to be there to see it, such as the self proclaimed 'buddhist' who started glowing red and swearing, or the rude judgemental comments aimed at those who dared ask questions. This left me wondering what to expect from our speaker, and indeed his book.

However I found him to be both articulate and down to Earth, which was a good start. What left me concerned, as someone heavily involved in self development and an experiencer of many mystical events, was that I could hear little about real positive benefits from his experiments with chemicals or any of the peculiar happenings. There was no talk of moral and spiritual advancement, it was all just a great adventure, nothing wrong with that however, adventures are fun to hear about after all, but I was glad to realise this before reading the book as I think some may have been expecting rather 'higher' information than was on offer.

He did however mention a subject that I am very involved with, 2012 and the Mayan calendar. On this he showed a deeper side, and seemed more engaged with refined spiritual thought, revealing this side I was able to get a better view of him.
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