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Customer Review

on 8 August 2011
If one should be very rude (and concise) this is really just another shroom head who believes he has found out the secret of the world. Though steeped in scientific jargon and obviously based on some knowledge of neurophysiology it all come across as a highly subjective enterprise. Especially since Powell never produces any real evidence for his suppositions, instead relying on metaphors and often hard pressed analogies.

But what makes the book especially strange is that Powell is a hard nosed materialist at heart. His whole speculative enterprise based on an a pirori accept of the materialistic claim that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain. If that assumption fails - as people like Stanislav Grof, Amit Goswami, B. Allan Wallace argues (convincingly) for - then his whole intellectual house of cards tumbles down. Facts like Out-Of-Body-Experiences and Near-Death-Experiences would be as serious a threat to him as it is to Richard Dawkins (who by the way seems to be another hero of Powell's)

Simon Powell's main influences when it comes to understanding of psychedelics are obviously Aldous Huxley and Terence McKenna and with all due respect (especially for Huxley) they are perhaps not the ones who have dived deepest into these realms of experience. There seems to be a strange tendency for people on shrooms to get completely carried away, like pioneer Gordon Wasson who claimed that not only the Soma in Rig Veda but also the apple in Genesis were actually mushrooms. Some have gone even father and claimed that also the bread at the original eucharist was shrooms! And this book certainly also abounds in strange statements fx that there should be some correlation between Gordon Wasson's initial encounter with the saxcred mushrooms and Albert Einstein's death a couple of month before.

Like McKenna Powell places the ingestion of psychedelics above all other spiritual practises which certainly is very dubious. Completely ignoring the fact that meditative practises might have longer lasting effects than even the most profound trip. And actually he seems simply unaware of the Eastern spiritual traditions where the visionary experience he talks about would be seen as superficial and inferior. At least in traditions like Advaita, Zen, Dzogchen where a state beyond all experience is treasured, wether you call it Emptiness,the Void, Clear Light.

Powell's basic theories are based on a strange mixture of Darwinism, information theory and the afore mentioned neurophysiology. Claiming that the basic feature of the psilocybin experience is the encounter with 'the Other' a higher degree of informational intelligence. Which in fact is just a modern way to say what the Shamans say - that they communicate with a higher intelligence, the spirit(s) of the mushroom. And seems far away from genuine mysticism and the revelation of Oneness, Silence and Love, 3 elements that are completely lacking in this book's view of the Universe as some kind of 'computer game'.

But for shroom heads with a philosophical bent and anyone for whom a sentence like "Chemically induced changes to global states of neuronal firing are synonymous with changes in consciousness, and since global states of neuronal firings must be global states of information ... we can conclude that consciousness is a form of information" makes sense this might be a valuable book.

I owe deep revelations to the magic of psilocybin but I must say Powell's book does nothing whatsoever to deepen my understanding of these powerful transformational tools.
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