"One must explore deep and believe the incredible to find
the new particles of truth floating in an ocean of insignificance."
- Joseph Conrad
"The reader, the thinker, the flaneur, are types of illuminati
just as much as the opium eater, the dreamer, the ecstatic.
Not to mention that most terrible drug - ourselves - which we
take in solitude."
- Walter Benjamin
Welcome to Breaking Open the Head, a companion website
for my book, which includes a cultural history of psychedelic
use, philosophical and critical perspectives on shamanism, and
my personal explorations, ranging from transcendent to terrifying.
While researching, I visited shamans in West Africa, Mexico,
and the Ecuadorean Amazon - not to mention the fabulous neo-shamanic
Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. In Gabon, a small country
on the Equator, I went through a Bwiti initiation, eating iboga,
a psychedelic rootbark inducing a trance that lasts for thirty
hours. The bark powder temporarily releases the soul from the
body, allowing the initiate entry into the African spiritual cosmos,
where he is shown the outline of his fate.
Some of the Bwiti call this ceremony, "breaking open the head."
The book describes how my own head was broken open, and how I
have gingerly attempted to put the pieces back together again.
This website includes material from the book and some sections
left out of the published text. It also expands into subjects
ranging from the socio-political (corporate globalization, new
technologies) to the mystical (Western esotericism, Buddhism,
gnosticism, alchemy, 2012) that I hope to explore in future works.
My perspective is that all of these subjects are inextricably
related, and that the contemporary situation drastically confirms
Andre Malraux's dictum, "The 21st Century will be mystical, or
it will not be."
I hope that people will use the discussion forums to explore
any of the issues raised by the book or my other material, and
they should feel free to ask me any questions that occur to them.