Friday, October 06, 2006
I think I ran across this book over at Seth's--but can't recall. I expected the standard fare: metaphysically curious seeker uses plant friends to anaesthetize himself against the manic neuroses of modern life, describes his drug experiences, says something is obviously missing from the world but still isn't sure what, blah-blah. These expectations weren't disappointed by this addition to the psychedelia genre, and I found Pinchbeck's book in fact near the summit of such literature. He's got the erudition of Huxley without the stodginess, and seems much less naive and New-Agey than many other modern expounders of a return to shamanism. His prose is also exquisite and witty.
There is nevertheless a great deal of New-Aginess in Breaking Open the Head, but Pinchbeck is refreshingly skeptical of his own experiences and beliefs, and is willing to deflate movement icons like Terrence McKenna when necessary (he trashes Timothy Leary, who deserved it). Pinchbeck's also fantastically well-read and marshalls heavyweight intellectuals like Walter Benjamin in this elegant book. I've not read a more accurate description of where I find myself intellectually and spiritually these last few years.
I started Breaking Open the Head randomly while working through Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous, which is a document of his 'work' with G.I. Gurdjieff. Strangely in a chapter about synchronicities in Pinchbeck I found myself reading quotes from Ouspensky's book that I'd read not an hour before. Then, in the mail that day, I received an unsolicited invitation from some Dr. and Mrs. so-and-so to come hear Gurdjieff's music at their Silver Spring home in a couple of weeks. How they got my name and address is beyond me.