Exploring Psychedelic Healing: Three New Book Reviews

Winter 2011 Vol. 21, No. 3 2011 Annual Report

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The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys

James Fadiman, Ph.D., Park Street Press, 2011, paperback, 338 pages, $18.95

I’ve been waiting years for someone with the proper qualifications to come along and write this book. Hands down, this is the very best guide that exists on how to prepare for a safe and therapeutic psychedelic journey, with positive psychological transformation as one’s goal. It is the most important book written on the subject since The Psychedelic Experience— Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner’s classic adaptation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which was published in 1964.

Before psychologist James Fadiman’s book, this was a subject that desperately needed attention by someone who really understands what psychedelics can do to (and for) the human mind. Fadiman reviews the necessary precautions and proper techniques for a beneficial journey in a straightforward manner. Drawing from his own personal experience as a psychedelic researcher, he presents the fascinating results from his clinical studies into how psychedelics can enhance creativity and improve problem-solving abilities, in the context of a clearly-explained guidebook.

The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide can be used as a training and reference manual by professionals in the blossoming field of psychedelic psycho-therapy research, as well as by outlaw shamans who defy government regulations to engage in illegal forms of self-exploration. Anyone interested in the subject for educational purposes will find this book hard to put down. This comprehensive volume is simply overflowing with rare, valuable, and well-organized information about how to get the most from a psychedelic experience.

Invaluable for dispelling the many myths and misconceptions associated with this controversial subject, this jam-packed volume provides essential guidelines for the conduct of psychedelic sessions, and presents little-known techniques for using sub-perceptual doses to improve mental functioning, along with new information from surveys, clinical studies, group sessions, and personal anecdotes. This book is absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the subject.

Psychedelic Healing: The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development

Neal M. Goldsmith, Ph.D., Healing Arts Press, 2011, paperback, 236 pages, $16.95

Psychedelic Healing is a wonderful summary of what we have learned from psychedelic psychotherapy research, and of where the explosive renaissance with all these fascinating new studies is headed. The medical potential of psychedelic drugs appears enormous, and they are currently being reintegrated into mainstream Western culture. This is truly a cause for celebration, and Neal Goldsmith does a marvelous job explaining this important research and tying it all together.

However, perhaps even more valuable and interesting are Goldsmith’s personal story and insights, which make up a significant portion of this hard-to-put-down volume. Goldsmith’s masterful blend of research summary, practical information, biographical profiles, and personal experience is delightful to read, and the book is filled with psychological and spiritual insights. I highly recommend Psychedelic Healing to anyone interested in the exciting field of psychedelic research and the frontiers of human psychology.

The Psilocybin Solution: The Role of Sacred Mushrooms in the Quest for Meaning

Simon G. Powell, Park Street Press, 2011, paperback, 274 pages, $18.95

I was blown away by musician and filmmaker Simon Powell’s thoughtful book about what he has learned from his visionary experiences with psychoactive mushrooms and his reflections on the biosphere. The Psilocybin Solution presents the best argument that I’ve ever read about the possibility of teleology operating in evolution, and of a higher intelligence organizing the natural world. Reading this book helped me to rethink many of my beliefs about the nature of reality, consciousness, and information. Exploding with eye-opening insights and jaw-dropping revelations about the evolution of life, I found it difficult to put this thought-provoking book down.

The ideas in The Psilocybin Solution are so rich and compelling, and every sentence is so eloquently written, that it is simply a joy to read and contemplate. This is truly a marvelous achievement, as writing this book— i.e., explaining the psychedelic experience, the evolution of life, consciousness, and the nature of reality—was certainly an ambitious undertaking. Powell does a masterful job at translating the grand and mysterious language of Nature into mere English symbols, and artistically articulating the shamanic voice of the Other. I think that anyone who is interested in the evolution of life and consciousness will find this book utterly fascinating.

Some other wonderful books about psychedelics that I’ve read recently, but don’t have the space to review in this Bulletin, are important to mention here: Don Lattin’s The Harvard Psychedelic Club, Richard Doyle’s Darwin’s Pharmacy, Antero Alli’s The Eight Circuit Brain, and Ram Dass and Ralph Metzner’s Birth of a Psychedelic Culture. My reviews of these great books are posted on Amazon.

David Jay Brown is the editor of the annual theme MAPS Bulletins, and author of the forthcoming book Over the Edge of the Mind: Exploring the Interface of Psychedelics, Culture, and Consciousness. The Spring 2012 MAPS Bulletin, which he is currently editing, will be devoted to Psychedelics and the Arts. It will cover how psychedelics have affected music, film, television, painting, dance, and pop culture. If you’re interested in contributing, please contact David at dajabr@well.com.

These books and others are available in the MAPS Store (www.maps.org/store). All proceeds help fund MAPS’ psychedelic and medical marijuana research and education.