Daniel Pinchbeck is a quintessential bridge figure — between the shamanic opening to a larger reality (his first book was Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism), the crop circles as another opening to what’s beyond our Earth-bound awareness (his second book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, is a metaphysical epic that binds together not only crop circles, but quantum theory, psychedelic drugs, and the contention that 2012 portends a global shift in consciousness), and solutions to our global challenges (his movie, 2012: Time for Change, and his newest book, Toward 2012: Perspectives on the Next Age, deal with the sustainable future we must achieve if humanity is to thrive).
These lines got dropped from the masthead in a conversion of this blog to a new platform. They describe my intention with all that I do, for which this post is an emblematic example:
“Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric.”
-Edna St. Vincent Millay
To take the looming here one step further, here’s Daniel in an exchange with Graham Hancock, another superstar whom you find me speaking about these days (do a search to find posts about him):
“Retelling the Past, Reimagining the Future: A 2012 Dialogue with Daniel Pinchbeck & Graham Hancock” brings together two leading counterculture thinkers, Daniel Pinchbeck author of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Toward 2012: Perspectives on the Next Age, and Breaking Open the Head, and Graham Hancock author of Fingerprints of the Gods, Supernatural, and most recently the fantasy adventure novel, Entangled.
Pinchbeck and Hancock discuss the implications of the Mayan Calendar “end-times” date 2012 which Hancock first drew to the attention of his readers in Fingerprints of the Gods published in 1995. Hancock’s evidence for a great lost civilisation wiped out in a global cataclysm 12,500 years ago is explored in depth together with his suggestion that the survivors of that civilisation may have sought to pass down a message to the future and indeed specifically to us in the twenty-first century — a warning that the next great lost civilisation may be our own.
From the geology of the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Egypt to the mysteries of the Ark of the Covenant, from ancient maps showing the world as it looked during the last Ice Age to out-of-place artifacts indicative of high technology in ancient times, the discussion ranges widely across some of the most intriguing evidence for an immense forgotten episode in human history, and moves on to consider the spiritual crisis of the modern age. Could a new paradigm emerge from our present state of chaos? Hancock and Pinchbeck see hope in efforts by people all around the planet to reclaim sovereignty over their own consciousness, and identify a powerful role for shamanistic visionary plants such as Ayahuasca and Psilocybin in ushering in a gentler, less toxic, more nurturing state of mind. “It does seem like when you ingest them,” says Pinchbeck, “you get a lot of messages about how to reintegrate into the larger community of life.”
Says Daniel about Breaking Open the Head:
While psychedelics are demonized and repressed in the US today, the visionary compounds found in plants are the spiritual sacraments of tribal cultures around the world. From the Bwiti in Gabon to the Secoya in Ecuador, the psychedelic plants are sacred because they awaken the mind to other levels of awareness. They are gateways to a spiritual – or multi-dimensional, or holographic – vision of the universe.
Breaking Open the Head is a passionate inquiry into this deep division. The book follows two tracks. On the one hand, I tell the story of the encounters between the modern consciousness of the West and these visionary sacraments – by thinkers and self-proclaimed avatars such as Antonin Artaud, Walter Benjamin, Allen Ginsberg, and Terence McKenna. This culminates in an analysis of the psychedelic chaos of the 1960s, which I describe as a failed mass-cultural voyage of shamanic initiation. But interest in psychedelics did not vanish with the 1960s. Outside of the mainstream, the psychedelic gnosis has been pursued into the present by brilliant botanists, chemists, psychonauts, and philosophers.
The second track of my book is a scrupulous recording of my own investigations into these outlaw compounds. For the book, I went through a tribal initiation with the Bwiti, a tribal group in the small West African country of Gabon. The initiation involved eating iboga, a psychedelic which lasts for thirty hours. I visited the master shamans of the Secoya Indians in the Ecuadorean Amazon, who sing to the spirits throughout all-night ayahuasca ceremonies. I found a psychedelic utopia in the barren Black Rock desert of Nevada, where the Burning Man festival draws 25,000 people each year for a shamanic revival crossing the Ancient Mysteries with Pop Art spectacle. I visited a Mazatec shaman in Oaxaca, Mexico, and tried the super-potent hallucinogen DMT at a conference in Palenque. In the process, I had experiences that convinced me, beyond any doubt, of the limitations of the current paradigm of “rational” materialism.
Thus, Breaking Open the Head charts my personal transformation from jaded Manhattan journalist to grateful citizen of a multi-dimensional cosmos. Today, I strongly suspect that mysticism – the archaic “spiritual technologies” lost to the West – will be the applied science of the New Aeon.