What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
In this book, journalist Michael Pollan explains the history, science, and research of psychedelics as well as his own personal experiences. It is part science book and part personal journey/memoir. Pollan clearly has his biases when it comes to spiritual and mystical matters, but he does his best to set these aside (along with his neurotic tendencies) in exploring new ideas. This following quote from his website sums it up well:
But what I didn’t expect when I embarked on this journey was for it to result in what is surely the most personal book I’ve ever written. I like to immerse myself in whatever subject I’m reporting—whether that means buying a steer to understand the meat industry or apprenticing myself to a baker to understand bread. What began as a third-person journalistic inquiry ended up a first-person quest to learn what these medicines had to teach me about not only the mind but also my mind, and specifically about the nature of spiritual experience. This book has taken me places I’ve never been—indeed, places I didn’t know existed.Michael Pollan – website
The cultural history of psychedelic substances – Many cultures throughout history have incorporated psychedelics into aspects of religious life and spiritual practices. Mr Pollan traces the history of some of these in various indigenous cultures.
Early scientific research on psychedelics – The history of LSD and the promising research on it for treating mental health conditions, substance abuse, and more in the 1950s and 1960s.
Countercultural revolution and the fallout – Timothy Leary and the culture wars are discussed and how this lead to political fallout and the abandonment of research on LSD and other psychedelic substances.
Transcendent experiences – The author explains the renewed interest and research on psychedelics and his own experiences under the influence. This is where the book shifts a bit from strictly science journalism into a more memoir-style.
I really liked this book. It will likely inform and challenge you. The author clearly has his own biases about spiritual and mystical matters, but he’s willing to explore areas that he once completely neglected. I give him major credit for that. He’s also a talented writer, so it’s not a difficult read or overly scientific. It’s definitely appropriate for the Eclectic Reading List.
You can learn more about the author and this book on his website. Here’s a link to the Wiki page for this book. Below is a video from a presentation at Google about his book and the topic of psychedelics.
Featured image from Penguin Random House.