“Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness: Liminal Zones, Psychic Science, and the Hidden Dimensions of the Mind”
In Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness, a diverse group of authors journey into the fringes of human consciousness, tackling such topics as psychic and paranormal phenomena, lucid dreaming, synchronistic encounters, and more. Collected from the online magazine Reality Sandwich, these essays explore regions of the mind often traversed by shamans, mystics, and visionary artists; adjacent and contiguous to our normal waking state, these realms may be encountered in dreams or out-of-body experiences, accessed through meditation or plant medicines, and marked by psychic phenomena and uncanny synchronicities. From demons encountered in sleep paralysis visions to psychic research conducted by the CIA, the seemingly disparate topics covered here congeal to form a larger picture of what these extraordinary states of consciousness might have to tell us about the nature of reality itself.
“Breaking Open the Head ”
Once upon a time, Daniel Pinchbeck was a thirtysomething member of the New York literary set: “atheist, suspicious, cynical, disbelieving in metaphysical possibilities”. Until he had his head “broken open” during a shamanic ritual involving the visionary plant, Iboga, in the Gabon. Already questioning his dependence on and self-disgust with “that most terrible drug” – himself, he embarked on a quest to explore the limits of his own disbelief. The quest led him on frightening and often hilarious journeys visiting shamans still practicing in far-flung pockets of the world: the Ecuadorian Amazon, the high plains of Mexico, and um, The Burning Man festival in Nevada.
Shadowing these mind-expanding encounters is the personal story of his metaphysical journey to inner space, via the visionary brew yagé, and other psychedelic plants and chemicals. He is relentlessly confronted with experiences flatly contradicting the mechanistic secular scientific world view of Western life, and is forced to change his mind on just about everything.
This is no new-age thesis or extended ‘trip report’. The book is an intellectual and personal inquiry. It is rich with literary references and perspectives from thinkers such as Rudolph Steiner, Carl Jung, and Walter Benjamin, as well as the ‘usual suspects’ such as Sasha Shulgin and Terrence McKenna. It details the cultural history of psychedelic use and delivers philosophical perspectives on shamanism. It probes the powerful synchronicities between the shamanic view of the cosmos and what modern science is just beginning to suspect: that the universe may be far more complex, more bizarre, and more alive and conscious than our rationalistic, materialistic thinking has allowed us to believe.
Pinchbeck discovers shamanism – and its modern, urban psychedelic equivalent – to be an ambiguous tool. An antidote to Western ennui but simultaneously an apocalyptic wake-up call. The more you probe the shamanic cosmos, Pinchbeck discovers, the more it throws up its visions of “imminent historical breakdown and unleashed horrors ahead now approaching us at high speed.”