Monday, 26 March 2018

Book Review: The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide; Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys by James Fadiman, Ph.D.

 This book review first appeared in New Dawn Magazine issue 164, September - October 2017.
© Brett Lothian. 

Book Review: The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys.
By James Fadiman, Ph.D.

The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide is a fantastic book for the novice and experienced psychedelic traveler alike, covering the wide range of aspects and applications of psychedelic journeying, it is a must have for the modern psychedelic explorer. With the current renaissance of psychedelic study and exploration, (that is ever growing in popularity) James Fadiman provides a much needed guide for those looking to safely explore the many and varied benefits of psychedelic use, as well as for those looking to be a guide for others in their psychedelic experiences. Being called “America’s wisest and most respected authority on psychedelics and their use,” the author having been involved in psychedelic research since the 1960’s, could not be more qualified to cut through the many myths and misconceptions surrounding the use of psychedelics, as well as extolling their many benefits and potentials.

In part one of this much needed and timely guide, the author expertly takes the reader through meeting the divine within and the entheogenic voyage, providing guidelines for the voyager and guide alike to achieve safe, effective experiences in psychedelia. Following on from this the widely respected writer and philosopher Alan Watts outlines the four dominant characteristics of transcendent experience, which is most apt in describing the effects of psychedelics. Rounding out part one, the psychedelic pioneers including such luminaries in the field as Albert Hofmann, Aldous Huxley, Stanislav Grof, Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), Alexander Shulgin, Ralph Metzner  and more, describe their early experiences in their own words, which is essential reading for understanding how and why the modern psychedelic movement began in the first place. 

Part two explores the personal growth and self-exploration aspects of psychedelic use including the many therapeutic uses of psychedelics in psychotherapy and healing, which of course the ancient shaman from all over the world have understood for millennia, but modern western researchers and doctors have only begun to scratch the surface of, largely due to the ridiculous illegality of these medicinal substances. Neal Goldsmith explains the things that can go wrong with experimenting in psychedelia, which is integral to having a complete understanding of the experience and how to mitigate any possible dangers, which are very real for the unprepared and/or careless voyager. David Presti and Jerome Beck discuss the myths and misconceptions surrounding the field of psychedelic exploration, which are rife due the fear mongering propaganda of the ‘War on Drugs.’ Finally, the author explores the therapeutic effectiveness of single guided sessions which is touched upon again in part five.

Part three delves into the creative and problem solving abilities that psychedelic use can augment, together with Willis Harman, the author explores the breakthrough research of the selective enhancement of creative capacities and the facilitation of enhanced problem solving capabilities through the use of psychedelic substances. Including case studies and group problem solving sessions, this section helps to explain how ancient and traditional cultures that utilize psychedelics may have achieved their seemingly impossible feats of knowledge. George Leonard takes the reader through the fascinating Look magazine experiments in group problem solving using LSD, which makes me wonder what could be achieved if our world leaders all got together under the influence of a powerful psychedelic and managed to put their egos aside for the benefit of all. Lastly, the author explains how psychedelic research was tragically halted for over 30 years in what is nothing short of a crime against humanity.

Part four introduces some of the new horizons in the field of psychedelic research and discovery including the effects of sub-perceptual doses of psychedelics, also known as micro dosing. Whilst still in its infancy, micro dosing is gaining in popularity around the world as a way to improve normal functioning without having a fully blown psychedelic experience. Also covered are surveys of current users and the author’s personal account of becoming an inadvertent pioneer in the field, which are absolutely fascinating. Ending part four is the positive possibilities for psychedelics, of which there are almost endless potentials, which we are only just beginning to understand. Where the future of psychedelic research takes us is anyone’s guess, but the future certainly looks to be brightening with the modern renaissance of psychedelic study.

Concluding with part five, the author provides a checklist for voyagers and guides in entheogenic journeys and takes us beyond LSD into the realm of the sacred medicine Ayahuasca, as well as a very interesting report from a darkness retreat where Lindsey Vona explains her psychedelic like experience in complete darkness, without using a traditional psychedelic. Also discussed are the lasting results of high dose single sessions with psychedelics, creating lasting change and improvement in people’s lives and a questionnaire study of psychedelic experiences with Willis Harman, concluding with the authors profound last words on his hope for the future.

With this truly remarkable guide for the psychedelic explorer, which I highly recommend, James Fadiman has achieved something that will stand the test of time and no doubt become a classic reference guide for those intrepid explorers of the psychedelic state for decades to come. It is quite simply the best, most thorough book of its type and is sorely needed for today’s psychedelic explorer. With the help of this book you too can explore the psychedelic realm safely and successfully, for whatever your purpose may be. Safe journeys.

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