Author Michael Pollen weaves together a lot of science, stories and experience into an intriguing narrative about psychedelics. I read this shortly after finishing a science-based book about meditation. It seems both methods – mindfulness and psychedelic chemicals – are an effective way to quiet the ego that lives in the brain’s default mode network. Why would anyone want to do this? It tends to be the case that once people accomplish this they are better able to cope with the daily trials of life.
LSD, mushrooms and other psychedelics earned a bad reputation in the US after the counterculture movement of the 60s. It was interesting to learn that before that movement, there was much legitimate research into the benefits of these substances. Many studies showed effectiveness of these chemicals at treating depression, addiction (including alcoholism and cigarettes), and fear of death.
This books comes at a time when acceptance of the benefits of psychedelics is once again growing and the restrictions of their study are loosening. I’m excited to see the scientific community dig deeper and uncover more about how these substances can be used for our benefit, and what their underlying mechanics can teach us about how our minds work.