A Strait-Laced Writer Explores Psychedelics, and Leaves the Door of Perception Ajar

By John Williams

Microdosing is hot. If you haven’t heard — but you probably have, from reports of its use at Silicon Valley workplaces, from Ayelet Waldman’s memoir “A Really Good Day,” from dozens of news stories — to microdose is to take small amounts of LSD, which generate “subperceptual” effects that can improve mood, productivity and creativity.

Michael Pollan’s new book, “How to Change Your Mind,” is not about that. It’s about macro-dosing. It’s about taking enough LSD or psilocybin (mushrooms) to feel the colors and smell the sounds, to let the magic happen, to chase the juju. And it’s about how mainstream science ceded the ground of psychedelics decades ago, and how it’s trying to get it back.

“How to Change Your Mind” is a calm survey of the past, present and future. A book about a blurry subject, it is cleareyed and assured. Pollan is not the most obvious guide for such a journey. He is, to judge from his self-reporting, a giant square. In the prologue, he describes himself as someone “not at all sure he has ever had a single ‘spiritually significant’ experience,” a pretty straitened admission even for an avowed atheist. “I have never been one for deep or sustained introspection,” he writes later. You often find yourself thinking: This guy could really use a trip.

And he takes one. More than one. He learns things from them, but he also doesn’t overplay his experiences, admitting that he never felt his ego had “completely dissolved,” as some others report happening.

Read the whole review here.

 
 
Michael Pollan