How to Change Your Mind is a methodical, straight-laced dive into psychedelic research without the “counterculture baggage”. In his newest book, Michael Pollan takes a historical and experiential approach to the nature of psychedelics, intermittently using his own late-in-life experience with psychedelic substances. What many may not know is that LSD, only one of the substances Pollan studies, was accidentally stumbled upon by Albert Hoffman in 1943, resulting in the first documented LSD trip without expectation. What followed was a wave of scientific research in Canada involving treating alcoholism by researcher Sidney Cohen, then ridiculed by scientists nationwide when the drug exited university sanctioned research under the wing of the Timothy Leary. It was not until recently that new studies have re emerged using psychedelic research to understand consciousness, terminal illness, addiction, and, surprisingly, even faith. Pollan takes us on that trip while taking us on a few of his own.
What the author drives home is that a lot of what we know about psychedelics comes from the subjective experiences of those who have tripped. Pollan constantly highlights this interconnectedness of transcendental experience and science in psychedelic research with a close eye. The permeating notion that we cannot use traditional scientific methods to research such mystical experience is a nightmare to science, thus rejected for a number of years. Pollan, however, discusses the importance of such scientific inquiry and reveals how new science may be opening doors to understanding once locked.