Today, I’m pleased to announce the first entry in our new Sleepless Book Club. Sleepless Book Club posts will feature reviews of books by diverse authors that write on the subjects of art/culture/music/the occult/the unexplained/sub-cultural history/drugs/cutting-edge science and consciousness. We like poetic fiction. We like musical poetry. We can’t wait to discuss all of these and any other ramblings we find compelling enough to comment upon.
Recently, a number of publishers have been enthusiastic about having work discussed here or in/on some of the other publications/sites where various Joe Nolan blatherings appear and this new Sleepless Book Club will be a fun way to highlight the stuff that’s keeping us up at night.
Our very first entry in the Sleepless Book Club is Psychomagic by the legendary surrealist filmmaker, comics author, Tarot expert and therapist, Alejandro Jodorowsky.
Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Therapy is the brand new English translation of Jodorowsky’s poetic-action therapy techniques. The book first appeared in Spanish in 2008. It’s published by Inner Traditions and was released on June 18, 2010.
The book is separated into 3 sections, keeping Jodorowsky’s wide-ranging ramblings carefully collected. Writer Gilles Farcet interacts with the author in the book’s first chapters which are written in a Q&A format. An introductory essay by Farcet makes it clear that their “interview” consisted of his enduring an expansive, multi-layered monologue from Jodorowsky which was only later recast in the Q&A structure. The “knowing teacher vs. baffled student” feel of this section is absolutely delightful, and the disarming approach allows the deeper implications of Jodorowsky’s ideas to take the reader by surprise. In the second section, the author is matched more evenly with another interviewer – Javie Esteban. The pair interact as peers with Esteban teasing and tugging Jodorowsky into more-deeply-illuminating his ideas and techniques. This interview format was surprising at first, but the conversational progression, covering many complex artistic, magical and therapeutic ideas, never gets confusing or frustrating. One feels privileged to join in on such a lively, engaging discussion.
Jodorowsky rewards his readers with a workshop full of projects and exercises in the book’s final section, allowing them to experience his techniques for themselves. These practices are focused on increasing creativity and they highlight one of the book’s implicit messages: The path of the spiritual seeker and the path of the artist are one and the same.
Jodorowsky’s therapeutic philosophy begins in his assertion that:
The theater is a magical force, a personal and non-transmissible experience. It belongs not only to actors but also to the whole world. A decision, a rough resolution, is enough for this to transform your life.
He believes that illness arises from mistaking our self-created, ego-driven personalities for our “original” selves. After achieving a certain amount of understanding with a patient – that always involves an exploration of their family tree – Jodorowsky will set about “directing” them in their own lives, re-casting them in roles that will help them break out of their damaging personas, allowing for insights that point the path back to the “original” self.
All of Jodorowsky’s cures involve poetic actions. Jodorowsky orders a young man to tape gold coins to the soles of his shoes so he can overcome his daydreaming and realize the financial stability he desires. Literally walking on gold, the young man has been given a visceral reminder that focuses his will on his true aspirations. A successful man who is too concerned with the judgement of others is re-cast as a bum and told to beg on the streets while taking a multitude of glass doll’s-eyes from his pockets one-by-one. The implication here is that if a bum can fill his pockets with eyeballs they must have little value. One’s reflection in such valueless eyes should be of no concern.
The book is filled with magical thinking and wonderful imagery as Jodorowsky discusses everything from his early roots in mime and theater to his theories about lucid dreaming. While many writers on the New Age/Self-Help shelves invoke the word “shamanism”, few authors ever address the shaman’s central practice: creating artistic work and performances that heal. Jodorowsky first realized the possibility of this kind of healing in the folk medicine he witnessed when he lived and worked in Mexico and South America. His Psychomagic techniques have evolved from years of investigating the therapeutic possibilities of theater as well as the language and history of the Tarot. Jodorowsky regularly meets with patients at a brewery near his home in Paris. He only accepts their thanks as payment for his services.
Psychomagic is a compendium of decades of thinking, writing, testing ideas and treating patients. The book sparkles with dazzling insights and humorous exchanges and it is as audacious, shocking, vivid and purely-expressed as Jodorowsky’s best films. In fact, the English-language publication of Psychomagic calls for a thorough reconsideration of the author’s entire body of work. American movie critics who’ve condemned Jodorowsky’s films to midnight-movie status will be forced to rethink their reviews upon re-discovering El Topo or The Holy Mountain through the lens of this brave new book.
Find out more about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Psychomagic techniques in this fascinating interview on our YouTube Channel.
Purchase Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Psychomagic and all of the Sleepless Book Club selections at The Sleepless Bookstore.
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