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Full Review
book cover
A Psychonaut's Guide To The Invisible Landscape
by Dan Carpenter
Park Street Press 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 7/8/2007

Notes (Trip Four): (Into a tape recorder.)
I’m flying over a scene that looks like an elaborate model train set. Amazing…What it is is a dream landscape. It’s a three-dimensional scene of every dream that I’ve ever had.

I can at this point remember /see every dream I’ve ever had. Now I’m drifting down into it.…It’s like a costume warehouse. Like the inside cover of the Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach album.. People, animals, archetypes, childhood monsters…they’re all here! And this is not a memory, but a place. Everything still happening—alive—a living hologram. Maybe Freud wasn’t so wrong…

The years 2003 and 2004 found author Dan Carpenter embarking on a series of thirteen psychedelic journeys, all transcribed in great and always intriguing detail. I have to admit that when I found out that the substance involved was DXM, I was a bit put off. My initial reaction to this substance was to recall images from author Jim Carroll’s The Basketball Diaries, where he describes riding the New York subways in a cough-syrup-induced stupor. However, I found Carpenter’s experiences soberly and well articulated, and frequently insightful.

The author gives fair warning on the usage of DXM, and it seems his source is pure powder, as opposed to cough syrup. He describes his process of carefully measuring out doses beforehand, and drinking them at timed intervals through his “journeys”. His writing took place during and after these sessions.

What emerges from these trips is an absolutely engaging exploration of the workings, “machinery”, and inner landscape(s) of the mind. Each time his journeys begin the same way, as he floats through an area of “living taffy clouds”, comes to a “great wall”, and enters a huge hive-like area, populated by various floating machine-like organisms. These observations bear a remarkable similarity to Carlos Castaneda’s description of the “realm of inorganic beings” in the excellent book, The Art of Dreaming. This is not lost on the author, although he describes the beings as not having the same predatory nature that Castaneda describes.

Each of Carpenter’s chapters contains numerous descriptions of encounters with what seems to be an internal ecology of the mind. If nothing else, even if you take Carpenter’s writing with a grain or even a boulder of salt, this makes for some very interesting reading on at least a science-fiction level, like some DXM remix of Flatland or A Voyage to Arcturus. You will read about “The Dream Chamber”, “Ego Vortices”, “Crab Faced Others”, “Plasma Flowers”, and the like, as well as iboga-like encounters with ancestors. Holy Lovecraft, Batman! However, part of what makes the book so readable is that the writing is tempered with the earnestness and insightfulness of a seemingly very compassionate soul. Carpenter is also well versed in the work of inner space pioneers such as McKenna, Strassman, Narby et al., along with world religions and spiritualities.

Despite its very singular adherence to one “exploratory substance”, I consider this book to be an essential addition to one’s psychedelic library. Terence McKenna often spoke of “mapping hyperspace”, and this is one great map. I’ve read this book several times over now and just don’t get tired of it.

On a final note, I found on the net that Carpenter had chosen either Psychedelic Passageways or The Psychedelic Explorer as the book’s original title. Inner Traditions, the publisher, chose this perhaps less apropos title after Carpenter’s death in 2005. Shine on, Dan.


  1. A question actually. Does anyone know what Dan Carpenter died from as such a young age. I’m wondering if it was associated in any way with effects of DXM use. Thanks, Stephen Keary.

    Comment by Stephen Keary — 9/5/2007 @ 12:51 pm

  2. Stephen, my son committed suicide. There was no DXM in his system but he had ingested a very large amount of alcohol before hanging himself. He had personal problems going on mostly due to his drinking. He had obstained from alcohol for quite a few years but for some reason, started again. We didn’t realize how deeply depressed he was at that time. Needless to say our family is devastated. Dan was a very warm, caring person. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He is deeply loved by our family and many friends. I miss him terribly, and it still shocks me that he ended his own life.

    Comment by Carol Carpenter — 9/26/2007 @ 1:10 pm

  3. Carol, I’m deeply sorry for your loss.

    I recently picked up this book and at first it seemed a little too fantastic for me to take seriously, but the deeper I read the more I found things striking a familiar chord with things I had experienced myself. Dan’s personality really showed through his writing, and I’m sad to hear that he’s not around anymore.

    At least if the things in this book are completely true after all, I may have a chance to meet him beyond the veil.

    Comment by Ollie Judd — 12/5/2007 @ 7:51 pm

  4. Ollie, Dan believed that everything he experienced under the DXM trips was real but whether it was truth or simply his brain responding to large amounts of DXM, I don’t know. I do believe that all of those trips in fact damaged his brain to the extent that he began drinking again. His searching by the use of DXM was so detrimental to his mental health that he slid into despair. It certainly wasn’t worth the search. I don’t have my son anymore, and I miss him terribly. My only hope now is that people who read these types of books DON’T try it.

    Comment by Carol Carpenter — 12/8/2007 @ 1:37 pm

  5. Dear Carol and Family,
    I myself and ME. Had the same question.. After reading his book what had happened to Dan? This occured when I discovered what I believe to be his message… “A chance to be an organism” or perhaps go back into the pot for another shot… This TRUTH is the biggest discovery in my life to date.. I am 33 yrs old now. I want you to know that Dan’s work is truly profound and appreciated. One must ask the right questions on this kind of level, at the same time one must be ready to ACCEPT what IS..His accounts “connected many of the dots” I have mapped on my path so far.. Know that I have experienced many of the same accounts as Dan both through drugs and soberness at concerts and pretty much the questions continually arise about PURPOSE.. I find myself on the fine line between Despair and Greatness much of the time. As far as your only hope Carol.. – I will take Dan’s word for it (as I hope others of similar types have done or will do). In this case, I will not seek to validate any of Dan’s profoundness as it would not be worth risking (especially knowing my similar type).. It is that legitimate and valueble to me. I look forward to exploring the uncharted with Dan when I leave this earth. This day will not soon be forgotten. – Fellow Psychonaut – Matthew… Be Well.

    Comment by Matthew Hector — 6/15/2008 @ 11:15 am

  6. Matthew – Thank you for your kind words regarding Dan’s book. As I told someone else on another site, it would have put a great big smile on his face. There was another site by a man who evidently reviews books of this type. He didn’t like Dan’s book and that is his right, but he said things like Dan drank cough syrup and the title of the book was too close to a Terrance McKenna book. Basically, he just put the whole thing down. I didn’t know what Dan was writing about until he signed a contract to have it published. I know it was hard for him to let me know what it was about. Anyway, I corrected this person by letting him know that Dan used DXM in a powdered form and that his titles for the book were either “The Psychedelic Explorer” or “Psychodelic Passageways”. The publisher named the book after Dan’s death and before it went to print. I did this because Dan isn’t here to tell that himself, and I wanted to defend him from any comments that were untrue. We used to talk about the purpose of life, the planets, you name it – we talked about it all except drugs. I guess he knew me well enough to know that I would not understand, and I still don’t. What matters now is that I loved my son dearly, and I know he loved me too. Someone else critized me for saying that I hope no one who reads the book tries to use DXM. He said that maybe what Dan discovered made it too hard to stay in this man made world. I let him know that Dan enjoyed many things that were not man made. He loved fossil hunting, camping, hiking in the mountains, painting pictures, writing poems and playing his guitar. The guitar is man made but can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up when a good musician plays a beautiful tune. I’m repeating this because to me it is important of why I hope others don’t try it. The person who said these things knew my son through 13 trips. I knew him for 42 years. He was absolutely elated that his book would be published, he had a wonderful girlfriend – things to look forward to. Why then did he start to drink again after having abstained from alcohol for 5 years. I truly think it is because he was still doing the DXM trips (which I didn’t know at the time) and it damaged his thinking to the point that he didn’t care if he drank again. I am so thankful that you will take Dan’s word for what he found and wait until your natural time to go to meet up with him. I know you would be the best of friends because you have such similar thoughts and experiences. I’m glad he connected some dots for you. I wish all the best. I’m looking forward to seeing him again some day on the other side, give him a great big hug, tell him his writing ability was awesome even though I think some tings are really better left alone. Why? Because it cost me the rest of my life here without him. His questions took him too far. Don’t ever despair Matthew. We’re all going to find out what is really truth some day, and I believe people like you and Dan will connect in a very special way. I know there is much more out there after we leave here, but our duty is to stay here and help each other in any way we can until it is our natural time to go on. I’m sorry for going on and on. I just need to reach out to good people like you and say thank you for understanding my son’s experiences and accepting them as is and keep what you believe in your heart, but stay and do whatever you can to help someone else, even if to you it is just a token – it could mean the world to someone else. Thanks for listening to me. You remind me of him. Stay well and healthy. Best of wishes – Carol

    Comment by Carol Carpenter — 6/23/2008 @ 5:58 pm

  7. Carol,

    Could it be that DXM is un-related to your sons alcohol usage? Did you notice a decline that suddenly clicked when you realized he had been taking DXM? Have you determined that DXM does in fact actaully do damage to the brain? I wonder these things because alcohol is well known to be associated with suicide, but I am not sure about DXM? In any case I am very sorry for your loss and truely hope DXM was not involved with your son’s alcohol issue. Can I ask what he was depressed about?


    Comment by Paul Ramirez — 8/3/2008 @ 8:02 pm

  8. Paul, I certainly can’t prove that DXM caused Dan to turn back to alcohol again, but I read on the internet some time ago that high usage of DXM on a fairly regular basis can eventually cause brain damage. I know that recovering alcoholics do sometimes fall off the wagon. He did not seem depressed to me before he started drinking, but then again, he may have been hiding that from us. I just don’t know. The heavy drinking caused him to lose his job. He shared a house with his brother and another guy. The other guy left and Dan couldn’t pay his share. All the expenses fell on my son, Dave’s shoulders. The lease was due to be renewed on Aug. 1, but Dave couldn’t do it. He couldn’t afford it on his own. Dan’s girlfriend was fed up with it all, and he knew it. As his drinking escalated, so did his depression over his circumstances. We tried to get him to go for help on Fri., July 29, but he adamantly refused. We offered him to stay with us until he could get straightened out. He said he would call on Saturday to let us know what he would do. Instead, Dave found him in their back yard Sat. morning with a cord around a tree limb and around his neck. Needless to say, he has been traumatized beyond words. We’re all going on with our lives, but a piece of our hearts is missing. It’s so hard to accept that he wouldn’t let us help him, but I never imagined he would take his own life.


    Comment by Carol Carpenter — 8/5/2008 @ 1:09 pm

  9. Carol:

    This is a truly heartbreaking exchange of thoughts and feelings. Your love for your son is so very evident and I admire your courage and willingness to speak with those of us who have been touched by Dan’s book.

    Comment by Hills Snyder — 8/20/2008 @ 3:56 am

  10. Hills-Snyder, Thank you for your kind words. I just want those who have read Dan’s book and been touched by it to know a part of the ending to his life story so that maybe you can see the bigger picture of what happened and at the same time understand what a unique and special person he really was. It didn’t really take courage to write it. It’s been a bit of a catharsis for me. Answering some questions to the best of my ability has helped me to accept and live with what happened just a bit more. I think I have nothing more to write here. I’ve said as much as I am able and willing to do. I won’t step over any bounds that I think Dan would have put on this. Thank you Hills for you brief but very considerate and thoughtful words. All the best to you and everyone else who has read and appreciated Dan’s book. He lives forever in my heart. Love to all who enjoyed his book and appreciated his special talent for writing and putting his experiences on paper. Thank you

    Comment by Carol Carpenter — 8/23/2008 @ 8:06 pm

  11. One more comment from me. I may have already over-stepped my bounds as far as my son would want me to do or say. I was truthful in my statements in answering questions from those who enjoyed and appreciated his writings. I’ve looked back on what I said and think that maybe Dan would not be happy for me to have told so many personal happenings in life, but I did it because I love him and want those who appreciated his book to know a bit more of his life because they appreciate his dedication to the unknown and what he found. Thanks again for your appreciation of him!!

    Comment by Carol Carpenter — 8/30/2008 @ 6:56 pm

  12. After re-reading my comments, I may have already over-stepped the bounds that Dan would have wanted me to say, but I did it for those who were impressed with his book and felt a connection to him. I can only hope that Dan understands that reasoning wherever his wonderful spirit may be. Thanks again ! Carol Carpenter

    Comment by Carol Carpenter — 8/31/2008 @ 8:46 pm

  13. I just got Dan’s book. Daniel wrote the intro for my own book and when I saw that Dan had died in 2005, I had to find out why. Thank you for this thread. I’m sorry Dan is no longer with us. God-speed Carol; You write well about the most difficult of subjects. Our daughter is just about to turn four…all you can do to deal with this is to keep loving. There are so many kids out there, young & old, that need a mom as good as you, at the level you are able to give, and in any way you feel able…anyway, not to get preachy. Thank you for taking the time to write. I know you have no choice but to honor your son. ~Leo

    Comment by A. Leo Nash — 11/12/2008 @ 10:24 pm

  14. 4 years and 1 day without my brother, Dan Carpenter. I just came across this thread, don’t even know if it still is up. Anyway, Just wanted to say, I love you, Dan and miss you terribly. Love, your sis, Deb

    Comment by Debbie Carpenter — 7/31/2009 @ 6:33 pm

  15. Deb, your brother Dan loved you too as you know. He talked of you with love and laughter about your growing up years together. You were so very special to him and you are so very special to me. I just needed to say that on this thread in case you come back and check it out again. I don’t know what I would do without you in my life.

    Comment by Carol Carpenter — 8/3/2009 @ 8:35 pm

  16. hey carol, I read dans book, and found it incredibly profound, I wanted to try dxm immediately after finshing the book, because it matched some of my own personal experiences, think how profound it will be if with the help of some tools(psychedelics) u could see a DNA on a microbial level, talk to dead ppl and know that u will live forever(through consiousness) playing this game, I think what ur son has done is brilliant, his work in absolutely mindboggling, I wish though he would be still here with us… and I know in my heart that everyword he has written he has experienced it…
    see u in the afterlife Dan..
    love and light

    Comment by rohit — 10/30/2012 @ 3:16 pm

  17. Carol, thank you so much for writing about Dan on this site. I think everyone here has great appreciation for Dan\’s work I know i do. His work is one of the most fascinating i\’ve ever read, and i believe its value will grow in time. I\’m very sorry for your loss. I send you and your family my love, and i believe Dan to be a true pioneer. Thanks again

    Comment by Pablo — 11/9/2014 @ 9:20 am

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