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Secret Chief
by Myron J. Stolaroff
Publisher:
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 
Year:
1997 
ISBN:
0966001915 
Categories:
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Douglas Aanes, 3/5/2001

Imagine going for a session with your therapist. He reminds you of the structure of the session. You have brought the family pictures you were assigned to bring. The therapist offers you a ritual cup with your potion for the day. After drinking the potion you retire to a comfortable sofa and don the earphones to listen to music selected by your therapist. Time passes, then there is no time, or there is all time. You are carried away on a voyage of self-discovery and rebirth.

These therapeutic trips are the subject of The Secret Chief, a new book by Myron Stolaraff. For several decades, a courageous therapist (named only as Jacob in the book) guided approximately three thousand clients on such wondrous trips – despite the illegality of the psychedelic agents he used. The Secret Chief is a series of dialogs between Stolaroff and Jacob about the details and implications of these secret psychedelic sessions.

Jacob’s belief in the healing efficacy of psychedelic agents and his faith in our integrative potential made his underground work more a compassionate gesture than an act of defiance. His sense of responsibility consistently stands out through the book. He logs in countless hours attending thousands of trips, always there if needed for support, reassurance, and assistance.

The Secret Chief contains forewords, prologues, and tributes by such respected names as Stan Grof, Ann Shulgin, and Albert Hofmann. But the bulk of the book is a prolonged conversation between Jacob and Stolaroff. Chapters cover the beginnings of Jacob’s interest and involvement in psychedelics, the screening and preparation of clients, the individual trip, the group trip, materials and dosages used, and outcomes of specific cases. The informal, conversational style of the book makes for easy reading and accessibility.

So often, it seems that therapy is concerned with pathology. We come to therapy because of problems, and the therapy addresses and speaks to those issues. Jacob’s approach seems more focused on health and its potential in the individual. One doesn’t necessarily have to do anything about the problematic material that arises in a session, merely watching it and being engaged in the process is enough to engender a feeling of renewal.

The anecdotal style of The Secret Chief may not convince the skeptical, especially those who question whether psychedelics could have any potential benefit or use. However, a strong case is made for the utility of psychedelic agents in therapeutic settings. Our ancestors found uses for the psychedelic agents, uses that reinforced cultural values and myths, uses that effected personal and communal healing. Jacob’s work points the way for us to do the same.

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