Review Index


By ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY (Park Street Press; 2014)

A positively mind-expanding memoir by everybody’s favorite Chilean madman Alejandro Jodorowsky. I haven’t read all of Jodorowsky’s books (quite a few of which have yet to be translated into English), but I feel safe in calling THE DANCE OF REALITY an excellent summation of his lifelong obsessions. It’s as crazed, unpredictable and oddly insightful as anyone could possibly desire, offering an uncensored glimpse into the endlessly fertile mind of one of the world’s most fascinating individuals.

     The book commences with Jodorowsky’s recollections of his 1940s-era childhood in a Chilean coastal village, marked by bullying and parental abuse. Jodorowsky rose above his problems, he claims, by rigorous meditation in which he learned to subside on an imaginative, poetic-based reality. This entailed “poetic acts” like dumping worm-ridden soil on his sister’s crotch as she slept, filling his testicles with mental energy through which he attempted to transform the world around him (he admits “I encountered looks”) and walking in a straight line as long as possible. These acts formed the basis of Jodorowsky’s controversial practice of “Psychomagic,” referring to therapy that utilizes the principles of surrealism.

     Before Jodorowsky could perfect this practice, however, he became obsessed with pantomime art and decamped for Paris. There he fell in with Marcel Marceau and scripted several of Marceau’s most iconic routines. He also masterminded an infamous four-hour “happening” in 1974 that included whipping, symbolic castration and a giant vagina. During a stopover in Mexico he fell in love with the country and set up a theater there, where he staged over a hundred productions. (Of course, he also embarked on a highly eclectic filmmaking career that gave us films like EL TOPO, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN and SANTA SANGRE, and another as the scripter of the graphic novels THE INCAL, THE WHITE LAMA and many others, but both vocations are described only in passing.)

     Also discussed is Jodorowsky’s belief in the recuperative power of dreams, which became an integral component of psychomagic. He claims to regularly practice lucid dreaming, in which we “work not only with the contents of the dream but also with our own mysterious identity,” and transcribes several dream narratives involving talking animals, gods and deceased relatives. Equally dreamlike are the accounts of his encounters with various sorcerers and mystics, including the Zen master Ejo Takata, the South American alchemist Oscar Ichazo (who freely utilizes marijuana and LSD in his teachings) and the American author Carlos Castaneda (who Jodorowsky believes was psychically attacked during an aborted dinner meeting between the two men).

     Much of the book’s final hundred pages are devoted to describing the particulars of Psychomagic and its outgrowth, Psychoshamanism. Included are numerous case studies, including one involving a singer who overcomes her lack of success by inserting a condom containing ten gold coins into her vagina during auditions, and another involving a lesbian woman encouraged to dress her lover in her mother’s clothes during intercourse, and still another in which a woman who feels uncomfortable in her new house is told to sprinkle drops of her urine around the residence. You may not buy into the principles of psychomagic (which is further elucidated in Jodorowsky’s book-length study PSYCHOMAGIC, which appeared in English in 2010), but THE DANCE OF REALITY makes for fascinating reading nonetheless.