Prepare to have your mind blown. Matthew Pallamary's most recent work, The Center of the Universe Is Right Between Your Eyes but Home Is Where the Heart Is (published last November) is clearly the result of a lifetime of dedicated research and lived experience. He wrote and published 12 books before this one, but this is the first book of his that I have read so far and it turned out to be everything that I had hoped for and so much more. So what exactly is it about?
Well, that's a bit difficult to effectively pin down, because this book covers a wide variety of topics. From shamanism and visionary states to cognitive neuroscience and sacred geometry, The Center of the Universe covers a lot of ground. It opens with the thought-provoking question "Who or what are we really?" and spends the next 200+ pages delightfully unpacking it.
At its core, this book is a study in perception. Pallamary explores the idea that we are in full control of how we choose to interpret the external stimuli that we use to create our own realities. He backs that up with a lot of science, diving deep into the research that explains why we are able to do things like watch a gorgeous sunrise, listen to a symphony of croaking frogs, or taste the blissful sweetness of an orange.
The section titled "How We Perceive Reality in the Physical World" goes into depth on the concept of sense perceptions, and it's packed to the brim with factoids about how our physical bodies work. For example, did you know that the average individual is capable of distinguishing over one trillion unique odors? How about the fact that some bears in North America have a sense of smell that is seven times stronger than that of a bloodhound, enabling them to locate food underground?
Pallamary also argues the point that—contrary to popular belief—shamanism is the world's oldest profession:
"[Shamanism] is an amalgam of the world's oldest professions with roots that range well beyond our historical stereotypes of witch doctors, wild men, and demonically possessed primitives. Among other things, shamans were the first doctors, performing artists, musicians, storytellers, teachers, priests, psychologists, and magicians, who performed critical functions in their societies."
In addition to all of those roles, shamans also played an important role in discovering the potentials of plants. Pallamary includes a brilliant quote from a scientist who said, "Each time a medicine man dies, it is as if a library has been burned down." If you thought you knew a lot about shamans before, just wait until you get a chance to read what he has to say about them—you're sure to learn a thing or two.
Moving on from shamanism, a section on the Jungian concept of the "dark side" (also referred to as the "shadow") explains how each of us has an unconscious aspect of our personalities that the conscious ego does not identify in itself. We not only store the least desirable aspects of our personalities there—positive aspects can be found in the shadow as well.
I was especially moved by a chapter in the book titled "The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind." Shamanistic cultures revered and respected elemental spirits like the Wind, a formless, invisible energy that literally caresses us both inside and out, flowing into our mouths and down our throats to fill our lungs so that we can stay alive. It's unfortunate that our Western societies do not have much respect for elemental spirits, but I believe that we are building our momentum in that direction. Hopefully we will get there before it is too late.
The Center of the Universe also dives deep into the Hero's Journey, a popular structural form taken from Joseph Campbell's book The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Pallamary shows how it has its roots in shamanism and occurs in every culture, every time, and is "as infinitely varied as the human race itself." Popular stories like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings follow this structural form closely, which is part of the reason why they are enjoyed by so many people around the world.
The last few chapters of the book cover the topics of sacred geometry, the infinite octave in art and music, and resonance. I wasn't that familiar with these concepts before reading this book, but I became so enthralled that at this point I couldn't put it down. The Center of the Universe finishes quite strong, enticing the reader to keep turning the page.
All in all, I'm extremely glad that I read this book. I encourage you to read it as well, and I'm confident that you will find great value in it if you choose to take on the challenge. Similar to a psychedelic journey, its contents have the potential to evolve you into a higher being.
5/5 stars. 214 pages.
Be sure to check out Matt's website and new book here. If you liked this book review, you might also enjoy reading an interview I conducted with him that wanders through psychedelic history, shamanic exploration, and Palenque. In addition, here is an excerpt from The Center of the Universe that explores the ways that shamanistic cultures revere elemental spirits like the wind.